Tag Archives: brothers

At 4 to 1, they outnumber me, but they’re still my favorite guys

A friend recently described how her older son teases his little brother. We both remembered our older brothers teasing us — sometimes to the point of tears — but now, years later, we still love them. In fact, we both think of our brothers as friends now and love spending time with them. The teasing? It’s still there, but we’re big girls now and can dish right back. They taught us pretty well.

As the youngest of five children — and the only girl — it was suggested that I was spoiled. This might be true, but if anyone spoiled me, it was the boys.

five kidsApparently, they didn’t object to being dressed in plaid like their baby sister.

They let me climb trees with them, play basketball and baseball with them (except for the time James knocked me out by whacking me in the forehead with a baseball bat), and took me swimming.

Sure, they forced me to take my quarry test despite our mom’s instructions that they wait until Dad was with us. I passed and they were happy that they no longer had to take turns babysitting me in the pool. I, on the other hand, was thrilled to join them on the big slide and to play hide and seek around the rafts.

One of them rescued me from the manure pile and one of them hosed me off. One of them told me stories when he put me to bed when our parents were gone. The two younger ones let me sleep in their trundle bed and taught me to play the cartoon game (our version of “I’m thinking of….”).

Now that we’re older and they live far away — all are at least a nine-hour drive from me — I love staying in touch with them via email, phone and Skype. They make me laugh with funny e-mails and can easily make me feel better when I’m down.

But the hours we spend in each others’ company are the best. Whether we’re walking or running together, fighting over who gets the last cookie, discussing our mom’s health, or cooking together, these are the moments that remind me of what big brothers really mean to me.

older five kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dodging another bullet

I’ve never really understood the fascination that some people have for cars. I’ll blame this one on my parents. Unlike other families, we didn’t get a new car very often, nor did we have multiple cars….despite the fact that we had five kids.

The first car I really remember was a green and white Ford station wagon. (My brothers will probably tell me I’m completely wrong on this. They’re all older so they usually know more than me….at least I like to let them think that.) Later on, we traded that in on a brand new custom ordered Dodge station wagon. I remember our excitement as we drove to Pandora to pick it up.

Later, while I was in high school, there was a red Dodge Aspen sedan (our first), a pea green VW bug, and a Checker cab — my all time favorite. Its only drawback was that if you went over 50 mph, it began to shake. But boy, could it carry a lot of people!

My oldest brother, Phil, bought his first car in his early 20s — a Dodge Charger. I was probably just 12 or so, and once in awhile, he would take us for rides — keeping one eye on the road and another on us to make sure we didn’t do any damage.

Still as shiny as the day we bought it

My very own first car was my grandparents’ Hornet. Unremarkable. A few years later, I needed a new car, so my dad took me to visit one of his former biology students — knock-your-socks-off Tom Ahl. Tom’s dealership in Lima was considerably smaller than it is today. He sold me his wife’s mid-70s Opel Manta, a two-door gem with manual transmission that got great gas mileage.

When I married my husband, he had a classic red Pinto that guzzled oil. We sold it for $50 and gave them a can of oil. Then we bought ourselves a brand spankin’ new, fresh off the lot, burgundy two-door Monte Carlo. When you’re a young couple with no kids, two doors are great. But boy, add a car seat to the mix and you rethink your car dreams.

Lindsay and Anne and their favorite Monte

Thus began our life with the Dodge Caravan, the first of which lived for nine years. It served us well, accomodating two little girls who could pack their entire rooms into the van for a drive to Grandma’s. Then there was THE TRIP. We were driving back from Chicago on the absolutely hottest, most humid day of the decade. All was fine until the air conditioning died. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when suddenly the cool air blowing through the vents turns warm…then warmer? It wasn’t pretty, especially when there was a typical traffic jam near Gary, Ind. The last thing you want to do there is open your windows and let the pollution filter in.

Soon after that, I think the transmission died for the second time and we traded it in on a shiny red 1997 Caravan.

It was the most comfortable car we’ve ever had. The seats in our new Prius come nowhere near the comfort of the van seats.

The van went through everything with us including two daughters mastering the fine art of driving (and parking), multiple vacations where peace reigned because each child again had her own seat on which to spread out her stuff, a traumatic collision

with a deer, and then a few years of living in Kent. According to our daughter, her grad school friends nicknamed it the “Mom van”. Last winter, it said farewell to Kent and traded places with the trusty Hyundai.

