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!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Week 12 of 2016 - Easter Sewing and How It All Began...

After reading how the Smith sister's sewing skills developed....via sister Jan wanting an expensive dress from Mitzelfeld's Department Store in Rochester, Michigan, I need to expand on that theme. Being the oldest, I was sewing first...even received a red cast iron sewing machine...child size...for Christmas one year.  Enjoying embroidery (initially taught by Grandma Smith), knitting (learned in fourth grade in Mrs. Liggett's room...another blog another time!) and anything artsy...I guess sewing was a natural progression when we saw Mom creating some of our clothes as we grew up.

In our Easter Finery, 1960, made by Mom with Love! 
I think Mom was motivated by lack of funds, and needing dresses for 3 of us..holidays were the primary focus. Mom and Dad purchased the new patent leather shoes, gloves, flower headbands and sometimes new crinolines, a slip that made your full skirt stand out. Watch out when you sit down, though...(see Jan in photo).  That left only the most expensive part...the dress...for Mom to make.  Sometimes, we had matching or coordinating coats.  When a new trend came along, like the "wrap around" skirt, we lucked out. We could have a new skirt or two pretty quickly and at a fraction of the cost of the store bought variety. It was very cool to have a new skirt within 24 hours and be a style setter at school!   Of course, with Dad working at dry goods stores, we had access to fabric, patterns and notions.  Dad's offer to keep us supplied with the "goods" was all that was needed to have his 3, and eventually 4 daughters making two sewing machines hum.

Janet Johnson, Carrie Semp, Bianca Banash, Janet Smith and Sue Smith
in the "homemade" Bridesmaid dresses...April 17, 1971
1967 J-Hop Romeo High School
 I never had a "store bought" prom or homecoming dress and we made my wedding gown and all the bridesmaids dresses, which were gifts from Mike and I for standing up in our wedding. My sewing talents were never used for a daughter...but my three sons all had handmade clothes at one time or another.  It didn't last very long, but the baby sleepers turned into coveralls, tee shirts, suits and pajamas....and suddenly, they were too "grown up" for anything Mom was making them.
I still love to sew, but as times change, there isn't much apparel sewing going on.  "Grandma Pam" gets a few opportunities to sew for the grandchildren and mend for the grownup kids, but most of the projects are now quilting or home decor items.  I will always be glad that I was able to learn to sew.  I was thrilled to receive my first sewing machine as a gift from Grandma Vanoff as a Christmas present in first Christmas as a Semp.  It is a Kenmore and I'm still using it today, and have no plans to ever replace it.  I have added a couple more...a Singer serger, a vintage Singer 1951 variety in a cabinet (perfect for in front of the window while working on quilting projects), another vintage Singer in a beautiful, dome shaped wooden carrying case, and a very special Singer Featherweight that works well for transporting to classes.  I hope I can pass the love for sewing on to someone in our family.  Until then, I just continue to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the "sport"and also the satisfaction of "making it myself."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 11 of 2016 - Night Owl or Lark - Your Internal Clock

I'm sure there are exceptions to each individuals sleep patterns, but when you look at what's normal for  yourself, it's pretty easy to figure out which group you belong to.  For me, I don't like getting up and feeling I have wasted a morning.  Suddenly, it's noon and the day is half gone! I'm more satisfied with having a good portion of my "to do" list accomplished by noon.

 While some people enjoy the early mornings of summer, birds singing, beautiful sunrises and summer breezes that feel like velvet, I'm even happy with the dark, quiet mornings of winter.  When my schedule forced me to walk early in the day....working 10-12 hour retail days...there was solitude in the early, dark mornings.  Armed with a reflective vest and warm clothing, it was interesting to see who was moving around between 5-7am.  Some make the coffee klatch a priority.  In our little community, we have a fabulous community building.  In the basement is a meeting room with a pool table, card tables, kitchenette and lots of "larks"...some of the card games start at 5am!  While I am happy to be up and "at 'em", cards at 5am has no appeal for me.  Others are walking, like me, or running, biking and making the last minute dash to work. I would see a stready stream of cars just before 6am and 7am, with workers barely making it to the time clock, there are others that can be seen at the very same time every morning on their way to somewhere...the laundry truck heading west, the county trucks out on stormy mornings, the early morning pickups pulling boats for the sunrise fishing expedition or the 6:40am school buses beginning their routes.

