Thursday, August 11, 2016

Week 32 of 2016 - Shooting Stars and Meteor Showers

We lived on 29 Mile Road and Mound Road from the time I was an infant until 1968 when we moved to Imlay City. We played out doors a lot...all the usual day time and night time games; Hide and seek, Red Rover, Touch the porch, Tag....and many others. Back then 29 Mile Road was a dirt road...I have picture of when they paved it... On hot summer nights like tonight, Mom would let us stay outside a little longer. I suppose that was because it was hot in the house and we would probably just complain about it. If you were lucky you had a big box fan that you put in a window and sucked the cool air in after the sun when down.

Often on these kinds of hot summer nights, you could only run around and play so much tag and hide and seek before you were sweaty and exhausted. So we would plop our hot sweaty bodies down in the grass and look up at the stars...This is when my love of star gazing began. We found that the ditch across the street from our house was just deep enough to support our backs just like a recliner. It would be dry as a bone by August. We never thought of how critters and bugs were joining us...We just mashed down the talk grass and laid on it! There were no street lights so nothing to interfere with the stars. It was not unusual for six or eight kids (Smith girls, Randall kids, Trombley kids, Hughes girls) to be laying in the ditch along side of the road watching for shooting stars. We would get so disappointed if a car came along which would mess up our eyes for a while.

I did not know then that it was a meteor shower that we were watching. I can not remember that I specifically watched them on my birthday. It was just an often occurrence in the summer when Mom would let us stay out long enough. Eventually she would flip on the porch light and we would have to come in. I was always so disappointed!

I remember being disappointed after we had moved in town in Imlay City to find that I could not see the stars most nights because there were just too many lights. By then I was more boy crazy than anything and star gazing got put on the back burner. 

 So about twenty five years later, I am living in Arizona. I am newly divorced and it is my 38th Birthday. All over the news they are talking about this Perseid Meteor shower which was suppose to be at storm level. I had ordered a made “special for me” cute Ford Ranger pickup, on Memorial day. Low and behold, it got delivered and was ready for pickup a couple of days before my birthday. My best friend, Miriam and I were looking for something to do to celebrate our birthdays which were a couple of weeks apart. My children are headed to spent time with their father so we headed for the desert north of Phoenix to see if we could see a Meteor shower. We found a dark location off of Happy Valley Road. (which today is totally built up!) It was a perfect location because there was a small ridge of hills that block the bright lights from Phoenix. We loaded the cooler with a couple of beers each and a couple of blankets to lay on... (lay on the desert floor at night? What were we thinking?) We found our little piece of desert and parked the truck. Brought down the tail gate and sat in the dark night letting out eye adjust. We both had to work in the morning so we could not make it too late a night but we had to have it be dark enough to see the stars too. 

It was about eleven o'clock or so when we saw our first shooting start. SO we laid back in the bed of the truck on the blankets and let “Mother Nature's” show begin. We literally saw hundreds and neither one of us wanted the night to end. We kept saying “ Just want to see one more big one streak across the sky and then we go! ” To this day when I talk about that night I get goosebumps. I had never seen anything like it.

I have chased this meteor show all over the country, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui to my sisters driveway in Harbor Beach and it has become the best birthday present I could ever have. I have experienced it with all the most special people of my life.

So I hope you find time to slow down and enjoy the show sometime this week! The Meteor shower begin in late July, builds to the peak on the night of August 11/ morning of August 12, and unwinds again until about the 24th of August. So there is lots of time to view it!

Making more memories!

Love, Jan

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Week 17 of 2016 - Moments in Life that Define You...56

I have a couple of "moments" that come to mind, both involving very special people in my dad and mom at the end of their worldly lives.  My dad, Harold, died on August 30, 1996, one day after his 68th birthday. Full of life, loving his occupation with small town retail stores and cherishing his faith, family and friends, Dad was the picture of health.  He died instantly of a massive heart attack on Friday of Labor Day weekend, as the town was already filling with visitors and family for the last holiday gathering of the summer.  The weather forecast was perfect, the parks full and there was excitement in the air.

