Friday, May 29, 2009

25 Random Things: Nina

It's been a while since I've had a guest blogger. But my mom ("Nina" to her seven grandchildren) finally came through for me.

It will take no one that knows her by surprise that this project has taken Mom a while to complete. And number 2 on her list of 25 things explains it all - it had to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T before she would put her name on it. And, after reading it, I think you'll agree that it is just that. Perfect.

With my previous guest bloggers (Sarah and Matt), I've given a brief overview of their lives (where they live, what they do, etc.). But in Mom's email to me when she sent me her list, she told me that she feels like she wrote her life story. After reading it, I agree; there's not really any more lead-in that I need to give you. By the time you finish reading this, even if you don't know my mom, you'll know her.

Needless to say, "Nina" has met and exceeded my goals for this project. Enjoy reading about one of the most amazing women in the world. I'm blessed and thankful to be able to call her "Mom". You'll soon understand why.

Nina's 25 Random Things:

1) My most favorite number, I suppose my lucky number, has got to be 5. After all, I was born on 5-5-50, and I turned 55 on 5-5-05. It has not, however, won me any lotteries.

2) I am a perfectionist. As hard as I try to fight it, I just can't NOT be one. There are good and bad sides to this. I am extremely well organized on one hand, but on the other, my expectations of both myself and others are really unreachable. This trait of mine has probably gotten me into more trouble than it's worth!

3) I haven't developed too many vices in my lifetime, but I do have two addictions. First, SODA! I was never allowed soda when growing up, except on special occasions. When I married, I found out that I could have one as often as I wanted. And so, it began! I've adjusted to Diet, Caffeine-Free Mountain Dew as of late, and have begun to limit myself to one a day. But most days around 2:00 pm I can be found "indulging". My second addiction is the MOVIES. I love to see first-run films on the big screen! They take me to far-off lands and places. I really can get lost in a great drama.

4) I have two special memories of going to my grandmother Nano’s house when I was growing up. In the springtime, the entire perimeter of her back yard was overflowing with irises – too many types and colors to count. The smell was awesome! And, in the midst of this beautiful garden, was a small rock-lined goldfish pond. It was always packed with red and albino goldfish, and my brother John and I would sometimes rig our own cut-branch fishing poles (safety pins as hooks) and try to get away with as much catch and release as we could get away with. Some days were better than others.

5) I started taking piano lessons when I was in third grade and stopped just before my high school graduation. My mother loved to play, and I think she played by ear. Both of my parents encouraged and pushed me to practice. For a couple of years when we did not as yet have a piano, mom arranged for me to go to the convent every school day, and spend my 30-minute noon recess practicing there. To this day, I can still “plink” around on the piano, but really wish I would have followed up more seriously on continuing to play.

6) One of my passions is sewing. I’ve loved stitching anything from clothes to curtains to grandchildren’s Halloween costumes. My mother passed on this wonderful art to me and was the best teacher in the world. I used to simply hate hearing her tell me to “rip out that seam and start over”, but I learned very quickly to always have “right sides together” before I stitched anything.

7) Back in the day, I was a pretty decent fisherwoman. I learned how to trout fish in high school and introduced my family to fishing at Meramec Springs in St. James, MO. It was a favorite outing for us for many years. I was especially good at “working” a rubber worm after the trout got too smart for the cheese ball bait. It was a real thrill for me to be the only one on the bank netting nice-sized trout in the midst of several older men in waders trying desperately to keep ahead of me.

8) I am NOT athletically inclined. I have no real skills and have been only barely talented at tennis and golf. I played volleyball for one year in high school as a setter, but rode the bench much more than I ever played. My dad spent hours with me on the golf course (he was a GREAT golfer), but much to his dismay (and later, Jeff’s), I just couldn’t ever master the art. Today, when I go golfing, I have much more fun just “hitting the ball” and not getting too worked up over “skills”.

9) Growing up, I discovered I had some artistic talent. My parents graciously enrolled me in Art Correspondence School during my high school years. I worked hard at it with some degree of success until college days drew close. I let the studies lapse, but of course my parents had to foot the bill for the entire course. I have always regretted that! Art, however, became my minor in college and I loved every single class I took. I miss being creative in this regard.

10) Pat Piontek MacClellan has been my best friend since freshman year in high school. We did everything together, from science fair projects to driving the streets of Washington in Pat’s old klunker of a car. It was Pat who I followed to S.M.S., and Pat who I almost lost when she was involved in a horrific car accident after our first semester there. She was my maid of honor at my wedding and, along with her husband, Jim, was baptismal sponsor for our first child. We still manage to keep in touch regularly, even after her move to Michigan.

11) I really LOVE to read. I had a wonderful literature teacher in high school that assigned great classical works that introduced me to whole new worlds. It’s no surprise that my favorite hide-out is Barnes and Noble.

12) Another of my high school teachers, Mr. Welters, instilled in me not only a love for the subject of mathematics but also a passion for teaching mathematics. Ever since my sophomore year in high school, because of his inspiration, I knew I wanted to be a math teacher.