So, I would guess the ratio of Larks to Night Owls is probably 50/50...don't we all know some of both?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week 12 of 2016 - Easter, Sewing and How It All Began...

It is 1962 and my Dad was the manager for a department store in Rochester called Mitzelfeld's.   It was owned by William (Bill) Mitzelfeld.  My Dad was responsible for many things at the store. It was not unusual for him to spend Sunday afternoon at a card table in the family room with a yellow legal pad, planning what needed to be done at the store the next week.  
Stock Photo saved from C&G Newspapers

One of his responsibilities was the store windows and displays.   In the 1960's, most businesses had huge front windows where they proudly displayed all their finest new inventory, creatively arranged in the windows to entice customers into the store to see what else they might have to offer.  A store's front windows might be the only advertising that the business could afford so a business used this space wisely. My Dad loved this part of his job and he was really good at it.  He took a great deal of pride in his work.  The Mitzelfeld's had installed black and white striped awnings over the front windows to protect the merchandise from fading as the sun's rays brightly filtered through the glass on sunny day.  In the winter, it was most often too gray and the sun too low in the sky to effect the displays. As spring approached, the sun rose higher in the sky each day, it would once again become a concern for my Dad. So Dad would take a drive to work to open the awnings to protect the merchandise in the windows.

 Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's 1967 - looking south -  note the lowered awnings.

Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's in 1967 looking north

In the weeks just before Easter in 1962, one bright sunny Sunday afternoon, Dad bundled up the the three oldest girls and off to Rochester we went to open the awnings.  While we were at the store, Dad instructed us to go look at a specific rack of dresses and pick one dress out for Easter.  He would buy them for us the next day when he came to work.  Mom usually made our dresses for Easter but with the new baby, Mark and now four girls to make dresses for, she just did not have the time this year. This was likely the first time that I got to pick out something for myself...and my last, for that matter, at least for a while.  As Pam and Sue were looking at "the rack" of dresses, I drifted to a different rack. And  as you have probably guess, I found a dress that I absolutely loved. I am excited beyond measure, I have the dress in hand and hurry off to show Dad the most beautiful dress in the world.

"I want this one, Dad! It is so beautiful, it is my favorite!", I proclaim to him as he reenters the store after lowering the awnings

"Did you get it off the rack I told you to get it from?"  he asked with a look of doubt in his eye.

"I think so.." I said

He gave me the look and said,  "Go put it back and find one off the rack that your sisters are looking at"

"BUT DAD!"  I cried "I have to have this dress!"

I carried on for the next ten or fifteen minutes about the dress I wanted and eventually, someone else picked out a dress for me. I cried and pouted the whole trip home. I just could not understand why I could not have that dress.  As we pulled into the driveway and Dad put the car in park, he turned and looked at me sternly as I sat in the back seat.

 " Janet, I just can not afford to buy you a dress that costs that much.  If I buy you one then I have to buy your sister's one so that means four dresses and I just do not have the money for it.  I can afford to buy you dresses from the other rack. I am sorry.", he said.

 ( This is the first and only time in my life that I remember my Dad ever talking about what we could or could not afford.)

"I want you to sit down with your Mother and learn how to sew.  If you do that, you will be able to make a dress that pretty for yourself!"  He told me.

"And I will buy you the fabric." He  added  "... all the fabric, that you want..."  And he did until the day he died...34 years later.

