Tag Archives: Aunting

Do Be Happy!

2 Jun

Because it makes me so happy to be with any and all of my nephews and nieces, here they are in the “Happy” song!  Nick, Katie, Ian, Elyse and Laura.  Just for fun!

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“Do” Live in the Moment

11 May
Elyse Johnson - Bishop Miege Graduation

Elyse proudly holds her diploma!

So, my youngest niece, and the youngest of my four nephews and nieces, graduated from high school yesterday. I’m so proud of her as she heads off to KU with scholarship in hand! But it’s so bittersweet as with each year she gets older, it’s each year, month, day that I’ll see less and less of her. Just like it has been with Nick, Katie and Ian. When they were all young, I’d get to be with all of them practically every weekend and in some instances more often. Can an Aunt have empty-nest syndrome? Oh most definitely! I know they still love me but there’s only so much time: they have jobs, responsibilities and now with my great-niece Laura, even children of their own.

Ian Elyse and Joanie

My nephew Ian, Elyse and my sister-in-law Joanie.

Elyse is always such a ray of sunshine, always fun to shop with, go out to dinner with. She’s a magnet for energy and happiness. You cannot NOT have fun when Elyse is around. Yesterday her graduation was fun, she was smiling and cutting up, marching in and out of graduation. She lives in the moment and the future, and while the past has happy and certainly sad memories for her, she moves on, keeping all of us in the moment as well.

The picture/poem below is something I put together for the “family ad” in her yearbook. They are all favorite moments I have had with Elyse. From making her that funky puppy dog costume for her kindergarten Christmas pageant, to her beautiful Cotillion photo, they all bring a smile to my face. I’m so proud of her for the young woman she’s become, so proud she’s decided to go to my alma mater and become a Jayhawk and so proud I’m her aunt and she’s my niece. Congratulations Elyse, I love you so much!

Elyse Johnson Yearbook Ad

The yearbook “ad” or tribute for Elyse.

“Do” Embrace Being a Great Aunt

27 Apr
Laura at her 1st Birthday Party.

Laura at her 1st Birthday Party.

I don’t know how I feel about being called “Great Aunt” — it seems so old, like I should be in my late 80’s or early 90’s or something, sitting in a rocking chair and knitting blankets or something.  And hopefully that’s decades and decades off (and hopefully I won’t be knitting blankets)!  But what I do know is what an absolutely precious, adorable, beautiful, smart and happy great niece I have with Laura Elizabeth Smith who turned “1” yesterday.

It seems like only yesterday that I was cutting off Barbie hair with Laura’s mother Katie when Katie was little — or going Easter egg hunting in the rain at Powell Gardens. Since her arrival one year ago, Laura has truly changed our family dynamics.  She arrived at a time when we needed joy and happiness, and she has brought that and so much more! My sister and I now have “great” added to our former title of Aunt.

My mother is not quite comfortable with Great Grandma, so I have been calling her GG. Yesterday when Mom signed her birthday card to Laura, she decided to embrace being a Great Grandma, and signed her card Great Grandma Joan. I still have trouble resigning myself to the fact that my brother Jeff is a Grandfather (since he’s a golf pro, we call him “Grandpro”) and my sister-in-law Lucy is a Grandmother. And they are wonderful grandparents, just the best. But that’s not surprising as they’ve been wonderful parents.

My niece Katie, my great niece Laura & my nephew-in-law Randy

My niece Katie, my great niece Laura & my nephew-in-law Randy

And I’m truly thankful and impressed at my nephew-in-law Randy! He’s a terrific husband to Katie and just an awesome and involved Daddy to Laura. So glad he’s part of our family.

Laura is such a special (and did I say beautiful?) little girl, and I am so proud to be her great aunt. There I said it! Great Aunt Sheree. I really don’t care what she calls me or what my title is, I just know how much I love her and how wonderful she is.

And while I’ll still be posting articles about adventures and life moments of my grown-up nieces and nephews — Nick, Katie, Ian and Elyse, I can now add Laura. And I’m confident I’ll have many stories to tell, as I intend to spoil and love her as much as I can, because after all, that’s the definition of an aunt, regardless of the seniority level.

