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3 posts from November 2018

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Memories of Thanksgiving past


It's Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving will include 7 family members altogether.  My Big Bear hubby, Bob, my 94y/o mother, Mary, our daughter, Sarah, and her hubby, Matt, our son, Matthew, and our grandson Glen.  So much to be thankful for this year.


(John Pototschnik's "Hillside Overlook" 2011)

When I reflect back on Thanksgivings past, the first memory I have of the holiday is driving to Walkersville, Maryland with my Mom and Dad and 2 older brothers.  We were headed to "The Farm."  The Farm was where my grandparents lived on 80+ acres.  My father's parents milked cattle and had a big barn of hay, but other than that, I never really knew what all the property was for.  My grandfather, Daddy Bill, was in advertising, and my grandmother, Mama Lill, was a homemaker.  I sure did love Mama Lill.  She was special, smart, and didn't put up with any crap from anyone. 


(Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" 1941)

Mama Lill made the best Thanksgiving dinner you can imagine.  From the moment we pulled into the driveway on Thanksgiving day, you could smell the stuffing, the turkey, the rolls, the casseroles.  It was sheer heaven, and I couldn't wait to run inside and hug my grandma.


(Pino Daeni's "Grandmother-Granddaughter")

But there were other things I remember about that house ... the smell and creaking of the old hardwood floors.  The narrow doorways.  The stairs to the dark basement that terrified me.  The sound of my shoes on the wood steps leading upstairs.  The plumbing that made noises in the pink bathroom at the top of the steps.  The door to the attic in my grandfather's bedroom.  The dressing table with mirror in my grandmother's bedroom (yes, they had separate bedrooms), where Mama Lill would sit and let me brush her very long gray hair while we talked and shared stories.  And, enjoying visiting my cousin, Patty, who was being raised by my grandparents.  Patty was the daughter of my father's older brother, Gordon.  Patty never knew any other parents other than Mama Lill and Daddy Bill.  Patty is 2 years older than I, so I had someone to play with at The Farm. 


(Sally Tharpe's "Jadeite 3" 2010)

Dinner was served in Jadeite serving bowls and special dinnerware settings.  There was a corner hutch cabinet with glass doors that held all of Mama Lill's special serving bowls and dinnerware.  We had to be very careful. 


(William Merritt Chase's "Mrs. Meigs at the Piano Organ" 1883)

In the family room there were built in bookcases and pictures of my father and our family on the shelves.  The fireplace would have a roaring fire going and Daddy Bill would be sitting in a recliner watching football on his big console television.  There was an organ that Mama Lill bought for my cousin Patty to play, and Patty would entertain us after dinner.  It amazes me how easy it is for me to take myself back to that time, remembering feelings of love and comfort, good food and family, the smell of dinner in the oven and old hardwood floors, and the smell of a fire burning in the fireplace.  It conjures up such deep feelings of family and love and togetherness.  It all meant something.


(Norman Rockwell's "Mother Tucking Children into Bed" 1921)

Leaving was tough for me.  I always wanted to stay.  Sometimes my parents would let me stay another day or two, but most of the time I had to drive home with the family.  Either way, I went to bed with a full tummy and a hundred hugs, and my brother Billy saying "Goodnight Suzy.  Start thinking about Christmas!  Santa will be here soon."  And then I would drift off to sleep dreaming of Christmas trees and ornaments, Santa and Barbie.


(Tom Newsom's "Quilting Santa")

Here I am 50 years later and those memories are still the most prominent in my mind when I think of Thanksgiving.  We never know what the year following will bring, but we hope and pray for health, happiness, laughter, family, and friends.  We pray that we are not faced with hardship, financial or personal.  We pray for a year of happy memories and blessings.

I realize now more than ever just how blessed I have been in this life.  I've had family and friends who love me and whom I love very much.  I've learned to forgive and to focus on the blessings.  I've learned that life is really about taking in all that is around us and in our lives - and that would be family, friends, and complete strangers too.  Just soak it all in.  It's all life ... right now.  The smells, the feelings, the food, the experience, the music, the comforts that make us feel blessed to be alive.

On this day and every day, I miss my father, my brother Billy, Mama Lill, and friends who have passed on to be with the Lord.  I am thankful for the family and friends that are here with me today, adding much to be grateful for in this life.  Even in tough times, it seems that somehow it all works out, and that, in and of itself, is something to be very grateful for.

