Chapter Four

My Adulthood

My Children

Marriage was mostly good, but we had our arguments, especially because Dick spent a lot of time with his buddies drinking at bars, and I was home with the little ones. But, it was a good time in my life and I was definitely a nurturer. I learned how to cook (good) and I started babysitting. At one time I took care of 24 children in a 24 hour period. The most memorable children were a 3 month premature baby and a 7 year old girl who had cerebral palsy. Dick was a good father and he loved our children. But, he didn’t like being in the Navy and when his service was over, we headed back to Kansas. I cried all the way back, as I loved California, but I knew it would be better to raise the boys in the Midwest. We actually moved in with his folks, and bought a house that had to be redone as it was pretty run down. After 6 months of living with his folks, while our house was being worked on, I had had enough trying to be a mother with a doting mother-in-law who tried to make me feel like she knew more about mothering than I did, I finally had enough and wrote a letter to Dick, and drove to my sister’s in Topeka (30 miles away) with my boys. Dick came and got us and found a little house in Overbrook to rent where we moved to until the house we bought was finished. We both worked on it. I even learned how to use a circular saw and did all the staining and lots of the painting.

What I remember about their births, raising them, etc.

I was able to stay home with my boys until the youngest, Daric, entered kindergarten, but I always babysat to bring in money while I took care of them. My first job out of the home was at a nursing home in Overbrook. I was hired as the Assistant Activity Director. My friend, Marcia, was the Activity Director. After 6 months of working there, the boss asked me if I was interested in becoming the Assistant Administrator. I felt bad about becoming the second in command at such a young age especially with others, there, wanting the job. I had to study hard because I had to take a state exam and I had to pass it because the requirement of a college degree was going to be in place within a few months. I did pass the test and became a licensed adult care home administrator at the age of 26. I soon supervised 80 people. The Administrator had decided he wanted me to be the Administrator and he took on buying other nursing homes. I held that job for ten years and even got involved in the state association for nursing home professionals. I served on their board, and really felt proud of running a good place, (100 beds with 100 residents). During these years, our boys got very involved in sports and we were there at every game. They played football and basketball during the school months and baseball during the summer months. Besides being involved in my sons lives (they were so very important to me), I took up hobbies most young mothers take up, such as crafts, cake decorating and sewing. We celebrated all the holidays with great fun. We all worked hard on a new house we built with our own hands. And we slept in it for the first night on New Year’s Eve in 1978. It was over 5000 square feet. Once we moved in, Dick was tired of working on it, and the front room floor didn’t get laid and finished until five years later. It was during this time that I was going for divorce counseling. The divorce took 18 months. Getting divorced was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. It changed my whole identity and I felt so alone, even though I had a great support network. By then my sons had both gotten married and I had 4 grandchildren. They were the only thing that kept me going, but many nights I cried myself to sleep. Money was tight and I began doing something I hadn’t done since I was 16, and a teenager—dating. Somehow I got through it all and even managed to start dating a wonderful man, Howard Schwartz. We started dating January 6, 1995, and dated for six months. He thought I was on the rebound and getting too serious so we broke up for six months, but got back together after I had taken a trip to Hawaii with my sisters for Janet’s fiftieth birthday. He took me on a trip to the Jazz Festival in New Orleans in May of 1996, and we began to really fall in love. On the weekend of July 4, 1997, he asked me to move in with him and we lived together for a year. We were married on July 10, 1998 in Temple Beth Shalom. Howard was a Jewish man (my Grandpa Mangold had told me we had Jewish roots, too), so I converted to Judaism and we all stood under the choopah (cloth held by poles signifying the couples first home with God). Our four children held the poles, and the four grandchildren helped with candles, and the rings. Since I didn’t have a wedding dress for my first wedding, I still wanted one at the age of 47. I found a wonderful satin white dress with a train, (which I made into a jacket later and wore the dress at formal occasions). Howard bought a new tuxedo and I bought matching dresses for my sister, Nancy-my maid of honor, and Howard’s girls, Shawn and Danelle. And also new shirts, pants, and dresses for the grandchildren (Corey, Chase, Danae, Carissa, and Kamrin, and my boys, Dane and Daric. We had a very small wedding with just the close family. Howard’s brother, Paul “stood up” for him. And, my sister, Nancy, was my maid of honor. We rode off in a limousine to the Top of the Tower club where Howard bought us all a prime rib dinner, and we had a beautiful wedding cake.

