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Father’s Day is always a bit tough for me. My father died in an accident before I was born so I was never able to meet him. I always think about him on this day, what he would have been like, how we would have celebrated. Would he have been a BBQ type of dad? Would he have watched baseball or (ew) golf? Maybe a bonfire and s’mores with a beer or two? It does make me sad, but then I remember what I do have and that I am blessed.

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I had two wonderful grandfathers who loved me. This I know. They didn’t always say it, but they showed it through their actions, whether it was paying for me to go to beauty school, slipping Marty $20 to make sure I got a Zehnder’s chicken dinner in Frankenmuth, or just showing up on my birthday every year. Grandpa Nick didn’t live long enough to see me get married and have kids, but I had the privilege of seeing Grandpa Ballantyne hold and play with my boys. He was a real softy by that point and it melted my heart to watch them together.

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My uncle, my dad’s brother, stepped up seven years ago to be Uncle-Dad. He and Aunt-Mom didn’t hesitate when I asked if they would help me get my rightful name on my birth certificate and I love how they’ve embraced me as their Daughter-Niece. It means the world to me.

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Then, there’s my husband. From the day I told him he was going to be a father, he’s been all in. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a dad and see how his relationship with our boys has evolved over the years, especially as they’ve entered or are getting close to adulthood.

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So, even though I don’t have my dad here to spoil today, I have plenty to celebrate. I wish a very Happy Father’s Day to every father and father figure out there. I hope you know that you are loved and appreciated.

 

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During a conversation with my husband the other night, we happened upon the topic of change. It came up because I’m going to Detroit Pride this weekend to join up with Free Mom Hugs. For those that don’t know, Free Mom Hugs, a group which also includes dads, gives free hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and encouragement to LGBTQIA individuals who have been rejected by their families. I’m totally stoked about being able to show a bit of love to someone who may just need it, lord knows we all do from time to time.

I reflected on how this was not what I was raised to believe, and how people can grow and change.

I know because I changed.

I was raised in a very conservative home where I was taught, especially in church, that being gay, or at least, being in a gay relationship, was a sin. It was never really an issue, just one of the countless sins we were told about. I didn’t know any better until I actually met people who were “out” in high school and in my first year of college. Listening to their stories really made me question the belief system I had been taught. Why were people being judged and condemned for how they were born, for who they were, for who they loved? The more I reasoned, the more my views changed and I struggled with what my religion said vs. what I knew in my heart to be true.

My brother came out soon after. He had been raised with the same teachings, I know he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would God make him that way if it was sinful? Why would God make anyone gay if it went against what He wanted? It didn’t make sense. I started reading more and researching, not only personal stories, but articles and studies on religion to see what was actually being said in translations and realized that I didn’t agree with the interpretation that had been preached to me for all those years. I was soon completely convinced: people don’t choose their sexuality, it’s hard-wired from the very beginning.

With this realization, I made it a point to be an ally. We’ve raised our kids to be accepting of everyone. We’ve also been very fortunate to belong to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what, with no agenda to “fix” people. One of our pastors even risked her job to marry two wonderful men a few years ago and we became an official Reconciling Ministries church the year after. The current pastor and his wife are all in, letting the rainbow banners fly. Our denomination is in a struggle right now to officially adopt a policy where gay marriages can be performed without penalty and I’m happy to say that there has some progress made on this. It looks much more hopeful now than it did a few months ago. We have wonderful new members who came to us because they have faith, but have not felt welcome in other places. There is still much to do.

Faith is important to a lot of people and it makes me sad that being gay is a reason for some to shut others out, no matter what the religion is. Do the homework, not just “research” from the conservative side, but objective research from real science. Talk to gay Christians, or gay Muslims, or gay Jews. You’ll find many. There are plenty of gay atheists, too, in case you’re not religious. Get their perspective, and really, truly, listen to them without judgement. Listen to religious scholars on the other side with an open mind and pray for understanding.

