...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

As we drove home after celebrating Thanksgiving with our sons and family in Georgia, we ended up being on the road for more than 20 hours. Thanks to our GPS we were able to avoid most back-ups and take alternate routes around the problems. This took us past many homes that were already decorated for Christmas. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home so I was unable to take pictures of the sights we saw.

An Elijah Bell creation with the help of Grandma.
I used to feel appalled that Christmas lights were up so early. Yes, I understand that Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, but what's the rush?

As I get older and time passes so much more quickly, I tend to see the reasoning behind the early decor. I also think that when I was a kid we kept our tree and decorations up way past the first of the year...probably because we were Catholic and I learned much later in life that it was sacrilegious to take down the Christmas decorations before the Epiphany. (Thank you, Mrs. Dedovich, for that lesson.)

Today, I like to start putting up my decor starting December 1. After all, that's when the Advent Calendars begin. I like to space it out too, so it's not so overwhelming. We have about 10 bins of Christmas decor, including the Creche, the outdoor lights and decorations, the wreaths, the tree decor and loads of stuff to be placed around the house. I love the whole Christmas season, can you tell?

Gingerbread Boy decorating with Jollie children.
Where I grew up, in the boonies of West Shokan, no one drove past our house, so we rarely put up lights or decorations outside...only when we were teens and put lights up around the door, do I remember seeing any. Inside, we always put up the tree on Christmas Eve. I can't imagine that in my home! The only other decor we had that I can remember were the trains and Christmas village, the Creche and one year I made a pipe organ & angels out of the Christmas wrap rolls and  Reader's Digests. (Very creative, I must say!)
I can still hear the excitement in their voices,
"You want US to decorate your tree?"

Over the past few years, my aim was to SIMPLIFY the season. I take most of the stress out by shopping throughout the year, using decorations I have had or purchased the previous year on clearance, and get everything wrapped and shipped by the second weekend in December. Then I can start concentrating on the food, especially the cookies!

I love having meals prepared in advance and cookies stocked up. Of course, I would love to do all this with my grandchildren, sisters, sons, family or anyone, but most are not around or are too busy during the month of December. But I have even been known to import some kids to satisfy my craving for the exciting sounds of joy and laughter.

So lets bring out the holly, and the evergreens and lets get a start on the symbols of Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankgiving...Giving Thanks

While the picture above may be the romantic depiction of the first Thanksgiving, (some say the Indians actually served the Pilgrims), I just want to focus on the theme and not get caught up in the politically correctness of our images.

It wasn't the Pilgrims or Indians giving thanks to each other that started the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving each fourth Thursday in November, it was to give thanks to our Provider. I believe as a Christian nation, we always looked to a Supreme Being for our sustenance whether it be food, clothing, shelter, guidance, wisdom, forgiveness, love or life. No human will ever fulfill the need we have inside us for any of these.

As my past blogs have shown, family is very important to me. But more than friends, family, my own children or husband, my God is to whom I am thankful for all of them and all he provides.

I have been in situations where others have let me down. I have been in situations where I have let myself down. I have been, at times, feeling very needy or unloved or unlovable, but thankfully there has always been someone and somewhere I could turn. 

As I stated in previous blogs, I grew up in the Catholic church. It was there that I was introduced to God. It was there that I learned of him, but I never got to KNOW him. Later in another church they taught of a personal relationship with the living God; that he was a God I could talk to and seek guidance. He was a God that had provided all I needed in sending his son to take on my short comings and repair the damage that had been done to create the gulf between us. 

By asking God to come into my life and to clean me up through the shedding of Jesus Christ's blood, I could have that personal, open communication with God. For that I am thankful. For that I give thanks to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who see me as a worthy being. They provide all I need. They, the Three-in-One, will always be there for me to turn to when life on this earth is too overwhelming. 