Special Memories

It is difficult to think of only one special memory about each of my children, because there were so many about each one. But, I’m going to start with my first born, Dane. When I found out I was pregnant, I was faced with the decision of whether or not I should have a baby. I was only 16, and my dad and other grown-ups in my family wondered if I was old enough—I remember being told I was only a child myself having a child. But, I knew that little life inside me was just that, and I couldn’t bear to think that I would deliberately end a life, especially one I created. I’d been taught differently. And, to this day, I have never ever regretted my decision.

When Dane was little, he was the quiet one. Many times I would watch him ponder and watch activity going on about him. And, when intrigued enough, he got involved with a great deal of compassion. As an adult, he is still that way. He was a good big brother, and now a wonderful father. One of special memories I have was when he was chosen as the best student out of his whole class. I think that was when he was in 8thgrade. It made me so proud, then, now and always. One of the pictures that stands-out in my mind was when he was in 1stGrade; he dressed as Tarzan and played in the back yard with his brother and his friends. He pumped his little arm muscles and looked so confident and strong. He certainly grew into that kind of a man. And he has a big heart. I remember when he was about 8 he scratched his chest on a barbed wire fence and it started to bleed. He ran all the way to the house crying and when he got to me he told me his heart was going to fall out. Course, we doctored it up and I assured him his heart would remain big and strong.

Daric was my curly haired little blonde toddler. He was curious through his youth and very mischievous, playing tricks on me, and many others to this day. He could wheel and deal and always came out ahead. I remember how he would be the outgoing one in the crowd. He too, always made me proud. But, because of his fearless characteristics, he worried me many times. I remember he would race his dirt bike and I was scared he’d get hurt. And, the times he did get hurt—breaking his collar bone in 3 places playing football, or having the scalding antifreeze cover his face, arms and chest requiring to be wrapped like a mummy for weeks, he came through as a trooper, not complaining a bit. He’s still that way, always looking on the bright side. I remember the time he caught a really big muddy frog as a youngster and proudly had his picture taken. Or, he would draw or paint a beautiful picture in art class. In college he made a project where “Image” opened into the word Imagine. It all helped to make him a successful graphic designer now.

Work Life

Being from a family of five children living on a farm, I had to do chores beginning at a young age.  I remember washing dishes and helping with the cooking and baking, but the real chores were the ones to do with the farm, like gathering eggs, working in the garden and hay fields, helping with the silage, shoveling milo, picking up rocks in a pasture to make it a crop field, moving the cattle from one field to the next, and feeding the calves.  As a teenager, I got to drive the truck to the fields. When my boys were old enough to help, they had chores, too.  They helped me in the house, with the dishes, and laundry.  And, when they were old enough to help their dad in his work, they went with him.  Many summers they had to work before they were teenagers and their friends didn’t. I always felt bad about that.  But, Howard had to do that too, growing up, and it made him a dedicated hard working father.  I believe it has had the same impact on my sons.  They are both the best fathers ever.  And, their kids know how much they are loved by him.  Maybe that was missing in their lives growing up. With their dad’s bipolar disorder, I believe it played a part years ago in their growing up.

Greatest Professional Accomplishment

If I had to name only one thing that I feel the most proud of accomplishing in life, it would be my successfully having a child at such a young age and raising him along with another son and seeing them turn out to be such wonderful grown up men and fathers. The other accomplishment in my personal life would be that I was a survivor through the bad times, like losing my parents at a young age, and getting married as a teenager and moving thousands of miles from home, and even when I thought I lost an election. More importantly, my major accomplishment in life would be that I found true love.

Greatest Personal Accomplishment

If I had to name other proud accomplishments, it would be finishing college at the age of 46, being elected to the state legislature at age 35, and becoming a licensed administrator at age 26. I have had several plaques that have hung on my office walls over the years. I was given one with an honorary life membership in the Kansas Adult Care Executive Association. And, I received a “Service in Government” Award from the Kansas Health Care Association. Probably the most important wall hangings over the years, though, were the pictures first drawn by my children and then my grandchildren. I am so proud to have a part in their lives. I think they’ve known how important they have always been to me.

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