 Everything came to a complete stop for the Smith family as we stumbled around in grief, trying to understand how our Dad could be gone.  Our two businesses, Harbor Beach Variety and The Corner Store were shuttered and marked with black ribbons and signs of explanation.  We would be closed until further notice.  As word spread quickly through our small lakeside community of Harbor Beach, Michigan, condolences, tears and stories of remembrance began immediately.  I just could not pull myself together that first day, until a family friend pulled into the driveway with her sister.  Judy had a flower shop in town next to our Variety Store, and Dad and Judy often worked together on projects, her family became special friends to Mom and Dad and it was not surprising that they were bringing us food gifts and words of love and reassurance.  I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure I was a total mess.  Her words of love to me are something I have never forgotten, have used numerous times since and were perfect for me at that time and still this year, which will be the 20th anniversary of Dad's death.  She simply said, "Please remember that you are not alone in this journey.  There is no way anyone on this Earth..never in all of time, not years before, not today and not in the future...can anyone live life without losing someone...many someones...that they love.  Please know that others love you, can help you through this and in time you will help others when they feel the way you feel today.  God's love through others will comfort and heal you."  It meant the world to me then and still does today.  I hope that Judy Sweet and her sister, Nancy Krueger know how much they helped me on the day my dear Dad passed from this life to the next.  I will never forget it.

My defining moment with my sweet Mom, Leah Smith, happened 11 years later.  Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May of 2007, we Smith kids had our world rocked by another realization that life as we knew it was going to change.  My sister commented through her tears, "We are going to be orphans."  While I remembered what I always preached about not being alone in this part of life...everyone loses people that they love...I could not come to grips with the challenge that presented itself.  We needed to care for our dying mother with no experience...medically, emotionally, mentally, was going to be an on the job training of the most difficult kind.

Our days were immediately filled with all kinds of appointments, all of which were happening 2 hours away in a larger city hospital and clinic where we could receive the specialized care of a gynecological oncologist. The Corner Store, which my Mom and I ran, was put into the hands of our very competent staff and I went on auto-pilot most days...and nights.  Our three sons were concerned, not only for Grandma, but for me, their mom, who seemed to be losing her own life in grief and despair.  I'm not sure if the three boys consulted on a plan of action, but our oldest, Brad, then 34 years of age and with a family of his own,  made a call that would change my whole attitude forever.

"How's it going, Mom," he'd ask, knowing full well that I was a disaster.  He'd let me try to explain, ask another question and then hear me plead again..."Why, just why?  Why God?  Please....?"  So, finally, my wise son asked if I would just listen and think this through with him.  "Just hear me out, Mom.  If this isn't something you can work with and question what God's plan is, that means you are taking it into your own hands.  This also means that you get to decide how your mother will die...what will be her final journey into eternity.  What do you choose?"  I was stunned, and stammered out loud.."Well...uh...I can't do that!"  Brad continued, "Of course you do not want your Mom or my Grandma to have ovarian cancer.  You pick what she should have."  I continued to ponder his statement feeling totally frustrated and even angrier.  Finally, in desperation, I answered.  "I guess I'd have her go quickly...just like Dad did.  That was awful, but I don't think he suffered."  Brad replied, "Great. Perfect! pick the time, Mom.  When is this going to happen?"  I was speechless....for a long time.  My comment...finally...was, "Okay, Brad.  I understand.  This is God's timing and perfect plan, not mine or anyone else's.  I am not capable to handle what God does so well for us and with everlasting love."  I don't remember much else about the conversation after that.  I have remembered it with distinct clarity ever since, however.

My oldest son, reversing the roles and becoming the parent at age 34 to help his Mother get back on track with a beautiful "defining moment."  Love you, Brad!

Week13 of 2016...Accidents and the Lessons Learned  I can't believe my sister would pick such a topic and then assign me such a task. What does she want....a volume?  or a Blog Post?  There are people that have accidents and then there are folks that are an accident waiting to happen most of the time.  I'm not that bad, but I've had my share and yes, there are lessons to be learned.  Isn't that how we learn?  Of course it is!  The only problem we have is when we repeat the accidents and don't learn on the first...or second...or third time.

Let's make a list...

