We have a “cowtown” museum in the city I live. The museum has building g duplicates of the original city as it stood in the late 1890s. You can walk into each store , shop, house, or farm as it stood over 100 years ago. It’s what I would call an interactive museum. I really enjoy Cowtown and they always hold interesting historical events.
Like any museum Cowtown is a living , growing learning experience. I have been to Cowtown many, many times in my years of living in the city I was born and grew up in. I have never noticed the undertaker business until last week. Cowtown has about 50+ buildings and recreations on their grounds and I have never noticed the undertaker before. Below are some pictures I took that shows how death was treated in the years after the Civil War.
I have the pleasure of creating memorial crosses that are unique just like the people who buy them for their loved ones.
Sometimes customers will tell me who they are for, but most of the time I never know, and I never ask. If they wanted to talk about their grief they might consider someone else to talk to than a woman who has a small Etsy shop.
When someone does tell me about the loved one they lost, I consider that to be a great honor that they share with me.
I always loved romantic comedies and still do. From time to time, I like to indulge in a sappy romcom. I really enjoy the movies where the actors talk about growing old together. Awww, what more romantic than you and the love of your life growing old together, being together until the end of time – your time that is.
Although the romcom movies make it seem so warm and fuzzy.
Growing old together is tough and hardly romantic. I would use other words and phrases to describe growing old together like ; comfortable, secret keeper, does chores you hate, children would freak out and stop speaking to both of you, to tired to change anything in life, communal habits, communal timing, doctors appts, helping each other remember things. This is the reality of growing old together.
I’m not trying to make it sound horrible because quite frankly everything I listed is quite nice really. I’ve been growing old together for 36 years and I’m telling you it’s not the growing old together that is the best. It’s growing into each other, and all the life in between, that is the best.
I wish I could write a blog post on “How Not To Get Distracted” but that is NEVER going to happen. As a human I have found that distractions in our lives can be bad…..but they can be good too. A neighbor posted on our neighborhood Facebook page that she wanted to apologize for almost running into someone with her car at the intersection. The neighbor went on to explain that her mother was in the hospital and she was running on empty and not as focused as she should be.
When I read this I immediately understood how she felt as I’m sure many people would understand how she felt.
I can remember when I was raising a family there were many times I was thankful to go to work because it was a distraction for something that was going on at home; an argument with my husband, a problem that I knew I couldn’t solve, or a child that had run me ragged in arguments. Work was actually a good distraction!
Now I have had my fair share of bad distractions; certain Apple apps I’ve downloaded, books I can’t put down, any game, and of course TV programs that I won’t list here. I only consider these bad distractions because they seem so self indulgent and mothers by nature don’t partake in a lot of self indulgent activities, at least not without some guilt involved.
My life has been one ongoing distraction and I am grateful.
If you have lost of loved one whether it be years ago or as recent as this past year then you know how difficult the holidays are. You might even have some well meaning person to remind you of how hard holidays are without a loved one , as if you didn’t understand.
I lost many loved ones on special days or holidays, New Years Eve-brother, Christmastime- brother, stepfather- my wedding anniversary, 4th of July- mother, my birthday- brother. Although this is an unusual amount of loved ones to lose by the age of 40 , it is also an odd number of celebrations to loose loved ones on. I decided I needed to embrace these holidays which is how my business FloralMemorials came about. My husband was a contractor and often had wooden stakes and the idea came to me to paint and decorate them so I could have something to decorate the graves for any holiday or celebration. This need to celebrate has been an amazing experience for me and one that I am most grateful for.
Those deaths have been 20-30 years ago and I have found that those days in between holidays have brought me the most comfort, understanding, clarity, and peace. Every single day a thought drifts through my mind or I drive by a part of town that sparks my memory, but always with a smile and no longer with a tear or lump in my throat. Those days in between are just as important if not more than the few holidays we share. Own those days they can’t be given back to you and they are amazing.
I started my small online business in September of 2014. I was worried, frustrated, and somewhat confused about selling my handmade crosses online. I survived the first year and have enjoyed ever year since. The best part for me is the creative part of business. Unfortunately the other “stuff” (ie; finances, social media, marketing, shopping, ok maybe not shopping since it’s fun too) all come with the job. I have learned so much and have never been as frustrated with myself all at the same time. So much of what I have learned is from customers, other sites, competition, and trial and error.
