Grandma

Don’t you just love when surprises seem to fall out of nowhere? 

I opened up my Facebook feed a while ago, and there was a “share your memories ” post from 2014. 

As fate would have it, it was a something I’d written to my grandma Wilma 2 years ago today. Along with my message, was a recipe of hers that I stumbled across in a cookbook and at the time I was showing it to her. 

If you’ve been around here awhile, you’ll know how much I love and admire my grandma Wilma. She was an amazing woman and was 96 years old when she left this earth for Heavenly adventures. 

Before she passed, I wrote some nice stories about her. One is called, “Windows” and is one of my favorite stories ever. Here is the link, if you’re interested in reading it. 

Another one I really like is called “Written Words” which tells about these folders full of writing that she and grandpa gave for Christmas presents for 11 years. You can read it here, if you want. 

The  day she passed away, my feelings poured out on the page and “She Wore Iowa Well” was born. 

She was definitely smiling down on me that day, because that story still has the most views of any I’ve ever written before or since, and it was even read at her funeral. You could find it here, if you’d like. 

After she passed, I wrote another story about her called, “Her Voice”. It’s about an afternoon surprise that Little Bit and I got out of the blue on Valentine’s Day . The link to it is here, if you’d like to take a peek. 

I guess now is the perfect day for sharing memories of her and that recipe as well. It’s seems funny to me how they so eloquently popped back into my life via Facebook today. 

You see, I was never  even going to get on Facebook. Like ever. But, I eventually took the plunge and I did so only for one reason: 

Grandma was on there. 

Love how things like that happen sometimes. 

Oh, one last thing, at her services, the minister said something that was one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks-true statements:

“Wilma put the Amazing in Grace.”

Yes, she most certainly did! 

Here’s to you, grandma. 


Her Voice

Have you ever just been floating along in your life and suddenly been gifted something so unbelievable that you almost had to pinch yourself so you could believe it?

That happened to me. As most of you know, Friday was a tough day for me. I was working on my story about my aunt. Grief had sort of set up shop in my kitchen and after dishing out bowls full of tears, it made itself quite comfortable on the stool next to mine.

Thoughts of not only losing my aunt, but also about losing grandma Wilma crowded my heart. As I reread my story about grandma from December, my heart was more than heavy.

How is it that time passes so quickly? February is half over which means grandma has already been gone over two months. I found myself really missing her, too.

When I got my story finished up, I went about the normal day activities. A few hours later, I sat down to check my emails. Little did I know that I was about to receive a glorious gift.

My parents had forwarded me an email from my uncle that contained something that I had no idea even existed.

At first, I just sat there, staring at it. Then, I ran to get Little Bit.

You see, that email contained  something way beyond believable. As I hit the play button, the gift magically appeared.

Her voice.

Grandma Wilma’s voice filled the entire room. 

It was an audio file of grandma reading “The Night Before Christmas.” You should have seen us! With blankets and pillows piled high on the dining room floor, we sat among books and Legos, and we listened.

I’m pretty sure there was never a sweeter moment. It was as if there was a giant box in the room covered with pretty paper and ribbons.

Words can’t even begin to touch what it was like to see the sparkle in my little boy’s eyes when he heard his great grandma’s voice once again.

The giant tears cascading down my cheeks were the only movement in a house that was all ears for grandma.

When my precious Little Bit saw my tears, he uttered the most perfectly, amazing, heartfelt words:

“Ooooh, you love it!”

(Insert. Giant. Smile. Here.)

Yes, I most certainly do.  
(her barn and whirly-gig thing that grandpa made) 



In-heart-itance  

Has anyone ever left you something that you love SO MUCH, just thinking about it gives you an overflowing abundance  of gratitude? 

Last Sunday we went to see some friends and it was our first time to their house. While there, I noticed an amazing grandfather clock sort of tucked away in the corner of the dining room. 

As far as clocks go, it was rather impressive. It was a Regulator with an ornately carved top. When I asked them about the clock, her eyes lit up and he got up from his chair in front of the playoff football game!

