Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amber Waves of Grain

Tornadoes, sunflowers, the Wizard of Oz, and wheat…all things the great state of Kansas is known for. This time of year we find ourselves dealing with two of the four things listed above; tornadoes and wheat. Thankfully, I have only had to go to the basement because of weather once this season and nothing touched down near us, but I’m not here to write about tornadoes or any bad weather. Wheat harvest is my subject of choice today.

Harvest is just getting ready to kick into high gear around Bucklin, but some farmers have been cutting here and there for about a week or so. My family is one of them. I mentioned in Sweet Summertime how much I love summer, but I failed to give you one of the biggest reasons why I love this season, which is harvest. It is one of my most favorite times of the year and it has been since I was little.

When I tell people this, I often get weird looks because they either don’t know what I’m talking about or because they think I’m crazy – for those involved in harvest, it’s a lot of work.

My love for this wheat harvest started when I was a little girl when my brothers, cousins, and myself would spend as much time as possible in the field. I would ride the combine with my Dad or Uncle Rick, watching the wheat passing into the header, being fascinated by how it all worked. Another favorite pastimes was to play in the back of the wheat truck; we would bury each others’ arms and legs and chew handfuls of wheat until they turned into gum. And lastly, we kids would love to ride into town with whomever was driving truck to get a pop or lemonade from the girls at the COOP.

Eating supper in the field with my Dad and brothers as a little girl
 As I grew a bit older, I would help Mom cook and deliver meals – I was always excited to get to climb the ladder of the combine and delivery the sandwiches to the guys; it made me feel important. When I got into high school, I enjoyed harvest for other reasons. Yes, I still helped deliver meals and move vehicles from field to field, but like every other boy-crazy teenage girl, harvest meant the custom cutters came to town. Truthfully, we didn’t socialize with them very much, but it provided us some different eye-candy and someone new to bat our eyelashes at.

No matter how old I get, I will always love wheat harvest for two reasons. The first reason being it is a true representation of the “American Dream.” For many farmers, their livelihood depends on this wheat crop. Seeing all of the combines in the fields, making decent yields, justifies all of the hard work and money put into raising such a crop. It truly is an incredible sight to see.

The second reason I love harvest so much is because it is a family affair. I understand that this may not be the case for every operation, but it is ours. Growing up, my Dad and Uncle Rick drove the combines, my mother drove truck, and she and my Aunt Sue fixed meals. As soon as my brothers got old enough, they worked themselves into the operation; and today, our family has grown and although some of the roles have changed, the dynamics have not.

Megan, Eli, Heather, and Jake 
It brings me nothing but joy to see how Karlee gets when she talks about harvest and how excited she is to ride the combine with her Dad and play in the back of the wheat truck. I have no doubt that as Jake and Eli get older, they too will enjoy this time of year as much as their fathers do and personally, I can’t wait to see it! 
Karlee & Jake playing in the wheat

3 Generations of Evans harvesters: Jason, Jake, Dad, Scott, and Eli

Sunday, May 27, 2012

125 and Counting

There is something in the air around Bucklin this weekend and no, I’m not talking about the dirt this wind is blowing around. There is a profound sense of history and celebration going around this town and the reason for all of this – it is Bucklin’s 125th Anniversary, not mention the 100th Anniversary of Bucklin High School.

I don’t know about you, but that is more than enough reason to celebrate for me! To do so, the community of Bucklin has put together three full days of activities which included a car and motorcycle show, fireworks, bike races and various activities for the kids, a parade, the golf tournament, a concert, the 5K run, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, the All School Alumni Reunion, and much, much more.

Throughout the years I have been in numerous Veteran’s Day parades, dressing up and riding my bike as a child and marching with the band in high school, but yesterday I was able to represent both my hometown and the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas organization in the Memorial Day parade by riding in Mr. Jules Constantin’s 1981 Mercedes.