A.  Food
B.  People
C.  Automobiles
D.  Others

Food was always a topic of discussion in the Smith Family...and the Semps are no different. we want to talk about the triple batch of cherry finger jello that Brad pulled out of the refrigerator to see if it was done.  NOPE, it wasn't...and my carpeted kitchen floor was never the same.
LESSON:  ALWAYS position a pan of liquid jello on a high shelf when you have little ones!

Have you ever spilled anything in your car?  Like a crockpot of Nacho Cheese or Goulash Soup? Wouldn't one think that after having a horrible mess like spilled cheese, I'd always put a crock pot in a box or suitable, stable spot?  NOPE...I do it several times before I figure it out.  The only way to clean cheese out of a van is to open both sliding doors on the van and take it to the carwash that has a hand nozzle to get in all the cracks and crevices.  And you know, we finally had to inject odor neutralizer with a syringe into the carpet.  Every time the van was warmed by the sun, it smelled like sour milk. LESSON:  ALWAYS put soupy or liquid foods in a box, please.

Ever seen a bottle of red pop dropped by a youngster explode and spin in circles with the spray coating the grocery store aisle with red, sticky pop?  LESSON:  Hopefully, the adult will put the pop in the cart from now on.

Raising three boys was a circus from time to time...well, most of the time.  Moms of all boys should understand going into the experience that there will be rough housing, wrestling, breakage and tears...usually in that order. It didn't matter who was chasing, but at one time or another, the chasee got hurt.  We had pressure bandages on huge goose eggs to the head, black eyes, broken nose, collarbones (yes, more than once), many bags of ice in washcloths, skinned knees, legs and arms. Did one incident teach me how to prevent the next....hmmm...probably not.  LESSON:  Some accidents just happen when you have kids no matter how you try and prevent them.

Automobiles and other machinery help us in daily life...accidents happen and the damage can be repaired or a cost.  My parents always said "better a thing to fix/replace, rather than a person!"  However, some of life's biggest and earliest lessons are with automobiles that do not belong to us...but are on loan from our parents.  Totaling our family station wagon at 17 was devastating to me, and my family's mode of transportation for a few weeks.  I swore I would never drive again, but my wise father said that my best therapy was to drive the car back home from the repair shop. One moment of not paying attention, resulted in rear end damage to the car ahead of me, pushing that car into the back of a brand new car being driven home from the sales lot....all on M53 with the Eastern Michigan Fair on my left and McDonalds on the right...witnesses all over the place gaping at the chain collision AND my folks green Ford station wagon was totaled because the frame was bent.  A ride home in a police car was the culmination of that days lesson.  Costly, but a very effective LESSON for life!  However...not the only accident I have had!

If you could ask my father, Harold, he'd have a couple of additional stories along with a huge grin and not then. One of the best ones involved the Harbor Beach Post Office which in years past had two postal boxes out for local mail and one for out of town mail. On a rainy day and not wanting to get out of Dad's famous big blue van, I pulled in just so, getting the oversized side mirror of the van, caught right between the two boxes. I could not get the van out, and so I went inside and explained to the Postmaster that I was stuck and would just pull away, likely pulling the mirror off, but in that attempt was not trying to damage " US Postal property."  That's exactly what happened.  Dad was not so understanding and made me drive him back to the Post Office and show him exactly how I could have accomplished such a thing.  LESSON:  While the design and engineering is horrible for the drive up box in Harbor Beach, (its on the wrong side of the road for the driver of a vehicle to use it) one should just get out of the vehicle and put the mail in the box in any kind of weather.

Did you ever roller blade?  If so, you know that just a pebble or a twig can cause you problems if you aren't paying attention while on roller blades.  I was very fortunate in all my years of roller skating and rollerblading to enjoy the exercise with relatively few accidents.  I wore protective gear, controlled my speed and was careful at corners and crosswalks.  However, one day I skated through fresh asphalt...or tried to.  It does not work and no amount of compensation can correct it.  I was down for the count.  LESSON:   Make sure the city hasn't repaired a water main break where you are messes up your skates, bruises your ego and maybe your derriere.

