Spotlight: Cherie Coogan (cececoogan)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on August 20, 2013

(We lost a very good friend today, August 20, 2013. Two years ago we published this article, an interview with Cherie. We knew her as Cece and she charmed us all with her humor, her gardens, and her down-to-earth but uplifting attitude. I thought it appropriate that we read her words again, just as Nap presented them to us those years ago. Rest in Peace, Cece, you always left us with a smile and we will long remember you. ~ Sharon) From Nap in 2011: When I wrote requesting an interview with her, Cece told me, "I just never saw my life as ever being anything but ordinary. What's the word I want .... Mundane." She took just a little coaxing before I convinced her she would make a good interview. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Cherie Coogan....

 My guest this week is cececoogan.  Cherie.  Pronounced with a French sort of accent.  Cher-rie'.  But she also answers to the wrong pronuniations as well as to Cece! That's just the kind of person she is, too.  Agreeable, accommodating, and humble.

Let's see, my father was born and raised in Texas; my Mother born and raised in Wisconsin. They met in California while Dad was in the Navy.  When Dad was discharged, they moved here to Wisconsin, where I was born in August of 1955. In 1956 they moved to Texas, then back to Wisconsin in 1966.


Texas will always be home to me. It is where I remember my childhood best. I did nothing really more interesting than anybody else. I was allowed to be a child and do all the things a child was supposed to do. We played kickball in the street and went crawdad fishing at the ditches of the highway using a string, a rock and a piece of bacon. Dad would give us a quarter for every bucket we filled and he would use them for catfish bait.


Junior high and high school were just that, high school and junior high. I do remember seeing JFK on the TV at school when he was shot. I was in third grade that year. The whole school was gathered together in the lunch room to watch it. I can't remember even knowing what we were seeing on the TV.


Had you ever given any thought to what you might want to do after you finished high school?

When I left high school? Nap, I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I thought I did a couple of times. Maybe I guess I am doing what it is I need to do....keeping house and home, gardens and grandchild. I am happy. My first full time job was just a job. Something to get me money to live.


After graduation, I traveled with my Grams to my aunt and uncle's in Wyoming and met the cousin who had introduced my parents. We were in Nevada for a time and California for a time. We were gone six months altogether. When I returned home I got my first full time job and stayed with it until 1980, when the company closed. I married my first husband then. I went from single with no children to married with a four and five year old. My first child was born in May of 1981 and my son in August of 1983.


I had twin girls in January 1988, and in April 1988 I was in a car accident that took the life of one twin and my twelve year old stepdaughter, and left me in a coma for two weeks. There was the long frustrating recuperation period. There were the accusations and the anger. My husband took to abuse....verbally, mentally and physically.


In 1991 my youngest son was born, and in 1993 I finally woke up and said enough is enough.


Oh, Cece, thank God for that!  But then it must have been very difficult.  How did you manage?


I was left on my own with four children, no job, no real schooling. I got a job at a grocery deli department. With no child support I was forced to work any and all the hours I could. A neighbor girl was 15 and she would help my oldest daughter (then 12) watch her brothers and sister while I worked. When the youngest started school, I went back to school. It took me forever to do the program part-time, but in 2005 I graduated as a Medical Assistant and became certified shortly thereafter. I never got hired anywhere, but I did complete it. There were so many times from 1995 to 2005 when I was forced to quit, forced to drop out, only to start again and get at least one more class behind me before I dropped out again.


You have had a lot of adversity in your life, yet you seem to be happy and content now. I can't imagine how you accomplished that. Can you tell me, how did you manage to get from there to here?


Oh Nap, getting from there to here. Wish I could say it was through sheer will power and determination. I made a lot of mistakes, wrong turns, and bad choices. Never though, have I regretted any of them, for I believe that they all had a hand in forming who I am, along with sheer determination (read stubbornness and hardheadedness).