Here’s the thing, a football fan left the game to talk about a clock, a hutch, crock jars, and quilts? That told me right then that those things meant something to him. 

They certainly did. Turns out those items had been his grandparents. When they passed away, he chose the things he connected with. He told me stories of the clock and even shared a boyhood memory of one of the quilts. Love that! 

It also got me thinking about a conversation a different friend and I had recently. We were talking about our grandparents, their lives, their homes, and what they left us. Essentially we discussed our inheritances. 

This is just a guess, but I’d say that most of the time when the word inheritance is mentioned, minds tend to jump to “how much?” That’s fair enough, I suppose. But to me, an inheritance is more about things learned and memories made. 

Financially, neither set of my grandparents were wealthy. Yet, because of them, I am beyond rich.

Rich in history. Rich in character. Rich in keepsakes. Rich in family. Rich in talent. Rich in memories. Rich in grateful. Rich in heart. 

It is because of them that I received my in-heart-itance. 

While I was trying to think of a word to describe what my grandparents left to me, the word in-heart-itance sort of just fell onto the paper. I completely made it up and honestly, it sums everything up quite well. 

  • They taught me that true friends show up.
  • They stepped into compassion’s shoes every morning, and I learned about helping others and kindness. 
  • They shared their love of gardening, flowers, and farming with me. 
  • They not only showed me their hobbies, but taught me to do them as well. Grandma Wilma taught me embroidering. Grandma Irene taught me how to make meringue. Grandpa Abbe showed me how to fish. 
  • Family was of utmost importance to them, and they showed me how to appreciate who we are given. 

They left behind pieces of their lives that fill the spaces of my home. An oil lamp from Grandma Wilma. Crotcheted items they made me when I was little. Letters they wrote me and birthday cards they sent year after year. My embroidery hoops from childhood. A curler that was Grandma Irene’s. She LOVED getting her hair done at the beauty shop and went every week. A cookie jar that I once gave to Grandma Wilma that she gave back to me. 

Another thing I got, nearly bring tears to my eyes. When my grandpa Abbe passed away, there was a bag of coins in his safe deposit box. Now, to coin collectors those coins don’t mean much, but to me, they mean the world.

You see, when he and grandma had their 50th wedding anniversary, there was a big party at the church. Friends and family gave them 50 cent pieces and coins as tokens of celebration.

Six months later, grandma went in for open heart surgery and never came out. He survived her by nearly 20 years. Just like my friend’s clock, those coins meant something to him. 

The symbolism in those coins nearly takes my breath because they represent 70 years of love and living. How cool is that? 

To me, that is when some letters tend to squeeze their way into the word “inheritance” and ultimately put the word heart right where it belongs.  

 

Irene’s Heart

Do you have someone in your life that has a heart you absolutely admire? 

My someone that comes to mind, is my grandma Irene. You may remember me writing about her before. I’ve mentioned her ingenuity for making the best of hard times and her strong work ethic, among other things. What I haven’t told you about is her heart. 

Part of me wants to say that she had a heart of gold, but that isn’t really accurate. Her heart was actually filled with an abundance of many vibrant colors. When I think of her heart, I picture a mid-summer wildflower bouquet outlined by the shape of a heart. 

The Multiflora Rose’s pink represents her overflowing compassion. The Cornflower’s blue stands for that twinkle in her eye when she saw us coming down the sidewalk. The Ox-Eye Daisy’s white showcases her beautiful light that radiated around her like someone flipped a switch. The Goldenrod’s yellow highlights her love for not only her own family, but for everyone she met. 

Grandma was one of those grandmas you just want to keep forever. She was present in my life from the moment I was born. She did all the sweet stuff that grandma’s do like: crotcheted me my first sweater for kindergarten, gave me those old fashioned Valetines, sent me cards, came to my activities, and spoiled me on the holidays. 

Even after I grew up and went out on my own, grandma was there for me. She was my pen pal for many years and I have letters she wrote me at every address I ever lived. She was definitely  a keeper. 

