Motherhood Musings

Anyone who ever said that motherhood is easy was either a liar or in serious denial. Parenting in general is the hardest job on the planet! You are responsible for another HUMAN BEING! I’m a mother so I can only speak to motherhood. If you’re a father, please forgive me. I’d have to get my husband to write a post on that one.

As a mother of grown children I would like to encourage all young mothers to just do your best. That’s all you can do. It is probably inevitable that once they’re grown you’ll look back with some regrets.

As you’re raising them and doing your best, you’ll think you’re doing right, covering all the bases. You’re giving your family all you’ve got; all your love, your energy, your creativity, your heart and soul. It’s what good moms do. If you’re really good, you even balance that out with taking care of yourself.

Then, your kids grow up and you see that there were things you missed; bases you didn’t cover. Even a few bases you didn’t even know were there much less that they needed covering. This can lead to feelings of regret, failure, and anxiety. You question whether you were as good a mom as you thought you were being at the time. You realize that it’s too late to make any changes or do anything differently. These thoughts can be heartbreaking.

There’s no perfection this side of eternity, however. There are no perfect moms just like there are no perfect kids, no matter how things may appear on the surface. We’re all human. You are human. Human = imperfect! You did your best. You loved them, cared for them, taught them what you knew to teach them, and now it’s between them and God.

You need to forgive yourself and move on. Your job is done. You have come to the other side of the toughest job on the planet. Not that you’ll ever stop being “Mom”; loving them, worrying about them, offering wisdom and advice whenever you’re given the chance. But, it’s all on them now. The decisions, choices, consequences, and responsibilities are all theirs now. You’re passing the torch, so to speak, and you need to truly let it go. You did your best now give God the rest, and rest a little. You’ve earned it!

Blessings!
Brenda. 😊

Flying

There is a season of my life that not many know about. I remember it very fondly. I call it “the season of flying”. Not in airplanes, but on a Hobie Cat.

These are catamarans. Hobie was a brand. This isn’t us or my picture. I actually don’t have any pictures, sadly. The only souvenir I have of that time is this shirt.

From the Dana Point Regatta

It was 1984. I was in my mid-twenties and dating Rich Cooley, a co-worker at AMF Tire Equipment Division. He was an engineer and I was the Document Control Clerk. We dated for a couple of years and probably would have ended up married except for the fact that he didn’t want any more children and I did. Anyway, while together we participated in many regattas on his Hobie catamaran.

We both lived in Huntington Beach – not together – but, I was at his place as often as I could be because he lived a block from the beach! We traveled up and down the Southern California coast from Dana Point to Long Beach, participating in these regattas. It was one of the highlights of my life. I adored being on the water, looked pretty good in a wetsuit back then, and flying a catamaran is one of those life experiences you never forget!

This is what we called “flying” (again, not us) and it was a BLAST! You’re basically using your body weight against the wind in your sails to keep the boat from “turtling” (going upside down) while gliding across the water. Turtlng was not a good thing. If that happened it was quite an effort to get the cat upright again. It only happened to us a couple of times and I only remember once where we had to get help from some other people. It looks pretty freaky too – this tall mast and sails upside down under the water. Not your favorite thing to have happen.

I operated the jib (or headsail) while Rich handled the mainsail. A cat can be sailed solo, but it’s much less stressful with two people. And when you’re racing, it’s also a big timesaver to not have to tack all on your own. Especially in choppy water! We mostly raced on the ocean, so chop was a definite thing to deal with.

I remember one regatta in particular and I would have to say it was my favorite. We sailed from Newport Beach to Catalina Island, then camped on the island beach overnight and returned to Newport the next morning. I remember the trip over was very choppy almost all the way. When we got close to the island it calmed down. It was the first time I saw a flying fish and water so clear you could see almost to the bottom. The waters around Catalina Island were gorgeous! I haven’t been there since, so I have no idea what it looks like now. It was the longest race we ever did and the most memorable for me.

Two things I remember most about all of those races were going out for dinner and drinks with our sailing buddies after (White Russians for me most of the time), and the ride home in Rich’s Volkswagen bus. I never liked driving the thing, but it was fun to ride in. Then there was cleaning the sand and salt off of everything once we got home. It was some work, but well worth it. Rich took a picture of me once right after a race and I looked like a wild woman. A very happy wild woman; sun kissed, wind blown, no makeup, hair going everywhere – it was awesome! I really wish I had that picture.