I pray for everyone to know who their Creator is, what their purpose is in life, why we are here and what is going on now and what will come. Everyone is searching, some have found other means to cope, but Christ says he alone "is the Way, the Truth and the Life" and "no one comes to the Father but through the shedding of his (Christ's) blood." While others may seem to offer the same, I challenge them to really study what they believe -- even if it is to believe in nothing. Study it, find out for sure what you believe and why you believe it. Too many take it lightly that whatever they think in their own mind is to be the truth. Find out! 

If Christ is the ONLY way, it would be good to know, no? If he isn't, there is nothing to lose. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanks Giving...Friends

JoAnn's 1st Birthday & Guest
Wow, five posts on Thanks Giving! As I stated in my last post, I count family as one of the greatest possessions I am thankful for. I also count many friends as family and am thankful for every one of my friends.

I guess I had friends very early in life. As you can see in pictures of my 1st birthday, there was a little girl in attendance that lived down the road from me. Believe it or not, I can remember the cake, the candle and my family washing dishes on that day, but I can't remember the little girl in the pictures! Her name was MaryPat Molloy, her brother, Chris, and I became good friends, but MaryPat was quite a bit older than me and we never really became friends.

Kathleen Scanlan, Chris Molloy,
& Melinda Robinson
Chris and I walked to school together and were like buddies. We stood up for each other when the neighborhood bullies attacked. We shared home room together in High School. I still count him as one of my buddies even though he is in Colorado and I am still in NY. We have recently reconnected through FaceBook.

Susan at 6th Grade Graduation
Ann at JoAnn's 16th birthday
Neighborhood friends, Patty Burgher, Ann Roser, and Susan Henderson, and Kathleen Scanlan were also good friends of mine.  Ann and I pretended we were sisters for a few years and she is as dear to me as a younger sister. Ann and I stuck together through all our school years and even beyond. She was the Maid-of-Honor at my wedding. At least two of our kids played together. We will occasionally get together now to share a sushi lunch and catch up! I wish we were closer now, but life changes pull us in different directions. Susan was my friend during the early years and through elementary school. Once in high school we went our separate ways and though we only live about 30 miles from each other we have only gotten together a few times over the past 30 years. Other than a few phone calls we haven't been able to reconnect like we would.

Debbie Dodge
Another elementary school friend that I was very close to was Debra Dodge. Her family was my second family. I was over at her house most of my high school years. Her family went to our church. They treated me as one of the family. Her parents taught me a lot about keeping fun in your marriage, joyful family life, and devotion to each other. Deb was a Bridal Attendant at my wedding. Even though she lives not far from me, it took her mom's funeral to get us reconnected. We struggle to get together for lunch at times, as again, life issues pull us apart.

Clare & Tom McCanna, Rick Muller & JoAnn Muller
& Karen Olsen
In my high school years, I had many friends. Clare and Tom McCanna were in my home room -- brother and sister, they were a "package deal". Artist, smart, fun, calm, I loved their multi-faceted personalities and loved to go to their home and sit with them and their parents. They were so normal in an THE most un-normal place I knew of -- Woodstock, NY. I never understood how they came to live there. Just a few days ago I ran into Mrs. McCanna and we picked up our conversation as if we had seen each other just recently. I think it's been several years since I last ran into her. I think it was the day before my wedding I ran into her long ago and told her I was getting married. She smiled and in her sweet French accent said, "Don't do it!" Not at all the response I was expecting! We hugged, laughed and moved on...Clare and Tom are due back home this Christmas...and I WILL see them. That would be a tremendous Christmas gift for me.

High School Reunion w/Linda Denise,
Robin Wood, & Nancy Smith

JoAnn with her team: Susannah Satten
& Debbie Fury working at
The Healthy Women's Partnership
In my employment years, many coworkers became long time friends like Anna, who I wrote about in a previous blog. Some friends have come and gone, one became my boss. Some are peripheral friends. I see them time to time, but we don't share the same camaraderie that I do with others.

The Jollie Family who we are now related to!

