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My Blog

May 2013


Good morning.   Well, a different day is upon us...a bit cooler but more storms headed in our direction.  I am hoping all that are reading this blog are safe and in the comforts of their homes.  We have head more storms lately than I can ever remember.  Funny how different viewing storms is compared to being a child.  As an adult we worry about the storms and the
damage that they cause.  We ache because if there is arthritis in the bones...there is pain from a storm.  On the plus side we need the rain to make up for the drought and make the plants and flowers grow.  We understand the reaction that happens or the trees when there is lightening. 
As a child, we just think that rain is the mean old thing that makes it so we can't go out and play.  On the good side, it was the thing that allowed us to do the in house things that we normally didn't do outdoors.  And for me, if it wasn't raining hard, then I got to do it on the front porch.  If you didn't grow up having a big front porch...I am so sorry.  It was the best thing man ever thought of.  So many things occurred on the front porch when I was a child.  From conversations with grandparents, crocheting, embroidery, ice cream sandwiches, laughter and stories.  There was playtime and rocking cousins to sleep in the rocking chair.  There I played with Barbie, read my Nancy Drew books and made potholders.
If you are not of my generation, you probably are wondering how to make a potholder.  You are probably thinking it is a sewn item....hmmmm..topic for another day.  But in my day, I had the metal square potholder maker that had something similar to teeth that edged up from its frame.  They still make them today, but I think the new ones are made from plastic.  There were cotton loops..today I believe they are some flimsy material.  Anyway you would loop the rings on the teeth all the way across one direction and then weave in and out the loops in the opposite direction.  I believe then they had a tool to do this, but I just used my fingers.  Once you were completed, you carefully removed them from the tooth and with each removal you placed one loop into the other...just like crocheting until you got to the last loop...that is where the potholder would hang from.  I loved making those potholders.  The colors of the loops were bright and vibrant.  It was always a challenge to see what the end results would be.  As a kid, I made quite a few of them.  It was always a way to make presents for my grandma, aunts and friends...in fact one of my aunts still has one until this very day.  They were really strong...they had to be to have lasted some 50 years.  They were the best potholders around.  With all the types of potholders today, even with all the thermal material sewn in, don't match those of long ago.  I still have my potholder maker hanging in my basement.  I wish I could get the same loops like I used years ago to make myself some.   My children were never interested in making any.  They would get part of the way through and say it was too hard and give up. 
I must say, when I look at what they make today compared to the durability of what they made in my day...such a difference.  But then , when I think about it....we were different.   I think that todays youth is more invested in tv and electronic games.  Now don't take me wrong...I listened to the record player, but I worked on something while I did it.  I guess even as a child I could multi-task.  I had a sense of pride about making something to give someone.  I was giving a piece of me....and the fact that my only living aunt still has that potholder tells me that she really appreciated it.  One day my Granddaughter made a picture of a girl using leaves and pine straw she found in her garden and scotch taped it onto one of her mothers fat pieces of Tupperware.  It is amazing to me, the vision she had.  My daughter lost her piece of Tupperware.  It now sits on my dresser where it has sat for the past 6 years.  It will remain there until I die.  It is one of the most treasured piece I own.  I am more proud to show off that piece than even my own artwork...and I am an artist by profession.  It is a piece of love that no one can put a price on....I guess my aunt must have felt the same.  And the funny thing is....I feel the return of love with that gesture.  I guess the one thing I left off of that list of things I did on that front porch was....LOVE.    

Local Stores

Good morning to everyone...a bit hot yesterday here in the Chicago land area.  Today will be a bit cooler.  It boggles my mind on how drastic the weather has been here....but I am not complaining....especially when I see the devastation in OK. 
