Lesson 6: Family is Important

Home isn’t about a dwelling or geography. Home is where your family is. We define family as the people who love you unconditionally, who welcome you no matter how long you’ve been away.

Bop’s family was broken up from a young age, and he made it a priority to be sure his own children always had time together. Bop didn’t need blood to consider others family. On his travels he always made a point to stop and visit the people he’d had long lasting relationships with. He considered friends of his and friends of his children, family. Once his oldest daughter was married, Bop made a point to be sure his two youngest children still had time with their older sister. Every year when Bop traveled from the southern part of the country to the North, he stopped to visit “family” along the way. It was as if no time had passed in between.

Gram was an only child, yet she had four children of her own, and plenty of nieces and nephews around. Once her children were grown, she always made it a point to be supportive, even when she disagreed. Gram never spoke ill of anyone’s decisions, she just would say, “That’s not the decision I would make, but it’s not mine to make.” When my parents divorced, I can still remember Gram coming and taking me and my older sister to lunch. As she sat across the table from us, she said, “This doesn’t change anything about our relationship, and I’ll be here for you however you need.” And she was! She continued to support her family after my grandfather passed, continuing to be there for her grown children as well as us grandchildren. Whether we needed an ear who would listen without judgement, or support along our journey, Gram was always a safe person to go to. 

This lesson we learned from our grandparents wasn’t taught without any family strife. Every family has their challenges, drama, and “family business.” The unconditional love and support we witnessed as young children taught us that family is important no matter the challenges. The year 2020 has certainly brought about many challenges, for many families. It’s also given us all an abundant amount of time together. At home. With our nuclear family. With that being said, my hope is that we’ve reconnected ourselves to family and the importance of just being a family. Whether you have children or not, family is the people you continue to go back to, and they welcome you with open arms and big hugs. No matter how long you’ve been away. Who will you welcome with a hug when it’s safe to do so? Who will stretch out and offer you a hug? Those people are your family!

Thank you for reading! If you know someone else who might enjoy reading, please share. You might even get up and dance with your family!

Kristen

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Lesson 5: Be grateful for the simple things

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas yesterday! We are halfway through the 10 lessons learned from our grandparents! While the holiday season brings about a busyness and hustle, this year has been a slower pace for our family. One reason is our family is spread out across the country and we’re all staying safe at home. Another reason is the first holidays after you lose a loved one are tough. With all of the craziness of 2020, I’ve really tapped into enjoying and practicing gratitude for the simplest things. Right down to enjoying a quiet Christmas at home with less of a crowd and more downtime. Christmas has usually been cooking and entertaining 8-12 people in my home, but last year my husband and I said we were going to take a break for a while from that. Thanks coronavirus for helping with that one! Haha 

Simple things are probably different for everyone, depending on your position in life. The simple things our grandparents enjoyed during their lifetime are things we don’t always think about. And as our technology gets increasingly more sophisticated, it’s important to think about the MOST simple things that make our modern lives easier and more comfortable. 

Imagine what life would be like without indoor plumbing, running water, and refrigerators. In the 1920’s, when Bop was a young boy his home on Wood Street in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania had no electricity or indoor plumbing. However, they did have a telephone. Not a Smart phone like we have today, but a telephone with a crank that had to be turned to get power to make a connection with an operator who would make the call for you. Bop’s family had to have a telephone for his father’s job with the railroad. The phone was not used for anything but his father’s work. Nowadays our phones are used for EVERYTHING.

By the time Bop’s family moved into their third home, they had electricity, but still no indoor plumbing.  I can’t imagine. So when I think of this, I say a little word of gratitude to our commode! Try not complaining next time you have to clean the bathrooms!

In December of 1925 when Bop’s parents split up, he went to live with his maternal grandparents.  Christmas always was a big to do for Bop as he grew up and had his own children because he wanted to give them what he didn’t have. As parents we want our children to have it better than we did. Yesterday, my daughter was able to open her gifts and spread them out in the family room, playing all day without much thought about getting out of her PJs, or tidying up for company. As much as I love getting together with our family, this brought us SO much JOY!

Grandparents are special people, because they have experience with life, and grandparents give you simple love.  

