Memorial Day Memories

Memorial Day weekend has become the time when many celebrate the start of summer & a long weekend with barbecues, picnics, and general fun-in-the-sun, ready to leave the cool, drizzly weather of spring behind. Amidst all the holiday sales, parties, pool openings, and other distractions, the true meaning of Memorial Day has gotten lost in the buzz. Memorial Day started shortly after the Civil War, when survivors remembered those who fell on the battlefields by decorating their graves & hosting parades in their honor. It wasn't until the 1970s - nearly 100 years later - that Memorial Day became the holiday it is now.

Memorial Day weekend is especially dear to me because it is the weekend my family hosts its annual reunion - a gathering steeped in a tradition that spans generations. My parents took me to my first one at the age of 8, and I expected it would be much like the family reunions my friends' families had: everyone meets at a park, they grill out & eat burgers with potato salad, and then the kids run around and play while the grown-ups mingle & chat.

I should have known ours would be different.

papa bear

I mean really, when your dad looks like this, you should learn to expect the unexpected.

I should have known ours would be different when my dad insisted we make the 7-hour drive from our home in Dayton, Ohio to Crossville, Tennessee in the middle of the night so we could make it in time for breakfast. I was plugged into my Walkman headphones, probably listening to New Kids on the Block & wondering why breakfast was such a big deal. I mean, milk & cereal or eggs & bacon weren't that exciting, right? (It turns out, breakfast was a big deal because my great-uncle Burl made the meanest biscuits & gravy in Cumberland county.)

I should have known ours would be different when we pulled up to Uncle Burl's modest clapboard house at 6:00 a.m. & discovered that he didn't just have breakfast ready for me, Mom & Dad, but rather a pile of hot biscuits & pot of steaming sausage gravy big enough to feed us, his wife Mattie Mae, my multitude of cousins (Cody, Gary, Rachel, and who knows who else), their parents, my great-uncle Fred, and anyone else who happened by. With leftovers to spare.

I should have known ours would be different when we bought ornate flower arrangements at the flea market that Saturday morning, then drove from cemetery to cemetery, replacing faded blooms with our fresh displays & sticking small American flags into the soil by the graves of our family's soldiers. Dad narrated as we went along - "This right here is the grave of your great-great...and this was his wife...and their son fought in World War I...."

uplifting msg

"And this is the grave of the family optimist!"

I should have known ours would be different when I woke up in the guest bedroom of Uncle Burl's house the morning of our reunion & he wasn't making breakfast in the kitchen.

I should have known ours would be different when I sleepily made my way to the front porch & saw him slicing lemons into a Styrofoam cooler while Uncle Fred dumped in a 5-pound bag of sugar & my dad held a running garden hose, the water filling the cooler at a slow, steady pace.

I should have known ours would be different when I asked them, "What are you doing?" and Uncle Burl answered in his thick, throaty southern accent, "Makin' lemonade."

I really should have known.

But it wasn't until we drove down the shady, winding road to our reunion that I fully grasped just how different our reunion was. For one, the road we drove down was named after us.

pugh cem rd

Hey! That's my name!

And, most tellingly of all, my dad parked our enormous blue Cadillac Fleetwood not in front of a sunny park with swing sets & charcoal grills, but instead in front of, well, this:

decorated

Yes. That's a cemetery.

What is going on here?! I thought, slightly panicked. Instead, I asked my dad, "Where are we?"
"This is our family cemetery," Dad said proudly, waving at people walking by carrying covered dishes & buckets of fried chicken.
"Why are we here?"
"This is where the reunion is. We get to eat, then hang out with our ancestors."
He's making fun of me! I thought and flopped back in the seat. "I am not eating in a cemetery! That's gross," I said, with the kind of defiance that only a preteen girl can muster.
"OK, but your mom & I are getting out & taking the keys with us," Dad replied, opening his car door.
Sigh. "FINE."

I reluctantly got out of the car & saw at least 4 full-size picnic tables set up just outside the cemetery gates, covered with delicious food - chicken & dumplings, potatoes, biscuits, cakes, pies, and puddings - with the Styrofoam cooler perched at the end of one of them, people already eagerly ladling lemonade into disposable plastic cups. "You gotta get some before it's all gone!" Cody said as he rushed by to get his cupful.Well, I guess I'll try some...I took a sip from Dad's cup, and then immediately joined the throng of my chatting, back-slapping kin around the cooler.

It is still the best lemonade I've ever tasted.

food 2

And don't even get me started on the food.

food 1

Really - have you ever seen so many deviled eggs in one place?

I started to look forward to visiting my large, loud, strange family & spending the holiday weekend "eating with the dead" as my dad calls it. I learned to appreciate the utter weirdness of it all - from the tour d' tombstones, right down to the hose-water lemonade. I looked forward to Uncle Burl & Uncle Fred's stories, and was amazed by their youth & vigor, even as they aged well into their 80s. I remember the year Uncle Burl went hunting - with a crossbow! - and bagged a large wild boar that we later barbecued & ate, and I remember how Uncle Fred, a World War II vet, would give me a hug at the end of our visit, covertly stuffing a $10 bill & handful of Werther's Originals into my hand as we embraced. Both men passed on a few years ago, but they never lost the spark in their eyes or the vitality with which they lived each day.

uncle fred

Uncle Fred at one of his last reunions.

I won't be at the reunion this weekend - it's a bit tougher to get from Seattle to Crossville than it is to make the trip from Dayton to Crossville - but I'll make it back someday, and I can't wait to once again see this sign & drink some delicious lemonade.

pugh cem


All pictures are the author's own & may not be used without permission.

