Me and my big mouth…

Have you ever had one of those seemingly innocent conversations that, in hindsight,  ends up costing thousands?  If you have…welcome to my world.

Literally a few months ago Connie and I were sitting in our living room when I mentioned that it’d be nice to replace the carpeting in our living & dining room.  It was at least fifteen years old, had survived three daughters running across it, had absorbed multiple spills, had obtained a black stain about the size of a quarter that I think was asphalt and was an easy target for one rogue cat that had occasional bouts of the stomach flu…spitting up juicy hairballs.  It started its career as a pristine, beige in  color, medium pile carpet.  It ended its life as a well-worn speckled beige-like floor covering.  What began as a “thought” took on a life of its own.  Not only are we getting new carpeting in the living and dining room but also new flooring in our entryway, half-bath, kitchen, up stairs bathroom and carpeting up the stairwell and upstairs hallway.  Its true.  Most of the flooring in our home on the main and second level were from the 1990’s and (wait for it….) 1980’s.  While showing its age, fashion-wise, it was holding up fairly well considering all of the traffic that our and the previous families had put on them.  No sooner had we brought up the idea of getting bids on the flooring when Connie brought up the fact that our furniture in the living room was past its prime….so we went furniture shopping as well.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Between trying to match fabric samples verses carpet samples my right-brained analytical wife went into overdrive.  A new couch, chair, end-tables, coffee table and entertainment center are inbound to the Palatial Estates.  I honestly just lost interest and turned the decisions over to her.  Here’s another little deal….you can’t have new furniture and carpeting without….wait for it….a new paint job in the living and dining rooms.

So…the floor guys are here now.  They’re not being quiet.  There were around three or four layers of older vinyl flooring beneath the one that we thought was way past due.  They’re pounding the life out of our kitchen floor.  Literally…hammering away on it like their very lives depend on hammering away.  Stripping, sanding and hammering.  Our refrigerator and stove are in our dining room…as is the breakfast bar and kitchen table.  Its all a mess.  A big, noisy mess…so be careful of what you say. 

Our living room…full of kitchen stuff while Connie paints the living and dining rooms a different…more relaxing shade of….tan? Beige? I don’t know.  She’s hosting a party here in four days.  She’s just a little stressed out.

Onto another topic (stay with me now…its been two full months since I’ve blogged so deal with it).  I was removing the leaves from our ancient oak kitchen table when I had one of those “jeez…just think if this table could talk” moments.  It all started back in 1988 when Connie and I were newlyweds.  A co-worker had this old table that she wanted $100 for.  She had bought it from a farmer then stripped the paint off.  Stained and varnished it looked pretty good to us… being poor,  and needing a table we jumped at the chance and our seller threw in four chairs from a former pizza place.  What a deal!!  Our new table was built to last, hefty and if you accidently grazed your sock covered foot on one of its thick oak legs then you probably broke a toe as the table always held its ground like a fortress of heavy oak against that puny little toe.

The table is over a hundred years old.  Built to last.  Its seen multiple moves from rental house to apartment to first home to this home.  It was with us before we had kids…but not before nephews acting silly with Grandpa.

Connie with our nephews and Dad. Do you like our fashion sense? All that really mattered was family. We didn’t have much…but we had each other.  1989

Its seen our family go from two, to three, to four and eventually grow to five.  Feeding a young one in a highchair as we had supper.  Wiping up spilled milk as it ran between the leaves and onto the floor.  Thousands of meals.  Plenty of talk…lots of laughter and maybe a few lessons learned along the way.

Dad with Karalee and Jordan…drawing pictures for each other.

Many a birthday parties and holiday meals were shared upon this table.

Later on as we gained a dining room it became a “kids table” during the holidays.

Did I mention that it was built to last? I don’t think very many tables these days are made like this one. Its oak…solid…no particle board.

The holidays were probably your most used times…holding court as others mixed up ingredients and frosting.

If you ever want to get a message to me….leave a note on the kitchen table. I’ll get it there.

Once the kitchen flooring is done the table will return, minus any leaves.  We simply don’t need that large of a table.  In its heyday it held fifteen of us one Thanksgiving, though now it’ll just be the two of us…again.  Its kind of weird how things in life circle back around like that.  Weird and yet reassuring.  I hope it finds another good family after we’re done with it in a few years.

Thanks for coming along.

