Life Memories & Favorite Things

I’d like to think I’m a “creative” person.  I decorate cakes and made one of my son’s wedding cakes (27 cake mixes) and also my stepdaughter’s (11 cake mixes), grandsons (28 cake mixes) and many showers and birthday cakes.  I also sew and have a green thumb—house plants, and an herb garden now, and when I lived in Overbrook, I had a huge vegetable garden. I remember one summer I canned 75 quarts of green beans!  My creativity was passed on to both my boys.  One is a landscaper with a creative mind, and the other a graphic designer with a flare for instant ideas and wowing people often!

A lot of persons have had an impact on my life, but as most people would admit, “my parents had the most—with giving me a good start in life”.  I never really had a hero or wonder woman I wanted to be like.  My first boss, after becoming an adult myself, and entering the working world, Cliff Fischer, gave me the opportunity to make something of myself, so he was very important.  I’d have to say the next person I really looked up to, first for advice because he was so smart and knowledgeable was Howard.  He became my best friend and partner for life.

I did attend family reunions, first as a young child. They were on my mother’s side with the Kraft’s, the Kersten’s, the Wombles, and the Mangold’s and were held at the city park in Lyndon.  As I got older I remember reunions on my Dad’s side in Manhatten, Kansas with the Laue’s, the Oldhe’s, the Osterich’s from Washington County, Kansas.  And after I became an adult the Laue cousins would get together every other year: the Masenthin’s, the Haufler’s, the Anshutz’s, the McIntosh’s, and Eilert’s. I remember going to Texas for a special one when I was going through my divorce.  It made me feel like I was surrounded by family during a very trying time.

My favorite color during my life has always been cornfield blue.  It has such a calming and beautiful hue to it.  I’ve decorated many a room in colors of blue, and my favorite clothes were always blue.  My favorite song over the years has been the Happy Birthday song—it’s so joyous, and when I started attending Temple, it was the music to the song that was sung for the breaking of bread on the bema.  That made it even more special.

In 1985 the Dietician that worked for me, Carol Niles, told me I should think about running for political office, so I did in 1986 and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives.  I really worked hard to get there, knocking on over 6,000 doors.  At the same time, Dick was looking into buying the lumber yard and hardware store in Overbrook, Northbrook.  He had farmed to begin with when we moved back to Kansas, and then he started doing carpentry work with a carpenter.  He went on to working at a lumber yard in Topeka, Whelans, and soon took off on his own in selling and installing siding on houses.  By that time, the boys were old enough to help and even I went on some of his jobs to help, too.  It was a lot of physical work and the lumber yard looked enticing.     We got the loans and for awhile it all looked good.  We even bought an RV and pontoon and spent many weekends at the lake.  Soon the money got tight, as he invested practically everything he made back into the lumber yard.  He kept building on to the lumber yard, and soon the entire inventory was practically covered in buildings.  He also bought a computer, as they had just been introduced into the business world.  He began rely upon my income to pay all the bills at home except for his purchases from “Sams”, like toilet paper, etc.     I later would find out that through all those years, he was starting to show symptoms of a body chemistry imbalance known as bipolar disorder.  He was hospitalized several times after our divorce and began a medication treatment to control the disorder.  I think he may have been bipolar for years, and we just didn’t know it and try to get help. Maybe if we’d had, things would have turned out different.  But, life is not about what ifs, as I tried to accept with the deaths of my parents at a young age, and I would soon get on with life and have a very good one.   In 1988, Dane, our oldest got married in our backyard, and the basement was finished so we could have it ready for the wedding.  It was a beautiful wedding.  Everyone had a great time.  Our second son, Daric, was married in 1992, and by that time Dane and Melissa had Corey (who was almost 3) and Chase who was a little baby.       When I was elected to the legislature in 1986, I quit Brookside and went to work at a nursing home in Topeka, Fairlawn Heights and from there to a brand new facility, Rolling Hills Health Center.  I continued to work as a nursing home administrator until 1990 when it got to be too much with running a nursing home and being a legislator.  I had been re-elected twice by then.  I decided to start selling long term care insurance and passed that state exam, becoming a licensed agent.  I went to work for Banker’s Life, but decided after a year and a half that selling insurance was not my forte.     So I changed jobs again and went to work for a company selling computer software to nursing homes.  One of my colleagues and I started our own company and continued to sell the software until 1994.  It was that year that I decided not to run for re-election (I had served 8 years).  My marriage was deteriorating, Dick finally told me he had a girlfriend, and I moved to Topeka, filed for divorce, in October.  I got a job with the state department of social services, as the Director of Adult Services.  I was over the nursing home and long term care budget for the state.  I did that for several years and then was promoted to the mental health division to be over the adult programs.   My favorite family recipe was the way my mom did roasts with onion, carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy.  I still do them that way, added a few techniques from Howard, and my whole family loves the dish and always has.  It’s so simple:   Pot Roast with onions, carrots, potatoes and gravy Begin with a 3-5 lb arm roast (can be bigger or smaller).  Season the roast with seasoned flour and dried onions until well coated. Sear in ¼ inch hot oil in a covered pan (electric skillet is the best) until you have a crust on both sides.  Turn down heat to a simmer and sprinkle a package of onion soup on top of the roast. Add onions, carrots, and potatoes (for the number of people you want to serve), and ½ cup or so of water.  Let simmer for 4 hours or more. Remove potatoes and mash (leave 3-4 un-mashed for stew) with ¼ cup of butter and milk/cream to the desired consistency.  Make gravy from the drippings with 2-4 T. of flour and water to the desired consistency. Serve onions and carrots in a dish together, the mashed potatoes and gravy in separate dishes.  Slice the roast as thin as possible.  And Walla! You have a great American traditional dish!! With the leftovers, if you saved a few potatoes, you can cut them, the onions, carrots, meat, and add the gravy altogether and 1-2 cups of beef bouillon for the best stew, too!  Make sure you have some bread for dunking.

