Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Learned From Ollie

(Originally written 1/31/2012.  Updated 1/31/2016)
Today marks the 99th year since my father, James Oliver Hughes, was born.  I'm not sure where his surname originated. Up until recent months, I knew nothing of my Hughes family past my paternal grandmother.  I do know that the middle name Oliver was given to my dad in honor of the country doctor who had travelled across the mountains and up a holler near Skyles, West Virginia on a cold wintry day in January, 1913 to deliver a baby boy to my Grandma Viola.  Dad was known as Jim to his co-workers, but to his family and friends, he always was and still is remembered as Ollie. (*1/13/2016 - After researching our family genealogy, I see that just about every family member I ever knew was known by his/her middle name). 

My dad was 41 years old when I was born.  Dad had had his eye on the yongest Davis girl, but he was ten years older than she was and had to wait for her to grow up.  By the time I was born in 1954, he had survived the greatest war of our nation's history, married Nell Davis and fathered a son, worked in the West Virginia coal mines, moved his family out of the mountains after experiencing a mine cave-in, and was building blimps for Goodyear Aerospace in Akron, Ohio. 

My dad holding my cousin, Glenn, and me.

 When I think of my life, . . the things I love, the way I am, . . I see pieces of both my parents in me.  As everyone does, we are molded by the example of others . . some by good example and some by bad.  More things are caught than taught, they say.   Dad could be harsh at times, but I don't think he wanted to be that way.  So, here I am, a product of my parents . . . my dad (whom I will get to in a minute, and my mom, who is like Sherri Easter's song, Handful of Weeds,  . . "She's the one who told me about Jesus.  She's the one who taught me to sing." (and SEW!).  I hope my children will do the same as I have, emulate the good and learn from the bad.

Being the baby of the family, I was not privy to all the family issues and goings on like my older brother was.  I knew our life was hard.  Dad had been laid off from Goodyear and worked out his remaining work years as a school custodian.  I didn't know it then, but we were dirt poor.  My grandma stayed with us off and on for years in our tiny little house.  When she wasn't with us, we were travelling to Pennsylvania sometimes every week-end or every other one when she was very ill.  When I was eleven years old, my world changed.  My big brother graduated and enlisted in the US Army. 

I'm not sure why, but I know my dad went into a dark place when Bob left for the Army.  Maybe it was fear of losing his only son during the Vietnam War, maybe it was a trigger of memories of the horrendous things he had experienced in war, maybe it was the huge weight and responsibilities that were on his shoulders during that time. . . probably a combination of all.  The next 7-8 years are not ones that I remember fondly, nor do I wish to write about.  What I can say is that my dad later came to a place where he accepted by faith the true gift of salvation and experienced forgiveness through his Savior.  He was a changed man.  Not perfect, but changed. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Things I Learned From Ollie:

1.  He taught me to be a hard worker.  My dad could be found on top of a roof or in the top of a tree doing the Ollie trim job until he was 80 years old.  He always put out a garden.  He always did anything for anyone.  My parents had to work to survive.  I'm glad I developed a good work ethic from both my mom and dad.

(I think Dad was starting me out young.  Looks like I was mowing the yard in this old photo). 

2.  He taught me to love the woods and the mountains.  I said to my mom this morning, "Dad would have loved to have a day like this for his birthday, wouldn't he?  Mom:  "Yes, he'da been out diggin' something."  It didn't matter . . . hunting squirrels, fishing for bluegill, digging Ginseng, Dad loved the woods.  They were solace to him, and they are to me.

3.  He taught me to love the simple things.  Brown beans and cornbread or a bowl of corn mush and milk were as much appreciated as a steak dinner . . . which by the way, we never had.  We lived off the garden for the most part, with some chicken or Spam.  I swore I'd never live that like.  How stupid my young self was.  Now I pay good money to antique stores and auctions to re-capture the things of my simple, poor childhood.

4.  He taught me to love auctions and pickin'.   I was just telling my husband last night, "How would I have known all those years ago that I would still love to go through someone else's junk to find a treasure?"  I think it is because Dad would go to the Auction House on S. Arlington Street on Friday nights.  I was too little to stay up that late, but Saturday mornings always came with a treat, some treasure that Dad had bought for me at the auction.  Today, going to an auction or a tag sale or better yet, if possible, going through an abandoned building looking for treasures, equals FUN. 

