“It’s Always Something” – a sigh of hopelessness, resignation, regret, dismay, disillusionment, disappointment
Despite how true this statement is, I have always hated it because of its negativity and simple manner of just passing off whatever is going on or has happened. This is often what someone says to you when they have no idea what to say because unfortunately whatever you are or have experienced is generally just a part of life.
Granted, life is not perfect, and stuff happens. Stuff that although may be a part of life, and simply out of our control, is none-the-less upsetting and can throw your life into a tailspin for awhile.
And the way I see it, if it upsets you it warrants a response other than apathy. The response “It’s Always Something” I feel is meant to be consoling of some sorts, but in reality shows no sense of empathy, it’s dismissing the situation because basically we’ve all gone through it at some point in our lives, so why make a big deal of it, which is sad.
When did we all get so jaded and apathetic about the dilemmas we all face on any given day of the week?
Of course, I’m not referring to major health issues, the loss of a loved one, and a catastrophic or tragic event, those are not “every day” type of challenges, and generally not something we have all experienced.
I mean things like an unexpected house or car repair, damage to a car due to an accident which creates extra BS until every detail is resolved, issues with a credit card due to a lost check, appliances breaking down forcing you to buy a new one, etc..
The list is endless, because the messiness of life is endless, and the bigger the world gets, and the more complicated our daily lives get, the more complicated the “It’s Always Something” stuff can get.
What’s even more upsetting then complete apathy regarding this type of thing, is apathy related to serious events, which is starting to happen.
For example, while watching a news report about a car jacking with a 2-year-old autistic child still in the car, a witness interviewed responded “It is what it is. It’s the times we’re living in.”
“It is what it is” – Deal with it. An expression used to characterize a frustrating or challenging situation that a person believes cannot be changed and must just be accepted.
When I heard this response I almost cried. The mother whose child was in the car most certainly was not feeling that way. She wanted empathy for the plight she was enduring while the search for her child was going on.
I do understand that some days the weight of the world we live in, especially since the pandemic, can feel overwhelming and make you feel like shutting everyone and every thing out. BUT, the only way things can get better is by having empathy for each other, no matter what the situation.
In my little corner of the world, from July to early September I was dealing with extended car repairs post a car accident, and some days it felt like an endless saga.
BUT, it was nothing compared to what some of my co-workers have been enduring, and I reminded myself of this every day I got frustrated or stressed about things. The empathy for them kept me in check with my own issues.
AND, made me realize despite the issues I was dealing with, I am blessed. My situation would be solved, and settled, and not be life changing, it would just cause temporary disruption in my daily schedule.
Granted, not everyone thinks this way. And most certainly some days those “It’s Always Something” things can be all consuming, to the point that it’s hard to think about anything or anyone beyond your personal issue. BUT, if we pause, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves there are others going through far greater issues, maybe, just maybe, we can circle back to a less apathetic “it’s always something” state of mind.
Changing your state-of-mind in relation to anything that is not a positive is certainly not an easy thing, but it’s noted that by changing our words, we can change our thoughts and in turn change the vibration we send out in the world.
This is exactly why I started my year out trying hard to stay in the “Hippie State of Mind” – peace, love, harmony and hope. Not that I was putting blinders on to the world around me, or ignoring issues within my own life.
It was about changing how I approached these things, and trying to find the good things in every day and emphasizing those instead of the negative.
I was doing pretty good until we got into preparing for my Son’s college graduation, graduation, moving him home, preparing the house for his celebration, decorating for the celebration, the celebration, clean up post the celebration AND dealing with the aftermath of a car accident which my Son was in the week after the celebration.
Thank God he wasn’t hurt, it was just the car, which is the key positive in the entire incident.
In addition, things were ramping up at work, which meant periods of overtime, which is great for my pocket book, but limiting when it comes to time at home.
To say I fell off my “Hippie State of Mind” therapy is an understatement.
BUT, I was aware I was letting things get to me, and knew I was the only who could change that. Plus, there were friends going through some very heavy and serious things, which as I noted earlier having empathy for their plights help to keep me in check with my stuff.
Now I do understand the state of the world, particularly since the pandemic, has dragged a lot of people into a more pessimistic state, which in itself is very sad. BUT, it has also created a world filled with more rude, inconsiderate and apathetic people, which I’ve found to be extremely visible while driving and shopping. At times it feels like everyone is out for themselves and no one else, so get out of their way.
This negative energy makes it extremely hard to stay positive, and most certainly can trigger an “It’s always something” or “it is what is” lack of empathy type of attitude, which just adds to the negative vibration.
AND, I must note, being negative is much easier than being positive. Positivity is a choice, a very conscious choice that has to be worked at.
BUT, after allowing myself to fall off the “Hippie State of Mind” train, just because I got very, very busy, I have made a pact with myself to work hard to get back on that train.
AND, in order to do this, I will work on CHANGING THE WORDS I USE, especially when confronted with those every day “It’s Always Something” or “It Is What It Is” type of things.
Now I know this won’t be an easy thing because those phrases are engrained in my brain, so until I can formulate my own positive twist on these phrases, I’ve decided to borrow someone else’s positive words.
Below are a few I found I thought I’d give a try:
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton
“Every day may not be good… but there’s something good in every day.” – Alice Morse Earle
“It is what it is, it is what you make it.” – James Durbin
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Helen Keller
“Remember, rainbows have never been attracted to cloudless days. They only follow the storms.”― Richelle E. Goodrich
“Happiness is not the absence of problems; it’s the ability to deal with them.” ― Steve Maraboli
“Expect obstacles and face them head-on. They are going to come up, so the way you handle them is what makes all the difference.” –Lance Dale, A Shot of Positivity: Overcoming Obstacles
“Smiling is a wonderful way to get a boost of happiness. The next time life presents you with a challenging situation, take a deep breath and smile.” – Morris Pratt, The Secret of Positive Thinking
SO, it you feel like me, maybe you can join me in my adventure to change my words to change my world, and help shift the worldly vibration to one of positivity, which is so needed now more than ever.
AND, although I have a post started for this month, it’s far from complete because between OT at work, dealing with ongoing car issues with my Son’s card, the standard day-to-day, and my chalk art, time got the best of me and I had to surrender, acknowledging that I just can’t pull this one off this month.
In addition, although I thoroughly enjoy writing, since discovering my chalk art, my creative energy has been predominately focused on that avenue, which makes my writing seem more like a chore than a creative outlet, especially when the well is running dry with topics that relate to the theme of the blog.
So, I will not be renewing my domain name and premium WordPress plan when it comes up for renewal the end of January. 2023
This of course does not mean I won’t start another blog down the road one day, it just means with my Son now a college graduate, the concept of rediscovering myself while my Son is away at college is past it’s expiration date and time to let the blog site slowly fade into the sunset.
I truly appreciate everyone who has supported me and my writing since I started blogging in 2014, but I am most certainly at another transition point creatively and in order for me to truly pursue my new passion, chalk art, I have to accept the fact that until I have more free time, I can’t do both, or should I say do both with a proper level of enthusiasm.
With 5 months left on my plan, I will do my best to post every one of those months, but I can’t guarantee that. I can however promise I will have a post in September because I already have the post in the works.
Thanks again for all your support, and I’ll keep you posted on any future writing plans come January with my final Waking the Woman post.
So, I made it through my son’s college graduation, moving him home, figuring out where to fit all the stuff that got moved home, purging/cleaning/organizing the basement so we could have a graduation celebration at home, planning/coordinating all that goes into a party, setting up/decorating for the party, the actual party and all that goes into the day of a party, and of course the clean up after the party.
