Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The importance of being an Aunt....

I don't know why most of my meanderings begin in the early morning hours in front of the bathroom mirror, but they do!! Oh, I guess I could just get all philosophical and psychological and think it's because the mirror replays our image back to us and how we "see" ourselves and get all deep thinking about the universe and stuff...but I don't think that's it! I think it's the only time my mind has time to slow down and really think!! ;) The rest of the day I'm continually trying to remember all those things I hope I don't forget, but early mornings are just for ME! Once again, I found myself in front of that mirror, thinking back on the school year.

I look forward to the end of the school year mainly because I'm tired by the time it gets here and I just want a break from having to think, plan, nag, drag and all those others things I feel like I have to do throughout the year with our students. I'm also a little saddened...being in the education field you spend a lot of time with other peoples kids, and personally, I think you just can't help but make them your kids as well. In our program a lot of the students start out with us in their freshman year and many are there for the entire four year stint...they become YOUR kids! You see them happy, sad, mad, glad...all range of emotions that teenagers are prone too. You, yourself, get happy, sad, mad, AND glad watching them grow up...just like a parent does! Some years are more bittersweet than others because there will be that one kid that comes along that you just can't help but get more attached to than the rest. The one kid you can see so much potential in and you want them to see it for themselves so you put a little more "work" into helping them see it. It is tremendously sad when you lose that kid, whether it be to graduating and going on with their lives, or losing them to the world earlier than need be and knowing their lives are going to be tough. Just like a parent you find yourself sending up a prayer for guidance in doing all you can to make sure they are able to get on with those lives.

This particular morning as I was "thinking", a memory came to me from many, many years ago. I probably was not more than 10 years old and one of my older brothers had just got back to the states with his family. They had been stationed in Germany and therefore, we had yet to "meet" his boys. I had four nephews and nieces prior to these two, but they were so close in age to me that they were more like my little brothers and sisters. When Jeff and Joe came on the scene it was my first experience of being an "aunt" and even as young as I was, I rather liked that idea! I also relished the idea of being older and therefore wiser, so it was my job to teach these boys the way of things! ;) These two boys were as different as night and day...Joe, the youngest, was the sweetest little guy, probably 2 years old at the time, but he was quiet and steady. Jeff, on the other hand, was four and full on rambunctious! I don't think he could have been still if you'd of tied him down! He was constantly on the go, into everything, talked all the time, and generally could just wear you out pretty quickly!

On one particular day Mom was keeping Jeff, not sure why only him, but it was and we were on our way to town. Somewhere in the process we stopped by my aunt's house. My aunt's house was very nice...hers had the matching furniture with the couch pillows and things all arranged in a neat and orderly fashion. She was also my dad's sister, which meant she followed the rule of "children were to be seen and not heard", and I had a pretty good idea she wasn't going to care for "hearing" Jeff! :) In order for Mom to visit with my aunt I knew it would be MY job to entertain the nephew and hopefully keep him from disorganizing that well put together living room!

In truth, the visit went very well and Jeff was very good! I took him to the living room and had him set on the floor where I proceeded to try and keep him occupied. I don't remember what toys my aunt rounded up for us to play with, but I do remember trying to teach him how to play "quietly" and in my best grown-up, mother hen, voice I would admonish him on how to do this or that...but mostly I was just trying to teach him what was appropriate for inside play! I hadn't really paid attention to the fact that my mom and aunt had walked to the edge of the room and were watching the happenings in the living room until I heard my aunt say, "She'll grow up to be a teacher some day...look at how patient she is with him...".

Throughout the rest of the years ahead I never gave any thought to that statement...my first real thoughts on what I wanted to be when I grew up was just...a mom! I recall thinking at one point I would like to be a lawyer, but only because I thought I could right the injustices of the world...when I got much older I realized that very few lawyers actually concerned themselves with right and wrong! I also played with the idea at another point of becoming a nurse, and again because I thought I could help overcome illness and make people better. That didn't happen either because my fear of needles and the idea of jabbing one into somebody nixed that thought pretty quickly! ;) Being a teacher? Never crossed my mind!

