High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, June 3, 2013

Winter Count: Margaret’s 2013 Birthday

Our dear friend Margaret Schneider, the Oldest Living Dell Rat, recently celebrated her 101st birthday. Today her daughter Kathleen is here to show us pictures taken on the happy occasion and to bring us the compelling story of Margaret's courageous bout with illness shortly thereafter.

On the 18th of April, 
I was reminded of how the Plains Indians kept records of their tribe’s history by painting pictographs on buffalo hides that described each year that passed. These “winter counts” documented each cold barren season their people survived. If they lasted through a winter, they felt they’d made it through another year.

As we celebrated Mother’s 101 winters,
I was grateful that she not only survived
that many, but also flourished in spite of
hardship and illness.
A visiting nurse
told us a few days ago that Mother is
healthier than she is! Imagine that!

Just as she wished, Mother spent her
special day quietly, but she had many
surprises, flowers, gifts, and lots of
laughter and was surrounded by love.

She blew out the candles
on her favorite: ice cream cake.

These balloons were put behind her chair. 
 Since they don’t make them for 101st birthdays, 
I customized a one-year one with a marker!

My sister, daughter and I were there
on the 18th.
Neighbors dropped by with 
flowers, candy and cards on other days, 
so Mother’s birthday was really 
a weeklong celebration.

We displayed dozens of her birthday  
cards and ran out of room for them all! 

 In the picture above she discovers one
of the miniature angels amongst her cards 
that we hide for her to find every day.

She appreciated all of them, 
as you can see after she read Tom’s. 
“He remembered!” she said.

 I read the many good wishes and comments 
  from our blog friends from my tablet,
which still amazes and fascinates her. 
(She just can’t understand “how all those 
nice messages came onto that “i-Thing”!)

Mother’s favorite gift, however, is to
be with her children and grandchildren. 
My sister and I spent the day with her 
as did my daughter, Elisabeth.

Margaret with her “girls”: 
Betty and Kathleen

I brought this picture of her and me 
with a year-old Elisabeth from 1976 
to show Mother. She looked at it, 
pointed to her and me on the photo, 
and with false curiosity asked, 
“Now I wonder who those two are?”

A few days later, my brother and his 
family visited with another cake and 
more gifts, played Bingo with her, 
and put together puzzles.

Here’s a four-generation portrait:
Mother with her firstborn Jim, his
son Keith and two of her six great
grandchildren. Keith’s children,
Alex and Samantha, are laughing
because Mother just squeezed
them really hard!

They gave her a decorated box with 
birthday money in it, along with a small 
monkey holding a dollar bill, in honor of 
the one in the attic at the Dell house. 

Alex and Samantha just think it is
hysterical that their great-grandma had
a real, live monkey in her attic when she
was a little girl! They also made her
a special “Best Great-Grandma“ card.

Mother's Illness

The weather didn't cooperate for Mother 
to push her mower around the lawn, but that 
probably was good. Two days later, she 
came down with a serious case of pneumonia. 
 Her fever spiked, she lost her appetite 
and was very, very tired, barely able 
to keep awake. The coughing was 
incessant and painful.

My sister and I kept watch around the clock, 
gave her the doctor’s antibiotic (which made 
her sick!) and did breathing exercises with 
her to break the congestion. We kept her 
laughing in spite of it all because it 
seemed an especially effective way to clear 
her lungs. Thankfully we avoided the hospital.

I wished, worried and sleepless in the 
middle of one of her sickest nights, that 
I had the ingredients for my grandfather’s 
cough medicines and poultices that brought 
her through influenza when she was a child. 
 Although she survived, that illness, 
according to her doctor, probably weakened 
her lungs for life. So here we were, 
listening to her troubled breathing and 
praying she would survive this time too. 
 Seeing the concern on my face one night 
during her fever, she told me not to worry. 
Didn't I know that “God was taking care of her?”

She must have been right because after
a month, I’m ecstatic to report Mother 
is cleared of pneumonia, is off most of 
the medicine and has no cough. Her appetite 
is back, as evidenced by her cravings for 
bacon, cheese balls and chocolate again! 
 She still is very tired and sleeps a lot, 
but according to her, “That’s just the way 
it is when you’re old!”

So miraculously we can add another winter 
to Mother’s count. The picture above of Elisabeth 
(with extra ‘glistening’ eyes) and her beloved 
Grammy, taken just last week, shows how 
we all treasure this wonderful woman. 