And one more, not of my doing...some of you reading our blog posts know of my sister's love of nature, animals and such.  Susie had quietly collected a full coffee can of tree toads..(tiny little toads about as big as your little fingernail) one Sunday, while we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Smith.  Our Sundays usually included a car ride and maybe stopping to visit other relatives.  With a two door sedan packed with 4 girls, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, the entire back seat was packed with the "women."  Susie's toad collection in the covered coffee can was on the floor of the car, but only a mile into the ride, Grandma Smith, promptly took the top off to see what was in the can.  Before Susie could even respond, the back seat was filled with dozens..maybe hundreds of little toads hopping everywhere. With squeals, giggling and maybe a few tears from Susie,  Dad stopped the car and he and his Dad had a great laugh from the front seat, while Susie tried to gather as many as she could and put them back in the can.  LESSON:  In our family, make sure you carefully open a container that Susie has had in her possession..or don't touch it in the first place.

So...our life lessons are many...difficult, easy, sad, happy...but all are a part of the learning process. May you never stop learning and be blessed with an abundance of laughter with your lessons!

Week 18 of 2016 - Collaboration Between Siblings....

When my sister Jan and I talked about blogging, I enthusiastically agreed we need to document the stories of our life to keep for our grandchildren and even great grandchildren.  I guess I didn't think about how much "I" would learn.  As the oldest, I assumed I had a good grasp on know, "looking at it from the eldest point of view" and "being around longer than all the others..."  WELL, there is much to be learned, while I still have the opportunity.  Jan's account of collaboration in this weeks blog was very much NEW NEWS to me.

I collaborated with my two younger sisters very effectively, but most often it was to my benefit, if you know what I mean.  I organized chores on the weekends to make sure it was all accomplished and sometimes there were a few bribes.  Yes, I did my share, but I made sure they were on task and completed as I wanted it. I'd get one of the girls helping me and then convinced the other to do something for both of us.  Collaboration?  Or control?  Clothes were also a topic.  With three girls, if we shared we had that many more outfits.  Working with Sue, then Jan would fall in line with it, too.

Neighborhood games?  I was the oldest...a position of control then...(now they never let me FORGET it).  In our growing up years, we had a small neighborhood of maybe 15 homes involving 50 kids of all ages.  Days and summer evenings were filled with games of all kinds but I wanted to be run with the older kids and be selected for the boys baseball and kickball teams.  If Sue would hold back with Jan and keep her happy, I was free to play to my hearts content.  Sometimes, magic had to be performed to convince them they didn't have to tag after big sister or keep up with her.

This is all well and normal for families of our 1950-60s era...except when it came back to haunt me on a beautiful, summer day.  Sister Sue was a huge animal lover...of all kinds of creatures. She's always loved furry pets, even big furry animals, like cows.  I remember the day our Mom looked out the window to see cows loose in the field next to our house and no one other than daughter/sister Sue herding them up with a big stick.  She couldn't have been very old, could have easily been stepped on or trampled, but she had them on the move.  We were at a pig farm one day with my dad...another good story for another time....I was scared to death.  Not Sue...she'd been right out there with them if Dad would have let her.  She also liked bugs, rodents and reptiles.  That's where I draw the line..especially, the slithery kind.

 The story goes that she...and now I find out Jan was involved...gathered up the s kind and kept them in an old mailbox, which had been sitting on the seat of our homemade sandbox.  We used to play there and use the mailbox as an oven for mudpies, a refrigerator for sand "sundaes" or just a cupboard for our sand toys.  One day, she decided to trick her big sister and surprise her with the new collection she had gathered.  I was sent to get something out of the mailbox and when I opened the door, dozens of  the creatures poured out and went in all directions.  Now, one can only imagine with that many in one rural road mailbox, how quickly they would try to escape.  ONE S was bad enough for me...let alone a couple of dozen s's.   I was one terrified older sister...flying to the house calling for retribution on those horrible sisters.  I really can't remember what Mom thought, or what she told Dad when he got home from work.  WHAT I CAN TELL YOU...still to this day, I have a fear of s... that I probably need professional help for.  I have also "collaborated" with my baby sister, Sharon. She has the same fear. I have always blamed Sue for my issues...I had no idea that Jan AND Sue were involved with that "collaboration" that affects me to this day.   Hmmmm...I just wonder what else is out there that I never knew about our growing up years.  Probably plenty to be discovered through the Smith Family be continued and I hope you are enjoying our chatter!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 18 of 2016 - Collaboration Between Siblings

There is this really awesome benefit to having a lot of siblings.  The first and foremost, there was always someone to play with.  In Romeo, we lived in a small neighborhood full of young families with small kids so there were many playmates.....Everyday was a play day... Times were different.
My sister Sue and I were very close!  