I really have no pics o2011-11-06/nap/c878c0f me as a child or a teenager, or the younger years of my kids. Those mistakes and bad choices I mentioned. Most of the memories were lost along the way, moving from one place to another. I started out with a three bedroom home till after the divorce, and when I met Ed I was living in a two bedroom upper apartment.


And so Ed enters the picture. Will you share the story of how you met Ed? I think it's a pretty good love story.


In September 2001, I was at home studying, for I was once again in school. A friend of mine and her husband came over and said, "You can not hole yourself up like this any more.” Her hubby took the two younger kids to their house, but not before bodily picking me up and setting me into his wife's car. “You ARE going dancing. The kids will come to my house and play video games with me.”


That was the night I met my Ed. I had known his Mom for a few years but never had met him. We had stopped in at a local bar for a drink and she was the bartender, and just getting off work. She asked where we were headed and she told us she was heading to the same place. Her son had called and wanted her to come hear this band. She introduced us and said to him, “You2011-11-06/nap/30324e want to dance? Ask her. I am too OLD to twist any more.” It was fun.


I ran into her a couple of days later and told her that if he ever wants a dancing partner, she should let me know and I'd see what I could come up with for a sitter. Two weeks later he walked into Kohl's Food store where I worked in the deli......His Mom told him where to find me. That was October 1st.

The younger two kids and I moved in with him in his 7th floor condo in June of 2003. In March of 2004, he put an offer on a home I had fallen in love with, and in June we moved into this home where I now live and garden.


When he closed on this house, I had asked the former owner what plantings she had. She said, “What you see is what you get. I don't do flowers.” Can you imagine? NO FLOWERS? Anyway, Ed and I talked about it. I am not much of a gardener. When I was with the ex we always lived in places that had existing beds already planted. I knew the names of some of them because my Grams was big into gardening, as was my Mom somewhat. I was so busy raising babies I never paid them much attention. (side note: If I knew then what I know now they would have been spectacular in a couple of those places.)


I told him I'll pick up a couple of books, watch a few of the gardening shows and get somewhat of a handle. I had gone back to school full time in September 2003, with the help of Ed, and started the entire program completely over. Anyway, I bought a couple of books on Wisconsin gardening by Melinda Meyers. I started reading up and became fascinated. That summer we moved in. Ed had agreed to two gardens in front and two in back, plus a rose garden. I worked pulling up grass, tilling, amending, doing what I read needed to be done. I started going to garden centers and buying and planting. By the end of summer, I not only had the two in front and two in back, but for my birthday Ed bought me rose bushes2011-11-06/nap/208a71. My sister said, “Oh sure. I get roses but you get the whole damn bush!!!!!!” He bought me six tea rose shrubs and he planted them as a present.


I finished school and graduated in May of 2005. In August 2005 I turned 50, and in September 2005 I became a first time grandmom. Ed and I married on January 19th, 2006, and in January 2007 for a Christmas present I started Master Gardening classes.


Those four original beds?????? They have turned into six beds in front, two on the West side of the house as he put a sidewalk around from the drive to the back, one bed on the East side of the house and a total of 15 out back (one with a pond complete with fish). The 14th and 15th are not completely planted yet. I also have plans for number seven out front when Spring gets here, seeing as I am spoiled and convinced the City of Waukesha and Town of Waukesha that I really need to plant that easement between the street and sidewalk.


I want to tell you about the sun room. I wanted to try my hand at2011-11-06/nap/aa0d38 starting plants by seeds. The problem was, where to go with them once they germinated. All winter long I kept chatting about a greenhouse towards the back of the property, and the more I talked about it the more it was nixed. So in April 2007, I had purchased a little portable greenhouse. It was eight feet long, four feet wide and eight feet tall. I set it up on the patio where it would get the sunshine it needed. The next morning I potted up all that came up and filled half of that green house. That night a freak snow storm hit. When Ed got up for work he woke me up and said, “Uh oh, look outside ........” I went running through the house.  My poor greenhouse was flattened, with all my seedlings laying on the ground. I sat right down on the ground in my night clothes and just cried. Two months later Ed contracted with a company and I got my sun room. We still have to heat it at night in the winter, but I have a room for seeds.

