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Posts Tagged ‘family’

I am a big proponent of going green.  We have looked at things that could save energy for years.  We would love to be off the grid, but it all costs money folks, and some of it big money.

My dad’s family were thought to be Dutch German.  My nephew has found out they are Norwegian, but I am thinking that folks might have thought they were Dutch because of the popular belief that the Dutch were a frugal lot.  My dad’s family was definitely a frugal lot.

VanVleck family 1940s

My dad's family in the 40s

This was the usual group who we would visit with, twice a month when we drove to Kankakee, Illinois to visit my sister.  That is Granddad and Grandma to the left, then Uncle Clifford holding Richard and next to him Aunt Lucille with David Merle VanVleck in front of her.  Aunt Laura and her husband were behind and then, at the right side is my mother, Phyllis DeWitt and my dad (in uniform) Harold VanVleck.  In front of mom is my sister, Evelyn, and next to her is my brother David Merle VanVleck  (1942-1990).   I was not on the scene yet.

Yes, you read that right; cousins each named David Merle VanVleck.  It was not as common a name as John Doe.  One lived in Indiana and one in Illinois so no one thought there was a problem with it.  However,  when my brother got out of the Air Force, he ended up living in Kankakee, Illinois and boy did the problems arise then.    If you are going to be frugal with a name, and use it twice in a family, make sure that one of them isn’t a rather shady character.  My brother had to repeatedly prove that he did not owe the money or had not done the deed.

Anyway, I realized just how frugal my family was when I walked in Grandma’s kitchen, after one family gathering, and saw paper plates hanging on a clothesline drying.

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My latest project, because I was getting bored not finishing my twenty other projects,  is to scan in all my mother’s photo albums to digital and it sure brings back family memories.  She has purchased the greatest scanner, an Epson Perfection V330 photo scanner.  This was after trying a few of the cheaper models and being very unhappy.  Nothing like scanning in a 35mm slide and getting out an orange and green picture, or a pixeled photo.  This scanner is Perfection.  It is well named and no, I did not get it for free.  She paid every penny for it.  I am just the worker.

Since I have returned others, the first thing I did was scan a color photo, a color slide and a negative.  BAM!  They all worked perfect.  They have great color, no pixeling and it is quiet and easy to use.  There is a gadget you put four slides in and the machine scans each one and saves it individually.  No more cut and paste.  It does the same thing when you scan photos on it.  Lay out a row of four photos and you get four files. 

I am scanning a photo album with pages too big for the scanner, so you put it in, scan it, flip it around, scan it and then tell the computer software to stitch them together and voila!  You have a page.  It’s so cool. 

Here’s a sample of a stitched page.  I made it one-half size and it is not as clear as the actual large photo I now have on my computer.

These are not my memories here.  The top row is my grandfather, who died a year before I was born.  That’s him at 17 with his violin.  He used the violin to help support his family during the depression.  He played fiddle in bars and even on the radio.  I think it was a Hammond station and his show was Dad DeWitt and the Pumpkin Huskers.  Classy, right?  Hey, it supported the family and I hear he was very good.  The bottom right picture on the page is my grandmother, who died when I was one.  I just love this picture of her as a little girl, on a chair in the woods.

Who I do remember from this album is my Aunt Lula Lintz-DeWitt.  I think I have her maiden name correct but not sure.

This is Aunt Lula.  Doesn’t it look like a 1940s advertisement in Good Housekeeping?  I inherited that very bowl that she is stirring  in the photo.  When I get around to scanning my own photos, I have one of her by a skeleton.  She was a masuesse and graduated from college for this, thus the skeleton.  She was also very exotic to me.  She was a working widow, at a time when women were mostly employed as housewives and mothers. 

Enough for memory lane.  I am off now, to knit four more rows on my latest eternal project.

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In case you are taking a break from basting, I thought I would write to say Happy Thanksgiving, just one more time this week.

Our table will not look like the one in this banner; which, by the way, I stole from someone on the net.  Since I noticed a dozen other people had “borrowed” it, I figured I was safe.  I try to only use my artwork in the banner; whether it is painting or photography, but in all the albums I have scanned so far (my project for preserving the family photos), I do not have one good one of a turkey laden table.  And, this year, ham is our centerpiece.

We are taking an easy Thanksgiving.  I am doing so much better, physically, but my husband isn’t.  He has been sleeping late, going to bed early and taking a nap.  Sometimes I think he is not getting enough oxygen either (he is going on twenty years with COPD) as he will make a point and get angry that I do not understand; but whoever is in the room, will kind of whisper to me as they leave, “I don’t get it either.” 