The clean up alone took an entire day because we set up throughout the house to accommodate moving people inside if the threat of severe storms came to fruition. It didn’t, but it was very hot, so I was grateful the option to move inside was available and because of the extra effort to decorate the entire house, the ambiance was festive everywhere in the house.
I was so busy with all of this though, I didn’t even have time to write a post last month. That’s the first time ever in the 8 years I’ve been blogging I didn’t even post just a mini-post stating what was up. I just didn’t have the energy to do so, mentally and physically I was spent.
Added to all of this, the week after the party, my Son was in a car accident en route to taking his girlfriend back home. They were both fine, thank God, but this happened out of state, which added to the complexity of the situation, especially when the car started to overheat when my Son started to drive home.
I won’t get into the details, except to say my Son was stuck out of state for a week until I could coordinate ways to get him and the car back home. Now we’re at the mercy of the supply chain waiting on parts to fix the car.
To say I was moving at full-throttle for month’s between home and work is an understatement, but I kept reminding myself once I got to the other side of the party I’d have some downtime. For me however, downtime just means no extra stuff beyond the normal day-to-day, and week-to-week stuff.
As I’ve noted, I tend to thrive on being busy, and love the feeling crossing stuff off my to do list gives me. BUT, the older I get, and the more I fantasize about retirement, the more I realize that there has to be more to my days than tasks, especially with my day job is gearing back up to pre-COVID shutdown pace, with regular over-time.
The busier I am at work, the more I see the need for me to lighten up at home, but that in itself is a challenge when my brain is hardwired to “be busy.” I know I’ve written about this in the past, and the fact that I’m once again circling back to the subject, just means I haven’t been very successful at “lightening up” on the TO DO List.
“Stop the glorification of busy. Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. It is OKAY to not be busy. Repeat this with me: It is OKAY to not be busy.” – Joshua Becker
When I saw this quote on Facebook, it hit me like a lightening rod. I knew the Universe was trying to make a point. A point I was very aware of, but obviously needed to be reminded of.
BUT, trying to reprogram my brain in my early 60’s is not going to be a simple task.
Normally I at least have our Summer Vacation to shutdown, and recharge, but this year we don’t have a real vacation or even a mini-vacation planned. Partly because I was so busy with other stuff I had no time to think about it. But, also because my Son’s post graduation plans where up in the air. I didn’t want to plan something only to find out he couldn’t go because he was starting a new job or even moving.
Vacation truly slows me down for a while beyond the actual excursion because I tend to try to bask in the “vacation chill mode” as long as I possibly can after I’m home. As I like to say “I’m trying to hang on to my vacation shine.”
I can honestly say I’m usually pretty successful with this, for at least a couple weeks, but with no real break on the horizon, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve even just a minimal “vacation chill mode” if I don’t leave home for even just a long weekend.
Being away from home, even if just for a short time, allows me to disconnect from the day-to-day tasks at hand because of course I’m not at home with the stuff that needs to be done staring me down. Granted it will still be there when I get home, but the break, no matter how short, can usually be enough for me to lighten up on when and how soon a task gets done.
With that said, although my Son’s post-college plans are still somewhat up in the air, I do know he’ll be home for a little while longer and have decided I need to find a way to take a mini-escape, if not in August, then September. I’ve been contemplating this idea for a week or two, but confirmed it has to happen when I read today’s Touched by an Angel Calendar Quote “People don’t always have to be busy. Sometimes they should just sit back and enjoy the peace.”
To say the Universe is trying to tell me something is an understatement.
Of course this means I have something to add to my To Do List, figuring out the when and where to escape to, but it’s something fun to look forward to, and is a means to an end. Just knowing I’ve made the decision to do this helps with me learning how to lighten up on the business that has become my life.
When I was younger, I was not as hardwired with the “be busy” mentality, I most certainly took more time to play. It’s something that developed the older I got, especially when I became a single parent, doing double duty was the norm.
Now however my Son is grown, and while he’s home can be more helpful around the house. It’s just a matter of figuring out where he can be of the most help and learning to relinquish the reigns, which is easier said than done, when it’s been all me all this time. Basically I’m on autopilot most of the time, and have to learn to stop myself and allow someone else to step in.
We have had discussions about my Son helping more, and he is all in. He knows one day he’ll be on his own, and learning to be self-sufficient is a must.
Since I’ve been doing more OT, I told him helping with dinner is the key spot where I can use assistance. He helps with clean up, but I mean learning how to actually cook, not just throw frozen food in the oven. After all, his Father was a Chef; he’s got to have some cooking skills in his gene pool, right?
I know I have a long way to go when it comes to learning to “lighten up” on my To DO List, but acknowledging I need to and the Universe reinforcing it, opens the door for it to actually come to fruition.
And, acknowledging I could use a little help even with just the day-to-day is a step in the right direction. Granted it’s a baby step, but that’s the only way to start with a change this big.
Every day is filled with a lot of the same old, same old, but it also holds the possibility of some uncertainty.
There are things that could transpire on any given day, at any given time, that are out of our control, like you discover you have no hot water when you go to take a shower or get caught up in traffic backup en route to work which makes you late or a co-worker calls in sick which throws your work day out of whack.
Of course, all of these can be a nuisance and very frustrating, but some how we adjust and move forward. Trying not to let it cause a major hiccup in our day, week or even month for that matter. Every day uncertainties are just part of life. We learn to accept such events, and move forward.
And we most certainly shouldn’t spend time contemplating “what could happen” because that would just drain our energy reserves and make us useless.
There are however uncertainties that we do contemplate, and with my Son graduating from college this month, those are the ones circulating through both of our thoughts, which at times can create great anxiety, or at best distract us from the tasks at hand.
First, there are simple things, like where we should go to lunch after graduation, and when are we moving him home. These uncertainties are only uncertain because of indecisiveness, which when pushed, should be resolved. Frustrating yes, but not enough to cause major anxiety, just enough to cause distraction from the day-to-day tasks until resolved.
Then there are the major uncertainties, like what is my Son going to do once he graduates from college?
Some kids have it all figured out and know exactly where they want to head, especially if it’s grad school. While others want to just pause, clear their head and really take the time to plan, research and then hit the pavement for the career of their dreams.
My Son is somewhere in between these two, which is OK too, but I do believe fear of the unknown is what has at times put him into a state of paralysis which obviously gets him nowhere as far as contemplating his future.
Trust me, I get it. I was beyond scared when I graduated from art school. I also found out quickly getting a job as a graphic designer right out of art school was not an easy feat. I’d hear way too often, your portfolio is good, but you have no experience.
Of course I’m thinking how do I get experience if no one will hire me?
I realized quickly that I’d have to find a way in via another avenue, which in my case became that of a mechanical artist, which before computers was the person who did all the pre-press work by hand. I won’t get into details, but it was tedious work, which involved paying attention to a lot of detail because if you didn’t the job wouldn’t print correctly.
Regardless of how I felt about doing this work instead of design didn’t matter. What really mattered was this was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and hope somewhere along the way someone in a higher ranking position saw my potential and gave me a chance to prove I could actually be creative too.
Fortunately this route did work, eventually working may way up to an associate designer at the largest advertising agency South of New York, at the time, Earle Palmer Brown in Bethesda, MD, which in turned opened the door to full designer opportunities.
I mention this because trying to convince my Son that he may have to take a similar route in order to reach his dream job of a world builder with a conceptual team for a game design company is hitting some roadblocks.
My Son has the perfect way to possibly get in with a game design company via that of sound and music editing because he took the specific classes necessary to be certified in a program that is used in the industry. When we’ve talked about this prospect, he seemed to agree that this was a very viable route.