There’s another reason I think this is an incredibly important topic. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and LGB youth seriously think about suicide three times more than heterosexual youth. (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00001dqohxj19xof4dx2kuf9llet1) They would rather die than deal with the pain they feel from being rejected by the world, their places of worship, even their parents. That should say something to even the hardest heart. Think about that. Children would rather take their own lives than subject themselves to the humiliation heaped on them by those who think they are less than. As someone who has been on that precipice, that decision is born out of desperation, not attention-seeking. The methods used to change children are bogus, as proven over and again. Conversion therapy is cruel and it doesn’t work. You can’t “pray the gay away”, you can’t beat it out of someone, and you can’t change their mind. That’s not how it works. Again, do the research. Hear them.

LGBTQIA people are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed. Like everyone, they need to feel loved, they need to know that they are accepted, and treated with dignity and respect. I thank God, those long-ago high school and college friends, my brother,  and my sister-cousin, for being brave, for opening my eyes, for opening my mind. My life is richer and fuller for that, for the friends I have, for the love I am shown daily. I shudder to think of what my life could have been like if I hadn’t followed my heart.

Growth is often uncomfortable, because you often have to fix stuff, but the rewards are wonderful. When I see anti-gay protesters, so angry, waving their vile signs, it’s difficult to not be angry myself. I want to jump in and defend my friends and family so badly, but getting in someone’s face rarely changes their mind. Instead, I try to love. I try to set a good example. I try to stand up for what I know to be the right thing. I teach my students that using the word “gay” or “queer” as insults is not acceptable when the situation pops up, besides teaching acceptance of all as a norm.

I’m also still learning. As I mentioned, I want to be the best ally I can and I want to do it right. I make mistakes sometimes (I still have to make myself think of and say correct pronouns for the gender fluid, just because it’s a habit) but that’s part of growth and understanding and I welcome it, even when I screw up. I can do more.

So, Happy Pride Month. Much love to my family and friends who are celebrating and know that I have your back, always. May God bless you always.

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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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As I write this, it’s a grey, rainy day. It’s cold, too, which doesn’t help much. I’ve been sequestered inside for most of the time, finishing online homework and (gasp!) reading a book, building a fire, making dinner. Bacon and potatoes. It was lovely.

I also took a quick walk around Greenfield Village. If you’re not from my neck of the woods, Google Greenfield Village, or The Henry Ford, as it’s known today collectively with the other attractions it’s partnered with. Yes, it was rainy and crappy out, but that’s one of my favorite times to go. For one thing, I get the whole place to myself. No people to dodge, no trying to ignore inattentive parents letting their kids do things that aren’t allowed, like feeding the geese or climbing trees. I don’t have to talk to anyone, I can just soak up the whole place, the ambiance, be myself and let the memories of working there for so long come flooding back.

They’re good ones, the memories, especially those from days like this at the farm. We’d hardly get any visitors, only a few brave ones dared to squelch their way down the dirt path of the farm lane to us. When they did come, we would welcome them warmly into the toasty kitchen and because there wasn’t a line out the door, we could spend some extra time talking with them. It was nice, like having company over.

Many times, though, on days like this, we’d barely see a soul and those were days when we became family. Of course, all of the chores would still have to be done. This isn’t Disneyland, it’s a real working farm from 1885. Animals have to be fed, stalls mucked, fields plowed, the stove and fireplace cleaned out and lit, water pumped, cows milked, dinner cooked, dishes washed, all of the things that made, and still do make, it real. On days like this when I had to work outside, it would be miserable. My boots would be soaked through with wet from the barnyard, full of poo and mud all mushed up together, the hem of my dress in deplorable condition. The Period Clothing department that made all of our clothes would look at us in dismay when we’d bring things to be repaired, but hems and pant cuffs got the worst of the abuse from the manure/mud combo we’d put them through. (Pigs would also bite our clothes, or cow horns would rip something. We were not Period Clothing’s favorite people.)

At the time when I worked there, the draining system hadn’t been improved yet, so we had to wade through a small lake to get from the house to the barn and back. Even the chickens were smart enough to stay in their coop or the barn where it was warm and dry. None of the animals wanted to be outside, but we still had our work to do.

