What families do

caregiver, creative non fiction, family, forgiveness, health & wellness, meditation, Only Children, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

me and parents 2As an only child, I bargained with God to protect me from seeing my parents die. God ignored my fear-of-grief-based request although He gave me the grace of nearly two decades between the departure of them.

My father left us quickly. He had gone in for placement of a defibrillator pacemaker. I believe he lost interest in life when doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to repair lawnmowers because of the interference of the electromagnetic fields on the heart device. Repairing lawnmowers was a satisfying hobby for him because it was mechanical and practical.

My mother lived independently for many years after my father died and we were mutually supportive to each other. We took over mowing her yard and when I returned to work she took over caring for my first-born son who was only six months old when his grandfather died.

My father left us quickly, but my mother took her time. She lived with me and my family for the last two and a half years of her life. Daily, I was filled with anxious dread she’d fall and re-break her femur, which was the body part that ultimately stole her independence. She fell twice. The first time she broke her nose, blackened her eye and sprained her ankle.  The second time was the precursor to her final days as she was just too weak to hold herself up anymore.

Fast forward two years after her death and I continue to process the profundity of having cared for my mother. I spontaneously completed an on-line survey for the Institute for Spirituality and Health, which is conducting research on personal quality and medical hardship and researchers followed up with a phone interview.

The Rice University college student probed what personal qualities I possessed which allowed me to persevere through my mother’s medical hardships. I inventory myself frequently for self-improvement but when pressed all I could identify as to how I managed to juggle all the demands on my time is “that’s what you do for a family.”

He queried about how society could better support people who are experiencing medical hardships.  I didn’t delve into political divisions but spoke about the benefit to society when families are better supported in caring for any relative with a medical need.  If women were paid for the informal caregiving they provide to relatives, it would conservatively be valued between $148 billion and $188 billion annually.

He asked me how I dealt with the disruption within my family when my mother lived with me. It wasn’t a disruption. It was a 180-degree change. Everything changed within and without for our family, including our living arrangement.

When women provide unpaid caregiving, they sacrifice about $40,000 in retirement savings because of the compromise they make for paid work. To accommodate my mother’s mobility needs, we moved from a 1,000-square foot home to a 3,000-square foot home and invested in handicap accessibility tools. I transferred my retirement savings into this family investment.

To supplement financially, some caregivers are fortunate to have a large network of extended family who can pitch in. As an only child, my extended family consisted of my husband and two sons. My husband worked to keep the roof over our heads, and my sons weren’t old enough to drive themselves, much less anyone else.  So, any supplemental support we needed was a fee-based one, including for tasks as Good Samaritanish as giving my mother a ride to see her doctor.

Research and statistics indicate caregivers absorb an inordinate amount of stress and sacrifice. With the baby boom population aging at the speed of sound, more middle-aged children will be stepping into new roles. No matter a person’s inner stockpile of eagerness, loyalty, and love, caretaking is daunting.  Many medical-specific organizations and caregiver-based groups offer in-person and on-line support groups.  Both society and families benefit financially and emotionally when caregivers are supported.

Without stating it directly, he inquired as to the psychological toll on me. I reflected the personal story of the anonymous statistics and while my mother was living with me I didn’t have time to participate in emotionally satisfying functions. In the remote area in which I lived, it was difficult to access therapy but I reached out for on-line counseling, which was a competent substitute for a face-to-face therapeutic relationship.  

Finally, he asked me how others responded when I told people I was caretaking for someone with a medical hardship. I gave him anecdotes of how medical staff laughed at my mother’s awkwardness with her walker and wheelchairs. Other people’s daughters who weren’t yet faced with this season would remark, “I could never live with my mother like you are.”

Pity on them, not me.  I couldn’t really do it either, yet I did. And if life should demand this from you, you can, too. Because that’s what well-meaning families do.

timothy verse

 

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Stripping away the excess

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

dear heartMy ego is scared at least a million times a day and the shell of it is so strong that my spirit can barely breathe. I suffocate my soul with layers of roles and labels I pin on myself.

Eventually, though, through aging and, ultimately, death all of these superficial wallpaper titles will be chipped and stripped away and all to remain will be my spirit and soul. It is this untamable, unnamable aspect of self God loves. Fortunately, the indefatigable spirit within me constantly seeks out God.