God Bless you,

R

 

 

Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

The trip home…

My trip back to good old America started with me being dropped off in Miyazaki for my overnight stay prior to my flight out the following morning.  Miyazaki’s a large city and I readily looked forward to an afternoon to walking around and exploring the sights nearest my hotel.  It was a Sunday so not a lot was going on but there was still plenty to take in.  Firstly…I loved it.  It’s not too often that a middle-aged guy like me anticipates an afternoon of just walking around and looking.  I didn’t have my interpreter with me (our daughter Karalee) so finding my way back to my hotel after walking quite a ways from it would be my biggest challenge.  I had booked my room through Travelocity.com and was pleasantly surprised how nice it was for only $58 a night (The Sky Tower Hotel).  Here are some of the local sights that I found interesting.

McDonalds Halloween Witch's Fries.  Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce.  I didn't try any.  What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

McDonalds Halloween Witch’s Fries. Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce. I didn’t try any. What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

The "thing" in the refrigerator was a bottle of water.  Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them?  True story!

The “thing” in the refrigerator was a bottle of water. Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them? True story!

A traffic light.  This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan...

A traffic light. This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan…

No need to get spooked.  There's only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

No need to get spooked. There’s only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

...and now he's stealing your bike...

…and now he’s stealing your bike…

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me.  I tried to alert the proper authorities...in vain.

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me. I tried to alert the proper authorities…in vain.

So I walked around for a few hours, into the late afternoon, up and down streets and avenues packed with all kinds of shops.

The Colonel's kind of a big deal in Japan...

The Colonel’s kind of a big deal in Japan…

I found, of all places, a “Celtic Sport Pub” where I had a delicious American Blue Moon bottle of beer…for close to $9.  Regardless of its high price it tasted awesome.  I headed back towards my hotel where I contemplated eating in their hotel restaurant.  I hedged thinking that I didn’t fly halfway across the world not to take a chance at a local place.  I chose a place and took a seat.  Thank goodness that the menu had photos and between me and my server my selection was made without any international incidents occurring.

...uh...yeah...the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with...cheese?

…uh…yeah…the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with…cheese?

…and….

Delicous-ness!!  Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Delicious-ness!! Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan.  Dead serious.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan. Dead serious.  He looks none too happy about it.

Fast forward to the next morning.  I had set up a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.  That went great.  Once arriving at the airport the ticket counter couldn’t “find” me.  Literally…they had my passport and couldn’t find me on the 11 o’clock flight to Tokyo…and the lack of them understanding English and me Japanese didn’t help.  We were about ten minutes into this dilemma when I said “listen…I gotta be on that flight.  I’ll buy a ticket and settle up with Travelocity.com when I get home”.  The third of the three ticket counter ladies just smiled at me and continued typing away.  Sweat beads ran down my back…it was warm and I was stressed.  Finally one of the ladies asked if I had kept my old ticket stub from when I had arrived.  CHA-CHING!!  I had kept it!!  I gave it to her and literally (LITERALLY) two minutes later I was walking away with my new ticket.

Fast forward again…I landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport on time.  I had to transfer to Tokyo’s other international airport via a shuttle bus.  I had somewhere like six hours before my flight to Chicago boarded.  PLENTY of time (or so I thought).  I hustled to the shuttle bus ticket area and found…CHAOS.  Okay…not chaos…but an alarmingly large selection of transportation venues.  I was kind of “oh…sh*t…” (ever been there?  Not a good state of mind…am I right?)  Anyway…if you believe in God (like I do) you’ll like this.  I saw an airport employee, a young 20-something, walking towards me.  I got her attention, without looking like a crazed middle-aged American, and asked her where I could buy a shuttle bus ticket to Narita.  Get this…she was friendly, she took me to a ticket kiosk, changed its screen to read English, helped me buy the right ticket then led me to the bus stop and put me in the right line (mind you…there’s many buses coming and going by the minute).  She was an Angel.  Dead serious.  My wait for the bus was like two minutes before I was boarded and heading the right way.