I sat here this morning thinking about the local stores that were around when I was growing up.  Growing up in Chicago, there were local stores every where one looked.  There were stores that were in the front of houses. back then.  I remember that on Laramie there was a small grocery/meat market that my Grandmother would send me to on a daily basis to shop for her.  I would go across the alley, cut through the neighbors yard, cross Laramie Ave. which was a main street and go to the store which was located just about the center of the street.  I thought about that....cutting through a neighbor's yard??  I can't imagine that anyone would even think of doing something like that today without expecting to have the police perhaps called on them.  It was mostly lunch meats and sundries.  I remember the Big 5 gallon glass container filled with pickles that you could buy.  At the counter was a platter with Chubs on them...that is smoked fish for those who might no know what a chub is.  Grandma would sent me over on a daily basis so that we would always have everything fresh. One of the common things I would go for was lunchmeat...Grandma' usual was a pound of football.  Yes, now I know you are probably wondering .....football??  Well, it was a minced meat of some sort...but that is what Grandma called it and the woman who ran the store knew it by that name., so later in life when I talked abut a good football sandwich, there were plenty of strange looks, let me tell you!  In the summer, I would go there for chocolate popsicles....oh they were so delicious.  The creamsicles and the pushups where my also my favorites.  Today, you can still find creamsicles, but they don't taste anything like the ones that I used to buy at Fran's.  That was the name of the store...Fran's...now I remember. 
To buy meat, I would go to the next street over called Lockwood and 2 doors down from the corner was again a store in the front of the house that was the butcher shop.  Grandma would send me there to buy meat.  The butcher sometimes would go into the wooden freezer door to bring out something that wasn't in the case and cut it up right there in front of you, wrap it up in that white butcher paper with the glossy wax side in, and off I would go back home.  I made that trip every other day.  There was no such thing as buying a weeks worth of meat back then. 
There was another store on Lorel Ave that had candy and ice cream.  Again a store in the front of a house.  When I was in little and in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  My Grandma would walk to school to pick me up and sometimes on our way home, we would stop in that store and I would get treated to an ice cream store.  This was always ice cream in a cone.   
 I remember one time, when I was in Kindergarten, I got into trouble and had to stand out in the hall.  It was really not my fault at all, but I got into trouble.  The girl in front of me had her dress with crenaline skirt on my desk...she thought she was being cute....and I was trying to tell her to take it off...and of course I got into trouble.  Sister Bonaventure....that was the name of the nun who taught me in kindergarten punished me.  On the way home Grandma asked if I had been a good girl that day...then she would treat me to an ice cream on the way home.....I cannot tell a lie....I lied back then because I really wanted that ice cream cone.  But it was like choking down a horse....by the time we got home, I was sobbing like a baby for ling to Grandma.  I confessed to her what had happened in school that day.  I thought Grandma would maybe give me the 5 piggies....that was the punishment stick.  It was a cut off of an old broom about 16 inches long and had 5 belt strap end on it.  I never, ever had it used on me ,but just the thought of it shook my liver!!  Grandma just said that the next time, I needed to just tell her the truth.  She said the truth never hurt anyone.  Lesson learned for the day.  Although now that those years have gone and I am older, I realize sometimes the truth does hurt...but I is always still the best thing to say and to hear. 
Now, when it came to clothing or household products.  We would walk about 6-8 blocks or so to the Department store on Grand Ave. called Cohen's.  It was a big store with stairs that went down to the basement as well.  We always bought my uniform blouses there.  They had just about everything in that store.  And the best thing was that they gave S& H Green stamps there with your purchase.  That made Grandma pretty happy!  For those of you who do not know what S & H stamps are, back in the day, stores, gas stations and other places would give out these green stamps that you would fill into a book.  Sort of like the games that McDonald play and you try to win something with their stamps...the difference was that with McDonald  you usually don't end up with anything.  S & H Green stamps had a catalogue.  It had all types of things in the catalog and it had the number of books needed to redeem .them in for he product.  There were toys, pots and pans, sewing machines.  All sorts of things.  I would sit and lick those stamps and put them in the book .  Grandma would always share the books with me and we would both be able to get something when we had enough books filled.  I still have a book and some stamps left form those days.  I am no sure when it stopped, but I remember being grown up and married and sill collected those stamps.  I remember that the redemption house was off the Eisenhower expressway somewhere around Hillside  I believe. 
