Embrace Your Differences

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune the week of April 9, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

IMG_0300I was getting ready to meet my grandchildren, one of whom is a teenage granddaughter, and I wondered if I would pass muster and dress appropriately so I wouldn’t embarrass her. I know she used to enjoy my quirky and colorful clothes, but that was when she was little and wasn’t as aware of what her peers were doing.

To be fair to her, she has never acted embarrassed about introducing me to anyone, especially her friends. I happen to love her teenage friends because they are so respectful and fun to be with, but I wonder if silently she may question my choices.

I have toned down what I wear in the last year or two. I must admit, I haven’t felt as if I was myself in my senior adult clothes choice, which is what is expected of someone my age. I tried to conform again.

Recently with all the hoopla surrounding Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields and the criticism for wearing bikinis at their age, I thought long and hard about my choices. No, I do not plan on trying a bikini — I never looked good in them, but I happen to think these two women looked beautiful. It is their choice to choose what they wear at their age and not our business.

When I changed my natural hair color and went red a few months ago, I did have to endure comments from people who thought the drastic changing of my hair color was terrible. I got many more compliments than criticism, but it is the criticism that stayed with me.

My mom wasn’t a dresser and did not take good care of her looks. I know now she just didn’t have time, and clothes were not important to her. Although recently finding pictures of her in her early 20s, I realized at one time she had style and her clothes were beautiful. Somewhere in her busy life, she lost all that. I must admit, at times I was ashamed of the way she dressed and the fact she had bobby pins keeping her hair in place long after bobby pins were fashionable. I was a teenager, and it wasn’t my friends who gave me a hard time about how my mom dressed. It was other adults such as relatives and neighbors. They would ask me as a teenager and especially as an adult why I didn’t do something. As a teenager, I didn’t know what to do and as an adult, instead of not seeing dementia taking hold, I tried to help, but to no avail. The bottom line is I should not have been ashamed. That was who she was.

Recently, I acquired some bright clothes with wild patterns, and they really are me. The first time I put on a wild pair of pants my husband asked, “You aren’t really going out in that are you?” I proudly replied, “Yes, I am.”

I was told to dress brightly for a small school play I was involved in by Retired Senior Volunteers. I wore my bright clothes everywhere that day. I smiled all day; I felt like me.

I have a cousin who I got to know when she was a teenager. She is now an adult, a mother, and a beautiful person. Her mother, who I love, lamented during her daughter’s teenage years that her daughter liked to shop at thrift stores when they had more than enough money to buy the best of clothing. This teenager went on to college and earned a degree or two and first was going to be a lawyer or a doctor and follow in her family’s footsteps. But she knew this life wasn’t for her, and now she works for the DNR at a lower wage than she would have made at one of the other careers.  She lives in a beautiful state, tracks wildlife (yikes wolves) and works on sustaining our environment. She followed her own path. She knew early on who she was. She knows her value and is happy with her choices.

This is my advice for the teenagers in my life and in yours. God made us all different. We come in all different shapes and sizes. We like different things and have different personalities. Embrace that. Why would God make us each different if he wanted us to try and all be the same?

As a teenager, follow your style and don’t wear clothes just because they have a certain designer label or because you feel you need to look like your friends. A true friend will embrace that. Be you. Be different because God made you uniquely you. Celebrate it. Don’t let anyone make you feel you are less smart or less beautiful because you are smaller, bigger, look different or have flaws. Those flaws are all part of the wonderful you. Live your life. Take it from an adult who didn’t learn these lessons until I got old. Making choices to accept who you are in the noise of the world will be your pathway to a more peaceful life. If we were, all the same, it would be a dull world.

Happy Birthday Gladys Johanson – 100 Years Young

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published the week of 10/23/2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” — Confucius

I love this quote by Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, a politician, and philosopher that lived between 551 BC and 479 BC. This thought came to mind as I contemplated the people in my life who have reached the grand age of 100. I am awed by the fact I have an aunt that is going to be 101, an uncle who lived to be 102 and now I have a friend who celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday.

File Oct 20, 9 26 32 AMMy friend’s name is Gladys Johanson and I first remember meeting Gladys back in my late high school years when one of her daughters was my best friend.