Second Angel.  As we began our drive to Narita airport, which I thought would be a twenty minute ride, I struck up a conversation with a guy who I was pretty sure would understand English, Thomas.  Thomas is black.  There aren’t many black people in Japan, like he was the only one in Japan at the time.  Anyway…I asked Thomas how long the ride was.  He replied “an hour and a half.”  Holy cow!!  I hadn’t planned for this at all.  In my rush to find a ticket counter and thinking that the ride would be a short one I didn’t buy or bring something on the bus to drink, and I was parched!  Get this…Thomas not only calmed me down (I’m a little high-strung when traveling…) he gave me his unopened bottle of apple juice (I’m not a big fan of apple juice BUT this one tasted wonderful!!) and gave me a great person to talk and listen to during the ride and told me which stop to get off at once at Narita.  Thomas was great.  He’s Methodist by the way.

Once I found my gate I had a couple of hours to kill.  I was flying back in economy…not quite the business class that I had hoped for…but I was going home.  The plane would take off at 6 PM Tokyo time with a 3 PM landing in Chicago.

So long Japan!   Its been fun.  Let's do it again soon.

So long Japan! Its been fun. Let’s do it again soon.

I used to be a nervous-nelly on flights.  Twitching at every little chime, buzz or sound.  Not anymore.  Old Rich Ripley is a world-traveler.  I write.  I read.  I have a few drinks.  I watch TV.  Flying over an ocean…? No problem.  Forty minutes into our flight we had turbulence.  I mean real-live roller coaster, people shouting, plane shaking, pilot telling the flight attendants “ATTENDANTS GET TO YOUR SEATS”.  It was scary.  I thought to myself “this is the way that Hollywood portrays the moments before a plane crash.”  Surprisingly enough…I didn’t get overly concerned, but enough to have an impromptu chat with the Lord concerning aforementioned flight over said ocean.  The turbulence only lasted a few minutes…but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

We reached Chicago unscathed.  I had to really hustle to make it from my “big jet” gate to my little old “regional jet gate”.  I had less than 70 minutes to find my way through customs and on towards my new gate…which I didn’t know where it was…yet.

After clearing customs (when you’re a bigshot like me, they’re just happy to have me back in the States…you feel me?) I was starting to find my bearings as to where I needed to go next.  I saw a couple of the flight crew from my flight walking next to me.  I made a remark about the turbulence that we had experienced, had a nice laugh and I asked them if I could go out the door that they were exiting by…..and my next Angels were there.  They asked me what gate I was flying out from and once they heard that they replied “we’re walking right past it.  Come along with us!”  Dear Lord…these two attendants made the fifteen minute jaunt through a major international airport, onto a shuttle train, through security and right to my gate back to Iowa so easy.  I mean it…our Good and Gracious Lord made coming home so easy.  From the girl in Tokyo to Thomas on the shuttle to these two attendants walking me to my gate after working an eleven hour flight…just AWESOME.

My flight back to Cedar Rapids from Chicago is barely thirty minutes long.  I look down on the lights of Chicago fading to the east as the darkened farm fields of rural Illinois and Iowa slip under us.  I see the Mississippi River, the moon reflecting on it…it won’t be long now.  A combine illuminates the corn rows ever so slightly before taking them it.  Its funny what a person recognizes, if even from thousands of feet in the air above it.  I see a farm houses stretched down rural roads every so often…shining like little warm mercury-lit beacons…like bread crumbs left along a trail…guiding this Iowan back home.  We land, the cool early November air washes over me in the jet-bridge.  Dear God…what a journey.  Thank you for carrying me home.

Thank you for coming along with me.

God bless,

R

 

fast

I knew that this day was coming, this storm…so to speak.  I’ve known about it since January when our youngest daughter, Macy, sat down next to me on the couch as I watched a game on TV and ate supper.  “How have you been?” was her question.  My stomach sank.  I reached for the remote and shut off the TV.  I placed my plate, half-finished, on the end table.  I looked at her and replied “what’s wrong?”  You see, our daughters don’t just ask those kinds of questions.  At least not yet.  She was moving to Germany in the summer to become an Au Pair for a German couple, taking care of their kids, for a year.  After the year she’d start attending a university in Berlin and resume her studies while getting a job.  Germany has free college.  She’s fairly good at speaking German.  My guess is that she’s going to get a lot better.  I asked her if this was an “idea” or a “done deal”.  Her reply “95% done deal”.  My stomach sank further while my heart rose into my throat.