All in all, my friends have been great! With my closest girlfriends I have laughed, cried, and shared many, many secrets. I value each relationship and would love to reconnect with any of the ones from my past and will not hesitate to make new ones in my future. Some I count as family and some even became family!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks giving..."Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts." ~Author Unknown

Traditional Family dinner in someone's basement
Circa 1940's

This fourth segment of my Thanks Giving series may be obvious for my regular readers, but it would have to be family. I have already covered parents, spouse, and sons. Here, I emphasize the family I grew up with. In later blogs, I will tackle extended family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and so on. I also consider great friends a part of my family and those members of my church -- my spiritual family, but that too will have to wait for a later blog.
George, Lynn, Elaine & JoAnn Muller
in front of family homestead in West Shokan, NY

I was raised one of seven children and was born eight years after the first group of five, but to this day, my brothers and sisters and I maintain a pretty close relationship with each other. Coming off a challenging year of selling my mom's house to my youngest brother raised some conflicts, but what would you expect when you have seven people giving commentary and input on each step? Feathers were ruffled, but under the surface there is a love that cannot be wiped out by disagreements and offenses due to some process that we had to go through. As they say, "blood is thicker than water" and I see us uniting as a family when the time calls for it.

Having three older brothers and two older sisters was more a blessing than a curse for me growing up. I say curse only because at times I felt I had several moms and dads, especially when I did something wrong. As a baby, I contracted the mumps and my sister Lynn nursed me back to health. She continued throughout my life to be my "second Mom" giving advice wanted or not.  As a defiant child, my sister Elaine washed my mouth out with soap when I back-talked my mom. Elaine and I were very close because she came home most weekends and spent one-on-one time with me. We had a special bond, I felt she was usually fair and justified in her reprimands. As a rebellious teen, almost all my elder siblings played a role in trying to keep me on track when they felt mom and dad were too lenient. While I may have considered this a curse at the time, I can look back now and see it was truly a blessing to know they cared enough to get involved.

Then there were the perks of having so many older siblings. Rick and I were showered with more gifts for birthdays and Christmas than Mom and Dad could have ever afforded. We were often given new clothes on special occasions and whenever our sisters took us to stay with them. We had several places to go to when summer vacation came and it was not unusual for Rick and I to be staying with a brother or sister for a week or two. Whether we were off to NYC or Ohio or Georgia, it was a great experience to be both away from home and off with one-on-one time with a brother or sister.

Did I mention the tons of advice given? Though at the time most of it was unappreciated, it didn't fall on deaf ears. I can remember one time telling my sister, "Just let me make my own mistakes, will you!" But then I would go to that same sister to ask advice as to what to do with a challenge I was having at school. Of course our elder siblings were not experts. Most of them were just starting to experience life outside the home themselves, but Rick and I always looked up to them. For myself I have to say, I always listened and heard what they said and even though I didn't really want them to know it, I tried to take the advice most of the time.

Rick and I were on again/off again friends/rivals through our growing childhood. We shared a room for the earliest years (with so many in the family there were times -- three shared a room!). Then as the elder siblings moved out we had our own rooms. These became our coveted sanctuaries and we detested when the other would invade our domain! I remember how we used to set traps for each other to catch the invader breaking into our rooms. We also made sure Mom didn't mess up the balance of chores. In our teen years, we pretty much went our own way. I hardly remember Rick being around during my teen gatherings or high school years. We became closest after we were out of the house and he played a big part in my sons' lives.

When I made plans to marry, I was told by my sisters that I was too young. The advice continued until I had kids. This was because of the fact that, other than Charles, none of my siblings had ever had any children. It wasn't until I had children of my own that I felt I had finally gained the respect of my elder brothers and sisters.

