Remembering Grandma

I am sitting here watching my beloved Michigan Wolverines stomp all over Penn State, and I can’t help remembering Grandma. Six years ago today, I went to work extremely excited. I was leaving right after work to head home for the weekend. A friend of mine had given me tickets to the Michigan-Bowling Green game up at the Big House and I was taking my mom. I have been a Michigan football fan since I was a little kid and I went to BG, so the best of both worlds. Plus, my mother’s Alzheimer’s was starting to show more and more, so I knew such outings were quickly going to end.

Halfway through the morning, my phone started screaming, because I had forgotten to turn off the sound. I saw it was my aunt, and I cringed. I looked at my assistant and said, “I know what this means, but I will wait until after dismissal to listen to it.”

My grandmother was 95 and had just come down with pneumonia after trying to recover from a broken back. We all know what usually happens with people at that age who get pneumonia. I was just so grateful that I had made it home not even two weeks prior to see her for her birthday. In fact, she kicked me out after lunch because the Michigan-Notre Dame game was on, and she thought I needed to home to watch it.

After morning dismissal, I sat on the bench and pulled out my phone to listen to my voice mail. As I had feared, Grandma had passed away that morning. She got up, went to the bathroom, got back into bed and never got up again. I am still teary thinking about that moment, which I had literally dreamed about many times, sitting in that exact spot and getting that message.

I touched base with my father and made arrangements to miss the entire next week of work. It was going to take time to get everyone together to have the memorial service. My coworkers made sure I had food before I left and gave me their well wishes. I headed home and I fumbled as I tried to now pack for a full week instead of just a weekend. Robotically I got into the car and headed west, remembering Grandma and 33 years together.

Soon after I was born, my parents decided to take a new road in life, opening their own furniture business. They had actually met at Dad’s family’s furniture store. And for many reasons, Dad wanted his own. So, while they were building the store and apartment, we moved in with my grandparents and stayed for about a year or so.

Visiting the store in progress with Grandma and Grandpa
Visiting the store in progress with Grandma and Grandpa

After my parents started their store, I still spent a lot of time with my grandmother. If our parents were busy at the store, she would pick us up from school. Mom played the church organ, so Grandma picked us up after first service and fed us lunch, then we played games or read until Mom or Dad would come pick us up. She took us to the library and to Disney movies. I played dress up with her shoes until I outgrew them. I was fascinated by the differences between my city grandmother and my mom’s mother, who was a farmer’s wife.

She had a great smile.
She had a great smile.

As I started getting older, she was patient while I pored over family albums and asked a million questions about all of these people I didn’t know. My only regret is that I never wrote them down.

In high school, I still enjoyed spending time with my grandmother, which isn’t really a normal thing. My parents sold their business at the end of my senior year of high school and moved us 25 miles south. I still wanted to spend time with friends, and my grandmother let me stay over at her condo, even though I was coming in at 2 and 3 a.m. Our agreement was she wouldn’t tell my mother how long I had been out, as long as I didn’t tell my parents that her boyfriend was spending the night.

me-with-grandma-at-graduation

In college, I still cherished our family time at holidays. When I started teaching Montessori, I was at a school just a couple of miles away. We often got together for dinner. The only time we missed our dinner was on her birthday, September 11, 2001. We decided considering the circumstances, I was better off heading straight home as soon as possible.

That last birthday of hers that we spent together was extremely difficult. I knew when I hugged her goodbye and said that I would be back at Thanksgiving that we weren’t going to see each other again. And I remember the look in her eyes that said the same, though neither one of us would voice it.

Christmas 2009
Christmas 2009

Even after I moved to New York, I made regular visits back home. I never missed her birthday. We spent all holidays together. I would spend hours at her apartment, just sitting there. We would chat, but then sometimes sit in silence. In fact, after she died, she came back to me in a dream and told me I had to just sit there. We were just going to sit together, and if I spoke, she would leave. I opened my mouth and said, “But I have so many more questions for you.”

She replied, “I told you not to speak. Now I have to go.” And she vanished.