 So, instead of our usual Ham and Turkey, we are having Ham, in honor of mom.  Not that she is a ham or anything, she is just a lover of ham.  We have also cut out the sweet potatoes and dressing; thus eliminating a big part of the left-overs.  And, you would not believe how much less stress this meal is.  Even with the additions of guacamoli and chips, and deviled eggs.

The house is vacuumed, dusted and not spit polished.  The tree is up and a little decorated.  Lights are strung outside. 

The tree and lights are also for mom, although we thought it would be nice for Gaffer to see them when he gets home.  So, I am off to get dressed (ohhh! all kinds of images in your head now, right?), get the ham in it’s pan and then go to pick up mom.

So, don’t forget, folks, that Thanksgiving is NOT about spit polish nor the amount of food you serve.  It’s about family and friends, and appreciating them and enjoying their company.  So, save your energy, have a “bring a dish” meal, or just downsize.  You will enjoy the day more.  You will be better company for your company and it will be a day to remember for laughter and not arguments.

Have a great day.

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My mother always said that, if she could relive life, she would be a journalist.  My father, on the other hand, never had such thoughts.  He was too busy watching his “window to the world,” television.  However, I think that dad would have loved to have been a film maker. 

 

 He loved taking movies.  His movies usually consisted of family holidays, back when people were used to sitting still for the camera so we had a lot of years of “wave at the camera” shots.  I do not think it ever occurred to him to take a movie ‘with a purpose’ other than the time he wanted to take one to make it funny by playing it backwards.

 

Dad had us play a game of cards; throwing down the cards, drinking a glass of pop, the dog jumping up on the chair and my brother eating a banana.  The best part though was when David, my brother, finished with the banana and continued eating the banana peel.  That was not in the script and I think that milk came out my nose because I started laughing so hard.  Backwards movies have ick factors too.

 

This is still the most asked for film in the family and part of the reason is that it seemed so out of character.  David was not the family clown.  Well, other than the time, when my nephew was a baby and David stuck the nephew’s high chair suction toy to his forehead and left it there during the picnic.  Needless to say, he never did that again.  The hickey lasted for a week.

 

David was shy.  Painfully shy where girls were concerned.  He was the band nerd in school, and all my friends thought he was adorable but since he was six years older than we were, it was not an issue.

 

Later, he became the computer nerd.  He was the guy who went hunting with a friend and hunted only with his camera.  He spent his life reading books and listening to music and, when he had children, he added a lifetime of Boy Scout leadership to that list.  He loved camping and nature.

 

I still like to think he is somewhere, sitting outside his tent, by the campfire, with his nose in a book.   

 

 

david-mom-favor-cropped1

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I really enjoy family night.  Movies and popcorn are a favorite with us.  We do not have any small children but even the teens enjoy these movies and they are good fare for little ones too

 

FLiGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR:

 

You never know what a kid is going to find fascinating. Kid Gaffer went through a spell where he must have watched Flight of the Navigator a hundred times, in a week. Of course, he did that with a bunch of movies.

 

I’m trying to figure out how to describe this movie without giving a spoiler. All I can say, is there is a kid and a space ship, and funny alien creatures and it is just a really neat family film, with a twist at the end.

 

It is a Disney film and one of the best. It is rarely seen on DirecTV and it is well worth watching with the kids. So, find it at your rental store.

 

THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT:

 

If you have never seen Wallace & Gromit, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???

Run, don’t walk, Run to the nearest rental and bring any of their several movies home. Wallace & Gromit is fun for the whole family.  I have been a fan since I first discovered BBC on American TV.  

 

The creators of Chicken Run were a claymation team in Britain, where they produced, I believe, short claymation features. I know I saw these long before Chicken Run came out. DreamWorks turned it into animation.

 

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is (now don’t groan-let me finish) sort of a “Killer Tomatoes” film, only really funny (and you do not have to be in an altered state to enjoy it).

 

The town’s prized produce starts disappearing and Wallace and Gromit try to capture the “mysterious beast of epic and fluffy proportions” who is stealing it. 

 

Check it out.  Everyone can use a good laugh.

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Sunday was always family day when I was growing up.

Once a month, we went to my grandma’s house in Kankakee, IL and visited my sister. The other Sundays were just usually church, then afternoon meal with the family and quiet.

Part of my family has returned, from their summer visit, to their home base in Santa Fe. I do have visiting rabbit though, as the airline was requiring $200 and a 3am call to the vet to fly her.  Apparently, the vet slip that got her out here is no longer valid.

Left at home is (from top and left to right)

Starkey, He needed a home and is a cool guy so another “son”,  and next to him is EMT boy.