We thank God every day for restoring her health 
and allowing us to have more time with her!

Thank you very much, my dear friend Kathleen Mae Schneider, for showing us the smiling faces present at your mother Margaret's birthday celebration and for sharing with us the touching story of how you, your sister and your mother fought back against this latest threat to her health.

I dare say that we, the readers of your words,
have become pupils enrolled in an inspiring course
taught by you and your mother, one that could
appropriately be named Longevity 101.

Have a Shady day!


  1. I have to admit my eyes were glistening, too, as I read this and my heart did a flip flop at the beginning when I first read of her illness.

    I'm so thankful her tenacity and God's goodness pulled her through! What a trooper she is. I agree that Longevity 101 would be a course I would love to take with you two!

    What a lovely birthday celebration. Please pass on my good wishes, love, and admiration to your mom from this reader in Texas.


    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 3, 2013 at 5:24 AM

      Good morning Shelly! Thanks for reading and commenting. We sure did have about a month of touch-and-go healing with Mother, and it was pretty scary since neither my sister or I are nurses.

      We all knew full well that pneumonia in someone Mother's age can be deadly, but we followed the doctor's advice and tried to keep our spirits up with laughter. It helped that Mother was such a good patient and endured the side effects of the antibiotic. As sick as she was, she never complained and did everything we asked her to do. She surprised us once again with her toughness.

      I'll relay your kind thoughts and good wishes to Mother. I know they will please her very much, as they do me! Thanks for your friendship!

  2. Hi Kathleen and Margaret!
    How festive your place looked for the wonderful occasion! The birthday cake looked yummy (my favorite dessert!). The custom balloons added a creative touch. All the bountiful cards and love she received must be so rewarding. It's the little things in life that keep you youthful and joyful! I loved seeing the family pictures especially the older one of the three generations. My favorite thing about this post are your mothers responses/comments. She always makes me laugh with her spunk and personality. I can't wait to visit her!
    With Love,

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 3, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      How good it is to hear from you, Toni!
      Part of what makes me grateful to be one of Mother's caregivers is how she can boost my spirits with her unexpected "zingers". When she was so very sick and I thought we'd have to hospitalize her, I worried and paced the floor while she slept. She, on the other hand, just steadily kept to her routines, took even more naps than usual, didn't think about worst-case scenarios, and said her prayers. Then she slowly began to heal.

      We tried to keep her birthday low-keyed but as festive as possible. Spreading the fun out over several days was better for all concerned. Since she never even had a party, cake, candles and presents, let alone gifts for her birthday as a child, we make sure that happens now. She loves it all, including the decorations.

      Let me know when you want to visit and we'll plan a day. It will be good to see you again. Thanks for your kind comments and as always, for rescuing the Dell!

  3. How lovely it is that you have your beloved mother and grandmother here with you still. She reminds me of my own grandmother with her spunk and sense of humor. We lost her 2 years ago at age 100 and she truly was our family treasure. You're so fortunate to be able to listen to her stories and benefit from her company - good genes in your family! Enjoy it all - you are so blessed.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 3, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, Karen.

      My mother, like your grandmother, is the linchpin of our family. Linchpins typically hold the wheels onto an axle of a vehicle. She keeps the 'wheels from falling off' our complex group of different ages and personalities. She still models patience, toleration and forgiveness, and enables us to work together and be part of each others' lives.

      You're exactly right - we are truly blessed. I am extremely grateful to spend this time with her, help her when she needs it, enrich her days, laugh at her jokes, and hear about all she's experienced and learned for more than a century. I hope her longevity genes prevail in me and my daughter.

      Upcoming chapters in her memoir will show some of the trauma she endured and never lost her kindness and caring toward everyone, even though some made her life difficult.

      I hope we see you back again real soon!

  4. I'm so glad your mother is doing well now. What a blessing! I'm very much looking forward to her memoir. Forgiveness is not an easy thing and I know I will be inspired by her example.

    It was lovely to see everyone together at her party. The cards, presents and balloons are fun. Happy Birthday Margaret, and God bless you.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      Hello Belle! Mother will appreciate that birthday wishes for her are still arriving in June! I'm glad you could be a part of it, if even just via the internet.

      I watch and listen carefully, but I honestly don't know how Mother is able to forgive the way she does. I should know what's coming by now, but she mentions it often, usually when I'm upset with a situation or person who's made my life miserable.

