A Tribute to Three Very Special Ladies – My Grandmas

I had very special grandmas.  When I was growing up, we lived 3 hours away from them, so any time we got to spend with them was golden.  Luckily, my parents would send my brother, sister, and I to the farm every summer.  From as soon as school got out to just before school started again, we lived on the farm.  We played with our cousins almost every day, did chores, and generally hung out.  Mom and Dad came up occasionally, but most of the time, it was just us and our grandparents.

Grandma at my bridal shower.

My Grandma Fitzgerald (aka Fuzz) was a wonderful lady to know.  She lived in town, but we got to spend the night with her off and on throughout the course of the summer, usually on Saturday so we could go to church with her.  She was funny, loving, and spiritual.  She and Grandpa had 7 kids – the youngest was a teenager when I was born.  After Grandpa died, she was the glue that held the family together.  She worked for a number of years after Grandpa died, so we couldn’t stay with her all the time.  There are a few memories I treasure about those times I spent with her:

  • Going to the grocery store, Starbuck’s diner, eating popcorn for supper and watching TV.
  • Getting to use Mr. Bubble Bubble Bath when I spent the night (that wasn’t allowed at home).
  • Grandma’s voice and organ playing (there are still songs that make me think of her).
  • Her sense of humor (she once walked chicken legs walk down the table, telling a story the whole way).
  • Holy Saturday Mass (we walked to church one year and it was a beautiful service).

We lost her several years ago to Alzheimer’s, which has to be the worst disease out there.

Grandma sitting in her chair - not a usual sight.

My Grandma Sloniger was truly a special lady.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her, or ask myself whatshe would do.  She was so kind to everyone, and so patient – especially with teenagers who may not always be the most respectful.  Grandma worked hard on the farm, making sure Grandpa and my uncles were fed, the house was clean, and her grandkids were taken care of.  It took a very special person to corral 5 to 7 grandkids almost every day – luckily, they lived on a farm and she could tell us to go outside.  Grandma and I spent a lot of time baking, walking around the cow lot, sewing, reading, and watching old movies.  Grandma spent a lot of time with our family because my youngest brother was sick so much.  She would drop everything at the drop of a hat and come and stay with us for months on time.  Not many people would do that – no matter who it was for.  Our tribal knowledge is specific to us.  To this day, every one of us grandkids can tell you the plots to the old classic movies – from Shirley Temple to Fred & Ginger to Spike Jones – much to the dismay of our spouses.  Ask any of us what the Purple Movie is about and we can name it (it’s the Glenn Miller Story, by the way).  Ask us what is on the menu at Hickory Park and we can tell you – in fact, most of the people at Hickory Park can probably name all of us, including spouses and kids.  And, we know that meatloaf and tater tot casserole has to be made is a specific casserole dish, and hamburger gravy has to be made in a particular skillet.  There are a couple of memories I treasure about my summers with her:

  • Gardening and canning in the summer.
  • Baking cookies and congo bars.
  • Taking afternoon treats out to the field.
  • Going for walks and bike rides.
  • Reading and her helping with homework.
  • Using her mom’s treadle sewing machine.
  • How she always had Rice Krispies for breakfast every morning (with ½ of a banana).
  • Having SPAM sandwiches.
  • How she kept every piece of paper we gave her.

After I got married and moved away, she would send me letters.  I treasured those because I could hold them and still smell the baby powder she used every day.  We lost her a few years ago to Alzheimer’s as well.  I think she knew what was going on and she didn’t want to be a burden to my Grandpa, so she let us go.  But she knew who I was when I came up to say goodbye to her.

Great Grandma - one of the few pictures I have of her.

Great Grandma Sloniger was another big influence on my life.  I have a problem when talking to my mom about her, because I grew up calling Great Grandma just Grandma.  So Mom and I always have to make sure we are talking about the right grandma.  Great Grandma and Great Grandpa lived 1 mile from Grandma and Grandpa, so it was pretty customary for us to walk over there – especially if we were moving cows.  Their house was “over home” and we took care of chores at both places.  I would go to her house and we would bake cookies (we did a LOT of baking in the summers!) and kringla.  She taught me how to knit and crochet.  After she moved to her apartment, I would still get to spend the night.  We still baked and did crafts.  She was very patient with me.  Even when she was blind, she never stopped knitting and crocheting.  Nothing stopped her from staying busy.  She was a teenager during the Depression (depending on what year she told you she was born), so that made a huge impact on her.  In fact, I have her rolling pin and it still has the Fareway bread loaf bag that she kept it in – I can’t bear to replace it.  She kept all sorts of fabric, and it still smells like her house.  A few of the things I remember best about Great Grandma:

  • Going to square dances with Great Grandpa, Grandpa, and Grandma.
  • Baking all sorts of things.
  • All of the flowers.
  • The hardwood floors upstairs in her house and the French doors at the bottom of the stairs (which I now have).
  • All of the cubby holes in her built-in buffet in the dining room.
  • Going downstairs to the basement to make the powdered milk for the calves.
  • Watching her create things.

