Monthly Archives: July 2017

Life Lessons and Trees

Why do I love old trees?

IMG_0306A number of years ago I started walking my neighborhood in St. Charles, MO.  During these walks I began to notice the trees.  I am still struck today by looking at trees in the winter when the leaves are gone, and I see only the trunk and branches.  To me it is the spiritual skeleton of the tree.  It is stripped bare to see what it has endured.

Branches jut out in different directions and they are bent.  The bending comes over time from wind and storms.  It reminds me of life.  The wind and storms in our life bend us.  Sometimes it weakens us—sometimes it helps us be stronger.  Nonetheless, it develops who we become, what we look like (in an spiritual sense).  Not being perfect just tells me that life has happened.  Every year the tree loses its leaves, and the tree gets new leaves—an opportunity for new life.

budsIt is a sign of hope.  A sign of resurrection.

Therefore if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.”   2 Corinthians 5:17

I wrote about trees the winter of 2011-2012.  The exact time I am not sure.  I was emailing a IMG_2394.JPGfriend who was struggling with something of which today I do not remember.  I took my walk and saw the trees barren of leaves.  I came home and these words came to me.  In April of 2012, I shared it on my Facebook page.  I did not realize that I was going to be facing some real challenges in my life that year.  A month later, my sister was diagnosed with cancer, and she was gone three months later.  I had real job challenges that did not turn out the way I would have liked, and I was just that barren tree.

IMG_2301But, as always happens, God lets that tree resurface with new leaves and new life, and that is just what happened.  I would like never to feel the pain and the cold that I felt in 2012, but new life happened, and I felt God’s grace once again.

The encouraging thing is that even though the tree looks bent and harsh in the winter, when it receives it’s leaves again, it has a beauty and radiance about it.  It is like when we are clothed in righteousness from Christ.  Even though we may be broken, God clothes us in righteousness, and we are beautiful to God!

We do get through the struggles.  We are beautiful again!

Here is what I wrote:

2Trees

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness . . .”  Isaiah 61:10

 

 

 

Accidents Happen

When I was a teenager my mom wouldn’t let me ride in cars with another teen driving. She never said why. I could go to an activity at school with my friends — if she drove. Was it because they were teens? Or was it because she felt more in control if she drove? About a year before my mom died, I interviewed her about her life. I then printed her story and made copies for our family. There are many more questions I wish I asked, but the stories I have will have to suffice.

So, back to riding in a car. When my mom was 16 years old, she was in an automobile accident that has become a legend story in the family. Let me set it up so you know all the players.

Dorothy Tomich Nothum – my mom, age 16
Pauline Vrazsity Tomich – my grandmother, age 35
Walter Tomich – my mom’s uncle, my grandmother’s brother-in-law, age 24
Anna Pavkov (Park/Parks/Parker) Tomich – Walter’s bride, age 20
Pauline Tomich – my mom’s aunt, and sister to Walter, age 16

Anna & Walter

Walter was a young man who owned a beautiful 1935 Ford Tudor 2 door sedan. He was engaged to a young lady, Anna Pavkov from Akron, Ohio. He met her through their church. From everything I read, Anna also went by Anna Parker or Anna Park. She had “Americanized” her last name, which many immigrants did to blend in.  Sometime around 1933, Anna’s parents moved with nine of the youngest of  their 15 children from Akron to a farm in Union City, Pennsylvania.

My mother’s family were members of the Apostolic Christian Church (Nazarene) which was a small European based denomination. Many of the people who attended this church were Serbian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Hungarian, and German. The churches were small and the people traveled around the country for church events, where many met their future spouses.

Walter married Anna on June 9, 1935, in Union City, Pennsylvania. The Tomich family who lived in and around St. Louis, Missouri, Madison and Granite City, Illinois, traveled to Pennsylvania for the wedding.

As was the tradition of this church, they attended the Sunday morning church service. The congregation probably sat segregated—the men on one side of the aisle and the women on the other side. Many times the worship service was performed in several languages, always English, and then one of the languages of the above nationalities. Many of these church members were recent immigrants to America.