Do you have any Thanksgiving memories you'd like to share?  I hope you will in the comments below.

On this 2018 Thanksgiving, I pray you are not alone.  I pray you are happy and healthy.  I pray for abundance in food and warmth, a home of your own and family to cherish life with.  I pray you have laughter and a hearty turkey induced nap by a roaring fire.  Whatever your Thanksgiving wishes, I pray they all come true.

And there is one other thing I am very thankful for ... You.  Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing my memories with me.



Sunday, November 11, 2018

This Veteran's Day - Remember the Cost of War

Thank You to my father, Harry Simms, my father-in-law, Kenny Vaughn, and my Uncle Bill Lee, for your brave service in WWII. Thank you to my brother, Mike, for your service during the Vietnam War. And to all the military servicemen and women who have crossed my path in life, and who have served proudly, I cherish your service for our freedoms and our country. To all those who continue to serve our country -- Thank You!!



Image #1 is of my Dad, Harry Simms. He served in the Army. His friend and comrad had his head blown off right next to my father in the Battle of the Bulge. Every time my father got a fever, he would have vivid nightmares about that day and would scream "Juba! Juba!" That was his army buddy's name. My father suffered greatly from PTSD.



Image #2 is of my Uncle Bill, great-great grandson of General Robert E. Lee. My uncle Bill was a fighter pilot during WWII.



Image #3 is of an award honoring my maternal grandfather, Mason VanFossen, for his service in WWI. He served in the Army during WWI.



Image #4 is of my brother, Mike Simms, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.



Image #5 is of the Japanese Bayonet Rifle that my father-in-law Kenny Vaughn retrieved from a Japanese soldier he killed in the battle of Iwo Jima. Kenny served in the Navy during WWII.



Image #6 is the same Japanese rifle's bayonet inside the German Helmet that my father, Harry Simms, brought home from the Battle of the Bulge. The helmet was from a German soldier my father killed. Sadly, the soldier's blood stains are still inside this Nazi Army helmet.



Image #7 is the blood stained interior of the WWII Nazi German Helmet retrieved from the German Soldier my father killed in WWII at the Battle of the Bulge.



Image #8 are the mementos from my Father-in-law, Kenny Vaughn's, service in WWII.

I am very proud of my family history, maternal and paternal, as every generation served in every war since the Revolutionary War, with the exception of the Iraq War. With that pride comes great sacrifice, personal and moral, but we must remember that these wars were fought for our continued freedom, our country, our countrymen, every military serviceman and woman who served before and after. Young men and women have died the world over for their country. The Japanese Rifle and German Helmet are humble reminders of the cost of war.

Share your family history with me as we recognize, proudly, the men and women who have made our freedom possible!!!


Sunday, November 04, 2018

To Remember a Happier Time


Remember what it was like being a child? If you had a good childhood as I did, then you might remember some of these things too.


For me, I remember running over to my neighbor's home to play with my friends. I remembered playing on the swing sets and seeing how high we could swing and jump off without getting hurt.  I remember digging holes near the swings to see if we could reach China. 

I remember playing tag and jump-rope, hopscotch, and bouncing the big ball against the wall of the house.  I remember swimming in our pool and being afraid to go in the deep end.  Summer was always fun and we would play fox and hounds at dusk into the night with all the neighborhood kids.  There were birthday parties, and games.  I played Barbie with my friend Karen every weekend.  And throughout all these memories and years, a President was assassinated and a war in Vietnam was going on.  Civil rights movements were prevalent too, but I never took any notice and had friends of different races and didn't think twice about it.  It never even occurred to me that they were any different than I was.  To me, then and now, it never occurred to me that the difference in skin color was any different than the differences in the color of your hair, or the color of your eyes, or the shape of your face, or whether your hair was straight or you had curls.  We are all different, yet we are all human, so why should it make any difference what any of those differences are?



In my teens, it was all about boys and dancing and music.  In other words, we were focused on our life, our future, our faith, close relationships and friendships, church and family.  Happiness and doing things that brought us joy was prevalent back then.  For me, that was the 60s and 70s.  