I hear that grandma’s mom was the same kind of person grandma was. Never met a stranger, adored her family, and knew how to work hard. Great grandma actually came over on the boat from Germany with her family and settled in Iowa. How I wish I could’ve met her. I bet she would have had some stories to tell. 

She passed away before I was born. Turns out her and grandma had more in common than just being great people. They both had sick hearts. We lost them both quite young. Great grandma was age 59 and grandma was 71. 

I found out recently that I have some heart issues. I called my great aunt to tell her. She and grandma were friends/ sister in laws for over 50 years. When I told her, her response was probably the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever heard. “Oh Jessi, you got Irene’s heart?”

Since that phone call, some time has passed. I’ve had a chance to work through some things in my mind and I’m actually settling into things a bit. I’ve been thinking a lot about grandma’s life and the way she lived it in her short time here. She gave her life everything she had, sick heart and all. 

There is such a huge lesson in that. 

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll call my great aunt back and tell her I realized what a privilege it would be if I were to even have a smidgen of the love, compassion, twinkle, and light grandma had, and that, genetics aside, I am beyond proud to have inherited Irene’s Heart. 

”Junk” Drawers

Do you have any junk drawers? If so, do you ever look in them?  Or, are you like me and consider those items simply lost in the abyss of things you may need right this second, yet can never locate? 

I have one of those in my kitchen, right next to the silverware drawer. Most days it is overflowing with anything I don’t want laying on the counter, which equals a total mess. Need an ink pen? Digging through there may or may not lead to one. 

This past weekend I made a whole new discovery thanks to my beautiful, amazing mom who washed all of our laundry on a recent visit. Because she essentially did all my chores, I found myself with a little free time on my hands. 

Sort of milling around trying to find something I should be doing, I found several more drawers packed to the brim. Although they weren’t in the kitchen, clearly they were catch-alls. 

I just have to tell you what an unexpected treat opening them was. In three different drawers I found some completely random, yet wonderful treasures I’d nearly forgotten about, including:

  • a pair of Little Bit’s pajama bottoms he’d long since outgrown
  • my nephew’s teeny shoes they’d left behind several Christmases ago
  • a hand full of Christmas cards from years past 
  • letters from my great aunt who had been my pen pal for 18 years when she passed away at age 90 
  • a ball we got at the drive thru animal zoo
  • embroidery thread from some project I was always going to finish
  • a book I didn’t even know was missing
  • my parents wedding picture
  • a sweet card from my sister 
  • a photograph of Little Bit with chubby baby cheeks and bare feet
  • a drawing my sister made me years ago of 3 sisters arm in arm
  • my favorite rose quartz stone that I carry in my pocket for luck
  • a letter my friend sent from an ocean away

Just stuff. Lots of stuff. I suppose I could empty those drawers and put those items elsewhere. That would make sense, pictures with pictures, mail with mail, etc. 

However, I’m kind of in love with the idea of having all those life stories intertwined. I had some of those things before Little Bit was born, yet they are all content mingled together. It’s almost like the greatest story prompt in one place. Being able to chronicle our lives by opening a drawer? Seems quite brilliant, really. 

Well, here is something I never thought I’d say, I can’t wait until my chores are done so I can dig around in the “junk” drawers again! That’s pretty cool. Who knew that an ordinary junk holder could be such a gift?  

 

      Strength From Old Souls

      When things get tough, where do you draw your strength from?

      On the eve of this approaching new year, I’m quite thankful to still be tripping over these feet of mine.

      Overall, I’d chalk 2015 up as a great one, it was definitely well lived. Although, like many, I’d guess, there were a few hiccups along the way.

      I once heard that if life isn’t throwing you challenges, you aren’t really living. Hmmm. That makes it sound like the challenges are gifts. Gifts? Isn’t that a contradiction? It seems a bit ironic, if you ask me.

      However, maybe there’s some truth to that. Perhaps the gift is the lesson that gets pulled out at the end?  That makes a bit more sense to me because I’m always looking for the lessons.