I try to learn new ways of creating because I want to improve on my product and make the buying experience enjoyable for my customers. Today I took a trip down memory lane and looked over my past catalog. Yes, it took an hour. I have sold over 5000 crosses since my start in late 2014 and have made no two alike. My crosses are 100% one of a kind
So as I’m looking through I notice a few things about my designs. Maybe I have paid too much attention to my competition and haven’t always stayed true to myself. Is better always better? While trying to keep up with volume have I lost my nerve to be more creative? Is was worth the trip down memory lane. I learned something new today, to stop and think, “is this really my best?”
Six years ago my daughter gave me a gift that transformed my life. I realize that is a bold statement but I genuinely feel that way. The gift was an iPad. Now understand that I learned windows on a desktop with lots of tears and bad words. I could email, look at the internet, and do some graphics but nothing like my iPad. It was easy to use, I never felt like the iPad would blow up if I hit the wrong key, and no tears were involved. No I understand you might think that my daughter helped me learn but no she told me I was on my own after setting up my email and cloud account and showing me where I could find apps to download. I taught myself and opened up an online store. I worked social media and with three different printers over 4 years I could master anything. I do almost EVERYTHING online. The reason I tell you this rather long winded story is this: I’m not young. I cringe when I have someone tell me that they can’t learn computer, they can’t keep up, or they don’t want to. I cringe because I am the same age as the people telling me this and all I hear is fear. I help when they ask a question in regards to “online questions” and I even go so far as to do a lot of things for them online which I don’t really mind at all. I do worry how isolated seniors will feel as technology flies at the speed of sound these days. Each year a senior doesn’t learn the more they will not understand what the generation below them is talking about, the more they won’t understand the world and how to function within it, and the more they will be afraid.
I know that my title is not an attention grabber and that’s ok. I want to personally recognize this group of people that have made my life easier. This particular group, until you need them and chances are you will need them one day, are there for people at their saddest and most vulnerable moment. The first encounter I had with a funeral director was when I was 19. My oldest brother died in an accident and the family was gathered at the funeral home trying to make arrangements. My parents couldn’t put aside their hurt and anger long enough to bury my brother so they turned and said “ask Missy what she wants”. I was stunned, I wasn’t a parent. I wasn’t even an adult , really. This poor funeral director pulled me aside and walked me through the decisions with such kindness and understanding I couldn’t have made it through that day , or the funeral to come. I don’t remember his face at all just his ability to understand my humiliation, my pain, and my lack of knowledge. He saved that day from being one that could have left me hardened and pissed off.
I have had too many encounters with other funeral homes and the employees that have helped me and I have had people with the same kindness and concern at each one. We may not like talking about what a service these individuals provide , or maybe we tell ourselves that we wouldn’t want to have one as a friend, but I tell you it would make your life better if you did. In recognition of those who provide this service, I say THANK YOU!
I remember when I was a little girl and how I loved looking forward to a holiday. My younger brother and I celebrated them together in every wish, dream, and moment. It was our time then. We would excite ourselves with the idea of Easter morning chocolate bunnies and spring toys. Christmastime we spent hours thumbing through store catalogs marking the pages of everything we wanted by bending the page or using a permanent black magic marker to circle the desires that year. We would Trick or Treat on Halloween and come home to sort and group our candy in neat little piles before counting them and gorging ourselves. I would always run out of chocolate candy first as I had an enormous sweet tooth and my brother would pretend not to notice that I ate his when mine was gone.
These holidays were my childhood and were some of my best holiday moments. No one realizes that until those moments are long gone. As an adult I was given the gift of having children to celebrate these moments with and I loved every second of every holiday. Even as I celebrated these moments I knew that they would stop some day and my job would warp into the final stage of observer. My participation would be more “watching” than “doing”.
At first the role seemed strange to me but I have learned by watching my children being the “doers” in holiday celebrations just how lucky I really am. I love reliving in my mind how my younger brother and I celebrated together and the only sad part is that he is not here to share our memories together. I watch my children build their own lives and I know how lucky I am to have raised them and had those moments. I still love holidays and the family time that they bring but I have learned that it’s ok to sit them out and let them be celebrated by the here and now. I enjoy watching others live what I have learned. I hope that my children will see someday how wonderful their lives have been as I do now.