Today its odometer reads 150,000 plus miles, and happily acts as the family truck. The two bench seats have been removed to make room for whatever needs to be moved to Kent, Cincinnati, or the local dump. On a recent return trip from Cincy, though, it began to make an ominous sound that suggested a loose belt, so the drive home was slower than usual.  We were warned that if we were lucky, it would require just replacing the serpentine belt, but that it might also involve a broken thingamajig (my understanding of mechanics is lacking).

It wasn’t a question of whether we’d fix it or not…it was a question of how much it might cost. Turned out we got off easy…for this time. In the middle of the day, the girls and I got an e-mail from Fred saying “The van lives!” Phew.

Now if we can just keep it running as long as Karen and Gregg Luginbuhl’s green Caravan holds out…

Pinned

A few years ago, after having minor surgery, a friend walked up to me at church and put something in my hand. The friend’s comment was that “I thought you needed this.”  It was a pin in the shape of a flower — gold setting with green stones.

Okay here’s the thing. I was speechless because (a) this friend is male, and (b) he could have no way of knowing my penchant for pins. I was absolutely gobsmacked as my New Zealand cousin-in-law, Jo, would say.

I’ve had a minor collection of pins since I was a kid and one of my brothers gave me two tiny gold mouse pins with diamond eyes, and another gave me a tiny ladybug with a topaz stone. So what is it with guys giving me pins? Not that I’m objecting.

This friend’s wife (who was actually my friend first…way back in our college days) sidled over and whispered (“He goes to antique and thrift shops and picks up these things, then gives them to someone who needs a lift.”) She was right…I did need a lift and I was touched that he recognized it.

About a month ago, I found an envelope in my mailbox at church. Inside it was a red rose pin with a signature “From your pin pals.” I knew who it was from. They’d been scouring thrift shops again.

While writing about these pins, I decided to snoop around to see how many I could find. As is typical, they’re strewn all over the place. Some are in jewelry boxes on my dresser, but the older ones are in various old jewelry boxes in the attics, including the one my oldest brother gave me when I was kid — with the twirling ballerina still in place.

Here are some of the pins I found:

Ladybug

Poodle

Mice with diamond eyes

Wooden duck with name burnt in center -- probably from a brother or Dad

Pin made by Anne using puzzle pieces and feather

Things that made me smile

What makes you smile? Fresh flowers, sun, a hug, a funny joke.

I love fresh flowers. Daisies are probably my favorite because they’re so sunny and make me smile. So…it’s mid-January and why am I thinking about flowers? Okay, partly because I just like to think about them, but also because at our employee dinner, I received my 15-year ceramic vase made by one of my favorite artists — Gregg Luginbuhl. I told Gregg that I planned to keep it filled with fresh flowers on my desk at work. I hope that pleased him. It pleases me. Every time I walk in my office, I see a bunch of yellow daisies, alstroemeria and snapdragons. Wouldn’t that make anyone smile?

That’s not all. In our living room, we had a big bunch of huge Gerbera daisies. After two weeks, they were slowly dying, one at a time. I plucked the last two of the bunch, snipped their stems short and put them in a tiny vase in the bathroom. Okay, here’s the thing. Flowers in a bathroom might seem strange to some people, but think about it. The smell can mask some other not-so-pleasant ones.

This whole flower thing started me thinking about things that made me smile this week…a week that should have been a lot easier than last week, but turned out to be almost as challenging. But I read something recently about the importance of writing down…at the end of the day…one thing that made you smile. So here it is the end of the week and since I never got around to doing this on a daily basis, I’m doing it now. Here are some things that made me smile.

1.) A virtual bouquet of flowers from daughter no. 1.

2.) A second e-mail with another virtual bouquet of flowers from the same daughter.

3.) My mom remembered something that I didn’t, which just proves that she still has the upper hand.

4.) A hug from a coworker. For no reason except she somehow knew that I needed one.

5.) Listening to my husband hum while he mops the kitchen floor.

6.) A student thanking me for helping her get started back to school.

7.) An e-mail from daughter no. 2 telling me that she was filling out her grad school application.

