Sunday, September 23, 2012

"It's all a part of me and that's who I am."


If you know country music, you will recognize the title of this blog as a line from the country song, "Who I am" sang by Jessica Andrews.

This blog post is one I have been formulating for the past four to five months. I know, I know... you are thinking, "Who thinks about a blog post that long?" Well, I guess I do. Maybe as you read this blog you will understand more about why I would process this post for this long.

In the past couple of years, I have had many people for different reasons say to me, "Holly, you were just raised so differently." For the most part (I think anyway), this was said with good intentions and meant as a compliment. It is probably more of a compliment to my parents than to me however.

A few folks said this to me and initially I did not think much about it, but as I heard it a few more times, I began wondering why people kept saying this to me. I am not entirely sure that I have figured out 100% why people say this to me, but this blog post is what I have been processing as a result of hearing "Holly, you were just raised so differently." so many times.

This is my attempt of discovering what might explain the reason I hear this. This is my attempt to introduce you to parts of my background and family you might not know about me. This is my attempt to explain to you Who I Am.

Another line of the song... "I am Rosemary's granddaughter."

I am Juanell's granddaughter. I call her Mau along with her other grand children and great grand children. Mau was my first grade teacher. Mau was at every big moment in my life... most of the games I played in, my high school graduation, my wedding and so many more moments and memories include Mau. I think one of the really special things about Mau is that EACH of her grand children think they are the closest to Mau. She is really great about making us all feel significant, heard and loved. Mau is a reader and has suggested books for me to read through the years and never once I have I not liked a book recommended by her.

Mau is a part of the teaching legacy that I am a part of. She was loved by all her students, but pulled no punches. She even made my cousin and a few of his friends do push-ups for goofing around too much. One nickname she had was Meany-Sweeney. I like to think that my no-nonsense, but caring teaching style was inherited partially from her.

Sleep overs at Mau's are a favorite memory of all her grandchildren. We all had our own special tooth brush to leave at Mau's house and all slept on the floor in the living room by the TV and woke up to pancakes for breakfast. Pancakes at Mau's house are second to none. Ask any of us. But the real treat was when she cut your pancake up for you. She cut the pieces into the most perfect squares.

I think what I inherited most from Mau is her stubborn and perservering spirit. She sets her mind to something and gets it done. She is a problem solver. She doesn't ask for help because she usually doesn't need it.

I am Lois' granddaughter. She was my Grandma Call and died before I was 2 years old. I have only one faint memory of her in the chicken house collecting eggs with Mandy and my dad was holding me. I'm not sure if this is an actual memory or a memory formed by the stories of hearing about Mandy liking to go gather eggs with Grandma Call. I wish I would have known her. Stories I hear about her make me smile and realize I am probably a lot like her. She was even challenged the pastor of the church about women teaching a Sunday School class!

She married my Grandpa Call. She raised four kids on a dairy farm. She liked to pick wildflowers. Dad would try to point out the flowers she liked to pick when he would see them along the road when I went with him out to the farm. She passed when she was in her lower 60s sitting in her chair after she had fallen asleep probably from a heart attack because she had heart problems. I wish I would have known her. She must have been a pretty special lady because each time my Dad talks about her I see tears form in the corners of his eyes and if you know the Call family at all, you know they do not show their emotions very often.

I am the great granddaughter of Ferne Carter and Virgie Sweaney. I never knew my Great Grandma Virgie, but my mom shares many stories about her that convince me I am missing out to have not known her.

My Grammy, (Grandma Carter), is the beginning of the teaching legacy, but has shaped so much more of me than just me becoming a teacher. My interest and now hobby of sewing was started with her. Our yearly tradition of making Christmas candy started at her house. She loved flowers and to work in her yard. She wrote down the names of all the kids who visited her house for candy on Halloween. She made many blankets and quilts for many people. Her and my mom made many of the clothes my sister and I wore growing up. She let all her great grandchildren eat the expensive candy making chocolate and we always like to put it in the fancy ash trays. She didn't use them as ash trays, but we all thought they were so cool.

I was privileged to get to spend a lot of time with Grammy Carter. My mom had gone to work as a para at the school when I started pre-school. Each afternoon after pre-school I spent at Grammy's house. We made the best sugar cookies (really the only kind of sugar cookie I actually like). She was patient and let me help roll them into balls, dip the glass in sugar and then press them really flat. She only had basic cable so we both usually fell asleep in the afternoon in her living room watching some Soap Opera. We often took trips out of town to Wal-Mart or for groceries or sometimes for really no reason. I loved how she backed out of her driveway. We all joked she went 80 mph out her driveway and never looked as she pulled into the street. She attempted to teach me how to sew and crochet. I also loved going to the post office with her because I could reach her box to use the key to get her mail out. My parents box was too high for me to reach then.

I only knew Grammy after she had lost her voice and could only speak at a whisper. It was always so funny to me that when she got mad at any of us kids she could almost yell at a regular voice though. Needless to say, even though her bark wasn't very loud, it got the point across. When she got really mad, she would cuss and I like to say she taught me every cuss word I know. :)

As I got older, I mowed her yard, helped her rake leaves and loved helping her clean her house or wash her porch off. Afterwards we would sit on her porch and drink lemonade or cool water. She knew all her neighbors and most everyone in town.