My brother Jeff (Grandpro to Laura) sitting on the front step. No words are needed to show the love between these two!

They Do Grow Up and Turn 30 One Day

3 Nov

On November 1, the oldest of my four nephews and nieces, Nicholas Michael Johnson, turned 30. Can that be true? It makes me sad for me, happy for him, but where did the time go? When he was born I was living in Chicago and I was so sad that I wasn’t home to see him that very day about 30 years ago. But I came home for Thanksgiving that year and boy did he capture my heart when I held him and looked into his big blue eyes. One of my very first posts on this blog was about coming home thereafter about every six weeks so I could see my nephew. As he started to grow up and began talking, he thought my name was Chicago, because people around him would say, “Sheree’s coming home from Chicago,” or when “Sheree gets here from Chicago…”

So when he saw me, he would run into my arms saying, “Chicago! My Chicago’s home!” It was. Absolutely. Precious.

My oldest nephew Nick turns 30.

Nick turns 30!

There are so many memories of wonderful times with Nick, going to restaurants, doing fun things around Kansas City, Thanksgivings, Christmas Eve’s, other birthdays, a few trips we took together and so much more (you can read about many of them here). Now he’s all grown up and working in a job where he travels to London several times a year. Yes, he’s been grown up for awhile, but something about him turning 30 sort of made it official for me.

He’s become very successful, a “continental traveler” and he’s now a wonderful Uncle himself (with my new great niece Laura, now six months, but that’s another blog post in the making!). I love discussing business with him, he’s like a professional confidant. He’s smart. He’s good looking. He’s sweet. He’s funny.

Last night everyone came over to the house to celebrate his 30th Birthday. Here’s a picture of his cake I had made. On it is a picture of him and my Mom, and a few iconic symbols of some of the things I love about Nick, places he’s been, things he does, places we’ve been together. He’s off again this coming weekend for a couple of weeks to London, with a possible side trip to Dublin or Paris.

They do grow up so fast, time does fly, so do treasure them all you can. Happy 30th Nick, I love you and am so proud of you!

A Quick Update

7 Apr
It's a Girl! My Niece Katie is going to have a baby, so I'm going to be a Great Aunt!

It’s a Girl! My Niece Katie is going to have a baby, so I’m going to be a Great Aunt!

I’m happy to get back to blogging.

Several things have happened in the last two years that slowed me down from writing (job changes, long hours), or kept me from being in the frame of mind to write (my beloved Uncle Mike and Uncle Larry both passed away within six months of each other) or in the big scheme of things writing a blog was just not as important as day-to-day life and living.

The biggest and saddest thing that happened was losing my beloved brother Tim, who passed away on January 15, 2013. He loved my blog, he loved reading about the adventures I wrote about his children (Ian and Elyse) and his nephew and niece (Nick and Katie). He was my first email subscriber. He would make comments on my posts. I didn’t really want to continue without one of my biggest fans.

But I realized today I needed to resume writing this. Because I attended my niece Katie’s baby shower. Yes, I’m going to be a GREAT Aunt!

Katie with a pink blanket I gave her for my new great niece. When Katie was born, I gave  her a similar pink-crocheted blanket which she still has!

Katie with a pink blanket I gave her for my new great niece. When Katie was born, I gave her a similar pink-crocheted blanket which she still has!

Elyse sitting by my side as I was snapping a few pictures of Katie opening her gifts, I promised myself I would come home tonight and write this and commence writing my aunt blog again. Now I have a new little person coming in May to write about, plus I have missed so many stories and accomplishments of my four nephews/nieces I should have been telling.

So I will not only be writing a few new stories but going a little into the past as I  have done with many of my previous posts to play catch-up on a few items which I hope you’ll enjoy reading about. Regardless, they will give me joy writing about them.

Don’t Throw Away Memories

27 Aug

Last month when I was packing some personal things from my old office/job, to my delight I found in a desk drawer this very sweet and touching poem Ian had written for me when he was about 10 years old. Now that he’s 20, Ian may be very embarrassed to see it, but I will treasure it always and am so excited that I found it. 