8.) Hearing a snowplow behind my house in the very early, very dark hours — reminding me that the campus maintenance crew was already clearing paths.

9.) A new pair of Smartwool socks.

10.) A slew of e-mails from my brothers, asking what they can do to make life easier.

11.) Seeing pictures of my cousin’s two newest grandsons — born in the same week and weighing exactly the same amount at birth.

12.) Powering up the snow blower…which sort of made up for not getting to mow last summer…and getting a face-full of white, powdery snow.

13.) Sitting on my 40-year-old butterfly chair in the dark of the early morning, remembering hours spent in that same chair while pestering my dad in his study.

14.) Stopping in the middle of the road to watch three deer saunter across the road…and remembering my daughter’s description of the deer that “dropped out of nowhere” to slam into our van.

15.) Listening to Babs sing SMILE. (Be sure to click on the word, smile.)

Return of the dreaded month

It’s back. January. No matter how hard I try to skip this month, it always comes back to haunt me. I hate it. Well, maybe that’s too strong of a word. I strongly dislike it. Very strongly. But since I don’t get my pick of months, there’s no skipping it.

My husband threatens every year to ship me off to Arizona for a month to stay with my brothers. I’m not sure if that’s because he thinks the sun will be brighter there or if he just thinks my brothers are better prepared to deal with my grouchiness. Probably a little bit of both.

Here’s the thing. I have this job. It requires me to stay put during January…in fact, it’s usually one of my busier months since we have new students starting up in a few weeks. So this busyness should keep my mind off the fact that it is January…dark…dreary…cold…snowy…in general, a yucky time of year.

About 10 years ago, I realized I’m part of a club. I didn’t ask to join this club; in fact, if I had my way, I would not join any clubs. But there it is….a club one is assigned to whether one likes it or not. It’s called SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which very simply translates to winter depression or winter blues. There are those who claim this is bunk.Well, bully for them.

Fortunately, I’m in good company. I share this with my husband, a child, several friends, and probably a whole slew of others.

You’d think by now I’d be ready for this…but no. Every year it sneaks up on me like a nasty cold. It hangs around and around until about the end of February when the world lightens up. The sky lightens earlier in the day and the night sky darkens later in the evening.

So out come the magic lights…those bright, luminous boxes that deliver the elixir of energy. Sit in front of one of these every day and you’ll smile through the darkness. Add an even more magical wake-up light that is said to align “the body’s circadian rhythms that regulate normal sleeping and waking patterns”.

Okay, so I might not bound out of bed but slowly waking up to this pseudo sunshine makes getting up easier. And my husband might not ship me off to AZ to face Big Brother.

 

Risky business pays off

In the nearly 30 years that we’ve been married, we haven’t taken many risks, except for buying three houses and having two children. For the most part, we’re cautious — probably overcautious — he more than I. Blame that on the fact that I’m the only girl in a family of four older brothers — they taught me to do things that our parents never knew about until after the fact.

Then, a little more than a year ago, we faced a risky situation that put us both into a little tizzy. For the first time in our married life, we were facing life on a single income — except for some freelance income that helped to pad our panicky selves. We were no different from all those others who had been laid off or fired from jobs, except maybe for the fact that we’d always been cautious. Cheap. Thrifty might be a better word.

In our conversations following the incident that set us back to one income (mine), we talked about what options we had. There were, of course, the usual unemployment checks that would boost things for awhile. But those would eventually end. So we began to brainstorm about how we could combine our skills to start our own business. In the beginning, we saw it as a way for us to avoid the dangers of unemployment — the depression, the fears, the anger, the tension.

In a way, it was almost more of a therapeutic plan but as it began to take shape, we consulted with experts on small business and slowly began to realize that it just might work. With the help of Ryan Lowry, our technology guru, we set about designing a website that would allow us to do exactly what we love — community journalism. Small-town stuff. No national news. A few false starts and we were on our way to going live.

We knew we didn’t want this to cost our readers.  We wanted to keep them out of the financial equation. With two daughters of 20-something ages, and with some students and interns-to-be who are connected at the hip to the Internet, this product had to easily accessible and interesting to all ages.

