Ethel Gregg (aka Egg)

Ethel Leonore Meyer was born on April 3, 1928 to Clarence and Gertrude Meyer in Chicago, Illinois.  Church was always a central part of her life and heart, beginning as a little girl riding the EL in Chicago with her sister Meryle and mom to attend Lakeview Church every Sunday.  Ethel began playing the piano at an early age and played regularly for Chicago City Wide Youth Events and the Gospel Tabernacle Church. 

Music played a huge part in Ethel’s life. In Chicago, as a young lady, she played piano and sang with a trio along with her sister Meryle and life-long friends, Joyce, Shirley and Pauline.  They recorded several of their songs with Ethel doing both vocals and accompaniment. The love for music has always been apart of Ethel’s life, a passion she passed on to her “kids”.  Thanks, mom and grandma for that gift.  

Ethel attended Bible School in Seattle, Washington, where she met Arthur Gregg. They were married in 1954. Art and Ethel have three daughters, Janet Lenz, Susan Gillespie, and Jeannie Bruenning.

Art and Ethel served together.  Ethel was always seated at the organ or piano providing the music.  They pastored in Chicago, Appleton, Lombard IL, Manitowoc, Oregon IL, and finally ending in Menasha, where they established Evangel Community Church, Evangel Bookstores (which became Family Christian Book Store) and WEMI Radio. Years later, they started Grace Gospel Church, WGNV in Milladore, and served at Celebration Church in Green Bay. 

Ethel is known as Grandma to, Ruth, Raun, Ben, Carolyn, Nathan, Austyn, Seth & Reagan. She is Auntie to Alfred, and known as Grandma Egg (or just Egg) to twenty great-grandchildren.

Ethel was also known as “Gran” to hundreds of preschoolers, parents and staff as she worked at Little Rock Preschool at Christ the Rock Church in Menasha. Her special love was the mentoring of many young women, being listener to anyone who needed to talk, and holding all their secrets in what she called “the vault”.

Ethel became a resident of Appleton Retirement Community a few years ago where she thrived, making new lifetime friends (whom she loved dearly), keeping a full schedule of activities and sharing her musical talents leading occasional hymn sings with her new friends. Thank you, Appleton Retirement “Family” for making Ethel’s last years so special.  

A memorial service will held on Saturday, February 1st at Outer Edge, 303 N Oneida Street, Appleton, WI 54911.

  • Visitation begins at 1:00 pm
  • Service begins at 2:00 pm
  • Continued visitation will continue after the service.

Cards can be sent to: Ethel Gregg, %Susan Gillespie, 5120 W. Anita Street, Apt 4, Appleton, WI 54913

She will be buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Menasha.

20/20 Vision

Choosing by author Jeannie Bruenning

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again. The time to look back over the last 12 months to figure out what went well, what changed, what blew-up, what blind sided me, and what I promised never, ever do again. 

2020 – who’d have thought. As a high-schooler, the year 2020 was so far in the future we could only speculate what it might look like. We believed we’d all have computers, but never dreamed they would be in the form of our telephones. We were sure that robots would take over most of our jobs. And we were certain that we would be navigating our way to work with jet packs on our backs.

“2020? Who’s going to live that long?”

Well, we have, and we are about to enter the 20’s. 

This is also the time of year I typically choose 3 words that will define the next 12 months. Three word that will keep me focused, on task, and headed in the right direction. 

But there is something different about 2020. It could be that I’ll be 59 in a few months, or that Jeff and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary, or that we will have successfully completed our first year in our California Hacienda without killing anyone. 

But, every time I think about 2020, it shows up in my mind as 20/20. (I also hear Baba Wawa, instead of Barbara Walters, thanks to SNL.)

I asked Wikipedia what the news broadcast 20/20 title means, it said; “The program’s name derives from the “20/20” measurement of visual acuity.”

What does Visual Acuity mean? Visual Acuity; sharpness of vision, measured by the ability to discern letters or numbers at a given distance according to a fixed standard.

Ahhh, that’s what I want 2020 to be! I want to see the year through visual acuity. 

Through the eyes of 59 years’ worth of life experiences and wisdom, 40 years of becoming one with someone who is my total opposite but I’m still excited when I hear his car drive up the hill. Visual acuity when my adult children are frustrated with finances, or raising children, or relationships and just happen to live 100 feet away from me. 

I want to see with 20/20 vision in the small stuff too. Like when another irrigation pipe breaks and drains the well, or the septic tank needs cleaning, or the dogs eat the chickens. In 2020, I want 20/20 vision when life gets overly complicated, or sensitive, or ridicules, or heavy. 