This year’s parade was probably one of the largest parades that I can remember. There were numerous floats, cars, kids, etc. and Main Street was completely lined with spectators.

I had a great time waving and saying “hi” to everyone during the parade, but I really enjoyed getting to spend some time chatting with Jules. Jules is Bucklin High School’s shop teacher and a dear friend. He has the biggest heart and when I asked him to “scoot me around,” he happily agreed. Until yesterday, I never had known that he served in the Navy where his favorite part was his time in the submarine division or the story how he met his wife Mary Jane. It was a lot of fun hearing these stories and being able to ride with him – maybe next time he’ll take me for a ride in the Jag! =)

Despite the horrific wind, I enjoyed the parade immensely, as well as all of the other activities. I’ve said it numerous times before, but I’m going to say it again – I feel so incredibly blessed that I am from Bucklin. It truly is a great community. 
Here’s to another 125!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All the Small Things

On my desk at work, just behind my nameplate, lies a small blue Sentry Insurance paper clip holder. I usually joke around with my co-workers telling them I am going to start charging them for taking my paper clips, but in reality I don’t ever use them so I don’t really care!

My lack of finger movement makes using paper clips hard to use and causes me to staple much more or, at the last resort, ask Viv for help putting papers together. Today, I am proud to tell you that I paper clipped two pieces of paper together. Now, it probably took me 3-5 minutes to do this, but hey I was ecstatic nonetheless!

I know what you are thinking, “She’s excited about a paper clip? This girl is crazy!” Well, yes I probably am, but it just makes me realize how much little stuff we take for granted.

With all of my MWKS speaking engagements, I get a lot of questions and one of the most common question I get is, “What is the biggest thing you have learned since your accident?” My answer is always that I have learned to appreciate the small things.

I can tell you exactly where I was when I was able to lift my hand to my face and push my glasses up the first time post-accident…I remember the first time I brushed my own teeth, put on my own make-up, typed my first email, drove my own pickup, and so much more. Now I can add putting a paper clip on two papers to that list.

We as a society take so much for granted, but if you’re like me, you don’t realize it until you lose it. You don’t think about picking a ball up and throwing it across the room, until you lose the ability to grip the ball and raise your arm over your head. What was once a natural movement became an act of labor and frustration. You never realize how hard it is to use a paper clip until you can barely pick the thing up, let alone try to slide it on a piece of paper.  
I’m not sure we realize how lucky we are…

So whether it be taking a step, throwing a ball, falling in love, or paper clipping documents together, remember to appreciate the little things. Life can change in an instant so appreciate all that you have and all that you do!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I had an opportunity to visit and volunteer at the Challenge Games today in Derby, KS. It was a day full of fun, sun, and LOTS of wind. The Challenge Games is an annual athletic competition for people with physical disabilities which is held at Panther Stadium. This meet is sanctioned by Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports, USA.

Jenny, the former Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, had passed on an email awhile back regarding the Games and I knew instantly I wanted to participate. I was never a huge track and field person in high school (however I did participate), but anything sports-related is right up my alley!

When I arrived, I was surprised to see how many teams and athletes that were ready to compete. This was my first time at the Challenge Games and I really had no clue what to expect! The running events took place in the morning and the field events were in the afternoon; because I arrived about 11:00am I was only to see the last few running events, but I did have the opportunity to help with the both the javelin and club throw in the afternoon along with four other volunteers.

The atmosphere at the Games is incredible - it is so positive and uplifting and in between heats, I got to speak with the athletes, family members, and other volunteers. I absolutely loved hearing all of their stories and being able to share mine as well. 

The athletes and participants of the Challenge Games were amazing; they did a great job! I loved seeing the competitiveness of the older athletes and the ear-to-ear smiles from the smaller kids after they threw their best throw. I think a lot of PR’s were set today and I couldn’t be more proud of all the participants!

I had a great time today…even got me a little sun…and I can’t wait to help out again next year!

