I come from a large family, as many families are. I grew up with four brothers and three sisters. I had cousins, nieces, and nephews I had never met, all over the country. In our part of the world, a family event or celebration was always handled the same way -- lots of food, lots of people, lots of fun! Being the eldest of eight, I know firsthand about sharing, loving, and the celebration of life. No matter if money was tight, or if our clothes were hand-me-downs, our mom taught us to keep on going, and to do it with a song. Attitude and Gratitude, it changes everything! Ours was like most families in those times. Life was simple, needs were basic and the human spirit was unconquerable! Of course, with eight children, we had our share of sibling troubles! But those times form the basis for some wonderful memories also. Our favorite sing-along when the family would be traveling in the car together was Side by Side. This said it all. We all sang, off key, hot and tired, but we sang lustily.
Now our family is quite extensive so like most people, we only kept in touch with a few uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces who lived near us throughout the years. My brothers and sisters are separated in different parts of the U.S.A. and have really meant to keep closer contact, but, then, you know how it is, life happens. But on the days a big event brings us all together, it's like we never left home. And our hearts are full. And we are joyful! Sure, we have past memories of things that happened in childhood that some of us still deal with, times were different back then. But we don't allow the past to define us... our future is our own, make or break it. Hopefully, we have learned from it all. We certainly don't hold grudges.
I will mention just a few of the relatives that have made lasting impressions on me, that have shared of themselves, given me hope, guided me, and who have always loved me no matter what. Loved me from the time I was a kooky twelve-year old playing with hula hoops, to an adult with my own children, and much later, creating a home up in the mountains with my second husband, while discovering the bountiful beauty of nature and the mountains of gold country.
Some of the relatives I most admire are my aunt and uncle who live in Idaho, Aunt Clara and Uncle Ron. During a rough time in my teen years, they took me in and loved me as their own, asking nothing in return. I will be forever grateful for, in fact, they taught me through their example, the true meaning of unconditional love. And of course, Uncle Ron's fried oysters and great banana pancakes made the living just primo! Living in their home was a relaxed, fruitful time in my turbulent teens. They have four grown children, Kim, Karen, Eric, and John. John lives in California, has two beautiful daughters and is a proud grandpa of a beautiful little boy, Jordan. Ron and Clara are happy great-grandparents of a little girl, Morgan who is three years old. She already studies the bible and memorizes scripture! Uncle Ron is the kindest, humorous person I know!! Besides my Tim. I hope they spend some time together one day. My auntie Clara is such a neat person. She is very loving and a source of strength (Thank you, Jesus!) to our families. She taught me diligence, honor and forgiveness, which is sometimes a painful lesson. I think I get my air-head times from her, though! Hahaha I love you so much, Auntie!
A wonderful lady, my Aunt Glorya and her hubby, Uncle Jess, are truly special people to me. She has taught me much about life during the summer she took me in for an extended visit. This is where I first learned of my Indian heritage, and how to be proud of my Mexican ancestry. They are a loving, proud people with a great respect for Life. Auntie taught me to make tortillas from scratch, to make the wonderful Mexican soup, Menudo, and gave me the secrets of her famous, moist fruitcake. She is a great cook, and her enchiladas are truly inspired, learned from Grandma Mary's kitchen! Always a wealth of ancestral information, she told me tales of our family, my mom and their brothers, and of her high school antics in such a humorous way, I was sad to end my visit. Uncle Jess introduced me to Funny Car racing at the race tracks, and Demolition Derbies when I was a teenager visiting during the summer. He had favorites and, to this day, he still loves to watch the races. Of course, he is a big football fan! And loves baseball! I cherished my private times with them, learning about gardening with auntie, and watching the pleasure a dynamic football game gave to my uncle, getting him to his feet to jump up and down in excitement! Aunt Glorya suffered three strokes and the last one has left her disabled and without speech, although she is taking therapy, but now lives in a nursing home. Uncle is loving and patient and visits her every single day, often twice a day. I miss her so much!
I have a terrific aunt, Tina, and her husband, Al. He barbecues the best steak in the world. No kidding! His steak, ribs, and chicken melt in your mouth, with a savory, succulent flavor that is heaven. This is a very cool guy besides! Charmingly good-looking, with a great sense of humor and a heart of gold, Tina is #1 in his book! He always goes first class for her. Tina (she'll always be Aunt Lou Lou to me) has been like a sister, a mother, and a dear friend to me for as long as I can remember! When she came to live with us in Europe in 1958, I loved the long talks we would have walking through the countryside and how amazed I was that she really understood me and so an everlasting friendship was formed. I love her dearly; she has such a free, wonderful spirit and her love has always been unconditional. She is full of life, free and happy, with the joy and charm of an eternal child within her spirit.