Briefly and interstitially it peeks out with no attachment to food, caffeine, money, or smooth relationships. In these rare moments, life can just be as it is and I have an opportunity to soar.

In Your Wildest Dreams

How has a dog improved your place of being?

autism, health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

dog thoughts

This May it will be four years since we “rescued” Pepper Moo from the Hobbs (NM) Animal Shelter. Truth be told, she has rescued us. Over the years, Pepper has offered us  countless hours of comfort and support. Ostensibly, I agreed to a dog because I had read the research about the many benefits canines offer to people with autism and other disabilities.
When my mother was alive, Pepper, in fact, did rescue her. She had fallen one day and the rest of us were in another part of the house. Pepper with her keen hearing, heard my mother calling for help and she barked and barked until my husband, Mike, investigated. Even though my mother used a wheelchair, she was fairly independent and so many times in the evening, she retired to her room and the rest of us retired to ours. Had Pepper not been on the lookout, my mother might have suffered far more severe consequences than a broken nose that night.
Pepper is on 24-hour duty. When it’s bedtime, Pepper without prompting goes into my son’s room and lays at the foot or on his bed guarding him from nightmares and other anxiety provoking stimulations, such as midnight thunderstorms or distant emergency sirens.
But, mostly, she has rescued me. When my mother died, I saved my grief for the early mornings or afternoons when I was in solitude, except for Pepper. And today was no different.
As a member of Planet Earth and in my current vocation, I am a survivor and witness of grief and loss, respectively. Sometimes, my heart needs a companion while tears cleanse me so I can trudge a little further with others. Pepper has been my loyal companion and I thank God for sending her.
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It’s always sunny in a rich man’s world

business, politics, Social Trends, trump, Uncategorized

New Microsoft Publisher Document

Winners are good to hang with. They come out ahead. They have drive and focus and when they have spare time they volunteer on boards and city commissions and sometimes write large checks for art programs. But their winning is predicated on someone else losing and once you’re behind it takes a superhuman, supernatural effort to get ahead.

If you’re lucky like some of the popular underdog-turned-superdog stories out there, you’ll sell the right product out of the trunk of your car on the right corner of the right city. With enough drive and perseverance, they tell you, you’ll come out on top and then you can sell your advice, books, and DVDs to the adoring teeming masses.

But what if you don’t have a car to begin with. Or an Internet Connection. Or any Connection. Then what?

You stand in line.

  • At the Welfare Office,
  • At the Food Pantry,
  • At the Salvation Army.

    That is if you’re still able to stand in line.

    But what if your days of driving and standing are long gone. Then what? You rely on programs such as Meals on Wheels. And if someone decides to cut funding, you’re too hard of hearing, seeing, and writing to speak up.

    And you hope someone who’s not too busy winning will notice how far behind you are.

Remember to BREATHE

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Has your life knocked the breath out of you? No wonder, as multi-tasking has been tagged as the the working person’s holy grail when it comes to getting it done.

But for all of the star treatment multi-tasking has garnered over the years, efficiency experts are now learning that focusing on one task at a time is more productive than simultaneously attempting to complete many things.

If you find yourself distracted and scattered throughout the day, spending a few minutes paying attention to your breathing can bring back your focus.

According to integrative health physician Andrew Weil, M.D., “practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

Breathing by its very nature is a singular activity. Try exhaling and inhaling at the same time. As a foundation to a mindfulness way of life, breathing is the cornerstone.
Here are some tips for beginning a mindful breathing practice:

1. In the beginning, just breathe and pay attention to your breath without any inclination to adjust its depth or length.
2. If feeling anxious, take time to breathe deep into your belly. This breath intention will help dissipate feelings of anxiety.
3. Alternate breaths by covering one nostril and taking one inhale and exhale with one nostril and then switching. This technique will bring more attention to the air that passes through your sinus.
4. Say a phrase that helps you focus on your breathing, such as “breathe in faith, breathe out fear.”

Many books, cds, and dvds are available from a variety of sources for personal use to learn how to improve your breathing technique. Local community groups, such as mental health groups or hospitals, may offer in-person classes.

At its breakneck speed, life takes our breath away. Taking a few minutes each day to catch it, will allow us to be living beings again.