By the 80s I was married, having children, and lost my father.  Still, I was not consumed with anyone else's hell but my own at the time.  Growing up proved not to be so easy for me in my late teens and 20s.  I was not prepared.  It is how life was for me.



Fast-forward to today, November, 2018, and I've been happily married for 26 years and have a wonderful family of my own.  Children who have grown up and make me proud, and grandchildren as well.  My mother is 94y/o and has lived with us for 20+ years.  Family ... really is a beautiful gift.  And although the blessings are bountiful and I have much to be thankful for, I suffer with depression on occasion.  

Depression is debilitating.  It sucks the joy right out of you.  No inspiration.  No motivation. Sadness abounds.  It's awful!  This past 2 years have been the worst for me.  My mind is consumed with Trump's lies and fear mongering, irresponsible rhetoric, and the sight of things I thought were long gone in the 60s!  Today, mass killings have become a regular and expected part of the news.  Evil, hate, threats, fear ... rule the day.  And social media plays a large part in the negative information we are fed daily.



Today, I began to reflect on the differences of the world we live in now, versus the world I grew up in.  As a child, I was protected, for the most part, from the negative news of the war and riots and the civil rights movement.  I watched cartoons and Shirley Temple, Hazel, and My Three Sons.  Everything is different now.  Everything.  And not necessarily for the betterment of our life or the lives of our children.

I came upstairs to begin making a table runner for Thanksgiving, and to wrap a few gifts for Christmas that I had purchased.  I laid on my bed for a bit and scrolled through my newsfeed on Facebook. I love Facebook, actually.  I very much enjoy the paintings from my artist friends, and keeping up with family and friends.  And I do run across the occasional political post or bad news shared.  But, for the last 4 days, I have purposely disconnected myself from the "news."  I have turned off news notifications on my phone and avoided the nightly news and local news completely for 4 days.  That doesn't seem like a lot, I know, but it helped to bring me out of a dark place I've been for about 2 weeks now. 

It was while scrolling through my FB newsfeed that I came across a story of 2 women who had been murdered in a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida.  It was like a punch in the gut.  How quickly evil and hatred can affect our life.  I had no idea this had happened, because, as I said, I had purposely disconnected from the news.  And, as soon as I read the story of these two women, I felt my face and neck tighten up and sadness flow in like hot black tar readying its way to harden my heart.  I put down my phone and decided to write this post.

In the last 4 days I have done laundry, cleaned a bit, and gone to bed early.  I took a much needed walk, did some Christmas shopping, began reading a good book, enjoyed a couple fires in our fireplace, and thought about the paintings and sewing and quilting projects I need to begin for gifts this year.  News off and out of my head, I've watched Hallmark Channel Movies and curled up with a blanket and cocoa. It has been a breath of fresh air.  Amazing actually. For the first time in a very long time, I feel more connected to my own life and family, and less concerned with social media and all the evil in this world.  Focusing on the "present" and family has been wonderful in fact.

Trump, rally’s, killings, and news in general is unhealthy. I have come to recognize just how bad it is to my mental and physical health. If I don’t control the information I hear, see, and read each day, it’s going to destroy any happiness possible in my life. The evil around us is poison. If we ingest enough of it, it will kill us. It’s time to take my life back and focus on my home, family, projects, holidays, friends who are dear to me, and the blessings in my daily life.  Sadness will find us, it always does - illness, death, being hurt.  But do we need to feed on it every single day? 

That's why I took the time to reflect on my childhood.  There was no social media.  There were no computers.  Yes, there is good to be found in social media, computers, and mobile phones, but when we seek out all the other stuff, evil and sadness, bad news and fear seep in to our hearts.  I think we need a cleanse of the information we feed ourselves each day.

I challenge you to disconnect from the news.  Focus on your life, your work, your studies, your projects, home, family, and close friends.  Do this for one week and see if it makes a difference in how you feel, how you sleep, and your happiness.  Other than coming across that one sad story of the two women in Tallahassee in my Facebook newsfeed, I have sheltered myself from all the rest.  I don't want to know.  It is a weight on my heart and mind that I need to let go of.  Can we let go together?  For a while? 

Thank you for letting me share my story with you.  There is nothing wrong with trying to take back our childhood, protected from the news, and enjoying life as it should be.





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