Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Christmas Smiles

Christmas Memory Lane, part II

Yesterday's post was a little walk down Memory Lane...here's a little more about why I love this time of year...
Yesterday's post, I looked back at my earliest Christmases.

I have little images, glimpses of things, that stand out in my mind, from Christmases past...

A candle Mom used to keep in the kitchen, that came out only at Christmastime--it smelled like a fresh cut evergreen tree...

Ribbon candy that looked like finely spun glass, glimmering shades of green, red, blue, and yellow, set out in a candy dish on the dining room table.

Nuts on plates, nutcrackers, and other delicious snacks.

Uncles and Aunts sitting near our tree, as my brothers and I showed them all the gifts Santa had surprised us with.

Red wreaths that Mom and Dad hung in the front windows every year, that had a single candle in the center, that lit up red when lit.

Getting a grown up 2 wheeler bike in 3rd grade, and riding it through the interior of our house the following week! I don't think I broke anything!!!

Mr. Kolbe, the school janitor, dressing up as Santa Claus the last day of school, and passing out candy canes.

Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty The Snowman, The Grinch, and all those other wonderful children's shows with my brothers, and feeling excited to stay up late on those nights. (9:00 was 'late'.)

When I was in high school, the thing that impacted me the deepest was my joining concert choir.  There, I formed one of my closest and longest friendships with a girl that shared my love of music and singing.

We were both first sopranos and we found something to laugh about every single day (my apologies to our classmates, who seemed rather annoyed with our antics).  One year, at our Christmas Concert, we were all dressed up, of course, we did something we laughed about for years afterwards.  The choir room at Sharon High School is in the lowest level (similar to a basement) of the school.  To get there, there are two long graded hallways that run alongside the auditorium (SHS has a magnificent auditorium).  The hallways have a wall on the auditorium side, but the other side is one long extended window, providing natural sunlight and a view of State Street.

We were walking in that hallway on our way to the Choir room, when we stopped to talk for a moment.  We were both wearing lipstick, probably one of the first times ever, and we thought it would be fun to leave our mark right there.  So, we walked over to the glass window and proceeded to 'kiss' it, leaving our lip prints there.  The lips stayed there for a long time; we checked periodically.  I guess the maintenance staff didn't clean the windows often.  :)

I got my first pair of high heels to wear to my 9th grade Christmas Concert--I couldn't believe it when Mom really seemed happy to let me get them!  I had a small solo that year, my first ever, and BOY, was I nervous!

My first Christmas with John, I was a senior in high school.  He gave me a Foreigner album, the songs were all pop hits the summer/fall that we were first dating.  We still joke about him giving me long johns, too.  I was always cold, so he lovingly picked them out, but they were from the little girl's department.  I was so small--about 90 lbs., that he thought that I still shopped in the children's section!  :D

I still have the car he gave me, too--a Dusenberg.  He told me he wanted me to have my own car--so he gave me a beaut--yellow, classy, and a 'Matchbox'.  :) It's in my underwear drawer, where I've kept it all these years. 

The Christmas after we were married was one of my strangest.  For the first time in my life, I awoke with no urgent need to jump out of bed.  I was used to being in a houseful of people, and here I was, just me, John, and Max, our kitty.  It was a lonely feeling that year, although it was also special, being that we celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife. 

The next year, we had our first little baby boy--Ian.  He had just come home from the hospital on December 12th, so we were staying at my parents' house.  Ian was born on November 3, but he was born with a myriad of health problems, and I was ill equipped to deal with them all.  My parents offered us a bed and a couple extra set of hands until I felt ready to go home and be alone with Ian.  (John worked 12 to 14 hours a day.)

I was thrilled to have my baby at home with us, but it was a very stressful time in my life.  He had to be fed every 2 hours around the clock, and he was so weak that it often took him an hour to suck a couple of ounces.  By the time he was done, he'd fall asleep, I'd zone out, and an hour later, we'd have to start all over again.  I thought I was going to crack, to shatter like a mirror that was dropped on the floor.

In between all those feedings, we had to take him to occupation therapy, physical therapy, and all kinds of medical appointments.  He had to have his throat dilated.  He had to have his feeding tube fixed for one reason or another.  He had to be monitored for numerous other health problems.  I have to say that his first few Christmases, I was always one inch away from the looney bin.

Over the next 15 years, we added five more children to our family.  Jacob came to us in 1990, and it was fun having two little boys in the house for Christmas.  Ian got a Little Tikes playhouse, and John spent the whole night putting it together.  When he finally got it all set up, after a frustrating and exhausting night, the Handel piece 'Alleluia' blasted from our little radio, and John toppled over in giddy laughter. 

Tony came in 1992, and that year, Barney prevailed.  All three boys got a plush Barney doll!

  In 1994, we had a beautiful little baby girl, Maria, and with that, we had the chance to pick out gifts that were of a softer, more feminine nature.  Santa Claus visits us each year, and that year, I handed three month old Maria to him, and he didn't grip well enough.  Santa almost dropped her!  Thankfully, I was hovering right there, and grabbed her as she began to tumble.

Three years later, two weeks before the big Holy Day, I gave birth to JohnPaul.  It was a hectic month, but so deeply satisfying. 

And, then...four years later, I was heavily pregnant and due on New Year's Eve.  JohnPaul had come exactly on my due date, so I wondered if this sixth child might be early.  I hoped I wouldn't go into labor on Christmas eve, I wanted to see all the kids open their gifts at home.  There was NO problem there.  Therese didn't come early.  Or on time.  She was 12 days LATE!!!!

We have our little traditions here--most years we bake something together.  The older kids go to Midnight Mass and bring along huge groups of friends with them, then they head out to Denny's for a very late dinner (or early breakfast).

We still have a child who waits for Santa, although she's pretty savvy and has been tipping us off to the fact that she's on the brink of putting that behind her.  I figure I'll get one more good year of that--I am not yet ready to let that one go quite yet.

I hope you all enjoy these little memories.  Maybe you'd share some of yours with me?


Monday, December 17, 2012

Twas the week before Christmas, and I've been thinking...

I really love Christmas.  On sooo many levels.  I love to reminisce; how about you--my readers?  What memories warm your heart this time of year?

It's interesting when I look back at the chapters of my life...

Although Christmas is and always will be, primarily, Christ's birthday, I still can't help but love all the things I remember about that time of year throughout my life.

As a very little child, my first memory of Christmas was when I was two years old.  It was so long ago that the memories are mostly of what I was thinking.  I can recall being told that Santa Claus had come, and seeing toys everywhere.  I cannot remember anything Santa brought, but I do remember that my aunt and uncle came by and gave me a Fischer Price pull toy (a telephone that had eyes which moved when you pulled it).

The following morning, I awoke and wondered why there were no more new presents to open.  :) I didn't grasp the whole idea of it being only one day.

Life as a two year old consisted of me and my big brother, Shaun, living with our parents in a rental home in a neighborhood near Farrell, Pa.  Shaun and I had the whole dining room to play in, which was gated off and filled with our toys.  Mom kept her ironing board there, so she could do her laundry and watch us.  Days were pretty much the same each day; occasionally, Mom would let us sit on the front porch and play with our puppets, or walk out back and throw bread to the birds.  I remember a cherry tree there, maybe I got to taste the fruit, although I'm not sure.