Hit bottom and rise up!

addiction, health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

break open

My spiritual director/psychotherapist always thought it was a moment for celebration when someone appeared at his doorway in their lowest moment.

“When you hit bottom,” he would say, “then you can break open.”

As difficult and harrowing the journey to the bottom can be, hitting an emotional bottom is a moment of celebration. When a series of unhealthy choices finally shoves your ego off the cliff of a fantasy life, then you have a chance to break free and fully assess where you might go next. And at your most emotionally and mentally battered, you may be more open to the belief that choices you make on your own behalf will lead you to a pathway of peace and security.

Once you hit the valley and the shell of a fantasy existence has cracked open, you will be able to soak in the oxygen of a world who wants you as you are.

Love and light,
The Being Place

Is 2017 your year of abundance?

business, health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, small business, Social Trends, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

shine

When I was a little girl I played with Suzy. Everyday was a play date with Suzy as we ran up and down the stairs of the white farm-house where I lived. In all ways, she was the best type of friend a 6-year-old girl could have: she let me choose all the games we played, she always did what I told her, she never hurt my feelings, and I always got to go first.

Was it the skill of her parents that taught Suzy to be the ideal friend? Or perhaps, at 6 years of age, she was just naturally kind, selfless, and considerate? Neither. Suzy didn’t exist–at least not to anyone but me. She was my invisible friend.

Her invisibility didn’t make her any less real to me although my parents probably thought it odd to hear me talking to someone who didn’t answer audibly to them. As I became older, I transitioned from playing with an invisible friend to trying to make myself invisible. Clumsy and nonathletic, I held up my hands to defend myself during Dodge Ball hoping the football players would have mercy on me as they slammed the balls across the mid line in the gym.  In high school, I signed up for algebra not realizing this subject was going to be explained to me by a fast-talking math whiz. As he rattled off questions to the class, I shrank down in my back row seat and looked away from the teacher so he wouldn’t call me. But no matter how much the teacher wanted to help me he wasn’t able to because I didn’t believe I could learn a subject foreign to me. Comprehending was invisible for me.

But like my friend, Suzy, the invisible is made visible once someone believes. It’s the disbelief that shrinks the possibility of what can be. Visibility is revealed in layers and for most of us our largest stage on which to appear is in the work arena. Some are overachievers; they work their way up the corporate ladder yet have a difficult time giving a hand to help the next person up the rung. These co-workers can be recognized by the way they snap at others or roll their eyes when asked for assistance on a project. Their inability to believe in abundance creates a protective shield around them with the end result of harm because they could help others but choose not to.  They believe their achievement will ultimately be stolen by those they help.

But then there are people who work at invisible jobs but their gratitude for what is makes them visible to all they encounter. There’s the convenience store clerk who makes sure she styles her hair and puts on makeup everyday and sincerely asks everyone she serves “what else can I do for you?”  When someone pauses for a moment to consider her existence and ask how she is, she responds: “fantastic.”

The difference between the two mindsets is the core belief within each. The former–despite her superficial success–believes there is lack and the other–within the humble position she holds– believes she has a special mission in the place she serves and she creates abundance where none or little existed. A core belief can be changed once someone makes the commitment to make visible the thoughts that have been invisible to them.

For 2017 what story will you believe in and act on: abundance or scarcity?

To our coffee drinking heroes: cheers

business, creative non fiction, Social Trends, Uncategorized

 

 

I was nine, when I tried coffee for the first time. Sitting with my mother at our breakfast table, I took a sip from one of our reversed-dyed Easter egg coffee mugs and immediately scrunched up my face.

“How do you stand this stuff,” I asked her.

“You learn to like it,” my mother responded, as she took a sip from her own mug as easily as if she was taking a swallow of tap water.

Learning to like most things deemed for grown ups, such as coffee, has been my ongoing struggle into maturity. My mother was 40 when she answered my question about coffee drinking. Now, I’m 50 and finally learning to like coffee, but I have, as of yet, failed to learn to like it straight up black as my mother did.