When my mother got pregnant with Matt, it became obvious that our small house was bursting at the seams.  So my Dad, planned an addition which would add a large family room, increase the size of the one bedroom that all four of the "girls" were in and give him the garage he always wanted. No more digging out the car so you could go to work in the winter or scrapping frost or ice off the windshield.

So he got the plans going and before we knew it we were breaking ground for the footings.  The day they dug the footings, my sister Sue and I rescued a salamander which the crew dug up in the process. We named it and put it in a cage and were bound and determined that we were going to keep it. I believe it was that day that we decided that cold blooded creatures were not so bad after all. That evening, Dad convinced us that we should let our new pet go after he asked us, "What will you feed Sandy( the salamander's new name)?" Of course we did not know. "You don't want it to die do you? You would have to feed it .... and your mom will never let it come in the house.  It will freeze in that cage outside...." his list of reason why we should not keep it grew.  He convinced us that it was OK for us to have played with him all day but now it was time to let it go.  So very reluctantly we did. I am sure that "Sandy" was happy to be free once again after being played with all day!

I can not remember if the footings  and concrete slab were pour in the fall of 1963 and the building was set to start in the spring or if they poured the cement early in the spring and then we had a snow storm...but in either case...Here is the tiny house on Fritz drive ..... footings poured, slab in, 2x4 delivered, rafters....

Snow to hamper progress...

The garage and the family room going up...

The next spring and summer, Sue and I, along with many of the boys in the neighborhood, discovered a swampy woods to the east of our neighborhood to play in.  We found the swamp had a very large population of cold blooded reptiles which we decided would make great pets.  So we started to adopt them.  The boys in the neighborhood made catching them look really easy so we gave it a go.  After all, if you are playing with need to learn how to do what they do and you can not act like a girl!   At first we tried stepping on them just behind their head... before we tried picking them up... Occasionally it worked but most times they slithered quickly away. Then the boys showed us how to use a forked stick to catch them and then it got really interesting and much more successful! 

At first we brought our new pets home one at a time...One in her pocket and one in mine!   The next time we went to the swamp, we took a brown lunch paper bag.  Then a brown grocery bag... Then it was a shoe box.....All the while we are filling old hamster cages, old aquariums, boxes and old mailboxes... I don't remember whether we clued mom in on our new rescue mission or not.  They were outdoors not in the garage.. Often in the morning we would go to see how our pets were doing and they would have all escaped...but we had become really good reptile hunters so we would head back to the swamp and do it all over again. 

One day we decided to put some of our newest pets in our mailbox for the mailman to find.  As you can well imaging we did not think this thru very well....Then we got this hair brained idea to have Pam go check to see if the mail had come.......Oh now that was a truly bad move.  To this day she is traumatized by this event.

She went flying into the house screaming and in seconds flat Mom came flying out the door.  "Janet Lou and Susan Lynn, get in this house!"  she yelled.  Funny how you always knew you were in big  trouble when Mom and Dad used your whole name when they called you! We could feel it...It was going to be bad. " Go to your room and stay there!" she commanded.  "Just wait til I tell your father about this!" she scolded.  This was the first times that I remember Mom saying,  "Just wait for your Dad to get home..."

Well, we went to our room and waited... and waited and commiserated as we awaited our fate....Before long I am telling Sue ..."it's your fault cause it was your idea."  She said, " well you thought it was a good idea too..."   The truth is both of us knew better....We knew not everyone in the neighborhood liked garter snakes like we did. 