Bottom row: JRockGuitarMan, and, now returned to Santa Fe are: Gaffer and girlfriend.

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Master’s daughter and I were at it again, the dippers of Margarita that is. She reminded me of the old “list serve” my brilliant nephew, in Wisconsin, had set up for the family before Blogs or subscriptions to groups were the rage. With one click, you could send your email out to everyone and, as long as everyone was being nice and friendly, it was a blast. Of course, that was also a time when only your family knew how weird your family was and not everyone in the universe, who can now read it when you spill your guts on your Blog.

 

My “Mother of eleven” daughter, was looking for a house about seven children ago, when she happened upon a piece of rural property with bonus lawn decorations. Homes in Wyoming come with lots of perks; sagebrush, rattlesnakes, sagebrush, windmills to bring up water, sagebrush, jackrabbits, and more sagebrush. This had an added bonus.

 

The bonus: Loose cattle rubbing against the house, looking in windows, eating the flowers, or just relaxing in a decorative manner and pooping on the lawn. The by-product of which is heaps of flies. It would be enough to know my mother’s reaction to poop in the yard, you should have heard her when said daughter had loose chickens, then you would understand that this was really enough to get a good conversation going.

 

However, as a poop de grâce, there was a dead cow in the front yard. Not surprisingly, not if you know my family at any rate, this became the topic of a contest on our family list serve.

 

 Answers to the problem ranged from:

1. Wait 20 years and sell the cow skull to mom. (Okay, so I was a re-enactor then. So, shoot me. My daughters often fought over who would HAVE to take Mom’s stuff if I died)

 2. Give it to the realtor as a thank you gift.

3. Start a new farming trend: dead cows, low feed bills, fewer ranch hands.

4. Advertise it as low maintenance pets.

5. Tie it to a stick and use it for a scare-cow.

6. Tie to the front of your truck and use it as a cattle guard.

7. Sell it to Hollywood as a prop.

8. Build a catapult and make it your neighbor’s problem.

9. Put its picture on cartons of spoiled milk.

10. Point all 4 feet upward and put a flower box on its belly.

11. Get a big box and ups it to the previous owners.

12. Get a large magnet and place it on the fridge.

13. Feet up, sheet of glass, cowfee table table.

14. Use it to start your very own road kill restaurant.

15. Use it as a pull toy for your growing family.

16. Save it for Halloween and put on someone’s roof

17. Get a large tank of piranha, as you have plenty of feed now.

18. Inflate it with helium and enter it in the unusual kites contest

19. Use it as a very smelly piñata.

 

 

 Daughter and I were wondering, however, just what would “Designed to Sell” do with a dead cow. How about it? Any ideas how they would give it curb appeal? You can’t say have it hauled away. It has to be decorative.

 

 

 

 

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My mother joined our household, of four, for a family Easter. One grandson, who is only home in the summers now, is working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our oldest daughter and family (with three grandsons) had their own celebration in So Bend. Eight other grandchildren, who live in Wyoming, have long been missing from our embrace. It was a comfortable and enjoyable day, with the two grandsons who live with us.

 Dinner was ham, mashed potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, guacamole and chips, baked beans and Easter Bread. We remembered the salad on Monday. No one was about to forget the blackberry pie, nor the two pineapple pies. We try to make sure that everyone has something that is their favorite.

 I am not a game person, feeling that I should, and would rather, be painting or writing or sculpting, rather than playing with cards. Sometimes the noise of it is just too much. But, I even joined them for a game of Tryce. The fifteen year old took over after that. They continued to play games until it was time to take my mother home.

 Sunday evening, I started thinking about what I would consider my most memorable things in life to be.

 My family would have to top the list. Moments I have spent rocking a child, having one come to me with problems or happy events, or just to show me a flower or rock they have found. This makes me incredibly sad that I have never even met my youngest granddaughter.

 Other memories are:  

 

My mother serving me tomato soup and grilled cheese when I was ill and home from school. That’s traditional mid-western comfort food.

 

Dad always bringing me a treat in his lunch box is another great series of moments. One, where the child, me, never really realizes that it’s food right from our own cupboard/refrigerator. It always tastes better out of his black metal lunchbox. Do I sense a pattern of food developing?

 

My oldest daughter remembers things from when she was two. She remembers odd things. Not those things you remind them about every holiday. She remembers moments you just would not believe someone that young would remember; just plain, ordinary, everyday moments.