Our middle daughter, Karalee, was due to graduate in May.  She got a job in Japan. Literally, within three weeks during the coming summer we’d lose two daughters to two countries.  4,545 miles and 6,371 miles away respectively.  The storm…was gaining strength.  I could see it in the distance.  It wasn’t going away.  It had been building since the day of their birth I suppose.  Since their first step.  Since their first defiant toddler tantrum.  Since swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, driving a car and so on and so forth.  Its been a steady and relentless learning curve to try and conquer new things.  Scary things, except this time around I’m the one who’s scared…scared for them and maybe, just maybe…scared for me.

We’ve been temporary empty-nesters for two years with both daughters living half an hour away while attending college.  If they needed us we could be there in a short time (they never did..).  What’s my role now?  How am I to be defined?  Too young to be old.  Too old to be young.  Not wanting to be hip. Not wanting to be stodgy.  The salt is overtaking the pepper atop my head.  Do I try to be that old guy who wears denim shorts, black knee-high dress socks and sandals with a fanny pack when I go out?  Maybe try wearing a tie-dye shirt and grow a pony tail?  No one told me how to do this.  I’m serious when I write this.  What’s my role now?  My wife can only withstand so much of me before she shoots me the stink-eye.  I’m not always a delight to be around. (true story)

They’ve moved into good countries, not third world places.  I can’t imagine how parents with kids in the military feel when their kids are put in harms way in a bad part of the world.

That storm kept coming.  It brought tension, the silent type.  I told them that they could come back home if things didn’t work out.  That life sometimes hands you failure that you can learn from, but life continues to go onward.  I told them that I was proud of them, loved them and to be safe.  To trust their inner voice.   That trust is earned, not given freely to strangers or folks that you just met.  I don’t know if any of it sank in.  I was young once too, bullet-proof and foolhardy.

The day of the storm arrived.  Our last child would be flying from our home.  The storm wasn’t made of lightning, thunder nor rain but of questions, uncertainty, an emptiness in our lives, a hole in our heart.  An awkward vacuum left in the place of parenting up close and personal.  Each of our daughters, all three, have plans.  They made them themselves.  They’re theirs to live and fulfill, regardless of our feelings as parents…and for that I’m thankful.  They’re good people.  I’m proud of them.

Karalee's flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Karalee’s flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Macy's flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

Macy’s flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

On my phone. I can see what the weather is like where they're at except for New Liberty. Home town gets a place on the phone too.

On my phone I can see what the weather is like where they’re at except for New Liberty. My home town gets a place on the phone too.

From this....

From this….

...to this. It went by fast.

…to this

At the airport.  Silence speaks volumes.  Exuberance verses apprehension.  Exciting future verses the tedium of daily routine.  Throats tight.  Goodbyes whispered.  Eyes misty.  Silent walk to the parking lot as nearby jets rev their engines.  Quiet car ride to an empty house.  Prayers sent.  This storm, is it over or just beginning?  Trips to be planned.  Reunions in the future.  I wish that I had paid a little more attention to parenting while it was happening and savored those moments.  It went by fast.

R

 

 

PARENTHOOD…DAY 9,178. So far…so good

The time frame for this, the fourth of six chapters of my life as I enter the tender age of 50 (in less than two weeks if you’re mailing your gift to me…), begins around the beginning of 1989.  Connie and I had been married for almost a year when she brought it to my attention that we should start trying in earnest to get pregnant.  If I remember it correctly we didn’t discuss how much the baby would cost us in terms of money, time, patience, formula, medicine, insurance, sickness, loss of sleep, worry or anything else….we were 23 years old and it was time.  Connie, being a right-brained analytical type, purchased a Basal thermometer and started charting her ovulation cycle on graph paper which was compared to a calendar on her nightstand.  After a couple of months of this she informed me that “this next week I’ll need you on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights around nine PM” to which I wholeheartedly agreed that, this whole baby-making scheme of hers sounded “just grand” to me (HAR HAR).  What I came to quickly realize was that being called upon to sire a bloodline is TOTALLY  different from frisky and fun spontaneous sex.  My bride was all business…with no time for foolishness nor foreplay. She was all “GET ‘ER DONE” before the phrase was coined.  The following video closely illustrates our exchanges at that time. The movie She’s Having a Baby was the movie that we went to see on our first date.  Funny stuff…hits close to home.

