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

Weeding Our Life

Something About Nothing from my column in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of August 28, 2017

I love flowers. This is the time of year when the flowers are in full bloom and make our yards and countryside beautiful. The flowers try and claim their part of the soil, fighting the weeds which want to take over.

Since I am not an avid gardener, my weeding of my garden and yard are sporadic. I like to gaze at whatever green is growing in my flower beds. I try and decide in early summer and even this time of year whether what is peeking through the soil is a flower or a weed. It can get confusing because weeds can be beautiful, and if you leave them mixed with the flowers they make a conglomeration of color. But, it is a careful balance in my untrained eye as to whether you can leave the pretty weeds or take the chance they will take over your plants and smother the life out of them.

Roses are gorgeous but they have thorns hidden away on their stem waiting to give you a prick of awareness if you grab them the wrong way. You find out quickly beauty is not all it seems to be. It can be dangerous but not deadly. Unfortunately, there are those weeds which masquerade as a beautiful flower and have a fatal bite if one tries to taste it.

The poison hemlock plant and water hemlocks may be mistaken for a variety of edible plants, fooling one with their looks. And the beauty of the oleander might tease people into touching it but if used as a stick or if burned can bring a strong person down.

Before the majestic beauty of a big giant hogweed entices you to pick it beware — once it entices you into its touch it can sting with a burn and even cause blindness.

As I was thinking about the mixture of weeds and flowers one morning I was reminded that our life too can be full of beautiful weeds and they give us no warning they are about to strike.

Inside each of us resides a sting of sorts which we hide under our words. We may look like beautiful ordinary flowers on the outside but we sting, wound and raise deadly venom with our words when others least expect it.

We’ve all had those instances where a friend or family member wounds us with their words when we least expect it. The flower we love has thorns. Since we know these people well we are aware exposing our hearts to the beauty of family and friendship will give us a prick a time or two when we reach out. But the beauty of their love and our love, just like the rose, keeps us loving, forgiving and knowing it is worth the prick for the sharing of lives.

In amongst the roses of our lives are those pretty weeds lurking — food which tempts us with its smell and tempting sight, store ads which give us credit and coupons and entice us in making us buy more? Promises from entities show us life can be better if we follow their vision and then once we are drawn in they morph and change from something of beauty to a strange looking creature.

Being a novice gardener comes with hazards. I am drawn to the beauty, and I touch without thinking about the consequences of the temptation of what I see.

I think flowers and weeds can mimic life. People can be flowers and weeds all mixed together in a jumble, trying to make sense out of life. We become disillusioned if what we see is not what we get. We are surprised that we blindly chose the weed and got burned or poisoned. And we shouldn’t be, because we jumped to conclusions, talked, made choices without doing our homework to find out the toxins or the antidotes if we suffered the consequences of our bad choices.

I have weeds inside of me. It is hard to kill those weeds. Some of my inside weeds I might want to survive because weeds are tough. They combine with the flowers inside of me so I don’t bend and break. The words I use and hear can fuel the flowers or the weeds, and if there becomes an imbalance between the loving words and the toxic words it might determine how I feel and how I treat others on a given day. They are connected, just as we are all connected. We can be each other’s flowers and weeds. It depends on what fertilizer we use.