I tend to be a bit of a hoarder as far as all four of my nieces and nephews are concerned. I keep informal scrapbooks/envelopes of things from our trips, lots of pictures, programs from their piano, dance and music recitals, and so much more.  They all have written me letters, notes, jokes, secrets and more. But this was my only poem. Reading it makes me very happy.

If ever there was an aunt,
who is as great as you.
I could never imagine,
all the things she’d do.

She’d take me to Florida,
California and New York.
And at the cinema movies,
she’d see Frodo & an Orc.

So I really guess
that what I’m trying to say,
is that you’re the best aunt ever
of the future, past or today.

-Ian
XOXOXO
      ♥

Here's the actual poem - Ian wrote it on some stationary he found in my desk drawer.

 
 

Do Remember 9/11 and Give Thanks to the Ones You Love

13 Aug

Sardinia is very hilly, this is a view on a ride we took on the island.

Ten years ago about this time of the year, my Mom and I were planning a trip we would be taking in September to Sardinia and then Rome, Italy and I was so excited. It would be the first time back to Italy after having gone to school there for a semester in 1975, and then having spent a very wonderful 10 days there a couple of years later.

I wanted to show Mom all the places, sites, ruins, churches, museums, restaurants, streets and more that I had experienced in college, and we were eagerly looking forward to shopping for that upcoming Christmas holiday  for the family, especially my nephews and nieces.  As we got closer to leaving early in September, Katie (who was about 16 years old at the time) would kiddingly say to her Grandma and me “will you bring me back a black leather coat?” 

A view of the resort we stayed out in Sardinia

We first went to Sardinia for 4 days, then we were to spend another 6 days in Rome.  We had really been enjoying the trip so far, and we were staying in a lovely place right on the water in an inlet area near a yacht club, restaurant and shopping area.  I was strolling along the dock late on the third afternoon, and as I headed back to our hotel, I saw a woman I had met from New York who was with my tour group. She was frantic and walking rapidly towards me and said, “did you hear the news? A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”  She asked me if I had seen her husband, and I hadn’t, and she said we’d talk later at dinner. 

I tried to comprehend what she meant.  Was it a small plane, how did it happen, was anyone hurt, etc. I went back to our room where my Mom had been reading, and I turned on the TV, flipping the channel to find CNN International or BBC or something that would have the news from New York.  Our hearts sank as we saw what had happened, and as we were watching, shortly afterwards another plane went into the second tower.  We were shocked, horrified, saddened beyond belief, scared and wanted to be at home with the rest of the family as we saw the Twin Towers collapse and cried as the third plane hit the Pentagon, and the fourth crash into the rural Pennsylvania field.

Here's a cute picture of my Mom in Sardinia on 9-10-01, the day before 9-11 happened.

I tried to call home, but the lines were all tied up. The tour group met before dinner and updates were given – no international flights were leaving, so we couldn’t go home, but we could still go on to Rome and continue the planned activities until we could get a flight out.  We flew out the next morning for the hour or so flight to Rome, and then checked into the Excelsior Hotel on the Via Veneto.

The hotel and the area was on high alert with police and Italian army guarding the hotel as the Excelsior was up the street from/next to the American Embassy.  We finally were able to make a call back home and while everyone in KC wanted us to come back right away, Mom and I were stranded with the tour group until international flights could resume again.   All the plans we had for the trip went out the door as we stayed riveted to the television watching the news.  On the third day I said to Mom that we couldn’t just sit in the hotel room all day again, that we should go on and see and do some of the things we had planned on our itinerary.  But the Roman authorities and the U.S Embassy were telling Americans to not take tour buses and to stay in smaller groups vs. larger. 

I didn't take many photos once we arrived in Rome, but did take one of the replica statue of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, in the Piazza Campidoglio. The original is in the nearby Capitoline Museum which we did get to visit as well.

So I hired a driver through the hotel concierge, and outlined all the places we wanted to go to:  Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Imperial Forums, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona (then lunch at Tre Scalini), the Borghese Galleria, the Piazza di Spagna, an espresso at the Antico Caffè Greco, the Trevi Fountain, the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II (aka the “Wedding Cake”) and the statue of Marcus Aurelius at the top of Capitoline Hill. 

