Grandma Rocke, A Self Help Book

In a portion of my recent interview with my dad’s mom, I was shocked and humbled by some of her responses. I asked her for a fond memory of her parents…and she launched into the details of her dad’s premature death, and the fact that she then became her mother’s right hand. While these were details that I did want to know, it didn’t answer my question, so I redirected her to “fun” family nights, vacations, weekend getaways, etc.

Silence. Vacation? “No, honey. The first time I took a trip was with your grandfather for our honeymoon.”

My mind flashed to the camping trips my parents took me and my four siblings on every summer of my youth. We camped in every state except for Hawaii and Alaska, and while we were always on a budget, we did incredibly fun outdoors activities, like white water rafting in Oregon, camping next to the California Red Woods, and hiking down into Crater Lake. One year we even splurged big time and went to Orlando for Christmas.

My grandmother, however, had not been privy to these childhood luxuries. She helped raise her siblings, cooked, canned, and gardened at a young age; she dropped out of high school her sophomore year when she joined the church. After committing her life to the Lord, the expectation was that she was grown enough to quit school and get a job; her situation was taking up a job as a nanny with a local family, making $2 a week in turn for caring for two children.

She didn’t attend school dances, participate in local activities, sports, or otherwise usual childhood experiences. She helped her mother, raised her siblings, and served the Lord.

Nicholas and I recently booked a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, and it’s literally the only thing we talk about at night…we read cruise reviews until we fall asleep, and check our “cruise countdown” app every morning.

I recognize the stark difference in my current life and that of my grandmother, and I listened in awe of her as she spoke so matter-of-factly about her life. Her voice didn’t resound with an invitation of pity or empathy for the childhood she experienced, the challenges of being married to a beekeeper who often didn’t make enough money to get through the Midwestern winter, or her current situation as a patient/guest at the nursing home; she speaks of her past with the same tone of voice she does about the Chinese food she had on Monday for her 98th birthday celebration. She sees the world through a lense of thankfulness. She’d never dream of being ungrateful of her experiences or wishing for more.

Every time I call her, and ask her about her care, she raves about the nursing home: the food? “Amazing. I couldn’t dream of more. Do you know they have unlimited ice cream? And for my birthday, they were willing to go to any local restaurant and get me anything I wanted. Of course, I asked for Chinese food.”

She’s incredibly resilient, and has so much to teach me.

I keep ordering and reading books about leadership, inspiration, and otherwise “self help” type books for my new career. The reality is, all I really need to do is keep interviewing my grandmother, and replay the audio when I need to refocus. Her life stories, experience, and wisdom is more powerful than any book I could order from Amazon—and I get the bonus of hearing her sweet, raspy voice with each replay on my audio. What a gift she is to me.

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September Resolutions

I know it’s a little early for New Years resolutions, but my cousin, Jolynn Hodel, posted a new blog tonight; it was her final post about their journey to a new home this past year, and I got to thinking about all the changes you never imagine will happen, and the hindsight that allows you to realize it’s all in a perfect plan.

I lost two great men in my life this year, my grandfather in March and my dad “Poppi” in July. My husband left a 14 year career without a new job secured, and my parents sold the only childhood home I ever lived in. I ended the only “career” I’ve ever known and have two degrees in a file folder that are, at the moment, irrelevant. And if that wasn’t enough change, an age old friendship ended abruptly this summer without explanation.

I’ve written before about change and transition, and at the risk of sounding redundant, I wanted to wrap up the changes like a Christmas present, and take this time to be thankful, press forward, and make some resolutions.

I resolve to have faith, in spite of the the need I have for control.
I resolve to spend time with the people closest to me because tomorrow is never promised.
I resolve to not be complacent in a job just because it’s easy.
I resolve to only maintain the relationships in my life that are positive and good for me.
I resolve to always remember where I came from, and keep calling my grandmothers every week.
I resolve to continue “Sunday gravy,” Italian style, even though very batch of red sauce stings a little.
I resolve to worry less about money, but keep shopping at Aldis.

And I resolve to eat a few more greens and drink less wine. 🙂

I know it’s just September, but a cooler night reminds me again that the seasons start over, and so should we. So here’s to a new season, a few resolutions, and a reminder that the only constant in life is change.

