Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Most Generous Father

Generosity.  I think he got it from both his parents who were always generous with their time, love and gifts to us.   My brothers and I had the best birthdays and Christmases.   If we had good grades, we could always count on a trip to Topps or Shoppers world on Dads payday, where we could pick out a toy.  Thats how my Barbies acquired their beautiful extensive wardrobes, thanks to Dad.  The morning of my High School graduation, Dad showed up with an orange yellow Chevy Nova as a present for me. I couldn't wait to get dressed and show it off to my girlfriends.   As I entered the workforce, that car lasted me quite a few years and having proven myself responsible ( I did have my fathers work ethic of course ) Dad agreed to co-sign a car loan for me.  I didn't let him down.  I faithfully made each payment on time and when I was ready for a brand spanking new car, he co-signed for me again.

He was generous as well when I married and his gift helped us purchase our first home.  Poor Dad, we married the day before the Bears won the Super Bowl.  I think that whole weekend was a foggy haze for him.   But his beloved Bears pulled it off, and so
did his daughter!  To this day he continues to love and support all of us.  He turned 81 in March and we're so fortunate to still have him around to love and tease.   He's the patriarch of our family, supporting and loving his deceased younger brothers family as well.  We all look up to him and appreciate the long hours of hard work he did to give us all the life we enjoy today.  He loves being a grandfather and great-grandfather these days.  Thanks Dad for all that you do for your whole family!   We love you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another Special Reunion

A wonderful thing happened on Saturday, March 8th, 2014.  After many weeks of planning through the magic of Facebook, a fairly large group of childhood friends reunited and met again.   Most of us had not seen each other in over forty years and yet most of us lived within a 20 mile radius of one another.   We found each other through Facebook and word of mouth just recently and everyone was so eager to reconnect that planning the reunion was effortless.  It just kind of fell into place just as our conversations did when we met again.  There is something amazing about the human condition that allows us to pick up just where we left off with good friends, even when many years have passed between us.   We hugged, we kissed, we laughed and shed a few  tears, all the while reminiscing about the wonderful childhood we had growing up in our little subdivision in Steger, Illinois.   We were baby boomers, our parents built simple 3 bedroom homes with one bathroom, yes ONE bathroom!  We didn't grow up in mega mansions or eat out at fast food restaurants.   Our parents raised us modestly and we were grateful for what we had.  For most of us, it was our Dads who went off early in the morning to a full day of work, taking the only vehicle in the family.  Most of our Moms never even learned to drive.  We were a one income family, mom made us three homecooked meals a day, we played hard, we slept well, we had a good life.   We knew just about everyone in our subdivision and usually hung out with the ones that were our own age.   We'd do our chores, get out on our bikes, meet our friends for baseball or badminton, we'd search the sides of the road for empty pop bottles that could be exchanged at the neighborhood grocery store for penny candy like Mary Janes and wax bottles of syrupy juice or dots on paper or candy necklaces that got your neck all sticky when you sweat and boy did we sweat.   Air conditioning was a treat.  Our houses had a window unit, not central air like nowadays.   It was rarely turned on unless conditions became unbearable for the adults of the home.   But we were used to it.   We played in heat, we went to school in heat.   We were a generation of NON WIMPS!  We came home for lunch and dinner, then we were out until the porch light came on, then we better get our butts home fast!  Summers were fun, but so was school.   At our reunion, we all remembered the same things which was amazing.   I grew up with parents who loved to take pictures so my childhood is pretty well documented.  It helps when you're the firstborn.  They can't take enough picture of your adorableness.   When Polaroid came out with the Swinger camera, Santa brought me one with a nifty case that held extra film and that awful smelly chemical that you had to treat the pictures with.  Thank God for that camera.  I seemed to take it everywhere.   School functions, family reunions, you name it.   I started posting some of those pictures on Facebook as I reconnected with the ones who were in them and one thing let to another so I started a Facebook group titled "Steger Kids from the 1960's Reunion" and before you know it, we had 40 members.   Some live out of town,  but a majority live in the area so we picked a date and a restaurant in our hometown and would you believe everyone who said they were coming did?  In fact, more came than we anticipated.   We ordered pizzas and drinks, took pictures and laughed till our sides hurt.   Our music teachers who just happened to be married to each other even came.

 Mr. and Mrs. Griffin were two of our favorite teachers and Mr. Griffin brought in his I Pad.   He was another one who always had his camera at hand, so he showed us amazing pictures we had no idea he had of us.    It was such a treat to see them again!  Sweet Marie brought in a beautiful cake and other sweet treats.  Here she is with the cake and here she is at my birthday party, top right in the blue dress.  Other girls in the picture that attended our reunion are Diane in the red dress on the left, Cathy seated in blue next to Peggy in a striped dress.  We're still working on contacting the others in the picture.  We won't give up!