That’s what led us to the name. As has been our habit for the past 30 years, we talk. A lot. In the car, over dinner, on walks, with our kids, without our kids, with our siblings. In fact, we were in the car driving somewhere, when the perfect name came up. Fred was listing the various names that friends and family had suggested. None sounded quite right. I suddenly realized there was a computer-related word that was perfect. Icon.

Thus the name was born. The Bluffton Icon. Perfect. Short and easy to spell. Its simplicity reeked of technology.

And so, we began The Bluffton Icon. Slowly, Fred and Ryan worked through the technical stuff until we were ready to go live. The date was September 22, 2009. We had seven viewers and while we don’t know who they were, we have our suspicions. I have four siblings, he has two, and there’s that guy out in Reston, VA., who is probably our most loyal supporter, next to our two daughters, Lindsay and Anne. Oh, that’s nine.

Like Jack’s Beanstalk, the Icon grew and grew to today’s version. We owe so much to our advertisers who believed in what we proposed to them. Then there are our readers, our constant supporters. It’s a thrill to overhear someone say they read it on the Icon. We’re heading averaging 500 views a day and we compute that to be about 1,200 unique individuals over the period of a month. 50 states. Viewer on every continent except Antarctica and we’d love to talk with someone there.

It’s difficult to express our thanks to our supporters, but we’re going to try. We’ve planned a one-year celebration from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Common Grounds, 121 S. Main St., Bluffton. We’ll have Bluffton Icon coffee (courtesy of Common Grounds), Bluffton Icon popcorn from Shirley’s, and cake and cupcakes from Little Black Apron. Even giveaways. And lots of conversation.

Hope to see you there!

Random thoughts strike again….and again

It’s another Random Thought Day. Truth be told, every day of my life is made up of random thoughts. Oddly, it’s often one of those thoughts that prompts me to start writing. To whit:

1. This morning, Ike and I were walking over to meet Mary Ann and Sparky (AKA Arthur). Two minutes after leaving our house, Ike decides it’s time to do his thing. Yes, I had a bag with me and scooped it up. Interesting. Usually, this takes a good five or 10 minutes. So…we’re heading down the road and passing a certain superintendent’s house. Ike decides this will be a two-poop day. Ugh. No more bags. Sorry Mr. D. We’ll be over to scoop that soon!

2. Last night as we were getting into bed, Ike (who thinks he is human and therefore, can sleep in our bed), stood at the end of the bed looking at us. I don’t know what he was waiting for, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to invite him to nose in between us. The Saint glared at him and mumbled something like: Just be glad we let you in this room.”

3. Whyizzit every time I buy a pair of pants, they fit fine in the store, but when I get home, they don’t? And whyizzit, just when I pull up to said store to exchange them, the clock strikes 9, and the doors close?

4. How did all that fabric get into my sewing room and what am I supposed to do with it? I’m sure there was a reason for buying it, but that reason now escapes me.

5. Who planted all those morning glories in my garden and why do they take over everything? My poor delphinium got strangled to death.

6. Does the cat really think I want to come out to see what remains of her latest catch? Is it really that crucial to her ego that she share three feathers with us?

7. Who made the decision that if I find a penny I shouldn’t pick it up unless it’s heads up? Why can’t I have good luck either way? Don’t rain on my parade, buster.

8. Some guy at the farmer’s market gave my mom and me a lecture on the advantages of red potatoes vs. white potatoes. She wanted white and all he had was red. He gave her the antioxidant lecture and pointed to a little graph that proved his point, or so he thought. And then he handed her a pile of potato recipes. My mother drew herself up to all of her 5 feet 1 inch, and said, “My dad grew potatoes. I know potatoes.” (Insinuating, of course, that she knew potatoes far better than he.) Guess she told him.

9. Howcum I’m always the last to know everything? Believe me, this is true.

10. Like my friend, Peter, I’m always wishing tomorrow was Friday. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

11. Why is the distance between Ohio, Virgina, Kansas and Arizona so far? Could someone please just scramble the states so I can live closer to my brothers? I want to be able to walk over to their houses when I know one of them is baking or cooking so I can just eat their food. It always sounds better than mine.

12. Why do those damn walnuts keep dropping in my yard? And why do I have to worry about them smacking me on the head on the way to the ground? It’s not even my tree!

