Tag Archives: Family

Autobiography Challenge: Family part 1

13 Oct


William and Della
These are my Great Grandparents. Their daughter Grace, was my Mother’s Mom. I never metWilliam but Great Grandma Della was an important part of my childhood, and if anyone has read my Oregon Trail Novel, you now one of my main characters os named Della in her honor. She Gave birth to at least 7 children that I know of, One boy died as a toddler, 3 boys and 3 girls survived into adulthood, or at least to a month shy of her 20th birthday in the case of Alice.

William and Della were hog and dairy farmers in Ogle County, Illinois and raise their family successfully right on through the depression.


Mt. Vernon, Illinois School 1922
Front Row L to R: Carl Beightol, Florence Haijenga Schoonhoven, Sylvia Buther Buss, Elizabeth Buntjer DeWall, Francis Buss Frey, Marie Korf Cooms, Alice Beightol, Calvin Buss, Sam Klock

Second Row: George Buss, John Buss, Irvin VanRaden, Alvin Buss, Orville Beightol

Thied Row: Clarence Beightol, Raymond VanRaden, Walter Duitsman, GRACE BEIGHTOL (MY Maternal Grandmother), Teacher, Belva Murphy McPherson Photo Submitted by Sam Klock

So the Beightols are my Grandmother’s family and the McPherson teacher, must be related too because I had a great, Great aunt named Maggie (Margaret) McPherson.


My Great Uncle Carl
This is my Maternal Grandmother’s Brother, Carl. Born in Illinois, after two sisters married Wyoming Cowboys, Carl came to Wyoming to be a cowboy too, but after riding his horse into the Silver Dollar Bar in Cody, the Sheriff gave him the alternatives of going to jail or joining the army. He joined the army and died after surviving the Bataan Death March in 1942… my uncle Donald’s middle name Carl is in his honor. So Yes, he survived the march but died of dysentery in the Cabanatuan POW camp not long after. We have a copy of a letter from his sergeant sent to “William Beightol” (My Great Grandfather) in 1974 saying that he had held Carl in in arms when he died, June 1942. Donald’s wife, Marion and Donald visited the site of the POW camp in 1972 and also saw Carl’s name on the Memorial of the Pacific War in Manila.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 29 and 30

1 Oct


Author Presentation
Here I am, in front of a classroom like I have been many times since becoming a student teacher, then a teacher, then a substitute teacher. Now a writer and story-teller. Now I am not telling kids that they have to pass a test to succeed in someone else’s definition. I am telling them that they can define what success is and reach for their own dreams. I am telling them that if the bullied and terrified girl can grow up and talk to rooms full of children, and if the shy, bookworm can turn those early crayon illustrated notebook “Novels” into published books, and convince school districts to use them to teach from, then they can also find a way to share the things they love with the world. I tell them they may never get rich doing what they love, and they may need another job to put food on the table and a roof over their head, but that they should never give up on doing the things that make them feel glad to be alive. I tell them that if you find something that delights you and makes you interested, other people will be interested and delight in it too. It’s all about recharging your energy so you have energy to help recharge our darkest days and let the rest of the world see how beautiful it can be just to share this big blue planet with each other.


Finding The New Trail
Well, when we first met, we were half the people that we are now. Finding someone I could love this much when I was just 18 is a pretty rare and amazing thing and I never take it for granted for a moment. We had so many dreams that we used to talk about as we carpooled to those first college classes back in 1982 and the strange thing is that all of those dreams have come true. We have raised two incredible young Men, we have travelled and taught and loved and fought and made up and kept going. Now we are back where we started, a couple on our own, in the uncharted waters, for us, of dealing with aging parents with weaker by the day, health issues and new grandchildren, and sons who didn’t see us as perfect parents and so have to learn to be their own guides now. We have had to go through another lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas even more depressing than the ones just after we got married. We had to go camping with just us, and find conversation through 3,000 mile road trips without anyone interrupting. We still have less stability than we should, we are in debt and not seeing a way to keep up on the maintenance that out old house and cars need. We have moments of being scared and lonely and wondering what the future holds, but every night when I drift off to sleep I still hear him breathing beside me, and that makes everything good.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 25