I did sit down with Mom and learn to sew.  So did all of my sisters.  Before he knew it he was scrambling to find sewing machines so we would stop fighting over whose turn it was to sew on Mom's machine...It was a good thing that the boys came along when they did because Mom no longer had much time to sew.  We would not let her anyway.  Mom's machine and Grandma Smith's machine were being used almost constantly by three teenagers. Sharon learned to sew about the time that the second sewing machine showed up so then four of us shared two machines.

I sew every week on something or another...when I do, I fondly think of my Dad for encouraging me to learn to sew and of my Mom for patiently teaching me! 

Love you Dad and Mom. Happy Easter...


Monday, March 14, 2016

Week 11 of 2016 - Early Bird or Night Owl - Your Internal Clock

Are you an early riser or a night owl ?

Better late than never.... ...Geoffery Chaucer - 1386
Early Bird catches the worm... John Ray - 1670
4AM ...If I am ever up that early, its because I'm up that late.... Janet Smith - 2016
Early to bed, early to rise, make a man happy, healthy and wise.... Benjamin Franklin - 1735

I am a night owl better known as an “owl” by researchers. A morning person or early bird is known as a “lark”. With a little research today, I have found that they indeed believe that “our personal biological clocks are already wound at birth. Genetics establishes a persons “chronotype” which is what determines when your body is awake, when you perform at your best and when you need to sleep.

I am sure that you have probably noticed the “chronotypes” of your family members and how these habits translate into their daytime and nighttime habits. My Mom was a owl. She would always stayed up to watch Johnny Carson. She was the one who was up when I came home at 5 minutes passed eleven when my curfew was at eleven. She was the free spirit. Her schedule was mandated by her 6 children. When we were kids, Dad (the “lark” of our family) would get up early on Sunday and take the 4 oldest girls to Sunday school. Since we only had one car, a Ford Falcon station wagon, he would return to get Mom and the boys. Invariably Mom would have one more thing to do or get one more thing before heading out the door for church. We always sat in the back of the church so she could slip into the pew as she arrived in the 3rd or 4th verse of the first hymn.

Dad on the other hand was precise, on time and had a busy schedule. He was always ready and early for work whether he was working for Bill Mitzelfield or when he was his own boss. He open the doors of the store at 9:00 and locked the door after the last customer at closing time. When he ran the Ben Franklin in Imlay City, he would come home for lunch and as Mom scurried around to make him a sandwich, he would take a 20 minute cat nap. Precisely 20 minutes later, he would be awake eating his sandwich feeling refreshed and alert. I was always amazed. In the evening after dinner, if he had no meetings, he would find an odd job to do to keep himself busy. If he sat in the Lazyboy too long he would be out for the night.
When I was a teenager, I preferred to do my homework late. Often I worked after school at the store for Dad. In the evening, I wanted to be with my friends or my boy friend. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning with my alarm blaring, fully dressed in yesterdays clothes and realize I had fallen asleep again while studying. I hated alarm clocks and still do!

Years later as a new young mother, I often had my sewing machine running until the wee hours of the morning making baby clothes for my sons. Later when I decided it was time to go to work, I went to school to become a Computer Technician. Sounded like a good idea to me. You worked when things were broken. No kidding...The bad thing was the training program was from 5 AM until Noon in Southfield. It was tough making this Owl go to bed at the same time as my kids in order to get up at 3:45 AM to drive to Southfield. I thought I could do it because the course was only 9 months long. I completed it in 6 months...thinking maybe I could get thru it sooner only to find out I had to be in school a precise number of hours, 1440 hours in order to get my certificate. So I took every additional course that were available and I tutored other students so I got my hours in!

Early in my career, it really was “you only worked when a piece of equipment was broken”. I was amazed by that. You did your preventative maintenance and you completed your service calls and then it was up to you to find something to do. One day I wandered into my bosses office, and told him (Willard Zerbe) that I was bored...He shock his head and said, “ I tell employees once, go find something to do or I'll make some work for you... “ so I went to the mall and never felt guilty after that.