**I must also send a HUGE thank you to my cousin Jill for bearing the heat and wind and helping me out today at the Games!! I truly appreciate you coming out!***

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sweet Summertime

Today was the last day of school here in Bucklin today and I thought it would be fitting to write about my favorite season…summer. Actually fall is my favorite, but in all truthfulness I’m not picky as long as it is warm outside. I despise the cold and so therefore winter is not even considered as an option for the favorite season category.

The last day of school doesn’t have too much meaning for me now-a-days because I sit behind my desk at BTI from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Friday (occasionally ‘til noon on Saturdays), year-round. Some days I can’t help but think how nice it would be to be back in school again…not for the classes, but for the schedule and the carefree attitude.
 Oh, if I was just 18 again…

Summers as a teenager meant obviously no school, my summer job at BTI, tanning outside, and most importantly the lake. There was absolutely no better way to spend a weekend than at the lake with friends. I lived for the days we would pack up the coolers, hitch up the boat and jet skis and make our way South – so many great memories were made on that water at Coldwater Lake.

Unfortunately I do not get to spend nearly as much time at the lake as I used to, but the summers since my accident have proved to be the time where I get to travel…and who doesn’t love to travel? The first couple of years I traveled mostly for therapy reasons, going to both Houston and Detroit. I never got to explore much in Houston, but I sure did in Detroit. I absolutely loved it up there. On my off-days from therapy, Mom and I would venture out downtown or simply spend the day reading and people-watching in Campus Martius.

Last summer I got to do a bit more traveling, hitting up Vegas and Detroit in July, and taking a cruise to the Bahamas in September. Although I don’t recommend Vegas in July because of the heat, I had a blast with 5 of my closest friends and I even came back ahead in the money department!! Detroit was a quick trip, but I at least got to catch up with some friends and eat at both Supino’s (best pizza ever) and Pegasus.

In September, we “surprised” my Aunt Lois with a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas for her 50th Birthday. Six of us Vogel girls went and it was a trip to be remembered. We had a blast and I think it’s about time to start planning for Aunt Jeanne’s!  

Before March, I wasn’t quite sure how much traveling I was going to be able to do this summer, but with the outcome of the pageant, things quickly changed. Not only do I get to travel around the state, I get to go to Rhode Island in August!! Thanks to my wonderful employer,BTI, I will be making the trip to Providence on August 6-11 for Ms. Wheelchair America.

I am blessed to have been able to go the places where I have and I am grateful for all the wonderful memories, but I have it pretty good here at home too.

Jake and I catching a few rays last summer

Hope you all have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cap and Crown

One day back in January I opened up Facebook and saw that I had a message. When I opened that message, I was in shock and completely humbled. That message was Sammy asking if I would be like to be a guest speaker at graduation in May.

Eagerly accepting, thoughts began to run wild in my head and I immediately began thinking what would I talk about? I’m only 25 years…not too many years older than these seniors…what “great advice” can I give to them?  I knew the only thing I could really speak on was what I know…and that is what I have been through and the lessons I’ve learned from it. And then when I found out my dear friend and co-worker Scott was going to speak as well, I knew it was going to be amazing. 

Scott giving the Invocation
There are 15 young men and women in the BHS 2012 Senior Class and each of them are unique in their own way and so talented.  Just this year they have accomplished so much - numerous members of the class helped bring home a State Championship title in Scholars Bowl, others participated in State Forensics, and four of the senior ladies made a trip to State Volleyball. They have extremely bright futures and I cannot wait to see where they go in life.

BHS Class of 2012
I woke up on Saturday feeling great...for the first time in about a week or so I had gotten a good night’s rest. I had no nerves, just ready for the day! Well, the nerves hit me about noon and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to 4 o’clock. Telling my story in front of a gym, full of people…giving advice to fifteen seniors…I was a nervous wreck, but when Abbi got up and made her introduction (thankfully it did not make me cry), I wheeled my way up to the mic, swallowed my nervousness, and began.