When the long worship service was over, the bride and groom would come to the front of the church for the wedding ceremony. Back in those days, they did not have attendants, nor did they wear wedding dresses. The brides wore a nice dress or suit. (One of this church’s beliefs was about not looking vain).

Hymn Singing at the Reception

After the ceremony, everyone was invited back to the home of the bride’s family for a reception. The wedding reception was a bit different than what we see today. They had a hymn sing and food. It was more like a fellowship dinner. There was never any alcohol served. They probably had fried chicken and a few ethnic delights.

Now the story gets a bit murky. Walter wants to go back home after the long day of celebrating. The people who attended from the midwest had taken several cars to the wedding. Walter had driven Pauline, Dorothy, and young Pauline to Pennsylvania. So, returning to the St. Louis area, they would ride back with Walter and his bride, Anna.

00 1935 ~Dorothy and Aunt Pauline Tomich 2 - Granite City IL -on Walter's V8- Pals - befo

Dorothy & her Aunt Pauline Both 16 years old ~ 1935

Okay, let’s stop here for a second. Yes, today that would never happen. The bride and groom would not bring anyone on a long road trip with them after the wedding. This was a different time and a different culture. Did they like bringing the relatives on the return trip? Who knows, but that is what they did.

People at the wedding tried to encourage them to stay until Monday to drive home, but everyone was ready to go home, and I am sure Walter and Anna were looking forward to going home to start their married life alone. They left Union City, Pennsylvania early evening.

Walter started the trip driving south through Pennsylvania but soon became tired. Dorothy took over the wheel, driving through the hills of southern Ohio. About 1:00 a.m., Walter said he was well rested and could take over the driving. They were approaching Zanesville, Ohio, so Dorothy pulled over at a diner, and she, and the two Paulines went inside for some pie and coffee. Walter and Anna stayed in the car while they dined (no surprise there)!

damage 1A short while later, the three emerged from the diner, and Walter was ready and rested to continue the drive. Anna, the bride, sat next to him in the front seat, and Pauline (my grandmother) sat next to her by the front passenger door. Behind Walter, in the back seat, was a large stack of wedding gifts, young Pauline in the center, and Dorothy at the rear right passenger door. They traveled a few miles out of Zanesville, going through Brownsville, Ohio, when they struck a truck as they came over the crest of a hill. The truck landed on the westbound side of the highway. The Ford flipped over six times before it landed on its side. Walter, young Pauline, and Dorothy were thrown from the car. Anna and the older Pauline were still in the car.

damage 3Some passers-by flipped the car back upright. The truck had actually demolished 2/3 of the car. Walter and Pauline were laying on the side of the road—both of them had perished. Anna was alive, but barely—she died few hours later. The older Pauline (my grandmother) and Dorothy (my mom) had only minor injuries. They stayed the night in a Zanesville hospital.

Walter and Anna’s Tombstone

My grandfather, David Tomich, husband of Pauline was traveling back from the wedding in a different car with his two youngest children, and had taken a different route through Ohio (probably going through northern Ohio). There was no way to contact him until he arrived home in St. Louis. A family from the church living in Akron, Ohio, picked up Pauline and Dorothy, and brought them to their home until my grandfather could get them. The hosts’ name was Mr. and Mrs. Baitz. They owned a meat packing plant and lived in a large beautiful home. Before they left for home with my grandfather, there was a funeral service in Akron where many of Anna Pavkov Tomich’s family lived. The bodies where shipped to Granite City, Illinois, where they held a large funeral, and were buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

31 artticleWhat effect did this have on my mom? Over the years, we knew the story of the accident that took three young people’s lives. Mom had a scrap book with newspaper articles of the accident. She had the order of worship for the Granite City funeral service and the funeral brochure from the mortuary. She had a small photo album that contained photos of the wedding reception and the damaged automobile. What we didn’t have for years was what she experienced—what she felt and how she and her mom coped with being in such a tragedy. Even her telling the story to me in early 1995, it was told in a matter-of-fact manner, although she did describe what she saw and heard that I have not put in this story (may be too gory for some to read). She told the story with no special inflection in her voice, no tears, no voice cracking—just the facts.

I know this had to affected her greatly. The young Pauline, her aunt who was the same age as she, was her best friend. She saw her dear family die before her eyes.