After my first coffee encounter,  I chose to avoid it for a long time. Most people I knew by the time they were 25 jolted themselves awake with a cup of joe. Not me. Although Pepsi is an afternoon drink, something to refresh and revive you after a long day toiling in the sun, it was the closest to the coffee jolt that I would allow. Later, I switched to Diet Coke when I conceded I needed to stoic up a bit in my approach to life. No more unlimited amounts of a sugar buzz for me. Before bedtime I would be lulled into dreamland with a somniferous sip of milk, or later in my life, herbal tea.

Coffee, on the other hand, is what you drink to parachute yourself into your life, to hit the ground running, to take on the battles of the day. But I wanted no part of that. I didn’t mind watching other people jump from the plane, but I didn’t want to myself and I barely wanted to even board the plane.

People would ask, “would you like a cup of coffee,” and immediately I responded with a grimace on my face at the long ago memory of that one sip. “No thanks, I can’t stand coffee,” I said. “But do you have a diet Coke?” I convinced myself that caffeinated cola products were just as grown-up as coffee even though whenever I ventured into Quik Trip, a local convenience store, the people in business suits gravitated to the coffee makers and the high school students headed for the refrigerated drink section.

I graduated from college with a journalism degree, a field notoriously famous  for hard-drinking, chain-smoking, facts-oriented wordsmiths. These people were content with the world as it was without embellishment. I wanted to search for deeper meanings and look at life through an artist’s lens, softened by sugar and cream.

 

I needed to dig deeper to reconcile the life of the coffee grower in Brazil who handpicks a crop by hand and earns less than five cents a pound with the coffee drinker who spends an average of $6 a day from specialty coffee shops.  And I wanted to excuse myself for any culpability in the exchange. Dollar for dollar, the exchange rate is in favor of the middle man on Wall Street and not the field worker or the coffee drinker.

 

It’s easy to be in solidarity with third-world farmers by refusing to drink something I didn’t like anyway. But giving up other luxuries, such as my car, is another matter. Petroleum is the most traded item on the world market with the U.S., China, and India leading the way.  All the way around, petroleum is a volatile commodity on the markets for pricing and as a discussion between opposing political forces.

But in the end, though, it’s been an oil and gas man who has progressively changed my thinking about certain grown-up aspects of life , such as coffee, that I only cared about from the edges.

My husband has been a thermos-full (and many times two) of coffee a day drinker for most of the time I’ve known him: 19 years. As part of his morning routine he brews a pot of coffee, takes a single mugful from the pot to drink with his breakfast, and the rest he pours into his thermos, which he takes with him to work. When I first met him he drank only the strongest black brew that could be made, cowboy coffee. He had lived for 12 years in the west Texas, eastern New Mexico region of the United States and there the sugar-filled mocha lattes and double espressos were harder to come by than just plain, straight up black coffee.

In urban areas you can now buy a cup of instant mix cappuccino at a gas station. Until recently, in west Texas oil towns your offerings of coffee were limited to a range of intensity of black and decaff and the decaff, many times, could only be obtained by special request of the attendant. It’s not that the lighter versions are hard to buy or transport to the remote desert it’s just hard to sell to calloused-hand oil roustabouts and rodeo riders.

I have always had a shut down time of 6 p.m. when I stopped drinking pop. My husband can savor a cup of coffee just minutes before bedtime and still drift off into lullaby land as if he had been rocked to sleep like a baby in his mother’s arms. He has either developed a tolerance to caffeine or he ignores its stimulating effect to ensure a restful night of sleep. He knows every day is a rigorous joust in conquering the monstrous iron machinery.

My husband had a brief period when he disliked coffee. In his 20s, my husband participated in a smoke-ender’s program. A three-pack a day Marlboro man, he voluntarily signed up for the program when the oil company he worked for enacted a policy prohibiting smoking at the gas plant. It was a sensible policy on the surface, but a difficult one to enact from a practical matter. Many of these guys had smoked from the time they were teenagers and it didn’t occur that their deadly personal habit could have far harsher consequences if the right flick of a cigarette met up with the wrong vapor of gas.

“They had us brush our teeth five times a day,” Mike said of one of the techniques used during the six-week program. “The taste of the coffee just didn’t sit well in my clean mouth.”

Except for that brief interlude, my husband has sped like a train through life with coffee and caffeine coursing through his engine. This penchant for coffee is one of the few bad habits that remains with my husband. As he has matured, my husband has eliminated a number of other poor lifestyle habits in addition to smoking cigarettes. He’s  embraced the responsibilities of his life as a husband, father, and employee and immersed himself in all of it.