13) My college years (1968 – 1972), were the best years of my life. I felt a real freedom and renewed sense of who I was and what I wanted out of life. To this day, I still get a special sense of peace and purpose walking on a college campus.

14) Some very wonderful things happened to me during my four years at S.M.S. I made some great friends there and met and fell in love with Jeff (we met almost daily at the “corral” between classes). I was honored to fill the position of President of the Association of Women Students during my junior year. It was also my privilege to serve as a Resident Assistant first at Wells dorm my junior year, and then opening the new Woods dorm during my senior year.

15) I graduated from S.M.S. in Springfield, MO with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics (certified 7-12) and a minor in Art (certified K-9). This was the perfect combination for me. If I grew weary of studying algorithms in the library, I could retreat to my creative side in art lab. My best creations were a sculpted comedic grilled cheese sandwich, a mean weapon-like, stained and polished seam ripper, and a set of eight woven placemats. My weaving class was my favorite because it combined my love of art with my love of sewing. I also shared this particular class with my good and very talented art-teacher friend, Jan Olson Sassmann.

16) After graduating from S.M.S., my first teaching position was a third grade class at St. Francis Borgia Grade School in Washington. Believe it or not, I could not find a secondary math position anywhere close that summer of 1972. But, subsequently, I found myself teaching high school math for 15 on-again/off-again years, about seven of which were part time. I taught in the Waynesville, Columbia, and Owensville school districts. Interestingly enough, I was never tenured at any of these schools but these were great years for me. Teaching was my true calling!

17) After we were married, Jeff and I lived in a trailer. This was our first home in Fort Leonard Wood, while Jeff finished his 4-year Army commitment there. We moved along with our trailer to Columbia and lived there during Jeff’s law school days. We had two children in this mobile home of ours and met our adopted parents, Mitch and Margie Birch who lived two trailers down from us in Columbia. We became very close to them. They were like grandparents to Sarah and Amy. They have both passed on, and we miss them very much.

18) My faith has always been important to me. My parents worked very hard to send me and my three brothers through twelve years of Catholic schools. But my faith really came alive for me when at 35 years of age, I made my first Teens Encounter Christ retreat weekend as an observer. I was duly persuaded to make this T.E.C. by my good friend, Jeannie, who actually became not only my great friend, but also my spiritual mentor. It was at her suggestion also that I began adult ministry classes with Father George Kramer. These classes made, and continue to make a huge spiritual impact on my life. I would be a much different person today if either Jeannie or George had not been a part of my life!

19) Another relaxing hobby of mine has been crocheting and counted cross stitch. I enjoy crocheting afghans and baby sweaters and have spent countless hours creating all sorts of cross stitch items. I am especially mindful of a several year period of time that my mother and I crosstitched purses to sell at area craft fairs. Although only mildly profitable, it was a great mother-daughter time for the two of us. We named our crafty pursuit “Dee and Me Crosstitcheries”. We even had business cards printed.

20) We took many family trips once all four kids were old enough to appreciate the travels. Jeff and I have taken a few ourselves since the kids have grown and moved away. Hands down, my most favorite trips have been those that involved mountains. I love their quiet simplicity and their overwhelming strength. I could sit for hours in their presence just contemplating them.

21) In November of 2006, Jeff and I took our first overseas trip. We went to Italy. It was our dream trip! It was an amazing 12 days and I know that I simply MUST return to Rome. I was fascinated with the art, the architecture, the antiquity of the city. It is a magical place!

22) Shortly after our back and forth stays in Jefferson City began in January of 2006, I became involved in Prison Ministry. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined going into a maximum security prison two to three days a week helping inmates pursue their G.E.D. But, I am now in my fourth year of this work and still absolutely love it. It has given me great insight and expanded my definition of forgiveness.

23) In the fall of 2007, I participated in a Cancer 3-Day Walk with Sarah. She actually introduced me to the idea and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We trained for six months prior to the 20-mile-a-day walk through the streets of Dallas. We made some good friends, camped overnight for 2 nights in 30 and 40 degree temperatures, and most importantly each managed to raise more than $2200 for a wonderful cause.

24) We’ve lived full time in Jefferson City since December of 2007. We’ve down-sized considerably from our home in Owensville and we are content not to have the back-and-forth driving. I’ve unofficially “adopted” a 3-block stretch of road near our home and pick up trash about two times a month. One can’t believe what people throw out of their cars! One day I picked up 8 Wal-Mart bags full of trash, including over 200 cigarette butts. Perhaps this is a “good” manifestation of my perfectionism.

25) How blessed Jeff and I are to have raised four really wonderful children – Sarah, Amy, Scott, and Matthew. I am so very proud of each of them along with their spouses and significant others, as well as our seven beautiful grandchildren – Sam, Josie, Olivia, Ivie, Macie, Brayden, and Gavin. They are all the absolute loves of my life!!

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