      She lets me rant, then looks me right in the eye and says, oh so quietly, "You know - we're all different. We are supposed to forgive each other". It's kind of like the anger and frustration about the wrong that's been done to me is to be erased! No other rationale is given! She figures justice should be left to God apparently. I mostly have a hard time doing this, but feel chastened by her gentle reminder and reprimand. I aspire to be like her someday.

      Thank you for stopping by to read about Mother's party and your kind message, Belle

  5. Oh my...what a lovely and loving post. Kathleen, I always enjoy when you visit with Tom but this post was very powerful in its telling. I love the Winter Counts as your way of sharing Margaret's birthday. Margaret is really an inspiration and role model on how to live a beautiful and well loved/lived life.

    I know it must have been very scary while she was ill, but how wonderful for you all that you were there for her. I always felt it was a gift when I was able to help my ailing family.

    Thanks so much for sharing and once again Happy Birthday to Margaret.

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      Dear Sush,

      A South African friend of ours says tribal culture teaches that when one in the village is born with an infirmity or becomes old or ill, it's to be recognized as an opportunity for us to learn how to love one another better. The harder the illness, the greater the lesson.

      As a caregiver now (as I age myself!), I see how this works. The rewards for me outweigh the inconveniences. I'm just glad I'm retired and am healthy enough to do it. It sounds like you feel the same way.

      Although there was the real possibility that this illness would be fatal, Mother still has much to give to the world and we're fortunate that she still is around to each us.

      It is great to see you here at SDM&M and I look forward to your repeat visit. Thank you for your warm wishes and compliments.

  6. Hi dear Kathleen & Tom, Please forgive me for arriving so late at this post, but I have had friends staying for a couple of days. I am SO pleased that Margaret is now 'back to normal' again with her health. How amazing that, at her grand age, her cough has now gone and she has recovered from the pneumonia! You're a real star, Margaret, and all your fans from all over the world are so happy that you are feeling better again. What wonderful photos you have shown us here Kathleen. The love you all have for your mum really shines through, and it really is a very special relationship that you all have with Margaret. How marvellous to have that photo of the four generations together. It really is always so uplifting to read your posts Kathleen, and I thank you for sharing your mum's 101st birthday with us. So many cards, surprises and presents - some of them very thoughtful indeed. See you again soon I hope my friend x

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 4, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      I'm sure I speak for Tom as well as myself in saying we're glad to see you whenever you get here, Diane!

      In someone as old as Mother, health is like a roller coaster, with things that wouldn't bother someone younger becoming major crises to her. One week she's the picture of health, then the next she's battling something new. We think one of her birthday visitors actually could have unknowingly brought her an unwanted gift of a few bacteria that cause her pneumonia.

      Mother will smile at her "star" status, but she blushes when I tell her she's a celebrity of sorts. She is basically a shy person and doesn't quite know what to say or do when she receives so many nice compliments, especially from all over the planet! While she doesn't understand the why and how of all this attention, she basks in the glow of these new friendships such as yours.

      Given her humble beginnings at the Dell, this post represents how far she's come from virtually no attention given her (other than family) to being recognized for her longevity and personality from many quarters.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the photos of our celebration. Also, your compliment about the posts inspires me to continue writing. Thank you so much for reading and for your kindness.

      Please know how much we appreciate your outpouring of love for our Mother. May it return to you 100-fold!

  7. Kathleen I am so relived that mother Margaret has recovered from her fight with pneumonia. It is one bad illness to have, I also have had it 2 times and I don"t know of any thing that can make you feel any worse. It is a time when you must put you life in Gods hands.I am also gald to hear that she enjoyed her 101 and had time with her family. I love the story about counting the winters,even today its ture that we seem to lose friends and people we love during the winther months.Seems the older we get the harder each winter is on us, some things never change.The indians are very wise people. Heres hopeing you and mother stay well and hope to hear more of your story soon. Your friend and A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

  8. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 4, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Pneumonia is nasty to be sure. I can attest to it too because I've had it three times. There is also a long recovery from it, so Mother has every reason to take extra naps!

    The Indians were tough people, but the long cold winters tried their strength and endurance. Mother's winters have been harder for her as she's gotten older, so that's why the tribal histories came to mind on her birthday. Many of her friends and loved ones died during the winter months. My father passed away in February, the month she finds the hardest.

    Thanks for stopping by with your comments, Greg. I think you'll enjoy reading Chapter 6 for more Dell stories. Hope we see you back then.