When we are young, we don’t realize the things that happened to our parents that affect how they respond to life.  I am glad I got to hear the story from my mom.  I used to think she was overprotective in my teen years.  She saw tragedy in her teen years.  She knew how quickly and unexpectedly life could be taken away.  I am grateful for my mom.  I am sorry she had to endure such a traumatic event in her life.  I know it made an impact.

What did/do you not understand about your parents?  Could something in their past have influenced how they responded?  If they are still with you, get their stories while you can.  Listen to them with an open heart.  You may learn something new about them and yourself.

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Funeral Service

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High Tech or Not?

I’m on vacation this week, so light a light-hearted blog is in order. It is time for a little nostalgia. Those of you who are of my generation will nod your head in remembrance, and those younger will shake your head in disbelief. My parents ran their construction company from an office in our basement until I was in junior high. Then they moved to their own office building, and I worked every summer in the office. What I didn’t realize is how high tech we were back in the 60’s.

3 mimeographRemember the ditto machine? The one that was stinky and everything it printed came out in blue fuzzy type? Nothing was fine and clear, but it was readable. Yeah, we had one. Then we upgraded to the mimeograph machine. It had a waxed type sheet that you type on. You moved the ribbon to the off position on the typewriter so that you could get a clean imprint of the typewriter key on this waxy sheet. That mimeograph machine used very thick ink that seeped through the impressions made on the stencil. If you inked up the machine too much, goopy ink flowed all over the paper—one had to prime the machine properly. I became quite an expert on that machine.

One of my favorite office machines was the Addressograph machine. It had little metal cards (kind of like a dog tag, but rectangular like a credit card). It had the name and addresses of subcontractors that my dad’s company used. (We would send post cards to all these subcontractors informing them that Nothum Bros. Construction Co. was going to bid on a certain project, and they could come to our office to read the blueprints and make their bid to us for the work they do). I would put the cards in a holder that stacked them, then pull\ a lever to move one to the center of the machine, place the post card on the spot, pulled the handle, and the address would be printed on the card. Then I moved 2 checkthe lever that pushed a new metal card to that place, and moved the other card to a new holder. We could address hundreds of post cards and envelopes in minutes! I have searched online for a photo of this machine, but could not find one that looked like the one I used. There was no such thing as Avery mailing labels back then.  We also had a check protector, that punched the total of the check on the line where we write the number—that way no one could take a pen and change what the amount was. It embossed the amount on the check with ink and little holes.

4 phoneThe business rotary dial phones had the additional lines on a row of buttons below. It was upgraded to push button, but the same line configuration—our first business lines for Nothum Bros. Construction Co. was VIctor 3-1414 and VIctor 3-1415. We were high tech!

Calculators—there was no such thing as a hand-held calculator—the bigger the better. At my dad’s office we had Olivetti calculators, andimages they were huge, and they could, add, subtract, multiply, and divide! What a wonder, and I love the chugging noise it made when doing the calculating.

All letters, bid proposals, punch lists, envelopes, and any other documents were typed on a typewriter. Our office had IBM Selectric typewriters. Instead of having individual keys like the 1 selectricold-fashioned typewriter, it had a ball with the letters and symbols on it. You could snap the ball off and attach a different ball if you wanted to change fonts. We had a couple different fonts—cool stuff!

I learned word processing on an Olivetti word processor. The next company I worked for was 5 Word Processorsusing the Wang word processor. We were in the high-tech world. Then came PC’s that changed every office function—it was a word processor, an accounting machine, and now the functions it performs are endless.

Those office machines I used in my day were eventually replaced by the computer, the printer, and Wi-Fi. Today we get on our computers and we do the following things: pay bills, write letters in our word processing software that may be delivered through email, or we make multiple copies on our printers, and print labels that we attach to envelopes, we go to our spreadsheet or accounting programs and do mathematical calculations. One machine (computer), along with a printer, connected to Wi-Fi and we are in business. Easy and streamlined.

7 cloud_computing_1Remember the first office computers? We had dot matrix printers and the paper was connected and we thought it was the cat’s pajamas! We progressed from large floppy disks, to small floppy disks, to little square disks, to CD’s, to hard drives that could hold all the data, and now we can store our data on the cloud. Be careful, a good rainfall, and all your data could land on your roof!