My Grandmother used to bake for Mrs. Cohen's bridge parties.  My grandmother was known as the best baker and bread maker in the area.  I can surely attest to that, but I would imagine that I am prejudiced.  A funny story was...growing up, my grandmother never taught me that there were different nationalities or religions....people were just people and I only just new them by their names.   Many, many years later, I had a dear friend named Margie who was Jewish.  When we would sit around and talk, she admitted to e that she was surprised that I had no prejudices towards her.  I was amazed at that statement.  I couldn't imagine why she would have thought such a thing and then she explained how people reacted to her on several occasions.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  We talked about how I was raised and that it finally dawned on my some 45 years later that Cohen's Department store and Mrs. Cohen must have been Jewish. Didn't make any more difference to me now than it did then....GOOD JOB  GRANDMA!!
Well, today, there are no longer stores in the front of houses, stores that give away Green stamps, no longer do you cut through a yard, but memories...those are still there to cherish and keep.  And unlike the S & H green stamps, I wouldn't trade them in for anything! 


Good afternoon to all my followers.  Hope you are handling the heat better than I.  I am having a migraine due to the moisture and humidity in the air and can't wait for it to go away.  I have sat with a compress on my head, neck and shoulders for the past couple of hours. 
Today while I as thinking of summertime...it brought to mind the carnival that my parish ha when I was young.  Now I grew up in the city of Chicago and our church, St. Stanislaus B & M  had a huge one each year.  The carnival had just about everything you could imagine.  It filled every empty spot on the grounds where the school, rectory and church stood.  It was adjacent to the fields of Hanson Park where they filled the grounds with all the amusement rides. Even in the church hall, which was enormous, they held Bingo games The stage was filled with prizes.  The bar at the back of the hall served drinks, and the crowds just poured in each day.  I cannot recall exactly how long the carnival went, but it must have gone on for 2 weeks I think.  There, next to the backside of the rectory was set up a huge stage where each night there was entertainment of some sort.  Polka Bands  galore.  Lil' Wally was there!  When I was 12 I made very good friends with the daughter of the shoemaker across the street.  She was much older than I, but I met her because I went to school with her niece.   She knew that I could sing....so she had pull in the church and I think she must have perhaps had pull with someone in the band...because I knew that at one point each evening,  was singing up on the stage with the band.  I remember one of the numbers was Ka Sara Sara  which Doris Day used to sing.  I sang Never on a Sunday as well and there was one more song that for the moment escapes my memory.  Every so often something happens that stirs that up in my mind, but I seem to lose it as fast as it comes.    To think back now that at such a young age I was entertaining the crowds.  I of course loved every minute of it.  I was perhaps one of the first "American Idol" performances.  HAHAHA..  But I loved it.  I had hoped that one day I would be on stage...I guess my dream somewhat came true.  Perhaps the venue is different...but entertaining people was the main factor in the equation. 
 I remember my favorite ride  was always the tilt a whirl.  I could ride that for hours on end....it especially became easier as I became a teen and the guys that were in charge let me on over and over again without a ticket.  I guess that wasn't really right...now that I think back on it...but at least it didn't hurt anyone. 
The food was amazing...loads of Polish and Italian food.  I used to volunteer as a teen in the teen group and run the ice cream booth.  I made more root beer floats and black cows than I ever thought was imaginable.   Anyone know the difference between the 2?  Root beer float is made with vanilla ice cream and the black cow is made the same except you use chocolate ice cream.  I remember the stuffed animals and the games they used that you could play to win them.  I always choose the astrological game.  You would put the money down on the month of the year and throw the special 12 sided die.  I used to win a lot, but I was never really the stuffed animal kind of girl, so I used to give them all to my younger cousins and godchild. 