When we last spoke about this in March though, he had started to change his tune. He stated he was actually considering just applying for the position he wants, despite not having a portfolio of valid writing work even with me reinforcing what I went through right out of college. I don’t know if it’s because he can’t see the parallels or if it’s a bit of self-sabotage because his fear of the unknown has him back peddling in pursuit of his dream job.
OR, none of the above.
He may just be so overwhelmed at the prospect of what comes next that he’s just not thinking straight.
Based on the fact that I know he is afraid of what comes after college, I’m leaning towards the concept that he’s just overwhelmed and not thinking straight. Which is actually good, because that means once he’s home and has time to decompress, I’ll have an opportunity to talk some sense into him and hopefully prevent him from becoming frustrated and giving up, which is the most common form of fatigue in any ones job search.
Hearing no too many times is enough to kill your mojo and question whether going to college was even worth it. I most certainly don’t want to see this happen with my Son, because I know he’s very capable of being a great creative force in the world of gaming.
From a very young age I thought he’d end up in film or theater because of his amazing storytelling skills. But as he grew, his interests meandered to the world of gaming, and despite my fears of how consumed he became, with time I realized that this too is a very valid form of entertainment.
AND, indeed takes someone just like him to create the worlds these games are played in. In actuality, creating and producing a game is very much like the process involved in the film industry, and takes just as many people to make it come to fruition.
So, when it came to selecting his course of study for college, game development became number one. This enabled him to marry his love of gaming with computer science, and learn the skills that would actually make him marketable in the gaming world.
Now, here we are, at the point where this concept will be truly tested, graduation and the pursuit of his dream job.
Graduation is 14 days away, and in speaking with my Son yesterday, I can say I was extremely happy to hear that despite the crunch with final projects and final exams, he has been giving his future a lot of serious insightful thought.
He has already started to investigate entry-level positions in the gaming world, and is even thinking out of the box in regards to possibilities. Like working with a company that works with collegiate E-Sports teams, which he was part of all through college. Collegiate E-Sports is still in its infancy, and although this isn’t where he’d want to stay, he would be connected to the industry in a lateral way and use it as a means to make contacts.
Heck, he’s even considered looking into what’s available in the world of board games. Especially games like Dungeons and Dragons, which just like video games, need a world to be created to play within.
I can honestly say I stood in awe of my Son as he spoke yesterday. And although there is still a ton of uncertainty regarding his future, I know he’s got it under control, to a point, and is keeping his options wide open, and very willing to consider any opportunity that could eventually get him into his dream job, no matter how long that might take.
Now though, the focus is on wrapping up his Senior year, getting his diploma, and then taking a little time to decompress and recharge so he’s fully fueled up, ready to face his unknown future with certainty that he’s got what it takes to make his dreams come true.
Stay tuned for updates in future posts regarding not only my Son’s pursuit of his dream job, but my adjustments to having a college graduate back home.
The reality of the possibility of a very empty nest is quickly sinking in since my Son went back to school for the Spring Semester of his Senior year.
Granted, my Son doesn’t have a job lined up post graduation, or any prospects that I know of, just yet, but considering his major is video game design, I’m well aware that jobs in that field don’t exist in the area we live. So sticking around home post graduation for an extended period of time doesn’t seem like a possibility.
In addition, his girlfriend and he are getting pretty serious and she may be going to law school post graduation, which means he may very well consider employment near wherever she lands.
I’ve been working on adjusting to my Son getting serious about a girl after not really dating through high school and the first three years of college. As a single mom with only one child, to say this takes some getting use to is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for my Son. It’s wonderful to see how happy he is with her. Plus, she’s not only a sweetheart of a girl, she’s also very ambitious and driven, which has been a positive influence on my Son.
BUT, having both the prospect of my Son really moving away from home, and a serious relationship running parallel is a lot for me digest at once, especially because the relationship itself is still very much new, having just gotten serious in August. The two have been friends since Freshman year, never revealing feelings for each other until the start of this school year, so to say it came out of nowhere is an understatement.
I knew the day would come, but I figured I would have a bit more warning.
With that said, we are here now, and with each passing day, I find myself bouncing between I’m good, to I’m feeling lonely and maybe I should get a dog. I honestly never thought I’d feel lonely, especially because between working full time, working on establishing my chalk art business, creating new chalk art, writing this blog, and all that goes into owning a home and daily chores, I have plenty to keep me busy and take my mind off the empty house.
BUT, some days it just feels extremely empty.
The irony is I’m actually quite content being by myself, and am basically more of an introvert than extrovert, and although the first semester of my Son’s Freshman year challenged me, as I expected, I actually began to get comfortable with everything. So why I’m going in and out of a funk now is a bit confusing for me.
I’m sure a lot of this ties to the fact that it’s Winter so I’m not out socializing with neighbors like I do during warmer weather. PLUS, because of the pandemic, my Son was home with me taking classes remotely from March of 2020 to August of 2021 when he started his Senior year. AND, during the Fall semester he and his girlfriend visited at least 3 times, and then he was home on Winter break from Thanksgiving till January 23rd, and during that time his girlfriend spent 3 weeks with us, so I had more company than I’m use to and loved it.
Needless to say I got very comfortable with having my Son home and really enjoyed when his girlfriend was there too. It was nice to have company for dinner every night and even hangout and watch TV with them sometimes.
The bottom line, it gave me purpose, I felt needed. The older my Son gets the less he needs me, and with a girlfriend to discuss problems with, I’m certainly not the first one he contacts any more. Which once again is a good thing, but to have it happen sort of all of a sudden, out of nowhere, is harder to adjust to than anticipated.
Now of course, having a child need you less as they get older is a natural progression, but because of how things have been since COVID my presence in my Son’s life was a bit more prominent for a bit longer, which is most certainly why I’m feeling this transition even more. Had my Son’s college years been “normal” I may not be feeling the emptiness as much. The transition would have been more gradual and I could have worked through these emotions each year leading up to graduation.
BUT, that’s not the case at all. The growth that started was stalled, and put on hold, sort off. Now however, I’m being thrown in the deep end so to speak, and trying keep my head above water.
With Spring and warmer weather not far off, I’m hopeful this will help shake that funky lonely feeling looming in my soul sometimes. Most of the time I’m pretty good, but every once in awhile, the emptiness of the house just really hits me regardless of how busy I keep myself. I know I’ll get past this, but until then I need to honor my emotions for what they are, growing pains.
Just as my Son is spreading his wings and learning to fly solo, I too need to learn to be more than my Son’s Mom. I need to rediscover me. Rediscover the woman I was before becoming a Mom. Which ironically is why I started to write this blog when he went off to college. And although I have had some growth, I’m now realizing I still have a way to go yet.
Discovering the chalk art has been wonderful for my creative growth, which in turn helps my soul growth, but that’s only part of “growth beyond parenting.” There’s certainly more growing than I ever considered when I stepped into this adventure I endearingly called “Waking the Woman”
Change is never an easy thing, but it is necessary for any real growth, and I’m guessing based on the loneliness I’m feeling at times I’ve been avoiding some aspects of me that need to change in order to get over this hurdle. What, I’m not sure of though.
As I have noted in past posts, I’m very good at filling my days with tasks. Some fun, some just every day stuff. Basing my personal fulfillment on how much I’ve accomplished. While this certainly helps me cover a lot of ground in a day, which was critical during my heavy-duty single parenting days, I’m now realizing, this behavior is enabling me, allowing me to avoid dealing with what’s going on inside or even keeping me from allowing myself time to “play.”
Not any more though, although the busyness does help most of the time, it doesn’t seem to be working that well any more, if it did I wouldn’t be writing this post.