I did have little superstitions in your life. I learned at an early age that they can be devastating.  I used to have them the most with sports, like wearing my favorite socks would bring me luck, and then I’d start making bets with myself, or wishing for baskets with crossed fingers or thinking if they make this one something’s going to happen good. The bad one was when I was 14 and during PE class we were playing basket ball and just shooting hoops.  It was the morning my mom was in the hospital in open heart surgery.  I remember I was at the free throw line and I thought to myself, if I make this one, mom’s going to come through her operation ok.  But, I missed and that afternoon, my cousin came to the school to tell me my mom had died.  For so many years I thought it was my fault.  I really had a hard time about it.  But, maturity and age has helped me overcome most of it.  I still do that, these little superstitions, though, and now they are more an intuition about doing the right thing.  If I don’t do it right I think something bad may happen, so I go back and do it right (like picking up trash that I’ve thrown in a waste can when missing it with a throw—thinking it will bring me good luck.  I know that’s still from my bad free-throw when I was 14.

Over the years, my favorite food has always been lemon meringue pie.  As you get older food becomes more and more important to you and I’ve learned from Howard that good food is worth the price.  I once had a conversation with friends a few years back, “What if we each were stranded on an island and each of us could only have one kind of food to eat for days and days to survive, what would it be?”  It was interesting to hear the foods of others.  Howard’s, I think, was Philly Cheese-steaks.

I was never one for reading the daily newspaper, although there were times that I tried very to do so, especially when I was in the legislature and needed to know world, national and state events.  I read the Topeka Capital Journal, for awhile (in my 30’s I’d turn to the Horoscope section first, but that with time became nonexistent with me, and now it’s the ads I look at first, unless there’s a story on the front page worth reading.  I also like the food section, especially during the holidays.

I felt it was important to teach my children to be the best they could be and to take whatever happens to them, especially if it’s a bad thing, to try to see some good in it.  I believe that everything happens for a reason….and I think I remember Grandpa Mangold telling us that when we were small.   He was the best example of a good person, and I remember people telling me after my mom died, that she was such a good person.  I believe I have tried to carry on that “Mangold” tradition and handed it down to future generations.  It sure hurts worse, or so it seems, to see my grandchildren hurt either physically or even just their feelings.

My favorite holiday was Christmas.  We’d go out in the pasture to find a cedar tree for our Christmas tree, and then dad would cut it down.  We’d decorate it with lights, tinsel and ornaments.  I especially remember some lights that boiled in the shape of candles.  And, we had a wonderful angel on top.  The tree was in the bay window in the dining room.  On Christmas Eve we’d go to the church in Vassar for a program we all performed in.  They gave us paper sacks full of oranges, apples, nuts and hard candies and we’d exchange gifts.  But, the real treat was when we got home from the program, Santa had come while we were gone and brought our presents.  We never caught on for the longest time why mom was always the last one to the car.