That same year, I bought three brugmansia plants from a garden catalog. You'll see in most of my pictures. Brugs became an obsession with me. I now have 33 and about 10 or 11 cuttings rooting.....What will I do with them? Heck, I don't know. Plant them somewhere, I guess.
I really am very spoiled by Ed. I know it and I don't mind admitting it. He constantly tells me all the time, I deserve it for living the life I did before him.


And I will certainly agree with him about that, Cece. I am glad he's so good for you and I'm glad to see you happy. Have you any other interests besides gardening?


I do love to read. My favorite authors are Patricia Cornwell and Nora Roberts and of course my stories here on cubits....with ya'll.

(Cece is referring to the ongoing stories in the Writing cubit.)

I love to dance, twist and swing being my favorites. I'm a Country music person at heart, with Classics Country on top of the list, but I also love Classic Rock, more specifically late 50's and 60's music. I love to have backyard get-togethers here and love to cook for them all. We usually have one a month in the summertime, with both sides of our families plus friends of ours and my kids' friends. We get a band, be it Tomm or MarydelRae, and after dark we sit out by the fire pit and talk.

My granddaughter is the apple of my eye. She is learning garden
2011-11-06/nap/c663f4ing from me. She just turned six at the e2011-11-06/nap/30c5fcnd of September. She is able to identify by sight now a number of plants, and has even been heard to mutter “weeds, where do they come from?" as she's pulling them up.


I forgot to mention I have four children living. Amber is 30 and the mother of my granddaughter. Then there is Dustin, he's 28. There's the remaining twin, Leah, and she's 23. My baby, Ryan, is 20. I did what I had to do all those years ago for them. And for me, but for them.....


My life isn't as interesting as some, but it is mine and that's all there is. I wake every morning, thanking God for Ed and a chance to live as normal a life as normal can be. We want for nothing. Well, I still would like a greenhouse, but you know what I mean. On most things, I have to be a bit careful. There have been more times than not, when I have casually said I'd like one of those one day and the next week I have it. Maybe I took the wrong approach with the greenhouse????


Cece, you really put a smile on my face.  It's been so nice having you here today!  Thanks for this peek into your life.  You're a charming lady.

Readers, as always, the pictures will enlarge if you click on them, and their descriptions are visible if you mouse over them.  Also, you can see even more of Cherie's gardens at this thread and this one in the Coffee and Friends cubit.



I want to take a moment to remind everyone that the goal of this cubit is to introduce our members to one another, giving us all an appreciation for each other.  It's not our intention to present the most interesting or most attractive or most talented among us.  So many of our guests lately have felt they weren't special enough to be asked.  So if one of us comes calling at YOUR door, please know that we want you because you ARE special.  You're a member of Cubits, and the Whitinger extended family.  As Trish said to me once...."Everyone has a story."

Thanks for stopping by~

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About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Thank you Sharon! vic Aug 26, 2013 1:08 PM 21
A Charley's Girl Ridesredmule Aug 22, 2013 1:48 PM 2
Cherie Nanubunny Aug 21, 2013 11:25 PM 1
Stunning person! NEILMUIR1 Aug 21, 2013 11:21 AM 119
Cece Maria Nov 16, 2011 6:37 PM 3
You rock~ Boopaints Nov 11, 2011 2:21 PM 7
A tough life, and a tough person. kareoke Nov 11, 2011 12:21 PM 5
Cherie Spotlight murielw1 Nov 10, 2011 3:25 PM 1
Great story! Petalpants Nov 10, 2011 12:52 PM 0
Your not mundane, you are wonderful! Zanymuse Nov 7, 2011 7:09 AM 6

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