I want to share a little history on Gladys’ life. Gladys was born in Matawan on Oct. 19, 1917, and was the fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers and two sisters and two brothers that died in infancy. She married Wilbur Johanson on Nov. 18, 1937. He passed away Nov. 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

One of the many amazing things about Gladys, at least to me, is the fact she has 14 children, having them all within 20 years. And of these 14 children, seven were boys and seven were girls. When I think of the stress we go through today raising one or two children, I can’t imagine raising 14. Yet, I always remember Gladys’ smile and her kind heart for everyone. Her smile today is as welcoming as it ever was. She has a happy glow surrounding her.

Gladys was a stay-at-home mom until later years when her final child was in school. She then entered the working world at Stamper’s factory, and she never missed a day of work in the 10 years she worked for them. I wonder how that happened with 14 children, even though at that point all were not still at home. We all know kids and germs go together and illness usually follows the adults in their life. How many of us now could say we haven’t missed a day of work in 10 years?

Here is another little tidbit I didn’t know. Not only did Gladys take care of her house and her children, she also was the bookkeeper for her husband’s carpentry business. Remember there were no computers back in those days, just brain work and the pen and pencil and maybe a typewriter.

I had the joy of sitting down with Gladys and her daughters Corrine, Kim and Dawn. I admit I had lots of questions because I was curious, not only on tips for aging but having been an only child myself, how it felt to be one of 14 children.

My experience in knowing some 100-year-old people has been that they didn’t seem like people that worried a lot. I asked Gladys about that. She answered, “I never worried, tomorrow was another day.” And, “When there is a will, there is a way.” As for being 100, she said she really didn’t feel any different than when she was younger. Her daughter Susan in an email told me as Gladys aged and started to discover things she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

One of the things Gladys and her children attribute to longevity is a healthy diet. The backyard was a garden, and Gladys and her husband raised the food for their family. The gardening became an assembly line and even the smallest child was put to work doing something. Canning was a big part of their life in having their homegrown food year round.

According to Gladys daughters, each child had their own job. Saturdays were cleaning day and you did not go anywhere until the chores were done. And if you are a teenager out there today reading this column — the kids in this family had to earn money and put their own gas in the car if they wanted to drive.

Gladys is a fabulous cook and the girls shared one of their favorite dishes was their mother’s mashed potatoes. Corrine stated, “It must have been the love she put into it.”

Supper was always served at 6 p.m., and family members were expected to be at the table at that time. “When you heard the whistle blow you knew it was time to be in for supper,” Corrine reminisced. “The table was always set correctly and she still does that today.” The Johansons had different sets of dishes for every day than for special occasions. And prayers always did, and still do, accompany Gladys’ meals. Faith is an important staple in her life. The prayer at dinner: Abba Lieber Vater from her German roots.

At 100 years old, Gladys’ eyesight is still stellar and she can read the tiniest print. Her spelling and penmanship today are perfect.

Sitting down again after all these years at the Johanson table, I still felt the comfort of being a part of the atmosphere. I felt the love this family has for one another with Gladys being the role model for generations of Johansons. These parents had the secret we are all looking for in raising our children, and it was summed up by a statement from one of the daughters: “We had discipline but we always felt showered with love.”

Gladys has 20 grandsons, 11 granddaughters, 21 great-grandsons, 19 great-granddaughters and three great-great-grandsons. And she has made a quilt for each one.

After spending time with Gladys, I realize she led a simple, hardworking, content life knowing what was important and what wasn’t, and she is reaping the rewards of a long life with a family that loves her. Isn’t that what we all want but forget when we are caught up in the world we live in today? Gladys is a role model for all of us.

I would say Confucius statement fits perfectly with this family. Gladys planted a seed, the trees grew and those trees blossomed and planted new seeds for generations to come. Happy 100th birthday, Gladys.

 

Gladys Wilhelmina Irene Vogelsang Johanson

Born in Matawan, MN on October 19, 1917. The fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers: Melvin and Milton, and two sisters Mabel Buelow and Ellen Meyer. Two of her brothers died in infancy, Elroy and Roger.