Doesn’t it make you wonder what our children will be using in the future that will make our computers, cloud storage, and smartphones look obsolete?

 

Who Is In Control?

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
That is Step 2 in any twelve-step program. It comes after the 1st step for codependents, which is, “We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The 2nd step is a tough one for many to get through, but one cannot move on to Step 3, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives, over to the care of God as we understood God,” without wrestling with step two.

Many of us who went through 12-step programs (mine was for codependency) have had some sort of religious upbringing, but when you are at the point that you admit you are “powerless over whatever addiction or behavior,” one has pretty much thrown out the idea that there is a higher power working in their life. For me, it was that real sense of abandonment I felt — one of my biggest fears — rejection and abandonment. I thought that God just didn’t love me anymore.

I was in a 12-step recovery meeting. They were telling me to work the steps. The secret was “working” the steps. What on earth did that mean?


My life was in shambles. What happened to get me where I was? In my deep feeling of abandonment and rejection, I divorced my husband of 10 years. I fell into a deep depression, and dug my way out. I had four little boys who were a handful and I felt I wasn’t keeping up with their needs very well. I had no one for a support system. I quit going to church because these little boys didn’t want to sit still during a service and I felt like everyone was looking at me — that divorced woman. My best friends from church disappeared. They were going through their own things. My family didn’t understand my decision and were not there in my loneliness and despair. I had no best friends.

I didn’t know how to date — never learned that before my first marriage! After my divorce, I attended a singles group, which were rare back in the day. There was no Match.com or any online dating sites or church support groups for divorced folks. At one of these singles group meeting, a guy came up to me and started chatting. He then asked if I had any children, and upon my answer of four little boys from ages 3 to 9, I saw this guy slowly back away, or maybe it was quickly bolt out of sight!

One day I met a man whom I shall call Pete (name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty). He asked the question about children, and upon receiving the answer, he sill seemed interested. He was divorced and had no children but said he wished he had. Bingo! A guy who likes the fact I had four kids. So, I started going out with him. I didn’t find his type and looks particularly attractive, but there was finally someone who liked me, loved me, lusted for me, whatever. It felt good at the moment.

I felt like there was no other single soul on this planet who gave me five minutes of their day. That is a bad place to be, because one becomes completely vulnerable and blind when they are in that spot.

Why doesn’t one follow their gut? When we are devastatingly lonely our inner voice can be screaming at us, but we silence it with our need to be loved and accepted — by anyone — doesn’t matter.

I now had someone to be with on my every other weekends without the kids. We went out to great dinners (hmm, who really paid the bill?), we explored the city, and he was a phenomenal cook — no man ever cooked for me before. This was feeling so good to the very lonely lady. So, here was this man who doesn’t even have a real job, who eventually loses his apartment — but who can tell a convincing story to this lonely lady that things are just about to turn around. In my lonely, fogged up head I thought, go ahead and move in for a short while, sleep on the couch, and when things get better you can move out.

When I met Pete, he was a recovered alcoholic. I very seldom drank and came from a family of non-drinkers. When he started drinking again I asked him about it, but he said it was no problem because he had it under control this time. Why should I not believe him? I didn’t know anyone who drank, and I didn’t have any friends to ask or friends to observe. Would it have mattered? The loneliness in me screamed out louder and drowned out the noise of any other dysfunction going on.

Now I had a drunk living at my house. Nice guy when he was sober, real ass when he was drunk. So what did I do? I married him! Yeah, he can’t continue living here — I needed to legitimize this. And he was working, kind of, and I’m not as lonely. The day before the wedding and the morning of the wedding day, my inner voice was SCREAMING! I silenced it — if I backed out, I would be admitting to my family I made a stupid decision (codependents think they cannot show they made a mistake–they have to be right in their head). I went through with this sham of a marriage. It was awful. I had a honeymoon where I was awake in the hotel room while he slept off the last night’s drunk. Finally, late in the afternoon we would go out and enjoy the sites of Memphis while the drunk started over again.