I was shocked and truly humbled when I looked up and the entire crowd was on their feet clapping. This was my community and these are the people who have supported me throughout my entire life…to see them showing me so much love and support reconfirmed how truly blessed I am.

The Senior Class of 2012 was the 100th class to graduate from Bucklin High School and I was honored that I was asked to take part in such a momentous day. Thank you seniors, as this is a day I will never forget.


For those of you who missed it and are interested in my speech…here you go!

Wow, it feels almost like yesterday that I sat in Jeff Torline’s chair listening to Mrs. Rhodes give our commencement speech while waiting to walk across this stage and if you would have told me 7 years ago I’d be up on this stage again, I would have never believed you. In fact, I wouldn’t have believed you if you would have told me anything that has taken place in these past years.

After graduating from BHS, I was ready to get out of this town – ready to start something new. I chose to do that at Pratt Community College where I studied Accounting, but never actually took an Accounting class, and I played volleyball. It was a great year, filled with a ton of memories, and when I graduated in May of 2006, I felt as if I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I was ready to head to Hays to finish my Bachelor’s degree and have fun…I was ready to start my life.

My plans took a drastic turn on July 22, 2006 when I dove from a tree into the Illinois River near Tallequah, OK. It was there that I crushed my C5 vertebrae and bruised my spinal cord, leaving me a C5-C6 quadriplegic.  After a lifetime of being an athlete who was extremely active, I found myself lying in a hospital bed, barely able to lift my head off my pillow or move my arms. After two weeks at St. John’s in Tulsa, I was transferred to TIRR in Houston to complete my initial rehab phase and to learn the adjustments of living with a spinal cord injury. Six weeks after my accident, I returned home for the first time on September 7, 2006.

Since my initial rehab in Houston, I have traveled back to Houston two other times within the year of 2007 and went to Detroit every summer from 2008-2010.

In 2007, I started back to work part-time at BTI and I began to pursue my Bachelor’s degree, taking classes from Fort Hays State University’s online program. I majored in Management with a concentration in Human Resources and finally in May of 2009, I graduated. It was then when I began working full-time for BTI as their HR Coordinator.

I have been told that what I have accomplished since the on-set of my injury has been remarkable; however, for me it has been nothing but my day-to-day life – but I do know that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have without a few things: my faith, family and friends, a good work ethic, and knowing who I was and who I wanted to become.

Throughout my entire life, especially the last 6 years, my faith has been my refuge. When doubt begins to set in my mind and I begin to ask why, I try to remember as quickly as possible that I am in good hands and “with God all things are possible.”

There is no way in the world that I would be where I am now without the support of my family, friends, and this community.  I have been blessed, and you, seniors, have been blessed, to grow up here and be a part of a tight-knit community – a community that cares about one another, supports your activities, and comes together in times of need.  I know that you guys are itching to walk across this stage and start a new chapter in your life, but please don’t forget who has helped you along your way and all the memories you’ve made up and down these halls.

Speaking of memories, some of my best high school memories took place in this gym. This is the place where I learned that hard work and practice paid off, as we brought home as many wins as possible during my four years. When I got hurt, I knew that if I would take that mentality and work ethic into physical therapy, I would succeed. I first thought and even told some people, “I’ve been in physical therapy before…my spinal cord is just bruised… if I work hard enough, I’ll be walking by Christmas.” That was my little bout of denial, which I quickly came out of, but I still knew that if I was going to improve, I needed to work hard every day in PT…just as I had in high school and college, and just like you seniors have for the past four years. Because of that hard work and perseverance, I learned to sit up on my own, do quite a bit of my care myself, and most of all be able to push myself around. 