The most favorite place in the world I ever visited were the castles in Ireland.  My friend Marcia, took me with her on a trip with 30 other travel agents. It was in 1994, my last year in the legislature.  I took a 2 week paid vacation during session and felt it was justified because I had taken my 4 week vacation during my first election to work so hard on the campaign. Ireland was like a dream…and it was so much fun to hear the Irish and the different way they lived, ate, and spent money.  Even the buses had the drivers on the other side and you got on the bus on the left side, not the right.  But, the castles were so magnificent.  I had read about them in fairy tales, but had never seen one. A place I remember vividly that no longer exists is where the two ponds across the drive from the house were where I grew up in Lyndon.  We had a family reunion at one of my cousin’s that lives across the road several years back. We all got to take a hay rack ride around the “Laue” house and grounds.   We could see that the ponds had dried up, years ago and now there are only weeds and grass in their place.    I have some special memories about those ponds. Dad would take us fishing there. And, we found several fossils and arrowheads on the dam.  One was in where the pigs were and so it would get muddy and smelly.  The other was where Nelly, the horse, was pastured and we would ride on her and she’d drink from it.  There were also mulberry trees close by and we’d pick them for mulberry pie. A sad memory about the ponds was when Dad had to dispose of unwanted puppies we’d have because we didn’t have enough food to feed them.  Right after their birth he’d put them into a gunny sack and then throw the sack into the pond.  He hated having to do that. with a passion, but it was better than watching them starve or taking them down a dirt road and dumping them like so many people did.  We took in many a dog that way, and newborn puppies, I guess he thought did not feel the pain as older dogs did.  They just went back to sleep.

There have been several satisfying times in my life. I’d have to say the first was when I had my “babies”.  I’m a natural nurturer.  I tend to think that’s because I was the middle child and was the peace maker, and because my favorite past time as a child was playing house and playing with the kittens.  My boys were a part of me and I loved being with them, and still do.  Another satisfying time was when Howard and I moved in together and we were so much in love…still are.  Those first days were so special, I didn’t know life could be so wonderful, and still is. The worst time of my life was when I was in my late twenties and I was going through a depression and counseling.  My cousin had committed suicide and it got me to thinking that maybe the next life was better.  Life with Dick was hard, and I was so young and had so many responsibilities.  The counseling helped and I got better.  Then the next worst part of my life was when we separated and got divorced.  It changed my whole identity and I was alone for the first time in my life.  I had no purpose or direction.  I poured myself into my job and the grandkids.  Then Howard changed all that and I found living to be the most wonderful part of life.

True love is really what life is all about. Sometimes, though, it’s not that kind of love that you read about in books or see in movies, real true love is one you have to work at and develop.  The “chemistry” is always there in new relationships, but keeping the love growing doesn’t happen.  We both try so very much every day to make each other happy, and that’s what keeps our love growing.  Selfless love…I’ve learned what it means.     That’s not to say that we don’t have down times. We do.  Life with any two people is going to have them.  But, they don’t last long, and I’ve found with him, that it’s not always lopsided.  Sometimes I apologize and sometimes he apologizes.  We have a sign on our deck that says “Life is Good”, and that’s how I’ve felt almost all the days we’ve been together.        As for making some type of positive impact on the community, the state, or the nation that I would like future generations to know about, it would have to be my dedication to making conversation and being interested in other’s lives.  Howard says I can talk to anyone.  If that’s true, it’s because I have always been intrigued with the ins and outs of everyday life and how we are each just a small pebble of sand on the vast beach of life.  Each of us has stories to tell, lives to live and love to give.  It’s that care and concern that makes the world go round, and my story isn’t any more important than the next person’s.  The other parts of my life I’m so proud of is that I got far enough in state politics that even to this day, I know many of them personally. To be on a first name basis with several governors and the Chief Justice gives me some feeling of importance.   I also feel good about always giving my most to my jobs and almost any project I took on.  Howard told me that I have a way of always ending up on top in my life’s endeavors, no matter what the outcome.  He thinks it’s my dedication and hard work.  Some may say its luck, but I believe it’s the handiwork of God. I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason and there is a time for every season!