SO, is the universe trying to tell me it’s not just about the very empty nest?
Could it also be about getting older and all that goes with aging, especially after the health issues I faced in 2021?
OR, could it be about learning how to lighten my to do list so I have more time to “play?”
OR, could it be I may not want to head into my Senior years alone?
OR, is it all of the above backing me into a corner now that I don’t have the serious distraction of parenting dominating my time?
I’m guessing it’s most definitely all of the above, which makes my journey of rediscovery even more interesting. Not sure I’m ready for that much discovery just yet, but I don’t think I have any say in this journey any more – the universe is in control.
Trying to stay positive can be quite the challenge with the pandemic still looming and the media trying to poison our thoughts every day with constant negativity. Yes, you can try to block it all out, but it’s not that simple. With technology what it is, we’re bombarded from all sides with news feed.
AND, that news feed is generally far from inspiring and uplifting.
BUT, by chance one day while scrolling through Facebook I came across the “Imagine Peace” page, which as a John Lennon fan instantly intrigued me, so I checked it out. It’s a simple site with retro images and artwork all promoting peace and harmony. I thought how wonderfully inspiring and uplifting, and decided to follow the page.
Not soon after that, the “Hippie State of Mind” page popped into my Facebook feed and upon checking that page out discovered a site similar to “Imagine Peace” with retro images and artwork, but their messages extend even further than peace and harmony. They touch on your overall mental state and well being from a “Hippie State of Mind.”
After discovering these two sites, I knew I was onto something that could truly help me attempt to attain a positive state of mind in a world full of turmoil and stress.
Since starting to follow these 2 pages, as is normal with the “Big Brother Watching You” Practices of Facebook, I continue to get more and more pages of similar content popping up. Although I’m not thrilled with Facebook tracking me, I do rather enjoy all the upbeat, positive and inspirational quotes with beautiful and retro images surfacing in my feed.
AND, it is because of this; I am working on retaining a “Hippie State of Mind” in 2022 and beyond. Maybe it’s because I turned 60 last year, and am a child of the 60’s and 70’s, or maybe it’s just because like most everyone else, I’m exhausted by how draining the world around me can be. The idea of living in a shack in the middle of nowhere with no TV, phone or Internet sounds extremely appealing some days.
In reality, I know physically running away is not an option, but that doesn’t mean I can’t mentally and emotionally, which in turn will most certainly help my physical health too.
Peace, Love, Harmony, Hope and Kindness are the traits that are fluid with the “Hippie State of Mind.”
All of which help to keep a happy, upbeat and positive state of mind, so, I’m working on keeping this upbeat and positive energy in the flow of my every day, regardless of what I’m confronted with. Granted, prior to this, in general I feel I’ve always tried to live by this type of mentality, but when confronted with situations that test this energy, I haven’t always stayed true to it and let the negativity rule and bring me down.
BUT now, I’m trying to pause when I feel my energy shifting, and remind myself of the importance on hanging onto my “Hippie State of Mind.”
Does this sound like I’m attempting to look at life through rose-colored glasses? Maybe, but with the state of the world right now I think those rose-colored glasses could be very helpful on those challenging days.
PLUS, if you look back at the state of the world that gave birth to the “Hippie State of Mind” to a point we’re not that far off, and if more people tried to adapt this mentality, we might just lay the ground work for a complete energy shift around the world.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
SO, with that said, if you’re up to it, why don’t you join me on this new adventure for 2022 and beyond, and see if we can shift the negative energy surrounding us to uplifting and positive.
I know it won’t be easy, especially for those who are facing great challenges. BUT, if you start out small, like seeking only positive sites to follow like I noted above, the info you see swirling around you will slowly shift to positive, and hopefully override the massive amounts of negativity trying to take hold.
In the immortal words of John Lennon “Imagine all the people livin’ life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one”
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” —Dr. Seuss
And here we are again, at the dawning of a NEW YEAR.
How can that possibly be?
Where did 2021 go to?
It feels like time passes much to quickly every year, especially the older I get.
AND, this time of year, time passes at warp speed, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all the extra tasks at hand, this year even more so. I’ve never felt a holiday season feel so compressed before. No sooner did Advent start it was Christmas Day.
Granted, I know it’s because Christmas fell on a Saturday, and like most people, I calculate my time available by the weekends available, so when Christmas falls on a weekend, technically you loose a weekend of time for the tasks at hand.
AND, had I been able to get an earlier start on things time would not have been chasing me down the closer Christmas got. BUT, dealing with health issues from mid-October into November certainly didn’t help with my time management. It did however force me to get a little creative with what time I had, and what I thought I was capable of achieving.
It also made me decide, I get done what I get done. If something doesn’t happen it’s not the end of the world. Did I still try to accomplish all that I had hoped to? Of course, but I didn’t chastise myself if I didn’t. That’s a huge accomplishment for me.
“Own time, or time will own you.” — Brian Norgard
In general, when it comes to weekends, I feel like there never seems to be enough time in the day to complete all the things I hope to accomplish. Maybe it’s just because I’m not moving at the same pace as I used to, or it could be because I tend to create lists that not even someone half my age could accomplish, given the time at hand.
You’d think by now I’d start to create more realistic lists instead of challenging myself with a mountain to climb and no hiking boots. Maybe my New Years resolution should be to do just that?
“We go back and forth between being time’s master and its victim.” — James Gleick
I’ve always been a list maker, and find great pleasure in crossing things off my to do list. I know that being this way is what helped me make it as a single parent. My lists were (and still are) my saving grace, especially when my Son got more involved with extra-curricular activities.
BUT, now that my Son is in college, and I hit 60 and am eying retirement, despite the goal I have set regarding establishing a chalk art merchandise business, I need to learn to be a little lighter on the to do list, and include a little more play time.
“As time goes by, you seem to weed out the things that were making your life hard.” — Tom Petty
NOW, a lot of the extra stuff on my lists is because of my goal of establishing a side business to allow me to retire with a cushion, but even with that, I have to start giving myself a break. I feel like I honestly don’t know how to just chill, unless all my tasks for the day are done, and that just never really happens. I technically just call it a day when it gets to be late and I need to get dinner.
I do take time to exercise, either bike riding or walking, and of course to do my chalk art, but other than that it’s chores or business related stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy some of the chores, and am inspired when pursuing the business related stuff, but my Son is a gamer, and I just couldn’t imagine sitting at a computer for hours gaming, to me that’s just wasted time.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” — John Lennon
SO, how the hell do I find a happy medium between Type A List Oriented Mentality and Sit Around and Game All Day Mentality?
Granted, for my Son, gaming is a form of entertainment and relaxation, and as a college-student who’s majoring in game design, I get that this is what he fills his free time with. BUT, it seems to take precedence over things that need to get done beyond schoolwork.
I just can’t do that with anything. I fantasize about spending an afternoon reading or watching an old movie or binging some show, but I just can’t get myself to do that unless I’m not feeling well.
If I don’t schedule my walk, bike ride or chalk art into my day, it won’t happen.
Now of course my Son is still in college and unencumbered by the chores/tasks involved with the world of a work full-time, homeowner, grown-up, but I know my Task Master mentality is not that of every grown-up.
I tell myself when I’m retired I’ll have more time to play, but in reality if I don’t learn to lighten up now, I’m quite sure I’ll still be filling my retired days with more tasks than play.
“The way we spend our time defines who we are.” — Jonathan Estrin
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish beyond every day tasks because of my time-management, and I’m grateful I actually have that skill set, but when I’m so consumed with doing that just being falls by the way side, I know something has to give.