I don’t know what sparked these memories, but they came flooding in this morning so I thought it would be a good time to share them with my kids at least. Michelle might remember Rich and his mom. His mom used to look after Michelle while we were racing. We also took her out on the cat a few times – never flying as she was like 4-years old – just a little sailing.

These days the only flying I do is in an airplane. I live hours from any beach with a husband who only goes to the beach to make me happy. But, I have these memories of this awesome thing that used to be part of my life and I think that’s pretty cool. I am a beach babe at heart and probably always will be. I may never sail a cat again, but I’ll always have my “season of flying”. ⛵️🥰

Puppy Love

Mia Cuddles

Seven months ago I did a thing that I had tried before without a lot of success. I got a dog. You know, one of those furry things that bark, lick you, and poop in your yard. I tried owning a dog a few years ago, but it wasn’t a good fit so I went back to cats. We adopted a cat almost two years ago and she was going to be my buddy. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Amara, as it turns out, bonded with my husband and became occasionally agressive with me. She would come and sit with me very sweetly, then after a few minutes of petting decided she’d rather scratch and bite me. Needless to say, our relationship didn’t exactly blossom. Still wanting a companion, I decided to renew the search for a dog. All of my children are grown, my husband works all day, and I was still mourning the loss of my former life due to a new movement disorder. I needed some company during the day.

After about six months of searching, I discovered Mia on one of the pet search sites. She was at our local shelter. The small dogs always go fast so I wasted no time in getting down there to see her. It was kind of an interesting situation. First off, my husband and I couldn’t figure out which building we needed to go to. Then, when we got to the right building, there seemed to be no one there. We couldn’t find a way in. Just as we were about to give up and go home, someone showed up at the gate and asked if we needed help! I explained who I was looking for and the young lady knew exactly who and where she was. She was still there! We waited in the visiting area for just a few minutes before Mia was trotted out to us on the end of a leash. She was a little timid, but went immediately to Rich (my husband) and stood behind his legs. She was adorable! We were left to visit with her for a bit and she was just the sweetest thing. I fell in love. My sweet husband is not at all a dog person. In fact, he always swore he would never have one, but I think even he thought she was cute. My only worry was that yet another pet that was supposed to be mine, would bond with Rich instead. He’s just such a lovable guy! We took her home anyway. My heart just wouldn’t let me leave without her. As it turned out, we ended up having to leave her for a few days anyway as she was scheduled to be spayed. We paid the fee though and claimed her as ours. Our timing was perfect. The lady who took our money told us she had about a thousand emails inquiring about Mia. She had only been at the shelter for four days. Wow! Seemed like a divine appointment to me!

Mia was not her name at the shelter. I think they called her Fiona, or something like that. I can’t even remember. She’s Mia to me. We brought her home on February 2, 2021 and my fears of her bonding with Rich were never realized. She loves him, don’t get me wrong, but I am definitely her person. After just a couple of months of her being with us, I ended up in the hospital for five days. Rich said she was totally depressed while I was gone, but he took good care of her and I think that’s when she decided to really love him. I know I certainly loved him more for being so good with her when he never wanted a dog in the first place. The poor guy just can’t help being nice, even when he doesn’t really want to. Hahaha!! Also, he loves me a lot and does his best to make me happy and he knows that Mia makes me happy.

I’ve actually only really had one other dog love in my life. Her name was Cuddles and she was a curly haired mutt. I had her when I was in high school and loved her to death! Mia is partially named after her thus the name Mia Cuddles. Mia is a Pomchi – a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix. She is smart as a whip, stubborn, loyal, loving, and energetic. So far she knows; “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “rollover”, “Mia come”, “let’s go night-night” (she heads straight for her kennel), “get your toy”, “ready for your brushin’?” (she always is), and “let’s get your treat”. The “Mia come” one is negotiable if she’s fixated on something outside – very frustrating sometimes. She is also a bit of a barker. A yappy dog, as my husband puts it. But then, you know, Chihuahua and Pomeranian. She can’t help it. I’ve seen worse though and sometimes we can get her to stop. She’s very vocal and sometimes her barking is just her talking to you rather than a warning of some kind. She makes other noises too in her attempt to communicate and we never cease to get a kick out of listening to her say other things besides “bark!”