We got pregnant quickly though it didn’t last…two times in a row.  We were heartbroken, with one even going into the second trimester.  Geez…did we really want this hurt to continue?  We cautiously approached this whole “parenthood” thing again and came through it with our first-born daughter Jordan.  She was perfect.  Eight pounds and a head full of hair.  As I laid down to sleep that night, with Connie and Jordan still at the hospital I thought to myself “I can finally relax…she’s born…she’s here…” before a stark realization pierced my conscience with “DEAR GOD…IT’S JUST BEGUN!!”

Connie and Jordan early on

Connie and Jordan early on

After Jordan was born Eastman Kodak probably posted record earnings.  We took photos of her endlessly.  Repeat…endlessly.  She was unique.  She was so smart. She was in the 100% percentile of her age group!!  She also pooped a great deal, spit up almost constantly, tried to eat our cat and was the apple of our eye.  Why our child was destined to be someone wonderful!!

Never mind that Jordan's gouging my eye out...she's happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

Never mind that Jordan’s gouging my eye out…she’s happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

First born children shoulder the burden of breaking in new parents.  Who would teach new parents that they should ALWAYS bring at least one set of clean clothes for the baby to even the most routine trip…?  The first-born.  Who would teach new parents that they shouldn’t leave the diaper bag (with diapers, wipes, Tylenol, pacifier and burp clothes in it) on top of their car then drive twenty miles before realizing that its now somewhere along a rural county blacktop…probably being ripped apart by cars driving over it?  The first-born. (true story…we realized it at eight o’clock at night…as we were getting ready to put Jordan down for the night).  Someone found it and turned it into the sheriffs office where we picked it up the next day.

Fast forward three years and BAM!!  Daughter number two shows up and she’s TOTALLY different from her sister in attitude, temperament and intestinal regularities (funny how when a kid doesn’t poop as often how your WHOLE being is centered on that until the issue is relieved…no pun intended).  We were in a new town, a nice apartment, new careers and adjusting to being a family of four.

Karalee was more of a Momma's girl in those first few years...

Karalee was more of a Momma’s girl in those first few years…

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky...it was fun.

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky…it was fun.

And fast forward again…

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a "come hither you sexy stud" look? Me neither...

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a “come hither you sexy stud” look? Me neither…

BAM!!  Mason Sue was born…all TEN POUNDS OF HER.  Our girls topped the charts in weight by coming into this world weighing at least eight pounds each.

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Just because you just had a ten pound baby doesn't mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

Just because you had a ten pound baby doesn’t mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

By the time Macy arrived we were old hands at raising little girls. We had bought a little house and Connie was real adept at finding garage sale clothes that a growing family needed and bought our girls winter coats the previous spring during seasonal closeouts.  Our kids didn’t mind and frankly…our family of five’s budget was lean.  All through this time there were always plenty of books, a sandbox, a swing set, bunk beds and their imagination.

Fast forward…

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations in 2001

DON'T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

DON’T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with a death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

We continued to learn life lessons…like if our toddler ate half a bag of cheese popcorn at the babysitters said toddler of ours would throw up an orange mess onto our beige carpet that wouldn’t come out.  Or…if one child gets sick the parent who slept on the floor of their bedroom to comfort them would eventually catch what the kid had (it didn’t kill me….)

It was around this time that I taught the girls how to ride their bikes.  True story.  They were having trouble learning how to ride, so I loaded up their bikes, dressed them in jeans and drove them to a park with a steep grassy hill.  They put on their helmets, knee and elbow pads then I had them take their bikes to the top of the hill.  They weren’t too sure of this method and expressed their doubts constantly to me.  They got on their bikes and I pushed them off, yelling “PEDAL!!  DON’T STOP PEDALLING!!”  They’d make it a little ways, crash then really expressed their doubts about my methods with “DOES MOM KNOW ABOUT YOUR TRYING TO KILL US?!?!”  Within minutes they were riding their bikes down the hill and onto the blacktop playground at the base of that hill.  Happy and confident, but not without a bump or two.  The girls were little, and whenever Connie left town for a conference and I had to be Mister Mom for several days I ran our girls hard….and they loved it.  If it were summer I’d let them get up around 8 and mill around the house until ten or so.  I’d load up the van with bikes, a cooler of food and drinks then head off to a park where they’d play until lunch time.  We’d picnic, then change into our swimsuits and go to the pool.  After a couple of hours at the pool we’d head to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  After getting home I’d send them outside to play some more.  Supper.  Showers.  A little TV and reading then send them off to bed at 7:30 where they’d crash.  It was a great plan…sadly I was almost as wore out as they were.