This class knows a few things about hard work – look around at these banners…State Scholars Bowl Champs, State Forensics participants, and trip to Hays for State Volleyball for four of these ladies, not mention those who will be competing for State Track here in two weeks. They have put a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears…not to mention time…for what they have accomplished and I, personally, couldn’t be more proud of them. You seniors also know a thing or two about perseverance. When you lost Zac last year, you kept going forward, putting one foot in front of the other even if it felt as if you were going nowhere. You have handled adversity with upmost dignity and grace….and now you have a guardian angel throughout all your journeys in life.

Last, but not least, I credit my success to knowing who I am and who I want to be. I had a plan when I graduated high school and although it didn’t work out; I have a new plan now. Because of my accident, I have realized the importance of being true to oneself and that is why I chose my platform for Ms. Wheelchair Kansas to be about Empowering Youth to Define Themselves. I am constantly saying that one must not let certain situations or other people define who they are, so seniors, please know that who you are is defined by what you make of certain situations, how you treat people, and how you inwardly reflect – not by who’s child you are, where you grew up, or how successful you are. 

Seniors, I know you all have a plan for the future and I know that you have a great sense of who you are, but please remember to not take anything for granted because life can change in an instant. Remember to work hard at everything you do because it will pay off in some way or another; always be respectful and responsible for you never know who is watching and treat every situation as an opportunity because you never know what might come of it. Please, do not be afraid to make mistakes, they are inevitable; but most importantly I want you to remember to have fun and enjoy all the days ahead of you.

I want to thank you all again for allowing me to speak on this momentous day and to you seniors, good luck with all your future endeavors…I am extremely proud of you and can’t wait to see what your futures hold. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oh, Mrs. Evans!

I’ll write about all the graduation festivities in a bit, but seeing as it is Mother’s Day, I must first write about my best friend and my confidant…my mother, Elaine.

My mom and I have always been close, but in the past six years we have grown to be so much closer, inseparable really. I am truly blessed to have her by my side and I do not know what I would do without her.

During my high school years, I pushed my boundaries and we didn’t necessarily always see eye-to-eye, but she still stood by side and supported me (even if she wanted to ring my neck at times).

After I had my accident…I was dependent upon her and although she was facing one of her hardest times, she stood strong and was my rock throughout my most difficult time. I would have not been able to do what I have done without her.

We have been through a lot these past six years and in turn I haven been pushing mom’s boundaries, taking her out of her comfort zone multiple times. We have traveled all over the country - from Houston to Detroit and all the way from Las Vegas to the Bahamas. I have dragged her to numerous concerts, shows, and restaurants against her will, and she has mastered the art of driving in the city!

She has become my best friend and I truly cherish our relationship. These past few years have definitely had their ups and downs, but I couldn’t think of a better person to share all these memories with.

Thank you Mom for all that you do and all that you have done.
I love you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Inside the Mind of a Four Year Old

I currently have one niece and two nephews and let me tell you - they mean the world to me. I'm not sure what I would do without each and every one of them. Karlee's special though...we have an unmistakable bond - I'm not sure if it's because she was the first born, because she is the only girl, or because I was one of the first people to hold her. Whatever it is...we get each other!  From the moment she was born to now, she has always had the ability to make me laugh and smile with just a simple look. She is the sweetest little girl with a huge heart.

Karlee and I right after her birth in 2008
Every Tuesday, I go to Dodge for "therapy" where workout with my trainer Thomas and every once in awhile Karlee will get to come with my mom and I to "help Grandma shop". This past Tuesday, she made the 30-minute drive to Dodge with us, but instead of shopping with Grandma, she wanted to stay at "surgery" with me.  Unfortunately, she fell asleep before we got to Dodge, leaving her no choice but to grocery shop with Grandma.

Karlee and I at the Detroit Zoo in Summer 2009
On our way home, Mom and I were talking about the news story that aired on Monday when Karlee piped in, our conversation went a little like this -

Karlee: Emily, I saw you on TV yesterday...
Me: Oh ya? What did you think? Did I look ok?
Karlee: looked pretty.
Me: Thanks, Bert. That's sweet of you.
Karlee: How did you get out?
Me: Get out of what?
Karlee: THE TV, EMILY!!!