      Although each of our circumstances are unique, here are some life challenges that are pretty relatable:

      • Financial troubles- days when pay checks don’t come, but bills still do
      • Losing a loved one and not making it to say goodbye to them in time
      • Disagreements with loved ones
      • Health issues
      • Friendships that end after putting our hearts into them
      • News of a friend getting sick
      • Losing a pet
      • When a friend moves

      At times, we can draw strength from things we have already been through. It’s almost like we have little tiny pieces of memories intertwined with patched up feelings that are tucked safely away in a heart pocket in our mind. When a similar situation presents itself, we can reach into that pocket and grab the “Oh yeah, I’ve been here before, I can get through this” strength reserve.

      Other times, new situations arise and we have no idea what to do. That happened to me earlier this year and I was stuck having to make a huge decision and had no idea which direction to go.

      Have you ever had your boots sink in the mud and when you tried pulling them out they wouldn’t budge? That’s how I felt. I needed strength and guidance in a big way.

      So, where did I turn? To my grandparents.

      I got out my letters from them and sat in my closet rereading them. You wouldn’t believe how much that helped me! Just thinking about the good and hard times of their lives, was such an eye opener.

      For example, my mom’s dad had to quit school in the 6th grade to work on the farm and spent most of his life farming. Her mom quit school in 8th grade to clean houses to help with the family income. She worked nearly all of her 71 years, simply because she loved to work.

      Dad’s mom, Grandma Wilma, graduated high school at age 15 and went to college at a time that not many women went to college. After college, she became a teacher at age 17. Talk about some strength and determination! These were some hard working people.

      Their lives brought the Great Depression up close. As farmers,  at times they struggled and lost their crops after pouring their hard work into them. They lost loved ones. They had health issues. In fact, grandma Irene had eleven surgeries and grandma Wilma beat cervical cancer!

      One of the things I admire the most about them is how long they were married. Mom’s parents were married 50 years when grandma passed away. Dad’s were married 73 years, when we lost grandpa.

      Besides being great role models for times when their lives were tough, they also taught me how to be gracious and see the best in things.

      After reading those letters and drying my cheeks, I was able to make a solid decision and I haven’t looked back. I often wonder what my grandparents would think if they knew how much I love how they lived their lives, and how great it is to fill my life with strength from old souls. 

       

      The Pink Closet

      Do you have a specific color preference and if so, what draws you to that particular color? 

      I just can’t seem to choose one color, such as red or green. My favorite seems to be a variation of hues, almost a combination of things, really. Mostly, experiences and things I love seem to come into play here. 

      If I got put on the spot and someone asked my favorite color, I might just say “pink” to save them from the drawn out version of what pink to me actually entails. It’d be like lining up all of your beloved pictures and trying to explain the color scheme. Sometimes it’s hard to choose! I love the many shades of pink.

      My pink is the fuchsia sort of pink of our Moss Rose’s petals. It’s the earthy glowing pink, with splashes of yellow and orange, yet a hint of blue, in the sunset Little Bit and I saw on Christmas eve. 

      Add in the old fashioned pink of grandma’s rose bush. That same bush she transplanted from across the road years ago and didn’t think would live. Would you believe it has shown up blooming every summer since that fateful day? 

      Then, there’s the closet. One summer, grandma let me help her paint her closet pink. That’s kind of a big deal. You see, she had a house full of boys! Six of them, to be exact. One girl in a family of eight? She needed a little pink. Helping her paint that day is one of my most treasured memories. 

      As most of you know, grandma passed away recently. A few months before, while she was in the care facility, the water pipes in her farm house broke and did a lot of damage. That resulted in a pretty major renovation. The floors, carpets, and countertops had to be replaced. At the same time, the walls received an update: new paint. 

      I kept hearing how different her house looked, and honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted it different. Maybe that sounds a bit selfish, but I wanted her in her house, with everything the same, so my memories of our lives there would match up. I was a bit afraid to go there and see the changes. 