1986 Printer Class in Louisville, Colorado
As a FE or Field Service Engineer for StorageTek, there were no time clock. You never had a place that you HAD to be at a certain time. I visited my account after I got my kids to school, usually around 8:30 or 9 AM. I planned my work day, I knew what needed to be done and I did it. Some days you worked all day, some days you worked into the night, some days you were done by noon and at the pool or the mall!

STK Field Service Organization in Phoenix, Arizona
When my primary account was Uhaul Corporation in Phoenix in the early 1980's my best friend, Ivy Grabowski, lived about 2 miles away in an apartment complex. We would go there everyday for lunch. We would put on our bathing suits and bake in the sun by the pool. If needed , we would go back to work. One day the Operations manager at Uhaul, Ted Demskey, asked me what I did for lunch each day. I thought, that is an odd question but I evaded it, thinking I was pretty smart. Then he went on to say, “well, Jan you come in to work in the morning with your hair done and your make up on and after lunch you come back with no makeup and wet hair so I just wondered...” Ops I got caught so after that I tried to do a little less swimming not that I was doing anything wrong as far as my boss was concerned. …but I had not thought about how it must have looked to my customers.
StorageTek Booth at the 1986 Technical Conference in Las Vegas

This job fit nicely with my Owl personality. On a regular basis I would have to take an “on call” weekly shift. This would mean the possibility of working second shift hours and third shift hours when needed which I usually found easy to do. When I was “on call”, if I got a call after I had already fallen asleep, it was sometimes hard to get me fully awake. I always told the dispatchers that called me, that I would call them back from the other room so as not to wake my husband. Most often I did called them right back. There were a few occasions that I returned to sleep not knowing that I had answered the phone. Eventually the dispatchers could tell when I was having trouble getting awake and would talk to me for a few minutes to wake me up.  This process worked pretty well because by the time I went to the other room and called them back, I was awake enough to take down any information I needed accurately and out the door I went.
Jan Tietz/Smith striking a pose and the Tech Convention in Vegas
Throughout my career with all of my employers in the computer industry, I never punch a time clock. I got to work when I got there and I left work when my day was done usually 8 or 9 hours later. In the later years, I could log back into work from home and work if needed. I could on occasion work the whole day from home if needed. My “on call” became support work that I could usually do remotely from home if it was after hours. While the computer systems that I supported were very reliable, on occasion in the middle of the night a process or system would fail and I had to make sure that it was fixed and running the next morning when day shift started at the manufacturing plant in Genoa.

Today as a retiree, I am still an Owl. My husband is the Lark. He naps on and off throughout the evening and about 11 PM goes off to bed after he turns down the heat. He says, “see you in a couple of hours...” I say, “No, I'll be right along...” And before I know it, it has been a couple of hours. He says that if he did not turn down the heat, I would stay up all night and he is probably right...When I get cool then I go upstairs looking for a warm bed.

So what are you, an Owl or a Lark?



Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 10 - Family Birthdays

My parents did a pretty good job with our birthdays...No parties like the parents of today. ...Our parties were always a family affairs....our family....  If they happen to coincide with a holiday then the Grandparents were likely involved but mostly it was just our family. I remember one year we had  a breakfast birthday for Mom in the morning in her bed!  That was fun.  The only reason I can think of why we would have done that is it must have been a Friday and Dad knew he would be working late so we had a breakfast Birthday party...

Mom's 40th Birthday

All these years later I have become the keeper of the family photos.  I have scanned them in and we all have copies of them but I have the originals. I learned something from these photos that I did not remember from my childhood...The Birthday boy or girl did not get to blow out their own candles... Most of us helped!  In almost every photo of a birthday gathering,  WE were blowing out the candles...Isn't that funny and I never realized it.