When I was three, we moved to the house that Mom and Dad still live in.  That October, my baby brother, Jim arrived.  That Christmas is much more vivid in my mind than the previous one.

I remember the tree being all decorated in the corner of the dining room, and that I got up earliest that morning.  I found the tree, all lit up in the dark room, and all the toys under it.  I grabbed the first thing I saw and ran up the steps to show it to Mom, who was still sound asleep.  It was a toy rhinocerous. Groggy, she sat up and looked at the toy.  "Annie, this isn't yours, it is your brother's."  Wait till Daddy and I come down and show you what is yours."  Waiting for them to get up and make their way down the steps was an eternity.  :)

That Christmas, I received lots of goodies.  I remember a doll named Janie West, who came with a pony to ride.  I sat by the heat register that day, opening the box that held the doll, then proceeded to somehow drop several of her tiny accessories down the register.  I cried, and Mom said that those things were gone forever.  There was no way to get them back.  I never dangled toys over that thing again. 

Christmases at the Ryan house were always beautiful.  Santa Claus brought all our toys, but in addition to that, the tree itself.  When we went to bed on Christmas Eve, there was not yet a Christmas tree.  But, early the next morn, we'd awaken to find the entire downstairs in darkness, except for the glow of the mulicolored bulbs on the tree.

We always had a live fur tree.  There was great and meticulous care put into choosing just the right one, and the trimming was a work of art.

I think the tannenbaum was the thing that most impressed me, even over all the toys.  Santa Claus didn't wrap our gifts, that was normal for us, and I thought it strange when I heard from other children that they had to unwrap their things.  When I first looked at the gifts, it always looked like the window in a toy store.  I always got dolls--I loved dolls--and lots of wonderful other gifts.

Some years, Mom baked cookies with us.  She was never a fan of KP duty, in any way, shape, or form.  She is a good cook, but doesn't like to cook--she just does it out of necessity.  So, when we made cookies, it was quite a treat.  It seems I remember making gingerbread men the most.

My brothers and I used to lie in our beds on Christmas Eve, listening to stereo 99 FM on our little radio.  We set it in the middle of the upstairs hallway between our bedrooms, and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of Christmas music.  They ran continual Christmas music for 24 hours each year.

At school, in the weeks preparing for Christmas, our teachers taught us about Advent (Catholic school), and we always had a Christmas program set up for the final day of school before vacation.

The year I was in first grade, the teachers decided to put on a play.  I was chosen to sit on the bleachers (off to the side of the stage) to sing songs with a couple dozen other students.  I was content with that, being a very bashful kid.  That was, until my teacher decided that all the first graders would be ON stage.  I refused.  I wanted to be off stage.  She pushed.  I resisted.  Finally, she called Mom, who told her to make me do it.  I cried.  Mrs. Driscoll compromised with me.  She told me all I had to do was dress up as a doll and she'd let me sit on the edge of the stage--no lines.  I reluctantly agreed.

So, Mom made me this adorable dress and fashioned a turnkey for my back.  She assembled it, and I looked like a wind up toy.  When the time for the show came, I plopped down on the stage's edge.  The audience must have thought I looked cute, based on their faces.  I felt dumb and silly.  I wanted to hide in a closet.

When the play ended, I sat there for several seconds until I heard giggling.  I realized I'd missed my cue to stand up and go back stage.  How humiliating!

That Christmas, Santa brought me a pink Cinderella watch.  And a pink robe.  And pink plush slippers.  Pink, pink, pink.  I remember a tiny Barbie like doll named Dawn.  All the girls seemed to have Dawn dolls, and now I did, too!  I received a game called The Bride Game, and a Skipper doll.  It's funny how I can still picture those gifts, and how excited they made me feel.

The next year, as a big second grader, I became aware of fashion.  I wanted fashionable boots--no heavy duty snow boots, but pretty ones to wear with dresses to school.  Santa came through for me!  I also got my first pairs of knee socks.  Prior to that, it was either crew socks or anklets, but I wanted something less childish! 

Each Christmas eve, we visited both sets of grandparents...Mom's parents lived in a big old house on Main Street in Sharpsville.  Sometimes, all the cousins were there, and we'd sing Christmas carols together.  My Aunt Loretta and Uncle Mart still lived there, too, and provided much entertainment for us kids.

My paternal grandmother died when I was a baby, but Grandpa Ryan was always thrilled to see us visit.  He lived with my Aunt Maggie and Uncle Jim, and they always had a big Christmas tree in the corner of their living room.  Uncle Jim would always lift us kids up and swing us in his arms, until we laughed, and then he'd put us back down.  I remember when I grew too big for that fun; what a dismal day that was!  For a few years, Grandpa had a pet monkey named Daisy.  We used to love looking in at the little squirrel monkey and talking to her.  We didn't dare put our fingers near her cage because she was nasty!  She would have bit us!

Christmases always meant lots of visitors.  I had cousins all over the place on both sides of the family.  They were like siblings to me.  I never had a sister, but my female cousins filled that void!  I loved it when they came to our house, or we visited theirs.

I remember games, and ghost stories, outdoor walks, and other fun stuff with them.  I am so glad to have all these fabulous things to look back upon.

Well, time to go do housework...more memories to come...LOTs more!!!

Until later...

HUGSxxx Annie

Monday, October 15, 2012

Love Never Dies--animal's souls?

Thinking and feeling a bit philosophical.

I believe in God.  I believe He is LOVE.  Being that He is LOVE, that leads me to think of what life means.

Is the word 'life' interchangeable with 'love' in the sense that life only exists because of God?  Life is born of love, because God creates life and He is Love.  So, I conclude that life and love are, indeed, interchangeable in that context, and that they are interdependent.

If love never ends, and I know it does not (1 Corinthians 13:8),what happens to it? 

Let us think about that--God exists eternally.  We do not, angels do not, animals and plants do not.  And yet, He created life forms called angels, humans, animals and plants.  His creation of life is a sort of 'extension' of Himself, and He will life forever.  Going back to the interdependence of 'life' and 'love'...

We cannot exist if we do have Him, who is the source of life.  When we 'die', we do not cease to exist--we enter into eternal life, and the substance of who we are is always there, and will be forevermore.

What happens to all other life forms, beneath angels and humans?

They do not have free will as we (and angels) do, but can they also love?

I think so.  Since they are created in love by LOVE Himself, they must not die or end, for that would make the passage in Corinthians a lie.  And we know it is the truth, so what happens to lower life forms after they die?

Angels show love by their choice to be in God's Will.  They, at some point, were tested by God, and each one made a choice to serve or not.  The ones who chose to serve are now busy working, doing the Will of God.  That is how they live, and how they love.

Humans are also tested, but it is a process on Earth.  Because of Christ's having redeemed us, we are offered forgiveness when we turn away from God's Will.  We have the freedom to choose God's Will or our own, but unlike the angels, we have a period of time on Earth to work it out.  His Mercy allows for us to turn away but also to turn back.  He is patient with us.  When we choose God over 'self', it is a Divine act, we align ourselves more fully with Him than lower life forms, who do not have to overcome selfishness--they do not have the capacity for that.