      I went anyway. It was different, really different. A lot of her furniture was gone, and what was left was rearranged in every room. I felt my heart sink a little. 

      I went into her bedroom. It was familiar, kind of. The dressers were switched around and her jewelry boxes were gone. The framed art that grandpa had given her over seventy years ago, was still in the room, but moved from its spot. 

      I bit my lip, as I stepped to the closet. I almost didn’t stop, for fear my heart would break upon opening the door and I’d be standing in a puddle of tears. Then, I decided to look anyway and slowly opened the door.

      Wooooooo hoooooooooo!! It was pink! Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink!! I ran and got my mom! “Look, look, look!” I said. I’m pretty sure there was never a happier granddaughter at that exact moment. And, I was standing in that puddle of tears, but they were happy tears! 

      They say that our love of colors can be tied to our emotions. I believe it. I will be forever grateful that her closet is still pink. Makes me wonder though, what would my favorite color be if we had painted her closet another color, say yellow? 

       

      Memory Lists and Hope Chests

      Do you have the physical traces of your memories gathered together somewhere? 

      I do. As you may have noticed by now, I’m a sentimental sort of gal. Recently, I joked that if anyone ever came to my home seeking valuables, they’d walk right past mine. 

      My china cabinet is full of the glassware, trinkets, dishes, and the this& that’s of my life. I love seeing them everyday. They bring a hint of the past, into the present. 

      It’s kind of funny that in the very same room, sits another object that holds things of similar sentiment. My hope chest. I walk past it at least four times a day and on most days, I never give it a second glance, until this morning. 

      The definition according to Wikipedia.org is “a hope chest, also called dowry chest, cedar chest, or glory box is a chest used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life.” 

      Though I do have some tea towels my grandma made and a pair of pillowcases I got for my wedding in there, the contents are a bit different than those of the traditional use. 

      Have you seen that movie, “The Bridges of Madison County” when Francesca’s children open her chest and it’s filled with letters, books, a locket, and a camera?  That’s more along the lines of what I have in mine.

      So, here I sit. The contents spilled out before me. Here is my aqua sweater with the white heart buttons my grandma made me that I wore to my first day of kindergarten. Oh my gosh! There’s all kinds of things in here, including:

      Ponchos that my grandma’s made, pajamas from when I was a kid, my cheerleading uniform from high school, a prom dress I wore, a doll mom made me when I was young, flowers that my husband picked for me on an Ozark’s mountainside when we first started dating, letters from my siblings, cards from my grandparents, costume jewelry, items from my wedding, cassette tapes, concert ticket stubs, photographs, nearly every birthday card my parents have ever given me, a front page of the newspaper when the world lost Princess Diana in that awful car accident, a newspaper when St. Louis Cardinals hitter Mark McGuire tied Roger Maris for 61 home runs, a Stevie Nicks album. 

      Lots of seemingly ordinary yet beyond extraordinary things. There’s a scrapbook mom made me and tucked way in the back are all the cards she and dad received when I was born! What a gift to read through those again. 

      Because of my grandma’s recent passing, they’ve been cleaning out her house. That got me to thinking about the stuff I hold dear and the future of my items. If someone opened my hope chest, they may just see a bunch of junk and toss it. That thought alone inspired an idea I made up of a Memory List.

      What’s a Memory List? Its simply a way of sharing the importance of sentimental things. My hope in making one, is to someday keep my stuff out of a dumpster. 

      How does it work? I am putting the objects down on a list, writing why they’re in there, where they came from, and what they mean to me. 

      For instance I could write:

      • The pearl bracelet in a white box was a wedding gift from my sister and I wore it during my wedding. 
      • The Santa blanket was a gift from my mom.
      • The bag of coins came from my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party. 
      • The list of boy names were the ones I had picked out for Little Bit two weeks before he was born. 
      • The concert stubs were kept in hopes I would reach my lifetime goal of attending 100 concerts. 