It was extra special to reconnect with one of my best childhood friends.  We hadn't seen each other in years and it was so much fun to see Cathy and her older sister Sandy and catch up on everyone's lives!  We all vowed this would be the first of many more reunions to come.  We're even planning a picnic in the summer where we can all meet each others families.   There are snobs who look down on Facebook and make fun of it.   But it has been instrumental in me finding and reconnecting with friends from childhood, school, my first jobs and long lost relatives.  I will forever be grateful for this wonderful thing called the internet!   I hope others are enjoying it as much as I am.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Living In The Moment

What good is it to rush around, shopping on a day that you should be spending with loved ones, giving thanks for your blessings, creating new memories and reminiscing about old ones?   We spend our busy days rushing, scrambling, texting, fighting crowds to buy the latest gizmos, ending up feeling physically exhausted and spiritually empty.  What good is it all if we don't stop and live in the moment, enjoying the now, slowing down and absorbing our surroundings, our families and our good fortunes.   You know, taking time to smell the flowers?   Thanksgiving was our last chance to have that simple day of reflecting on our blessings and showing our family and dear friends how grateful we were by asking them to share in our bountiful feasts which could be as elaborate as a finely set dining table, or a buffet of delectable dishes brought from guests to be shared and enjoyed at makeshift tables and chairs, cramming guests and food as best and creatively as we can in small living quarters.   We do anything as creative hosts in order to enjoy this special holiday.   We snap pictures of babies having their first turkey leg.
Or perhaps, a newlyweds first time hosting Thanksgiving, showing off her first cooked turkey, succulent and golden brown right out of the oven.

 Mothers and Grandmothers working tirelessly to fill the dining table with an abundance of flavorful dishes, never complaining but relishing the time spent with their loved ones, showing love as they know best, through their wonderful cooking.

I hope this Thanksgiving you will stop and reflect on the true meaning of the day.  It's not meant to be spent fighting for a parking space at an overcrowded Mall, buying things that you don't need that day, things that will still be there the day after Thanksgiving.   Please take lots of pictures, eat lots of good food, laugh and share in your common memories of Thanksgivings long ago and savor this quiet beautiful holiday as it was meant to be celebrated.   Happy Thanksgiving, feel blessed and pass it on!

Oh, and one more thing!   There is always one person who goes above and beyond in the planning of this wonderful feast.   They shop and chop and cook and bake, usually too tired to even eat but get their great joy in seeing their guests enjoy their labors of love.   Give that person an extra hug and kiss and show your gratitude!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Actions of One

It only took the senseless action of one coward to change the course of history and the psyche of a nation.  With three gunshots, two proving to be fatal, we went from a post war generation of idealists and optimists who believed, like our beloved president, that we could do it all, achieve what we set our sights on and successfully enjoy the fruits of our labor and dreams.  But 50 years ago this November 22nd, everyone who can remember the events was forever changed.  I was seven and I can still remember a lot of the events like it was yesterday.  It was just after our lunch period, 2nd grade, Mrs. Heidenrich who was starting to teach a subject when she was called out of the room, returning with a pale, sad face to tell us the news, sending us home to our mothers in the gloomy, dark rainy afternoon to find them crying, watching the television, not knowing what to say to us.   I can remember watching the events unfold, feeling sad, wanting to do something, being sent to stay with my grandparents.   My wise grandfather decided we would do something constructive to keep us busy, so we scoured his newspapers and cut out pictures and text, creating an amazing scrapbook for me to keep in remembrance of our fallen President and the historic events unfolding that cold November weekend.

I cut out pictures of the President and First Lady arriving at Dallas, he looking dapper as always, she a beautiful vision in her cotton candy pink Chanel suit with matching pillbox hat.  How we all wanted to be and look like her, mothers and daughters alike.   So stylish and pretty, not stuffy and old like Mamie or Bess were.   They were black and white, she was technicolor!   She gave women an image to look up to, from the way she carried herself to her effortless style.

Even in her grief and agony, she remained dignified and we
watched in amazement as she
helped lead a nation in mourning.
Jacqueline Kennedy was the
right person for the times, she
had the utmost sense of history,
from her efforts to restore the
White House to the peoples home
furnished with antiques and
period pieces suited to the Presidents
who resided there, to the planning
of her husbands funeral.   She
knew that it must be memorable,
majestic, an event that would
be permanently embedded in
our memories so we would
never forget her husband and all that he achieved in his lifetime.   For those of us who lived through the events, we never will forget the steady beating of the drums during the
funeral procession to the Capitol building where he would lay in state
all day and all night, with thousands waiting in a ten mile line to pay their
final respects to him.  We will remember the Navy Hymn "Eternal
Father, Strong to Save".  We will remember the passenger free Air Force
One, flying over one last time at the gravesite in a final tribute.  The twenty
one gun salute, the meticulous folding of the American flag being presented to
Mrs. Kennedy, the lighting of the eternal flame.  We who lived through the events
still remember, just as she wanted us to.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