The causes I worked for that are the most remember able were when I served in the legislature and fought for a friend of my oldest son, who had died in a tragic shooting by a mental patient.  His mother was so distraught about the shooter being sentenced to a mental hospital, so we tried to get a bill on the insanity defense including the Guilty but Mentally Ill verdict.  I also worked for pro-life efforts, knowing that had I had an abortion when I was a teenager, that my wonderful son and later grandsons would not have had a chance in life.

When I came back to Kansas and registered to vote I registered as a Democrat, even though my dad and his family were Republican. I did so because my in-laws were Democrat and I felt they wanted me to be too.  When I ran for state representative, I was recruited by the Democrats.  But, I found after serving for several years, that I wasn’t very liberal and I was constantly being harassed by other D’s by my votes.  I was even reprimanded by the Minority Leader (Kansas has had the R’s in the majority most of the time) in front of other legislators.  So, I changed parties for my third election. It was a very tough election, ended in a recount that went to court and then to a special legislative committee. My name appeared in three different issues of USA Today during that time….my claim to fame, being that I served 4 years as a D and then another 4 years as an R, all consecutive years.  My philosophies are more aligned with being fiscally conservative but a social liberal, except when it comes to the death penalty for heinous crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.  I never understood why democrats wanted to protect criminals, but support the killing of unborn babies!!  I’m so opposed to abortion.

The most significant “enlightenment” in my life has been that “living each day is more important than looking to the future”. This has only come to me as a realization in the fairly recent past.  I had always felt that I looked to enjoying life after this or after that, or even feeling that life wasn’t really great but it would be years down the road. I even rushed around in my “blur” of work at work, and home and kept thinking, if only I can get through these years, when I get to the point that I’m retired and am able to choose my own daily activities then I will truly be happy.   Being happy in the moment is the one value I’d like to pass on to my children, their children and future generations.  “Enjoy what you do every minute in the here and now” would be my epitaph (gravestone inscription).  This enlightenment has taken a huge burden from my shoulders and I believe that because of it, I stress less, and feel better about myself.  Of course, there are times when I relapse—but they are getting to be fewer and fewer.  All the millions of dollars spent on therapy, drugs, massages, and spas would be unnecessary if people would adopt this motto or theme for their own life.

I admire so many things about my children and it’s hard to think of only one, but here goes.  My oldest, Dane, was my care free and confident toddler and remained this way all through his childhood.  As he got older he became more concerned about this or that and yet he retained his confidence.  That’s the one thing I admire about him most….he believes in himself and knows that he is able to get through difficulties.  Daric, my youngest son, has a heart of gold, and a creative mind. He shows his love to his family and friends, in so many ways, and he never quits amazing me with all his creativity. I want to believe that these traits of both my sons were inherited a little bit from me.   As for my step-daughters, I’d have to say that I admire Shawn’s tenacity to adventure out of her comfort zone.  Serving in the Peace Corp helped forge that ability, but she seems to continue to be that way in her life everyday.  And, for Nelly, she’s truly a cheerful, simple loving spirit that many admire.  She has the outlook on life that I should have had years ago—“enjoy the moment…..leave the worries till tomorrow”.

It was important to me to teach my boys as they were growing up to be decent and responsible human beings.  And, that it is better to give than it is to receive.   There was a time when I was frightened as a parent and really worried about one of them—Dane.  He got caught up in buying something from his brother in law that had been stolen and had to deal with law enforcement.  Though, it was no fault of his own, except blindly trusting his wife’s brother, he deeply worried about what would happen.  He got so depressed and I became concerned about him ending his own life.  I had been that way when I was in my twenties and here he was the same.  But, it all worked out and it is now just a sour memory.

My children were very athletic, like their father, and participated in sports.  It began with t-ball and down through the years I went to almost all of their games. In grade school and high school they played football, basketball, Dane-golf, and Daric-track.  They were very good and were Varsity.  Dane even went to state in golf and Daric broke the school record in pole-vaulting.  I hoped that they always felt I was encouraging but not too demanding.  It wasn’t life and death.  Their father gave them enough of that thinking.  He was so intense and often embarrassing, yelling at the referees, etc.  I just wanted them to excel and have a good time.

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