As I think about living life with visual acuity, I immediately think, “that’s going to take some time!” 

Yep, lots of time!

Time to stop and ponder instead of reacting. Time to recall past lessons. Time to understand all that is involved in the decision.  Time to breath, think, contemplate, and understand. But most of all, time to quietly wait to hear the beautiful wise voice that speaks so gently the slightest ripple can cause us to miss it. 

2020 is my year of 20/20. 

The year of seeing life with a sharpness of vision and the ability to discern.

Check out my latest release; Caffeinated! Stories from behind the counter of your local cafe.

Dear to my heart: please read: Raun’s story

Aye Yai Yai Yai Yai | Prickly Pear

Somehow our littlest one has turned one. She’s a socialite and her first word was “HI”. It’s no wonder, because every room she enters has someone new greeting her saying, “Hi, Amelia!”

Since we moved into this multi-generational crazy world, I’ve found myself frequently saying, “Aye Yai Yai Yai Yai.” It’s fun to say and a bit of a pressure release. 

Once Amelia began adding to her vocabulary with words such as dada, didi, baba, mama, I thought it was time for her to learn my new favorite saying. 

“What does Neenee say?” I’d ask. Then I’d throw my hands in the air, toss my head back and say, “Aye Yai Yai Yai Yai.”

Amelia caught on quickly and “Aye Yai Yai Yai Yai” became part of her vocabulary.

The other day I glanced into the kitchen just in time to see her straddling the high chair and counter top. I froze for a moment and then jumped in and grabbed her. Mom had turn away for just a moment and when she turned back and we shared the same shocked and horrified look.

Mom took Amelia in her arms and hugged her. Amelia tolerated the hug for just a moment then pulled back, looked over at me, tossed her head back and exclaimed, “Aye Yai Yai Yai Yai!”

…at least she knows how to use it!!

Hen House and Puppy Dogs | Prickly Pear

We currently have thirteen pets on the hill: three dogs, four cats, two hermit crabs, and four chickens. We had five chickens until one of the hens let us know she was a rooster and is now living at a new house.

Sadie, our textbook ADD & ADHD puppy has visited the hen house on a few occasions. It didn’t seem to bother her or the hens. Sadie was far more interested in their food than them. 

The other day, Sadie took her brother Charlie into the chicken run and things changed. Charlie is the our big gentle bear, but once in the run, he became more bear than gentle. Feathers were tossed and hens pinned to the ground. 

The only witnesses of this adventure were three of the four kids who also live here. One stayed to try and get Charlie out the run, one ran for help and we’re not sure what the third one did.

The puppies and hens were safely divided and except for a few feathers and a limping hen, they all lived. 

All three of the grade school age witnesses have shared their take on the situation with me. Liam, the 5th grader mentioned that one of the hens is now limping. 

“I know,” I said. “I’m so sorry Charlie got in the hen house.”

“That’s ok,” Liam said, “it’s natural for dogs to go after chickens. If they were in the wild, they would be eating them.”

“Well that’s a very good way to look at it,” I replied. 

The fourth grader, who plans to someday to be a superstar – traveling the world singing but only after she becomes a world famous gymnast – found the situation to be traumatizing. In her words, “it left her trembling for hours.” (She’s kinda a diva.)

Our third grader sees life a bit differently than most. Emery sat next to me and in her serious and soft voice said, “The pups got into the hen house.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

Emery lowered her head and looked up at me through her brows. I saw her dimples begin to appear as she fought to hold back the smile. 

Then I heard it… that sinister laugh that lets me know she is my grand-daughter.

School begins! | Prickly Pear

School has started and there’s a new normal at the hacienda. This time of year is crazy in any household with school age kids, combine three families, 5 kids attending three different schools and crazy can turn to chaos quickly.

This is the typical schedule through out the week:

  • 4:30am Megan heads to work two days a week and 10:00 the other two.
  • 6:40am Jeff leaves for work with Brian following shortly behind.
  • 7:00am is Raun’s departure – leaving Amelia on the days Megan is already at work.
  • 7:30am is the time for Sage to head to school which is 8 miles away, taking 30 minutes round trip. 
  • 8:15am Liam and Elin head to the bus stop and Austyn takes Emery to school, which is another 30 minute adventure. 
  • This all works except for Mondays when the elementary schools have a late start and 3 of the 4 students attending school have to adjust their schedule. 
  • 8:45am Austyn & Jeannie are at the studio to begin the day.
  • 1:00pm Sage is done with classes and typically has afternoon appointments. 
  • 2:00pm is Megan’s expected return when she starts at 4:30
  • 2:40pm Emery finishes her school day and twice a week has therapy. 
  • 3:21pm Liam and Elin need to be met at the bus stop.
  • 4:00pm Elin begins counting the minutes until Dad get homes.
  • 4:30pm Jeff makes his return.
  • 5:30pm Brian drives up the hill
  • 7:00pm is Megan’s return on her late days…

Then there are the unexpected phone calls: Elin has pink eye, Emery has a headache, My car won’t start…

Where is Amelia when all this crazy is happening? Hanging out with Nana or Neenee or mom or dad, or whomever has a free day.