I love this little pup! I think she is so pretty, fun, smart, and loving. She is great company. She loves going on walks and hikes, adventures of any kind really. The only drive-thru where she doesn’t bark at the person in the window is Starbucks because she knows they’re going to give her something good. We never hear a peep out of her at Starbucks, just a lot of tail-wagging and hopping back and forth between me and my husband or whoever else is in the car. It’s adorable! She loves her puppaccino! She also loves her “pupster” Shauna (my youngest daughter). Shauna came up with the title “pupster” – a combination of puppy and sister. Mia gets so excited when Shauna shows up that we have to greet her outside because Mia pees everywhere at the sight of her. It’s so funny! She loves Shauna’s dog, Moon, too. Moon is ten times bigger than Mia and it took them some time to figure out how to play together, but now they’re buddies.

Mia & Moon

I feel totally blessed to have this fun little ball of fur in my life. Amara (the cat) can’t stand her and growls almost anytime Mia is within her vicinity, but I keep hoping that will change in time. They haven’t seriously injured each other at all, so that’s a good thing. That’s Amara, and that face is pretty much her attitude.

Amara the kitty

These guys keep life interesting, that’s for sure. I could go on about all of these critters. They all have such interesting personalities and are characters in their own right. I feel like I’ve bored you long enough though, so maybe I’ll share more later. It’s about time for Mia’s afternoon play time anyway. She’ll do some of that vocalizing at me if I’m late.

Reminiscent

I went for a walk around my neighborhood this afternoon. The wind was howling through the trees and whipping leaves up around me as I walked. I heard no other noises except the wind (we live in a very quiet neighborhood). It transported me back to my great grandma Emma’s house in Palmdale, California. Palmdale is in the Mojave Desert and considered “high desert”. It’s pretty windy there almost every day.

Great Grandma lived on a couple of acres and the back part of her property was nothing but desert – dry brush, cactus, and dirt! The four older of us six kids would play back there all the time. There was many a time, however, when I was back there by myself and the wind would kick up. It sounded a lot like what I heard on my walk today. Except when I was a kid on the back part of great grandma’s lot, there were no other houses and not a lot of trees, just enough for the wind to make music with. It was eerie and magical all at the same time. Sometimes, when the wind got especially gusty, it seemed to magnify the solitude and send me high-tailing it to the house! Keep in mind I was like 10-years old at this time. I spooked fairly easily.

It’s weird to me to think back to that time and realize how long ago it was. All of my ancestors are gone now. I haven’t been to that house in Palmdale in almost 50-years! Great-grandma passed away when I was in my early twenties. Great grandpa had passed many years before that. My parents and my grandparents are all gone. I am now my great-grandma. I’m not quite the same age as my great-grandma when she lived in that house, but I’m not far behind. In actuality, I’m not even a great-grandma yet. I am the matriarch of the family though. The oldest living female. So weird!

I never thought about any of this when I was younger. Aging does weird things to your emotional state. Nostalgia is a regular visitor. I try not to dwell there too much though because for me, memories make me sad. They remind me of what I’ve lost and who I miss. That’s the Eeyore in me. I do my best most of the time to look forward, but every now and then something will take me back. Like a solitary walk through a quiet neighborhood, with only the sound of the howling wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves that feels eerily reminiscent of the high desert of California, and makes me want to high-tail it back to the house.

😊💕

A Small Christmas Memory

I was thinking this morning, about our Christmas tree with its LED lights that don’t heat up so as not to cause a fire hazard. Very cool and very modern. Then I flashed on a memory from when I was very young and we lived in the house on Falling Leaf in Garden Grove.

We didn’t have tree lights at all then. We had a color wheel that sat on the floor in front of the tree and rotated, shining different colors on the tree depending on which color panel was illuminated.

Vintage Christmas Tree Color Wheel

I remember sitting on the living room floor in the dark with only this wheel (which is not our actual wheel) lit up, watching it rotate and change colors on the tree. SO MANY things have changed since then. Technology has come so far! Today, I have a string of cool (literally) lights on my tree that, with the push of a button, can be colored or clear, or rotate back and forth between the two in either a steady or blinking mode. Amazing!

