Sunday, July 5, 2009

Most recent news

Received notice last week that my son has been deployed back to Germany. What a wonderful news with which to celebrate the 4Th of July. I remember years past and different activities we enjoyed to celebrate the 4th. This year my husband and I traveled to Winthrop WA. What breathtaking scenery. We were there for two days and spent the time visiting the unique shops and tasting the wonderful food.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Social Graces

One of the experiences of growing up in a home with two parents is learning from parents how to interact socially. I believe the social patterns are learned by watching and interacting with parents. This learning occurs from birth through young adulthood. When a situation arises a child will observe a parent's response and often ask WHY or wait to see what happens. Through observation of behavior patterns humans learn normal acceptable phrases, responses and parameters of socially acceptable behavior. Children learn how to make friends, negotiate, trust, risk taking and self confidence. Being a child of an alcoholic mother and living in the orphanage I spent a lot of years being self conscious, made odd comments and generally lacked the ability to interact with a group of peers. When I found myself in a group of people I often felt awkward, invisible and would try to melt into my surroundings. Being recognized as a child that lived at the children's home automatically made me feel like others viewed me as someone who did not have a home with parents that loved and cared about me and therefore was pitied. I remember my fourth grade teacher and her husband coming to the orphanage one evening to pick me up so that I could participate in a square dance recital and then later took me out for ice cream. I remember it being a very enjoyable evening however, I remember defensively saying to her "You do not have to do this for me!" She smiled and looked at me and said "I know we don't, we want to". I don't remember what my response was, however I hope I told her thank you. I know I gave her fits my whole fourth grade year. She never made me feel like I was bad when I failed to do homework. I can remember one day she asked for all the students homework and I told her I had forgot it at the orphanage. She said go home and get it. I remember walking back to the orphanage and getting the homework. She instilled in me the sense of responsibility for myself and that lame excuses will not go very far. I will always remember her kindness.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Importance of believing

Attending mass everyday was excellent training and gave me a sense of peace. I loved listening to the mass in Latin and enjoyed even more singing the Latin hymns. I believe learning prayers were elemental in developing coping mechanisms and hope that tomorrow would be better. I can remember sitting in church with everyone being quiet and having a sense that God was listening to this 8 year old's troubled heart and that he would answer my prayers.

I remember especially the times my mother would visit. Although I was glad to see her I knew she would be drinking and the smell of alcohol on her breath caused me a great deal of anxiety. I did not realize that the visit was also difficult for her. Many times she said she never wanted us to be in the orphanage. I can only remember two visits during the five years my brother and I were there. The first year at Christmas when we were in the Christmas pageant in which the children in the orphanage participated and then again when I was in the 5th grade.

During the time my brother and I were in the orphanage our dad would take us to Denver to spend a couple of weeks in the summer with our grandparents (Mom's dad and stepmother). Mother would come out to their place a couple of times to see us. She was a waitress and didn't drive. Getting off work was not always easy for her. She did not believe in attending or belonging to a church. So we didn't have many conversations about God. Dad on the other hand attended mass every week and had a rosary he carried with him.

Believing in something greater than myself, learning to pray and sustaining a hope for tomorrow helped me through some pretty troubled times.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The routine of life in the orphanage was orderly and predictable. We we were up at 5:30 am, attended mass, proceeded to the dining room for breakfast, completed the morning chores then boarded the bus for school. When school let out for lunch we boarded the bus again and returned to the orphanage for the noon meal. Remembering back I am amazed at how organized everything was; that a hundred children could be transported back to the orphanage, gather up dishes of food from the serving pass through counter and deliver the food to the appropriate dining room, eat, wash the dishes reset the tables for the next meal, return containers back to the pass through area, board the bus again and return to school within the allotted time. After school we returned to the orphanage on the bus, changed from our school clothes into clothes for which we could complete our after school chores. Supper was served around 5 pm, after the meal was completed we washed the dishes, reset the tables, swept the floor and returned the serving dishes to the kitchen. After supper, time was spent doing homework, reading, or playing games. Television was only watched on specific days or on special occasions. We were not allowed to watch TV everyday, we were expected to find other activities to entertain ourselves. Reading to this day is one of my favorite pastimes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kitchen Duty

Back to the story of life in the orphanage. When one was assigned to the kitchen that person was to be there after school during the week and in the kitchen on the weekends. I can remember buttering a huge electric roaster (that probably held a good sized turkey) and then cracking eggs forever to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. We had the best food in the country. Sister D, hands down, was the best cook I've ever seen. It also helped that we raised our own chickens that provided eggs, pigs for pork and bacon, cows for milk and grew most of all the vegetables we ate. There was always plenty of food to eat. Sister D made almost all of the bread and baked all desserts and there was quite a variety. We were fed extremely well. I can remember getting a 10 gallon can of milk out of the walk-in refrigerator that had 2 inches of cream on the top (that was after the milk had been pasteurized and separated). Sister D would sometimes make pies and when she did she always made the left over pie dough into cinnamon cookies for me.