Dad finally came home.  We stood in front of him and neither one of us ratted the other out.  We both equally took the blame and the punishment for our little stunt.  Go tell your sister you are sorry and you better mean it!  We were instructed to go let out all of our pets and never bring one home again.  Ever! 

It is my belief that this is the first time, that we learned what being a sibling was all about...I could have blamed her for it but I didn't, she could have blamed me for it but she didn't... There would be  times as we became teenagers that one of us did something we probably should not have and thought that it would slide by and no one would be the wiser...Dent or scratch in the paint of the car...taking the car when you were not suppose to....going someplace that was off limits when you were suppose to be at your friends house....I am sure that you all have little infractions from when you were  a teenager too....  Times that we could have blamed each other for or someone else but...we never did.  Dad would line us up  and say who did this?  And we would not rat on each other...We all got punished...  The innocent ones were not very happy with the guilty party but that was a good system of checks and balances.  It did not happen often but when it did we stood by each other.

We have many story of sibling collaboration to share so until the next time.....



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Week 17 of 2016 - Moments in life that define you...

The first time I was asked to be a bridesmaid was for my sister Pam's wedding.  I was 15 years old. She asked my sister Sue and I, two friends, Janet (a friend from college) and Bianca (a friend from high school), Carrie (Mike's sister) and Julie Jacobsen (a friend of the family) as the flower girl. Pam and Mom made all our dresses. They were made of a beautiful blue Taffeta with a pretty flower trim at the empire waist and a puff sleeve.

All the activities that lead up to the wedding were fun.  It was at the rehearsal that I realized that I was really going to have to do something here ...all by myself.  Up to that point, I do not think that I thought about the fact that I would be walking down the aisle of the myself.  I do not remember ever going to a formal wedding before this, so I just did not know!  

As the minister instructed us, I had this wave of giddy nervousness take over.  " You want me to do what?", I thought..."all by myself?"  I had never stood up in front of a group and done anything alone before.  I was the third child of six kids.  I had never done anything alone before in my life and this time their would be an audience. I did not like it when I got singled out in school to answer a question ....and heaven forbid if I did not know the answer.

Rehearsal at the church
So we went through the rehearsal of the ceremony and I had to walk by myself down the aisle.  There were maybe 20 people there, all family, really close friends and people in the wedding.  As we girls stood out side the sanctuary door in line, my stomach started to knot.  I kept trying to tell myself I was just hungry.  My brother, Matt, was the ring bearer and at rehearsal it became apparent that he may not want to perform his role either. Everyone else seemed to was rehearsal after all..when it was my turn, I was a bundle of nerves... thinking "How would I ever walk down the aisle tomorrow in my new shoes...".  After completed the rehearsal and I was a bit relieved to learn that I would be escorted to the back of the church at the end of the ceremony by one of the groomsmen.

Dinner at Vanoff's

During the rehearsal dinner, the tension was relieved a bit.  It was at Vanoff's Restaurant.  The food was great and the two families and the wedding party blended well.  We, "the Smith's" made our way to Imlay City and the reality began to set in once again. When we arrived home I went to bed but tossed and turned all night long.  I worried I would trip and fall in my new shoes or that the dress was too long or I would walk too fast or slow or I would stand in the wrong place...or I would faint! I had weird dreams once I did fall asleep.

Lunch before the wedding
The wedding day arrived and things did not get better.  Mom made open-faced ham and cheese sandwiches on hamburger broiled them in the oven so the ham would heat and the cheese would melt. I think she saw it in the Better Homes and Garden Magazine or Family Circle Magazine.  They were all the rage at the time.  I remember they were made often for church events by all the ladies.  I could hardly eat. I felt certain I would throw up. I had never felt like this before. I remember Mom asking me if I was OK, "Yes"  I said and I went off to my room.

In the mean time, Matt has had several melt downs.  He is six years old. He wanted to wear the tuxedo that was rented for him but Mom says, "If you are not going to walk down the aisle with Julie, you can not wear it!"  "Are you going to walk with Julie",  Mom kept asking..."NO",  Matt  exclaimed.  "Then you are not wearing the Tux!", Mom told him. "But Mom!"  he cried! Mom quickly found Matt something else to where. All the while I am upstairs wanting to get out of my own responsibilities.  Knowing that I have to do this, I am old enough, I must be brave....but the knot in my stomach got tighter.