I know it may seem odd since my business is cemetery decorations but I like the idea of green burial. It’s more than just the ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in a word-simple. I think it’s important to have one final decision in life and that is how your death or life will be celebrated. Now this is not a simple choice if you have a child that has proceeded you in death, a husband, a sibling, a partner. I had to make choices for my family members without knowing exactly what they wanted. I tried to make decisions that were appropriate, respectful, and loving but those were choices I made for them, and it was a long time before I forgave myself for something I had no control over. My parents, and siblings have been gone for over 25 years and the pain doesn’t flood me as it once did. The deaths just came suddenly but not surprisingly. I lost my mother, younger brother, and father all within 9 months. I had already buried my stepfather and my oldest brother, and my middle brother would follow in just a few years. I was afraid, afraid to talk to them about death even though most of them were inevitable, but it was so much simpler to just put it away in the back of my mind. What I wasn’t prepared for is I would be the only decision maker, the only one left to make those choices.
I started making my crosses over 20 years ago. I lost most of my childhood family and I needed to process my grief. These crosses came to me one night while I was lying in bed. It wasn’t until ten years later that my daughters would convince me that others would also like my crosses. And the rest as they say is history, no it’s my life.
My youngest brother was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1962. My mother would make him a pumpkin pie every year for his birthday. She said it was his favorite but I think it was her way of paying him back for the Thanksgiving she missed in 1962. My brother would celebrate his first birthday with pumpkin pie of course but it was not a happy celebration as that was the day that President Kennedy was shot and died of his injuries.
My brother would die on New Years Eve of 1999, yet another holiday that would not be celebrated for years following his death. I always like to make something special for his grave celebrating his life, his birthday. His favorite color was orange and so it is very easy to decorate his grave for Fall. This year I decided to break from this tradition and decorate his grave with a bright green and yellow wreath I made. The wreath is thick enough and just heavy enough to be held by his vase alone. Very cheerful, he was a very cheerful kid.
Like all of the cemeteries I will be posting, Roll cemetery , once way outside the city limits, is well within the city limits of Haysville, KS. Now Haysville KS is butt up against Wichita KS. You don’t realize you have left one and entered the other. I have blogged before my curiosity comes from my business , content for this blog, and the YouTube channel Sidestep Adventures. Kansas doesn’t have as long of a history as the state of Georgia which is where Sidestep Adventures takes place, but the history can be found in its small country cemeteries. This is Roll Cemetery and the Roll family is buried within. Family cemeteries were very common in the 1800s to early 1900s and Roll Cemetery displays that history well.
Like the others I have posted Roll Cemetery has a beautiful handcrafted entrance and is well cared for. The fence came years later to keep others out and to mark the area which is designated as cemetery.
Roll cemetery is on about an acre of land but runs along the side the dirt road and it’s length is greater than it’s width.
March, April, and May are busy months for me as are the holidays. My customers are loyal and kind. All of my family are buried in small country cemeteries or Catholic cemeteries. I realize that some of the larger corporate cemeteries have strict rules on what you can or can’t place on graves. There are cemeteries that have timelines stating when and how long grave decorations can remain on a grave. Here are some pictures of my husband’s family graves this Memorial holiday.
Like every state in the union Kansas has many small Cemeteries. Mount Zion is one such cemetery. This quiet little piece of green earth is along highway 160 and almost appears as a highway rest stop. Some of the earliest buried there are from the 1800’s with the latest burial in 2020. Mount Zion was once referred to as the Kellogg Cemetery. I can only assume that the cemetery sits on land that was once owned by the Kellogg family. There are four Kellogg family members laid to rest there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When you visit this cemetery of roughly 200 souls on Find A Grave you will notice two things; one the family names are repetitive and very few died of old age. The Hubbard family have 7 children all under the age of 17 buried there, all with different dates and years of death. The Hubbard parents and extended family are not laid to rest there, which makes one wonder if they had too much of the Kansas prairie and left for a better life and less painful memories.
The weather has been warmer and my walks have been longer. I live in a neighborhood that has parks, sidewalks, and friendly neighbors. I ran into a neighbor that I heard had lost his wife in 2020 , but I had not had the chance to tell him personally how sorry I was. His booming voice called me over and I told him how sorry I was to hear of his wife’s passing. He and his wife would walk in good weather even after hip and knee replacements. His voice started to break as he talked about her. My heart broke as I listened. He explained that the “virus took her”. I finished my walk and began to think about everything he had said. This couple was not young but they took good care of each other. They got their flu shots, pneumonia shots, and went to the doctor annually. I thought even beyond his loss and about the total loss of life to COVID. To date 500,000.00 people have died of COVID in the United States. If you consider for one moment that each life lost affects 10 other people spiritually, emotionally, and financially then that total comes to 5 Million. Five million + souls walking around in 2020 trying to understand what happened. Be kind people, it was a very hard year.