The best part of the night was when they did the fireworks at the end.  Oh, how I loved that.  And I must say, they put on a magnificent show.  Not only were there fireworks in the air, but they put on a show on the ground at the end as well.  The last firework they showed was on the ground and it was of a big cross.  It was a church carnival you know!  I just thought it was amazingly beautiful.  And then I would walk home .  On days that I wasn't working there, just there fr fun, I would walk back and forth all night long.  It was only about 6 blocks away.  Odd to look back on it now.  Back then I was 11,12,13 or so and would walk home alone at 10 or 11 at  night and never worried about anything.  Never afraid....You would not see that happening today. I am not sure the world was just not as crazy or we were just more naive about it.
It was even a joy to go downstairs into the church basement and play Bingo with what seemed mostly the older folk...and yet there were so many nice things on the platform to win...even for kids...but when I won, I usually picked something my grandma would like.  She had Arthritis pretty bad and never seemed to get out much to things like a carnival.  Grandpa had already passed away and my mother was always working at her nighttime job.  So it as me and me alone...but I was never really alone...I knew almost everyone there.  I wish though that Grandma could have seem the fireworks on he ground...I know she would have been impressed.  By the time I came into the picture, I was the youngest grandchild of the youngest child, so  age wise...my Grandma was already older. 
It was sad when the carnival packed itself up and  moved on to the next town.  But there was always the dream of next year when it would return.  In the meantime...there was Riverview. Now that;s another story!  Hope you had the opportunity to experience the neighborhood carnival. Have a great day!


Good morning to all my readers and friends.  One gloomy day we have here in the Chicago land area.  Sitting here this morning I was trying to think on what subject to write about today.  Had some coffee...went to change clothes and brush my hair and that was it....hair!
Now I can imagine your thought at the moment....HAIR???  Is she really going to talk about hair?  And of course the answer is yes.  It wasn't necessarily my hair that I thought of speaking about.  It was actually my grandfather's hair that came to mind. 
When I was a young girl, I lived with my Grandparents and mom.  We lived in a quiet neighborhood which would have been considered the nicer part of town at that time.  We lived in Chicago in a simple 2 flat home.  I never considered it an apartment because no one but family had ever lived there.  The home belonged to my grandparents, who in turn had inherited the home from my grandfather Joe's parents.  Oh the changes that went on in that home!  The changing of families that continuously moved in and out.  Even the attic was an apartment and the basement as well.  Loads of memories, good and bad as is with most homes and families.  But for me, there was so much to remember from there. 
I remember that the one thing I always had the opportunity to do with my Grandfather was to go to the Barber Shop with him.  Now I know that today Barber Shops are a rarity.  Seems like the Salon's today are unisex...a  quick cut and go is the modern way, but back then, when I was young my Grandpa went to the Barber....now I didn't really know much better that there were anything else other than a Barber shop was in a house.  My grandfather's barber was just a walk half way down the street.  We would approach the house..if I recall correctly it was a funny color of blue with white trim and stairs that lead down off the side of the house.  When you reached that area, there was a spinning Barber Pole there and a door that lead inside.  I can remember going in and sitting down on these great big brown naugahide chairs.  He had a magazine rack with magazines and comic books for the customers to read.  I loved that he had something for kids.  I would find one I liked...not an easy task in a Barber shop for a girl, but he did have Little Dot which was one of my favorites.  I would get up on the chair and read as Grandpa would get into the BIG Barber chair.  I remember the white neck strips and the big white covering that the barber would use so that Grandpa wouldn't get hair all over him.  I never really understood Grandpa going to the Barber because he ad very little hair on his head.  In fact...the only hair he had was around the sides of his head, but I guess that hair still grew.  The barber had all kinds of things on the shelves behind him.  I especially loved the big glass jar with this bluish solution in it where he kept all the combs.  I remember after grandpa got his hair cut the man would also give him a shave.  He had this small wooden bowl and a brush.  I would watch him as him made the foam, slather it on Grandpas face.  He would then take this razor and run it back and forth along this long leather type strap and shave Grandpas face.  I have to admit I was a bit frightened at the site....I always wondered if he ever cut anyone by accident.  In the end, Grandpa was clean shaven, his hair was trimmed and I got to pick out a sucker of my choice out of this big glass jar the barber kept off to the side of the cash register.   We would then walk home and I had another experience of a day with Grandpa. 