We didn't work all the time, there was time for fun activities too. There was a huge playground between the main building and the barns that had swings, slides, sandbox and more than enough room to play softball without hitting any windows or obstacles. There also was a full sized in ground swimming pool that everyone could swim in. I can remember the first summer there when I broke my nose. I was in the swimming pool in the shallow section that had a slide. I had just gone down the slide but did not get out of the way fast enough when a second kid came down the slide feet first and his big old feet connected with my nose. Man, did that hurt I can remember seeing stars. To this day I have a crooked nose. I liked this time the best; my brother could swim in the little kids pool that was right next to the big pool and I could go over and play with him for as long as I wanted. I can remember my dad coming to visit and he would sit in the shade with the sisters and visit and watch my brother and I play.

I think there was the right amount of work along with time for play. We learned the work had to be done before we could go off to play.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Back to Iraq

My son e-mailed me saying he was ok after the horrible shooting in Baghdad. My heart and prayers go out to the families of the soldiers that were killed. This is a very sad time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Along awaited visit

My son was home last week for a visit. He also brought his girlfriend, which we were very happy to meet. I don't know how he found such a delightful young lady. We all had a great time visiting, playing games, eating and sightseeing in Seattle. The time went by in the blink of an eye and then the two of them were back on the road headed back to Wyoming. I hope it will be a memorable trip for my son and his girlfriend. I am hoping to get pictures printed of all of us. I am not very good with a camera so we will see how I did. David has several months left on his tour in Iraq.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

introduction to chores

The orphanage was a huge building and housed several children from infants to high school seniors. The children were divided up according to age and gender. The smallest children too young to attend school lived on the first floor. The second floor housed the girls from kindergarten to high school. The two dormitories separated by the sister's sleeping quarters were where the younger girls were assigned to sleep. The oldest girls were allowed to sleep in a room that was on the second floor that was just a little ways down the hall from the main quarters and was located next to the girls' stairwell. Continuing down the second floor corridor on the left was the elevator and across from the elevator was the library for the girls. This room also had a small TV, piano and furniture. I remember the the west side of the room having windows the length of the room wonderful sunlight and lots of shelves filled with books. The room was the size of a large classroom. Continuing to the end of the long corridor was the living quarters for the younger boys and next to that section was another staircase, the boys' stairwell.

We were allowed to watch The Ed Sullivan show and Bonanza once a week after dinner. I can remember once when Elvis Presley was scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. We were all excited and hurried through supper, quickly washed the dishes, reset the tables and swept the floor all in record time to get back to the second floor library to crowd around the TV to watch.

Every child was assigned chores. I remember starting out being assigned to sweep and polish the floors in the girls' sleeping quarters every week. There was a big commercial floor polisher we were taught how to use. From there I graduated to cleaning the latrine. After those tasks were learned and executed to sister's satisfaction I was moved to sweeping and dusting the stairs on the stairwell. There were six flights of stairs that extended from the third floor to the basement. I can remember eventually being assigned to clean the chapel (which was a full size church). Sister Je was in charge of the chapel, the choir, the infirmary, and probably a whole host of things I didn't know about. I loved sister Je. She was nonjudgmental, soft spoken, kind and all the children loved her. Anyway when assigned to chapel duty, one had to wear a scarf and if a girl had pants on they had to put on a skirt. The pews had to be dusted, the kneelers wiped down, the space under the pews swept, the window ledges dusted and assist with arranging the flowers for the alter. On Saturdays everyone would take turns in the large commercial laundry that was in the basement. The laundry had a large mangle press, two large garment presses, two ironing boards and I think in the connecting room a couple of large commercial front loaders and couple of commercial dryers. We were not allowed to run the washers or dryers however got lots of time on the mangle, steam presses and ironing boards. Eventually I was assigned kitchen duty. I think this was my favorite. Although it was hard work in the kitchen Sister D was wonderful to work under.