It was just too cute that I had share.
If only the world was as simple as it is in a 4-year old's mind!

Karlee and I after her Mini Cheer Camp Performance in Fall 2011

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We're in the Big Time Now

Last Friday morning at work, Viv and I were chatting about the news and she mentioned a series KWCH was getting ready to run about small towns in Kansas – and how people are supposed to send in reasons as to why Jenn, Michael, and Merril should visit their town. It sounded as if it would be a pretty cool series to watch and so I made a mental note in hopes that I would remember to watch Channel 12 at 6pm and 10pm this coming week.

*Note, the 10 o’clock broadcast would be the hardest to remember - Chelsea Lately is on at 10pm and I rarely miss it…she is one funny lady.*

Fast forward to 5:00pm on Friday…I check my phone and see that I have a voicemail. It is from Kim at KWCH and they have chosen Bucklin for their ‘One of a Kind Kansas’ series and was curious if I would do an interview as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas. I happily agreed and the plans were made. Jim was going to come to Bucklin on Sunday for my interview and KWCH’s live crew would roll into town Monday morning.

 Around noon on Sunday, there was a knock at my door and I thought, “Ok, he’s here…let’s do this!” and when I turned around it wasn’t the guy from KWCH, but Ms. Jane. She had seen a KWCH vehicle sitting on Main Street and thought either there’s going to be a storm of some sort or he’s lost and looking for someone. Lost and looking for someone it was! Now here, Jim set up his camera and we began the interview. He asked lots of questions and I think got some good footage.

When Monday morning rolled around, I was all excited to see what they would film here in town, but nervous of my interview. I had complete faith that Jim would do a good job editing it, but I’m always nervous about being on camera! Around 10am, I looked up from my desk to see Dennis from KWCH and he informed me he had bad news. Turns out my interview on Sunday was accidentally deleted and we needed to redo my interview

I was more prepared this go around and things turned out great. The piece on Bucklin began on their 5 o’clock show and then continued on at 6pm and 10pm. While in town, the news crew visited the Moore Ranch where they got to feed the lambs, ride horses, and check out the longhorns, they had cherry limeades at the Market, and they visited the school and hung around for the athletic banquet.

Check out KWCH's piece on Bucklin by clicking --> Bucklin Kansas is 'One of a Kind' 
 I am so glad they chose to feature Bucklin – it truly is a unique place and I am proud to call this community my home.

Thanks for visiting KWCH!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Operation Meet Mayor

I’ve mentioned before that I am from a small town (see Small Town Blessed) where everyone knows everyone and there is such camaraderie and a sense of community between all 700 residents.

In charge of all of us residents is our mayor, Mr. Mike Fisher himself. Janitor at BHS by day, Mike began moonlighting as the mayor a few years ago and I must say he’s done a great job.

I have known Mike my entire life – he and his wife Terry live just a couple of blocks from me, his boys have always been good friends of mine, and he was a groomsman in my parents wedding.

When I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and had the opportunity to meet Governor Brownback, Mike made a point to come into BTI and give me some grief about how I was “too good” to meet with the mayor of Bucklin. Of course, that is far from the truth and I was going to prove it! On Thursday, I donned my crown and sash and made my way down to Bucklin Schools to surprise the mayor.

He was knee-deep in the task fixing a toilet out at the football field, but made his way over to office just to speak to this concerned citizen.  I knew if I was going to get him back and be able to give him just as much grief as he had given me, I must come up with some “issues” to discuss with him. I decided on the pot holes in the street, the seismograph lines all over town, and the sidewalk in the park – but he handled them like a pro, with just a little sarcasm mixed in.