Milking the cow, or cows, was a job we’d fight over on these raw days so that our hands would be warm, although I was felt badly for the cow in question. We’d get our bodies warmed up with the physical work, but our fingers and toes would be frozen and soggy. When it was time to come in for a quick break, we’d be so grateful for the warm wash water put out for us by the ladies in the house. We’d scrub up the best we could and come into the sitting room to dry out by the fire for a while, boots off, sometimes stockings and bonnets, too, hung over the fire screen and placed close to the flames, steam streaming up from the wet things.

We’d drink coffee, eat some cheese toast or cookies, and just talk while our things dried and we watched the rain come down. If it was dinner time when we came in, dinner could last a long while, especially if there was nothing pressing that needed to be done in the barn or the manure wagon didn’t need to be emptied out in the back forty or in the fields, as it often did. It was during one of these rainy days where I slipped on a wet wagon wheel while climbing back into the manure wagon and would have bashed my forehead open if it hadn’t been for my friend and supervisor quickly grabbing me by the wrist and yanking me to safety. Usually, though, unless absolutely necessary, those things would be put off a day or so until it was a bit drier. Hopefully, there would be a bit of dessert left over from a baking day and we’d boil another pot of coffee. I can still smell the combination of coffee, fire, food, and wet wool drying by the fire.

There were other buildings in the village where it was lovely to be on a rainy day, such as in the Gristmill. One could spend an entire day in there without seeing anyone except for when you went to have dinner at the farm with everyone. I used to get a lot of reading done on those days, or crochet, or cross stitch. I would sing entire musicals to myself with no one to hear me but the ghosts. I wouldn’t have wanted all the days to be like that, but sometimes, when it had been crazy busy with school children and other visitors for days on end, a quiet, rainy day was delightful.

The temperature will be going up this week and the sun will eventually come out. Greenfield Village will be full of visitors again, as it should be. Geese will be teased, trees will be (illegally) climbed, but most importantly, more people will fall in love with the place, as I and so many others have over the years.

Maybe they’ll learn what I already know: it’s a wonderful place to spend a cold, rainy, day.

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Proud mama moment: Oldest Child has a grown up job. Well, he will as soon as he graduates in May, the next week, in fact. He went through the interviews, the stress of not knowing, all that jazz, and he succeeded. He has a big boy job on the other side of the state doing something that he loves and finds interesting.

This, of course, is awesome. He’s worked so hard, he’s always been an amazing kid, and he deserves every bit of good that’s coming his way.

There’s only one teensy thing that’s just starting to sink in. This is his fourth year of college, he hasn’t lived “at home” full time in almost four years, but now, this is where the feels get a little jumbled.

He’s not coming home anymore.

I don’t want to go totally melodramatic. Of course he’ll come to visit sometimes, Christmas, if we’re lucky, or the occasional weekend, but he’ll be living two-and-a-half-ish hours away. Living, not going to school, but living. He’ll be going to work, going, ulp, home, and will do it all over again the next day. No more Spring Break, no more summers off, he’ll be really and truly adulting now. Marty and I were just talking the other day about how we’ll take him off of our insurance as soon as his kicks in. Again, ulp.

It’s starting to hit home as I clean the empty bedroom where the college kids stay when they come home. I’ll be making up two beds, but only one will be slept in this summer when Middle Child comes home. We’ll move his basement storage boxes to him, the extra clothes that he’s left behind in the bedroom, his stuffed puppy, Sadie. He’s on to building his own life.

As well he should! This is what we raised him to be able to do, this is the job of parenting, to make them independent so that they can survive on their own. (Coming in second only to being a good person. Raising kids to be good humans is always first on the list, but self-sufficiency is a close second.) He’s following the natural order of things and doing a damn fine job of it: working, paying his own bills, buying his own car and paying for repairs. He even has a cat of his own, for crying out loud!

