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This is dedicated to one of the strongest mothers I have ever known. Some know her as Sandra, many know her as Sandy, the most special known her as Grandma and one of my favorite people calls her, Maud. 

My aunt Sandra is one of the strongest mothers I know.

She is the mother to Brett, a strong, hardworking man. A man full of jokes and always a tease.  For some reason she put up with him skinning coons and other critters in her garage for many years.  I remember watching him as a kid thinking about how clean Aunt Sandra kept her garage and how she might not like that too much.   

The mother of Darcy, who was born with special needs in 1969. I know I wasn’t around for the beginning of her fight for Darcy, but from the many stories I am told she would have moved mountains to do what she could to care for her.  The community offered Cork and Sandra support and help with what they called “patterning” to try to help Darcy all that they could.  My earliest memory of watching her care for Darcy was of Darc sitting on the floor in her blue chair and the moment she would hear Sandra’s voice she would turn her head because she recognized her momma! Aunt Sandra literally wore out her back carrying Darcy to and fro, in and out of the bathtub and providing her care. Darcy passed away in Dec of 2007 and I will never forget hearing Sandra say that she wanted to make sure they had socks on Darcy because her feet were always cold.  She never quit thinking about her and how to take care of her baby girl.

Another reason I know my Aunt Sandra is one of the strongest mother’s I know is because she was also mom to Justin who was born in 1973 . She didn’t get the chance to care for him for more than one day in the world outside of her womb because he was born early.  At a time when she should have been preparing a nursery, she was burying her newborn son.  

After Grandma Patty passed away, Cork and Sandra’s house became our new place to come together as a family to celebrate Christmas Eve. All of us have so many fun memories of gathering in her living room around her bright white, flocked Christmas trees!  One of my favorite things to do was to sit downstairs by the fireplace hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa while the big kids played pool. There may have even been a Christmas where the joke was on  Aunt Sandra and she received a large number of spatulas because of a little spatula incident at Thanksgiving.

Aunt Sandra is the definition of a workhorse! Her garden is always blooming and kept in pristine shape along with her lawn. In fact just last week Rob called to see if she was ready to have her garden tilled and she told him, “Nope, it’s too early.”  She was right because as I type this I just finished covering all of my plants. I couldn’t even guess how many hours she has put into seeding, planting, working on her garden, and then canning her harvest over the years. When she was done for the year she would always call to see if I needed more cucumbers to make more pickles or green beans to feed my family. In 2010, I was pregnant with Ellie and I found out where the “workhorse” quality came from as she and Grandma Rosie literally picked 2 rows of green beans to my one.

She makes the best rolls or “shiny buns” as we like to call them. Field meals are never a sandwich, but more like a 5-course meal that was more than likely made from scratch with a homemade dessert. Not only is she an amazing cook, but she also makes the most amazing kitchen towels that you have ever used, some have animals, some have fruit and if you are lucky you have some in your drawer with the days of the week.

You may not know she has a jokester side, too. In her days working at Buy Low I swear she would hide on the back side of the cooler with her royal blue Warrior Booster Club jacket and just wait for me to reach for a pop to give me a scare. She has always called me Jenifire, even  a couple of weeks ago when I called and when I talked chickens with her she called me Jenifire. We had a few good laughs at the price of eggs in the stores and how crazy she was feeling with all of the social distancing and quarantine talk.  I didn’t ask her if her fingers were twitching from wanting to be playing the slots, but I would guess that she might have been getting a little antsy to step into a casino.

Beyond her nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, mother, children, grandchildren and soon to be great-grandchild I believe her greatest love is my Uncle Cork. He has called her Maud for as long as I can remember. They love to attend baseball, softball, and basketball games together where she proudly sports her warrior jacket with the graduation years of her grandchildren.  They enjoy popcorn, chatting, and Cork always has a few mints in his pocket for little and (big) kids. I believe that she is the strongest mother I know because she has a strong husband beside her.  The trials they have endured as a married couple, and as a mother and father are some of the toughest that any should have to face.

This weekend, on Mother’s Day, they are once again facing another trial. This Mother’s Day has been a somber one as we prepare for her to gain her wings and be reunited with her babies, I feel like it is only right for us to pay tribute to one of the strongest mother’s we know, Sandra Kay Kuhlemeier.  