Dear Readers, I know my blog has been overdue for an update but I hit a bump in the road of life recently so forgive me for taking some time off.   2013 has proved itself to be quite challenging, more so than even 2012 was.  I thought maybe after a major surgery followed by chemo and radiation treatments, God would kinda give me a reprieve but we all know thats not how life works.  With the holidays behind us, 2013 started off quite calm, then my husband suffered a stroke the day before our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary.  Thank God we got him to the hospital in time and he got amazing care with amazing doctors and after many meds and recovery time, both he and I spent the spring recovering from our recent setbacks only to be involved in a terrible car accident in which I had to be cut out with the "jaws of life".   Wasn't that an out of body experience?  But we thankfully were not seriously hurt, just sore, shook up and I had a huge bump on my noggin to show for it.   The car was totalled which was a shame because though it was a 2003 Toyota Rav4 it was in perfect condition and running order.  So, while we dealt with the aches and pains, we bought ourselves a brand new Rav4.   I figured since the other car saved my life, I was sticking to the same thing.
 So far, the year was proving to be quite a challenge.
We spent the summer tackling a project we had been putting off for quite sometime.   Our flooring had issues and we finally picked out cherrywood floors, packed up everything in the living room and bedroom and ordered new furniture - another thing I had been putting off for years.   I am so glad we chose to do this project when we did because as soon as it was completed and the last piece of china was unpacked and lovingly placed back in the cabinet, I got hit with another bump in the road.
October was fast approaching and it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, reminding me of something I had been putting off, so at the end of September I had my mammogram, which showed an abnormality in one breast, leading me to have a core biopsy and ultrasound which lead me to the most wonderful breast cancer surgeon who assured me that this was in its earliest stages and actually it was a miracle the radiologist saw it at all.   She also assured me that it was highly curable and would require another round of radiation ( Joy Joy ) but probably not chemo ( Thank You Jesus ) so I put my trust in my surgeon and her great team of doctors and God of course, and stayed calm and focused.   What other choice did I have?

Well, I could shop.  That always makes a gal feel better, right girlfriends?   I had seen a TV show on breast cancer survivors and one lady had the most beautiful purse which is my weakness of course.  So I Googled the purse and found where to order it.   I figured if I'm going to fight this, I might as well be as stylish as I've always tried to be and this purse was just the medicine I needed!   Isn't it gorgeous?   And proceeds of course went to cancer research.

 My surgery was on Oct. 25th and I came through with flying colors and on Halloween I got the great news that it had all been removed in surgery, nothing had spread to vessels or lymph nodes.  It was a separate cancer from the Ovarian cancer I had in 2012.  Great news again!  It was stage one.  If you have to have the big "C" then stage one is the number you want to be diagnosed with, detected early and highly treatable.   I'm a pretty lucky girl and feel very blessed.   Being diagnosed with the big "C" twice in two years puts things in perspective, your priorities change, you relish and hold dear every visit with your parents, or breakfast with your BFF's which is what I did one week after surgery.   I look pretty good all things considering don't I?

So, now I tackle some radiation, piece of cake, been there, done that, can do it again!   Staying positive and focused and enjoying my favorite time of the year where beautiful autumn days lead up to the holiday season of Joy and Thankfulness.   Yes, this year I hit a few bumps in the road, but this Thanksgiving I'll be feeling more blessed than ever.   Enjoy this time of the year, take a ride in the country as we are going to do today, marvel at the colors of the leaves, enjoy the homes and farms decorated with pumpkins and hay and cornstalks, live life in the moment, take it all in and savor it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Sweetness of Autumn

 Well, it is official.   Summer 2013 has come and gone.   It's time to embrace one of the most glorious seasons.   Autumn is such a beautiful time of year and doesn't last long enough for me.   I love the cool weather, the colorful trees, picking out pumpkins and gourds and bright mums, making a big pot of soup or better yet, a succulent pork roast stabbed with cloves of garlic, roasting on a Sunday afternoon, with a pan of acorn squash baking right next to it.  The acorn squash has to be made with a huge pat of butter, dark brown sugar and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon.   Add homemade mashed potatoes and pork gravy and you have a heavenly fall Sunday dinner.    Baked apples or a pumpkin pie for dessert makes the dinner complete.