Without Connie around I usually relaxed the house rules.  On one occasion I encouraged belching at the dinner table with a follow up exclamation “GOOD FOR YOU!!”  shouted by everyone and hitting the table with both hands (this was done by one adult, me, and three little girls under the age of 11 for approximately one week).  It went over BIG!!  The girls loved it and practiced it as often as they could…with silverware clattering with each pounding and a lot of laughing….then Connie got home.  I didn’t think to tell the girls to stop our little routine, why would I?  At our first meal with Connie back Macy let out an ear-splitting belch that would make a sailor proud then hit the table with both hands and yelled “GOOD FOR ME!!!!” with a big smile on her face.  Connie’s jaw hit the floor.  Jordan and Karalee looked on in astonishment like Macy was about to die.  I chuckled and told Connie what we had been doing.  It ended right….there.

Fast forward…we wanted a larger house and bought one.  Everyone was excited.  Each girl had their own bedroom and got to decorate it accordingly.  Friday afternoons I’d pick them up from school then race home to clean the house, shower, order pizza then crash on the couch and watch Nickelodeon’s Friday night line up of Dexter’s Laboratory, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Rugrats and Ed, Edd and Eddy.

Good times...

Good times…

They grew…

First day of school

First day of school

School days…roughly 7,000 of them…not to mention their time in college.  Our girls got good grades, a direct reflection of their mother’s influence.

Family reunion 2006

Family reunion 2006

Lots of Halloweens…

Thug life. Don't ask me why..

Thug life. Don’t ask me why..

Connie was/is always in charge of Christmas.  Since I work retail I’m usually not in any good mood to do anything other than drink and watch others enjoy the festivities.  We both grew up with generous, loving and thoughtful parents.  I’d like to think that we carried those traits onto our family.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007

Lot’s of birthdays.  We’ve hosted many, many birthday parties for our daughters.  When they got older and had friends over…we got wiser and ended “sleep overs”.  I suddenly started feeling my age when I started telling kids “its 4 AM dammit…get into your sleeping bags and go to sleep!!”  One hundred and thirteen birthday cakes later…we’re still ready for more.

My bride didn't have a "9" for my 39th birthday so she improvised with "38" and "1".

My bride didn’t have a “9” for my 39th birthday so she improvised with “38” and “1”

My 40th birthday with my girl. We're both grayer now...go figure

My 40th birthday with my girl. We’re both grayer now…go figure

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn't bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over the her school shoes)

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn’t bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over her school shoes)

Vacations.  We finally started taking good vacations.  Destination spots.  Disney.  Washington DC.  Colorado.  It’d take a couple of years to save up for them.  I think that Connie and I were just as excited as our girls were.

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn't fit. (I call this my "white socks with denim shorts phase)

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn’t fit. (I call this my “white socks with denim shorts phase)

On top of Pike's Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

On top of Pike’s Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

Photos!!  We took a lot of photos!!  There’s around 15 large photo albums of the past 27 years, with roughly 20 smaller photo albums of our vacations.  Connie is to credit for all of these, that and we took photos of everyday life and special occasions.

High school and middle school days

High school and middle school days

 

Did I mention birthday parties…?

Macy and friends...

Macy and friends…Diet Dew and cake

Jordan...with Karalee photobombing

Jordan…with Karalee photobombing

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Long a tradition in our home...birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn't include a place with Happy Meals.

Long a tradition in our home…birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn’t include a place with Happy Meals.

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Graduations…four of them.  Three high school.  One college.

Macy's high school graduation. 2014

Macy’s high school graduation 2014

As a tradition that our girls started…whenever we have a holiday or event that one of them can’t attend, the absent ones face is printed out and taped to the face of a stuffed snowman…so she can be there in spirit.  What started out as a joke is now kind of a deal for them.

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan "bring" Karalee to Macy's graduation party

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan “bring” Karalee to Macy’s graduation party

Empty-nesters.  Nuff said.

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now...?

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now…?

Flying the nest…literally…

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Traditions.  We have them.  Won’t go too far into them.  One is cookie baking for the holidays.  Here Karalee photobombs with the batter.  I think she’s practicing to take my spot as the family ham…but I’m still firmly on my throne.

COOKIE TIME!!