What about animals and plants?  Since they do not have the gift of free will, they cannot turn away from God's Will.  They always do the Will of God, which is LOVE.  Although their expression of God's love is not done by choice, it is constant.  They cannot sin, so they are a reflection and expression of God/Love/Life.

If Love never dies/ends, what happens to animals and plants after they 'die'?

In junior high science, we learn that matter can never be destroyed.  That is a fascinating fact.  I've always been in awe of that!  If physical matter always exists, although it may be transformed, what then of the non physical, the spiritual?

Just a thought, but I wonder if Heaven isn't filled with each plant soul, each animal soul--in it's perfect state--whatever that may be.

When my beloved childhood pet--Gill--died, I was heartbroken.  He was our family dog, half German Shepherd, half collie, and he was a delightful companion and family member.

I couldn't understand how Gill could no longer 'exist'...as if he just vanished--his body would decompose and there was no 'heaven' for him.

It never made sense to me.  Until I began to understand the nature of love.  I believe that dog--who had(s) the love of God imprinted on him--does continue to exist in eternity.  I will see Gill again one day.

Any thoughts from my readers?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Buying in bulk!

Nail clippers.  Shoelaces.  Paper towels.  Pencils.  Deodorant.  What do all these things have in common with each other?

They all seem to disappear in our home, the great Bermuda Triangle wanna be. 

I never buy these items in quantities of ONE.  I can't count how many times I've lost nail clippers--probably at least a dozen per year.  Where do they all go???

Do you all have the same problem?  What kinds of things do you buy in bulk?

Hugsxxx Annie

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wheels are turning!

Creativity is a funny thing.  It's probably infinite in its possibilites, and yet, we have those (sometimes drawn out) dreaded dry spots!

During those times, it's like the sun is on hiatus, the clouds are murking up the day, and life feels...flat.

Thank goodness my creative wheels are turning again, and the sun is at high noon, with nary a cloud to sully the atmosphere.

I have a request for you--my reader!  I have three ideas on the table, and they are all equally appealing to the writer in me.  I wonder if you would do me the pleasure of your two cents, and share with me what you think I should tackle first?

Most of us have seen, in bookstores, and now on websites--such as Amazon-- that there is a market for books with local flavor.  I appreciate reading them myself, and have bought them as gifts.

After some serious thought, I believe I am about to embark on writing a book about one of these three main topics:

1.) Legends and Folklore of Mercer County, PA.  (Or possibly NW Pennsylvania, or Shenango Valley)

2.) Homicides (Murders, or Murder Mysteries) in Mercer County, PA.  (Again, the other two possible locales.) This would cover the period of time between the first settlers, through the decades, up till today.

3.) History and daily life of the Amish in (again) Mercer County, PA.

So, time to do your homework, folks, can you just send me a note and tell me which one you think I should do?

Whichever way I go, I will need to start doing some research.  If I cover legends (choice number 1), I would like to have at least one chapter on 'hauntings', which would mean I would need to put out a request for local yokels to contact me with their stories. 

I already know of one lady, a family friend,  who had a haunting in her Sharon home, back in the 70's.  I'm usually skeptical of that sort of thing, but in her case, I really believe.  She's a rational lady, with some eerie stories, and I think most Sharonites would be chilled to know about it. 

A new writer's group has formed at the Shenango Valley Community Library, and I'm pleased to be a member.  I'm also a member of PennWriter's, as well as past member of the (now defunct) Thursday Coffee Shop Writers, Sharon Writer's Group, and Tri-City Writers.

I wrote a Mother's Column in two Christian newspapers for several years, and am the official OP/ED letter writer for Pro Life of Mercer County. 

Will you please accept my invitation and give me your opinion?  Also, in the future, I may be blogging with more invitations to share your stories of  local legends, hauntings, or murders.  I hope I can bring you all along on my ride!

XXXhugs Annie

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


It's 'First Day Jitters Day' here at our house.  Summer vacation has closed another chapter, and school is now back in session.

We have some news here, for the first time in fifteen years, there are no Elliott children in the middle school! 

Maria is now a senior, JohnPaul, a freshman, and Therese is in the top grade for elementary!  Next year, when she goes off to middle school, it will be the first time in 21 years that we will not have an elementary school child!  INSANE!

I think the school system here should recognize us for this and put up a plaque or something!!!

It's interesting how each child is unique in what they worry about.  Therese seemed mostly concerned with social issues--what if I don't have friends in my class?  What if my teachers are mean? 

JohnPaul was more concerned with how long and boring the day might be.  He did mention a passing word about hoping he had friends in his classes, but he simply doesn't like having to be tied down all day.  He never has.

Then there's Maria.  She is a fretter from A to Z.  "What if my top is too low cut for the dress code and I get sent home?".  "I just straightened my hair and now it's flipping like somebody's hair from the '60's.".  "Friends?  Which ones, who, where, why, and how?".  Oh, then there's the academic stuff--she is a huge bundle of emotions with that.  Talk about A personalities.  She's class 'A' if I've ever seen one.

I got up, made coffee, lunches, breakfasts, exercised, and prayed, all before 9 am.  Then I ran Therese and Jacob to their schools, stopped at Walgreen's for a few things, cashed a check at the bank, came home and made myself breakfast, and I'm now ready for a nap, and it's only 10:30.  Unfortunately, I have dishes to wash, laundry, and bills to do!

It gets harder for me to adjust to the school year every year.  Summertime is a welcome respite for me, when I don't have to jump up at 6:30 AM, and dive into my day.  I wish summer vacation could last another three months!  The only thing I want to dive into is a swimming pool.

I'm enjoying a very sweet rain, gentle and almost musical, right outside my window.  I was tempted to blog on the front porch, but realized the rain had bathed our chairs!  So, I'm doing the next best thing, sitting close to the open window and breathing in the exhilirating scent of fresh rain!

Until next time...

Hugsxxx Annie

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Admiring the Plain Folk

I've lived in Mercer County my whole life.  Nestled nearby, there are clusters of Amish communities, thriving like early American settlers among the 21st century texters and Facebookers.

A short drive down Rt. 18, from Hermitage into New Castle, almost always results in spotting an old fashioned horse and buggy, clip clopping down the berm of the road.

If one drives in the other direction, across the Ohio border, there are other little Amish communities within a short distance as well.

It's not uncommon to see a buggy hitched up to a light pole in a plaza parking lot, or to see a family of Amish, shopping at the local Aldi's store.  Aldi's is a unique store, full of inexpensive groceries, in a sort of warehouse setting.

Amish homes are easily recognized--they are typically white, with fields of neatly planted veggies, and livestock grazing.  They only use one curtain in their windows, pulling it off to one side, so that's the real giveaway, if you're still not sure.  Often, you'll see their buggies hitched up next to the house, and you may notice that their farm tools are all very 19th century.  Amish people are impeccably tidy.  Their property is always kept clean and orderly.

When they work in their fields, there are no tractors, nothing modern, it's all sweat and tears out there.  The men are always tanned.

We are fortunate to have several little shops nearby where the Amish ladies sell their baked goods.  It's been a tradition in our family since my grandma was alive (she died when I was 10), to go on a little drive and pick up a few loaves of freshly baked bread.  Their pies, cookies, and other goodies are all delicious!!