My grandfather passed away when I was 12 and I hadn't thought about that experience for a long, long time.  When I got married, unbelievably....I married a barber...but he had an actual barber shop.  I suppose the only difference was that it was a building and not in someone's basement in their house.   Years went by and the location of the barber shop changed locations...I never really made any comparisons. 
Eventually, my husband decided he wanted to change careers...he went to school and became a Special Ed teacher and the barbering days became a side job.  He sold his business and went to work for someone part time.  I always had a reminder of his Barbering days, because we own an old marble  barber chair that I argued countless hours over not wanting that monstrosity in my home, but I suppose if I got to keep the things I kept, I couldn't complain.  
Years still went on and the Barber shop closed.  And in the blink of an eye...I was transported back in time...I now have a barber shop in MY basement that he uses for friends and family.  On the shelf are old time barber tools ad we even own the pole that turns.  The only thing missing are the Little Dot magazines and the suckers.  I guess if given enough time, everything repeats itself in one way or another.  I even recently got in the chair and let him cut my hair...but I don't think I will ever be ready for the shave...at least I pray not!  Memories....they are what keeps us going!

The Current Memorial Day May 27

Well, Good morning to all my readers.  Today is specified as Memorial Day...although from the beginning...Decoration Day, as it was originally called was held always on May 30h.  Come rain or shine, flags were hung in honor of those who valiantly served or country.  If you drive up and down the streets today..you may not see as many flags as you might imgine....but I am sure that you will smell the BBQ's cooking.  It seems that for many, this is just another long weekend.  I performed a Memorial Day program yesterday at an Alzheimer Center..and I must say, It brought tears to my eyes to see the reverence that they had for the American flag and what it stands for and for those who have served to have it still represent freedom.  The patients have their long term memory and not their short term memory.  Sometimes, I wonder whether or not they are in a much nicer place than us.  They remember what our country stood for and what it means to have that freedom.  There was one woman in particular who was frantic to hurry and try to stand up out of her wheelchair because of the flag!  We assured her that she could say the Pledge of Allegiance in her wheelchair.  We are asked to take a moment of silence or listen to taps at 3:00 P.M. on Memorial Day in remembrance.  I will do it both today and on the 30th as well.   I hope that you will join me in both days. 
Remembrance is a very special word that encompasses every single thing we do.  We are continually creating a memory in the present, so that in the future, we will have a past to remember.  No matter who you are....the past can be something to cherish.  Some of the memories might be difficult, but they taught us lessons or made us stronger.  They not only appeal to our visual senses, but to our sense of smells as well.  We all can sit back and remember the smell of something in our lives.  I most recently received some items from my mothers home.  She passed away 3 1/2 years ago.  Yesterday, I sat down with one of her  recipe books.  There it was, the scent of my mother right there in my hands....I suppose we don't realize or it might not matter if it was there before, but it sure is important now.  As her scent permeates the room with each turn of a page I have the feeling of her presence there with me. 
As I went through the book...I could tell it's age.  How, you might wonder?  Well, for instance, many of the bread recipes called for cake yeast....not the common yeast used today.  It called for Spry.  When I asked my husband if he knew what Spry was...he had no clue.  When I told him it was shortening...he just shook his head....that he knew.  It used a lot of Butter Milk, which by the way....at least here in Illinois you can no longer get real Buttermilk...it is now low fat.  Recipes don't come out the same.  I wonder why we can no longer get it here?  I know that in South Carolina they sell real buttermilk.  Anyway,  I thought about how much the computer has changed the ways of cooking or baking.  It is so easy to go to the computer to search for a recipe and boom...there it is, except I must admit, going through the ages of that cookbook gave me great satisfaction.  I could tell which were my moms most used or loved recipes by the smudges that remained.  There were notes in her handwriting that I will forever cherish.  Some were of corrections she marked that perhaps made it better in her opinion.  I always wonder if the next generation will have the same sentiments towards things like I do. I wonder what it is they would want to have as a remembrance?   The one thing that I always wondered was whether someone will know my footsteps crossed this land?  Whether or not 100 years from now will they say..."she was here and here is her story"  I sure hope so. I hope that what I do in life means something and will leave a memory.  I thought what better day than Memorial Day to make that statement. 