When my mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s, I often confided in my grandmother, as I knew my father was also doing. She really became a surrogate mother for me at that point. We were so close, that when her brother took a turn for the worse, having contracted pneumonia after knee surgery at the age of about 88, I was the one chosen to deliver the bad news and to drive her to Hospice to say goodbye to him. When she passed away, I was nominated by the cousins to represent all of the grandchildren in a eulogy.

Losing my grandmother meant losing a part of who I was. She’s the one who taught me to love reading. She taught me to love taking walks in nature. She taught me to be strong and to help people. I lost a confidante and a friend. It also kickstarted the worst year of my life, losing my mother to the depths of Alzheimer’s, and my father then passing away eight months later. It’s always a tough anniversary for me to acknowledge, yet I do. It’s who I am. It’s my way of acknowledging my loss while celebrating her life.

I have moved on, of course, though I still miss her every day. It isn’t a choice. When life gets tough, you put one foot in front of the other and keep soldiering on. I think she would be proud of me and I still often feel her presence, especially at this time of year. I’m going to leave you with the poem that I read at her funeral. Thank you for remembering Grandma with me.

Grandma Was…

Grandma was grilled cheese sandwiches

And freshly sliced tomatoes.

She was a half glass of milk

And eating her bananas was a no-no.

Grandma was chocolate pudding fresh on the stove

And chocolate chip cookies in the oven.

She never seemed affectionate,

But was full of so much lovin’.

Grandma was Shirley Temple movies

And lots of board games.

She knew every single card game,

Even if not all their names.

Grandma was Disney movies on the big screen

At the local movie theatres,

Always eating all of my popcorn,

And never let me treat her.

Grandma never let me climb her trees,

But I blew bubbles in the back yard.

She never seemed to discipline me,

On my best behavior I worked hard.

Grandma was walks in the cemetery

Or around her condo’s block.

She would tell me lots of stories.

I loved to hear her talk.

Grandma was Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy

And Wimbledon with Federer.

Never interrupt her TV time!

All of us knew better.

Grandma was an avid reader.

She even dabbled as a writer.

My whole life’s aspiration has been

To be just like her.

Stacking Stones for Inner Peace

 

stacking-stones-sodus

No doubt you’ve seen those stacks of rocks when out and about. More and more people are stacking stones when out in nature, and people are asking why. I have heard of the practice being done to create harmony in a garden. Hikers in the wilderness use these stacks to alert other travelers of trails. Some create cairns as a memorial to a loved one. Mostly I have heard of the practice as being something Zen, to create inner peace.

Pictures of these creations always draw me in, but I had never before tried to do it. Then this summer, I had a very emotional trip back home. So much good happened on that trip, but it is always very difficult for me to go there. My mother is deep into Alzheimer’s disease and my father has been gone for just over five years now. This last trip, I went to the cemetery to pay my respects to my daddy and to my grandmother, who had passed away a mere eight months before him. And then I had the horrible pain of having to leave my mother. I live far enough away, now, where I don’t always know when I will be able to return. I know our remaining time together is short, so I milk all the time that I have with her.

I returned home late on a Sunday night and had to get up Monday morning to work a two-hour shift at one of my part-time jobs. Getting back into the swing of things after being gone for almost two weeks is never an easy thing. Though I’d had my spiritual cleansing of a weekend of Pearl Jam shows in Chicago, and a full afternoon to bask in the beauty that is the Toledo Art Museum, I still felt like something was lacking. Summer was almost over, and it had been so hot, I hadn’t done as much hiking as I usually like to do.

I quickly decided to head east. Chimney Bluffs State Park is one of the most beautiful places you will ever go. The massive spires of clay constantly change, and yet stay the same as the elements slowly erode them.

Peeking through the trees at Chimney Bluffs from the trail.
Peeking through the trees at Chimney Bluffs from the trail.

With the right light, the orange color provides a stunning contrast to the blue of Lake Ontario.

The clay spires of Chimney Bluffs from the woods trail.
The clay spires of Chimney Bluffs from the woods trail.

They are just as majestic and awe-inspiring from the beach.