I was once studying and researching how to be a lay midwife in Pennsylvania.  After a couple years of discernment, I decided not to go forward with this because the laws were changing, and there were too many restrictions being put in place.  The Amish ladies still use midwives, and the lady who I met with had been delivering Amish children for decades. 

 Once, when I was at her place, an Amish woman came in for her post natal, six weeks checkup.  Her infant girl was dressed in the traditional bonnet, long black dress, and apron, with little black leather ankle boots, to match.  She looked like a baby doll!  How sweet!

Last week, my family went to Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.  This quaint little village is Ohio's first and oldest resort town.  It sits on the shores of Lake Erie, and boasts lakeside cottages, game arcades, wineries, restaurants, and other such amenities.

While settling in on the toasty sand, and snapping photos of the kids, I noticed a young family about 100 ft. away.  They looked fairly ordinary until I took note that the daddy had a long beard that ran the length of his torso.  Tipping me off that he was an Amishman was the fact that he had no mustache, and his hair was cut in a simple bowl cut.

His upper body was bronze, while his legs were pale white.  The wife had her hair pulled back in a simple low bun, and there were five children, close in age, no older than eight or ten at the oldest.

The Daddy plunged into the water with his little ones, and played in the sand.  The Mommy looked over all her ducklings, but never ventured into the water. 

I took this photo of the family; they do not realize that, the Amish do not like to have their photos taken, so I hope they would not be offended.  They are just really adorable, aren't they?

I've seen Amish men on their way to the lake to fish, and they pull a fishing boat on the back of their buggies!  It's an interesting sight!

I admire the Amish--the way they take care of their whole community.  If one's house burns to the ground, all the men come together and build a house in one day!  The ladies cook and bring cold drinks to the men. 

They believe in the Gospel, and they live it.  They work hard, they play hard, they pray hard, and they sleep hard!  No tv's, no cars, no phones, no furnaces, no lights, no modern conveniences.  And yet, they are content.

I've never had a dishwasher, and sometimes wish I did.  My fridge is too small, and growing ancient.  Our house is old and has very few electrical outlets.  We have no air conditioning, nor do we have cable TV.  And yet, everything I have would make life a breeze for the Amish wife.

I'm not ready to give up my Honda Oddysey for a horse pulled buggy yet, but I can see the value in that simpler life.  I actually envy them to a certain extent! 

Whenever I am in a mood to escape from the craziness of everyday life, I like to hop in the van and drive through Amish country.  It's a good way to settle one's nerves, to take a deep breath, and remember that life is good!!!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Pressing the Pause Button to enjoy my family

This photo didn't make it onto my Facebook Timeline, it was a mistake and I didn't even know I took it until I uploaded my photos today!  It's my leg and foot inside a bumper boat; I must have been talking when I snapped the photo!  Or maybe trying to blast one of the kids or John with water!

John had this week off from work, and it has gone by so fast.   The three oldest of our young men have jobs, so it was hit or miss on whether any of them could participate in any of our jaunts.  Maria's social calendar leaves little time for all day adventures with 'Mom and Dad', but we have managed to lasso her in for a few things, thankfully. 

 The circumstances of raising a family present many challenges.  Rarely do we ever feel completely satisfied with the way things work out.  But, with that said, we have had tons of fun!  When we had a houseful of little kids and babies, our life was pretty much wrapped up in schedules, naptimes, feedings, bathtimes, bedtimes, etc.  Going anywhere was hindered by the ever present diaper bag, stroller, and all the accompanying paraphernalia require when you have kids. 

There is a small window of time when they all reach school age, and you can ditch the strollers, and skip a few naptimes with little repurcussions.  That lasts for a short time, and then the older kids become socially involved, dating, scheduled, etc., and that starts a whole new phase of challenges.

We're currently in a stage where our eldest children are young adults, but still live at home and participate in family time when they can.  Our three youngest are still in school, but growing more independent with each passing day. 

But, anyway, let's get back to THIS vacation.  A favorite moment--so simple, yet, a chance to laugh and bond--was when Billy Joel's Piano Man began to play on the radio, and we all started swaying and singing along to the catchy tune.  That's the kind of stuff I will always cherish, and think my kids will, too.

This time we didn't want to go anywhere that would require an overnight stay.  We did that in June, and it wasn't cheap.  For a family our size, a hotel stay always requires two rooms or a family suite, so it costs a good chunk of change.  Add into that the cost of eating out (which we generally like to do once in awhile while we're out of town) times eight.  If we go to a sit down restaurant, add in a tip!  It causes a rather large dent in our wallet.

So, we've been taking day trips this week.  One day, we stayed in the valley and went to the movies.  The next day, we went to a family recreation center and raced go carts, rode bumper boats, and played 18 holes of miniature golf.  On the way back home, we stopped at Playthings, Etc., a unique toy store that offers kids of all ages a fun experience.  We usually pay this store a trip once a year.  Every time we go, they have all sorts of new and interesting things to look at.  This is one store where the patrons are encouraged to touch and try out the toys.

Therese was quite taken with a bike that looked rather like a unicyle, only it had three wheels.  There was no steering apparatus, no handle bars.  The only way to steer was by leaning her body off to the side, and turning with her hips.

She also found a plastic 'bowl', shaped perfectly for one's 'bottom'.  She plopped herself down into it, and began to spin like a top.  I would've tried it, but was a little self conscious about that, so I refrained from doing so.  Haha.

Yesterday we went on a shopping excursion at Boardman, Ohio.  The large Southern Park Mall offers lots of shops and stores, food and other enjoyable places.  I miss Jillians, though, an entertainment complex that we used to visit whenever we made the trip over in the past.  We could bowl there in a retro 50's style bowling alley, complete with waitresses and even a bar.  It was a classy and fun place, with a huge game room, too.  Sadly, they closed down awhile back.

We had lunch at Chik Fil A--not trying to make a call on any political issues, just LOVE the food there.  We only get to eat there once every year or so, although we did have some of that delicious chicken in June, when were at Splash Lagoon.  I do, of course, feel proud to eat at a restaurant that holds Christian values, and do not offer any apologies for patronizing them!

Therese is the little shopper of the Elliott family: she loves to shop--to look at pretty and girly things.  When she spotted Justice, that was the start of a female frenzy!  We noted that there were racks and bins of all kinds of sale items, and we went a lil crazy!  She walked out of there with a bag full of stuff--clothes, a swimsuit, sunglasses, lip balm!  But, we saved over a hundred dollars!  I couldn't pass up a sale like that!

I found a book on Jack the Ripper at a bookstore, and have just started reading it.  I enjoy reading on my Kindle Fire, but there's just nothing like holding a real book in your hands.

This morning, we got up early, packed some food and drinks, piled comic books(for the kiddos) into the van, and took off for Erie.  Erie has always been one of my favorite cities.  I have been visiting it every summer since I was a baby... summer just wouldn't be summer without Erie.

We've been planning this trip for today for awhile now, and the weather for most of the summer has been sunny, hot, and little rain.  Wouldn't you know today the sky was dark, brooding, and heavy with pregnant clouds?  But, we took off and made the best of it.  When we arrived at Presque Isle, the sky looked ready to blast us with a pelting rain, but it kept itself in check!  We ate our little picnic there, and played on the beach.