Janet and Pam as we are leaving for the Church
 I remember all of us getting in the cars for the ride to the church in Romeo.  But I honestly do not remember the ride or the "getting ready at the church".  We took our dresses...we have pictures of all the other girls with curlers in their hair but I don't remember if I did that too..I do remember trying to walk up the stairs in new shoes (stubby 2 inch heels...not spikes like the girls wear today!) once we were all ready.  I was so frightened.  I remember being beside myself with fear as I waited for my turn to walk down the aisle watching the others who went before me.

Jan's "deer in the headlights look"
When it was my turn, I was numb, frozen " like a deer in headlights... " Go ahead..." Dad told me. It was at that moment that he realized, for the first time, that I was afraid. I took a step and another.... the walk down the aisle felt like I was walking the length of a football field.  I could tell the church was full of people.  I knew the faces but they were a blur....All I could think was, "Where am I suppose to stand?  Keep looking forward!  Don't look at anyone...Just keep walking and don't trip!" I found my place at the front of the church and the first person I looked at was my Grandpa Smith. He winked at me and silently said "Good job!" with a huge smile!  "Wow" I thought, "I did it".

the ceremony...
I remember thinking during the ceremony, "Who thought of this? Why do they do this?"  Not that I question marriage...I do not..Just the production and pageantry of it all. It was on this day that I decided that I was more comfortable being  "a person of the crowd" and "the middle child of six children".  I fit perfectly where I was at.

I have been in several weddings since then and two of my own which were both very low scale and perfect for me! During high school, I performed on the forensics team which helped me to conquer the "stomach knotting" fear.  During my career, I was called upon on several occasion to speak in front of an audience and eventually I felt comfortable with it as long as I was well prepared.  To this day...I am more comfortable if I am not the center of attention. I am still the middle child.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 13 of 2016 - Accidents and the Lessons Learned

In 1975, Gary, my kid's Dad and I had a 1972 Green Lemans 2 door coupe. It was by far my favorite car that we ever owned...It looked just like the one pictured below. Ok, so I am a girl...a woman and I know nothing about car engines but I can tell you that this one had a lot of “get up and go” and I suppose I thought I was pretty hot stuff cruising town in it. It had a green vinyl landau roof. 
By Crwpitman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Gary worked for his Father, Howard and Uncle, Harold at Tietz's Family Restaurant in Imlay City. We only had one car so if I needed to go some where during the day, he would come home after the morning breakfast rush and we would load up the kids and I would take him back to work.

Gary's Uncle and Aunt, Harold and Mary, had two boys; Roy was 2 years older and Jason was 2 years younger than our son, Shawn. All the boys were very close pals when they were growing up and Mary and I were close friends too. I would baby sit for her kids and she would babysit for mine. I can not remember what Mary was doing for the day but I was watching all the boys. I piled all the kids in the car and off we went. Jason was strapped into his car seat, he was a one year old. Shawn would stand on the hump and Roy would stand on the passengers side in the back seat. (I cringe when I think of this today) I was just making a quick trip to my Dad's store one mile away and then to the restaurant a mile further down the road before returning home so the boys could play.

Dad's store was a challenge with three boys. He had the bulk candy counter which the kids could  easily slip into.  You could not see them unless you went behind the counter to look for them.  It did not take them long to figure out how they could fill their little faces of 10 different kinds of candy at once.  If I turned my back on them for a second, they made a beeline to the candy counter. We had to work really hard to keep them away from that area of the store. And if that was not bad enough, he also had the usual full rack of candy bars conveniently located at the front of the store next to the cash registers. Since it was a Ben Franklin Store, he had toys too!

Every trip to the store started out with “Mom, can we have.....” the moment we walked into the door. Dad and I had a routine. If it was OK with me, he would offer the kids some candy but he always asked me first.  We had this little eye trick we would do. He would look at me, if I nodded yes, then he offered. If for some reason, we did not make eye contact he would say, Jan, “Have the kids been good today?” If I said no, then there would be no candy.  After a 20 or 30 minute visit with Grandpa, we piled back into the car with a small bag of candy in hand for a trip to the restaurant.

