Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Great Oak

You may remember my last post about him. This week I travelled home to honor the life of my Grandpa Ike. It was a rough few days, but I was reminded many times about what a hero he was. I was asked to give the eulogy at his funeral. I thought I would share:

We all have them…vivid childhood memories. Take a moment to think back to your most memorable moment as a child. I have to admit…I take time often to think back to those moments of innocence, especially now that I am a mother of two. As I watch Tate and Lily bumble through their lives, I often find myself daydreaming about a time when life was simple and a sense of peace falls over me.
Whenever I am reminded of those times, I always end up back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Whether it was celebrating holidays, exploring the acreage, or napping in the beanbag, each moment is flooded with emotions of family, tradition, and most importantly, love.
I consider myself a fairly reflective person. Maybe it’s the educator in me or maybe its simply because I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I always approach each day as a learning experience. And again, I find myself back to that place on Austin Road where I learned some of my most valuable life lessons.
#1 PLAY HARD…WORK HARDER…Whenever the grandchildren would ambush the house, the video games and movies were checked at the door. There were many vicious games of Triominoes, wiffle ball, and Kick the Can of which I ALWAYS WON!! (The younger cousins might debate that, but they were too young to remember correctly). I remember many winters sledding down the big hill. Jacqueline and Ashley would race Rusty and Tony on the old wooden sleds. Someone (usually the boys) would always end up running to the house crying with a face full of snow. You see, Grandpa Ike taught us the value of working hard…even if it was while we played. Us Willemsen grandkids might be the most competitive bunch around. No, Grandpa didn’t participate…he simply sat back and watched us play together and in that he found so much joy.
#2 HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS…One of the magical things about visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s was to see what new gadget they had picked up for us. There was never a chance to be bored at the house. Lit up candy canes, an American flag tire swing, and an old blown up alligator floating in the middle of the pond were all ornaments of my childhood. They always made their place feel like OUR home. I remember we had a barbeque at my grandparents the day after my wedding. All of my out of town guests found it hysterical as they rode the golf cart down the trail to find some of Grandpa’s “decorations”. I tried to explain why there was a stuffed care bear strapped to a weeping willow, but I don’t know if they ever got it.
#3 CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS…My grandpa Ike was one of my biggest fans. My favorite game every season was when my high school softball team played Newark. Grandma and Grandpa would always come and I would spend the whole game distracted by watching HIM. I would watch him beam on the sidelines and would listen for him to cheer me on…”Great play 13,” he would say. I moved away to Tennessee over 17 years ago and whenever I would come home, we would sit around the kitchen table and Grandpa would tell me what all of my cousins were doing…whether it was Nick’s cooking successes, Emily’s gymnastic awards, or Allison’s modeling career…Grandpa Ike was always the first to brag on his grandkids. He didn’t say it often, but we always knew how proud he was of us. One of my proudest moments was 8 years ago when Grandma and Grandpa went to Disney World to see me coach in a college softball tournament. Once again, I was watching him beam on the sidelines and cheer me on.
#4 PERSISTENT PAYS OFF…One of my favorite stories as a child happened when I was learning to ride a bike. I came to visit and he had decorated a bike for me in honor of my Uncle Duck. It was light blue with a yellow seat, white handlebars and bright orange pedals. He informed me that today I was going to learn to ride a bike. I loved my new bike and was so excited to learn how to use it. Grandpa would take me to the top of the hill by the house, give me a pep talk and let me go. Off I would ride down the hill, bike teetering with each pedal as I would slowly, but surely, steer my way right over the new tree that Grandpa had just planted at the bottom of the hill. It didn’t matter where my starting point was, I always ended up riding right over that same young tree. Now, notice this life lesson is not entitled PATIENCE PAYS OFF. Whatever patience Grandpa had, I tried it to the max that day, but I sure did learn to ride my bike (and run over trees while I was at it).
That tree story could sum up what my grandpa was to me. I have often referred to Grandpa Ike as my oak tree. He had a silent strength that supported us to grow. He protected us so we always felt safe. And he even let us play in his branches. Tuesday night before I left to come here for the funeral, a dear friend of mine gave me a book entitled The Oak inside the Acorn, by Max Lucado. It is the story of an acorn that leaves the oak tree and is always trying to figure out what it was meant to do. The mother tree tells the acorn, “Within you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be.” Of course, the acorn eventually becomes a tall oak tree for a little girl. The girl ties a swing to its branches, builds a tree house atop its trunk, and finds rest in its shade. As they grow older together, it is obvious the young woman flourishes in the shade of its strength. And in that…she finds strength of her own. Most importantly, she becomes the woman she was meant to be.
Grandpa rarely spoke of emotional things. As a matter of fact, he avoided them at all costs. It even became an ongoing joke that when I would leave and tell him I love him, he would say “Jesus Creminity” and mutter something under his breath. He didn’t have to say a word…it was what he did that made the difference. I am who I am today because my grandfather taught me lessons in my life every day I spent with him. And when someone tells me I’m steady and strong, I smile inside because I know that’s a gift he gave to me. The gift that made me the woman I was meant to be. And yesterday, as I sat at lunch with all of my cousins, I realized we had become the family we were meant to be. And Grandpa Ike is beaming down on us now.

Rest in Peace, Grandpa Ike. May your legacy live on...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kitty Cats on the Wall

I have a confession.