Okay, now that I’ve got all those random thoughts off my chest, it’s time to become productive. Time to sift through all that fabric and decide what to do with it. Oh yeah, and time to visit Mr. D’s house for some poop scooping.

History from five perspectives

It’s funny how family stories get told and retold in so many different versions that no one really remembers the truth. As daughter number 1 says, these variations may be “interpreted as you will”. She should know — she’s a direct descendant of two families who are masters at “remembering” events in colorful variations. For some reason, though, she thought only the Steiner relatives did this until my four brothers came through with their own memories of August 11, 1956.

I can’t speak much for the truth of any parts of this story since it so happens that it was the day I was born, and I can recount only what I’ve been told. This I know for sure: I was born at Bluffton Hospital and because we lived down the alley from the hospital, my dad — always one to avoid unnecessary use of a vehicle — carried my mother to the hospital after her water broke while she was hanging clothes on the line.

Okay, that might not be true. Maybe I just think she was hanging clothes on the line because that’s what moms did in those days — pregnant or not. 

I’m going to blame a recent revival of this story on my brother, John, the historian. He came across some records about our paternal grandmother, which led him to remember Aunt Dora and Uncle Dave, who lived next door on Kibler St. Somehow that reminded him of August 11, 1956 — more likely because it was the day before his eighth birthday, as opposed to the day of his baby sister’s birth.

Anyway, this perpetuated a series of e-mails between my brothers, my daughter, and me, followed by a brief comment from our mother. This is kind of how this went:

John (one day less than 8 years old on August 11, 1956): Aunt Dora’s and Uncle Dave’s alley is the one that Dad ran
down August 11, 1956 carrying Mother and Mary to the hospital. Still quite a vivid image in my mind it seems. Do any of the rest of you remember that?

Me (tongue-in-cheek): Yeah, I kinda remember being in a nice, warm, floaty place and all of a sudden, things got kind of bouncy and no longer fun.  You probably have a different visual of that day.

John: My visual is one of the back of Dad running with a horizontal-type package down the alley to the right of Uncle Dave’s house, but with the “package” at an angle, seeing only the back of Mother’s head and feet off to an angle, with me standing with Mary Naas on the other side of the alley from our house. Was this funny at the time, or only later? Then waiting for about 15-20 minutes and Dad coming back down the alley. Was this possible (that fast)?

James (age three in 1956): Mine is remarkably similar to John’s, except I was in the yard of the red brick house (our house).  I first thought Mother was sick, but when someone reminded me she was going to have a baby, I felt confused about how you could be “healthy” but need a doctor and a hospital.  I also seem to recall Dad coming back fairly quickly before disappearing again.  Was he checking on us kids, to be sure Mary Naas had us under control?

Me (tongue still firmly in cheek): Probably didn’t trust the four of you.

Tom (age two in 1956): I thought he had left me in charge, but I don’t recall a single thing.

Phil (at age nine, the eldest): All right, let me interrupt my busy day to clear this all up.  As I recall, we were on the porch swing initially, then probably ran around all over after Dad took off with Mother.  Elaine Naas was there too.  I’m sure Anna Mary was too, since we were still pretty young.  And the picture is still clear in my mind, as is that of Doctor Rodabaugh in his Ford Thunderbird flying down Kibler and squealing around the turn onto Harmon Road a few minutes later. 

The only trouble is I remember a 58 T-bird and even though he bought them as soon as they came out, that T-bird wasn’t around until a couple years later.  I guess that shows how clear my memory is.  I do remember a nice sunny day.
James: Thanks, Phil, for clearing things up.  Of course, Mary, you realize this means you’re not as old as you thought you were, and it also explains why I remember that day so well (I was 5 instead of 3). 

Lindsay (born in 1983 with a Pannabecker silver tongue in her mouth): It’s nice to know that my Pannabecker family has the same tendency towards story “variations” as my Steiner family. Interpret “variations” as you will…

Mother, who must have her own memory of that day, chose not to correct any of us, or even add her own variation, instead simply commented: I love to read the things you remember from when you were “young”.
 
It’s just too bad Dad and Doc Rodabaugh aren’t around to add their own two cents worth. Especially to clarify that question about the 1958 T-bird. Of course, knowing the two of them, we still wouldn’t know the real truth.