When we got there, I would park on the west side of the restaurant. The boys could not get out of the car fast enough! We would go in the back service entry and I would be yelling at them the whole length of the hall, “OK boys, no running!” It was the same routine every time we went. They would be laughing and the employees always knew we had arrived. They would be dodging kids. The kids  had their favorite food. They loved pickles the best. They would get them off the prep table by the handfuls. Next was french fries, of course.... and then they would go just outside of the kitchen to the soda fountain for pop. Their OWN pop with ice and a straw!

The employees always greeted us warmly. I often wondered why because for the next 30 minutes or so chaos would ensue in the kitchen. As they did their prep work for the next meal rush, they knew they would be dodging kids playing in the kitchen. I usually pulled up a stool in the corner to watch the activity and often Uncle Harold would join me. In those days, I smoked and so did Harold so it was a good excuse for a break. Their Dad did a pretty good job of trying to keep them in line. After about 30 minutes, he would give me the “look” and I knew it was time to leave.

We piled back into the car, Jason in his car seat and Shawn and Roy at their positions in the back seat, with paper cups full of pop and ice. I was just going 2 mile to get home so I did not put on my seat belt or Roy and Shawn's. I negotiate a left onto old M-21 driving a ¼ mile west to Almont Ave where I put my blinker on and stopped to waited for the traffic coming towards me to clear so I could turn left. I probably had the radio blaring. I never looked in my rear view mirror again. I did not see it coming....

There were three cars coming towards us in the east bound lanes, when a full size pickup truck traveling at the speed limit rear ended me. Everything went into slow motion. I could see my son's pop and ice as it flew out of the cup and drenched the inside of the car. I am hanging onto the steering wheel and standing on the brake pedal when I see the first eastbound car go by me on my right. We are spinning and suddenly I am looking eastbound back at the restaurant which I had just left with a second car about ready to hit me from behind. The driver of the second car did a great job of avoiding us by entering Almont Ave. As we continued to spin, I see that Roy has hit the back of the front seat so hard that the back of the seat collapsed forward sending him tumbling like a rag doll onto the floor of the front seat under the glove box with my son Shawn following right behind him. My chest was driven into the steering column which collapses and my knees are smashed hard on the dash. I looked up and see the third cars as the driver reacts in time and narrowly miss us. We come to a stop in the east bound lane headed westbound. I am in shock. I had never been in an accident before and I think...this was a bad one!

The kids start to try to untangle them selves from one another. I ask them if they are all right...They say they think so. They remain pretty calm and are not crying. I look in the back seat at Jason who is safely in his child safety seat. Aside from the fact that he has shattered glass from the back window all over him, he has not moved at all. Snug as a bug and even smiles at me as if to say, “that was fun, can we do it again?” I try to open my door and it won't open, so I sit there not sure what to do next. One of the drivers of the eastbound cars come to ask me if we are OK. I tell him I think that we are. Before I knew it the police are there and my husband. News travels fast in a small town.

He looked at me in the window and said “ Did you have your blinker on?” At first I think, is that what he said? I looked at him in almost disbelief...Really, is that your first thought? “Did I have my blinker on?” What about “are you and the kids alright, is anyone hurt?” I glared at him and said “Yes, of course I did!”

Once the fire department got there, they were able to get us out of the car. None of us was hurt other than a few bruises and a couple of personal disappointments! .... My favorite car, which we had only owned for six months, was totaled. God was watching over us that day!

From that day forward, I have faithfully used my seat belt, all children are buckled in before the car moves and all adults are strongly encouraged no matter how short or long the trip is. I learned that in moments of extreme stress, people's words and actions are not always what you think they should be. While I know that I can not control other, I made a “mental note to self” that day so that when I am on the other side of this coin, I chose my responses carefully so as not to hurt someone with a careless response. I also learned that a car (even your favorite) is just that...a car and can always be replaced. I can not imagine how I would have felt if Shawn or Roy had been ejected from that car and they easily could have and they would have been killed and my life would have forever been changed.

Please remember to always buckle up!