When I think of my grandmother, I think of simple meals she prepared, like Coke Chicken in the crockpot. (My sister and I wouldn’t eat that nowadays) She didn’t fuss much when we came over, she just wanted to spend time with us and have fun.  That’s what grandparents do. My older sister and I spent many weekends with our grandparents, and just Gram after my grandfather passed. We usually had dinner or lunch, and then she would take us to a movie or take us shopping. When she took us shopping she didn’t buy us everything, she only bought 1 or 2 things for us and that was enough. I can remember as a child Gram would ask us for our Christmas lists and she would look at them and say, “What are all these name brands? Why does it have to be this brand?” I think that still happens today, especially for teenagers, however as we’ve aged, become wiser, Gram was right, it doesn’t really matter.

Time is a simple thing and yet so complex. This year I’m even more grateful for the gift of time. I’m grateful for the time I had with my mom before she passed in September. I’m grateful for the time to rest, relax, and stay home to enjoy more simple aspects of life. What simple things are you grateful for?

Thank you for reading!

Kristen

Lesson 4: Help others with the resources you have

As 2020 winds down and the Christmas holiday approaches, this lesson continues to resonate with me. Everyone has resources. Our resources are different, but everyone has resources to be used for good. Our grandparents, Bop and Gram had different resources, but they each used them for good causes.

Bop was a handy man. He learned how to use tools, and fix things from an early age because he didn’t have much. When something didn’t work, Bop figured out how to make it work. He helped others by using his craftsman resources. He didn’t see the point in paying money for something you could do yourself. So when Bop helped others, he was generous with his time and handy skills. He took great joy in fixing things for others, but his real joy was taking the time to teach others how to do it for themselves. One example of this is when Kevin helped Bop replace the countertops in his parent’s kitchen. Bop coached Kevin to make the cuts for the countertops, and was patient. 

As a child, Gram witnessed her parents’ generosity of providing meals for those in need from their apricot and walnut ranch. When she married my grandfather, and his business grew, Gram had the resources to donate to causes she believed in. Gram had the financial resources to help others. She was an avid reader, and wanted others to have the opportunity to read books, so she helped grow the Colton Library. She also gave her time and resources to stay active within her community through many women’s organizations.

Even though Bop and Gram had different resources, they taught us to use the resources we have for good.

Thank you for reading!

Kristen

Lesson 3: Travel to make yourself rich.

In continuing to share the lessons we learned from our grandparents, here’s the 3rd lesson: travel to make yourself rich. This is a tough one right now in 2020, some of you might still be traveling while others are waiting it out. This holiday season travel plans look different. Or maybe they’ve just been postponed. I don’t consider myself a collector, but I do buy a Christmas ornament every time we travel. Every year when we decorate our Christmas tree, our ornaments are reminders of the places we’ve been. This year, as I’m safe at home and looking at my tree, the memories of fun trips are comforting. Here’s how Bop and Gram taught us to travel.

It didn’t matter to Bop and Gram where you were going, they both were always willing to get in the car and just go!  Bop is known for his yearly trips driving from the Southern states to the Northern states. If you were lucky enough to accompany him on one of these trips, as Kevin and I were, (You can read about my road trip with him in 2010 here) you got to see so much more than the house where Bop grew up. He didn’t grow up in one house. And it didn’t matter to him. He moved around a lot, his father liked to drink and often lost his job. Bop traveled from places to stay often whenever his father lost a job.  Hearing Bop tell stories about traveling on foot with his father and always having a spot with his grandparents taught us that it’s about the journey, not the destination. In our current day lives we are bogged down with success being measured by achievement and acquisition, yet experiencing these long road trips with Bop have been worth more than any dollar amount.

Me and Bop in Canada, summer of 2010.

Gram traveled internationally, and always brought back treasures to share. Yet, she was always happy to put her grandchildren in the car and drive to her beach residence, or a few hours away so we could visit our cousins. She told us a story about tasting black caviar once on a trip to Russia with my grandfather, yet she was happy to come home and eat a tuna sandwich again. 

Times are different, and many of us do have to work and save for retirement. However, Bop and Gram didn’t compare their travels to anyone else’s. They owned their journey and shared it with others. Many of us just want to get in the car or fly on a plane and reach our end destination. Bop always had his stops planned out, and how long he wanted to spend in a certain place, but he didn’t let detours or traffic, or flat tires spoil his travel plans. Bop and Gram showed us how to stop along the road, take time to enjoy the sights, and connect with people along the way. 

2020 has been a year of less travel for our family, and even though we had plans to travel for Christmas this year which we’ve postponed, we are looking forward to getting back on a plane, in the car, and on the road again!