However it happens, I think there’s just something magical and romantic about a lit up Christmas tree! It invokes a sense of wonder that creates a wonderful memory for me. Like those early days on the living room floor with the color wheel.
😊💕

Some Fun Family History

For some reason I’m not quite sure of, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my ancestors and family history. My sister is the genealogist and has many binders full of information that I don’t have access to at the moment as she lives a couple of hours away.

I don’t remember how now, but yesterday I stumbled across some history of the Collins clan in Ireland. I know that my mother’s family came from Ireland. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Collins.

Clan information from Aransweatermarket.com

Apparently, there are sweater patterns for different clans. I don’t really know how legit this is, but I like it anyway. My family heritage is mostly German and Irish. I have only recently been interested in the Irish side since I only recently discovered how Irish I truly am. I’m a lot of German as well, apparently. My dad was only second generation American, as is my husband whose grandfather also came from Germany. Not that that has any bearing on my genealogy, just an interesting side note.

My mother’s family has been here since before the Civil War. Soap makers, I’m told. My sister likes to relay that information because she sees the irony in the fact that the Irish were thought of as “dirty” back in the day. I always thought of them as alcoholic leprechauns, basically. Happy-go-lucky when they weren’t drunk and fighting. A stereotype, I know, and I apologize.

I found a website called “Collinsclan.com” and a little more information on the Collins clan history, according to these people anyway.

History can be a little sketchy at times, and sources are very important. I don’t know the legitimacy of this source, but I kind of like the idea of coming from Barons and Lords. I always felt like there was something regal about my mother, grandmother, AND great grandmother. They all carried themselves with a sense of grace and aristocracy. They were very classy ladies and that’s the truth.

I love the fact that I see both German and Irish in my sons. Joshua resembles his dad; blonde hair, blue eyes, more chiseled features. They both look very German to me.

German actor Til Schweiger
Rich Lenz
Joshua Lenz

Then there’s my Matt-Man. My strapping young Irishman who resembles me; dark hair, blue eyes, chubby cheeks. Not all Irish are redheads. Many are dark haired and blue-eyed.

Irish actor Colin O’Donoghue
Me (Brenda Miller Lenz / Collins on my mother’s side)
Matt in his senior year of high school

Just some fun observations. Genealogy can be a complicated thing and I don’t think many of us are pure-breeds. For instance, my mother’s maiden name was Carr. That name has three different origins; Northern England, Scotland, and Ireland. So, I could have some English or Scottish, or both sprinkled in there somewhere. It’s all very interesting and requires A LOT of time and research. I’ve only done a little skimming here, just having some fun, and all or some of it may or may not be completely accurate.

What I DO know, as a result of my sister’s diligent and tireless efforts is that my mother’s family came from Ireland and My dad’s from Germany. I know more about Germany than Ireland and I am having a lot of fun remedying that.
😊💕

My Favorite Kid

People say that even if a parent has a favorite child, they won’t admit it. Well, I’d like to debunk that myth and admit who my favorite is.

Michelle is my favorite because she was my first and she taught me that motherhood is the greatest joy and the greatest heartache I’ll ever know. She’s beautiful, smart, and I’m very proud of her.

Shauna is my favorite because she has all the traits of myself that I like. She’s my creative, gypsy soul. We laugh a lot and I really enjoy her company! She is also one of the strongest women I know. She has brought herself through a lot!

Josh is my favorite because he’s unique; highly intelligent and funny. We have some fun philosophical discussions and he has a wonderful way of explaining history, which I love!

Matt is my favorite because he’s beautiful; big hearted, extremely smart and talented, funny, and darn good-lookin’! I love to hear him sing! He reminds me of one of my favorite uncles, Rick.

So, in all honesty, they’re all my favorite who they are. My favorite Michelle, my favorite Shauna, my favorite Joshua, and my favorite Matthew!

I also now have a favorite Mark, Megan, and Tony – my bonus kids thanks to Shauna, Matt, and Michelle. 😁 I am extremely blessed to have all of these “kids” (they’re all grown) in my life! They are all wonderfully unique and I LOVE them all! That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! 😘

Stories For My Children

Grandma Dixie a.k.a. My Mom

I’ve talked a lot about my dad in the last couple of posts. Today I’d like to share some memories of my mom. None of you had the chance to meet your Grandma Dixie. She passed away when she was 40 and I was pregnant with Michelle. She knew I was pregnant, but we never really had the chance to even talk about it. She died in the hospital of cancer, quicker than we thought possible.