5.  He taught me to love animals.  We always had a dog.  And cats.  He brought me home a baby squirrel that became my pet for awhile.  He even let me bring home a banty rooster all the way from West Virginia one time.  He always swore he'd never have another one after the death of a favorite dog . . . but eventually we did.

Our beloved TIPPY. The mayor of Molly Drive.  He was getting older here as you can see by the white snout.  I think this picture was taken shortly before he was hit by a car and killed. 

6.  He taught me to fix things.  My dad could fix anything.  He wasn't a carpenter, but he built the house my mother still lives in 56 years later.  He taught my boys to pound nails into a piece of wood.  It the nails bent, Dad taught them how to straighten them.  One day he told my middle son, Steve.  "Stevie, you just might make a pretty good carpenter someday."  I think he would be proud of my barn-building son today. . . on many levels.
Dad had a solution for everything.  My first-born son, Brian, was having a terrible time teething, One night, Dad sneaked and gave me a little bottle of whiskey to take home.  He said, "And if things get really bad, you can rub some on his gums."

7.  He taught me to laugh.  My dad was . . . putting it mildly . . . ORNERY (as seen in #6).  How many of  the grandkids were fooled time and time again by his request, "Here, pull my finger."  Hopefully not as crude, but I have inherited a bit of my dad in that respect.  I have known to be ornery a few times.  ;-p

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, . . . this is how I choose to remember my dad on what would have been his 99th birthday. 

#1 Young, strong, healthy and handsome.

 #2 Oops, Dad, your eyes are closed!  Accident, probably. . . but that grin . . oh, that grin says a 1,000 words and makes me laugh out loud just seeing it. 

#3 Older, on the brink of the battle with cancer that would take him.  A man who proved his love for his family, not in words but in deeds.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy BIRTHday!

January 18, 1977 was the typical "what Ohio winters used to be" kind of day.  It was bitter cold, blustery, with close to a foot of blowing, drifting snow.  It was also four days past the due date of my first child.  It had taken us almost three years to conceive. . . month after month of disappointment and tears, doctors' visits, well-meaning advice from friends and family. . . and finally our baby would soon be here!  I was more than ready, but baby Yoak was content to stay put.  Only a fingertip were the words from my OB/GYN.   Dr. Yoder was firm (absolutely NO more than 20# gained during pregnancy), adamant (this baby will come when he is good and ready), matter of fact (It's a BOY.  The heart rate is 120), but caring and compassionate underneath that stoic demeanor (we were soon to see that side of him). 

Rod and I had rented a tiny, two-bedroom house within walking distance of my parents when we married.  He worked an ungodly night shift in Stow (25 minutes away) and was gone from 3:15 in the afternoon to nearly 3 am in the morning.  We were both so excited about finally having a child!  Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was awakened many nights by the sounds of squeaks and rattles as my sweet husband and soon-to-be daddy inspected every item in the tiny room that we'd prepared as a nursery.  I think he spent a lot of time in that room as he unwound from his long shift.  I know he prayed over this child, for me, for him.  The birth of one's first child is a crazy scary time, and we were just kids ourselves. 

Now we were in the grip of winter, and my due date had come and gone.  My dad was very careful to put a light under the hood of his car every night.  With only an open carport as shelter, the warmth helped the engine start in the bitter cold temps.  My sister-in-law Janie was eight months pregnant, and both of us night-shift widows spent many evenings at my parents' house.  We must have played hundreds of games of Yahtzee and maybe ate that many tomato and cheese sandwiches.  My parents didn't mind.  They enjoyed the antics of their first grandchild, Heather, as she toddled around.  But this night, January 17th, I had stayed home.  A storm had dropped more snow that week.  Rod had shovelled just enough to pull his car off the road, but the drifting in our long driveway made getting my car out impossible.  I was anxious but content to stay home and watch a new mini-series on TV called Roots.