I learned alot of skills while living at the orphanage and in later years was able to put myself through college cleaning houses for people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Different View

Over the years I have had people ask me aren't you mad at being placed in the children's home? This question puzzled me. I have always believed my dad loved my brother and I with all his heart and he did not make the decision easily. He went to a number of people he thought might be able to help and in the end decided this was the best option. There were things about the children's home that could have been better, however, there were a number of positive experiences that I treasure.

Often times one does not control a situation, however, one always has the choice of how they will remember the experience and take away from it something positive. Life is good.

From Regina Brett "It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First hair cut

Moving to the Children's home was actually a great improvement over our previous living situation. We now were in a dependable environment, had a clean bed to sleep in, clean cloths, three well prepared meals a day and a routine to our daily activities. The children's home was pretty much self sustaining. There was an on site dairy where the older boys milked the cows at 4am and again at 4pm. The milk was brought to the kitchen to be separated and pasteurized. We had fresh whole milk and cream with homemade butter. The orphanage also had pens with pigs so we had fresh bacon, ham, sausage and lard. There was a chicken coup with lots of chickens that provided fresh farm eggs. Sister D who ran the kitchen made homemade bread every other day. I have never tasted bread that could begin to compare with what Sister D made. The experience at the children's home taught me many life lessons.

One experience was the incident with the hair. I had long, stringy, straight blond hair. I barely would take the time to run a comb through the tangled locks much less fix it. Besides I had no idea how to fix it, I was only eight. My mother sometimes would comb and put my hair in metal curlers. Anyway, Sister JL one day told me to curl my hair. Not accustom to following directions or trying to figure out what was meant, decided I had other things to do. I found a curler and wound the ends of my hair around the one curler. Later that afternoon I took the curler out and sort of combed my hair. I soon learned that was not what was expected. Sister JL enlisted the assistance of two other girls, sat me on a stool and proceeded to cut my hair. I can remember crying "Don't cut my hair. (hiccup) My mom won't know me". All the while big alligator tears rolling down my cheeks. The next weekend when dad visited he asked who cut my hair I meekly said Sister JL. I didn't want him to be disappointed that I had not done what Sister JL had instructed me to do. I think he told me my hair looked cute. After that I was more than happy with the hair cut, lot less fuss.

Self reliance was expected, either figure out what the expectation was or there were swift consequences.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lesson of Consequences

Describing the building, on the first floor when looking down the corridor to the north there were two sitting parlors one on each side of the hall. They were decorated with beautiful couches, chairs and tables. This is where relatives and visitors would come and wait for who ever had been summoned. At the end of the hall was a door. Behind that door was the nursery. Children that were not old enough to attend kindergarten lived in that wing. My Brother who was only 4 was settled in with that group. The nursery had a dormitory where the children slept, a lavatory with toilets and sinks and then a large room where there were toys for the children and activities. I would go every day to see my brother until he was old enough to be moved to the boys' living quarters.

There was a staircase just off the door to the nursery that lead to the second floor. Looking down the opposite end of the hall from the nursery door past the entrance, Father M's office was on one side, the elevator was across from his office, there was a stairwell next to the elevator, continuing down the corridor there was a sunlit connecting hallway that lead to the dining rooms. Across from this turn in the hallway was the living quarters for Father M.

I was moved to the second floor girls living quarters, that was right above the nursery. Those accommodations included two dormitories that held ten to twelve single beds each, with the separate sleeping room for the sister in between the dorms. There was a small window that connected the dorms to the sister's sleeping quarters, so the girls could be checked on during the night. There was a large lavatory that had a row of sinks five on each side with a row of toilets that had curtains to provide privacy. I remember two deep claw footed bathtubs that were used on Saturdays for girls to bathe. The lavatory had lockers and each girl was assigned a locker in which to store her toiletries. There was a narrow room in which everyone's clothing was stored on shelves labeled with the person's name. The clothing room was kept locked and each night we would be given an outfit to hang in the locker to wear the next day.

When dad had left to go back to Casper, I was given a tour of the second floor girls quarters. The place was huge. I was assigned a bed and a locker.