5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas.
5-year old Mom at their farm in Arkansas

Dixie Lee Carr was born April 30, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas (her last name would later become Schultz when Grandma Ida’s second husband adopted her). My mom was a vivacious woman; very creative, outgoing, and even charismatic. Unfortunately, she was a bit oppressed by my dad – a very dominant personality. She really came alive when he wasn’t around, which is very sad, but true. I think they were happy in the beginning. I’ve seen pictures of them in the early days, both wearing big smiles. When I knew them, though, there was a lot of fighting. Mom seemed happiest when Dad wasn’t home. In fact, she tried to leave him several times with Grandma Ida’s help. I remember being whisked away in the middle of the day while Dad was at work, by Grandma. Usually we went to my great grandma’s house out in Palmdale – the desert. Dad always found us though. He promised mom that things would be different, and they were for a week or two, then the fighting would start again. She finally succeeded in leaving him when I was in my senior year of high school. Dad finally agreed to a divorce, but he kept all six of us kids.

Happier days with Aunt Lois & Uncle Lelon

In all honesty, I kind of understood Dad taking custody of us. Mom was also somewhat emotionally delicate. Six kids was way too much for her. I remember her having several emotional breakdowns as I was growing up, and Grandma Ida would swoop in and rescue her. Grandma was a rescuer. I’ll explain more about that later. I remember we would go to Grandma’s house for a few days and she would basically take care of all of us. Well, this was all before Diana and David were born, so there was only four of us. I guess by the time my parents divorced, mom desperately needed a break. Six kids and an oppressive husband would wear anybody down.

Mom & Dad with the first four kids (standing L to R; Thom, me, and Mike. Dad is holding Pam).

Mom & baby Diana (baby #5)


So, Mom moved from Norco, Ca. (where we lived when they split up) to Huntington Beach, Ca. and Dad hauled us kids to Texas. He was raised in Texas and tried to live there a couple of times, but Mom hated it and we always ended up back in California. Which was also my preference, most of the time. I finished my senior year of high school in Needville, Tx. at Needville Sr. High while living with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. I never quite understood this part: Dad sent me to Texas first, in the middle of my senior year of high school, to live with Aunt Lois and Uncle Lelon. He and the rest of my siblings remained in Norco until right around the time I graduated. Why I couldn’t have just stayed with them and graduated from Norco remains a mystery to me. I wouldn’t trade my time in Needville for anything though, in spite of the fact that I originally didn’t want to go.

Mom at our house in Norco. She may have been watching T.V. When this was taken.

Back to Mom. I think she came to Texas to visit once, after I graduated and was once again living with Dad. I was working as a grocery checker at Kroger in Rosenberg and we were living in a trailer somewhere between Needville and Rosenberg, I believe. We weren’t there long before we moved into a dilapidated farm house off Highway 36 in Rosenberg. It was on a beautiful piece of land, but the house was in terrible shape; slanted floors and no running water. We didn’t even have mattresses on our beds. We slept in sleeping bags on the metal frames. NOT comfortable! Anyway, before too long Dad and I got into it over someone I was friends with and he kicked me out. I high-tailed it back to California as quick as I could and moved in with Mom.

At the time, she was in an apartment in Huntington Beach, working at an electronics company in Irvine as the receptionist. I don’t remember working at all while we were in that apartment. In fact, I think we moved to our condo closer to the beach pretty quick after I moved back because most of my memories are in that condo. It was about a mile from the beach (maybe a little further), and several of my siblings rotated in and out of there while we were there. Thom was there the longest I think. He and I used to ride the bus to the beach every day then come home and hang out drinking Schlitz malt liquor and smoking a little weed (I was a wild child for awhile). I worked the night shift at a Carl’s Jr. down Beach Blvd. a little way from our place. Beach bum by day, fast food worker by night. My mom’s boyfriend also lived with us. His name was Richard Carrville, but everyone called him “Hap”. He was a goofy guy and I never figured out exactly what Mom saw in him, but he was good to her and they even ran a trucking company together for awhile – D&H Trucking.

This was taken at Uncle Rick’s house, I believe while we were living in Huntington Beach. L-R sitting is Pam, me, and Mike. Mom is in the chair behind us.