While I, on the other hand, still pitter patter my way around the edges of life. Any sign of an uncomfortable situation within my responsibilities cause me to scrunch my face much like that first sip of coffee did. And while I’ve been able to reduce my consumption of Diet Coke and increase my cups of daily coffee, my coffee still comes with a side of cream and Splenda.

a_small_cup_of_coffee

Which immigrants are responsible for you being an American?

creative non fiction, holidays, Iowa life, Marriage, Social Trends, thoughts for living

Mary Christine Fredvorst gave up her first-born son to foster parents.  An orphan herself, Mary Christine was surviving as a Goose Girl, sleeping in the barns and sheds of the families for whom she herded.  Whether it was a traumatic or romantic encounter that resulted in her son, as a single, young mother her capacity for supporting herself and child was non-existent in mid-1800 Germany.

Mary Christine had no formal education, but she did possess an abundance of wits and wisdom about her future in Mecklinburg, Germany. And so did John Schwarck. A  decade older than Mary Christine, John was a skilled cabinetmaker. As a betrothal gift, he offered her a Bible with her initials in gold on the cover.

A set of triplets was their first experience with parenthood as newlyweds in 1856. But one of them was buried shortly after his birth. With the entrenched Germanic feudal system, the Schwarck’s outlook for prosperity was bleak. The couple knew their children’s future would be even darker in their homeland.

baltic shorelineAs beautiful as the Baltic sea shoreline was, a feast for the eyes is not going to fill the stomachs of a family of four…

This is one of the snapshots of my family history, embellished (slightly, as you will see later) by me.

If you have a family member who has been the oral historian, I hope you will take the time to document your generational stories. Down the road you will be grateful you did and even further down the road your descendants will be glad, too, although they may not yet know it.

With the recent passing of my mother, I am uncovering papers and memorabilia which offer me a broad stroke view of my maternal family history.

The Fourth of July is an appropriate time to remind us of the cost many of our immigrant ancestors paid and are paying in physical and emotional toil to gain their (our) independence from economic poverty and other tyranny. The “Know-Nothing” Donald Trump counterparts alive in the mid 1800s, (President Martin Fillmore of the Whig-American Party) also were ignorant loudmouths of the quality of people who were teeming to our shores. The saving grace is my relatives and others like them may only have known their native language when they arrived and couldn’t understand the vitriol.

And like Ben Affleck and his embarrassment of distant relatives who were slave owners, I, too, have family skeletons that force me to face my genogram dynamics and how they may affect my and future generation’s lives. But unlike Mr. Affleck, I am willing to face these rattling bones because to deny them denies me insight which can help move future generations forward. I am the offspring of my great-great grandparents, and just like them, I have a strong compulsion to improve my life. Had my ancestors resigned themselves to their Germanic feudal system fate, my existence is moot.

Understanding the full breadth of my ancestor’s choices to leave home gives me an opportunity to take my children off their bubble-wrapped pedestals and encourage them to take the risk of venturing out. The new lands of discovery may not be the soil of foreign countries, but, instead, may be the vistas of our generational psychology.

While the following family history is specific to my family, I hope it inspires you to investigate the story of your heritage.

old photo

The Schwarck-Price family, Grundy County, Iowa

My great-grandmother Hannah (Schwarck) Price provided oral history to relatives who transcribed it in 1966. Fifty years later, I offer it as it was written then with minor editorial changes to reflect correct spelling, grammar.

Schwarck Family History

John Peter Schwarck was born in Mecklenburg, Schwerin, Germany, May 13, 1818, and passed away at his home in Grundy County, Iowa, Aug. 29, 1888. Little is known of his early life or of his brothers or sisters. He became a skilled cabinet maker.

Hannah Mary Christine Fredvorst was born in New Vorpommern, Germany, April 4, 1830. She was the youngest of three children, a sister and brother being older. Their parents died when Mary was a small child and the three children were put in different homes quite a distance apart so that they became strangers to each other. The brother, when he was a mere youth, was drowned. Little Mary was shuttled from place to place. One of her jobs was being a Goose girl, which is to herd the neighborhood geese. Often she ate and slept whenever and wherever she could. However, she managed to survive. One day, when Mary was probably an early teenager, she received a package containing the wedding bonnet of her older sister who died shortly before her wedding day. In this bonnet was a long red hair so she thought her sister must have had red hair but she had not seen her for many years and she didn’t really know.