So I settled on the mom part and was perfectly happy with that....until my kids grew up. Oh, I did do a stint working at the nursing home, got my CNA license, and truly loved it. I later took a med tech course which also gave me license to jab a needle into people and I had a short stint of that as well when working at our boarding home.  I also had the opportunity, at one point, to test my lawyer skills when I was asked to represent some families down here on our road at an arbitration board...we won! ;) A little later on I took a job at a developmental center where I was engaged with clients of varying degrees of mental retardation... that job required MANY skills and it was amazing!! It was this last job that ended up pointing me in the direction of psychology and the desire to return to school and earn a degree...I had no idea that what I learned while earning that degree would be put to use in a whole different perspective!

Within just a few days of graduating I received a phone call...I had a great niece and nephew that were in need of a place to stay...quickly! We left out immediately to pick them up...one would soon be turning 12, the other 14...both of them carrying a lot of extra baggage and I don't mean in the form of suitcases. Over the course of a couple of weeks it became apparent they would not be returning "home"...it was either our house or foster care and for me, foster care was NOT an option, so we became surrogate parents to two fast becoming teenagers! I had thought to begin my master's degree that fall, but determined instead these two needed my undivided attention, at least for the first year and I put those thoughts on hold....they ended up staying on hold for a very long time! :)

I've always believed that God has a way of bringing things into and out of your life that is always preparing you for the next step in that life....once again, I was called upon to try and fill the shoes of a mom, argue like a lawyer, try to heal the "hurts", and hopefully teach these kids some skills that had been left undone, having no clue that all that experience was eventually leading me on to the next phase...the one I find myself in right now...the teaching field! I figured out pretty quickly that one year was not going to be that magical time frame when all was well, but having spent the time and money on a degree I felt like I needed to be doing something with all that spending, something that could help pay back that time and money, yet would also allow me more time and energy needed at home...I got what I prayed for!

I've been an education paraprofessional now for 8 years, working in a program designed for students who are close to failing or could possibly fail without intervention of some kind. I can tell you the pay for this job in no way compensates for the degree I earned, however....the degree I earned has more than compensated in helping me do the job! The one gave me the opportunity to be where my niece and nephew were throughout the day as well as in the evenings, holidays, and summer times all through their own high school years and it was great! One has allowed me to have a better understanding of kids weighted down with problems. Both have given me an opportunity to work with kids that I might not otherwise have ever known and both have also allowed me to live out those words, spoken by my own aunt, many years ago! Prophetic? Yeah, I think so...I'm still being called upon to argue (and win) like a lawyer, to try and heal the hurts (mostly of the heart), and more importantly to be a mom to kids who seem to think their own isn't interested. But, I also get to teach...everything from Algebra to English and I enjoy every minute of it...well, almost every minute of it!! :)

I'm not sure how long this particular ride will last, but when I look back I can't help but see all the steps that were put in place to bring me to where I am today. I considered this past year about going back to earn an actual teaching degree, but I decided I really didn't need one. I love what I'm doing, the area in which I'm doing it, and how it all works out for my own stage in life right now. I feel like I've been fulfilling all my dreams, (partial though they may have been) and I don't think a person can be blessed much more than that! My aunt didn't live long enough to see me fulfill her statement, but I'm pretty sure she's smiling there at the edge of heaven, watching the happenings, and all the while telling my mom, "I told you so!"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Who said a school bus was only for hauling kids????

This picture came up in a recent Facebook post and naturally it was poked fun at as being "redneck" in thought and process. I had to laugh at it as well, not in fun, but in actuality, because....well, we had a school bus buried in our back yard!!! In fact, it is still there and still fully functioning as a storm shelter and has done so for 25 years. Never under estimate the power of a redneck family!! ;)

When we moved out here 25 years ago, on a piece of property across from my parents, it was nothing but scrub brush and poison ivy. We had been in town for four years and to me they were the longest four years of my life...I hated it! I was raised in the country with wide open, well roamed spaces and to be confined to a "lot" on which a small house sat, in the middle of various other houses was NOT my idea of living!! There was no privacy; you walked out the front door to see someone else's front door. If our kids went outside they were soon joined by all the other neighborhood kids, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like I had to keep constant watch...not only for mine, but everyone else's as well! No, living in town was just not something I enjoyed or ever want to do again!