We left there and went to Waldameer Park, right next to Presque Isle, overlooking Lake Erie.  The threat of rain kept people away, so we were able to get onto the rides with little or no lines!  Now, that I liked!  Mother Nature was so kind; she only shed a few wayward tears on us, off and on throughout the afternoon, and finally, the clouds lifted, and we were greeted by the sun and blue skies. 

We soared on swings above the lake.  We plunged down huge hills into rivers of raging rapids.  We went through scary fun houses, and mimicked paratroopers.  While everyone else rode the spinny roller coaster (I didn't want to go on that), I treated myself to a cool Dip N Dots cookies and cream ice cream cup.  Sitting in the shade, eating my delicacy, I rested my legs for a few minutes, and enjoyed watching my loved ones on the whirling ride.

After a long and exhausting day, we headed back to the van to have a little snack, some sandwiches, and cold drinks.  John and I have a little tradition: every time we go to Presque Isle or Waldameer, we grab a hot cup of coffee from the McDonald's on Penninsula Drive to keep us alert and awake for the drive back home.

So, staying true to our traditions, we went thru the Drive Thru, and headed back to home sweet home.  As we left sunny Erie, we noticed lightning on a dark horizon.  All the way home, it rained heavily as we sipped our steaming cups of caffeine.  I love taking time to pause life's hectic pace and make memories with John and the kids!

We still have a few more days to do more exploring, so we'll see what tomorrow holds! 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yummy (and healthy) meals on a budget!

I've been experimenting with new recipes (created by lil old me) and thought i'd share them with all you!

We've had some really hot and humid days lately, which means 'don't turn on the oven!'.

Because of that, I have come up with two really tasty pork dishes for the stove top that are easy on the wallet, and fairly healthy as well.

Both recipes call for boneless pork ribs.  You can substitute other cuts of pork, too, but I think these work out really nice.

The first recipe is a pork and potato dish in one:

One Pot Wonder, by Annie

You will need:  (Serves 4) (We eat more, obviously, since there are 8 of us)

1lb. lean pork ribs (look for some marbling or the meat will not be tender)
2 to 3 cups boiled whole potatoes (or two cans of whole potatoes if you're looking for shortcuts)
1/2 tsp. chicken boullion
1/2 tsp. beef boullion
1 mild green pepper cut in slices (around 8)
1/2 medium onion, sliced or diced
1 tbs. cornstarch to thicken

Place pork ribs in saucepan and cover with water.  Stir in boullion, and add pepper and onion.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for one hour.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water, and blend completely.  Stir into pan, mixing well with water.  Let simmer on low for another 10 minutes.  Serve with salad or fruit on the side.

If you try the recipes, let me know how you like them!

The next recipe is also one that calls for pork ribs:

Tangy Ribs, by Annie

You will need:
1lb. pork ribs
1 tsp. beef boullion
3/4 cup catsup
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 onion
1 tbsp cornstarch to thicken

Place pork ribs in sauce pan, cover with water.  Add beef bouillion and onion, simmer for 1/2 hour.  Mix remaining ingredients, pour into pan (Mixing it into the water), simmer for 30 min. or until sauce is starting to thicken.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 water, blend well, then add to pan.  Blend all ingredients well, let simmer 10 min.  Serve on a hamburger bun with salad on the side, and with Tasty Taters (recipe coming up next).

If it's not too hot, you can make these potatoes to compliment the recipe for Tangy Ribs.

Tasty Taters, by Annie

Again, this feeds 4 people, I make twice this many

8 medium potatoes, quartered
olive oil
onion powder
garlic powder
cooking spray (preferably olive oil)

Cover a cookie sheet with foil, drizzle 2 to 3 tbls. olive oil on pan.  With paper towel, spread oil on entire surface of pan.  Place potato quarters in single layer on cookie sheet, then spray to all sides of potatoes with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with onion powder, paprika, and garlic powder.  Place cookie sheet in pre heated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Turn all potato wedges, bake for another 20 min., or until potatoes are fork tender, and golden brown.

DELICIOUS! (I like to dip mine in catsup.)

If you like my recipes, let me know--I'll post some more!

XoXoXo Annie

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Family Adventure

On a Sunday afternoon, what could be better than a few hours with your family?  If you live anywhere within driving distance of Mercer County, PA, there is this remarkable place called Hell's Hollow Wilderness Trail that is a surefire way to spend a wonderful day with your loved ones.

Getting there from the Sharon/Sharpsville/Hermitage area is simple.  Jump on Rt. 62 towards Mercer, and before you know it you'll see Bestwick St. on your right.  It is about a 20 minute drive from the Sharon area.  Bestwick is right outside of Mercer, before you get to town.  Spring Valley Golf Course is right there, so when you see that, your turn is visible.

There is an option to walk or bike ride through the trail, but we chose to ride trail carts.  Rental is $25 per cart for two hours.  It took us a little over and hour & a half to do the four mile trail, and we took our time.  We got off and explored on foot several times, as well as taking photos, and climbing a lookout tower.

The trail is four wonderful miles of WILDERNESS!  There are indian camp areas (authentic), an iron ore furnace, waterfalls, streams, beaver dams, wildlife, all kinds of flora, swamps, ponds, and other interesting things to observe. 
The trail is fun with all its hills, twists and turns.  Some of the hills were frightening because they were steep and curved around with dropoffs.  Go too fast, and you might drop down a loooong way!  We were constantly yelling back to our kids to make sure they 'braked' as they descended. 

A few times, we got carried away and took the hills pretty fast, and I have to admit--it was FUN!  Kind of a roller coaster sensation.

I saw dozens of butterflies along the way, John saw a frog or toad, and Therese and I spotted a very large deer romping in the forest.  There were also lots of birds and dragonflies.

The canopy of trees provided natural 'air conditioning' so the entire ride was quite comfortable.  It was beautiful and lush--ferns, tall trees, brush, berry bushes...just gorgeous and wild. 

I highly recommend a trip to this place if you long to get away from civilization for a little while.  When we got back to the rental area, the owner told us that if you go early in the morning, or later in the evening, the deer are easier to spot--often up to a dozen in a trip.  We only saw one, but we were there mid afternoon.


Friday, July 6, 2012

A VERY Cluttered Mind

I haven't blogged for awhile...this entry will be very random...

Stuff on my mind...

I'm hating the fact that Penn State sent Jacob a letter saying he is not meeting their 'Satisfactory Academic Progress' standards, when we checked, and his grades are REALLY solidly high, he's on course to graduate next May, and he's been tutoring in the learning center for two years now.  I can't begin to understand why, and no one answers a darned PHONE!  We get all these dumb options, but no real people. 

I cannot stand things that I can't resolve immediately--I'm impatient.  I want answers and I want them NOW!!!!!!!

I'm thinking of things I want to do as Summer marches along at an accelerated pace--what has happened to 'time'?  It's bounding away like a wild horse with no direction, an unbridled ride full of bumps and bruises along the way.  I feel like I got knocked off the horse and am lying in a dusty trail somewhere rubbing my black and blue...ummm...well, you get the picture.  Time took off and I can't figure out how to capture it.