Eventually, Mom got me a job at the electronics company she worked at – Delta Electronics – as their Document Control Clerk. It was actually a really interesting job. I worked a lot with the engineers, made blueprints, and kept track of all the schematics and blueprints that the engineers used. I enjoyed it. I met two of my best friends in the world there; Bob Scott and Tanja Devitt. Bob was an engineer and Tanja was a secretary. They were important parts of my life for many years. I’ve lost touch with both of them now. The last time I talked to Bob was when Josh and Matt were just little guys. Tanja I last spoke to shortly after we moved into the John Thomas house – some 30-years after we first met. She was my maid of honor at my first wedding to Jim VanKeirsbulck – another story for later.

Anyway, this is the beginning of the end of Mom’s story. She got very sick while we were both working at Delta Electronics. I remember having to drive home from work because she was too tired to do it. She ended up being diagnosed with lung cancer (she was a smoker and so was Hap). At first, it was Hap who took her to all of her doctor appointments and treatments, but eventually it interfered too much with his work (he was a trucker) and Grandma Ida came to help. I continued working at Delta, going to the beach as much as possible, and basically living in denial of the fact that my mother was dying. Strangely enough (or maybe not so strange) I feel like I got to know my mom better than I ever had growing up. There was a short period of time when the cancer went into remission and I’ll never forget it because some of my favorite memories with her were made in that short little window of time.

At the time, I was dating an adorable guy named Pete Capello. Pete was very outgoing and my mom loved him! He was Italian and a dancer (and that’s all I’m going to say about that). He and I used to go clubbing and one night Mom went with us. We had so much fun! I think Mom was kinda in her element; socializing and flirting. She looked very happy that night. We didn’t stay out too long for her sake, but it was plenty long enough to create a great memory. Another night, it was storming and we heard that the waves were really high down on the Huntington Beach Pier. Mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to check it out. We ended up taking a walk on the pier, in the rain, with the waves crashing over the side of the pier. It was awesome!! I will never forget it as long as I live! In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a real smart thing to do as storms have wiped the end of that pier out a few times. I don’t think we walked all the way to the end though, so we were fine.

Shortly thereafter, Mom went into the hospital for the last time. The last time I laid eyes on her; Grandma Ida, Uncle Sandy, Uncle Rick, and myself were standing around her hospital bed. She was completely incoherent under the effects of morphine. It was very sad. I went home and later that night, Grandma woke me up to tell me she was gone. Twenty days before my twentieth birthday, I lost my mom and Grandma lost her daughter. To this day, some 40-years later the memory still makes me cry. I wish I had known her better and I am thankful that I got to know her as well as I did.

My mom was creative and crafty. She sewed most of my clothes for me when I was younger. She could draw like nobody’s business. Thom inherited that talent from her. She had a green thumb and could grow anything. She was a wiz in the kitchen. She could make the most amazing meals out of seemingly nothing. She adored our brother, Mike, even though she used to throw her hairbrush at him when he was trying to talk to her while she was on the phone. I’m pretty sure Mike was her favorite. She called him “Mickey Mouse”. Her nickname for me was “Brandy”. No one else has ever called me that. She and my grandma spent countless hours at our kitchen table in Santa Ana, surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke and coffee steam. My mom always had poodles! From the time I was little and we lived in Garden Grove, I remember her having a poodle. I hate poodles, but she loved them. Her favorite flower was the red carnation. I had one in my bridal bouquet in her honor when Jim and I got married. The yellow rose was her and Dad’s flower, according to Dad. I remember thinking she was so beautiful when she would dress up for a (rare) night out with Dad. She loved to laugh, and she was a fighter. Her ancestors were Irish and she had that same spirit; feisty lovers of life. She gave cancer a run for its money, but it just wasn’t enough. Her grave stone in Westminster Memorial Park on Beach Blvd., says “Thy will be done”. I don’t know why it was His will to take Dixie Lee Miller from this world at the young age of 40, and leave six kids motherless, but it was.

I can still see her smile and I know she would be crazy about all of you! I so wish you could have met her! I can only hope that through these stories and the few pictures that I have, I can somehow keep her memory alive enough that you can feel like you know her just a little.

Until next time!
I love you bunches!
Mom 😊💕

November, 2018

Stories for My Children

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad – Part 2

When last we left off, dad was in his heyday at The Sundown; shooting pool and playing poker. Well, as I mentioned, he had a day job. At this point in time I think I was in second grade at H.B. Anderson Elementary in Garden Grove, California.