With the meager funds he had, John gave a betrothal gift to Mary, his bride-to-be, a German Bible with her initials and date in gold letters on the cover. They married in Germany and triplets were born in 1856. One infant passed away soon. The other two, William and Mary, came with their parents, to the United States. Ocean travel was not as comfortable in those days. Here was a time when people on the seas had to furnish their own food whether the journey was a few days or several weeks. At best, it was not an easy trip. The ship was small and very crowded. It probably was a sail boat. Aunt Hannah said her mother (Mary Schwarck) told her that a bad storm came up and they were afraid the ship would tip over. So they ordered all the able-bodied men to man the oars but John was honored. He was excused from rowing because he was the father of twins on the boat. The storm eventually abated and they reached New York safely. There were no stevedores so John carried most of their earthly possession from the boat in a trunk and Mary carried the twin babies. But New York was not the goal. John knew he wanted to come to Iowa. He had heard of farms to be had by homesteading and he was interested. They did not tarry long in New York. They had a little money but not much. So he spent the most of his money for train tickets, but it was not enough. It carried them to Naperville, Illinois. When the ticket ran out, the train conductor put them off.

Now the urgent need was to find some place to stay and something to eat and a means of earning enough to provide these necessities. There were still plenty of woods, and most people burned wood for heat, so John set out to find a wood cutting job and Mary took in washing whenever possible. They managed to get along. The days passed into months and years. About 1858 little baby Bertha was born. Her life was not long nor are the dates very accurate, but it is believed she left this life about 1862.

Henry was born in 1861. He remembered in later years of his mother finding a small toy that had been Bertha’s. Christian, commonly called Chris, came in 1862, and George, in 1864.

With three little boys so near the same age, it was not easy to keep clothing in readiness. Sometimes the clothes were washed at night, but with five children besides the parents in one small sleeping room, where was there room to hang clothes to dry in the winter? There was no money for extra clothes. But this place was not where John wanted to go. He kept hearing of the open prairie where farms could be had for living on them. He was restless and wanted to go on to Iowa.

By frugality they had saved up a little money, so in about 1866 they gathered up the family and bought train tickets and started. The people on the train could not help but notice this family of lively youngsters and their parents and they visited to pass the time. Upon hearing where they were going, some of the passengers told Mary that the Native Americans would surely get them out there on the prairie and she became so frightened that she refused to go further than Cedar Falls, where they lived a year or so. John still wanted to go on. He wrote to try to sign up for a homestead but there was none. However, he could buy a farm at $1.25 per acre, which he did. Here again, in Cedar Falls, they must find a place to live and work to do. They lived in an upstairs room with no electricity and no water.  Again Mary took in washing, carrying all the water up the stairs to wash and emptied it by carrying it all down again.

Hannah was born in Cedar Falls in 1867. Sometime during that summer John hired a team and buggy and came to see the farm he had bought. It was the first place south of Ivester, a good piece of land and there were no Native Americans to be seen. He was pleased with what he saw. He went back to his family to make preparation to move them here.

The next spring they started for their new home, with oxen pulling the covered wagon and a cow tied behind the wagon. The wagon contained all of their possessions and as many of the family as were not able to walk. All the older children walked, thus relieving the already heavy wagon from their body weight.

There were few good roads and still fewer bridges so many streams must be forded. Few miles were passed in one day. Though it is not far by car now, it seemed a long ways by ox team or even by horses. On one occasion the tire came loose from the wagon wheel. They had to stop and build a fire and heat the tire and replace it; finding fuel to heat the tire was the big problem, so John sent the children to gather up cattle chips from the prairie pastures.

When they reached their new home, there was no ready house to move into but first one had to be built. How so many people found a place to sleep in so small a house is a miracle even to the modern idea.

In 1869 Charley Ernest was born, followed by Freddie in 1871. He lived but a short while. Then it became John’s task to make the little box in which to lay him away. He was buried in the family lot at the Ivester Cemetery, where others came later.