27 Sep

You can make me be here (but you can’t make me smile)
When I look at this picture, so many other pictures flash through my mind that I’m pretty sure the words which follow will fail to capture them. We are standing on the balcony of Cabin 1A in Gold Beach, Oregon at a place called Ireland’s Rustic Lodges. When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 miles from home, but we kept going.
You see, that first year away from Wyoming, Thanksgiving was miserable. No family in a thousand miles and no friends yet. The two of us tried being cheerful at the community Thanksgiving dinner but the sense of being disconnected from family really hurt. We knew we needed to create our own traditions. So when we found a little cabin clustered on the beach, with firewood stacked on the porch and a fireplace inside as the only heat source and no phones – we thought it was the perfect place to rent for the long weekend. It became our tradition to cook Turkeys in the kitchen and watch the sunset over the Pacific as we ate.
Over the years, everyone came to join us. My parents were there a couple times, my brothers, my brothers-in-law and nephews and sisters-in-law and friends from Germany and friends from Wyoming and Ashland. We were in one of the cabins when we got a knock on the door from the office manager giving us a message to call and discover that our son’s birth mom was in labor and later we were there when Mom called and a knock sent us to the payphone to fid out that my Dad had died at 8 minutes after midnight. We came with out youngest son, straight out of the Neonatal intensive care unit for some uninterrupted family recovery time. We painted rocks with the boys and their cousins and left them in the flower garden, and we were there when my husband’s sister came back from Africa and gave all 4 nephews spears which they brandished around the cabin while making forts of the couch cushions and twin size mattresses.
This picture was about the last time we were there, maybe the last time. The cabins were sold to the neighboring motel and the fireplaces came out, a hot tub went in, electric heat was added and the boys began having their own separate lives where a long weekend couldn’t interrupt the jobs they needed to pay their rent. There was a bit of loss of amusement at Mom and Dad’s sense of humor going on in those last high school years, and a resentment at having to leave girlfriend’s even overnight. There were scrabble games and beach walks and a sense that there would be a few years before the appeal of family Thanksgivings returned to the boys, but I already anticipate bringing a granddaughter here, and painting rocks and baking pies.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 24

26 Sep

Guatemala Collage

After my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, both Mom and Dad’s worlds narrowed down, until the hospital bed in the living room became their universe. Mom wouldn’t allow any help except my brother, no nurses or hospice, and so when my Dad did die, everything that her being had focused on for just under a year, was suddenly gone too.

Gradually she began to change and grow and be open to new adventures again, so that 6 years after his death, when she called and asked me if I would meet her and my brother Lance in Guatemala with my two boys, if she bought the tickets, I wasn’t too surprised. Greg couldn’t go because of work, but it would just mean pulling the boys from the last week of their 2nd and 3rd grade school years.

As a teacher, I am supposed to believe that missing school is horrible – but the last week of school is a lot of running outside with assistants and parent volunteers doing field days while the races are done and the classrooms readied for summer. This seemed like an experience that would give them a lot more than just staying in school an extra week.

There were some safety issues, last year the group had had their bus blocked by piles of burning ties and groups of protesters. less than 10 years ago the Town we were visiting had a massacre of the very Mayan tribe we were going to be helping rebuild cement homes with. Now they were officially an independent zone where the Spanish Guatemalan Army would give them autonomy, but still . . . It was my “babies” I was taking there. We were warned to never talk to the children because parents were very fearful that we might kidnap them.