She gave me my first hair perm when I was ten, out at Van Vleck's Ranch where they lived, and Grandpa worked. I felt so beautiful! I felt like a movie star! My hair was Big, curly, and long! She is my best friend. She is just wonderful! Nothing could ever get her down; she was first to answer to a dare, which at ten really impressed me, and the first one to do the unthinkable! We visited her and Al, and of course, Charley at Christmas, 1998 in Florida! We fell in love with Charley! What a sweet dog! He was family, and they loved him so much! But the great event of our trip was when Al sang, 'Peel Me a Grape'. It was hilarious!! We laughed til we hurt!! He is so much fun! It was just beautiful in Florida and we had a wonderful time! Even on the days it rained we had a good time. St. Augustine is such an incredible place to visit.
The ocean was just unbelievable! The sound alone can lull one to sleep! One of our most favorite things to do was walk along the beach in the morning and collect beautiful shells. Of course, most of the time I slept in, and Tim collected shells! I love to pile them into large, glass containers or strew them among my flowers in the gardens. Florida has great restaurants and shops. Tina and I shopped with zest at cute, little shops with adorable, hand-crafted items. You know I left no store untapped! Tina and Al took us to the best joints in town for succulent ribs, and fresh seafood, other times to cute wharf-side restaurants. Why is it you always need a vacation to recover from your vacation?! We are looking forward to seeing them again soon! It would mean a trip to Mexico because that is where they live now, for most of the year. They have a big house not too far from the beach, so I am looking forward to the visit sometime in the near future! She is the most creative person! Once when they lived in West Point (they had moved there and she set up a small thrift store), she painted Manzanita branches white, stuck them into cement in a bucket, and strung white twinkling lights on them for her Christmas tree! Another year, she dried thin slices of large oranges in the oven and hung them on hooks on that same white Manzanita tree; it was gorgeous, the lights shone right through those golden slices!
My sister Linda is a sweet inspiration to me. Of all my sisters, her soul is the gentlest, and kindest, she is a nurturer. She has always been there for me... practical, honest, and supportive. She was a lighthouse in stormy waters when I was going through some bad months in the '80s. It is so uncanny how, when I need strength and a touch so badly, I will either receive a call from her, or one of her lovely letters arrives in the mail, addressed to 'My beautiful sister'. It will always have a word from the Lord which is His perfect timing. And it always makes me see myself through His eyes, as a Beloved, as a special person with a special purpose. Sometimes I wonder how she can be a mother of five, a loving wife, an active church elder, and a working woman, and still find time for me, her sister. To me, she is the goodness in my life, and will be for all my days. She tells me all I need is Jesus, He has a plan, a great plan for my life and she is right; I trust Him completely. And this past year, He is closer than ever, through health problems and financial problems, He is always there, making miracles in my life!
When I was little, the world was so exciting! Make-believe, drawing, paper dolls, roller skating and reading in the sunshine with kitty on my shoulder, were my most favorite things. My little brother Sami loved forts, bugs, and mud. I loved him with all my heart and we were inseparable! He joined me in all sorts of adventures! Such a tender heart even at that young age! He had the most beautiful smile; his eyes would twinkle merrily and that smile would warm your heart. He still has that same enchanting smile today! And he loves women. Loves them in a wonderfully refreshing way, with admiration, as priceless gems. I am so proud of the man he is today and his many achievements. I just wish he didn't live so far away. And isn't it fitting that he has two daughters, the most important women in his life. I treasure our memories together and I especially love a photo of my son, Keith, when he was less than a year old, with my dear brother, Sami.
We have recently been doing business together; I help create and design graphics for the websites we create together; he brings in the website jobs. He has advanced so much, even learning the Flash program on his own and in an expert in databases, setting up E-commerce sites for the clients. I learned a little of that Flash program and actually created a flying spaceship that made its way across the page! That was fun. I have also branched out now and have started doing web design on my own. I am really enjoying it. My latest is a local garden center site, which I did entirely in html, something new I had learned the past few years. I created it first, then presented it to the owner and now she's my newest client!
Of course, all of our family is not represented here or on the Family Album page. We have relatives in Los Angeles, San Jose, Fresno, Mexico, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Redding, Santa Rosa and even some in Texas and New Mexico. I know I personally have a tribe on my father's side, in Torrance, CA. One day I hope to meet up with them all again. It was so nice getting to meet my dad's sister, Patsy. We stay in touch and continue to share our lives over e-mail. Family is forever.