2020 passed so fast and drug on so long. I look back and say to myself, “Where did 2020 go?” My 2020 started out with so much excitement. Two new grandchildren were born just a day apart and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was so see new life come into the world. I spent 5 years burying all of my family so new life brings new possibilities. I felt so content, and then came March 2020. Everyone has their own story for 2020. My year was odd. I was so caught up in the virus and the election year that it took the place of things I would normally do; volunteering, the gym, activities with family. Everyone had to make a new kind of day for themselves. I watched in horror how Americans were dying so quickly and Americans that were so divided in politics, or was it because I just had more time to notice? One thing is for sure my life is good, I’m not wealthy, or a world traveler, or even good looking, but I have a good life. I did learn a couple of things this last year. I was reminded to be more humble and more grateful. It was just one year but a year that no one will forget, no matter their story.
They were having some mowing problems at the cemetery where two of my brothers are laid to rest. My youngest brother’s favorite color was orange so I made this cross for him while working on my Fall Crosses. The bright colors help me to locate his grave until this mowing disagreement is over.
I must start by telling you that I am so grateful for my following of customers. Just the thought of someone understanding what I do and why while meeting their needs is the best feeling in the world.
One of my customers wrote me a message some time ago and I have not forgotten his words since.
You might like to hear that I took the orange cross to the plot of ground that was once the house where my mother was born, in East Baltimore, 101 years ago, on her birthday this past August. It was a fine and fitting memorial to her and my aunts and grand parents, in Orioles territory. Doubtless many noticed and admired it on that green space walk way yet no one bothered it during the entire week that I was there.
I’m one of those people that notice my surroundings possibly more than others but I have always enjoyed the strange and unique world we live in.. Have you ever seen something outside and wondered why it was there? Maybe it was just one shoe in the middle of the road, or a ribbon tied around a pole, a hat in a tree, or a bunch of balloons floating by?
We may not always know the reason something is were it is but by just taking note we have become one piece of someone’s small patch in time, part of a small remembrance.
I decided to become part of his story and created this cross for him as a gift of gratitude.
While living with my Grandmother, from the age of 19 until my marriage at 25, we would have so many discussions about everything you can imagine. We would spend hours talking about family, kids, sex, marriage, childhood, mistakes, and so much more.
Many of the comments she made during our life discussions have stayed very vivid in my mind. Some of the things she said I didn’t understand completely until I was older or trying to work through one of life’s many twist.
When I saw this beautiful statue I instantly remembered something she said. “You know your body gets older with time but your mind is still remembering the seventeen year old you once were.” I can remember thinking at the time that being seventeen was a good time in her life. As I have grown older I understand so much more of what she was saying. As you grow older your body does fail you, your happy memories of your youth come to mind so much more than they used to, but keeping that seventeen year old mind and heart is what is so important.
My Grandmother passed away just a few months short of her 104th birthday. I believe she is now forever 17.
This post is in honor of her birthday, October 11.
If you are a mother then you are part of a very special group of people. Only mother’s carry their children inside their body for nine months before giving birth. It’s a special wonder to be part of that group. Being a mother is a job I took very seriously. To teach and shape the minds of little humans is a huge responsibility.
There’s another group of mothers that no mother wants to be a part of. The group I refer to is mothers who have lost a child. When I was raising my children I knew women who had lost their infants, toddlers, or teenagers. Our hearts would break to hear about the death of a child we knew. Deep down we would not admit it but we feared the thought of being a member of that group. Some mothers would avoid another mother after her loss as if her grief would rub off.
I saw this happen to my own mother when my oldest brother died at age 24. I was only 19 and not yet a mother myself. I didn’t understand her grief until I became a mom myself and discovered that love. I do remember others avoiding her. I guess they just weren’t sure what to say or do. I do remember people telling her things that I’m sure they thought were helpful but they couldn’t possibly understand her pain. These mothers don’t need you to understand their pain but they need to know you remember their child. My mother said that everyone not wanting to talk about my brother hurt more than the people who just avoided her as if her loss would “rub off on them”.
I have been amazed by the women I have known that have suffered the loss of a child. These women are fierce and their love is forever. Their child is no longer on this earth but their love is far beyond what we can see or understand in this life.
I met one of these amazing fierce loving moms recently – Maria’s mom.
Maria’s mom will celebrate every holiday, every family triumph , every family birthday with Maria.