We went, by plane to Houstan and the Guatemala City, and by painted old school bus to Panajachel, and by motorboat across the lake and through the bullrushes to Santiago, Atitlan. Then they told us the building had just been completed and asked if we would mind volunteering at a Mayan school for the week. It was perfect for us. We shared pictures and songs and games that needed no words with children who spoke Mayan at home but Spanish at school. Every day we feasted on wonderful fruits and by the time we were ready to go home my Mom was wearing the hand woven Mayan Skirt and my sons had friends and an adopted “grandma”

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 22

26 Sep

Once we moved to the coast, my parents came to visit every year, driving 1300 miles to get here. There are no direct routes between their home and mine and it is 400 miles further in the winter than in the summer due to the closure of some roads, like the road through Yellowstone Park.
I adopted their first grandchild 17 days before my brother’s wife gave birth to a daughter, and a year and a day later my second son was born. And a year and a half later my brother’s son. The grandparents loved being grandparents and came as often as they could, but they also loved the coastal redwoods area and enjoyed climbing on the rocks and exploring the forest paths.
When my boys were old enough to climb the rocks, Dad came one last time and raced them to the top of a huge sea stack, but had already had major cancer surgery and within two months would be unable to stand up from the couch where he would lay, in a somewhat strange state, suspended between being able to sleep or being able to stay awake.
If anything can be learned from my stories, I hope it is this – that no matter how long you have your loved ones, it is never long enough, so spend every moment you can, being aware how much you love them.


Autobiographical Challenge: Day 21

23 Sep


Once I had children and was still teaching, one of my favorite things was to create field trips that my students and my children could all participate in. I grew up in Wyoming where I thought I would never want to see the snow again, but now I live at sea level and almost never get snow. One of the best field trip opportunities was to drive up 40 minutes and 4,000 feet to the snow park and take the whole crew sledding. When you don’t really have seasons beyond cool rain and warm rain, snow becomes a magical element. The snow park gets feet of snow instead of inches and it has an old wooden cabin with a woodstove for public use, so we always brought jugs of water and hot chocolate powder for a warming break. No one here really has winter clothing but for one snowy afternoon we could make due with rain gear and layers of sweaters and mittens that soaked through instantly. It was cold there, so the snow almost always had a crust and was too solid for snow angels, but there would be speedy downhill runs and enough powder scraped up to make a few snowballs.

This picture shows the kind of teacher I always strive to be, one who teaches joy and self confidence and Children, instead of one who teaches Math and grammar and rules, Of course we cover those too but I believe a child with joy and confidence will love to explore and learn.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 20 – Toddlers

22 Sep


Having two sons, only a year apart was often difficult and we were exhausted because the youngest never slept more than an hour until he was two – and probably not then. I always suspect he just started entertaining himself by telling himself stories in silence.
It was also the most joy filled time of our lives up until that point. We frequently remarked, “we’ve never been tireder or happier.”
I had a lot of toddler experience. I’d been a big sister and had taught pre-school through age 7 special education for ten years, but my husband, the youngest of six – took to playing with the boys as if it was what he had been born to do. He never wanted to go anywhere without them, and we did a lot of playing in the local parks and beaches and going to family swim twice a week.
I know we were not perfect parents but it was something we both loved doing. I read stories and sang to them and let them make big splashy paint and playdough messes while I led the way. Greg let them be daredevils and pushed them really high on the swings and encouraged them to ride bikes and scooters and jump off rocks and climb trees.
When there were tears we both came running and we each took a year off to stay at home with them. Being thirty when we got the boys and being fairly stable in our job and relationship made us have it easier, but there were a lot of moments when it was the parents crying too. It was hard, and I could have focused on the times they were both vomiting and having diarrhea, or fighting with each other, or teething and screaming all night. I could focus on the day they came running in to announce that they had washed the fire truck, and I found the paint scraped from my van with river rocks to the tune of a couple thousand dollars. But I had waited so long to have a child and could feel the relentless passing of time as they grew while you watched them and my Dad was dying as they were 2 & 3 so I was reminded to get through the rough spots and hold on to all the joy.