Taking Stock and Building A Vision Board

Nicholas and I were talking extensively about creating a vision board last night; his mom made one last year and has encouraged us to do the same, as there’s nothing like the power of visuals and positive thinking to keep you on track. I used to have one in my classroom in San Antonio, but we’ve never made one together.

It’s a perfect time to refocus, especially as we’ve recently marked a year of us beginning our life back in Atlanta. It’s a good time to slow down, let our souls catch up with our bodies, and quietly review the transitions of the last year. After 14 years of working for Target, yesterday was Nicholas’ last day–perfect timing since we’re rounding the troops and spending as much time with Poppi as possible now that he’s on hospice care. Nothing like closing down both of our careers in the same year and learning that time with our dad is seriously limited –it all begs a moment to step back and take stock of our life.

The vision board seems easy at first–it’s simple to make a list of things that more money or time would get us, but we tried to focus on things less dependent on both, as how can you ever measure when you have enough of either? Instead, we focused on things that already do or would bring us more happiness or contentment.

Time together topped our list– spending time with family trumps all else–gathering together to hear Poppi’s stories, glean another cooking lesson or tip, and share laughter and memories over great food.

We want to continue building our friendships here, join an adult sport league like kickball or softball, bike the Atlanta belt line, and continue to entertain in our house.

Nicholas wants to hone his homebrews and I want more time in my “studio” to craft and dabble in homemade goods.

We have our sights set on weekend getaways to Savannah or Charleston, and of course can’t keep cruising off the board.

We haven’t lost hope of our supper club, built around concepts of napoletana pizza and homebrew, and I’m still scheming about a job in writing or nonprofit.

What I’m realizing, though, in brainstorming our continued vision for the future, is that I already have more than I ever imagined, or deserve, and I’m so thankful.

It’s not all perfect, of course–Transitions are tough and we have plenty of them, personally and professionally. But we’re loved beyond measure, surrounded in healthy and fulfilling relationships. I remind myself that this is more important than anything else this life could offer.

So as we continue to create a vision board, we’re dreaming hard, but are also taking the time to step back and recognize that it’s already a good life.

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My Dad Would Have Been Prepared For “Snowmageddon”

My dad has always been an extremist when it comes to safety precautions—he’s as prepared as a human could be for any possible disaster. If there’s ever a huge national crisis, I’m headed straight for rural Metamora where I’ll hide out in my parents’ basement, eat canned food and snooze under homemade afghans. As excessive as his precautions sometimes seem, (think mass amounts of bungee cords, pounds of sand, multiple blankets, and endless snacks) I was and still am thankful for his attention to detail, even if I didn’t recently heed his lessons like I should have.

My first car, an 80-something black escort, was a prime example, as the trunk was equipped with a box of sand, candles with matches, warm socks, a variety of non perishable snacks, flares, jumper cables, a first aid kit and a heavy afghan. I only needed a handful of these goods throughout high school and college, but on necessary occasion I was eternally grateful for my dad’s wisdom and diligence in making sure that us kids were always safe and prepared for whatever mother nature may have in store for us.

Most of my adult life I’ve resided in warmer climates and have subsequently paid little attention to these sort of precautions. Yesterday I was stranded for 22 hours in the snow/ice gridlock of our city, which has already taken on the nickname of “Snowmageddon 2014.” The usually one hour trek from Sugar Hill to my house became nearly a day’s trip, and I realized a few things:

1. My dad is always right, and I really wish I still had my winterized trunk of goodies.
2. In the absence of specific supplies my dad would have suggested, I still carry a pretty stocked purse—wipes, flashlight, pocket knife, gum, protein bars, and good lip gloss.
3. Southerners really freak out when they see snow/ice and my dad should give them a quick intro to downshifting on hills.
4. There’s still so much goodness in the world; a 20-something in Alpharetta was passing out hot coffee, an older woman in Roswell passed out cookies, and an entire family had their Red-Ryder’s out on 285 W passing out water.
5. Patience might be the most valuable attribute I could ever possess—I’m still working on this one.

My car will very soon be stocked with details to my dad’s specifications, just in case I ever need to spend the night in my car again. As for me? I’ve marked my spot next to Nicholas on the couch with my pink laptop and Rainbow Bright Snuggie and have no intentions of leaving the house any time soon.

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I hope “Becah for JECA” knows how much I love this snuggie. 🙂