Add to it, I am slowing down, and have to learn to accept that it’s OK to take longer to climb the mountain. AND, honor the fact that I’ve earned more down time. It’s the down time I need to refuel for that climbing, and that will help inspire me for more playful pursuits.
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” — Napoleon Hill
Of course this quote is in reference to pursuing your dreams, which ironically I have used to inspire me to keep pushing, but where I stand now, I feel it’s a reflection of the fact that I need more balance between pushing and playing. AND, no matter how hard that may be for me, I know that needs to be a “goal” for me in the New Year. Especially with all the past 2 years have dumped on the world.
SO, with that said –
I hope you all have a very happy, healthy, and “time” balanced 2022.
AND – REMEMBER – “There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” — Leo Christopher
With my Son away at college for his Senior Year, and my free time dedicated to getting my chalk art business off the ground, my mind has been wondering to the great, big world of retirement a lot. I still have about 5 years till I can really step into that stage of my life, but I can tell you I am most certainly looking forward to the days when I only have to answer to me. AND, I control what I will do every day, not just in the evenings and weekends.
I will be at my present job 20 years the end of this year, and although I’m quite content in my position, and appreciate the perks that come with working for a small business, I’m beyond ready for my retirement years. In all honesty, if not for the chalk art that came out of COVID quarantine, I don’t think I could realistically be considering retirement before at least 67 because I know I need a back up kitty in addition to IRA’s and Social Security.
Originally I was hoping to monetize this blog, but as I also discovered during COVID quarantine, is not a simple task. Especially when my content is a bit too esoteric to pin down followers, let alone businesses that would want to advertise on the site. When people started to ask about merchandise with the chalk art on it, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I realized though it just might be a great replacement plan and started to focus all my energy on looking into how to create a merchandise business.
AND, here I am, a year and half later on the precipice of opening an online store. The closer I get to this reality, the more excited I get for the prospect of actually being able to seriously start to plan for retirement. Retirement before 67. I don’t need a fortune as back up, just enough to supplement, and if I can get a jump-start on that I can also jump start my retirement.
As I pondered this next phase of my life, it dawned on me that I’m heading into Act 3 of my story and my Son is on the doorstep of his Act 1.
Yes, he’s 21 years old, but everything that has transpired in his life up to this point is actually a Prequel, leading into his Act 1. After he graduates from college he’s officially an “adult” stepping into the great, big grown up world of working full-time, pursuing his dream job and living on his own at some point. And all that goes with branching into being your own person separate from your parents.
Two vastly different stages for sure.
For me it’s about the stage in my life when I can work less, and play more. About having more time for me to do the things that bring me great joy, like my chalk art. About more freedom in how I spend every day. About actually having time to spend with family and friends and not having to schedule time months in advance. About actually finishing unfinished projects. AND, maybe even changing things up in my house, even if it’s just a new coat of paint.
But for my Son, it will be about working more, and playing less. About learning how to structure his day to allow time for play. About taking on the responsibilities of having a place of his own. About learning to be fiscally sound because there are now bills to pay. About balancing work, home and play.
Sure he’s been working on some of this, sort of, all through college, but he’s also had a lot of luxuries, like a meal plan. That certainly won’t exist any more, and learning how to not spend your paycheck on carry out and actually buying food and cooking can be a real challenge when you’re first starting out on your own.
The more I pondered all of this, the more I realized although my Son and I are at two very different stages in our lives, they are also very similar. We are both stepping into the beginning of the next phase of our lives. Extremely exciting and scary at the same time. So much unknown, but we will have each other as support as we venture forth.
I’ve seen a lot of growth in my Son this school year, I think living in an apartment and having a girlfriend has helped with this. So although I still worry about how he’ll do on his own, if he comes to me for advice now, I know he will still after he graduates and eventually lives on his own. This alone gives me a little peace of mind.
As for me, starting a small online business is something I never would have considered, but my Son encouraged me to do so. And, because he has a better grasp of social media he has become a bit of an advisor when it comes to reaching a broader audience than my Facebook world.
SO, before we take the leap into our next act, we will continue to bounce things off each other. Just knowing we have each other’s back is a means to making sure we each succeed. AND, realizing just how similar our paths truly are, makes it even more special.
A Mother and Son stepping into the great unknown together.
Me Act 3 and He Act 1, both a new beginning with amazing possibilities.
So I thought I’d be writing about dealing with an empty nest again after having my Son home from college for almost a year and a half, March of 2020 to August of 2021, BUT, although I had a very emotional day the day after I took him back, I’m doing better than I thought.
Could be because this year, his Senior year, he’s actually living in suite-style housing, not a standard dorm. AND, once we moved him in, we discovered things that worked in the dorms won’t work in the “apartment” which meant Mom had to do a little shopping and got to go back the following weekend to get him completely set up.
SO, I was able to ease my empty nest heartache with another campus visit.
PLUS, as can be expected when living in an “apartment” some drama is to be had. Unfortunately for my Son, it turned into major drama, which means he’s been communicating with me more, AND, even came home over Labor Day weekend.
SO, I’ve actually seen him 4 weekends since he’s gone because he had to come home once again to pick up a new desk chair for his room.
All this helps fill my empty nest void, but the “apartment drama” my Son has endured is upsetting to me not just because he’s my child and I hate to see him upset. BUT also because it’s his Senior year. This year matters the most on many levels, the most important being acing the schoolwork so he can secure a good job when he graduates. I fear that all the nonsense he has been dealing with will impede his path to fulfill his dreams of being a professional game designer.
Needless to say I have given a lot of council to him and have noted I will step in if the issue doesn’t get resolved soon, and I’m trying hard to respect his desire to “handle” it. As a Mom who has had to step in over the years this isn’t that easy. Not that I’m a “Beverly Goldberg” smothering type of Mom, but when my Son was younger I had to be his advocate on many occasions to see that he didn’t get “screwed” or come to his defense when it was most certainly needed.
This situation though is a bit different because my Son is somewhat at fault because he trusted someone he thought was a friend and neglected to ask any questions. SO, despite my desire to want to pick up the phone or just show up on campus, I am trying hard to sit tight in hopes that my Son can “handle” this and resolve the mess that was created by the lack of communication and a sincere trust that he was being told the truth.
As most of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives, these young college students are dealing with a “guest” who has over stayed their welcome and won’t leave. What was meant to be a couple days as a favor to someone they thought was a friend has turned into weeks with a jerk of guy who has no respect for anyone’s personal space.
What makes the matter worse, the “guest” graduated last year and is dating one of the roommates.
The situation amplified, because as time went by, more and more of the truth came out. The biggest discovery was the need for a temporary place to crash till the “guest” got housing was really all a rouse to shack up with his girlfriend. The guy’s family actually lives near by, and even if he got the job at the school he was going on and on and on about getting, he still would not have gotten housing supplied because he lived near by.
Add to it, they also found out he was told this well before he even hustled his way into the apartment. SO, he’d been lying from the start and manipulated my Son and the other roommate. This just infuriates me because had my Son mentioned the guy was dating one of the roommates I would have advised against it. BUT I was not consulted. I was just told he’d be there for a few nights so it would be OK
Trust is a good thing, but sometimes one must be weary of those we think are a friend, but may not know that well, especially after not being on campus for over a year.
To say my Son and the other roommate were up in arms about this is an understatement, but it’s a not a simple fix because of how long it’s gone on. My Son still insists he will resolve it and I need to stand down. Which I am, no matter how much I just wanted to go to the campus and haul that guys butt out of the apartment. (He’s a big guy though so I would need back up.)