One of the first nights there I was having a tough time getting settled down after being directed to go to bed. I got up to go to the bathroom, I got caught by Sister JL and she told me to go back to bed. I couldn't sleep so I got up to get a drink of water. I was caught again and this time she was going to escort me back to bed. Well, when she went to grab me, I stepped out of reach. I ran into the lavatory and circled the row of sinks. I was small, pretty quick and she was not able to catch me. I was thinking this was pretty funny and started laughing. We must have ran around the sinks two or three times, all the while I'm laughing thinking this is pretty funny, she can't catch me. Big mistake. Sister JL enlisted the help of two of the older bigger girls, they cornered and caught me. I had my first taste of consequences. I learned that a hand broom could be used for more than sweeping up dirt.

I was lonely, separated from my brother, didn't know anyone, was unaccustomed to having a schedule, unaccustomed to being disciplined and pretty sad. I cried myself to sleep that night but was determined Sister JL wasn't going to get the best of me. That was one of many lessons I was to learn.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Place to lay my head

Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

I remember dad driving onto the Children's home property. It was a bright sunny day. There was beautiful manicured green grass at least 5 acres, sidewalks, trees, a large parking lot and this huge huge brick building. I thought this surely must be a castle. I counted four levels of windows, probably four floors and at least a city block long looking at the front of the building. Where we came from a block usually had eight to ten houses with yards down each side of the street. I remember the three of us walking into this sunlit atrium that was the entrance and walking up two flights of stairs. It seemed the floor and stairs were made from marble they were so shiny and I could make my heels click as we walked across the entrance. Everything looked so pretty. We met with Father M. I immediately liked him, he reminded me of my grandfather and had the kindest eyes I had ever seen besides my dad's. Thinking back, although my brother and I were anxious, it must have been extremely hard on dad to leave us there. He promised he would return in two weeks to visit us. Dad came every two weeks for five years and brought two large grocery boxes one for each of us, that contained apples & oranges, candies, cookies and candy bars, every time he came. Didn't matter what the weather was or road conditions our dad was at that children's home every two weeks. He came on Saturday morning and would leave Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Son

Today is my son's 28th birthday. My son, daughter and granddaughter are at the top on my list of best things ever. Actually I've alot of wonderful things happen in my life. Today I want to wish him Happy Birthday and wish he were here to celebrate it. February is a wonderful month; my granddaughter was born 2/14/06, my son 2/18 and my birthday is 2/20.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hither and yon

No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

I think sometime before I was in first grade I remember my dad and mother having a horrendous fight. My dad was a very quiet, gentle man. This one time however my dad was beyond mad. I don't remember what had happened and perhaps I never really did know. Dad came home and was very very angry, yelled and actually hit my mother. I can remember screaming NO! Daddy, NO! They were both on the floor yelling and hitting each other. After that dad, left, and mother went to work as a waitress. I can remember being shuffled off to a different friend's house about every week. It was so common I stopped asking where we were going. My brother and I just accepted going to a different house every night as the normal course of events. I don't remember seeing much of my mother during the time she had us. At some point my mother realized she could not take care of us, work and drink too, so she gave full custody of my brother and me to our dad. He didn't know what to do with two little kids, an eight year old and 4 year old. He asked around and there were friends that wanted to adopt us, dad wasn't interested in that and I was glad. Our aunt and uncle said they would take me, but could not take my brother (they already had six children). Dad didn't want to split my brother and I up. So he found St.Joseph's Orphanage.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hide the bottle

How ever good or bad a situation is, it will change.

One of the few memories I have as a toddler was the time I hid my mother's whiskey bottle from her. I remember I did not like when my mother drank and I watched where she stored her bottle. It was way up high above the kitchen sink. One afternoon she was not watching me, I don't know where she was at the time. I decided if I hid the bottle then she wouldn't drink. I was too short to reach the kitchen counter so I pulled one of the kitchen chairs over to the counter, crawled up onto the chair and then managed to pull myself up onto the counter top. From there I opened the kitchen cabinet doors and scaled the shelves. When I got up as high as I could go I reached over and opened the cabinet above the kitchen sink. As I hung onto the cabinet door with one hand I reached over with the other hand and grasped the whiskey bottle. I then closed the cabinet and some how managed to climb down the kitchen shelves, close those doors, drop to the counter top without dropping the bottle. From there I got down onto the kitchen chair and climbed down to the floor and pushed the kitchen chair back where it belonged. I then took the bottle outside and buried it deep in my sand box. I felt such a sense of accomplishment, however short lived. Wasn't too long before my mother went to get her bottle and soon figured out who the culprit was. She asked me where the bottle was and made me go and get it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sad time