Memories can blur after 35 years, but I will always remember that nagging cramping that started . . . and continued . . . in my lower back.  By the time Rod got home, I knew I was in labor.  We both tried to rest for awhile, but there was little sleep.  We made the call to Dr. Yoder who instructed us to head to the hospital.  It was time!  With all the bags packed and ready, Rod trudged out to the end of the driveway to warm up the car.  G-r-i-n-d . . . c-l-i-c-k, c-l-i-c-k.  After only sitting a few hours, the car's battery was sapped from the cold and refused to start.  DOESN'T THAT CAR KNOW WE HAVE A BABY COMING?!!!  Okay, time for the back-up plan. 

Soon we were in the back seat of my parents' car as my dad nervously drove us to the hospital.  I don't know who was more anxious. . Dad, Mom, Rod or me.  The road was so hooved up from the freezing temps that winter that Rt. 619 was like a washboard!  Dad drove so-o-o slow that it seemed like an eternity before we arrived at Barberton Citizens Hospital!  I KNOW my poor dad was afraid I'd deliver in the car!   If only we knew. 

Lest I bore you with details, let me just say that after two IV's of labor-inducing Pitossin and twelve more L-O-N-G hours of back labor, our beautiful blue-eyed baby boy finally arrived.   (Yes, Dr. Yoder was right . . . all three times.  Oh, and I found out later that my doctor was at the hospital for many hours that day.  While I was slowly laboring, he waited there - even playing cards with the nurses).  Our first son, Brian James Yoak was born on January 18th at exactly 8:18 pm.  Less than three years later, he would be joined by two more brothers, Stephen Wayne (Stevie) and Keith Michael (Keithie).  And yes, some people still call them by those names.  Precious babies who grew to be strong men . . our three sons whom we love so much.

It's hard to believe 35 years have passed so quickly since we held the first of our three sons.  The pages of these boys' lives are etched in my heart and mind, but the roles are so different now.  Now they are the young husbands and fathers, and we are the grandparents.  They have brought us so much joy yet a few more gray hairs.  I no longer can kiss away the sting of a boo-boo, and band-aids can't cover up the hurt of a broken heart.  Stresses of life, wrong choices made, lessons learned the hard way are just as much a part of their lives as it was in ours.  They have a lot of us in them, the good and the bad.  But they are good men, these sons of ours. 

Their dad and I rejoice because of eternal choices they have made.  "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."  3 Jn. 1:4

We take comfort in the truth that those choices carry with them an effectual working in their lives.  "The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."  Psalm 138:8
We desire that all of life's experiences will expose that the greatest thing they can do is love.  "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:13
And like their parents . . who are continually learning that our mistakes and hard times are not the END but part of the process.  " . .  to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."  Isaiah 61:3
~ ~ ~ ~
  Brian with the youngest of his three sons



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today I was the Englisher.

A girl has to take a road trip every now and then, and today was mine.  It's early January, and that means it's time to consult with my MODA rep at The Holmes Country Fabric Show in Berlin, Ohio.  Last year a snow storm closed the schools, but not this woman on a mission.  Today was perfect!  Blue skies, dry pavement, mild temps in this strange Ohio winter we're enjoying.  It was a much-needed time to relax and enjoy the peaceful sights in the heart of Ohio's Amish country.

Looking over fabric samples with Mark Pytel of MODA/UNITED NOTIONS

Business was even going on in the parking lot.

By 5pm, my goals were accomplished and business was done. The sidewalks in Berlin were rolled up, the sun was setting, smoke from wood stoves was billowing out of chimneys and lying like a blanket across the valley, Amish men and women were scurrying out of town towards their homes.  Some walked, some rode bicyles, and most travelled in buggies.  Dusk was falling as I drove out of the rolling hills of Holmes County.  Topping each knoll, I was careful to look for the reflective triangle that would signal an Amish buggy ahead.   It was a treacherous time of day when many Englishers have brought tragedy to this community with their carelessness. 

Our cabin . . . at least we claim it as ours .. Simple Blessings Cabin in Berlin, Ohio    is a favorite place to stay. 