  9. Hello Margaret. You had such a wonderful birthday, and, how clever of Kathleen to fix up that pretty balloon to read 101st!!! That was great. And, such an array of Birthday cards-these photos are so good, and full of happiness. You have come through a lot of changes in your lifetime, and they've made you very strong, no doubt.

    I was sorry to learn of your illness, but elated that you pulled through it with flying colors. That pneumonia is not a walk in the park, in fact, once the illness passes, a walk in the park is a God send!

    And, hide an angel for your mother everyday? That's lovely, and, really a funloving treat! I have really enjoyed visiting tonite and seeing the wonderful Birthday pictures of you and your family. Take care, you lovely ladies. Hope to see you again soon!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 4, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Hi Suzanne! I know Mother will love hearing your message when I see her tomorrow. She will agree about the changes. One of her truisms is "Nothing stays the same." She was proud of the birthday cards she received, and I printed out the blog comments as well for her to revisit and show to everyone.

      We hide the angels as a cognitive enrichment activity to keep her mentally alert. It's kind of like hiding Easter eggs for her to find, but we do it year round. Those angels really get around, let me tell you! Sometimes they're on her coffee cup, hanging on her window sill, wrapped inside her newspaper, in a potted plant, etc. She makes up little stories about the angels when she finds them. i.e., "I guess this angel wants to read the news this morning." Or "This one wants some coffee". Trouble is, we can't always remember where we put them, so we have to write it down! She really gets a kick out of that - watching her "kids" experience short-term memory loss!

      Thank you for your visit and your warm, personal message to Mother and me. These comments and the blog posts are another way her days are enriched. Mine too! We both appreciate it so much.

  10. Hi Kathleen and Margaret! What a great post and I love all the photos of your beautiful family. Margaret, your family sure loves you! They are the sunshine that keeps you glowing! I hope you continue to be healthy and happy and adding more winters to your life story. I love the "hiding" angels! Fun way to be surprised each day. I think it's the real angels in your life that truly put the smile on your face! Thanks for sharing your birthday with us!

    1. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 4, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      Dear Yaya,
      When people ask Mother about her family, she always says she has "three children who love her". I'm so glad she has that reassurance!

      Mother asks me why I'm always taking pictures of her, and I tell her I'm writing a book on how to get old so I need illustrations. She says, "Oh. Well then, I'm an expert!"

      Of course she knows why I'm capturing these times on photos, so I try to not be so obvious. These pictures will fill one huge memory book someday. As I write her family's history, every ragged and dog-eared photograph I find is like gold, taking me back to my grandparents' youth and Mother's growing up years. I just wish someone back then would have done what I'm doing, because there are sure a lot of gaps, mysteries, and dead ends to some narratives. Unlabeled pictures are frustrating as well.

      I want to make sure Mother is remembered by her descendants, and they won't have to guess what she looked like and what her personality was like, and I can relive these bittersweet times with her.

      There are six miniature angels in all, but several are AWOL, no doubt hiding in plain view. She either hasn't found them yet or we lost track of their whereabouts. It is something fun that she does every day and it helps to keep us on our toes too.

      I hope you enjoy the next chapter too. Thank you for stopping by tonight and for your kind comments about our family.

  11. Wow, Tom!!

    What an incredible story you put up on your page!!
    101 years old, that's remarkable!! Let's hope Margaret has many more!

    1. Hi, Strawberry-Doll! Since you're new to SDM&M I will give you some background info. Kathleen Mae Schneider has been my guest blogger for the past couple of years. Her blog series In-Dellible Memories tells about her mother Margaret's childhood life at the Shady Dell. Margaret and her family were the first residents of the house which was built in 1912/1913! That's why we affectionately call Margaret "The Oldest Living Dell Rat." Another chapter of Margaret's story is coming up next month, so stay tuned!

    2. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Welcome, Jules! What a pretty name! Mother thought it meant "jewels", like rubies and emeralds!

      Mother and I are so glad you stopped by to read about her birthday and write a comment! She really likes hearing what everyone on this blog thinks about her long life. She's usually pretty humble, but I can tell she is pleased by the notoriety. I just read all the comments to her, yours included. She said, "I just don't know why people love hearing about my life. I didn't do anything special to live this long. I just was always myself."

      That's a good enough explanation for those of us who know and love her! Thank you for visiting and adding another message for her. We hope you get to read the first chapters of her memoir that Tom has archived here, starting with her parents' courtship, and that you come back to follow the stories about her childhood at the Shady Dell and beyond!


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