Looks like Pam's 13th Birthday
 On your birthday, the birthday person did not have to do dishes...for the girls this was kinda a big thing.  No fighting with your sister over who gets to wash or has to rinse or dry.   No getting wet because your sister got mad and splashed you on purpose and them swore to Mom it was a mistake..."really Mom it was" !  No one to push you off the stool that you had to stand on to reach into the sink if you were the washer or to the counter if you were the dryer.  You just sit back at the table and watch as the other two or three hashed it out.  Gee, maybe I'll have another piece of cake to dirty just one more plate and fork so they will have ONE more dish to wash...a cup of milk maybe...By then they are yelling to Mom..."Jan's making more dishes for us to wash!"  The boys did not do dishes so no big deal for them...Wonder if they did not have to take out the trash or something else...I honestly don't remember.  This is where it would be really nice if Matt or Mark would chime in on these Memories.....

Jan's Birthday 1964 - Ballerina Candle holders
You got to pick what you  wanted Mom to make for dinner.  With six kids, you did not "go out" for dinner ever....Now that I am older, I wonder who really won here...Mom or the Birthday person...Now that I know how hard it is to come up with something for dinner each day and a variety at that, I am thinking that Mom was the winner almost every month we had a birthday so that was one meal that she did not have to plan!!!

Oh the cake, we got to pick the kind of cake that we wanted....I picked German Chocolate for quite a number of years and I got German Chocolate for the rest of my life.....even after it wasn't my favorite any more... This is where I would LOVE Sharon to pipe up and talk about her Birthday cakes!!

Sharon's 7th Birthday
 When we were little she did buy those little hard sugar decorations to put on our cakes.  They usually spelled Happy Birthday and if you were lucky maybe your first name.  I remember as a little kid trying to bite into those decorations and nearly broke a tooth. They did not even taste good...  Oh and then there were the candle holder candies ones too....You would put them on the cake and put the candle in it to help it stand up.  It was quite and operation to get all the candles standing and then get them lite with a whole table of people anguish to blow them out.  Sometimes one of us was a little too eager and she would have to lite them all again because someone caused a false start! ..Mom did make good Birthday cakes...they came out of the box and so did the frosting...Just like everyone else did in the 1960's and 1970's...

Matt's 3rd Birthday
 Eventually, Mom just stuck the candles in the frosting and lite them as quick as she could...Then it was her job to take the candles out after we blew them out.  She would carefully lick all the frosting off the candles  as we not so patiently waited for our cake and ice cream. Some times in an effort to expedite this process, we would help take out the candles and lick the frosting for her...I think I got reprimanded a time or two for it.  We have pictures of her licking the ice cream scoop too...

I just realized that we did an awful lot of Birthday celebrations at night when were were already for bed!  Birthdays!!!  They are the best.  Give a family an excuse to celebrate one persons uniqueness. Even today we all spend a great deal of thought and time searching for that perfect card or special small gift....and we all do it in our own unique way!

Happy Birthday Sharon!!!

Hope you enjoy,


Monday, February 29, 2016

Week 9 of 2016 - 10th Grade Forensic Team

I wasn't much into sporting teams.  Basketball, softball...none of that really interest me. Not really the physical type I guess. I was involved with Band until I quit in 9th grade.  (That is for a different blog.) We had lived in Imlay City for two years and I had developed my new group of friends. Friends whom I had shared classes with since the move to Imlay City. The school district grouped kids together based on academic level. We were in the college prep group.

For tenth grade English, we had Mrs. Wilson.  She was a typical English teacher.  Middle aged, a little portly, she sometimes wore glasses except when she got her picture taken and at the time I thought she was pretty old and about ready to retire.  But in all actuality she was probably in her mid to late 40's. In the mind of a 10th grader, that is old. She did not always have control of the class.   She was sometimes taken advantage of by some of the students.