 This fall, go out and support our hard working local farmers by purchasing their pumpkins, corn stalks,gourds and mums and decorate your home accordingly for the season.  Watch for things along the roadside to add to your outdoor decor like cattails which are in abundance right now and bright green osage oranges, free for the taking along any country road.   They look beautiful when placed with pumpkins, all lumpy and green, much like a gourd.  I've enjoyed decorating for fall since I was very young.   When I was still living at home, I would always take my mom to our favorite garden market and purchase stalks of corn and huge pumpkins which we displayed for the neighborhood to enjoy.
If you're lucky enough to have a lot of trees on your property, you also get to enjoy the crunch of their leaves on your lawn.   My parents house had three huge maples in the backyard and it was a tradition to rake them into a huge pile, running and jumping and burying ourselves.   Crazy fun and once we tired of the pile, we would burn the leaves which smelled wonderful to me back then.   I know it's environmentally incorrect to burn them now, but I miss that scent from childhood.  Every now and then, when we're driving in the country, you'll smell someone who still burns them and the odor takes you back to when you were a kid.   So eat, decorate and take in the wonderful colors of the season.   Before you know it, branches will be bare and a blanket of snow will be covering the land.   Embrace Autumn and all the wonderful things it brings!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Making of my "Woman's Cave"

If you are like me, making your home warm and cozy is a top priority of your life.  It is something that is always changing and evolving, from decorating season to season, rearranging furnishings and acquiring new or antique pieces to add something special to your living environment.  It also sometimes involved a total restoration or renovation which is something we took on this summer.   We had been putting off this big project for some time, until I finally got myself motivated by promising myself a new set of living room furniture after the big renovation was complete.  We have been needing new flooring throughout the house for quite sometime, but the weakening conditions of subflooring told me we could put the project off no longer.  This involved first of all, getting quotes and deciding if we wanted to replace carpeting or go with laminate flooring.  It also involved the application of a total new subfloor.   Once we signed the contract with the company and picked the installation date, I turned into a mad woman, planning and ordering and packing.  We ordered the new furniture to be delivered after the floor was installed.  We purchased a 55" Smart TV that I had been promising my husband for years.  This purchase should take care of birthdays and anniversaries for a few years!   We started packing up all knick knacks - did I mention I have a lot of knick knacks and BOOKS!!!   We went to U-Haul and purchased all sizes of boxes, took pictures on our phone of how the books and "things" were placed on the shelves so that we would have an idea of how to unpack them.  I meticulously labeled all the boxes with items and which room they belonged in.  The two major projects were my china cabinet filled with my Royal Albert Old Roses china and my beloved bookshelf in the bedroom.  We had our two strong football player nephews come and store all the boxes in the garage the week of the installation and lived in the shell of our house for a couple of days until the flooring was installed.   I decided on cherry wood laminate and am I so happy with that decision.  On the big day two strapping "russians" came in and worked their butts off for two days, the first day was spent ripping up carpeting and laying down plywood.  The following morning they were here promptly at 7:00am and by 2:00pm we had our floors, polished and gleeming, with all the big pieces of furniture placed back in their spots.   Those two men were magnificent!

Here's a picture of the work in process.   And below is a picture of my husband assembling the chairs I ordered from   Did I mention I love   Thanks to my sister in law who told me about her experiences with them.   I would highly recommend them!  Fast, free shipping.   Aren't these chairs gorgeous?   I thought they were a bit bold, but I'm in that frame of mind these days.   Bold and beautiful!

Here's just part of the finished project.   I also purchased a beautiful red couch and matching recliners from La Z Boy Furniture.   More bold colors.   Not at all like I previously had in my homes.   My first home was done in country blues and creams with ducks and geese and Laura Ashley bedding.   It was typical 1980's but beautiful and homey.   Those colors lasted until we built a home and I went with everything in shades of green, pink and ivory.   Even my 10 ft. Christmas tree did not have one ounce of red on it.   It was all done up in victorian shades of pinks and mauves, ivory pearls and soft green to match the carpeting in the great room.   I kept those colors but in a much scaled down version when we moved into a manufactured home.   After all, one doesn't have room for a 10 ft. tree anymore, but the colors of the "old" furniture went well with the neutral beige carpeting.   But now, with this big project I decided to go in a totally different color scheme taken from the Royal Albert Old Roses china pattern.   Reds and golds and oranges and pinks.   A bit daring but I am happy with the outcome.   It's made the living room warmer and more inviting.   The 55" flat screen Smart TV doesn't hurt.   We're ready to hunker down as cool fall evenings turn into snowy, blustery nights.   You are all invited to stop by anytime you find yourself in the neighborhood for a pot of tea, some homemade cookies, hot buttery popcorn and a movie.   I am so happy with myself for finally tackling the dreaded project and now I can reap the rewards!   Bring on the cool weather, the new TV shows - especially my beloved Downton Abbey.   I am ready to enjoy my new "woman cave" but don't tell my husband I call it that!   We'll let him think it's a man cave with a few feminine touches.