She, like Mau, was very stubborn and strong willed. As she neared the end of her life, she developed Alzheimer's disease and we probably didn't realize how early she began showing signs because she was so independant. It was hard to watch her memory deteriorate and actually get to the point that she didn't know any of her great grandchildren. One of the last time I visited her in the nursing home she was talking about how Frank (my great grandpa) had been coming to call. It was neat to hear her talk about that time of her life that she had never shared with me before. She was around 90 when she passed away and even though, it has been almost 7 years since she died, I still miss her. I wish I could show her the first quilt that I made. I wish I could tell her about my career of teaching high school math. I wish she could teach me the secret of her sugar cookies. My mom often says after we have been making Christmas candy or sewing, "Grammy Carter would be so proud."

"The spitting image of my father"

This line of the song might be truer than any other. In the photo album my mom made of all my baby pictures, there is a baby picture of my dad at about 6 months old next to my 6 month old picture. There is a scary resemblance.

However, the similarities with my dad go much further and deeper than physical appearances as a baby. My dad is a perfectionist. He is quiet when he is thinking about something. He gets quiet when he is frustrated. He is thorough. He is an internal processor. He works harder than anyone I know. He plans far in advance, but often doesn't verbalize those plans. He would farm and run cattle full time if that would be enough money to take care of his family, but since it isn't, he works a full time job and still runs cattle full time by most people's standards. He would rather figure out how to do something himself than pay anyone else to do it (come see my kitchen if you don't believe me!). He is a self taught carpenter, electrician and mechanic. He is a problem solver. He takes pride in doing things the best he can. He is competitive. He is stubborn. He is usually right. He can come across as gruff or rude sometimes, but that isn't his intent.

If you know me, you can probably quickly draw the comparisons between my dad and me. Growing up, I would go to the farm with Dad and Mandy stayed with Mom at home. I think in some way I tried to be the son he didn't have, but was a tom boy at heart so I would have rather been helping him on the farm then helping do dishes at home. He patiently answered most of my questions that I would rattle off while we drove out to the farm and checked, fed and counted the cattle. At times, when he couldn't come up with an answer to my 100th question of the day, he would respond, "To make little girls ask questions." and grin.

We drove to church out of town after I was 5 and it was about a 45 minutes drive. Even though we lived further than anyone else at church, we were always one of the first ones there. When my sister questioned him on this, he responded, "Well, if we have a flat tire, we will still get here on time." He and my mom raised us with the mindset of "if you are on time, you are late."

The scary part of the relationship I have with my dad is that even though we aren't the verbal processors like my mom or sister I often know exactly what he is thinking or planning without him having to verbalize it. It kind of drives my mom and sister crazy, but his brain and mine are wired the same. My analytical thought processing is thanks to him as well as the ease that math and problem solving has come to me.

My dad is willing to ask the hard questions no one else will. He is willing to stand alone when his opinion differs from others and he won't change his mind just to go with the majority. He is driven and after having surgery on his neck, almost went crazy when he couldn't work for two weeks.

I admire my dad and the sacrifices he made for me most of which I am probably not even aware of. He always has managed money and time well and made sure my sister and I graduated from college debt free (what a gift!). I can't begin to thank him for all he has taught me through the years, for answering every question I asked and for teaching me the value of hard work.

"And when the day is done my momma's still my biggest fan."

My mom is probably one of the most self-sacrificing person I know. She has always put others before herself. She is my biggest fan as well as my biggest confidante. When we were first married, living in Wichita and starting our first year teaching, I called her on my drive home from school probably everyday, often in tears, frustrated that things had not gone well. She patiently listened, offered support and cheered me on to keep it up and stick with it. I joke now that she probably helped Philip out more than me because I could unload and vent with her and by the time Philip got home, I was over it and had a better perspective about it.

I can call my mom at a moment's notice and she'll help me through whatever I need to talk about. It is a funny thing... I swing betwen being an internal processor like my dad to needing to verbally process things with my mom. Often our phone conversations are about nothing at all, but still exactly what I need at the time.

My mom has the gift of hospitality and loves hosting people. I loved bringing friends from college back to Cedar Vale. She welcomed them as if they were her own kids and spoiled us with awesome home cooking for every meal we were there. She makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world!She doesn't think she is a good cook, but she is one of the best I know.

That's one of the ways I am like her... she doesn't take compliments well and doesn't believe those things she is being complimented are true of herself even though she rocks at just about everything she does. She is overly critical of herself, but doesn't let that keep her from accomplishing some really amazing things. You should see the quilts she has been making with her long arm quilting machine. Oh and by the way, she has taught me to quilt and make purses.

My mom often thinks she doesn't get anything accomplished, but this is after she explains her whole day that has been filled with helping my dad with farm stuff, helping my grandparents out or helping one of her friends do something. She doesn't realize that she is accomplishing great things by serving so many people around her.

My mom has made sure to raise my sister and I so that we value family and make time for family. She made birthdays special and even when my dad was laid off and we didn't have much money, she managed money and planned things out so Mandy and I never really felt like we were going without. She was very honest and up front with us about how and why my parents spent their money and that knowledge has been a great gift as I have entered into my own married life.

My mom never forgets. She keeps so many things straight and never drops the ball. She juggles lots of things at once really really well. She can multi-task better than anyone I know. She sews. She plays the piano. She quilts. She embroiders. Probably the thing she doesn't so well is sleep. Unfortunately I got that from her as well. Oh well, if not sleeping well is the one bad thing I get from her, I'm doing pretty well. Oh and she can play Wipe Out on the piano. I don't know why but I love it when she does. She doesn't like it when I ask her to play it for someone, but usually I can convince her to do it.

I could go on and on about all these significant people. I could add more people to the list. I am not sure if this explains why I was raised differently, but if anything, this is how I was raised. I am so privileged to come from the family I come from and hope to never squander the lessons and blessings that have been bestowed upon me by my family.

"It's all a part of me and that's who I am."

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