COOKIE TIME!!

More Christmas…

Who doesn't like a good head-hug from their kid?

Who doesn’t like a good head-hug from their kid?

Uhhh...what happened to my little girls...? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me...? Anyone...?

Uhhh…what happened to my little girls…? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me…? Anyone…?

As I looked back through our family photos I became a little melancholy.  Where did the time go?  I always knew that we were very blessed, but to see it again and again….and again…all of the love, the fun and good times…it makes me feel overly blessed.  Connie’s done a WONDERFUL job as a wife, and mother of our daughters…I couldn’t ask God for a better person to spend my life with.  I couldn’t ask for better parents or in-laws.  They’re the kind of folks that taught us about love, affection, laughter, honor, God, home, a work ethic, family, solidarity, responsibility, honesty and how to be a good parent, spouse and brother/sister.  They taught us without saying anything most days….we just didn’t know it.

Whenever I overhear a young couple say that they don’t have enough money saved up to have a child I tell them “don’t wait, you’ll never have enough money and you’re missing out on the ride of a lifetime.”  Parenthood isn’t for everyone….but it was for me.

Once in a great while…we get all three of our daughters home.  It doesn’t happen very often.  When we do…this is how they act…

Goofy women in my truck

Goofy women in my truck

…but this is how I still see them…

Good times

Good times

Parenthood has made me a better person.  Nuff said.

God bless and thanks for coming along…

R

 

 

 

THE EPIC SAGA CONTINUES…LOVE IN ’88

The third in a series of six epic tales…sure to warm the hearts and souls of those in the upper Midwest…and maybe other places too…but for now…just the upper Midwest.

So 1988 began much like the previous year left off….quietly.  Not.  Much.  Going.  On.  I was just a lonely single dude….lookin’ for love and not having much luck.  Truth be told, I wasn’t much of a Don Juan character.  My total number of dates in the previous five years could be counted on one hand….so yeah….I was PRIMED for SUCCESS!!

A mutual friend got Connie, my future wife, to stop by the store where I was working and meet me.  Needless to say, the vixen that she was/is, went all out that initial introduction and wore baggy gray sweatpants and huge winter parka….HOT STUFF BABY!!  Long story short….we went out on a date, then another (the next night) and by the end of the night…we were discussing the possibility of marriage…to each other.  Thirteen days later…we were engaged.

Back then when you became engaged folks threw you a wedding shower.  In our case….we had shower, after shower, after shower.  Even folks from our workplaces threw us showers.

Sexy undies for me...Connie's quite pumped about them.

Sexy undies for me…Connie’s quite pumped about them.

These "elephant undies" were a hit at our wedding shower...what with it "trunk space" and all....

These “elephant undies” were a hit at our wedding shower…what with its “trunk space” and all….

And…another shower.  This one at the Methodist church in historic Joy Illinois.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on....true story.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on….true story.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I'm pretty pumped...about the cake.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I’m pretty pumped…about the cake.

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

After our wedding we did the usual sexy young couple stuff….we sat in front of International posters and looked suave…

We actually look like we know what we're doing! Incredible!!

We actually look like we know what we’re doing! Incredible!!

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I've chosen not include those sexy notes...they're too "hubba hubba"

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I’ve chosen not include those sexy notes…they’re too “hubba hubba”

Skiing with another couple. Ah...the joys of being "kid-less".

Skiing with another couple. Ah…the joys of being “kid-less”.

...and the "mustache experiment". I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

…and the “mustache experiment”. I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

We went to concerts…Lee Greenwood! Randy Travis!! Kenny Rogers!!  We met important people!

I told you we met celebrities!!

I told you we met celebrities!!

In the mean time we had started on…well, starting a family.  We got close a couplea times…but this last one…we went the distance.  On December 18th 1990 on a cold winter morning we became parents for the first time.  We were green.  Amateurs.  Rookies in the first degree.  I could have gone on for a while…you know…just practicing to get pregnant (HAR HAR) but my bride was born to be a mommy.  She relished and cherished the idea of being a mommy.  Me?  Well ladies and gentlemen…the following photo pretty much sums up my idea of parenting in the early stages….

Dear God....what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Dear God….what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Parenthood…what was THAT all about?!  I was clueless, but being clueless is something that I seem to specialize in.  Until the next episode…stay warm and classy…like me.

God bless,

R