Cherries and Memorial Day

Good morning to all.  I suppose you are wondering what cherries has to do with Memorial Day. 
Well it all began this week with the price of cherries at a local fruit market...cherries this week are $1.69 a pound, which is a pretty good price on those tasty little treats.  I hadn't realized how much I had missed them and what sort of history I had with them.   As I have snacked on the cherries this week...thinking about the benefits that cherries have...especially for me, since they are good for arthritis.   It brought  back memories of my childhood. 
When I was a child, I was raised by by grandmother and mom.  Grandma would always make jellies and jams throughout the year with whatever was in season.  Cherry jelly was always one of my favorites.  She would prepare a number of jars and always leave a small tester bowl out next to the homemade bread on top of the space heater which sat right next to the stove.  We could stop anytime during the day and slice some bread and spread on some butter and jam.  Oh, those were the days.  Fresh and delicious.  I thought about the years I spent putting up preserves and decided I should put u a couple of jars.  Great for all summer and how good it will taste come winter on some pancakes or ice cream. 
The more I thought about cherries...it brought to mind a Aunt of mine.  Aunt Eleanor was married to my Uncle George.  She came fro a Germanic background...different than our Polish/American background.  Now the background doesn't make much difference except that she made different types of foods than we were used to.  She made Cherry Soup.  I used to go to their house to spend time with my boy cousins.  They had an enormous pool and it was ready come Memorial Day.  I loved swimming more than anything, bu I must say, aunt Eleanor's soup was the icing on the cake.  I would always ask whether she was making it and of course her answer was always "only if you are willing to pick the cherries"!  Well, you bet I was!  My cousins didn't really care one way or the other...but at eat they brought out the ladder for me to climb.  I would put on my Aunt's bib apron and up I would go with my basket.  I would pick what seemed like an eternity, but the reward of Cherry Soup was worth the sacrifice.  And after all I had plenty of time left t go swimming with the boys.   Years went by and when I became an adult, I was looking through some recipe books and lo and behold...there in one of the church cookbooks...was Aunt Eleanor's Cherry Soup Recipe.  I used to make it when I worked as a cook in a rectory in Chicago.  I loved it even then....I think it will be on this week's menu as well.
Now I bet you would think I wouldn't have any more stories on cherries, but surprise! 
When I got married, my mother-in-law taught me how to make Cherry liquor.  She said that it was an old time remedy for an upset stomach.  So once again, I found myself pitting cherries and placing them with sugar in a large glass gallon jar.  Into the sun they would go and with a few more processes, Voila....Cherry liquor.  My mother-in-law  and her stomach were happy, and I added one more thing to my homemade recipe list.  
When you think about cherries...you cannot help to remember George Washington and the cherry tree story.  Seems like Memorial Day and cherries go hand in hand, after all George Washington was a soldier as well. 
I hope you enjoyed this journey back into my past.  I hope you will perhaps munch on a few of those delightful treats and remember the days gone by...when the aroma of cooked cherries wafted through the air in some form of delightful treats.   

May 25

Good morning to all.  It seems as though we will be having a gloomy weekend for everyone in the Chicago land area for this Memorial Day weekend.  If you had read yesterday's blog, you know abut the soldier who died in Vietnam.  He was on mind mind all day yesterday that I decided to go to the cemetery to find his grave an pay my  respects.  Fortunately the cemetery is a whole block away from where I now live. I remembered the proximity of where the grave was...except the precise location....I decided to go to the office and look up  the actual parcel of land where the grave was.  I then went to the grave and gave a silent prayer and a salute to a young man I wish I could have known for a lifetime.  I was amazed to see that he was a Sargent.  I didn't remember that...and his death was on Nov. 7th, 1969.  He was 25 years old.  I had remembered that there was a chill in the air and we were no longer sitting on the porches...I felt redeemed in my memory.  Why I went with out a flag I don't know..but I will return with one for him. 