As we have all gotten older and have entered ages of what we remember our parents being, we have taken on new perspectives of each other. We see each other's moral values, political stands, and even our weak points. There is a pack mentality that comes and goes depending on the topic. Sometimes it's sisters against brothers, sometimes it liberals against conservatives, or righteous against heathen (!?!) (I just put that in there to get some of them riled, heh, heh.), but behind all the opinions and stands and varying beliefs, is a family that truly loves each other and sticks together through thick and thin. We continue to get together for family reunions, weddings and family gatherings and will often be the group that participates and has fun.
Muller siblings at Cousin Lorraine's son,
Scott's Wearley's Wedding 2009

While we have our tiffs from time to time, just watch and see what happens if ANYONE tries to come against any one of us. The Mullers have proven to be a force to be reckoned with. We are family (cue the Sisters Sledge song) and we love each other.

Several of my dad's brothers also had large families. I would be interested to hear how they view their family experiences growing up and now.

Stay tuned, I will continue at a later time with extended family, close friends and spiritual brothers and sisters, not to mention --the Bell and Atanasio families.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanks giving ...Three

One segment in my November Thanks giving posts has to include my three sons....

Jessica, Elijah, Bryan, Asher, JoAnn, Corinn, Aaron, Jim, Dan
at Aaron and Corinn's Wedding in June 2010

I always wanted to be a mom more than anything.

It all started a long, long time ago when I wanted to be a big sister to a little sister as a kid, but that never happened. My brother Rick was born two years after me -- too close for me to really "take care" of him. So I started with babysitting my eldest brother's friends' babies.

JoAnn's first try at babysitting with the help of her
younger brother, Rick

In my preteen and teen years I helped take care of, and later babysat, many children. I loved "playing house with real babies!" I remember once when walking with my niece in a carriage a neighbor friend of mine asked, "JoAnn, do you have a REAL baby in there?" to which I indignantly replied, "Of course!"

JoAnn Muller & niece, Sandra Lynn 1968
I loved having my niece and nephew to dress up and take care of. I loved shopping for them too. I can still remember the thrill I had in buying my nephew his first work boots and overalls....sooo cute!

Then I married and started a family. Whoa... Big difference. Bryan was born in December of 1977 and I was just about to turn 21. I remember after they brought him into my room at the hospital, immediately hopping out of bed to change his diaper. I couldn't wait to start my new role.

Once home, we settled in. Bryan was a great baby, he slept a lot and noise never seemed to bother him. We were a team for five years. He went everywhere with me and rarely were we apart.

Then Aaron was born. I had hoped for a little girl but was happy to have another little Bell boy join the ranks. Aaron was born with red hair and since there was another mom in the hospital with the last name Bell at the time, we wondered if we had the wrong baby! Aaron was our light sleeper -- once we got him to sleep! When he was a toddler, every night it was a chore to get him to stay in bed or to fall asleep and stay asleep. He'd fall asleep in the car, but awaken once the car stopped. Any little noise and he was up.

Two years later (one week prior to Aaron's birthday), Dan was born. I had really hoped for a girl at this point, but just before his birth a nurse told me it was another boy -- she could tell by his rapid heart beat.

Bryan, Aaron and Dan at Arianna's home in Pawling, NY
Dan was an easy going baby, but he was intuitively linked to me. Every time I awoke, no matter how early, Dan would begin to fuss. If I walked into the room he had been sleeping in, he'd get up. It was a challenge to find "me" time with three kids and one who was constantly aware when you were around and wanted nothing more than YOU to hold him.

Alas, the years went by and each of the boys grew and developed their own personalities. Bryan, the adventurer, practiced daring tricks and used his brothers as participants. Aaron, became a little wary after years of this and eventually began to hold back on trying new things. Dan was happy go lucky and just would follow his big brother, Bryan, everywhere and try to do whatever he did.

Karate Kids at Aunt Elaine's

We often would observe the kids together and try to figure out what they would be like in their adult years. Bryan would be the creator, he would come up with a plan and he would direct the implementation. Aaron would observe and add commentary and supply the funding because he was the only one that had a savings account and started working prior to being a teen. Dan would add a practical element and provide some logical thinking.