Drunk is one thing, abusive is another. It became verbal, and it became physical. We went to counseling, he dropped out, and I continued. My counselor asked me when I would kick this guy out and divorce him. I was afraid of what others would think—admitting I made a mistake was scarier than having this dysfunctional person in my and my children’s life. I wasn’t strong enough.

As I got stronger through counseling and the 12-step group, I realized the one place that is to be my place of safety is my home. I was the owner of this home, not Pete. Whenever I drove home from work, I always had a deep dread hanging over me. I knew it had to stop. One day I walked in the house and informed Pete that we no longer had a joint checking account, and he had 30 days to find someplace else to live. I was filing for divorce. I continued in my counseling and the 12-step group for codependency.

Now committed to attending this 12-step group, I was struggling with who this higher power was that I could turn to for recovery, to become a healthy productive human being, contributing something on this planet. As I attended these meetings, I observed the other people. I was amazed at how many people attend these meetings who really don’t want to recover. They were addicted to crisis, and they had one foot nailed to the floor. It is hard to walk forward with one foot nailed to the floor—one would only be able to walk in circles—getting nowhere! I noticed that those who stated their higher power was energy, or something as obscure, were really struggling with their recovery and/or desire to recover. Those who stated it was God (whatever that meant to them) seemed to be moving forward.

6bibleMy birthday is at the end of the year. One of my sons asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I wanted a One-Year Bible. He was a bit taken back by that since I had not darkened the door of a church in about ten years. I didn’t tell him why, but I did let him know I was serious. So, on my birthday, wrapped as a teenage boy would do, I received my requested gift. Since we celebrate birthdays together in my family I am sure my other boys were equally surprised. It didn’t matter. I knew that I needed to read this book. Did I believe that my higher power was this God from the “Holy Bible” that I was raised to believe, that I had worshipped for my first 32 years, that I taught my children about when they were little? If this God is not my higher power, I needed to know this so I could search out my new higher power and recover as quickly as possible. I had a life to live!

I diligently started reading on January 1. If I missed a day, I made myself read double the next day. I was determined to know if this was or was not my God by year end. I wasn’t studying the Bible this time, I was just reading it. Oh, my goodness! I struggled though some of the books. Some were real snooze-fests, and some were joyous, or full of intrigue, or even funny. But, by the end of the year I had read through the last chapter of Revelation.

There were certain observations that I made.  This long, long document wasn’t about the rules and regulations that God put out there. This book was about the very nature of who God is. I realized that I am a screw-up, but so was everyone in the Bible, and so is everyone on this planet! This is a book about redemption.

My favorite person in the Bible is David – yeah, the old testament guy—the kid who killed a giant, the man who was hunted by the king, the man who became king and abused his power in so many ways and then ran away from God time and time again, and yet God said that David was a man after God’s own heart and that Jesus (my savior) would be born from the line of David. If one doesn’t understand God’s unconditional love and what redemption is after reading about David, I don’t know where else to get it.

It took another few years before I could walk into a church. I wanted to worship my God in a public setting with others who also believed, but fear and panic would grip me. I had been hurt by people in the church — felt rejected and abandoned by them. I knew I had to forgive them. They were (and are) as flawed as I am. We are in the same struggle. Sometimes I have moved in and out in my participation within the church, but I do not move in and out of my knowledge of God as my higher power who can do all things.

I am his special creation. I believe that my creativity in all that I do is because I am made in his image. He is the ultimate creator, but we all are creative in our jobs, with our families, artists, musicians, cooks etc. because we are in his image. That’s why I can be loving, compassionate and forgiving, because that is who my God is and I am created in that image.

He is also the redeemer. God’s unconditional love for me is overwhelming. I no longer regret the path my life took. It took this darkness for me to see the light. It took this darkness for me to understand that everyone has huge struggles. It took this darkness for me to love everyone, just as God has loved me. It doesn’t mean that I love all their actions — God does not love all our actions, but he love us deeply — so deeply, he would die for us. God didn’t abandon me back in those days, I just didn’t see his light any longer. But the light never went out—the spark was still there, and grew into a bright light of love and forgiveness (redemption).

 

Recommended Resources:

Holy Bible
Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
David, A Man of Passion and Destiny by Charles Swindoll
Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps by Melody Beattie