But my mama heart is cracking a little tonight as I remember the baby who loved to cuddle and whose hair smelled so sweet, the inquisitive toddler who made friends with everyone and everything, the studious tween, the social butterfly of a high school student, the proud graduate. Those are just memories now, and precious ones. He’s going to make his own memories now: his first place, his first real job, and all of the adventures, good and bad, that go with them.

It’s okay, it’s supposed to happen this way. I’m just a little leaky, is all.

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First year of preschool, three years old.

Hug your babies, new parents. It goes by fast.

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Today, on Facebook, I saw a picture from a wedding. The two who got married are wonderful people and they work for The Henry Ford, one couple of many who met their spouse there. The picture was lovely; it was of all of the people at the wedding who had worked on Firestone Farm, a place near and dear to my heart. It got me thinking about my own wedding, and all of the Firestone Farm people who were there to celebrate that day with us.

When Marty and I got married, twenty-two years ago, I was still a “chicken” on the farm, one of the younger girls. The older ladies adopted us, many of us had “mamas”, and they taught us all that they knew. I hardly knew anything about cooking at all back then, much less cooking on a coal stove, and I definitely made some mistakes. (Helpful tip: Just frying a piece of chicken doesn’t cook it all the way through. You have to put it in the oven, too, or you end up with lovely, crispy skin and raw chicken on the inside.) But I did learn, enough to be a competent cook not only at work, but at home.

For our wedding, one of the gifts we got was a journal, pictured above. The farm folk, both women and men, had passed it around and everyone contributed their favorite recipes.

002.jpgMost of them were favorite recipes that we used on the farm, since we used a variety of cookbooks that were period to the year 1885. Some examples are baking powder biscuits, lemon tarts, and pumpkin jumbles. There were also more modern recipes, too, such as Italian macaroni, sausage and egg brunch, and carrot curry soup. There’s even one page with the phone number to Little Caesar’s!

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I love looking through this book, I always have. Some of the people who contributed have passed away, some I’ve lost contact with, and some I still “see” on social media quite regularly. This cookbook, though, brings those farm days back. It was such a special, happy time in my life. There was a lot of work, a lot of coal smoke, a lot of, well, manure and mud, but we were a family. We danced at each other’s weddings, celebrated new babies, and attended funerals together. For several, wonderful years, it felt like it would always be so. We even joked about making the farm our own country. Of course, it couldn’t last forever, and we could never recreate that time if we tried.

But I have this book, this wonderful, precious book. It’s worn out from use, the spine is gone, I’ve scribbled my own subsequent recipes into it, and it will eventually begin to fall apart, but I love it. One day, I’ll pass it on to whoever shows the most interest in it. Until then, I’ll continue to add more to it, taping it together if necessary, when the cover begins to fall off.

And, of course, I can’t just look through it without making something. A loaf of farm bread is baking in my oven right now, just in time for dinner. I may just use the leftovers to make cheese toast (a Firestone staple) in the morning.

May you remember your own happy times tonight.10398512_1104025886075_7984395_n

 

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Nine years ago, I left a class at college, not knowing that my phone had been going off. I had it on silent so that it wouldn’t ring during class. Marty had been calling to let me know that my Grandma Ruth had been taken to the hospital from her assisted living facility and that things didn’t look good.

I raced home and hurriedly made sub plans for the next day to email to my principal, along with an explanation and then went straight to the hospital. She had been unconscious since the staff had found her a few hours before and she never woke up. My family and I stood around her bed and made quiet conversation until she quietly slipped away, around 11:00 pm. It was characteristic of her, to go quietly, not wanting to make a fuss.

My Grandma Ruth was a beautiful lady, a strong soul. A Grandma who, after my mom married out of Catholicism, made sure that I knew where my bottle of holy water was on her dresser. A Grandma who kissed boo-boos, who made Christmas cookies, who, when I had my wisdom teeth out, brought over Jello. She wasn’t a gushy grandma, but she loved me. I knew it.

I always knew it.

Rest well, Grandma. I miss you terribly.

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