Sandra Kay Kuhlemeier gained her heavenly wings on May 14, 2020, although we all know she was already an angel here on earth.

This week I had the opportunity to go see Rachel Hollis live in Cedar Rapids.  I took half of the day off to drive by myself, in 50 mph winds, to go see her speak and it was well worth it.  So many things that she said sparked things inside of me, but there were a couple points that she made that I can’t stop thinking about so I decided that I needed to do what I know best…write about them, so in my next 3 blog posts, I am going to tackle one of her points.

Rachel’s point #1: Where do you come from?  There is a REASON that you, yes, YOUare here on the planet today.  Where do you come from?  She mentioned that her great, great, great, great Grandmother was born on a ship on the way to America.  Her parents died on the ship and her uncle raised her.  Had she not survived that boat ride to America and been raised by her uncle, there would be no Rachel Hollis today and if you think about the ripple effect that occurred from that little baby being born on a ship on her way to America all of the way to Rachel Hollis who is taking personal development by storm, it is pretty darn amazing.

So here goes nothing, in 3 parts over the next 3 days, I am going to tell you where I come from.

I come from love, strong work ethic, and kindness.  I come from my paternal grandparents, Marvin and Janice Bushbaum, married and wildly in love for 44 years at the time of my grandma’s death.  They married in 1948 at age 15 and 18 (if I have done my math correctly) and were parents not long after that.

As I am typing this, I am learning that I wish I would have asked more questions or learned more about how they met.  My dad is one of four boys, so my guess is that how their parents met wasn’t something that was talked about often. I asked him how they met, but he isn't sure if my Grandma's brother introduced them or if they knew each other and then my Grandpa and Uncle Beryl started working together. 🙂 BUT what I do know is that my Grandpa used to walk on the railroad tracks from the country in to town just to visit my Grandma when they were dating.  I know as a 10 year old kid as I sat in the back of their car on a drive to the Grotto and watch them hold hands like they were age 15 and 18 on a first date. They loved hard and I know in the depths of my being that they are the reason I love as hard as I do today.  Loving this hard means that there is deep pain, too. My Grandpa and Grandma lived through the loss of an infant son, a grandson, parents, and siblings but they made it and they loved each other through it. My grandparents did not have much, but they didn’t need much either. They had each other and their family.

A living room filled with love!

I come from a strong work ethic.  My grandparents never turned away from a tough job and even as a young kid that was evident. I remember Saturday’s helping cut wood to fill their basement with logs that would serve as fuel to keep their home warm and welcoming, I remember bottomless glasses of Bubble Up from the Family Café and hamburgers with buttered buns, and I remember CB calls from the JackRabbit to the Bushy Tail Base, where he would talk to Cotton Tail.  Have you ever heard the Alabama song, Roll On?  Sometimes I imagine that was how my Grandma felt.  When she wasn’t in the truck with him in the later years of life, she was back home holding down the fort that was filled with grandkids.  My grandparents did everything from working in factories, to cooking, to running a café, to running a trucking business over the years. They loved hard and worked hard every day of their lives.

M&P Trucking (Both of my grandpa's) and Grandma, me, and Christopher(their first great-grandchild) whom they adored!

I come from kindness. My grandparents were kind and thoughtful, truly neighborly people. I remember helping clean out some upstairs bedrooms in their house after they had passed away. In one box we found receipts from what looked like an order pad that a waitress would use. In fact, they were, they were receipts or “tabs” that had never been paid.  Remember I said my grandparents didn’t have much? They didn’t, but they sure would have never thought of letting someone go without, especially a child.  Those receipts were from a family that I am positive never paid, but I am positive never went hungry thanks to my grandparents.

Former site of the Family Cafe

Because of Marv and Janice Bushbaum I have a strong work ethic, I am kind, and I love hard. Because of what they went through to make sure that my dad was born and raised to be a strong man, he met my mom.  Because my dad met my mom, I am here and I will be damned if I am going to let the ripple that my Grandpa and Grandma Bushbaum started stop.  Because of where I come from I will continue to work hard, love hard and be kind to all I meet.

From the gravel road-


P.S. Part 2 Tomorrow

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