I have had resentment. I hold it against them. I've tried to get over it, but I just can't. It's just eaten away at me for all these years.

The first bedroom I remember was in an old white house with a screened in porch across from my dad's church. It was an older house and the room was dark with a few "nooks and crannies". I remember a built in wardrobe that I loved to climb into.

The next room I remember was in the house I grew up in on Rte. 5 & 20 in Flint, NY. It was "blood red" with lions and tigers wallpaper...yep you read it right. Blood red...lions and tigers. Two details I remember vividly...there was a hole in the wall behind my door that I would eavesdrop on my parents watching movies in the living room. I remember hearing "Booger" burp on "Revenge of the Nerds" through that hole.

The other thing I remember is the former occupant had written "Kilroy was here" on the back of the door. I always wondered who Kilroy was??? I think it was several years later that I finally found out.

The bedroom I probably stayed in the longest is the most memorable mainly because I grew up in that room. I shared it with my brothers, my grandma, nanny, and many friends who temporarily "ran away from home". There were a few things I loved about that room and one thing I hated. The room had really high ceilings...
so high that I could throw my rifle in it. This was a great feature until one night. I woke up to a BAT flying over my face. I can't share with you the other details from that night, but I can tell you that its hysterical and involves both of my parents in their underwear.

The other wonderful feature was the built in closets. Those closets still hold the award for "Largest Closet" in my life. I'm hoping that changes in the next year with our building addition to our house. They were big enough to climb into (which I did often) and had drawers to hold all of my thrift store tshirts and sweatpants.

Now for the loathed item. I sure did say loathed. Remember that lions and tigers wallpaper from my 2nd bedroom?? Well it pales in comparison to the pastel pink, green, yellow and blue kittens that were plastered all over my teenage bedroom.
I tried my best to cover them with pictures of Kirk Cameron and Bon feeble attempt to "dress it up" a bit.

So resent I have...for years...almost 25 years. All I ever wanted was the white furniture and peach and mint green comforter to make my bedroom a girls' dream!
Nope...never happened. Oh I hear ya...I got lots of other things, but those things don't quite matter. All that matters is my mom and dad wouldn't get me the beautiful little girls dreamroom that I wanted. END OF STORY.

OK, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic and slightly selfish. Maybe I'm carrying over a conversation about "the things we never got as kids." But, that's ok and I suppose I'll get over it. I finally got to use all 25 years worth of dreaming to create an enchanting space for Miss Lily.

A dollhouse complete with furniture and barbies

A beautiful dresser to store her clothes in

A "dress up" center to keep all of her NECESSITIES

A nook for reading and writing


The Grand Poomba...

A beautiful daybed trundle with a feather boa canopy...

It doesn't get much better than this folks...

P.S. Note to Mom and Dad...I really did love all that other stuff AND I forgive you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Black Tutu and Star Wars Shirt

The first day of school...WOW! I don't remember my first day of school. The only thing I remember from Kindergarten was watching the kids play on the playground while I sat inside with a broken arm. I also remember my first day at Canandaigua Primary. Believe it or not, I was pretty shy in my early school years and I remember not really enjoying school that much, despite being pretty good at it. I do vividly remember both of my brothers' first days. I can remember a picture of each of them in front of the tree on 5&20 with their little backpacks. I remember them climbing the steps of the bus and me and my mom and dad waving at them as the bus pulled away.

Boy...Times have changed...No backpacks...No bus...

I took the kids shopping for their school stuff. I was super excited to help them pick out their new backpacks and trapper keepers, UNTIL I read the supply list. guessed it. No trapper keepers! They pay $10 for their standard tote carrying their standard folder inside. How boring!

So, we opted for school clothes instead. They were both so excited to pick out their first day of school outfits. Tate had to have his yellow Star Wars shirt and his Mario Kart lunchbox. Lily, of course, had to add a little style to make her first impression. So...we ended up with a black tutu and pink tanktop with black hearts (not pictured due to recent NY trip that resulted in souvenir shirts :)

The start of school has gone great so far. Both kids love their teacher and have made some new friends.

On another note, they have also both had their first for not staying in line and one for spitting...I'll let you figure out who did what. Bet you'll never guess!

I know most moms are crying when they take their kids to school for the first time. No...I'm not cold-hearted. I am just so thrilled to see them in a more simple life. It is a complete answer to prayer. Looking forward to many more "School Times".

First Big Girl Trip

What's a mom to do? We live 300 miles from Robbie's parents and over 800 miles from mine. My parents average around 14 days a year with my kids which is not by our choice, but simple geography. So when Bobo and Igglers offered to take Lily to NY with them for their visit, I really didn't have a choice. I was that kid that lived away from my grandparents and I felt shorted. All my cousins seemed to spend all their time together and I felt distant from all of that. Thankfully, I have managed to have a close relationship not just with my grandparents, but with my aunts, uncles and cousins too. Of course, I was nervous and worried. Not really sure why...of course, I trusted my brother to drive safely and to watch my baby girl like he would his own. But...any time your kids are away, there's an unsettling feeling that comes over you.

All of that was put to rest when I started receiving pics. She looked like she was having a great time! And I could tell from all the pics that I had given my family a great gift by sending some of my love north to them.

I'm sure this is the first of many solo trips and I can only hope each of them is as memorable for my kids as this one. Thanks Bobo and Igglers for making it possible!