In the process of acquiring our piece of "heaven" in the sticks, we also acquired a 10 x 50 trailer house...a very run down trailer house, and with it came a school bus!!! Yes, a school bus! Ours was white, not the traditional yellow. These two pieces of vehicular type items were traded off for a washer and dryer. Now, I know the persons we done the trading with thought THEY were getting the best end of the deal because to them they were getting rid of JUNK off their property that they wanted rid of anyway....WE, however, thought the best part of the deal was on our end in the getting of said pieces of junk!! ;)

For the first year of our transitioning to the country (of which we revamped the trailer in order to make it livable!) the bus sat in our front side yard and yes, it was tacky looking, but we used it for the storage we didn't have elsewhere. Most of our time was spent clearing the property for a yard and living space, so the bus was the least of our worries! By the following year we had made some progress in yard making and I was on to getting herb gardens in and with that came the drying of those herbs. Once again the bus came to good use for a drying house...those things really heat up!! But after a few years of hard labor, we'd made some headway in getting our outdoors more presentable and the bus began to be more of an eyesore than I could handle, so along comes genius!! ;) I will give the kudos to the hubs, because it was his idea to bury the bus and make us a storm shelter ( I was/am terrified of storms and trailers produce even more fear of those!).

During a visit from my oldest brother Don, Mike threw out his plan to him and while I'm sure the brother left shaking his head, he did agree to bring his dozer back and "see what he could do". The following fall here came my brother with dozer in tow and he went to work digging a hole in the "back yard". While the hole was being dug we emptied out the bus and took the wheels off, making it ready for it's new home. My brother took his dozer and drug the thing to the hole, maneuvered it around, and put it down...all still in tact and right side up!! The "burying" had to be left until a later time, since we wanted it water proofed and stabilized before pushing all that dirt back in around it.

Through that fall we painted up the sides with basement sealer, bought drainage pipe and laid around it's base, and put in a few stabilizer bars of metal to keep the sides from caving in, but by Spring it was ready! Once again Don made the trip with his dozer and finished up the process, which I might add, worked beautifully!! We now had a cellar/storm shelter and the eyesore was no longer visible....but it was far from finished.

Over the ensuing years, the "nose" of the bus (which was the only part left visible) was cut off and ties were laid to make an outside "wall". Where the loading door was, concrete block were also laid and a wooden access door was put in. On the inside, the hubs built a wall to divide the area...the front part became my cellar, complete with built in racks to hold my canning jars and the back became the storm shelter/storage area. Along through those years I landscaped all around the upper area, putting in a water garden and flower garden with shrubs, a lamp post, and a bench to set on. Eventually, our son built a small gazebo type building on the very top and it was in this gazebo that our youngest daughter was married!! A few years after that, we put a hot tub in the gazebo and enjoyed several nights of heated bliss while watching it snow!

Now, I know when the hubs and I first started out down here most people (including our families) thought we had lost our minds! I also know that our way of living was far from those expectations of the general populace, but I never really cared much for the general populace anyway or what they thought! ;) No, we certainly didn't live in a high dollar home with a high dollar lifestyle, but it was OUR home and we had big plans and lots of vision (and at the time strong backs!). We tackled that brush and built our home slowly but surely over the years, and more importantly to us...we built it pretty much debt free.

We've since left that home to our youngest daughter and moved across the way to my old home place...another "less than perfect" house that required a lot of TCL and much remodeling. No, it's not high dollar either and I doubt it will ever be, but it's our home now and that's all that matters to us. There's no bus buried in the back yard here and probably never will be since I already have a cellar out back, but that's not to say that had one not have been here we wouldn't have come up with another ingenious way to have one. But that bus at the old place? Well, it's still serving it's purpose and already this Spring the daughter's family has taken shelter "in the bus" because of severe weather. So laugh all you want, but when the sky gets dark and the clouds start to circle? Well, it's nice to know you've got a bus buried in the back yard to run to!!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Pastry Cloth...who knew??