Learning to step back and let my Son “handle” this has been extremely hard because of the gravity of the situation and the impact it could have on his future. BUT, I also know now that he is 21, and will one day in the not so distant future be out in the great big world on his own, he needs to be able to handle any situation that could be thrown at him or that he may unwittingly get himself in.
SO, despite my desire to step in and put an end to this mess, I know the only way my Son will really grow up and mature is to stand on his own two feet and accept the consequences of his actions. Which I’ve hoped and prayed won’t impact his education or health because of the stress the situation has put on him
I admire his determination to resolve this, and not get help from Mom, but I most certainly worry. Which as a Mom just comes naturally.
Stepping back to let your child fly on their own, is not for the faint of heart. I have been slowly loosening the tether since my Son was in high school, but to know I need to really let go some day soon is not something I’m sure I’m ready for, no matter how much I know I must. Something tells me my empty nest syndrome will be nothing compared to the day my Son actually moves out to officially live on his own and start the next phase of his grown-up adventure.
What I do know though, is if my Son comes to me for advice, that means I must have done something right. He trusts my judgement and respects me as not just his Mom, but as an adult who has experienced more in life than he has, and acknowledges I might just know more about some things. Which ultimately means he has matured.
And it’s only with maturity that I will feel better when he does officially leave the nest.
I questioned a lot when my Son was adamant about handling this situation himself, especially because of how upset, and even angry he was getting the longer it went on. It’s not easy to think clearly when youremotionsget in the way, and this concerned me, but my Son was playing the waiting game, just waiting for the right moment to approach the guy.
Fortunately the waiting game paid off. My Son had mentioned the school enacted a New Guest Policy due to the continuing pandemic and he thought that may be the perfect way to get their freeloading guest out.
Turns out he was right. He mentioned this to the roommate who is dating the “guest,” and she in turn mentioned it to him. And by later in the day he was gone, a win-win for all of them.
The school policy became the bad guy and saved them from dealing with any resentful behavior on the part of the “guest” who wouldn’t leave.
Seeing how he handled the “guest” issue is evident of the fact that my Son is maturing. By thinking things through before acting, and taking the time to formulate a plan and not just react, he became the adult in the room, which I am very grateful for. When he starts to apply this thought process to all areas of his life, like how he budgets his time and money, I’ll know he’s made the leap into actually being an “adult” and won’t worry so much.
Until then, I will do my best to step back and not step in or give advice unless asked. After all, the only way he’ll truly grow up is by handling his own stuff as we all had to do at some point in our lives.
Logically it would make sense to honor each sister in the order of their birth, but because Helen, my Mother, would have turned 100 this month I decided to start with her, even though she is the middle sister.
Helen and her Sisters, Kassie, Mable, Betty and Mickey were as thick as thieves as the expression goes. Even with a huge age gap between them.
Kassie, the oldest, born in 1911, and Mabel, the second oldest, in 1912, were 9 and 8 when Helen was born in 1920.
Then there was a gap of 6 years until Betty was born in 1926, and Mickey 2 years later in 1928. So Kassie and Mabel were teenagers by the time the youngest two sisters were born.
The older siblings always helped with the younger siblings, but there was no resentment. The love they had for each other was too strong. And this love grew even stronger as the sisters aged and ventured out on their own journeys. Their bond was stronger than any I have ever seen.
As individuals they were unique in their own right, paving their own paths, but united by the belief of kindness and compassion for all, something that came naturally for all of them. And something they saw first hand in their home growing up.
The story surrounding Helen’s birth is one that has become cemented in family history, and can even be considered legendary.
As the story goes, when Sallie, Helen’s Mother went into labor, her father David noted “But Sallie there are no fresh baked goods in the house.”
SO, before giving birth Sallie made sure to baked 12 small shoofly pies so David’s sweet tooth would be satisfied while she tended to the new infant in the house.
This in itself isn’t what makes the story legendary, the fact that Helen became an amazing baker in her own right proved it was in her genes from birth, and as my sister noted she was “Born to Bake.”
Of course her first teacher was her Mother Sallie, teaching her all the traditional foods unique to their PA German heritage, like shoofly pie, fastnachts, whoopie pies, apple dumplings, Moravian sugar cake, strudel, and sugar cookies (both the thin cut ones and the thick ones with icing.)
Over the years though, Helen would expand her baking skills beyond that, learning traditional foods of her husbands’ Slovak heritage like kiffle and nutroll, and experimenting with her own ideas, often entering baking contests. Unfortunately she never won though, why I’ll never figure out.
Helen was also a fantastic cook, mastering cuisine from both cultures, especially with traditional foods of the Easter and Christmas holidays, like cirak (homemade cheese) at Easter; and bobalky (poppyseed dumplings), noodles with cottage cheese and lekvaur and sour mushroom soup (machanka) at Christmas.
Plus, there were dishes not related to holidays like halupki (filled cabbage) and huluski ka pusta (cabbage and noodles), plus homemade pizza. Helen mastered the perfect thin crust and no chain restaurant or manufacturer will ever match it. Plus her homemade bread was better than any bakery.
Some of the holiday dishes are still continued in our family, which is all due to Helen’s intense desire to keep traditions alive.
Family heritage and traditions meant a lot to Helen, and she instilled the rich history of both cultures into her children, who in turn continue to share these traditions with their children.
Helen’s PA German heritage wasn’t just about food though, it was also about faith. She was raised Dunkard Brethren, which is similar to the Mennonite and Amish, and classified as Anabaptist. They don’t believe in baptism at birth, but when the individual is old enough to understand the teachings of the Bible and accept them. If a child was baptized at birth, they would be baptized again. Their baptisms took place in a body of water, not in the church.
Which is just how Helen was baptized, in a creek near their church by Reverend Harry France. As Helen told the story, after the baptism she asked the Reverend if he was Jesus. His response “No, but I work for his office.”
Clever comeback for a man of the cloth, don’t you think?
Helen took her faith very seriously, and it is what carried her through every challenge she faced through out her life. One of her most popular words of advice was “Put it in God’s hands.”
At her core was an unbreakable belief that the Lord will always see you through, and that with every challenge is a lesson to learn or stage of development to reach. You might not see it right away, but with time it will come to you. You just need to pause, ponder, and pray, “putting it in God’s hands.”
Then, put it aside, and patiently wait. As they say patience is a virtue and this is something Helen mastered at an early age.
From all accounts, Helen had a pretty normal childhood. She was somewhat quiet, and spent a lot of time with her grandfather Jonathan at his bike repair shop. He was her buddy.
She often spoke of a sledding accident, which caused her to loose a few teeth, and left a scare on her cheek. It occurred on a Saturday and when she wanted to stay home from church on Sunday her Mother Sallie stated, “If you had time for sledding, you have time for the Lord.”
Sallie was tough; there was no getting around her. Her word was the be all and end all.
Helen also noted she was called “Little Fat Hellie” because she was chubby as a kid, and had a sweet tooth. Who wouldn’t with a Mom who was a baker?
As Helen hit her teens though that nickname was far behind her. She got involved in sports and cheerleading. Playing basketball and teaching herself how to play tennis with a racket she bought for .25¢. She was also an avid ice skater.
She was a determined young woman, and didn’t let her humble home life stop her from exploring the world around her.
While in high school, Helen was also involved with a singing trio who sang radio commercials and even opened for the famous big band leader Kay Kyser. How she was able to do this with the strict rules of the church and her Mother, we’re still not sure. Must have been a covert operation on her part, although her cousin Vivian was part of the group too, so maybe that helped.
With a large extended family, Helen was very close to her cousins. The two that became her close buddies though were Harry and Charles Forry, sons of her Aunt Lizzie, who had 10 children. Both went to the Hershey Industrial School because their Father passed when they were young and it was too much for Lizzie to care for all of them. This of course broke her heart.