Wishing you SAFE travels!

Lesson 2: Never Stop Learning

I love to learn. I consider myself a student more than a teacher. I’m always asking questions and wondering about things. My parents instilled in me that an education is something nobody can take away from you. Our grandparents lived during a time when a formal education was more of a luxury than a norm, yet the mindset was that learning could happen anywhere. This is a lesson we are living as we navigate the new norm of learning virtually from home.

Whether you receive a formal education, or learn a trade, Bop and Gram never stopped learning. Bop was good with his hands. From an early age, about 8 or 9 years old, Bop acquired the skills that take some years of apprenticeship to learn. Once his family moved to 123 Wood Street, he recalled leaving the house after breakfast, not returning until dinner time. His days were spent playing in the streets and hanging around a tinsmith shop. 

Gram was always around her aunts and mother who were teachers. Learning was just part of her life. Gram was fortunate enough to go to college, which in her lifetime wasn’t the norm for a woman. She went to the University of La Verne in Southern California. While she majored in Home Economics, she didn’t finish her degree.  However, she continued to take classes offered through local organizations and she loved to attend events at her local library. 

Both Bop and Gram learned about people and the world through travel. 

An added lesson here is that Bop only went to school through the 6th grade, it didn’t stop him from continuing to learn and grow until he was 102. No matter what, there’s always something to learn, and you’re never too old to learn!

Thanks for reading, come back soon for Lesson 3.

-Kristen

Looking Forward, Reflecting Back

My next 10 blogposts were inspired by our grandparents, members of the Great Generation. These lessons have helped me focus during this unprecedented time of 2020. They remind me of our roots as human beings. I hope they help you reflect on all the good in 2020 and give you hope for what’s possible in 2021. 

Looking Forward,

Reflecting Back

In 2018 when the last of our living grandparents passed, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about how much we learned from them. We both spent a lot of time with our grandparents growing up, naturally we talked about all the things we learned from them that we as parents want to pass onto our own daughter. Fast forward to March 2020, we had NO idea that we would be living in a pandemic. We had NO idea that life as we knew it, life as our daughter knew it, would change so abruptly. But, as parents, who does? That’s part of the fun and adventure of parenting. And Life. Right?!

In order to look forward, we have to look back, we have to reflect, contemplate, and ponder. These 10 lessons are not just lessons my husband and I learned from our grandparents, these are lessons our own children are learning from us RIGHT NOW, during this lifetime.

Let me first introduce you to our grandparents.

Henry James Newhard was born on June 18, 1915 in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania in an upstairs flat above a Chinese Laundry.  Friends called him Henry, yet to us, he was known as Bop. Upon meeting Bop you would never have known his life journey endured great challenges, yet he was always joyful. His stories always offered a simpler perspective in our hectic lives. 

Margaret McIntyre Matich was born on August 4, 1925 in Elsinore, California on a walnut and apricot ranch. In her youth, friends called her Maggie, she grew up not liking the nickname much. To us, she was known as Gram, or Mama Matich by the youngest of her grandchildren. Despite much family turmoil and circumstances beyond her control, she remained positive and optimistic. 

Lesson 1: Find the Joy in Life

Where does joy come from? It comes from within. No matter what, Bop, never let you see him sad. It’s not that he didn’t feel sad, but he always had something to be joyful about. Bop had a mindset to not let things stress him out, and it showed. These days we call this Grit. We call it resilience. Bop didn’t have an easy life by any of today’s standards. Growing up in the early 1900s his father worked for the railroad while his mother took care of Bop and his 2 siblings. His first home was a small flat above a Chinese laundry with no indoor electricity or plumbing. Yet, he always had friends to play with from dawn until dusk. Highlights of his free time were riding the cab of locomotives because his father worked for the railroad. Nowadays people pay hundreds of dollars to ride a refurbished train at Christmastime, known as The Polar Express.  Another joy for Bop was his violin teacher showing up in a 1924 Dodge, which back then was a rare gem, to own a car. 

Gram grew up during the Great Depression. She recalled people coming to work on her parent’s walnut and apricot ranch, not for money, but for a meal. She found joy in the small moments, such as cracking the walnut shells and eating the nuts raw. She was an only child, yet she found ways to entertain herself. Often, she would immerse herself in books. Reading was a lifelong joy of hers. She loved reading so much and saw the importance of reading, that she gave much of her wealth to her town’s library. 