It was humorous to watch. Most of the time watching them was painful because as the saying goes: "Three's a crowd." Unfortunately when sibling rivalry rose its ugly head it was usually Aaron who was left out. It drove me nuts that it always seemed to be two against one all the time. In later years, they learned to work together, especially if it was to devise a scheme against their parents. Oh, the stories they put together to cover each other!

In their teen years, Dan and Aaron were home while Bryan was off to college. Because the "third wheel" element was gone, they bonded together more than they had in the past, but still maintained a wary distance of each other. Of course teen hormones probably played a role in all this too. Ugh, I hated the arguments we had with each other or that they had between themselves. I was home-schooling both of them through their high school years and two more opposite students none could find! But they both managed to pull through and go on to college and make successful lives for themselves.

Dan, Aaron, Bryan home for Christmas
Then came the years they started to leave home. Bryan was first when he went off to New Jersey for college. Because of his challenging Senior High School years, it was more of a relief than a disruption to have him away. Our relationship with him increased greatly through his college years. I can still hear Jim and I laughing at his emails that he passionately wrote to us. We loved hearing all that he was involved in and all that he tackled and overcame. He was very independent and got along with his professors better than his fellow students. It was amazing to see him evolve from a rebellious teen into a respectable young man. Then he connected with his friend from years back and started a relationship with her that pulled him away from us. This was not a bad thing! He eventually went on to marry her and now they have given us two beautiful grandsons that we just adore.

Aaron was home-schooled through his high school years and then went to college locally, so he was home the longest. After surviving the rebelliousness of his brother with us, he maintained his thoughtful calmness. But once those teen hormones kicked in and his college education started feeding his psych, he did what most teens do and started advising us on matters. It was interesting to listen to his logic which sounded so profound at times, until he decided he knew best and wouldn't tolerate what we were suggesting or doing. Aaron never became the rebellious teen his brother was, but he was a challenge just the same. He was a thinker. So you had to really listen to him and let him know he was heard or the conversation just ended. It was a challenge for me particularly, because he could sound so intelligent yet be a tad off course at the same time. I often felt sorry for Aaron as I was recovering from Bryan's teen years when Aaron started entering his own. Wary of what might be coming, my guard was up. This created friction and we had some lively discussions as a result. Aaron also always felt he was cheated somewhat being the "middle child". We tried to go out of our way to make sure he was treated fairly, but it never seemed to be enough. Then came the day I got him a kitten for Christmas, something he had always wanted. Our relationship made a major positive shift after that, but Dan also moved out of the house, so I never knew which had changed the dynamic -- the cat or Dan's move. Today Aaron is a very responsible young man and husband to Corinn, a NY native that grew up in Florida (and also his boss's daughter!) He has proven himself to be very sensitive, sensible and a strong advocate for working out solutions to almost any problem.

JoAnn, Dan and Aaron
on the bridge at Grandma Muller's
Dan was our charmer. He could weasel his way into anyone's heart, especially his teachers. He once was in a special class to help him with his reading and though he had succeeded in all the teacher had for him, she wanted to keep him in the class because "he is such a delight!" He became such a socialite in class that he was given extra jobs to keep him "busy". This was all before the age of 10!

From the age of four we  could see Dan had a mechanical mind. He would take his brother's construction toys and build them into a vehicle just by looking at the picture! (A major feat when I couldn't build it reading the directions!) Dan overcame his reading problem and proceeded to jump two levels on his own to catch up to his friends. This was a new "problem" for the school, but they did work with him. By fifth grade he wanted to be homeschooled, and even his tests showed he was over the class level. So we started homeschooling him in seventh grade. He did this until 10th grade when he asked to go back to public school. It was not an easy adjustment for him. But he exceeded and then went on to college. He moved to Florida to attend college and graduated with a degree in Computer Graphics. Now he designs graphics for training simulators and has his own apartment still in Florida. We are very proud of the young man he has become and can't wait to see where his talents take him.
Aaron, Dan and Bryan
in Grandma Muller's stream

Funny but as we look back on each of our sons lives and where they are at today, we can proudly say they are all respectful, responsible, intelligent and very thorough thinkers. While Jim and I look back and wonder how that all happened, we are grateful and proud to be their parents. Our hope is they continue to live happy and productive lives whatever they choose to become.