She married Wilbur Johanson on November 18, 19367. He passed away November 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

She gave birth to 14 children within twenty years: 7 sons and 7 daughters:

Kenyon Johanson

Corrine Schultz

Joan Kuntz

Jerald Johanson

Glenn Johanson

Russell Johanson

Vila Stump

Bruce Johanson

Emily Ness

Mark Johanson

Susan Johanson

Dawn Dutton

Richard Johanson

Kimberly Zimmer

Mom and dad planted a very large vegetable garden in the backyard more out of a necessity than a hobby, and from the harvest, they canned and froze food for the upcoming winter. In later years, mother worked at Stampers factory for 10 years in Wells – never missing a day of work!  Mother also worked for her husband Wilbur as the bookkeeper for his carpentry business in Wells. Her hobbies were sewing and for her 30 grandchildren she hand-quilted each of them a quilt. Embroidery also became her hobby, and she hand-embroidered tablecloths, many dish towels and pillow cases for her family. To this day, she still embroiders.

Mother never complains she takes life in stride; often you will see her sporting a big smile. As she aged and started to discover things that she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

File Oct 23, 10 15 55 AM

Life Is Short; Forgive Your Family Members

Something About Nothing published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 25, 2017

The best career I have had in my lifetime is that of a mother. There will never be anything I do which will equal my feelings about being a mother.

I wasn’t always the best mother. We don’t have experience when we start, we gain it as we go and unfortunately for our children, at times, they are the testers for our parenting skills.

I have fought with my kids if I saw them making mistakes, especially if they were the same mistakes I made. I wanted to spare them the pain. They have fought with me when they thought I wasn’t doing the right thing in their lives or mine. That’s what families do, they love, they fight and they come together in good times or bad.

I didn’t understand when I was younger why my mother worried about me so much, or why we had to fight about certain things when I was a teenager or even a young adult. But I do now. As a parent and grandparent, if she were alive today I would ask her forgiveness for our fights and tell her I understand it was because of love.

As I get older I miss our kids. It isn’t because we don’t see them or they don’t share their lives with us, but because as a mother I still to this day at times have empty nest syndrome. I would love to be a part of their daily lives again. We live close — a couple of hours away, but we can’t have the day-to-day interaction, and it isn’t easy to go to all of my grandchildren’s activities and I miss that.

Because they are so busy with work and kids’ activities, they don’t get home very often. But the other night, my son shared a picture of him and his son engaging in a father-son activity. I realized while looking at that picture that now is their time together. My children are building their relationship with their children, just like my husband and I did with ours. They are making memories. It is the way it should be. They include us when we can’t be there by texting pictures and updates when they are at activities. I am thankful for new technology, but now is their time.

My heart was sad this week when I thought of some of my friends and relatives who are estranged from their children and grandchildren. For whatever reason, their children have cut them out of their lives and their grandchildren are growing up without knowing their grandparents and feeling their love. I saw the tears of hurt from one friend and my heart broke for her.

So, this column is for those children. As parents, we really don’t know everything, even though we pretend to. We are not always that brave person we appear to be. We get scared, too. We feel lonely. We make mistakes. We don’t always feel well and sometimes we whine. We give advice when it’s not wanted. We might not have agreed with your choices and maybe we voiced that too much. But right or wrong, as a parent we do that.

My friends and family members who are missing their children might or might not know why you no longer call them, come home or don’t bring their grandchildren to see them. That makes me sad. You might think you are different than your parents and you don’t want their influence on your children, but what are you teaching them about love and family? Will they ever feel if they do something wrong you will cut them out of your life, too?

In my own family, not my immediate family but my childhood family, there was a feud. Brothers and sisters didn’t talk to each other for years. After many years I don’t think any of them knew what they were fighting about, but they still held the harsh words they said to one another in their hearts until a few weeks before one of them died. They put their feud aside and spent the last week visiting. I felt sad at all the years they could have had.

As a parent, we don’t always wear our love for our children on our sleeves. We all say things in the heat of anger that we don’t mean, but it stays and festers and causes rifts in relationships. If you are estranged from your parents or Grandma and Grandpa is just a name on a card or a word that is never spoken in your household, ask yourself if it is worth it. There may come a day when you want to hear their voice but their place of residence is now an urn or place in a cemetery.

Look at your children and ask yourself if the same thing could happen between you and them. How would it feel? And then as you are telling yourself it could never happen, remember your parents said the same thing.

Life is short. I saw the love for you from my friends and family, which you were given when you grew up. I saw the happiness you exhibited when you were with your family. I can’t believe you don’t remember that love.

I feel blessed our children and grandchildren are a part of our lives because I know, being the opinionated person I am, that I have committed some doozies, and yet they overlook my faults. I love the quote by Byant H. McGill, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”

What will you choose?