Dad drove a truck for the old White Front stores that don’t exist anymore.

I don’t know what kind of truck it was, but it wasn’t an eighteen wheeler. It was more like a delivery truck and he stayed local. Quite often, he would take me with him on his deliveries. I loved doing that with him, and he always took me somewhere cool for lunch; a burger joint in Newport Beach, a hot dog stand in Anaheim. It was an adventure to a 7-year old. My dad was a foodie before it was a thing. He loved to eat out. I’ll never forget one particular time, he and mom took me to a nice restaurant called “The Dream Machine”. It’s not around anymore. I’ll never forget what we ordered! It was called the “Viking Feast” and it came out on a huge wooden plank; all kinds of meat and vegetables. You attacked it with your fingers and it was so fun! I felt really special and grown up that night.

Another favorite restaurant was the Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. It is very famous and still around. They have a strict “no ties” rule and if you wear one inside they cut it off and hang it from the ceiling. It’s a very rustic place with trees growing inside it and amazing food! I can still taste their steak fries!

We went there just as often as we could. The whole family loved it! Then there were the cheapy nights when we went to Pup n’ Taco, a privately owned chain of fast food restaurants in Southern California. They haven’t been around since the 80’s, but the fact that they lasted something like 30-years is amazing to me! The cheapest food I’ve ever had. Possibly the reason I have never liked hot dogs. 😂
Well, enough about food. You probably get now, why I like to eat out so much. I think it’s genetic. 😉

Oh! I just flashed on a memory from the apartments we lived in across from The Sundown and Stater Brothers. Across the parking lot from us there lived a family with several kids, all redheads. One day my brother got in a fight with one of their boys. My Uncle Mavis was visiting at the time (my dad’s uncle. I’ll share more about him in a minute) and he and dad were watching from our apartment door. Keep in mind, these guys are old school country boys. Kids fighting is entertainment to them. Well, the neighbor seemed to be getting the upper hand on my brother so who does Dad send in to help? Me! Fortunately, I was a bit of a tomboy and had no problem with dad’s request. Once I joined in the sisters of the other boy did the same. It was pretty much a free-for-all and I couldn’t say for sure who won, but my memory tells me we did. 😉. Keep in mind too, we were all under 10-years old. Not a lot of injury was inflicted on either side, but Dad and Uncle Mavis had a good laugh.

Uncle Mavis! What a character he was. He was my dad’s uncle so really my great uncle, but we just called him “Uncle”. I loved that man to death! He was loud and boisterous and did magic tricks like the old “watch me pull a quarter out of your ear” trick. He also used to make us these old-fashioned wooden airplane things that he whittled himself. They’re actually called Hui Sticks or Magic Propellor. You rub the stick up and down the notches and it makes the propellor spin.

We were enthralled with them – especially the fact that Uncle Mavis made them. We thought he was magical! He taught me how to play chess and how to float on my back in the pool. He and dad would argue all the taboo subjects; politics, religion, whatever – and they would get LOUD! Uncle Mavis had one of those voices that just naturally projected anyway, so when he actually yelled. Wow! I adored him. Sadly, I lost track of him as I got older and didn’t even know when he passed away. Your Aunt Diana found out what happened to him while doing some of her genealogy research. Apparently, a nephew or somebody lived with him toward the end and wouldn’t let anyone have contact with him. Diana can tell you more of THAT story.

Oh man! I feel like like I could sit here and tell stories all day. Remembering this stuff just brings an avalanche of memories. I should probably write them down while I can still remember them. Like the time I went to a Brownie meeting with a friend from school (still living in the apartments and in second grade). In case you don’t know, the Brownies are a part of the Girl Scouts. Anyway, at that time I rode the bus to and from school. This particular day I took my friend’s bus home with her, unbeknownst to my parents. I don’t remember all the details or how they found out where I was (probably my friend’s mom), but they did and I was in a heap of trouble. The funny thing is, it didn’t even register with me that I might get in trouble for doing this. I was just going home with my friend. Kids! It was a different world back then. We were taught not to take candy from a stranger and that was about the extent of our “stranger danger” training. This wasn’t a stranger though, and my parents never told me I had to come straight home from school – until that day. 😂