To each of our sons we want to extend our heartfelt thanks for the joy you have brought us through the years.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanks giving...two

My 20th birthday
In continuing to write throughout the month of November about things I am thankful for, I have to extend my thanks to my husband, Jim, who has lived with me and put up with my quirks for more than 30 years. How is it that when you are a teen you think life is going so slow and then you get to your later years and realize that you have been out of your parents home (hopefully) longer than you were in and the people around you now know you better than anyone you lived with those first 18 - 20+ years?

July 10, 1976
Jim and I met at his dad's automotive garage when a friend introduced us. As I got to know him, what I saw in him was stability. Jim was much more mature than most of the guys I had dated. He didn't drink, do drugs or sleep around. He was a homebody who respected his parents, held a steady job, saved his money and was very detail oriented. While he did not go to college, he had mechanical mind that could plan and complete anything he set out to build or fix. As a teen, he built his own race car and drag raced for several years. He helped his dad in the family business and did small engine repair. He remodeled his parent's home and helped with many maintenance repairs. He wasn't flighty or unsettled as most my male friends at the time. Eventually he worked for more than 25 years as a Mechanical Engineer.

We got to know each other through many long talks in his dad's or my car into the wee hours of the morning. At his father's urging he took me out to eat, the movies or camping. Eventually we moved in together and a short time later married and started our family.

We have raised three great sons and are now enjoying a renewed relationship with each as the kids have moved out of our home.

Christmas at Mom Muller's with Rick 1977
To some we appear to be polar opposites. While I like to be organized, I do put limits on it. Jim is more of a neatnik and kiddingly says he has had to lower his standard while living with me! I like to plan long range, he likes to tackle things closer to the date -- but not spontaneously. While I tend to jump into things, he tends to think things through and hold back until he has thoroughly researched them. These attributes of our personality, while causing some bones of contention through the years, have also helped give balance to our lives. Sure we struggled through some disagreements, but we have also come together when the time to be united was necessary.

I am luckier than most in that Jim has provided for us and given a firm foundation to build our family on, yet wings to fly off and do my own thing. If he didn't want to participate in projects or causes I was interested in, he never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. That's not to say he didn't suggest curbing some ideas when he thought I may not have considered all the consequences at times. I, on the other hand, helped him to try new things and go places he had never been before even though he may never have done them on his own.

Christmas 1982 with Baby Aaron
He has also been a great dad to our three sons.
Coaster car built by Jim & the boys.

Aaron's hernia surgery - Age 2
This was another area we balanced each other out. Because I was home with the boys more, I tended to be the disciplinarian. I was the main teacher when home schooling and I was the one who handled the bulk of the challenges that came along. But when I needed him he was there.

One of our last gatherings with boys at home.

Today we are working on being a couple once again. We greatly miss our kids since they have moved out of the home and out of the state! We try to make it a priority to spend our vacations with them as much as possible, but we have also learned that we do need respites with just the two of us.

Grandpa learning one of Elijah's new gizmos.

While we are both challenging to live with, we have hung in there through life's changes. It is said that marriage is work and we both would heartily agree. Marriage is also forgiveness and compromise. Some say marriage is the giving up of yourself for another. Personally I do not agree with that, nor do I believe marriage is 50/50. Marriage is more like an ocean current with some nice calm areas in it. If you do anything to bring something new into the relationship, you cause ripples, waves or unfortunately, crashing waves that create some hard knocks. Once you learn your way through the change, you have calm -- until the next pebble or rock is dropped in. So when you marry, purchase a home, get new job, have children, even bring a pet into the home or decide to follow a particular faith, you both have to work through the resulting ripples. This means bringing two personalities together to a place you can both live in harmony. That's the work of marriage. Not one losing oneself for the other. Or one compromising all they are to keep peace. It's more give and take. Currently, we have grandchildren in the picture, which is a very happy ripple for us to sail together on!