 

My first memories involve my paternal grandfather. He had familial palsy or Parkinson. We are not sure which really, but by the time he was in a wheel chair and visibly shaking, I was around two years old. I remember bringing him a glass of water. The next memory is from his funeral. My dad was crying. This is a family thing I have inherited. I could write a whole blog on the things that make me cry, (not blubber cry, just a few tears down the cheek) but should tv tell me about someone doing something nice for someone else. Or, should the time be when I am sitting and watching a parade. (Don’t even ask.) Anyway, my aunt took me for a walk during my grandfather’s service and I remember the patterns of the sun shining through the trees on the sidewalk and how beautiful they were.

 

To this day, I still love shadows: venetian blind shadows or trees on the wall, or just a glass sitting on the window sill.

 

Here is a list of other moments I remember:

 

A whale breaching off the eastern coast. They are so right when they say, “If you have to ask. It’s not a whale.”

 

Petting a lion.

 

Feeling the skin of an elephant. I monopolized my spot, in amongst a row of children at the zoo, but it was just soooo cool. It felt like a balloon full of water.

 

A Harrier jet stopped in mid air over Chicago skyscrapers. I have never heard the streets of the city so deadly quiet. Then slowly it’s nose pointed toward the sky and BAM! It disappeared skyward, in an instant.

 

Sitting on the porch, when I was maybe five, watching a storm come in over the field behind our house.

 

Wrapped in a blanket, I sat and watched a full lunar eclipse, in the quiet wintery night, in Wyoming. Sometimes I just have to experience the world alone, with no talking going on.

 

Another night, I went out alone and the house was surrouned 360 degrees by lightening storms.

 

Wyoming skies are great. One day after a storm, I saw three rainbows in the sky at once.

 

Coming home and getting out of the car every night for “x” days and seeing Haley’s comet.

 

Laying in a sleeping bag, in the sand, watching a meteor shower.

 

Sitting in a hot tub, after skiing, and sort of seeing the aurora borealis. I didn’t have my glasses or contact on, so it was rather blurry.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in a quiet campground in Nova Scotia.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in the college quad after the death of a friend.

 

 

 

The feeling of immersion in the music, and being in sync, when playing a violin duet with, my teacher, Rainer Schwartzkopf. The one thing I miss more than just about anything in the world is studying with Rainer. He is in Wyoming and I am in Indiana.

 

Watching the sun set within sight of Indian cave homes from my van and not getting ejected from sleeping in a National park where I shouldn’t have been, sleeping in my van. Thank you to whomever I owe a thanks. Karma, I hope. It was a sight I will always remember.

 

They all are.

Hope you have dozens too.

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I never met my maternal grandfather, since he died before I was born, and I was only one year old when my maternal grandmother died. They had six children and they live through the stories their children tell. 

 

Memories have a way of reinventing themselves and I have listened to many family discussions that disagree.  One memory all their children agree on,however, happened during the depression when grandfather was a bootlegger.

Granddad supported six children, a wife and a father living in his home; as well as a roving number of assorted relatives, who stayed for short and long stays, and friends who dropped by on Sunday for the best, fried chicken dinner in town.

He had trained as a classical violinist, so when the depression descended, he made extra money playing honky-tonk fiddle in bars and on the radio.  He played on the Hammond radio station as “Dad DeWitt and the Pumpkin Huskers.”  His four daughters sang and his two sons played instruments.  This was not what he became famous for, though.

What he became famous for, was the best bootleg bathtub gin in Lake County, Indiana.  The, then Mayor of Hammond was his best customer.

The still had been set up under a false floor in the coal bin of the house they rented.  One day, a cousin was helping him watch the still and fell asleep at the gauges. Yup, it exploded. Fine black coal dust sifted up out of every register in the house. No one was hurt but it days to get the house cleaned of soot.

Grandpas bootlegging career ended unexpectedly the day a black limousine pulled into the yard. The driver knocked on the door and told granddad that Al Capone was waiting to talk to him. Mom says Granddad’s face turned white as a ghost at those words. Grandma did not know if she would ever see him again. He walked to the car, with Capone’s henchman, and got into the back seat. The car did not drive off. Instead, Granddad sat in the back seat and had a conversation with Al Capone, in the limousine, in my grandparent’s yard.

Capone told Granddad that the quality of granddad’s gin was so high he wanted granddad to make bathtub gin only for him. He would buy Granddad a new car and a new house. But the house would have to be located where Capone wanted it. Granddad politely declined what must have been great wealth during the depression. He explained to Capone that he had children and did not feel it would be right to get them involved in this business. Capone was very friendly and polite about the whole thing and even gave Granddad a cigar.

After the conversation, Granddad came in and smashed the still. That is when grandpa, Omar DeWitt, decided he was not going to make bootleg bathtub gin anymore, for anyone. He was not going to endanger his family because once you start working for Al Capone, you could never ever quit. 

 

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