Winesburg, OH

 Taking the back road home is worth the extra time it takes just to drive through Winesburg.  It has to be the perfect small town in America.  It was a good day.  My heart is full and my mind is rested. 
Tomorrow is a new day.  Much to do, and sew on. . .

Until next time.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Art Linkletter is known for his hit TV show in the 50's and 60's, "Kids Say the Darndest Things".  I remember watching the show as a kid.  Now I'm a grandma of (soon to be) seven, and I never run short of amusement at what comes out of those kids' mouths.

For instance,  . . last night the three youngest (Natalie - 6, Kaylee - 4 1/2, Max - 2) spent the evening with Grandpa (affectionately known as Crappaw) and me.  The routine is the same before we watch a movie together - the children find the box of pre-packaged popcorn, pull a chair over to the counter, fight over who pops theirs first, someone finally pushes the popcorn picture on the microwave, then we all wait with great anticipation as the first pops are heard, the bag expands, and we can count down the ticking clock . . . 10 . . 9 . . 8. . 7. . 6 . . 5 . .4 . .3. . 2 . . 1 . . BLAST OFF!!!!!  Even little Max got into the routine last night as he pulled out a 3rd bag, pushed another chair across the kitchen floor, and prematurely started his count, "eh, ooh, oh, . . " (sounds a whole lot like when he recites the alphabet). 

Me:  "Max, we're not going to pop three bags.  That's too much.  You would each have to eat a whole bag!"
Natalie:  "But Grandma, if you and Crappaw eat some, it won't be too much."
Me:  "No, Crappaw can't eat popcorn.  It hurts his teeth."  (my quick explanation of something far more complicated).

Natalie:  (looking sad)  . . . "He's got a really hard life." 

Me:  "Yes, he does, Nattie.  Yes, he does."

Crappaw teaching Natalie to play checkers


This collection of "Kids Say The Darndest Things Quotes" shows how children think about serious matters, such as heaven and hell, God, religion, church, and so on.

Please, do not get offended, but enjoy these innocent thoughts, for kids are kids, and they can say the funniest things.

On Heaven and Hell

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.

The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, 'When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah'.
The teacher asked, 'What if Jonah went to hell?'
The little girl replied, 'Then you ask him'.

kids and friends

How to get in heaven

An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him 'How do you expect to get into Heaven?'

The boy thought it over and said, 'Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!


kids praying

The Commandments

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to "honor" thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"

Without missing a beat one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, "Thou shall not kill."


A Sunday school class studying the Ten Commandments were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. A little girl raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, "Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor's wife."


Kids Say the Darndest Things Quotes: thoughts about God

Have you seen God?

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, 'I'm drawing God.'
The teacher paused and said, 'But no one knows what God looks like.'
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, 'They will in a minute.'

Kids Praying

A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."


I had been teaching my three-year old daughter the Lord's Prayer at bedtime. She would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully pronounced each word right up to the end of the prayer: "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some e-mail."


Three year old boy: "Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen."


One four-year old prayed: "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."


After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

A Sunday school teacher asked her children, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"
One bright fellow replied, "Because people are sleeping."


Six-year-old sister Angie, and four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sand, and talked out loud. Finally his big sister had enough.
"You're not supposed to talk out loud in church."
"Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked.
Angie pointed to the back of the church and said,
"See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers."


Moral Lessons

A Mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5-year-old, and Ryan 3-year-old. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw an opportunity for a moral lesson.

She said, "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"


One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head.

She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, "Why are some of your hairs white, Mom?"
Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white."

The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, "Momma, how come ALL of grandma's hairs are white?"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Introducing an expansion to our bedding line at Home Sweet Homespuns. . .the homespun coverlets!  They range from Throw size to King size.  Nice and fluffy, tufted, and a great way to complete your bedding ensemble (shams, bed skirts, pillow cases, accessory pillows).  Coordinate your entire bedroom with made-in-the-USA window treatments and bedding, all made just the way you need them.  Click on Bedding and Throws on our website for more information.
If you want something a little more personalized or need an extra-special gift for a birthday, bridal shower, anniversary, holiday, graduation, or whatever. . . be sure to check out the custom throws by Warm Intentions!  Each one is a one-of-a-kind work of art.  Cindy, the owner of Warm Intentions makes each one unique with her own personal touches.  I LOVE my throw!  Fleece on the back, floral on the front, it looks as beautiful as it is functional.  Contact Cindy at Warm Intentions for information and pricing.  

