Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Life at 322 – Bessie

I remember being home from school and wanting to play.  Mom had rules…lots of rules (she kept order in the chaos of our lives for sure).  We could have ginger ale, crackers and stay in our rooms.  that was it.  I remember how I hated sick days!

Years later – #5 came along and use to stay home sick on Wednesdays or Fridays until mom figured out she wanted to hang with Bessie – our housekeeper of 20+ years.  Bessie was awesome and another of mom’s wonderful finds – a fabulous cleaner and caregiver – she was Czechoslovakian and as sweet as could be.  She could tell stories and would do just about anything for us.  One year, very early in Sesame Street days – she gave us each a 45 record of a character singing a song – they became “our” songs so we each had a favorite – created by Bessie.  She was subtle that way – giving us our own space and uniting us at the same time.

She was a constant presence in our lives for as long as I can remember.  We wrote and called during college – saw her on holidays and long after our family needed her services, still had her over or visited her from time to time.  When I think of my childhood – Bessie is as much a part of our history as any other person.  We were blessed to have such loving support in every area of our lives and I believe it was essential to the balance of our crazy childhood.

I have only a few pictures with Bessie in it – which is strange to me because I felt like she was always there. 

Bessie wore her hair in a bun – always.  We begged and begged her to take it down and show us what her hair really looked like.  So, one day on her way to Wednesday Church Meetin’ – she stopped by the house all dressed up – we were so excited as there was quite a bit of build-up.  She walked in and it was about an inch longer than the bun!   In hindsight we knew the bun was tiny, but at the moment in time – we were SHOCKED – “where’s all of your hair” we wanted to know.  “Well now – it’s right hee-yar” She sing-songed as she tugged at the tiny bit of hair.  We giggled and had a few minutes of fun before she dashed out the door to be on her way.

She was like that.  Full of love and joy – yet serious as all.  She had watched the children of others we knew and sometimes told us just harrowing stories of events involving people we knew.  They were not harrowing looking back — but we were appropriately agog and aghast at the things she told.  Once, when I guess my mom was watching the Lecher twins, one of them wiggled right out of my hands and landed on the hard floor on his head – I was devastated – Bessie had a story to tell to show me it was ok….she thought.  “Once a youngun I watched choked on a small marble…it was the scariest thing – it went RIGHT DOWN HER THROAT and she couldn’t breathe…she plum stopped breathin and I had to turn her over my knee to knock that toy out of her mouth and get her breathing again – she cried – land-o-goshen did that little one cry — we were glad to hear it since it meant she was breathin again”.  Terrified me! 🙂 haha! 

She was a little like a live-in Grandma since she was at our house so much and took care of us so wonderfully.  Tucked us in at night, sang songs with us, and always on the go.  You rarely saw Bessie sitting down – only if it was to read to us (usually folding while she did). 

I’d love to have a Bessie in my children’s lives….for now I will just share the memories as best I can.

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel


We have a LOT of cousins! My grandma on my dad’s side was one of 6 – 3 girls (each had 2 children) 3 boys (each had LOTS of children – I never have been able to keep track of just who goes with whom!).

My grandma was a true matriarch and kept everyone tied together in any way possible. She spoke of relatives who were very far away as though they were part of our lives – as a result they were in some way always connected to us. We knew of the Arizona cousins (and the crazy video-taping that will be related in a later post) – the many Michigan cousins, the square dancers in WA and so many more. She read their cards and letters to us and just chattered about them as if we all could keep track of who in the world she was talking about. She did it up until she died – she would call on Fridays – she had a list – she would call and talk all day (her daughter had the free Friday calls plan and hooked her up!) – We did some family reunions over the years – but it truly became too difficult to arrange that many family schedules. So she just kept it up. She took some of us on trips together to promote bonding – something her daughter has also done with her own grandchildren and I admire it greatly. I hope I am able to do similar things – although I am much older as a mom so would expect traveling with grandchildren may become difficult while using a walker!!

Ok – so a cool thing happened, my Dad and mom came to Clearwater – as had his uncle Quilan and his wife, Hazel (youngest of the three sisters). His sister came later – with her family, then Grandma and Grandpa moved down. They had a seasonal place but made it permanent. The third sister, Bernice, also had a seasonal place in Clearwater. So we had a wonderful time growing up – spending many weekends at Grandma and Grandpa’s house – it was cool, our cousins would be with us as well. We spend countless hours in the ‘kids bedroom’ at my Grandma’s house. Playing dress-up, playing barbies, and just using our imagination in so many ways. It was an adventure- always! We loved being there. Grandma would lay on a twin bed with us and tell us amazing stories of her childhood. They always sounded like adventures even though she felt like she was just telling us about her. An example: She and her sisters would walk to school in Michigan and they got in trouble frequently for convincing Hazel (the baby) to do silly dares like walking on the frozen-over creek (not fully frozen!). We would laugh and ooh and aah at exactly the points she wanted.

