Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Holidays From The Conleys The Year That Was 2014

Dear Family, friends, in-laws and out laws,

We are wishing you a: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Eid Mubarak, Happy Diwali, and a Joyous Solstice and Yule.  Hooray for celebrating and if you are not celebrating any of those things may you have something to celebrate.  We bring tidings of good cheer from the Conley household.  It has been 2 years since I have sent out our previously annual missive. In those 2 years our big kid has gotten a drivers license, gained skills in the field of veterinary care while working at a local vet, graduated from HS, and started college at GRCC. In that time our little kid completed kindergarten and 1st grade,   hiked up several mountains, and has become an amazing reader. In this time we have also endured the loss of my dad Bob, Clint’s grandmother Florence The Great , and his  uncle  Spencer as well as one of our fur children Miss Kitty.  While our hearts are heavy and we find there are large holes to be filled, moving on and filling them we are, with hearts of gratitude for the time and relationships we had. 
This past January is when my  dad passed away from a heart attack brought on by the impacts of pneumonia.  He was 88 years old and other than the 4 weeks he spent  in the hospital with pneumonia  and the post recovery  he was independent and living life on his own terms. Clint and I were with him when he passed and he left this world as he had lived his life,  on his own terms and making his own decisions.  We should all be so lucky to live and die on our terms after 88 trips around the sun that were pack full of life to the brim. He is deeply missed but we all know that life is a terminal condition and I am grateful to have had the time we did and that he got to leave calling his own shots.

February was a time for adjustment.  I had previously started home health care for both my parents prior to my dad getting sick and we expanded this for my mother. The folks from Clark Home Health care were phenomenal and I was astounded at the gains she made in personal independence. She has been doing her own laundry, fixing her own breakfasts and lunches, and washing her own dishes. We have a dear friend and neighbor Amy Hall that is a retired geriatric nurse who is providing foot care and helping with showers. Clint and I bring her dinner every day, check her medications, get her to medical appointments, and handle household maintenance and lawn mowing and thus far she is doing well on her own. Clark Home Health signed off on her needing help based on the gains she made. Her GP doc is suggesting that we re-evaluate this winter but so far she is the most independent and functional I have probably ever seen her.  Caelun has had some difficulty with the loss of Grandpa Bob but the combination of time and the caring staff at school has helped him tremendously. February brought the end to the policy debate season and as my dad would have told me “the learning must go on” so it did and as a testament to my students despite the distractions of their coach losing her father they broke to quarter finals at both the JV and varsity levels at the GVSU State Debate Tournament. 

March and April headed us into spring. Clint went through some of my dad’s seed stores and started seeds. 12 flats in total. We also began plans for a memorial garden that was a vision of my brother Tom. The plants and shrubs began to arrive from every corner of the country by the dozen. Because life goes on we had our annual egg hunt at the farm with 8 kids hunting 90 eggs each. We had a moment when the bell rang and it wasn't  dad ringing it but ring it we did off the hunters were off as it should have been. April also brought a glorious day for a space themed birthday party with bubbles and Tang galore as the little kid celebrate the completion of his 7th trip around the sun. We also had some drama when the metal roof that pre dates my grandparents purchase of the farm in 1941  blew off the  house. It then rained several inches into the house. I had wanted to replace the roof on the farm the previous year but my dad had vetoed it. Let me tell you there was much swearing at a dead guy on the 9 pm drive to the farm in the snow/rain in the dark, with flash lights, because the power was knocked out, to assess the damage. Damage there was lots of water, carpet had to be removed, and KILZ and new dry wall are our friends but there is indeed a new metal roof put on by T&C Construction with a 40 year warranty on the paint. With fresh paint inside, the old farm house can again accommodate the next generations of Medford’s and their progeny. I did tell the little kid the next roof is his problem and I won’t veto him if I am still around when he says it needs a new one.

May brought more plants and plans for the memorial garden, state finals for forensics where I had several students competing, and the big kids senior prom and graduation. What a glorious sunny day it was we watched her walk across that stage to collect that piece of paper signifying the end of a chapter and the beginning of another.  Memorial Day weekend also brought the fruition of the planning for the garden party at the farm to celebrate my dad’s life and plant his memorial garden. My brother Tom flew in several days before and along with Clint, our neighbor Jerry Hall, my nieces Tracy, Jenny, and their husbands Scott, and Todd and Jenny’s daughters Courtney and Isabell we built a pergola designed by Tom and Scott. The plants and shrubs for the garden came from hundreds of family and friends. We gathered together on a warm sunny day to celebrate my dad’s joys and achievements,  honor his service in WWII, share our grief, eat a wonderful meal, and walk his trails on his beloved farm and all those things were accomplished. Caelun said it best in his closing quote from Dr. Seuss “How did it get so late so soon? It is December before it’s June. Look at how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” We spread his ashes in the garden and in many corners of the farm as he had requested. The garden bloomed  all though the summer and will again in the spring. There is plenty of space if anyone wants to add anything, there is a bench at the pergola for those wishing to sit and appreciate the view, the fire pit for those wishing to have a bonfire. I know dad would be happy to know he was remembered in this way.

June brought the fabulous celebration for our big kid's HS open house. There were tables groaning with  food, 2 chocolate fountains, and mountains of cake. Everything was draped in red and black  her school colors with my grandmother Ethel Medford’s antique canning jars filled with silk flowers from David Steinhoff's crafts as a reminder that even when people leave they are still with us. Her sweet face was displayed everywhere represented in images from the day she was born to the day she walked across the stage to get her diploma. Two days before is when we learned of the passing of Florence The Great but as she would have wanted,  the joy should go on and so it did where her card and gift that were already written and prepared  were presented. We ate, celebrated because regardless of pain and loss … and even more because of pain and loss,  joy must not be postponed.  