As we enter the last month of 2020, reflect on what has been joyful about this year. Find your joy. Spread it.

I hope you will come back to read Lesson 2!

Kristen

What’s Next?

Six months ago we went into quarantine. School buildings closed. My husband has been working from home the entire time. My daughter and I have enjoyed our summer break. We are hungry for some kind of routine, I don’t know if what we’ve done this summer could be called routine. Fun, yes. Routine, no. As humans we crave routine. We enjoy knowing what’s coming next. Right now we know it’s time for school, or the traditional school year to begin. Our family has opted to do all virtual learning, and we don’t know exactly how we are going to be two, full-time working parents, trying to homeschool our daughter. We are taking the mindset, “One day at a time.” This is hard for someone like me who is a planner. I’ve worked really hard to become more flexible and to learn to roll with things. Type A people, I know you get this. Here are 5 things that I’ve found help me get perspective on things.

  1. Laugh at yourself: don’t take things so seriously.
  2. Practice Mindfulness Everyday: whether it’s stopping to look in nature, washing dishes, coloring, or getting on the yoga mat and moving with your breath. Slow down and be mindful.
  3. Ask for help when you need it. I’m forever grateful to my quaranTEAM of friends who also live close by. And my parents who are also close by.
  4. Talk to people: You have to get your thoughts out of your head, and connecting in person with real humans always helps. Even from a distance with a mask.
  5. Make peace with the messiness. I had all these organization projects I wanted to get done at home and this summer I did them. Then I moved out of my physical classroom last week to become a virtual teacher, and now I have stuff all over again. I’m making peace with the fact that I will get it all put away, but maybe not all in one day.

So as for knowing what’s coming next, I know that I will go back to work fulltime this week, from home. I know my daughter will learn and grow this year, even if she’s doing virtual school. I know she will have a teacher who loves her. I know my husband will continue to support our family in thousands of ways, especially when I start to question our choices. I know for certain that we have made our choices out of love for all of us. I know that this challenging time is temporary and we will all grow from the experience. I know that a year from now I will sit out back with my quarenTEAM friends and laugh at our mistakes. I know this because I have faith that we are all right where we are meant to be. And yes, when I’m sad and frustrated, and worried, I bring these thoughts back to the forefront of my mind. It is this mindset that helps me keep things in check, keep the negative thoughts from creeping in, and keep on keepin’on!

Thank you for reading, sending you all positive vibes,

-Kristen

Focus on the Lesson

Let’s talk. I know everyone is thinking, wondering, worrying about the school year ahead, however let’s talk about learning for a few minutes.  How does learning take place? If you are a life-long learner like me, then you probably agree that learning happens ALL the time, in ALL kinds of different places. You might even agree that learning takes place when we’re not even trying to learn something. For example, yesterday I needed a mindful break from moving around, so I chose to go outside in the middle of the afternoon and wash a car, then tend to my garden in the backyard.  First, let me tell you that it was 92 degrees outside, and I CHOSE to go out there! Not so crazy, my body was telling me I needed to sweat but I didn’t feel like doing another virtual workout for the day. Tending to the garden in the middle of the day taught me a few things.

Lesson 1) Walk around the yard and take notice of the bugs, the leaves, the soil.

Lesson 2) Don’t pull up the roots of a plant.

Lesson 2 was my biggest, most significant lesson as an amateur gardener. I mentioned in a previous post that we planted everything from seeds this year. So far, it’s been going pretty well, we have an abundance of lettuce and our tomatoes are coming in nicely.  Zucchini has been a different story.  Which makes me sad. Even makes my husband sad. We love our fresh, garden zucchini. This year the zucchini has struggled. We’ve probably only gotten 4 squash off the plant. I noticed some “rot” around the bottom of the stem yesterday, so I got my clippers and thought I would clip off the  rotten part and try to salvage the plant.  I also pulled up some of the roots.  Well, last night when I went back out to water the garden, I noticed the zucchini plant was completely wilted.  I pulled the roots up. Completely!!! What was I thinking????  Lesson learned, don’t do that!

I know right now so many of us feel like our roots have been pulled up. However, try to look for ways to plant yourself. Ground yourself. Be present. Notice. Wonder. Learning happens in ALL kinds of places. Focus on the lesson, not the mistake.