Just recently I was sitting by a lake watching the movement of the water.  It dawned on my during a conversation that the description of a lake is very different from hat of an ocean.  How silly that might seem to some, but how important that seemed too me in that moment.  I discussed whether I would want to lie by the ocean or the lake.  For me i was the lake.  The lake is so calm and tranquil, pictures of it in the dawning of the day are so peaceful, like glass, still.  Oftentimes I have witnessed a fog rising and lifting from it as though something was wafting away from it's nights sleep.  To listen to the sounds of the geese flying overhead as them embark their way to their days location.  Peaceful, as though all is right with the world. As the sun rose and cast its colors slowly over the waters like paint.  The glorious reflections of God's magnificence.  Then I thought about the ocean...the crashing of the waves, the swirling of the waters.  The roughness of its waves.  For me, just the words alone are more harsh.  Yet there is still such beauty.  The same sun rises and casts its painting over it waters, but the picture is different.  It is as though there is so much work to be done.  As the waters wash the shells and the stones onto the shore, I feel like their is constant changes going on.  It isn't like the stillness of a morning by the lake.  The lake seems as though it sits waiting for an assignment, whereas the ocean has its agenda. 
I sat remembering the ocean and all  could recall was the briskness of the waves, the crashing sounds and the pain of trying to walk into it with barefeet...the fear of the unknown underneath the waves...stingrays, jellyfish, sharks...and who knows what else.  I also thought about the gentle creatures: the dolphins...how I would love the chance to swim with those magnificent creatures. 
When I thought about the lake I never seemed to be afraid  of those still waters and never really gave a whole lot of thought about any dangers beneath.  I know in some regions there are snakes and alligators and crocodiles.  I just never imagine them nearby where I am.  Perhaps because of the Midwest lakes.  You often don't hear of such things.  I guess I would attribute that to the years growing up that were spent at the lakes.  We used to go to the lakes almost every Sunday in the summertime.  One of my families favorites was Phil's Beach in Wauconda.  After they closed we went to Holiday Park near Volo.  Oh how I enjoyed the fun from sun to sun.  The tradition carried on with me and my children.  It was Holiday Park and then later we went to Lake Griswal in Island Park near the Murraine Hills.   The breakfast on the grill, the hot coffee and the coffee cakes...wating as we slowing began to peel off the layers of clothing as sun sun beamed down.  The layer of sun tan lotions, the blowing up of the floaties and inner tubes.  Back then the only air available was in our lungs.  We could have stopped at a Gas Station but the car was usually so crammed with the paraphenalia we needed we had no room to put it if we did.  Then a day of just floating around handing on to the inner tubes, an occasional dip and swim, back and forth to the tables for a snack or drink.  The laughter of the family.  Sometimes we would grab the balls and bats and off we went to the baseball diamond to play some ball.  I will never forget the look my daughters eyes when I hit one out of the park.  They assumed their mom couldn't do the things they could do. 
And as the day came to an end, everyone tired, everyone sleepy eyed, we still wished that we could stay longer.  If they didn't close the lake at a certain time, I wonder what we would have done.  Seemed like forever to get all that stuff back up to the car.  Seemed lie the walk back was for miles and miles.  Home we would go until the next time.  Family time....ahhh....what a marvelous time.  The lake.
Now I must give fair time to the ocean for I have been there for the day with grandchildren.  You could go into the ocean, but couldn't keep you eyes off for one second of the children...not hat we didn't do the same on th lake...it just was so much easier!  The currents and the undercurrents  made you keep a watchful eye.  There were no blowups needed to float, because in the ocean you don't.  Their were no bathrooms accessible for what seemed like a forever  journey. The trip though the sands were daunting, especially as you got older.  Then their were the jelly fish....how can something so beautiful be so painful?  Even at the end of the day...getting cleaned off wasn't so easy.  It seamed like no matter how long you stood under the showers near the cars...the ocean managed to deposit sand it unmentionable places that couldn't be washed off out doors. 