Which reminds me of another story, many years later with another little girl. This one wasn’t her fault, but it was a huge scare nonetheless. I was at work one day and my then husband, Art, calls me to tell me that my then 7 or 8-year old daughter never showed up to school. I rush home to find cops at my house wanting a picture of my daughter. I am FREAKING out! Worse case scenarios are running through my head. Almost every police officer in LaPalma was out looking for her. One of those beautiful police officers decides to double-check at school and guess what? Michelle is sitting in her classroom, right where she’s supposed to be. Turns out, she was a few minutes late and the teacher didn’t mark her present! I was fit to be tied and that teacher and principal got an earful! Parenting is such fun! 😂

Okay. I’m done for today. I’m sure there will be more Grandpa Miller stories, as well as stories of many other favorite characters. Until next time!

I love you bunches!
Mom

December, 1989ish

Stories For My Children

Grandpa Miller a.k.a. My Dad

 

Me & Dad at the Fallingleaf house in Garden Grove

My dad is on my mind a lot right now. This past Tuesday would have been his 81st birthday. And just days before that, I started seeing a commercial on T.V. Featuring the song “Hey Good Lookin'” by Hank Williams, Jr. Dad used to sing that all the time, and would often greet me with an Elvisesque “Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” Especially if I was in the kitchen.

Your grandpa was quite the showman. He loved to dance and sing, and could do a mean Elvis impression. I know why Grandma fell for him. Despite all the stories of what a terrible father he was (and he certainly never won Father of the Year), he had his moments and definite good qualities. He was also an awesome grandpa!

Our house in Santa Ana (where we lived from the time I was in 4th grade until my sophomore year of high school) had a built-in pool. I even remember the address; 2321 W. Monte Vista. Every now and then dad would play in the pool with us. He would let us stand on his shoulders then dunk himself under water and spring back up, catapulting us into the water. We loved it! He taught me how to dive in that pool.

I’ll never forget it. I was terrified, standing on the edge of the shallow end staring at the two glass dolphins on the bottom, listening to dad’s instructions. I couldn’t do it for the longest time. It was one of the rare occasions that dad actually displayed patience. He promised me everything from a new doll to a new wardrobe if I would just dive in. I don’t remember what finally did it (I was 9-years old), but I mustered the courage and finally dove in just like he told me. The bribe window had already closed, but I felt pretty proud of myself and have basically been a fish ever since. We spent many fun-filled hours in that pool!

Dad with Shelly, Lissy, Josh, and Matt at our Fitzpatrick house in Concord.

Dad liked to entertain too. Pool parties were common occurrences in our Santa Ana house. Grilled hot dogs for the kids and steaks for the grownups. I remember that because I always wanted the steak. Dad had regular Friday night poker parties too. He let us watch as long as we fetched beers for them. The mornings after were our favorite. The poker table was still set up and us four older kids would sit and play with the cards and chips (poker chips). Eventually, dad taught me how to play a few poker games; 5 & 7 card draw and stud, Mexican sweat, 21. He taught me how to shuffle the cards and ante up. I haven’t played in decades and don’t remember a lot of it, but I can still shuffle a deck of cards pretty well.

Dad was actually a pretty talented guy. He was an amazing pool player and won lots of trophies. We even had a pool table for awhile and he seemed to really enjoy teaching us kids how to play. When I was seven or so, we lived in an apartment in Fountain Valley, Ca. Across the street was a Stater Brothers shopping center (apparently they’re still around. ) complete with a bar called The Sundown (also still around!) where my dad spent quite a bit of time hustling for beer money.

Stater Bro’s. back in the day.

He had a day job, but most nights he could be found at The Sundown. Sometimes on the weekends I was allowed to go with him during the day, when it was quiet. He participated in his share of bar fights back then too. I remember him coming home one night, his face a little bloodied and his shirt inside out. He was the sweetest drunk, very loving and affectionate. Quite the opposite of his sober self. He could be and more often was, a bit of a tyrant. I grew up with welts and bruises from his belt, mostly out of anger or frustration. He was not a level-headed disciplinarian.

In spite of the fact that I grew up terrified of him most of the time, I loved my dad and grew to appreciate him and his perspective as we both got older. I have a lot more stories to share about him, but this is getting lengthy. I’ll do a part two next week, so stay tuned! Until next time!

I love you bunches!
Mom

August, 2009