A few of her creations (below)

 Twin Size

 I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one!

 Personalized with photos of the young boy's favorite things!


 Another very personal and customized gift ~ a blanket and dress to match.

This one is mine!

Monday, January 2, 2012

It is very obvious that one of my New Year's resolutions should be


 Pretty embarrassing to say the least. I would like to spare you of one of those annual 3-page Christmas letters.  However, I may be guilty of that in order to put 2011 in retrospect -- just the highlights
(with my middle-aged short-term memory issues, I'm sure I'll forget some).  Let's see,
 1) Husband sold his business 
2) Husband started a new job
3) I moved my business to a new location
4) We moved to a different home
5) I opened a retail shop/showroom.
6) I closed the retail shop/showroom (details to follow)
7) I'm still looking for things that are buried in packed boxes
. . Let me insert here that 1-4 happened within one month. CRAZY.

Yes, this past summer marked a new venture for Home Sweet Homespuns! We moved! Yep, we are now located in a brand new space, a completely-renovated century building from the late 1800's. We are in 100% full production for our web business and daily production.

(Before move)

Moving a business was not an easy task.  We weren't sure if my 4x8 work station would even fit in the door. 

Will it fit? 

Muscle power from four men, . . . 

Sitting in place, minus the counter top

Yeah, they did it!!

Mom getting the first look at the new shop.  I think she's pleased.

We are told that our building was built in the late 1800's and was originally a parsonage. I would love to dig deeper into the history of the building! It holds much charm with the original pine floors in the two rooms that we planned to use as our showroom. Our workshop held some challenges with our huge cutting table strategically placed between what we have been told are two old hitching posts. The room faces the east, so the morning sun pours in through the windows and brightens the entire space.

Here's an excerpt of my journal on the first day: Today was the first full day of production. I was quite pleased with the arrangment of the sewing machines, cutting table, ironing board and fabric cupboard all in close proximity to one another. Track lighting above the machines added extra brightness for cloudy days. Ready, set, go! Ready, set, . . . oops, there goes the foot pedal sliding away on the new laminate floor! Re-position, . . . ready, set, . . . move back to adjust the foot pedal again, and there goes my chair slowly but surely rolling sideways towards the back wall! The old floors have a tad bit of a slant to them. . . needless to say, at the end of the day the machines were re-positioned so I would roll towards them instead of drifting slowly away every time I moved. The foot pedals are finding new spots securely wedged against a table leg or sitting on non-grip rubber. At the end of the day, we accomplished a decent amount of jobs and worked out a few kinks. All in a days' work. 

 Yes, downsizing one's home, which for years has housed a business in its lower ranks, was quite a challenge to our business operation.  Thankfully, the summer months are a little slower for our web-based business, so we were able to make the move, get set up, and start operations in a new location within a matter of days. Although it was a wonderful space, and one where we could actually have a curtain showroom and primitive mercantile, we soon discovered it was not practical to stretch our focus in two directions.

 With the busy holiday season fast approaching, we decided to concentrate on what we do best, and that is focusing on our curtain business via the web. A little disappointing, but it was the right thing to do. Although a store had always been a dream, our main operations center and office is functioning quite well.  Customers can still drop in or schedule an appointment to discuss their custom job.

 I would say 2011 was a CHALLENGING year. I'm not particularly fond of it, although it stretched me in ways that hopefully made me a better person. On a personal level, 2012 brings the anticipation of our 7th grandchild due on St. Patrick's Day. On the business side, we're always looking for ways to improve.  We have already made some changes in our product line, adding some new items that we hope you will like such as: Homespun throws and coverlets in our Bedding line, and more selections in our Kitchen line. More additions will be coming as we progress throughout the year. As always, look for our ads in Country Sampler Magazine. Each issue features one or more featured products. Our new Winter Product Brochure is now printed and available for mailing. You can also LIKE US on Facebook to keep up to date with the latest announcements. Here's to a great 2012! Bring it on.