I am just thrilled to death to find a new piece of "equipment" for my kitchen...a pastry cloth!! Now there may be lots of people out there who've heard of one, seen one, or have one, but I had not. I have a few favorite blogs I'm subscribed too and one of those is called Make It and Love It. I ran across Ashley's site a couple of years ago when looking for ideas for my granddaughters and boy! did I ever find ideas! This young gal just puts this old timer to shame in all of her creative talents she puts forth throughout her home and for her children, but what I think caught me the most was just the "joy" I felt in seeing our younger generation enjoying, doing, and sharing so many hand-made skills....it just kind of makes me feel like "all is not lost"!!

Recently Ashley has been hosting guest spots on her blog and the latest one caught my eye right off and had me hooked...it was....the pastry cloth! I don't know that I would call myself a regular baker, but for the last few months I've gotten into making bread..often! So when I seen this post and read through the reasons a person should have a pastry cloth, I knew I had to have one too. Another young crafter, Cami from Tidbits, walks you through the whole process of making and using a pastry cloth and it's probably about theeeee easiest project a person could make. She dolls hers all up and when it's finished it looks like something out of a professional bake shop (with very little effort in getting it that way!) and I will admit mine looks nothing like hers!! ;) However, it took me all of 20 minutes to cut it and stitch it together...I actually made it before leaving for work the next morning! AND...I used it to work up some bread dough that night when I got back home!! :) The things works GREAT!! No using extra flour to keep your dough from sticking to the counter, just throw a little on the cloth, rub it in, and you're good to go....AMAZING...where has this thing been all my life?

I have yet to try it with cookie dough or pie crusts, but the post assures us it works just as well with all of those too....and I believe those girls!! ;) But I will be trying it for both in the near future. After using it last night, my head was seeing a new and improved pastry cloth in the making with this new found treasure, so this morning before work I was back upstairs cutting another one...and this one I intend to "fashion up" better than the first one.

There were a couple of things I did different than Cami and only because...well, that's just me!! In her post she called for a utility type material referred to as "drill cloth". I'd never heard of it, but apparently it can be bought at JoAnn Fabric and is much like canvas. Frugal person that I am (and always have been!), I wondered at using painters cloth...you know, the kind you can find at the hardware store for about $15? I don't live close to a JoAnn's or any fabric store for that matter, but I do have a husband that works in a hardware store!!! ;) So guess who just happened to have a really nice big one, on hand, clean and ready to cut into? Yep! Yep!

I also didn't use the measurement given in the post, but this is one of those things you can make it as big or small as you need it. I don't have a lot of open counter space to work on, so I only needed a good sized square. And again, unprofessional that I am, I did not take an exact measurement..I just laid out the cloth, eye-balled the size I thought I could use, doubled the fabric, and cut it. My painters cloth was a big one, so I had already cut it down into smaller sections AND it had also been pre-washed (it was originally for another project), so all I did was stitch it up, turn it, and press out the wrinkles.

I do have a wonderful old enamel topped table I use in my kitchen as an island, so those plans are for a new, and bigger, pastry cloth that I  can use on it. I also want to "paint" it as Cami suggested because I really loved the old look of flour sacking hers had and I'll do the double stitch to give it a more finished look. Of course, I tend to make lots of plans and then have a hard time getting back around to getting them all completed, but if I never get around to making that fashionable one? I still have a fully functional pastry cloth at the ready!

I am just completely enamored with all these young wives and moms who are sharing their creative ideas and talents on blogs throughout cyberspace. It does my heart good to see them cooking and sewing, making and doing because there seems to be too few of MY generation that has an interest in any of it. And I can also say it doesn't bother me one bit that this "old dog" can still be taught some new tricks!! :)