At a very early age Henry’s job was to collect the neighborhood cows together with their own and herd them all day on the prairie grass, and then return them to their owners at night. One day it seemed a very short day; it commenced to get dark fast. He was miles from home. The chickens went to roost. He started home but soon it was so dark he couldn’t see where to go. There he was alone with the cows and he didn’t know which way to go. He was very scared, not of the darkness but because he thought he had failed to bring the cows home on time. He didn’t ordinarily cry, but what else could he do? The black darkness didn’t last very long, until it began to get light again. There had been an eclipse of the sun. Bigger people than this small boy were frightened because they didn’t know the eclipse was coming.

Henry, age nine, and Chris, age seven, both tied bundles of oats and/or wheat with a wisp of straw on the platform of that wonderful invention, the harvester that cut the grain and saved the hard labor of scythe-cutting, heretofore used. These little boys had nimble fingers and soon learned to make such motion count, so they could keep the harvesting going. At nine years of age, Henry was plowing corn with a walking plow drawn by a team of oxen. One day it was hot and the flies were bad. Henry was having hard work keeping the oxen going. They wanted to brush off the flies with the corn stalks so they took off down the field and Henry could not stop them. All he could do was get help as soon as he could.

In 1874 Robert Thomas was born. He loved animals and he made friends with all of them. One day they missed him and found him asleep with a hog for a pillow. Their lives were not all work. The Ivester Church had a singing school in the evenings. Anyone could come but it was especially for the young people and they all enjoyed it. Here they learned to sing by note without benefit of an accompanying instrument. Henry, Chris, George and Hannah attended, perhaps others of the family also. Henry sang tenor and Chris, bass. The teacher evidently did a good job because these men’s voices were often heard and enjoyed in church services the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile the children were growing up, and, with six boys coming up, they would soon be able to farm more land. So when John had an opportunity to buy another farm, he bought it. It is located the first place in the second mile east of the Hardin-Grundy County line on what is now the paved highway 57 (75 now). They built a small house and a barn and two of the boys moved up there. Twice a week Hannah or Mary cooked food and brought fresh supplies to them. This went on for a number of years. John and his sons had made an agreement that if the boys stayed at home and worked till they were 21 years of age, each would receive a stipulated sum with which he could start for himself.

In the winter of 1881 George W. Smith of Hubbard came to the Ivester neighborhood to visit his lady-love, Mary Schwarck, one of the twins (or triplets) of John and Mary Schwarck. She had been a dutiful daughter and remained at home to help her mother and Hannah longer after her 21st birthday. George drove a horse and buggy some 20 miles or more, so he came with the intention of staying overnight or possibly over Sunday. But he did not count on the big snow storm that blocked the roads. When the intended staying time had elapsed, he still could not go home, but he was not overly anxious. In the meantime, he and Mary decided to be married, so she could go home with him and save that long drive over there again soon. George borrowed a clean shirt from one of Mary’s brothers and on March 16, 1881, they procured a license at the Grundy County Court House and were married by A.P. Strickler, the minister of the Ivester Church. John Dinnis and Christian Schwarck acted as witness to the ceremony.

William was now also past 21 years of age and was farming for himself though he was not married. He lived at home awhile.

It was about 1882 when the family moved from south of Ivester to the new place. The younger boys took over and the older ones moved out for themselves.

Here in 1888, John, age 70, passed away and in 1893, Mary, age 63, also passed away. This left three unmarried sons, George, Charley, and Robert, and one daughter, Hannah, though only Charley and Robert and Hannah were living at home. Charley worked away part-time. After her parents’ deaths, Hannah kept house for Rob until she married. Meanwhile, George and Charley had married. Rob, together with a hired man, kept bachelor’s hall awhile, then Rob also married, and all of the big family had homes of their own. Rob remained on the same farm the rest of his life.

John Dinnis’ arrival. When John and Mary Schwarck left Germany, they left behind Mary’s son, John, who was raised by foster parents by the name of Dinnis. So he had assumed that name, also. In 18XX, he jumped ship from a German ship in New Orleans and came to St. Louis. There he wrote Mary a letter saying where he was and that he would like to come if she wanted him and if she would send him the money, which she did.

(To be continued, many generations to come…)