Then there are the critters. Winston is old enough to take care of himself. Sadie and Charlie go from their crate, or hang out in the “puppy room”. We’ve added 5 chickens this weekend and I hope they have no intention of going to school

The Brady Bunch had Alice and the Jetsons had Rosie, we have a calendar hanging on the wall in the kitchen. It does its best to keep us organized, but it’s only as good as those tending to it. 

Each night we try to check in to make sure everyone who needs to be somewhere in the morning will be able to do so and that we aren’t leaving anyone under the age of 10 home alone. 

We laugh, shake our heads, and rub our foreheads. Some days we just stand and stare at the calendar trying to make sense of it. We say things like:

“There’s got to be a way to simplify this.” 

“Oh geezzz. There’s only one person home tomorrow morning – that won’t work!” 

“When will Amilea be ready for Kindergatern?” 

“Why isn’t Emery driving yet?” 

“Hey Liam! Can you build us our very own Rosie?”

“Where do you get an Alice – cause I think we need one!!” 

I Love Our Family | Prickly Pear

The car pulled up and as the doors begin to open letting its passengers out, I heard her say, “I love our family.”

I watched as this newly formed family exited the car. A new mom, a dad, and three blonde beauties ranging from ten month-old  to seventeen year-old with smiles that light up the darkest of moments. 

The mom of this crew is the newest adult member of our family. When she promised to love our eldest, she promised to take the good, the bad, and the baggage – and there’s a lot of baggage. It includes a difficult relationship with an ex, step-children and an inevitable custody case. She now finds herself the mom of a 10 month-old, the step-mom of a 9 and 17 year-old (with hopes of bringing the last one home). 

A year ago Jeff and I were asked if we’d consider having our 16 year-old step-grand-daughter live with us. Without hesitation the response was, “Yes, of course.” We had no idea what was to follow. Neither did we realize how our lives would change. 

We’ve learned about another way of life. One that includes police officers showing up at the house regularly. Probation officers stopping by to check up on how we are doing. Social Workers asking interesting questions that make you feel as if you’re on trial. There’s lawyers, magistrates, judges, District Attorneys, subpoenas, and evidence.

We’ve had moments of frustration, anger and outrage. When a CFI (Court Ordered Family Investigator) submitted her recent report to the Colorado Courts, we read statements about how our grandkids have been treated and how the system has failed them. Statements such as, “I have not seen a more appalling handling of children’s best interests than in this case.” “This is one of the worse accounts of abuse I’ve seen in forty years.” You’re not sure what to do with the emotions that erupt within you. You wait for someone to do something. Someone to step in and make it right. Someone to come to the rescue. When they don’t, you begin to walk down paths you’ve never walked before. 

Then, in the midsts of the muck, there are moments, like Uncle Brian saying, “We just have to keep loving.” An unexpected, “I love you Neenee.” A delighted cousin asking, “Does Elin get to live here now?” 

We were put under the microscope three weeks after moving into our multi- generational homestead, when this same court ordered Family Investigator spent three days watching us and asking deep and personal questions. In her 32 page court report that outlines abuse and neglect by a troubled mom, we found statements like, “Visiting the Bruenning’s was nothing but a heartwarming and inspiring example of family life in an extended family. There was a great deal of respect and understanding, open communication among them all… I have seen and evaluated many homes and families and many varieties over my years and have not seen one that appeared healthier and more functional than this one…”

I don’t believe such statements would have been made a year ago. We are closer because we’ve accepted to be on a journey, that at times isn’t pleasant, it isn’t easy, there is no escape and there are no rules. It’s time consuming, finance sucking and emotionally draining. We wonder at times if our Hacienda is really here to allow us to support each other as we welcome home these young lives who come in need of love and healing. 

Is it worth it? Some days I’d say I’m not sure. 

But then there are moments when I hear statements like, “I love our family!” And I watch three blond sisters and their mom and dad walk into the house that is now their home…and it all feels right.  

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