I have an alternate life, it's really wierd...it's the life I land in when I enter REM sleep...it continues on every night.  Maybe someday it will make a fantastic story for a book.  Its me, John, and the kids, just as normal as apple pie.  But, in that life, we have moved into a home where everyone has space.  The house is equipped with extra rooms, large windows, extra baths, modern appliances, and we are on perpetual vacation.  Every day is a new adventure, and almost always involves vivid family trips to the ocean or Lake Erie.  We ride lots of roller coasters in that other life, too.  Sometimes I return to school, and that is one of the down sides to the alternate life.  I always feel confused that I'm back there, and even have had to ask my own kids what time a certain class begins.  I tend to get confused because I'm sure I have a test but don't know what is on the test.  Sometimes I stand at my locker and wonder how to open it because no matter how much I wrack my brain, I cannot remember the lock's combination.

In that life, I often spend time on stage.  Sometimes, it resembles the school dream, where I'm on stage and realize I never memorized any of my lines.  Somehow I get myself out of every jam.  I always fix those problems, and come out on top.  The last time I was on stage in that life, I was in a chorus line, and had never attended rehearsal.  Everyone knew the dance steps but me.  I did a lot of improvising!

A psychologist would analyze that and conclude that I'm trying to problem solve in my sleep.  It might be true, but who cares?  I love visiting my 'other' life.  :)

Today is payday--gotta do bills--bathroom day--(clean that)--wash dishes--plan dinner (have no idea what to make!  I'm running out of ideas!!!)--finish laundry--(finish?  Ha!  In my dreams!)--and think of something fun to do with my honey and my 'little' honeys tonight.  (The little honeys who aren't out with their friends or working.)

Thinking of Tony, who starts his new job tomorrow!  He got hired at WalMart!  He'll be making pretty good money, and will be a WORKING MAN!!!  Yeah, Anthony!!!

Last but not least--thinking I should have done my exercises earlier, it's really getting hot and I haven't done them yet.  Better get to it before the weather gets worse!

XXX000 Annie

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Feeling blue

One of Those Days

During the summer, I like to relax my schedule as much as possible because throughout the other three seasons, I am stuck on a merry go round that doesn't quit.  I like merry go rounds, but for nine months, that can make me dizzy!

I feel like no matter how much I try to move forward and make changes to things that frustrate me, I always end up back where I started, and I am just realllllly tired out.

The two little neighbor girls, ages five and eight, have been pushed into my life by parents who seem to see me as a free babysitter.  I don't mind that Therese has playmates, but I don't want to raise someone else's kids. 

Every morning at 8:15 or 8:30, an insistent knocking comes at my front door, which starts a chain reaction.  The dog begins to bark hysterically, everyone that is trying to sleep is jolted from their slumber.  I'm almost always up way before then, but I cherish being able to have my coffee leisurely and that just sticks in my craw.  It's those kids.  Today I called the girls over and I said, "STOP coming over here so early in the morning.  Do not come to my door until at least 10 am."  Now, we will see if they actually listen because they never do.

Something is desperately the matter with them.  I can't pinpoint it, but the elder one has told me at least three or four times that she wants me to adopt her.  They do not understand boundaries.  They continually walk inside my house.  They make a huge mess here and leave stuff behind every time they are over.  Each day, it's something, not just one or two things, but a dozen or more.  Shoes, jackets, cereal bowls, food, toys, and other assorted things.  I have told them to stop and they never do.  So, yesterday I said, "If you leave ANYTHING here again, you will not be allowed over the rest of that day."  The little one came, left a roll of toilet paper (I have no idea why she had that?) here, shoes, toys, etc., so I sent her home.  She bawled all the way across the street.  OH WELL!!!

 They have broken three of our solar lights.  They knocked over my statue of the Virgin Mary.  They pick up my cats and throw them.  They steal stuff.  The younger one stole a toy of Therese's and ruined it.  When Therese told her mom about it, her mother yelled at Therese "OH, do you really think she'd do that?", then 'Get out!'.  When the kid told her mom that she had stolen it, her mom said, 'Well, I can't afford to replace it!'.  That wasn't the point, the point was she should have taken that opportunity to discipline her child.

I'm just tired.  I have been raising my own family over half my life.  My kids are spaced out from 2 to 4 years apart, and it has taken enormous patience  and perserverance on my part to do this day in and day out for the past 25 years. I do not like that these parents don't take care of their own kids, but seem to think it's okay to send them my way.

I feel sorry for these children, but at the same time, I am very angry.  I don't see why people don't love their children enough to do what parents are expected to do.  It's not easy, I get that.  I've had awful days in my time as a mom.  Days when I cried myself to sleep.  Days that I got NO sleep.  Days when everything felt so darned frustrating.

But, I cannot excuse their parents.  Their kids will only be little for a short time.  Take care of them!

I'm struggling with some stuff here...feeling really tired...having major "female" troubles...trying to stay on top of things with my own family...

I guess I just needed to vent.  My day has just been terribly trying, even though it has not been a bad day in any overt way.  It's just ONE of those days.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marital Harmony

With tomorrow's significance in the forefront of my mind--my 27th Wedding Anniversary--I am pondering why it is that I've been so blessed to have the good fortune of such a joyful union with John.

I think back to the beginning, when I was just a step away from childhood, yet a step away from adulthood as well...I was wedged in that teenaged zone where every decision feels weighty.  Pepperoni or sausage?  Blue eyeshadow or beige?  Still not understanding that the universe is so much bigger than myself.  Still of the mindset that Mom and Dad will continue to catch me if I trip and fall.

Yet, knowing that I stood on the precipice of adulthood and bigger things to come.  And pondering the fact that although still in high school, that somehow I already knew that I wanted to make a life with my young man and share my future with him.

I remember the day we pledged to marry each other--we were both very pure and childlike in our intention.  We picked twist ties from a pile in my parents' kitchen and wound them into make-shift rings.  We placed them on each other's fingers and made our pact--I was 17, he was 20.  That was a mere two weeks into our dating experience.

It sounds comical now, but it was romantic and thrilling at that time.  Our courtship lasted four years until the day we held our hands out to accept the gold wedding bands on our wedding day.

Why do so many marriages fail?  What happens to that fresh love that makes it grow old and stale?

I offer just a few ideas as to why my marriage has been a constant source of joy...

1.) In the beginning, John and I were open books to each other.  We held no secrets, we kept nothing of ourselves away from the other.  To this day, it is the same.  I have nothing to be ashamed of if he were to read my diaries, or to see my emails.  I honor him, and he honors me.

2.) We strove for pre-marital purity.  Yes, that is an old fashioned notion in our society, but well worth it, please trust that.  We longed to be in union with each other from the start, but knew it would pay off in the end if we respected the chaste aspect of our relationship.  I can say that it has made ALL the difference.  Our marital intimacy has remained a renewing source of strength, bonding, joy, love.  Our honeymoon was a real honeymoon, where we opened a chapter that we had waited to open for four long years.  And, it was worth the wait!

3.) God has been the third party in 'us' since the beginning.  We prayed together from the start, even though John did not share the same faith as I.  We were both baptized Christians, but he was raised in a God-less home.  We found that prayer was a perpetual spring of strength for our relationship. 

4.) Open-ness to all life--in other words, as Catholics, we honor our fertility and have put our ability to pro-create into God's hands.  We never concerned ourselves with whether it was the right time to conceive a child.  We told God from day one that whatever His will was in that regard, that too, was our will.  I solemnly tell you, He has been more than good to us and has blessed us with beautiful children to raise, love, and enjoy.