      I started this story earlier today and I have put all my treasures back inside. I can’t tell you how great it was to see all that stuff again. So, on this day after Christmas, I feel like I received even more presents because this time, instead of walking by my hope chest like I do countless times each day, I lifted the lid.  

       


          A Lifelong Love of The Barn

          Ever driven by a farm and noticed that the barn was bigger than the farm house? 

          That is definitely the case at my grandparent’s Iowa farm. Their barn is nearly a kingdom on its own. Built over 100 years ago, the red beauty towers over everything.

          Simply put, it is huge! There is a basement with a dirt floor and two big open doors for bringing in cattle and equipment. The main floor is lined with livestock stalls and it has several storage rooms. There is even enough room to park a vehicle just inside the door. The hay loft was quite a busy place once upon a time, though these days it’s pretty quiet up there. 

          Can you just imagine the undertaking of building such a massive structure in the early 1900’s? The time before nail guns and power tools? Much less constructing something the builders would never even live in? 

          What a testament of faith in the dream of making a living. I love the optimism in that! Just the idea of creating something so beautiful yet functional, to house and protect the investments of good old fashioned hard work. 

          Everything kept in the barn over the years has had the potential for keeping a farm in business and a family fed. From housing the cattle and horses, to protecting the very first tractor that was bought, to storing hay for the animals, the barn has had a very important job. And, even all these years later, it still does it well. 

          The farm has been in the family for nearly 60 years. Countless pictures have been taken of the barn. Lots of feet have crossed the threshold of the giant sliding door. Every time kids, grandkids, and great grandkids go inside, it’s like we almost literally step back in time. 

          What a gift for our children to experience! I can’t remember the first time I saw the barn, but I see the excitement in Little Bit’s eyes every time we slide that door open. We have spent many afternoons in those rooms and climbing the stairs, exploring.

          One thing I absolutely love about that is, that my dad spent his childhood running in and out of that barn. I spent my childhood running in and out of that barn. Now Little Bit has spent a good chunk of his childhood doing the very same thing. 

          I often wonder how the people all those years ago would feel knowing that the labor of their hard work is still used now, and that essentially because of them, our family has  been graced with a lifelong love of the barn.

            

            

          Outside Looking In

          Do you ever notice the view in your windows?

          Our homes are full of windows and it seems like they are most generally looked out. 

          At our house, we use the back ones to see which birds are on the feeders. Our bedroom window is handy for seeing who the dog is barking at and if anyone has pulled in our driveway. 

          The ones at the front door tell us who is ringing the doorbell before we ever open the door. The west one in Little Bit’s room hosts some amazing sunsets. 

          On the right evening, our huge dining room window lends itself to a show of brilliant  moonlight. Can’t tell you how many times Little Bit and I have danced there in moonlight so bright it’s like someone flipped a switch. 

          In November, I wrote a story called “Windows”. In it, I mention my grandma’s maple table that’s next to her kitchen windows and the view that overlooks the Missouri River bottom. 

          Grandma passed away a week ago and her service was Saturday. Afterwards, some of our family went out to her farm. Before we arrived, I was a bit sad to think of being there without her. That sadness quickly disappeared when everyone started telling stories. 

          In “Windows” , I wrote that when I “look” in her windows, I either “see”  our family crammed around her table eating her homemade rolls and seven layer salad, or  laughing and telling stories. That! It was exactly that. The stories! The laughing! 

          After dark, I went outside and stood at the windows, looking in. Suddenly, I had a realization. Up to that point, all of my memories had the adults of my childhood filling those chairs, curled over in belly laughs.

          This time we were the adults in those seats around her table. Our kiddos were the ones etching memories of us, the adults in their childhoods, sitting in those maple chairs, telling stories, and laughing like crazy. How cool is that? 

          Before I went in, something caught my eye. A light coming from the living room window. What? As long as I can remember, those curtains have been closed. I stepped over and was graced with a brand new memory. My nephew was sitting next to a beautiful Christmas tree. 

          Don’t you just love those kinds of gifts? Sometimes windows are pretty amazing, if you’re on the outside looking in.