She died in 1993 when I was 17.  While she had some health difficulties her last few years, she still kept going.  She made an impact on a lot of people and worked hard her whole life.  I remember her being a quiet person, but we knew she loved us.

Can You Help Me Get Better?

A few weeks ago, Jon Acuff posted about his experience rehearsing for the Quitter conference he had coming up (http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/who-likes-you-enough-to-help-you-get-better/).  In the post, he discussed how he asked someone to critique his presentation.  He discusses how someone providing you with honest feedback on how to improve your work product is better than the customary pat on the back.

Everyone likes to think they have done a great job on a project.  They want that pat on the back.  They don’t want to hear that something they have spent hours completing is flawed in anyway.  Feedback is tough.  But I think that by opening yourself up to receiving feedback in a constructive manner, and honestly soliciting quality feedback is a great way to improve.

I have a full-time job where I spend a lot of time writing.  It’s something that I love to do.  But I’ll be honest, as much as I love learning different things about my company – things that not a lot of other people learn about – sometimes the writing can be kind of dry.  So I try my best to find ways to take very intense, complicated topics and make them simpler.  I am able to do this because those I work for are patient and able to explain the topics in a way that I can glean information out of them for everyone else.  I also do a lot of research so that I can figure it out on my own.  But I’m not perfect, nor am I the expert.

Sometimes I get it wrong.  Words are tricky things.  It’s so easy to change the meaning of something by changing just a few words.  It’s easy to oversimplify something to the point that it doesn’t make any sense.  Some people who look at my work are really good about offering suggestions to improve the writing.  Others don’t provide any feedback – their silence is the tacit approval of what I have written for them.  I would much rather have someone read my writing and help me to understand how to make it better than to continue to produce work that is sub-par.

Writing this blog is a way for me to improve my writing.  So I am asking for your help.  As you read the postings on my blog, I ask that you provide feedback.  The posts all have ranking buttons at the bottom – feel free to use them.  All posts have a comment feature – feel free to leave feedback.  What do you like about my writing?  What don’t you write about my writing?

Communication – What’s Really Being Said?

I have been looking at a lot of things lately.  One of them is the blog written by Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs of Love and Respect.  They had a post recently called “What’s the Alternative to Love and Respect?” (http://emersonandsarah.blogspot.com/2011/08/whats-alternative-to-love-and-respect.html) that struck home for me.   I haven’t read their book yet (it’s on my list once I get through some others), so I don’t know the whole story of how their ministry started and how they reached the truths that they speak about. But I thought this topic was important.

In their post, they talk about how spouses need to speak with love and respect to each other and how even the simplest solutions sometimes can solve many problems.  Too often, I think that when a couple is stressed with their partner, they don’t look beyond the surface issues.  The example in the Eggerichs’ post is a couple sitting down to do their monthly budget, and thinking that if they solve their financial problems, it will take care of everything else.   They say to themselves, “If we only had our money issues solved, I would be happier with him/her and our marriage would be back on track.”  To them, that is the simple solution.  They think the relationship will take care of itself.  However, that is not the case.

I’m not an expert and I haven’t had a perfect marriage.  We have gone through our rough times – times I never want to go through again.  When faced with a difficult time, it’s often crossed our minds that if we had enough money, had a different job, had kids, lived closer to family, whatever, all of our problems would be solved.  But then we look deeper.  The problem isn’t that we had money problems or were stressed with our jobs, it was that we weren’t communicating the right way.

Communicating means more than just asking your partner how their day went.  It means listening to what they are saying.  Do you hear the hurt, the disgust, the yearning for someone to truly listen to them?  Often what they are speaking isn’t anything like what they are saying.  Are they telling you the whole story, or are they holding things back because they don’t want to burden/stress/bother you?  Do they think you won’t be interested in what they have to say?

I have found myself on both sides of the coin.  Neither side is fun, especially since it tends to affect my attitude for the next little bit.  If only I took more care in communicating with my spouse, he would understand that I respect and honor him.  Life and relationships are already hard enough in today’s society.  While it’s not easy to always do the right thing, isn’t it the most important thing you can do?

Prayer for Humility

This is another one I read a few months ago.  I had a boss once who said that I need to work on being more humble.  I am still working on that, but at least now I am more cognizant of how I appear to others.

A PRIVATE LITANY OF HUMILITY
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household.

Adapted from a prayer by Rafael, Cardinal Merry Del Val,
from the prayer book, For Jesuits, 1963, Loyola University Press