Thank you for reading,

Kristen

12 Questions to Ponder

12

Choices. We have many. Even in difficult, uncertain times,WE HAVE CHOICES!  It’s the factor that separates humans from other animals. We have this amazing power to make choices. We only use about 10% of our brain, however within that 10% we are constantly making choices.

Right now I imagine, like my family, yours is trying to weigh the positives and negatives of the choice to send our children back to school face-to-face, or the choice for the new virtual school options being offered by some school districts. This choice is not easy. It’s new territory. Instead of thinking of all of the “What ifs”, I wanted to share some questions that helped my hubby and me think through this choice together.

Questions for Parents:

  • Is our home environment comfortable and nurturing for our child to stay home?
  • Do we have to go to work outside of the home?
  • Is there a parent/guardian/ adult to check in on our child when doing virtual school?
  • Is our child independent enough to navigate 30 minutes of focused learning online at a time?
  • How will we continue to provide in person socializing for our child?
  • What health concerns does our family have?
  • If the COVID-19 pandemic was not present, would we consider virtual school?

I encourage you to include your children in the conversation. The more empowered they feel, the braver they will be no matter what choice you make! (Age appropriateness of course) We are having a family breakfast meeting to ask our 7 year old daughter.

Here are questions you can ask your child:

  • What do you like most about being at school?
  • What did you like most about eLearning in the spring?
  • What do you like least about school? (pre-pandemic)
  • What did you like least about eLearning in the spring?
  • Where do you  feel the safest?

We’ve talked A LOT. We’ve had sleepless nights. We’ve cried. We’ve written out all the pros and cons. We’ve talked with friends who are also making this tough choice. In the end, I honestly do not believe you can go wrong on this choice. You just have to make the choice that you feel is best for your family. At this time. Amid uncertainty. What impact will this one year have on you, your family, your child?  Will it really matter 5, 10 years from now?

We plan to make our choice within the next 48 hours. Maybe you’ve already made yours.

There will be challenges either way. There will be growth either way. Focus on the good. Choose what’s best for your family out of love, not fear. And remember outside of our comfort zone is where the magic happens!

Thank you for reading,

Kristen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLANT THE SEEDS OF HOPE

One thought, one word, one person, one act of kindness, These are how we plant the seeds of HOPE!

We are living in complex times. Covid 19 Pandemic, Racial Injustice, Political Discontent. I’m at a loss for words that can solve all of these in one larger movement, other than PLANT SMALL SEEDS, AND HOPE!

This year when we planted our garden, we decided not to get starter plants, we decided to try planting seeds and hope that they would bear fruit/vegetables. We are new to gardening and we know that we still have so much to learn! We’ve learned that we can’t control the seeds, but we can nurture them to grow into what we want! I believe this is similar to changing the world for the better.

I have gratitude and respect for the brave activists who are showing up to PEACEFULLY demonstrate and speak out for their beliefs. Please know that while you are doing your part, I’m doing mine too. It just looks different.

I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent. I thought I knew a lot about kids and teaching. LOL! As a teacher and a student I’ve always just liked to learn new things. I’ve always tried to plant the seeds for students to want to learn. To question and think. As a parent I’m trying to plant the seeds in my daughter to be a kind person, first to herself, and then to others. Now I’m trying to blend these two things together, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue being the change I HOPE to see in the world. The change that I DO see in our world. One person, one moment, one breath at a time.

In our home, and with our friends and family we are having tough conversations. I HOPE you are too! It starts with a question. When George Floyd was killed, I asked my daughter (without her knowledge of anything really happening other than “the virus”) “Do you notice some people have different color skin than us?” She does. She replied by naming her friends and classmates who have different color skin and how it’s so pretty! We all see color. Truth. Color makes our world beautiful. Embrace color. Let it be what helps us see the beauty in our world.

I HOPE we learn from our mistakes, and do better. Good people make mistakes. When good people reflect on their mistakes, and learn to do better, we grow. Truth. Let’s reflect on how far we’ve come as a society, let’s learn from the mistakes, and let’s work together to grow! I’m learning A LOT by asking questions and reflecting on my own thoughts and actions.

I HOPE we work together as humans to be kind, partner in our efforts to educate OURSELVES and others. We are all human. Truth. As this time period is being written into our human history, let’s create more hope, less fear. Together.

Thank you for reading and I HOPE this planted another small seed with you!

Kristen