Later Harry and Charles became soldiers and fought in WWII. Harry was a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and was reported missing in Australia and ultimately declared dead on July 14, 1942, while Charles was captured by the Japanese and was a prisoner of war. Based on the story Helen told us, Charles escaped and even brought home kimonos he took en route to safety. Because of their bond, he gave two to Helen. My sister Pam has one, but where the other one is still a mystery.
Helen was a natural caregiver and it was this observation on her father David’s part that would land her at St. Luke’s Nursing School in Bethlehem after graduating from high school in 1938.
Helen would be the first Dechert Sister to leave her hometown of Myerstown to venture out beyond the comforts of her home to learn a trade.
And it was this decision that set in motion the true path Helen was born to take, that of a nurse. A profession that truly encompassed the person Helen was at her core; kind, compassionate, caring, helpful, loving, and trustworthy. If you were in need, Helen was there. She always put others first, no matter what her own personal circumstances were.
Helen started her career at St. Luke’s Hospital after graduation in 1941, working the ER, and becoming the Assistant Night Supervisor. While working one night, a handsome young man with coal black hair named Bill, brought an injured co-worker from the Bethlehem Steel in for care.
As the story goes, Bill took an instant liking to Helen commenting how beautiful she was, but added she needed to do something about taking care of her hands, which looked awful. He did however make sure to make note of her name and boldly called to apologize and ask her out on a date.
And, the decision to say, “Yes” to that date would change the course of Helen’s life. Having been offered a scholarship for Columbia University, Helen was seriously considering this opportunity to pursue a career as an obstetrician.
Not wanting to lose Helen, much to Helen’s surprise, Bill proposed. Upon popping the lid on the ring box, he said, “Well you love me, don’t you?”
And the truth was, Helen did love Bill, so she followed her heart and married Bill, never once looking back.
William (Bill) Henry Danko, and Helen were married on January 23, 1943 at the Rectory of St. Theresa’s Church followed by a reception at the Bethlehem Steel Sunshine Club in Hellertown, PA.
Early on in their marriage, Helen and Bill lived in an apartment in a building owned by Bill’s Mother Agnes. This situation as can be expected came with some challenges not just because Helen’s Mother-in-Law was the landlady, but because Agnes was not happy that her Son married a girl who was not Slovak or Catholic.
Helen did not let this get between her and Bill. Being the kind of person she was, she accepted Agnes for who she was, and understood it was part of her culture. Not that it didn’t hurt at times, especially when it came to the dislike of her PA German heritage.
Helen had already endured enough teasing and harassment about her PA German accent while in nursing school, she had hoped that discrimination would be behind her. Unfortunately it was not.
Helen knew she couldn’t change her heritage, but her religious affiliation she could.
At some point in their marriage though, Helen converted to Catholicism. This could have upset her Mother, but her response was “Well they’re good people too. They believe in Jesus Christ.”
Helen took her religious training seriously and became an active member of St. Theresa parish. Joining the guild, singing in the choir and making sure to contribute fresh baked goods for the guild bake sales. Once it got around what a phenomenal baker Helen was, parishioners would wait for her contribution so they could be the first to purchase them.
It wasn’t long after their marriage that Helen and Bill started a family. By December of 1943 their first child Carolann was born, with Georgene following 18 months later in 1945. Then Pamela in 1951 and Francine in 1956.
Much like Helen’s own family, there were age gaps between the children, but that didn’t impact the camaraderie between them.
Once children entered the picture, Helen left her job at St. Luke’s to become a full time Mom and housekeeper. Something she adored. Being a Mom took precedence over everything else.
Stopping housework to make oatmeal box houses for the girl’s dolls, or to have a picnic inside on a rainy day throwing a blanket on the living room floor and making peanut butter sandwiches with sprinkle sugar cut out with cookie cutters, or walking Carolann and Georgene to the Steel Club (miles away) for swimming lessons in the middle of doing laundry.
Agnes was not happy with Helen’s actions, she thought they were frivolous, but Helen and Bill knew the needs of the children where more important than any housework. The children would remember time spent with them, not how clean the house was.
Fortunately for Helen, she had also bonded with their neighbor Anna Killian and her husband Charlie. They would become a buffer for Helen when Agnes’ criticisms were too much to bear. They were also like surrogate Grandparents for the children.
Helen would also feed the hobos who would hang out at the picnic table in the back yard. As she told the girls, Christ is in everyone. As a matter of fact, Georgene even asked one of them if they were Jesus. Their response was “Hardly.”
Granted in these days, this would be quite dangerous, but back in the 40’s and 50’s it was a different world.
Although Helen and Bill’s apartment was not big, they made it work for their family. There was a decent size backyard where Bill built a sandbox for the girls, a large vegetable garden, and dog pen for Bill’s hunting dogs.
That sandbox was just a simple homemade one, with old coffee cans and muffins tins to play with, but the neighbor kids always ended up there, despite the fact that they had fantastic ones with fancy toys.
As my sister Pam has said, “Mom knew how to make the ordinary into something special.”
There was also a large basement that opened up into the backyard, which extended the girls play territory. Using the basement to perform plays, create an ice cream parlor, and of course celebrate birthdays.
The basement was also where Bill had his workbench where he created original furniture designs, and even had a dark room. Photography was one of Bill’s passions and he even had a little side business doing portraits.
Both Helen and Bill were very creative and playful and it showed in their style of parenting and how they approached the holidays, especially Christmas. It was most certainly a magical time.
Bill would create the most amazing Putz with real moss. It was so large it took over the living room in their small apartment. Staying up till the wee hours of the morning preparing stockings and gifts. One key feature was the Surprise Balls filled with little toys rolled up in paper that unraveled.
AND of course all the amazing baked goods created by Helen. Baked goods Helen had to be a “culinary sleuth” (as my sister Pam stated) to figure out because Agnes did not willingly reveal the recipes for the traditional Slovak dishes of the Christmas holiday.
There is also a story of one Christmas Eve when a woman and her baby showed up at the side door. She appeared to be in some sort of danger and it was believed she had gotten out of the car with her husband and somehow found the side door to the apartment. Bill took her somewhere, but where no one knows for sure.
The mysteriousness of the story, just added to the magic of the season, and further shows both Helen and Bill’s kindness toward their fellow man, which is why this story is still told today.
In 1958, Helen and Bill would find their emancipation from living in Agnes’ home when they built their own home in Bright Acres/Bingen, which was just outside of Hellertown.
This was an exciting time for the whole family, a place to finally call their own. Bill would plant a huge vegetable garden surrounded by raspberry and currant bushes, which Helen would use to create wonderful jelly and can and freeze their harvest.
As an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, Bill was in his element in this more rural setting and would decide to raise German Short Haired Pointers to be sold for hunting. He would also make his own lures for fishing and do custom designed carved gunstocks.
Helen would also learn how to prepare wild game and fresh fish. There is story that she even helped to gut a deer while she was pregnant.
Helen and Bill were green and sustainable before they were the trend. Starting a compost pile, and harvesting fresh organic produce and cooking from scratch, every day.
They would recycle everything they could, which back then took effort. Cans went one place and bottles went back to the beverage distributor.
Plastic baggies and aluminum foil were never used just once either. If they still had some life in them Helen would wash them out and dry them on the dish drainer. As Helen would say “This could come right handy in.” I have to confess I do this too. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
The neighborhood was the perfect place to raise a family too, all young families with children of similar ages. The women would gather for coffee klatches, often at Bill and Helen’s where they could enjoy Helen’s fresh baked goods.