She was  the Speech / Forensics coach. I did not even know what the Forensic team was but was convinced to participate soon after the beginning of my Sophomore year. In case you do not know what the forensic team is, it is Debate, Speeches and Dramatic readings...You know English type things and of course there are district, regional and state competitions  that we would be participating in.

I have my whole life been a talker...but then YOU all know that .  Many times during school I would get in trouble because I could not keep my mouth shut.  Almost all my report cards said "She talks too much!"  So what better way to harness this issue than to join the speech club!   There were five sophomore girls who joined......  We would get extra credit, we could do much of the prep work for the competition during English class as long as we kept up with our regular school work.  And through our remaining years of high school, there would be continuing benefits to us that we would find out later.  The brownie points for being involved  were great and what else did we have to do. I was too young to date as far as my parents were concerned but old enough to work in my Dad's Dime store if I did not have a school activity I needed to attend, like Forensic practice. 

Forensic / Debate Team 1970-1971

Mrs Wilson recruited us for the category that she called, " Multiple Reading".  SO what is a "Multiple Reading" you ask??  It is like voice overs used in animated movies without the movie! A group of people tell a story, each person becomes the character or characters that they are assigned  to play.  You might even call it storytelling but it must be a team effort. As I recall, we were given the option to pick a piece of known children's literature. I can not remember if the category was provided for us by the region or district or if  Mrs Wilson picked it for us.   There were three groups in our team, one from the Senior class, Junior Class and then us, the Sophomores. The Senior group did a Charlie Brown reading.  I can not remember what the Juniors did. We did "Pooh Meets the Heffalump".  Our team consisted of Jean Brinker, Diane Rankin, Carol Schmucker, Laraine Crake and me.  I was assign the role of Piglet, Loraine was Eeyore,  Jean was the Narrator, Diane was Pooh and Carol was the Christoper Robin.....

Jean Brinker

Diane Rankin
Carol Schmucker

Laraine Crake
Jan Smith
We memorized all our lines and practiced for weeks and weeks.  I can remember practicing at our house in the living room and at Diane's house in the basement as the competition drew near.   I had a particularly difficult set of lines toward the end of the reading that was a real tongue twister...When Piglet thought he had discovered the Heffalump.  I messed it up so many times...I did not know whether I could ever get it right. We worked so hard at it.

When it came time for the nine school Blue Water League Competition, our Imlay City Team  was ready.  I had never participated in a live event. We took the bus to a big school auditorium in Flint.  You sat watching as all the other school / groups performed. The longer you sat there the more nervous you got.  While I was a talker in school,  I did not like speaking by myself or with a group in front of an audience.  We were all very scared.  Our turn was near the end of the event.  Our reading, by nature, had a bit of a rhythm to it,  it started off slow just like Pooh who just ambles along and builds up to this frenzied pace as Piglet believes he has discovered the elusive, never seen before, Heffalump! After  a few seconds of jitters, we all settled into our roles and gave our best performance ever.  Over all, Imlay City took the 3rd place trophy in the competition,  The team trophy is for the school and all its forensic teams combined scores...Debate, Speeches, Dramatic reading, Humorous reading, Multiple reading, Oratory.

Our Sophomore team took first place in the Multiple reading category and advanced to the fourth round of the March 1970 Blue Water Competition beating our Senior team who came in at third place.  We moved on to the District level where we won Second place in the 10 school Blue Water District level which took place in fall of 1971.   

I included the year book page for the Speech / Forensic  team.  I found it interesting that they talked about the Senior and Junior teams before they talked about the first place winning Sophomore team.  They have my name spelled wrong in part of the article but right in the second part.  They list Kathy Irish as a team member for the second half of the year which I do not remember and then added Jean Brinker back in as if there were six of us. Not sure who supplied the facts for this page.  I wish I had a recording of one of our practice sessions. It would be fun to listen to all these years later...

So there you have it...I guess that the years of "talking too much" did pay off in the end.. Hope you enjoyed this high school shared memory..