In July we celebrated Independence Day at the farm with a bonfire in dad’s garden and sparklers. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and spent the night looking at the stars until we went to bed under the new metal roof in the old farm house where folks that share my DNA have been falling asleep for more than 70 years and with some luck will continue into the future for generations to come. July also brought the final decision  on where the big kid would head to school. She had been deciding between Ferris State and GRCC and she decided that GRCC’s size and distance from home was her preference so we helped her set up a schedule.  Our Cherry trees did there thing and we have 23 pounds of frozen cherries in our freezer. If you are hungry pie come on over.
August we headed out to the Blue Ridge Mountains to a cabin in NC. We hiked, and slept, and hiked, and read books, and hiked, and ate, and hiked. I took lots of pictures… another gift my dad left me the ability to make beautiful images of places I have been. My mother was not thrilled we went on vacation but through the care of our neighbors and our big kid she managed quite well.
September we headed back to school – 2nd grade, college freshman, and 2 veteran teachers. Caelun has moved to a new building with new teachers and support  folks, Abbi is a new college student, Clint had a waiting list for his pharmacy tech classes, and my debate team in spite of having had funding cut has kids coming out of nowhere so on we go. I do believe fundraising has become a 2nd job … or maybe it is a third since my photography business seems to have been taking off but at any rate none of us are bored.  Because we clearly do not have enough to do we bought a lake house on Nugent Lake in Baldwin. We were attending a wedding in the area and stumbled across the house for sale from a foreclosure directly across the lake from our dear friends the Halls and so we made a crazy low offer and heaven help us the bank took it. We are looking forward to sunny days there this summer. The apple trees at the farm produced bushels and bushels of apples. After making apple sauce, apple pie filling,  and apple butter we bought a grinder and press off of Amazon and made our own cider.  11 gallons was the final total and we have 1 gallon left heading into Christmas. 

October came in cold and wet but that didn't dim our enthusiasm for the Red Flannel Festival that is held in our town the 1st weekend in October every year for the past 75 years.  We sponsored the Read To Ride programs where the kids can earn free tickets for carnival rides by reading books. Caelun ate his weight in elephant ears, took pictures from the top of the Ferris Wheel and came home with pockets full of candy from the parade. This month also found our daughter Abbi making a very difficult and adult decision to put our 14 ½ year old cat, Miss Kitty,  to sleep. She had been ill for some time and with supports from the vet, Abbi had given her an additional year of high quality life but eventually there just wasn't more to be done. We miss her friendly meows but we are glad she is not in pain.  My debate team sold pumpkins after getting them donated by Under The Pines Farms as a fund raiser. Caelun thought picking a truck load of pumpkins a day after it rained was the most fun thing ever. My students found him slipping in the mud and climbing on pumpkins to be the most fun thing ever. J We then had our annual Halloween party at the farm. We carved pumpkins, ate lots of food, drank mulled cider made from our own apples, and drove around the trails with our 1993 truck and trailer on a hay ride.  It was a glorious day. Halloween came in Blustery and cold with even a few snowflakes falling. Caelun was a black cat and his costume was furry and made of fleece so he was toasty warm. Mom and dad… not so much. After 4 blocks Clint suggested just raiding Grandma’s candy bowl  and calling it a night but no way said the black cat.  We came back home for boots, mittens, and hats and headed out again. I asked after 2 more blocks – nope, again after 3 more blocks… nope, finally after 2 more blocks and a very full  bag of candy the cat proclaimed us to be done and we headed home to examine the loot.

November rolled in with some crazy snow storms. We  got 30 inches breaking all kinds of records for snow for the month of November. We had a fabulous Thanksgiving being joined by our dear friend from college Dawn Landis and Clint’s step mother Mary and step sister Amanda and her kids  Noah and Eli. We sent plates to Clint’s Dad Floyd and my mother making it a total of 10 for dinner.  We had peach crisp, quince jam included with the cranberry sauce, cherry, and apple pie all from our trees. From our garden we got pumpkins for pie, green beans, broccoli, carrots,  potatoes, and beets. We also had fresh sage for the turkey.  We all gobbled ‘till we wobbled.  The weekend after Thanksgiving we hiked up to the farm to cut a tree. We found just the right one in Caelun’s estimation and it is enjoying a place of honor in our living room.
As we roll through the last days of the year we look back on joys and losses  and we are grateful to be taking fingers to keyboard once more to reach out and connect with all of you, near and far that help to make the trips around the sun worthwhile. We can continue to be found on facebook and if you are in the neighborhood of  our burgh that celebrates underwear please stop in there is always coffee and if you call ahead there will be cherry or apple pie in no time.

May there be love , peace, and joy in whatever you are celebrating this season and many you find ways to fill the holes created by loss with joy.

Clint, Pam,
 Abbi, Caelun,
 Nutmeg the cat

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gift wrap helper

Caelun LOVES to help wrap presents- especially if there is ribbon involved. I was  not actually wrapping presents at the time I found him wrapped up in ribbon.

Look a roll of ribbon unwound to some where.

2011-12-23 santa's helper 006

Ah there is the culprit unwinding the ribbon.

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2011-12-23 santa's helper 008

Uh oh I think the helper needs some help.

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