AND, an Annual Halloween Parade was organized with reception and prizes to follow. The location was rotated through different households every year. A visit from Santa was also initiated with the Fathers taking turns to play Santa.
All this was done with donations from the neighborhood, each household rotating the chairperson duties each year.
When word got out that Helen was a nurse, she quickly became the nurse of the neighborhood. Never once hesitating when someone was in need.
In 1961 Helen and Bill would expand their family, with Mariann being born in March of that year, and then William, born in December of 1962.
Bill loved all his children, but was overjoyed to finally have a boy he could take hunting and fishing. He had always wanted a large family and hoped to one day have a boy.
In 1964 though, this happy household would be dealt the cruelest of fates. After a long battle with the Asian Flu, Bill would be diagnosed with colon cancer. On October 1st he would pass, leaving Helen a young widow with 4 children still at home.
Carolann had recently graduated from St. Luke’s Nursing School, and Georgene was a student at Kutztown University. Both moved home to help with the younger children; Pamela, 13, Francine 8, Mariann 3, and William (Billy) 18 months old.
Helen had to fall back on her faith and every deep reserve of strength she had to overcome her grief and focus on caring for the children.
Bill had no pension to draw on, but there was a small life insurance policy, plus, Bill had very wisely purchased Mortgage Insurance that insured the mortgage would be paid off when he died, thus providing a place for the family to live. This enabled Helen to stay home with the children for about a year and figure out where to go next.
First thing she had to tackle was learning to drive. One neighbor, Buddy Gress, was willing to help, but after neighbors started to talk, he had to step back. Helen would not only learn to drive, but also learn basic car maintenance because she learned early on no man in the neighborhood would help because their wives would not allow it.
It was sad that the neighbors she would drop everything for would turn away during her most desperate times.
Fortunately she had her sisters who were always there for her, Anna and Charlie, her friends from the old apartment and a fellow widow, Helen Barndt, who lived in neighborhood. These two would become close allies in their quest to overcome the heartache of grief and discrimination.
Throughout all of this though, Helen didn’t turn her back on her neighbors. It was not in her nature. She continued to be the kind, caring and compassionate woman she was before her loss.
Her children were her priority and she knew that neighborhood was where they needed to stay. After all it was the home she and Bill bought specifically to raise their family. And that was what she was going to do, no matter how many challenges she would face.
In July of 1966, Helen would embark on a new adventure that would ultimately help her heal and move forward. She took on the task of starting the first Health Service for students at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, which would later become DeSales University.
Over time she and her partner Jean Mauer developed a Health Service Department that lured other directors of health services from local colleges to come and tour their facility.
In the beginning she had to bring the two youngest children, Mariann and William (Billy) with her to work every day. As she told the school when she was interviewed, my family comes first.
The college community, staff and students, would become a second family for Helen. And she quickly became a second family for the students. Often bringing the extremely homesick students home for a home cooked meal. She knew the students needed more than medical care, they needed a listening ear, and someone who could “hear what they weren’t saying” as she put it.
In 1990, DeSales honored Helen with the DeSales Award, the highest non-academic honor awarded by the college to recipients who had given outstanding contributions to the development of the college through personal service. This was the first time it was ever given to an employee; it was usually presidents or monsignors.
As it was noted at the service “ Helen Danko is a living symbol of the humanity of this college. She is distinguished for the witness she gives in her life work to the ideals most highly prized by St. Francis de Sales, the college’s patron saint.
Later, in 2013, DeSales would create the Helen Danko and Jean Mauer Wellness Award, to be awarded to a student who exemplified the qualities both Helen and Jean embodied.
When Helen passed in 2015, the outpouring of love from former DeSales students was overwhelming and a reflection of Helen’s true character.
Helen would be part of the DeSales community until she fully retired in her late 70’s, after slowly cutting back her hours from 5 days to 1 day. Her reason for retirement was to turn her energy to helping care for her grandson Billy, one her son Bill’s children, who was born in 1997.
Her Grandchildren were her pride and joy. And she helped all she could with every one of them. Dustin, Georgene’s son was born in 1971, then came Ethan and Dylan, in 1989 and 1991, both Bill’s sons and later Roy, in 1999, Mariann’s Son.
She was also blessed with one Great Grandchild, Ian, Dustin’s son, who was born in 2004.
Helen also had two Step-Grandchildren, Crystal and Dale; and two Step Great Grandchildren, Damian and Aiden.
Even in her later years Helen still had a childlike and playful outlook on life, despite all she had endured over the years. It was this childlike quality that made her the Best Grandmother any child could ask for.
From playing super hero; to lion, crawling on all fours; to coloring and painting; to playing with Legos and board games; and most of all baking cookies. Helen did whatever the Grandchildren wanted to do.
One of the best stories though is the time she and Billy got locked in the laundry room until Judi, Helen’s daughter-in-law got home from work. They were playing hide and seek, and when Billy found Helen in the laundry room he pulled the door closed behind him, thus locking the door from the outside. Helen made the best of it, singing songs, playing games and telling Billy they would play make believe hide and seek with Judi, so when she came home she could find them.
Needless to say, Judi was quite surprised when she came home and found them in the laundry room. She thought they were there to greet her, little did she know they had been locked in there for hours.
As my sister Pam has said, “Mom knew how to make the ordinary into something special.”
Her family was her priority, and being able to spend time with them was what brought her pure joy. Whether it be with her immediate family, a visit with her sisters and their families, or large gatherings with the extended family, Helen would be beaming, swelling with love and gratitude for the greatest gift bestowed on her, family.
AND, if there was music playing at any gathering, Helen would be sure to be up on her feet dancing. Even in into her 90’s she would kick up her heels if the mood hit her. Especially if you put on some Big Band music, she just couldn’t resist. Something I know for a fact all of her children inherited.
The last 15 years of Helen’s life, she lived with her Son Bill and his family, but would spend weekends with her daughter Mariann and her Son Roy. In the beginning it was because Mariann was working weekends and needed someone to watch Roy, but when the weekend work stopped, Helen still came. Weekends with Grammy were something both Roy and Mariann looked forward to. Roy would anxiously wait at the window every Friday, looking for Grammy to arrive, greeting her with a huge hug and kiss.
Some weekends Carolann would join them and they quickly became the “Four Musketeers” doing everything together. With Roy as the ringleader, and Helen going along with whatever he so desired.
Being part of these two households was extremely fulfilling for Helen. She would help not just with the children, but also in the kitchen and with the laundry. I dubbed her the “Laundry Fairy” because some how she magically got everything folded and put away before I even knew it.
Helen was a pure joy to have around. She always had a kind word to say. As her daughter-in-law Judi noted, every morning before Judi left for work, Helen would tell how beautiful she looked in the color she was wearing. Didn’t matter what color it was, she always looked beautiful. It was these kind words that were the sunshine Judi needed to make it through the day. As she told her co-workers, “I have the best Mother-in-Law.”
One of Helen’s catch phrases when something pleasant and unexpected happened was “Well that wasn’t in my Star Gazer today.” Something tells me if she could read this post, that’s exactly what she would say.
Helen was a woman of great integrity, coming from humble roots, overcoming discrimination, and major loss. Never once feeling sorry for herself and always putting others first, her compassion for her fellow man can only be rivaled by one other person, Mother Theresa.
And it is this quote from Mother Theresa that I feel encompasses all that Helen stood for and what guided her every day of her life.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Many thanks to my family for their contributions of stories and memories which enabled me to pull together Helen (Mom’s) story.
Please check back next month when I will feature Kathryn Dechert Krill, the oldest of the Dechert Girls.