Contributed by Renee Pugh.
ReneeWeb

 

 

Families & Communication Breakdowns

Am I the only one who asks my child, "What happened at school today?" only to get a disinterested "Nothing" in response?  Or have a spouse who responds to "How was your day?" with "Fine," or "It was OK"?

Doesn't it seem like everyone around us is always rushing off to their myriad of electronic devices: TVs, Play Stations, and smartphones?

We all lead busy lives, and the snippets of conversation we do manage to have - before and after school, or wedged in between activities and homework, or during mealtimes -  can suffer from the halfhearted participation and inattentiveness of all parties. What can we do to rebuild our broken communication systems? How can we make good old-fashioned conversation more appealing than the constant distractions that surround us?

I've asked a few friends and colleagues.  They admit that they are facing the same communication hurdles in their own families. Who can we turn to when we can't find the answers we need?

© 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google Logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.

Ah, yes. Of course! © 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google Logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.

When all else fails: Google it.

If the volume of expert advice out there is any indication, my family must not be the only one struggling with a communication problem! I found some great suggestions, and here is what our family has implemented:

art of manliness

  • But what do you say once you're gathered around the dinner table? Aha! Parenting suggests asking nonjudgmental questions that require real answers. Questions such as “What was the best thing about school today?,” “Do the kids at school ever talk about boyfriends and girlfriends?,” “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” or “How did the soccer game go at recess?” will get you a lot further than “What happened at school today?”
  • Parents Magazine suggests some other conversation starters, as well as helpful do's and don'ts, such as: "Do allow your child to say he just doesn't feel like talking, but don't let him get away with ignoring you...Don't barrage your child with questions if you notice she's getting anxious or seems distressed." Following these tips will help prevent communication shut-downs.
  • Who doesn't love a compliment?  Feeling trusted and appreciated helps everyone feel more open to talk.  Every night, our family plays a little game we made up called "What We Love About Each Other." Each family member takes a turn complimenting another. While these comments are admittedly superficial at times, there are also heartfelt thanks peppered throughout. Sometimes it will be simple - "I love your shirt!" - and other times it will be deeply emotional, like when someone recognizes a sweet gesture or little act of service that happened to them that day. This little activity makes us want to do more nice things for one another!
  • Our son is just 5 years old, and I live in terror of the day I wake up to a teenager. I can only imagine the struggle conversation becomes with teenagers. Yet, talking is never more necessary and the topics never more urgent than during the teen years: friends and peer pressure, driving and responsibility, dating and boundaries, college and independence, drugs and drinking. As a parent, you never want to see your kids in trouble or suffering - but one or the other (and sometimes both!) will happen to our teens. The best way to prevent or minimize this pain - for both you and your teen - is simply by engaging in open and honest communication with them. Check out this list of 10 Ways to Keep Your Kids From Doing Dumb Things, and offer your teen the support he or she needs to make good decisions.

I hope that our family is setting a good foundation for open, healthy conversations - and I hope that perhaps a few of these tips will start similar conversations in your house, too.


Google logo © 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google Logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.
Ronald Reagan picture & quote from http://content.artofmanliness.com/uploads//2014/04/ReaganQuote.jpg

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek.
Heather

Reap the benefits of hosting your clients at a sporting or off-site event

This past Sunday, it was RSVP Cleveland/Akron day at the Akron Aeros baseball game. Families from RSVP and clients from the local area were in attendance and it turned out to be an exciting day for everyone.

Bill, owner of Closet Factory talking with Tony Succatto, owner of RSVP

Bob Pietrick, owner of Closet Factory talking with Tony Sucato, owner of RSVP

Thanks go out to the Akron Aeros management for providing such a wonderful facility and food for all of our guests. We highly recommend it for any business looking to host a fun day for their families and guests.

Renting a suite at a sporting event is well worth the effort. Having access to such a comfortable facility and the ability to entertain prospects, clients, and families really helps to make those important connections with people outside of normal business hours. Unlike networking events, attending a game is relaxed and fun. Everyone is there with the purpose of having a good time without the worry of having to be business-like or the pressure of industry talk. You'll find that you will learn more about your prospects and clients in casual talk at the game within the suite environment which will lead to better relationships and communication going into the future.

For instance, we learned things about our clients such as where they come from, how their careers have evolved, and personal things that in many instances are entertaining.  It's funny how in a relaxed setting clients will open up and share things about themselves and families that you wouldn't have found out under a more formal business setting.

Jim Inama, RSVP Cleveland talking with ***, owner of ****

Jim Inama, RSVP Cleveland talking with Lisa Matthews of Audio Video Interiors

The Aeros played well but couldn't overcome Curve outfielder Alex Dickerson who nearly hit for the cycle, eventually losing 9-4. In the end everyone still had a good time.

Hosting an event isn't limited to just a baseball venue, obviously, other sporting venues would be appropriate.  Don't forget about the "minors" also.  It doesn't have to be the big leauges in order to have a fun and productive event.  In addition, it wouldn't hurt to ask for customization of your event from the facility you would be renting from.  Many of them would be happy to help add special touches or little extras to make your event memorable and stand out from others that your clients may have attended in the past.

Here's how to get in touch with each of the professional baseball teams within the RSVP Kentucky Ohio Indiana footprint to schedule your company's day to the game and personal suite:

www.akronaeros.com

www.batsbaseball.com

www.indians.mlb.com

www.clippersbaseball.com

www.cincinnati.reds.mlb.com

www.lexingtonlegends.com

www.indyindians.com

www.daytondragons.com