5.) Creativity!  We do not and never had a conventional marriage.  We were never the type to drop the kids off at Grandma's and go for a weekend.  We packed up our kids and took them with us!  We had many covert romantic trysts, even with kids in tow, and what a challenge!  Oftentimes, a date would be putting everyone to bed, and challenging each other to a game of Scrabble or Yahtzee...or a movie rental.  Other times, it would be putting kids in strollers and taking long walks.  A trip to the playground meant we could sit on a nearby park bench and snuggle while the kids had fun a few feet away.  I have so many good and happy memories of those times.

6.) Being real.  What I mean by that is that we sometimes had to hold it together for the other one, to be the support-er.  I've had some pretty rough times over the past few decades.  Those earlier problems of what color eye shadow turned into things that dealt with life and death.  When our first born--Ian--came along, with some heavy duty health problems, I could have easily bailed.  I found it hard to breathe, I was stuck in a nightmare...I had a terrible postpartum depression...worry became my new normal.  John stepped up to the plate to be the rock of the family--to hold me up when I couldn't hold myself up anymore. 

When money was so tight, we had nothing left over on payday after paying the bills, or worse yet, we were short of money, we held onto each other and offered words of support.  In that stormy sea, we sometimes had leaks in our life raft, but we never sank!!  We just kept holding on to each other!

When troubles have fallen like raindrops from the sky, we've put up our umbrella and stepped under it, knowing that no matter what we face, we face it together.  Division is the first fissure in a marriage.  Once you let that crack happen, it's like an eggshell.  Pretty soon, you're left with a thousand cracks, and a big mess.  We just won't let anything separate our union.

7.) Valuing each other.  In all fairness, marriage isn't always perfect!  Just because I'm praising all the joy and love doesn't mean we haven't had our share of difficulties.  When raising a family, there are many occasions of frustration.  It's very important to learn when to curb your tongue, and when to speak.  We try to hold back when we're in a 'mood' because hurting the one you share your life with is never the right thing to do.  Part of the marital vow we said to each other was 'to love and honor all the days of my life'.  HONOR!  That is something vital to a marriage.  Giving your other half the honor that you vowed to give them is a precious gift.

8.) John and I have a similar sense of humor which helps a lot!  Sometimes a good belly laugh is what's needed.

9.) Staying attractive.  Okay, I don't look like I did when I was 17.  I have had six kids, so my body is a little different than it once was.  But, I view those changes as my battle scars--I bore children, bringing forth new life--how could that not be worth a few extra pounds and some stretch marks?  John and I have quite a few grey hairs, but again, the same principal as the battle scars--these are the stripes on our uniforms.  We're like Admirals now, where we once were Privates.  We've weathered stormy seas, and come out on top.  The greys have all been earned.  With all that said, I exercise.  I dress up for him.  I try to look pretty for him.  He does the same for me.  We don't want to take that for granted, but to continue to renew our attraction for one another.  I like it when I look at him, and think, wow, he's so handsome. 

10. We do little things for each other most days.  Oftentimes, married couples let things go.  We try not to.  He sometimes shows up after work with my favorite chocolate bar in his hand, or some other little treat.  He knows how much that means to me.  When he's at work, one of my favorite things to do is swing down to Country Fair and buy him a fountain drink and surprise him on the job.  Little gestures make BIG impressions.

I love being married.  If no one else likes me, if the world rejects me, I know that I have John.  He is my beloved and he has taken me to be his, and he loves me unconditionally. 

Thank you, God, for giving me my JOHN!!!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Being a woman

In recent weeks, I've been disturbed by things I see that are the direct 'fruits' of the bruhaha over the HHS mandate.  In the media, and in some FB posts, I read some pretty rough stuff!  All I can say is, 'Wow!'.  When did women come to the point where they think that crudeness becomes them?

As a woman, I believe I can and should speak for women.  First off, let me say this: I LOVE men.  I do not view men as trying to oppress women.  I don't doubt that there are men who do that, and that it has happened in the past.  Unfortunately, that is true. But... every man I have had the good fortune of knowing has always been fair and respectful of me.

I grew up with a father who always taught me that the sky is the limit.  He never forced gender roles down my throat--in fact, many of the things he gave me weren't often thought of as 'feminine'.

For instance, he gave me fishing equipment, hiking boots, a barn coat, a CO2 pistol, a CB radio, and many other such things.  (He also gave me Love's Baby Soft perfume!)

I have often fished with my Daddy, and we like to go for jaunts in the wild, walking through thick brush, while he points out various plants to me.  He takes me to the shooting range and instructs me on the proper handling of firearms.  He taught me about the Erie Canal, taking me to points where it used to run, and explained about Indian tribes who lived nearby.  He has expounded on the local Indians and their trails.  We have watched countless Cowboy flicks together, and spent many hours engaged in intellectual discussions.

Dad has taught me math and reading, how to ride a bike, how to swim, and how to identify birds and trees.  I have never heard a dirty joke or rude comment come from my father.  He has never tried to hold a women down and 'oppress' her in any way.

I have two siblings, both brothers, and they often roughhoused with me.  Shaun, my big brother, used to make me play a game he made up called 'Boot Camp', where he would be the D.I. and I had to do all the tough stuff he put me through.  I remember rolling down hills (GRASS stains?!), doing pushups, and running until I was out of breath.  My brothers and I played ball together, ran laps, played tag, and enjoyed bike rides.  My brothers have grown into men of integrity and goodness.  They show no signs of wanting to hold women back!

I never felt like I had to prove myself as a female in a man's world.  I felt comfortable with me, and I embraced my feminine side.  I always loved baby dolls.  I had over 60 of them as a child, and each one had a name and a special place in my heart.  I always knew I wanted to be a mother.

My mom is a true feminist and a great influence on me.  She is the eldest child of eight, and has a wildly independent streak.  She taught me (through example) that to be myself was all that mattered.  She worked at the Westinghouse right out of high school, and bid on a job in the shop where she could earn more money, instead of doing office work.  She worked along men, and she was fine with that.  She wore black jeans that she paid two bucks for.  She shunned makeup, wearing a smattering of red lipstick that complimented her almost black hair.

Mom didn't care so much about marriage, so she explored life, and put herself through college.  She had aspirations to move to the west coast and settle in as a writer.  She taught school as she neared the end of her College education, and went on to work as a teacher.  She graduated with a dual major in English and Comprehensive Social Studies.  Mom took pre-med classes because she had a thirst for learning!  The advisors were puzzled as to why she would take hard courses that weren't necessary, but she loved to challenge herself. 

She met my father and that steered her in a different direction, as she found a new desire to settle down.  In 1960, on New Year's Eve, at age 31, she married my dad.

Every one of my uncles (seven in all) were/are highly respectful of women.  None of them spoke ill of females, but rather, were somewhat in awe of them.  There were no crass words, ill opinions, rude remarks.  No ogling, no centerfolds.  The men in my life are men of integrity who love women as a magnificent creature!

My grandfathers were like my uncles.  They were good and pure, with utmost respect for the ladies.  They always showed me love, and nothing else.

I have a lot of male friends...they are mostly similar to the men in my family.  I have run into the few who are the 'bubba' type--who give men a bad name.  But, for the most part, I have found that men are wonderful just as they are.  And I know that women are wonderful as they are, too! 