Looking up at Chimney Bluffs
Looking up at Chimney Bluffs

And speaking of the beach, it is a treasure trove of rocks and stone and other natural debris that has washed ashore or fallen from above.

rocky-beach
Rocks and driftwood on the Chimney Bluffs beach

I have always been drawn to rocks and stones. I blame that on my father, who always used them in his landscaping. But I also cannot help but feel some kind of connection to them. Every time I go hiking, I usually find a rock or a stone to carry with me as a sort of talisman on my journey. There’s no shortage of options.

The rocky beach of Chimney Bluffs
The rocky beach of Chimney Bluffs

On this trip, I kept finding rocks to carry with me, but I still wasn’t quite feeling that sense of connection and peace that I usually get. The day was perfect, not overly hot like the rest of the summer had been, and the lake was a perfect blend of blues.

And then I stumbled upon this formation.

Talk about stone-faced!
Talk about stone-faced!

I chuckled to myself and kept on walking, but then suddenly felt the need to make my own creation. I was drawn to a dozen different stones on the ground and felt compelled to try stacking stones on one of the boulders. Instant peace. Apparently it was radiating peace, because I had barely finished when someone stopped and asked if she could photograph my creation. Of course I said yes. And then I sat watching the blue waves of the lake as the backdrop to my creation. A total zen moment.

My stacked stones
Stacking stones brought me such inner peace

You can also see video of the waves crashing behind it, as well as many other traveling adventures here.

Is stacking stones for everyone? No.

Did stacking stones cure what ailed me? Not permanently, but it has helped me to continue on my personal journey of finding peace and happiness in my life.

Should I try stacking stones? That’s up to you. If you are in a place where you can find stones and feel compelled to give it a try, then do so. If you have to force it, it isn’t going to work. You have to open up your heart and mind to feeling the balance. It’s going to take some careful balancing to get them to properly stack, as well as patience to find the right ones, but it is worth it in the end.

What are your experiences with stacking stones? What do you do to find your inner peace?

#Review of Bacon Pringles

bacon pringles review

I was out doing a little bit of shopping and somehow ended up in front of the potato chips, specifically the Pringles display. Someone smart at Walmart had it set up right next to the beer section, which was honestly what I was perusing. And then my eye was drawn to the word “Bacon.” What’s this? Bacon Pringles? Curiosity outweighed my ability to usually resist this treat, and I had to give them a try.

bacon pringles can in the grass

I did wait a little while, though. I felt compelled to give myself some time to find a day when I would be able to truly enjoy and savor every bite. After all, this was going to be a treat of sorts. So, line up a Saturday afternoon, where the sun is brightly shining. The temperature is in the low-to-mid 70’s. The neighborhood is miraculously quiet. And I am sitting outside in my makeshift third outdoor office, which is nothing more than an old blanket I can move around the yard, as needed. It was like a mini picnic for me, as I was able to enjoy snacks and small meals throughout the day as I wrote and read and crafted.

I opened the can with that Pringles pop and then had to set up the obligatory picture. Then, I was free to taste.

bacon pringles with chips

Those first few bites reminded me a lot of the barbecue flavored Pringles, only with a subtler taste. I thought maybe my tongue was playing tricks on me, so I went ahead and drank some water to cleanse the palate a bit and tried again. Something still reminded me of the BBQ flavor, though it wasn’t quite the same. And it definitely wasn’t a bacon flavor.

I decided to read through the ingredients. I already knew that the flavoring was supposed to be artificial, per the front of the can. (It’s hard to see in the pictures, but “Artificially Flavored” is printed in dark red just under “Bacon.”) All I could find was “natural flavors (including natural smoke flavor).” Well, I don’t think that bacon is quite one of the natural flavors, and I am curious about what those natural flavors actually are. I am also curious about why this is considered an exclusive flavor, when I know I have seen others with bacon flavoring.

And can we PLEASE get rid of MSG in products?

But I digress.