All in all I’d say my impromptu meeting with Mr. Mayor went quite well…now we’ll see if these pot holes get fixed! =)

Mayor Mike Fisher and Myself

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pink Squirrels and Hot Tea

As a person goes through life, they look to various people as role models - people they respect and people they aspire to be like. I have many people I look up to in all aspects of my life, but there are two women in my life who have always, and will always be my role model…my grandmothers.  

They have both taught me so much in life. My Grandma Pat was the ultimate homemaker – she taught me how to cook and sew, and of course how to make a mean pink squirrel, among so many other things. Unfortunately, in 2005, she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer and made her way to heaven to be with my Grandpa.  I miss her dearly, but I know that with her life lessons she taught me and the fact that she is always watching over us, that everything will always be okay.

Now on the other hand I have my Grandma Bea…and I’m not even sure where to begin – she has taught me that you’re never too old (or young) to do anything you dream of, how to appreciate a cup hot tea no matter what time of day or how hot/cold it is outside, how to be spontaneous, and of course how to play a great game of rummy or cribbage.

I have so many great memories with both women that I could write for days, but today I will stick to just a few stories that always make me smile…

Grandma Bea
For those of you who know my Grandma Bea, you know she loves to travel, whether it is to another country or even just an overnight camping trip to the lake.  I have been blessed to experience many trips with her, such as Arizona, Hawaii, and the Eastern Caribbean, but growing up it was always an adventure to hook on the pop-up camper and go to the lake in the summer. Jason and Jared would fish constantly, Jeff and I would go hiking and explore, and Grams would sit by the camper, read her book, and make sure we have all the essentials for a hot dog cookout that night and plenty of marshmallows to roast when the sun went down.

After my Grandpa Roy passed, my Grandma Bea decided that she would like to take each one of the grandkids on a trip of some sort. I think Chris and Jill went on a cruise, Scott and Jeremy a river boat, Jason and Jared a bus trip, and Andrea a cruise. Andy, Jeff, and I got blessed with a week-long cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. I think I was a sophomore in high school when we went and let me tell you, we had a blast. Grandma’s only rule was that she didn’t care what we did, but we must all eat together and attend the show every evening. Probably, not the greatest rules for 15-16 year old kids, but like I said…we had a blast!

The most prominent and cherishable memory I have thus far with my Grandma Bea is her tea parties. We would gather around the kitchen table with freshly baked cookies and a pot of hot tea, play rummy, and discuss the happenings of our day and so much more. And if we didn’t feel like playing cards that day, there was always a picture puzzle that needed put together. There was a ton of cards shuffled and a lot of life discussed around that table!

Grandma Pat
My Grandma Pat was an amazing seamstress and everyone that knew her, knew that. If she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking, she would be sitting on the couch, quilt blocks in hand. I won’t tell you about all the patterns we cut out on the kitchen table or how she made my First Communion dress, but how much of a treat it was to spend the night at her house. We would get to unroll the blue egg crates and sleep on the floor in the living room. If we were lucky the next day, the boys would spend the day outside and Grandma would get out the pea green- colored Easy Bake Oven and let us girls make and decorate our own cakes.  If we pushed our luck, we could even get her to make us pink squirrels, the Vogel girls’ signature drink!

For my Grandma’s funeral service, my mother and I made up the flower arrangements – they consisted of spring-colored flowers and a lot of pink and yellow roses. During her rosary and service, it was undeniable that the smell of roses filled the church. Ever since that day, there are random moments on random days where I smell roses, without a flower in sight. This not only happens to me, but my mother, her sisters, as well as a few of my cousins. At that moment in time, when the sweet smell of roses fills the room, she is with us. After my accident, throughout the months of being in and out of hospitals – I smelled a lot of roses…

Without these two ladies, I would not be the person I am today. They have been there for me throughout all my highs and lows and have taught me some of the greatest lessons in life. I strive to be just like these two, and if I can accomplish being just half the women they are…I’ll be okay!

As Grandma Bea famously says when things are coming to a close…”Party’s Over!”