I LOVE that I am a woman.  I think it is utterly wonderful that I can do what I can do!  I am nurturing.  I can be a mom.  I can be a wife.  I love all those things.  I can be gentle.  I can be soft.  My figure is curvy.  I like that.  My hands are small.  I like that.  I sometimes need a guy to help me open a jar.  What is wrong with being who and what you are????

I love to take care of my family.  I enjoy providing their home, their meals, their support.  I find it highly satisfying to hold a child, or to comfort someone.  Afterall, who can be all that, other than a MOM?

It hurts me when I read the crass comments of late...the ones where females are reduced to their genitalia (and I mean--the crudest terms), and their militant attitude.  I don't want to be militant.  I want to be genuine.

I embrace and love the fact that my Catholic faith elevates women.  Women simply are the heart of any society.  What more can a girl ask for???

Our wombs are supposed to be the safest, warmest, nurturing place.  Our bodies do not belong exclusively to ourselves...they are there to enable us to be useful and helpful to our families and society.

When and where did people begin to believe the lie that our fertility is a curse? 

I recognize that not all my readers will agree with me.  I just want to assert that I love everything that being a woman means, and I don't think it is beneficial to act crude or speak in such base terms.  It demeans women.

A woman whom I greatly admire, Edith Stein, was a German Jew who was independent, brilliant, strong.  She recognized the light of Christ and became a Christian.  This woman went to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany, and embraced her fellow Jews with comforting arms and words as they took their last breaths.  That is a real hero!  A real woman!

Well, that's enough for now...


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons? Or indoctrination?

In the '70's, my brothers and I watched Saturday morning cartoons every week.  We looked forward to getting up before dawn, sitting in our P.J.'s in front of a glowing TV screen in a dimly lit living room.  We often crunched on sugar laden cereal, sometimes straight from the box. 

Our parents were up before we were on every other morning of the week, but they usually slept in for a couple of hours on Saturdays.  The coziness and laid back way we started the day was a relief after five days of hurrying to get to school each morning.

Some of our favorite cartoons were Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny/Road Runner, The Jetsons, and The Pink Panther.  My older brother liked Johnny Quest, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but watched anyway.  I was never too big on Underdog, either.

The commercials were always aimed at us kids--either cereal commercials, or ads for snack foods, or something about toys.  The toy commercials were what inspired our Christmas lists.  Those ads could make almost any toy seem like the answer to all our prayers!  G.I. Joe (remember kung fu grip?) was a hero like none other!  And Spiro Graph--hours and hours of joy and fun!  Lite Brite, a very boring concept, seemed to be the epitome of excitement when we watched little kids using the light up toys. Saturday mornings were a virtual playland that oozed from our TV screen.

After the cartoons ended, we ran outside to play.  We spent most saturday afternoons and evenings outdoors with neighbor kids, running, plotting, imaginative games, and bicycles.  Even on the coldest days, we donned leggings, boots, mittens and hoods to get out into the fresh air that we craved and didn't get enough of during the school week.

So, in what way did Saturday morning cartoons harm us?  Did the sugary cereal make us fat?  NO!  We were so thin, we looked like we could blow away in a stiff wind.  Did watching cartoon characters dropping anvils on one another cause us to become violent?  NO!  We are a generation that holds onto basic civility and good manners. (For the most part.)

Did the ads harm us?  NO!  We never got everything we asked for at Christmas, usually one item out of 20, but we were always satisfied and happy.  We didn't get to eat fast food or Hostess Ho-Ho's just because we enjoyed the commercials.  Mom and Dad had control over the grocery list, and we were lucky to get a dime or quarter every month or two.  No one handed us money, except for our bachelor uncle, who occasionally pulled some change from his pocke to divvy up between us. We couldn't just buy everything we wanted.  

I've been raising my children since Ian came along in 1986.  When he was old enough to watch Saturday cartoons, John and I set forth to renew that childhood ritual.  He woke up at the crack of dawn from his early years to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Muppet Babies, and Winnie The Pooh.   During this era, cartoons were transitioning from entertainment to 'educational'. 

As each of our kids was born, I noticed that the ritual was becoming less and less important to them.  They rarely cared about watching cartoons.  That's when I began to realize how poorly made the modern cartoons were: they weren't entertaining and fun like they had been in my childhood.  They became too preachy!  No more fun, kids, now everything you watch will have a lesson for you to learn!  Be tolerant.  Exercise.  Eat wisely.  Blah, blah, blah.

Therese, being my youngest, and on the verge of becoming a 10 year old, woke up today and I urged her to put on the TV.  She was like a ball of energy and I woke up with a migraine.  I wasn't ready to jump feet first into my day, and was hoping for a small reprieve.

The TV was on for a few short moments when I realized Therese was completely disinterested, and then she put on her clothes and was out the door.  The TV stayed on for awhile, and I began to pay attention to it.  The ads that John and I have been making fun of for the past several years suddenly took on a sinister cast--and it wasn't because of 'Simon Bar Sinister', who no longer graces our TV's on Saturdays!

No, this darkness was the commercials themselves!  EVERY single ad was a government sponsored indoctrination attempt!  One was about how to get more exercise.  Another one was about how to eat right, informing young mind's about their dietary needs.  I suddenly thought about the past five to 10 years of ads during children's programming and it dawned on me that the government has sneakily taken over.

There is the ad I see over and over that is about accepting each other, all people of all races and creeds.  There are the ones about bullying.  Do I have a problem with kids being overweight, and for bullying, or for discrimination?  Of course I do.

But I have a bigger problem with the government using propaganda in the form of 'feel good' ads mainly aired during children's programming.  I know what they're up to.  Parents need, more than ever before, to do their job right!  If we don't teach our children the values we hold dear, they become 'programmed' fools as adults, who buy every line the government hands them.

If you don't have youngsters, put on cartoons and watch the ads.  Become informed!  I do not have cable/dish, so I can't say what is being shown there.  I imagine that everything I see during limited (network) children's programming is exaggerated to the NTH degree on Disney/Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network.

To those who say these changes needed to happen, I say, 'Rubbish'!  My generation didn't have all the social issues that today's kids do.  We grew up just fine.  We didn't have every aspect of our lives scrutinized.  We were raised with common sense! Remember the 70's ad that featured a young boy who watched his dad smoking?  Heaven forbid that his father was a bad influence on the child...but did it help?  NO!  Most of my peers smoked or still smoke.

People!  Wake up!

Young people smoke more than ever.  Why didn't they get the message?  The same thing for drinking!  Ian grew up going to D.A.R.E. classes at school.  About 99.9% of his classmates eventually took up smoking, drinking, and drugs. I shudder when my younger kids tell me what they hear and see from their peers.  Things are getting worse with every passing year!   

The way kids learn right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, etc., is primarily from their parents.  When I was growing up, and tempted to do anything outside of my moral compass, guess what the deciding factor was?  I couldn't bear the thought that I could let my parents down.  I wasn't worried about some ad I might have seen on TV.  I thought of how much they loved me, and I wanted to stay obedient and faithful to these people!

I believe in passing on that thing called integrity.  I hope my kids have been learning this from my example and my relationship with them...

I don't want some Big Brother meddlers to be the big influence in my children's minds.