She taught us to dance the Charleston and the Foxtrot, she ‘set’ our hair and put us under the dryer, to love Tennessee Williams and watch the news. She made us the center of her universe and we always knew we could talk to her about any and everything. She was honest. That was something that made you feel like you had to be – which is cool.

I remember a particularly silly thing that has always stuck with me, I’m not certain why. I got my ears pierced the year I turned 12 (another crazy story!) – and that Easter she got me earrings. They were identical to ones I had just gotten and Grandma walked me into her bedroom and had me choose a pair of her earrings in exchange. It made me feel so special and I loved that ‘new’ pair. I overheard another adult relative tell my Grandma in not so quiet words how ungrateful I was…no so, Grandma said – and said something much more positive about me. I don’t know why that stuck with me except that it was such a stark difference in adult behavior between these two women – and I was clearly very impressionable.

Anyhow, Grandma always put family first and did it without a thought, just matter-of-fact about it. She was about notes, letters, calls and visits. From her I learned to love all of these things. I have written notes and cards most of my life (though less these days) – to the point that people have frequently commented on it. From her I learned to love stopping by to visit friends – a now almost lost ‘art’. I think it is a wonderful thing to visit neighbors and friends – to go for a Sunday drive, to seek out news of loved ones who are no longer near – and I think my Grandma would LOVE facebook! That is so funny to me but she would – she would laugh and giggle and would remark on the things we shouldn’t be saying or doing so publicly.

She lived thru the depression and taught us things I hadn’t realized: when she and my Grandpa got married, they kept it a secret so that they both could continue to work. Could you imagine someone doing that today? Also, as the eldest, she got money to go to secretarial school to learn typing skills. She had an apartment and her sister, Bernice, came to live with her. They made a keyboard out of paper on the kitchen table and each night after school, she would teach Bernice the skills she had learned – so that they would both be employable. It is part of the determination of that generation to just DO. No questions, just figuring out solutions.

Grandma and her sisters traveled together for years — I think most of us have stories of the three of them showing up places. My dad’s cousin Wayne was at work in California when he looked up to see them peering in the window at the front of the building. This is funnier – because all three of them were under 5’2 and could almost have passed for triplets!

I am filled with respect for this woman who brought so much to so many, without being prideful or expecting anything. She just did. Thankful that God blessed me with her!

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

I’m 3 of 5. Always have been.

I’m the third of 5 girls in a wonderful family – not Catholic as many guessed over the years – just wonderfully happy loving parents. Probably at some level they really were trying for a boy – but after 5 girls – you have to get clever and realize it just isn’t happening!

Mom was amazing – she screamed, yelled, spanked and always supported us. She had mad crazy birthdays – made us each our favorite cakes and allowed us to have these blow-out slumber parties where we piled our entire class of girls into the bus after school, a long bus-ride later – 20 girls would pile off the bus with sleeping bags and overnight bags and presents and walk the block and a half to our house. Mom would greet us at the door – direct the depositing of gear and start playing games. Our hallway entry was large – so we would sit in a circle and all put our shoes in front of us singing “pass the shoes” which ends up being a little like musical chairs – we move the shoes around the circle, my mom takes one out and if you end up without a pair – you leave the circle, head to the bathroom and change into a bathing suit. We played this game until all of us were changed (so smart!) and then headed out to play in the pool. Mom then brought out the stop-watch and orchestrated relay races – jump into tube, paddle to other end of pool, trade to a new person, repeat. After tiring of that game, she would have us see how many of us could jump off the diving board – one at a time – in a minute. Game after game she lead – then she would end up with us bobbing for apples in the pool. Seriously, how she tolerated and controlled those parties I will never know. I’m in awe. As a mom today – wow, I can’t believe all that she did and how far I fall short. I’m pretty good, just not as good as she was.

That’s a pretty high bar!

I’m going to see how many of these wonderful stories I can recall and post – and will do so interspersing with my own stories….coming up!

Adventure · Family · Odds and Ends

More of this crazy life!

We’ve been talking a lot about fulfilling dreams – how we KNOW what our true dreams are – where they lead and how to best follow.

No answers!

It is crazy – we hear and read about people who have known their entire lives that they want to do this ONE THING – and others who take a temporary job and realize THIS IS IT!!! – I’ve had many jobs, done many things and truly can imagine myself making any of them my passion – which leads to insane mediocrity. How sad that is – content with many things instead of just one. I feel extremely wishy-washy because of this. Truly I love teach people about using computers – I love to teach one-on-one and in a classroom. I love it because it isn’t what I do every day – but what would I love to do madly passionately — day to day? I couldn’t say just one thing. Why not?! I want to lead my children to their passions but seems silly when I can’t find my own. I think I can be successful at anything – yet am widely successful at nothing.

I am successful, moderately, but don’t seem to find the push. I’ve discovered, however, one common thread. I love telling the story … almost any story. Cool right? I am going to start telling these stories and I bet I won’t stop. Let’s see how it goes!