We did this over a series of three days and the driver was great – he often pulled up in a restricted parking area, had us wait in the car, he went in and bought museum passes or whatever tickets were needed, then came back and ushered us in via a special entrance. I’m confident he was giving ticket takers a few extra Lire’s for the special treatment, but glad he did. I was able to show Mom a whirlwind view of Rome in three days to take our minds off what was happening at home and the fact we couldn’t get home. But again, we stayed glued to the TV late into the evenings and made quick phone calls back home nightly.

Flights were sill not leaving the airport, but we were told our original flight probably would leave just two or three days later than scheduled. The Italians and people of Rome were so great to Americans, and were just as horrified and saddened as anyone. In our extra days, we went to several churches, not only to see the majesty of these beautiful structures, but primarily to pray for our country and all the lives lost.

As we were walking back to the hotel one afternoon after visiting a church, I said to Mom that we needed to go shop for Katie’s coat. I had a name of a store from the same woman from New York, and it was down a side street on the way back to the hotel. It was an inauspicious little shop, with a few nice looking leather garments in the window.  As we entered, they had just reopened after the afternoon siesta so no one else was in the shop. The clerk had us follow her a few stairs down and it opened up to this huge room of row after row of leather coats and jackets.  Katie had wanted a 3/4 length black coat and we found the perfect one, with the leather so soft and the stitching and craftmanship of very high quality.

Katie at her sixteenth birthday

The next day we left early to finally go back home. International flights were commencing again, and our flight was tentatively scheduled to leave. The Fiumicino Airport was a mad house due to it being the first day of flights leaving and long lines were everywhere. With all the chaos, we were a little concerned about our bags making it on the right flight and getting lost, so Mom decided to take Katie’s coat out of the luggage and carry it on. Lost luggage really didn’t matter given the circumstances, and we just wanted to get home and hug everyone. But we did want to bring one special coat home to one special girl.

Mom held that coat as we stood in the long lines to check the baggage, and the long wait at the gate, and finally throughout the long flight home. She kept it on her lap, and ever now and then I looked down, and she was passing her hand over the leather ever so softly, and kept drawing the coat closer to her as if it would make Katie closer somehow.

It was a very emotional ride home. Rather than the normal hustle and bustle that happens on an international flight, everyone was very quiet, very respectful with each other, very absorbed in their own thoughts about the tragedy and about going home.  As we landed at La Guardia, several people around us, men and women alike, had tears rolling down their face, including the flight attendants who were buckled up in their jump seats looking out the window.

We went through customs and then caught our flight home to Kansas City.  When we pulled up to the house, the family was standing outside, and Ian and Elyse (then 10 and 6 years old) had made signs with American flags on it that said “Welcome Home,” and “God Bless America,” and “We love you Grandma and Aunt Sheree.” 

Katie's leather coat, our touchstone on the way home from Rome.

We put Katie’s coat in my closet to later take out and wrap to give her for Christmas that year. I wanted so much just to give it to her upon our return, but decided to wait so she’d be surprised. And she was, and gave us extra special hugs that Christmas Eve as she knew what had happened while we were in Rome, and wasn’t expecting us to go shopping to find her a leather coat.

It’s the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in a couple of weeks, and I don’t think anyone will ever forget where they were the day this heinous crime against America happened and the national sorrow it created with such a senseless loss of life.   When I think about that trip to Italy and the tragic events of 9/11, I think about the flight home from Rome and all the heartfelt love but sadness that was on the faces of everyone on the plane. I think of the flight attendant peering out the window, looking down at New York City, with tears running down her eyes. I think of how much Mom and I longed to be home with the family we loved. And I think of Katie’s leather coat, and how it became our touchstone to home, with Mom carrying it so close to her as if she was hugging Katie all the way home.

 

P.S.
One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius, and on this upcoming anniversary of 9/11 it seems appropriate to share:

“Understand that your time has a limit set to it.
Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment;
or it will be gone, and never in your power again.”