Conclusion? Well, while the taste does not immediately triggers thoughts of a beloved breakfast, Bacon Pringles are still tasty and snack-worthy. I feel like they would go well with beer, which is probably part of the reason they were displayed next to the beer cooler. In fact, I am craving one right now. They do have an enticing smell and also seem perfect for parties, as well as munching at home. And they do still make for a fine duckface picture, as all good Pringles should.

bacon pringles duckface

Dad’s Japanese Maple Tree

I love the Japanese maple tree. The richness of the bold red leaves provide such a great contrast in a perennial garden. They seem to be relatively hardy in partial sun and the shapes of the leaves are mesmerizing.

Japanese maple leaves close up

Back in 2004, when I was in the midst of my first growing season in what was then my new house, I dug up a small section of the yard by hand. Positioned on the side of the house between two little sidewalks going up to the front and side doors, it was really a pain for my sister to mow. (We lived together at the time, and I am allergic to the freshly cut grass.) So, she had less to mow, and I got to play with a brand new canvas of dirt.

During Clean Up Week at the end of that school year, I managed to fall off of my platform sandals and severely injure my ankle. When my parents came out the following week for a preplanned trip, I was still hobbling around on crutches. They had brought with them a ton of river stones that I had unearthed in the yard at my previous home in Ohio, and I was anxious to get them into the garden. I also wanted to get this new garden started. My father had been an avid gardener, so I trusted him to guide me in this new endeavor.

We made quite a pathetic pair as we hobbled around the local nurseries, I on my crutches and he with his cane as he favored a bum hip. Even more comical was the sight of me scooting on my butt around this patch of dirt, as we laid out the new plants and pavers that were going in. I loved the arrangement we designed together, but even more endearing was spending this quality bonding time with my father.

Over the years, the tree grew a little and provided the perfect accent to the bed. It was a variety that was designed to stay small and was often complimented by my neighbors.

In 2011, my father passed away. My world, which was already fragile for other reasons I will likely share in other stories, crumbled. I didn’t know how to process it and neglected the garden more than I should have.

In 2012, the tree didn’t bud. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen, but it didn’t. I was devastated. Here was this piece of my father that was supposed to still be alive, and it was dead. But I couldn’t bring myself to dig it up. I only cut it back a bit and hoped.

Move forward to 2013. Again, the tree didn’t do anything. I ran into “The Tree Guy” at one of the local farmers markets, from whom I had purchased a threadleaf Japanese maple tree, and asked him about it. He was apologetic, but said sometimes they just don’t make it. I still couldn’t dig it up. The thought of doing it made me ill and a voice in my head kept telling me to leave it alone.

2014 rolled around and I knew I needed to get out to clean up that big bed. Everything was overgrown and weed trees were starting to take root. I also figured it was time to remove the dead Japanese maple tree and consider purchasing a new one to put in its place.

I discovered a miracle.

There at the bottom of the dead tree were tiny new branches starting to grow. I remember shrieking and crying and taking pictures to send to my best friend. “Dad’s tree is back! He came back!” It seemed very fragile, so I was careful to keep other plants from encroaching upon its space. I checked on it almost daily. By the end of the season, it had filled out nicely, almost like a little bush, and its glorious autumnal change was spectacular.

Dad's Japanese maple in the fall

Last year, it was still holding its own and I gave thanks every time I looked at it. A part of my dad was still here and living in my garden. Now this year, it has again filled out and thriving. Something about the wonky winter and spring that we had is making the Japanese maple tree thrive in our area this year. I still like to tell myself that Dad has a bit of a hand in it.

Dad's Japanese maple

Dad’s fifth anniversary was just this past week. For some reason, this year it hit me harder than the past few years. A lot of factors probably went into that, but I have heard that can be pretty normal for those multiples of five. I did spend some time reminiscing and mourning over those few days. The day after the anniversary, I declared that this bed was going to officially be the memorial garden to my father, and I spent several hours cleaning it out. I am proud of how it looks. I am still in love with this Japanese maple tree. It just meshes well with everything around it.

clematis japanese maple tree

I love you, Dad. I miss you every day. But your legacy will live on.

Get The Artt of Early Learning series #FREE through today!

This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase through my links, I will receive a small commission that will help to support this blog. All opinions stated are my own.