When I moved into my apartment a few years ago I picked my childhood neighborhood. Maybe I was being nostalgic or maybe I just felt a comfort come over me when I first saw the duplex apartment. The House was old , like all the others, it had the original woodwork, leaded windows, and hardwood floors. As weeks went by I worked up the nerve to knock on a neighbors door. Now this neighbor was a lifelong friend of my moms but my mom died over 15 years ago and I wasn’t sure if she still lived in the home or if she was still alive. I knock nervously on her door it flew open and a smiling woman hugged me and said, “Missy!”. Not only did she recognize me but was happy to see me.
That started a friendship that would grow over the next 3 years. She ask me to come back after that first reunion and it became a daily ritual. At first we would just catch up on each other’s lives. Then it became stories about my family that I had never heard. She was an amazing story teller. She was also a great listener and I needed one. She always had a smile on her face and never complained. She never judged anything I said or did. I would walk her dog with mine and sometimes we would share a quick meal together at her house. I would ask her if she needed anything and sometimes she did. Somewhere in the very back of my head I knew that this would not last forever but I didn’t care. Just having her friendship and love was all that mattered. I knew how old she was but she didn’t seem old to me. She was always wanting to learn something new and her mind was so open that age was not present in our friendship.
my friend died a few weeks ago and the pain in my heart is the lost friendship. Her children held a celebration of her life and it was just as special and unique as she was. I could have not taken the time to reunite and create this friendship but the pain I’m feeling now is worth the love I received from her. She touched my life and I have grown.
The pictures above are of a cross I placed on my brothers grave this week. We have received little rain this year and the ground was hard but I could place the cross into the ground without a rubber mallet. Also the bow was flattened in the car so I simply placed my 2 missed fingers between the bow to unflatten. If the ground is hard you can also place next to or into the grave vase if present.
I had wanted to post something like this earlier but I simply put it off over and over. With Memorial Day a few months away I thought I should post the video BEFORE I was ready to start a new one for this year.
I constantly see on FB – Instagram -Twitter post about be kind to everyone because you don’t know their story. In other words you don’t know how they have suffered, or are suffering now in their lives. What pain they have had to endure. What horrors they have seen. When I see these post I think to myself that in a perfect world we would all be kind and we would always think about others first. Unfortunately, pain and suffering are a human conditions which at some point touches all of us in some way.
The reason I even mention human suffering is because I was watching the Investigate channel on TV and they have a new show called Shattered and it’s a little different than a lot of the shows on that channel. Now watching this channel in large doses (in my opinion) can be damaging to your psychological and spiritual well being. This show drew me in.
Shattered , like all of the other shows on that channel, deal with one horrific crime. What makes this one different is it tells a story of what happened through the eyes of three different people. Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. We don’t know everyone’s story and even when we do know their story , or we are a part of their story, we can suffer from tunnel vision. We see what we want to see, another human condition. We can’t possibly know or even care about everyone’s story. What we can do is listen when ask, smile when needed, and take deep deep breaths when your just not sure what their story is.
I believe that the majority of humans are good not bad.
The majority of the good are going to have bad days, I do.
I was watching a video made in 1968 of my hometown on YouTube. I have a tendency to be nostalgic so it was right up my alley. I’m also a fan of history so I justified the 25 min out of my day to watch the video. A scene from a local hotel with a beautiful indoor swimming pool was one of the shots on the video. The hotel no longer exists but it reminded me of the times my Grandmother would reserve a room for me and my younger brother for a weekend and we would just swim all weekend until we were exhausted. It was such a treat when she did this for us. She would sit by the pool watching us and reading or knitting. When she decided we were waterlogged enough she would order room service or take us down to the hotel dining room to eat. It was always a great weekend and she always picked weekends in the wintertime so that made the indoor swimming all the more fun.
This was such a great childhood memory. How could I not have thought about it in so many years? My younger brother and I did everything together, but he passed away 20 years ago and the memories are fading. I think the reason why it’s harder to remember things from our childhood now is that I no longer have him to talk to and repeat the stories that make me smile, laugh and cry. When we were young adults and we got together these childhood memories no matter how embarrassing, funny, or just plain odd would be told over and over. The four of us ( my 3 brothers and myself) along with my mother would laugh and tease each other about these childhood incidents- now stories
I don’t tell you this as a sad tale. I just want others to remember that when your mother, brother, sister, or Uncle Joe want to share the same old stories with you about when you were young, just smile and say “I remember”.
These stories are your history and when the people in them are gone the memories fade. By the way, watching that YouTube video and remembering times spent with my brother and grandmother were the best 25 min. I’ve spent in a long time.