I am grateful for a husband who is willing to WORK through all the choices, changes and challenges our life together brings to us. Thank you, Jim, for sailing with me and keeping us on course. I look forward to many more years together sharing our past experiences and making new memories. 

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?  The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. Proverbs 20:6-7

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanks giving...

A friend of mine, started a tradition a couple of year's ago to blog throughout the month of November on things she is grateful for. She calls it, "Taking back November" you can check it out at Sandy's blog and go to her November postings. It reminded me of years ago when Oprah did a period of shows based on the book, Simple Abundance, and I was encouraged to start a thankfulness journal.

Each Thanksgiving causes me -- as well as you, probably -- to reflect on all that we are thankful for. While I would love to write something each day in November as Sandy is doing, I can't find the time to squeeze in a blog each day when I have so much going on. So as I think of it and get the time, I will do as many as I can.

Two of the most important people that I am grateful for in my life were my parents.

Charles & Philippa Muller

While they weren't perfect parents (who has those???) they did the best they could raising seven kids with little money. Dad worked full time whenever and wherever he could get it so Mom could stay home to raise us.

What Mom and Dad did instill in each of us is a responsibility to work and provide for ourselves. I often hear the Japanese or Chinese accredited with "a great work ethic." Looking at my brothers and sisters, I have to say all of us have come away with a great work ethic.  Our parents did not shower us with everything we wanted and this instilled in us an eagerness to get out and earn our own money so WE could purchase what we wanted. It also taught us to respect our belongings because we really did have to earn them. All of us learned to work and never expected others to provide for us. In fact, we were taught to provide for those less fortunate than ourselves as well.

We also learned to serve others without receiving anything in return. Dad was a volunteer fireman. Mom and Dad were volunteer ambulance drivers and EMTs. If a family was in need, we were all asked to give up our toys, our clothes or our bedding to help those that lost them in a fire. Meals were provided or we had families over for dinner.

Dad worked many jobs to provide for our family. Here he is on the turkey farm with my cousin, Edwin.

I wasn't born yet when he did this, but I have heard stories from my brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, I believe it all ended when the turkey coops flooded and the turkeys all drowned. Dad also worked as carpenter, plumber, cement plant worker and many other jobs to provide for his family. We raised sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and even a bull at one time. I assume these were to provide food and money as I remember shearing the sheep's wool and selling it.

Mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in my teens. She used to babysit for other families, sew clothing for a woman in town, clean houses and eventually worked in the school cafeteria to provide a means to get by.

Mom and Dad moved to West Shokan from the city -- Woodhaven and Ozone Park in New York. Dad had an acoholic father, so he never drank anything stronger than orange soda most of my life. He would taste champagne at special occasions, but I never knew him to have a glass of beer or wine.

Neither of my parents smoked during my early years growing up. My mom socially smoked in my high school years and I used to tease her that she was caving in to peer pressure.

My younger brother and I came along eight years after the first five so our parents were a bit spent by the time we came along.

Mom and Dad were not overly affectionate with any of us but we knew we were loved. We were provided for and we were taught to value life, honor our elders, respect those in authority over us, and to always be ready to help someone in need.

Those values have carried on throughout our family and probably are responsible for the successful lives we lead. By no means are any of us perfect, nor do we live perfect lives, but we try to do our part to make the world a little better for those both in it and who come behind us without asking for anything in return.

I remember at my dad's funeral, my Uncle George sharing with everyone that "Charlie raised a great bunch of kids and that he would be proud of each of them." I was proud of that statement at the time it was said and I am sure Mom and Dad are both proud of each of us.

For a mom and dad who stuck it out through thick and thin....I am thankful.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12 (King James Version)