Parents are always looking for ways to learn more about their child’s development and early learning. They also seek quality books for their children to enjoy, whether in ebook form or hard copy. The Artt of Early Learning series engages the interest of children, while also teaching some needed parenting skills. The author has many years of experience working in the field and provides so much information, both through her books and website. Through today only, this series is available for free for Kindle through Amazon.

  Find it on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/1sySazB

Welcome Smart Artt

This book is designed to promote pre-literacy skills, growth and development, and fun!

Welcome Smart Artt is the first book in a series of children’s books that teach parents about growth and development for children ages birth to three.

This series provides information that every parent and caregiver should know, in the short amount of time that it takes to enjoy a fun children’s story!

Welcome Smart Artt and The Artt of Early Learning Series make excellent baby shower gifts, yet older children love the stories too!

Meet Smart Artt. He is loved by all! Since the moment Smart Artt was born, he’s always doing something that makes him even smarter. Unfortunately, his ideas often cause a bit of mischief! He will make you smile. He will make you laugh. He will find a place in your heart.

A Fish Named Bart

 

A Fish Named Bart is book two in The Artt of Early Learning Series. This series provides information about developmental milestones for parents, and the information is conveyed in the time that it takes to read a fun children’s story. Smart Artt is at it again! After hearing Grandpa read a bedtime story, Bart the fish has a wish. Smart Artt uses his advanced skills to help Bart get his wish, while creating a little bit of mischief along the way! Smart Artt is entertaining for all ages and includes age related developmental milestones for 8 month old children.

The Lemon Tart

The Lemon Tart is book three in The Artt of Early Learning Series. This series provides information about developmental milestones for parents, and the information is conveyed in the time that it takes to read a fun children’s story. Smart Artt is at it again! It is his first day at nursery school! Smart Artt uses his advanced skills to help the other children while creating a little bit of mischief along the way! Smart Artt is entertaining for all ages and includes age related developmental milestones for 13 month old children.

Don’t Touch That Dart!

Don’t Touch That Dart is book four in The Artt of Early Learning Series. This series provides information about developmental milestones for parents, and the information is conveyed in the time that it takes to read a fun children’s story. Smart Artt is at it again! He is starting to get into everything and Momma wants to keep him safe. Will that be possible when Aunt Kaye comes to visit? Smart Artt tries to help while creating a little bit of mischief along the way! Smart Artt is entertaining for all ages and includes age related developmental milestones for 18 month old children.

The Broken Cart

Smart Artt is going to the circus. He loves to point to the animals in his circus book when Poppa reads to him, but today he will be able to point to the REAL circus animals. If you know Smart Artt, things don’t always go as intended, but don’t worry Smart Artt has a plan. Will it work or will things get a little bit out of hand? You will find out when you read this book, the fifth book in the Artt of Early Learning Series of children’s books that were written to promote growth and development by informing parents about the importance of developmental milestones, in the time it takes to enjoy a fun children’s story. This series is written for children from birth on up. Expecting parents can also benefit from the information in this series. The books are also written with simple words that your child will love to read over and over again as they continue to grow. Someday they may even share the stories of Smart Artt with their own children as they themselves learn the importance of early learning that can help every child.
Kids love Smart Artt and you will too!

About D.A. Batrowney

When it comes to babies, D. A. Batrowny has a simple philosophy,

Relax and Read a children’s book!

As the mind behind the children’s character Smart Artt and the Artt of Early learning series of children’s books, she has devoted her life to sharing the secrets about how parents can build the foundation their child will need for the future success… right from birth.

Her extensive background includes over 25 years working with children and families as a nurse home visitor, longitudinal research interviewer, children’s nonprofit Program Director, writer and Coordinator of the nurse home visiting component of a countywide school readiness program.

She has bundled all of that experience into one fun children’s series that will help you lay the foundation for your child’s future!

Currently families in the U.S, Serbia, Algeria, Panama, Brazil, Columbia, Nicaragua, Canada, and the UK are enjoying Smart Artt’s adventures!

Go to SmartArtt.com to learn more!

Twitter –https://twitter.com/SmartArtt
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Smart-Artt-Childrens-Books-page-The-Artt-Of-Early-Learning-Series-211191322409580/
Google+ https://plus.google.com/+DABatrowny/posts/p/pub