Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday Stories: "Distant" Cousins

June 1996 - Hayden, Daniel, Van

June 1999 - Daniel, Hayden, Van
In late 1994, I had just found out that I was pregnant with my son and I heard through the family grapevine that my uncle's wife, Suzanne, was expecting twins, due about the same time that my baby was due in June 1995.

Interestingly, my uncle's twins were his second set of twins. His daughters, my identical twin girl cousins had been born on July 2, a few years after me. When the twin boys came along, Van and Hayden, in my generation (first cousins), were just six days earlier than my son, Daniel. I think that makes Van, Hayden and Daniel second cousins, or maybe first cousins, once removed. Who knows?

In June 1996, when my son was almost a year old, our little family of three took a long road trip from Tennessee to Oklahoma to visit my grandmother and other relatives who lived in Oklahoma City. We got to meet Van and Hayden for the first time and had an early celebration for all three boys who were getting ready to have their first birthdays.

Then in June 1999, my dad, sister, Daniel and I took another road trip out to Oklahoma and our visit coincided with Van and Hayden's 4th birthday. Our OKC family included Daniel in the celebration and we had fun eating cake and ice cream and watching all three boys open presents.

Today, June 26, Van and Hayden are turning 19. Next week, on July 2, Daniel will celebrate his 19th birthday and my girl cousins will also celebrate their birthday. Van just graduated high school in May and plans to go to school to learn welding. Hayden is learning life skills in his school and plans to stay in school for a few more years. Daniel will be starting his sophomore year in college in August. Time really does fly!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Longest Day of the Year

June 21st is usually the longest day of the year and the official first day of summer. I learned that fact from my Grandpa Ryals because he was born on June 21st and told me that his birthday was on the longest day of the year. Later in my life, 1985 to be exact, I graduated from Glen Ridge High School on June 21st, the longest day of the year. I thought that was pretty cool back then.

I was my Grandpa's first grandchild. I first called him "PawPaw," perhaps because I couldn't say "Grandpa." Or maybe the collective parents and grandparents came up with that because I called my maternal grandmother, "MawMaw." Whatever the case, somewhere along the line, "PawPaw" switched to "Grandpa" and that's what the rest of the cousins called him.

I remember my "PawPaw" holding me on his lap or holding my hand, and loving to spoil me. Actually, he loved to spoil everyone (his wife and six kids and all of his grandchildren) and would always try to get the check when we all went out to eat (and his sons would try to get it first). Grandpa enjoyed driving his Cadillac El Dorado around Oklahoma City. He liked to cook and taught me how to make fried peach pies using canned biscuit dough and peaches he'd cooked down with sugar. And speaking of peaches, I remember Grandpa's homemade peach ice cream that he hand churned for a couple of hours.

My last visit with Grandpa was in December of 1989, when I returned from a three-month short-term mission trip to Hawaii. I decided to take a couple of days to spend in Oklahoma City with my grandparents before going home to New Jersey for Christmas. Grandpa's health had been declining, but he and Grandma were still living in their house at 3004 South Santa Fe ("Thirty-o-four," as the family called it). Grandpa slept in a room back in the old machine shop part of the building, while Grandma had her room upstairs on the second floor. I also stayed upstairs in a room full of left-behind belongings of my uncles (and maybe my aunt).

I remember that my Grandpa told me the story of when my father, his firstborn son, was born. When my dad was an infant, he got very sick and had to spend time in the hospital. Grandpa told me about how he prayed for healing for my dad and dedicated him to the Lord, for God to do His will in my dad's life. As my dad grew up, he followed God's call on his life to preach and to start churches. I loved hearing that story from my Grandpa and felt a new level of love for my dad. I also felt like I was growing up, since I was being told a piece of family history that I'd never heard before.

About six weeks later, I was back in Nashville, trying to find a permanent job and start my life after college. I got a phone call from my parents saying that Grandpa was in the hospital and was not doing well. Soon after that, Grandpa passed away. I didn't get to go to his funeral, but I was so thankful that I had been able to see him just a few weeks before he died.

Today, on the longest day of the year, June 21st, I am remembering my Grandpa and am thankful again that I had grandparents who loved the Lord and who loved me. Happy Birthday, PawPaw!

P.S.  I need to find a picture of my Grandpa to add to this blog post!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Simply the best

It's Father's Day and many other daughters are celebrating the "best Dad ever" on this day. I don't dispute them, because I know that there are many great fathers out there. I am thankful that I had "simply" the best dad who was chosen for me!

My dad didn't win a lot of sports trophies or medals, although he did excel in his extracurricular activities and in academics and was given many recognitions throughout his life. He didn't hold a political office and wasn't the CEO of a huge corporation. He did everything to the best of his abilities and he obeyed the Lord he faithfully loved and served.

He had one wife and two daughters and three grandchildren. He was a loving son and big brother to five siblings. He had many friends from childhood, high school, college, seminary and adulthood.

My dad was "simply the best" because of the things I listed above. He simply loved God, his family, his friends, and many different kinds of people and cities and churches.

He told me that he loved me often and he always made me feel like I could do whatever the Lord purposed for me to do as well. He held my hand as a little girl and walked with me, cheering me on, throughout the good and bad times of my life. He told me that he was "for me" and encouraged me.

My dad was simply the best . . . and I miss him.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday Stories: Sisters Hanging Out

It's not officially summer yet, but in Nashville, the heat is on and kids are out of school, so the summertime feeling has set in. This picture of me and my sister was taken in the summer of 1975 in New Jersey and we were just "hanging" out together for a photo shoot of our family for an article that was written about my parents in one of our denomination's publications.

These days, my sister and I like to hang out together at the YMCA early on weekday mornings, getting our workout in at the beginning of the day. In fact, this morning, we had to do some pull-ups on a bar (thankfully we were able to start from lying down and not hanging like I was in the picture). We have fun sweating and getting stronger together (the Ryals girls were never known for our upper body strength).

(I'm linking up with The Mom Creative for her series called "Throwback Thursday Stories: The story behind the photos.")

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Birthday to my Mom!

I love my mom and her fun-loving spirit! Her choice of activity for her birthday celebration with our family last weekend was for us to all go play miniature golf! It proved to be a very fun intergenerational activity!

Miss Three and Miss Five had never played putt-putt before, although Miss Three told Grandma that she'd played croquet sometime. None of us could think where she would have done that or even heard of it, but you never know with her. She might have seen someone playing it in a book or on a DVD.

The Birthday Girl (Mom/Grandma) went first at each hole, followed by Miss Three and Miss Five. Miss Three made her own rules as she went along and surprisingly (or not) made a lot of "hole-in-ones" (sort of). Miss Five could hold the club a little better and tried to learn a good stance. That left the three "middles" (age, that is) to bring up the rear and possibly actually play the game.

We did have one other group start to come behind us and then they quickly realized that they might have to wait a while at each hole. Thankfully, the place wasn't too crowded and we played all 18 holes at our own pace. I think my brother-in-law may have won, although he was the score-keeper, so you never know! :-)

I got a hole-n-one on the last hole where they keep the ball and won a free bag of popcorn that I shared with everyone. It was a nice treat at the end of the game and gave us something to tide us over before we got to dinner at Zaxby's (a whole 2 miles down the road).
Mr College Guy was missing from the action, but we thought about him and past fun times playing putt-putt when he was younger.

I'm thankful for my mom and for our family and that we can celebrate life together.