This is a sad time for my family. My older brother passed away this morning. He was 66 years old and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema. He will be greatly missed by his wife, daughter, sister, brother and several cousins. He served 20 years in the Navy on submarines, was a devoted husband and father. He was preceded in death by his mother, father and a brother. He had a strong sense of family and was a kind man. He seldom complained about anything and even if things were not going well he would always say "can't complain". He will be greatly missed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hot Spoon

"Be kinder than you need to be because everyone everyone you meet is fighting some kind of a battle."

As an adult and new mother I was puzzled that my mother would call me long distance (she lived in another state) and tell me that my baby was malnourished and that I needed to get her to the doctor. My baby was in the 90th percentile for height, weight and motor skills. I took her to every well baby appointment and she was a good eater.

When I related this puzzling conversation to my aunt ( on my dad's side) she paused as if she wanted to tell me something. Finally she told me of the time my mother had severely burnt my mouth with a hot spoon to the point she could not get me to eat. The pediatrician had told my mother I was malnourished and she needed to get some food in me. My aunt went on to say that my mother brought me to her and my older cousins would hold me down so that my aunt could force food into my mouth and make me eat. I do not know how many times this occurred before I started to eat again.

My father and mother both told me how as a toddler I would sit on a friend's lap (dad's army buddy) and eat raw onions with tears running down my cheeks. What a strange thing to feed a baby.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Cry Silenced

A pessimist would say their glass is half empty, an optimist would say their glass is half full.
I say, my glass is half full, there is room for more, whatcha wait'n for, filler 'er up please. :)

My dad was a soft spoken, kind hearted, gentle man. He was the biggest influence in my life. On occasion when I would do stupid kid stuff, my dad would say to me "you must have been dropped on your head as baby". I always thought this kind of odd but didn't ask what he meant. I lost my dad in 1984, I think of him everyday and miss him.

My mom and dad were married sometime before I was born. One might say I was an unexpected event. My mother was 31 and my dad was 37. We lived in a two room apartment, one was the kitchen and the other larger room served as the bedroom and living room. It was attached to other apartments to form a square. I remember there was a community outhouse in the center of the square of apartments and across the street were buildings referred to as 'cribs', where winos and prostitutes hung out. Down the street at the end of the the apartments was a liquor store and attached to that was a neighborhood grocery.
Later on as an adult a close family friend told me a story about how my mother, when she could not get me to quit crying would throw me against the wall. I was lucky, I didn't suffer any broken bones or brain damage. I asked my older brother about these incidents as there is quite a bit that I don't remember and he said he remembers discussions about my being thrown against the wall.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

autobiography request

I have had a request from a reader to write my experience growing up in a orphanage. Since both my father and mother are deceased perhaps this is the time to examine those experiences that have been pushed aside in order to get on with my life. I will need to start at the beginning as this explains the situation of how my younger brother and I were put in the orphanage. Hopefully this adventure will not be boring for the readers as I am not an experienced writer. The posts will be done weekly and will be short. Names of individuals will be changed to protect their identity in the writing.

I believe that yesterday is not something to dwell upon, it is spent, can not be redone, can not be relived and tomorrow isn't here yet and we don't know what it will bring, so no sense in worrying over it; ah, but today, each and everyone of us has within us the ability to choose what kind of day we will have.

I was born on February 20, 1953 to a 31 year old alcoholic mother, the middle child of three children. I had an older brother that was 10, when I was born. I feel extremely fortunate to be alive because between my brother's birth and my birth my mother had another pregnancy in which she decided to have an abortion. This was related to my by my grandfather's second wife, who is the only grandmother I ever knew. So there were three children my older brother, myself and my younger brother who was born in 1956.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back from vacation

January is almost half over. I have returned from a two week vacation in Georgia with my daughter, son-in-law and 2 year old granddaughter. She is such a delight. Except for all the passes being closed when I arrived back in Seattle and driving the long way home via Portland traveling wasn't too bad. Getting back into the swing of things after being gone for two weeks is always a challenge. Anyway wanted to let everyone know that Phil's Grill is sponsoring a give away for a cool game 'Grilln'opoly' details can be obtained at Hope everyone had a fun New Year's.
Army Mom