I suppose from this you have guessed my preference.....ahhh, the Lake.
The best moments and memories for me was at the lake.  Silver Lake in Palmyra, Wisconsin was my favorite.  It went on for years.  My best friends Grandma owned it and it was passed down to her mom through the years.  I remember going there as a child with my friend Susie.  There were kerosene lamps and puzzles always on the table.  We would swim out to this square floating dock.  Sit,talk, laugh, share our lives.  Later we would go with our children, and he same occurred.  Then even years later, I would rent the house for a week or two.  It was amazing how much fun we had with no electronics or TV.  Swimming, boating, fishing.  A walk at night into the town for homemade custard.  Digging for worms, putting together puzzles, playing scrabble and card games.  Laughter, fire pit, smores.  Life was good at the lake. 
This past few days on the lake brought back a lot of beautiful memories.  The house has since been sold....there hasn't been anymore days at that lake.  But I felt like I was brought home just by another one.  Perhaps they are all related.  Seems to me that no matter which one I am at, I am at peace with myself and the world. 

A Vietnam Soldier Honored

War is hell...that is what we hear....and that is so true...but, hell is also on the home front.  Hell is knocking at the doors of famiies...mothers and fathers, wives and children.  Hell is the waiting and the wondering.  When there is war...the whole nation is affected. 
This story begins in my youth and has been carried with me my entire life.  It is a moment in time that has been burned into my brain and branded on my heart. 
When I was a young girl growing up, life was much different that it appears today.  Life was simpler, friendlier, more family oriented and that included neighbors.  Evenings were spent on the front porches.  Neighbors conversed over the railings between the houses. 
I want to share a story from my past. 
Next door to me lived a kind, sweet couple named Joe and Vicky.  The had 3 sons and the father worked a hard life in a factory to provide for his family.  Their life seemed to be no different than  anyone else in the neighborhood, until one day their middle son, Tony got drafted into the service.  
Tony was a chubby, round faced young man with deep indented dimples and a smile that could capture anyone's heart.  He had a personality that lit up the room even before he entered it.  He was sweet and kind and always had a welcoming word to anyone he met.  Tony left for boot camp and would send letters home almost on a daily basis. 
In the evenings, as we sat on the porches in our rocking chairs...Joe or Vicky would read his letters to us.  Tony had dreams just like every young man, but his dreams also included others. 
He would send home money for his parents to put in the bank for him.  He wrote that someday, when he returned home from war....he already knew that he was going to Vietnam, that he would open up a Gas Station.  He was learning mechanics and he would be able to do the work and wrote in his letters that his dad could stop working in the factory and could work with him at the gas station keeping the books.  Tony assured his father that his life would be easier and that once he came back from war he would be able to repay all the kind things his parents did for him and help to make life easier. His parents were so proud of this young man.  Their faces beamed with pride each time they spoke of him.  Time went on and so did the summer.  Letters began do dwindle as the war continued.  Soon the weather was turning colder and not as many days were spent on the porch. 
Then one late afternoon, we heard this screaming coming from what seemed to be outside.  We all quickly ran out onto the porch only to find Vicky screaming  frantically and she was running down the front stairs.  Close behind her was Joe.  He finally caught her as she reaching the bottom step screaming...."NO, NO, NO...not my Tony!"  Her face was a red as a tomato and tears were streaming down both Vicky and Joe's face. We stood on the porch in horror, not really knowing what to do to help.  We just wondered what had happened...had he been injured? As Joe got Vicky up the stairs, he gave us a glance that without words spoken we knew we would soon get the details.  Once Vicky was  back into the house, he must have gotten her calmed down somehow.  Joe the returned to the porch to reveal the earth shattering news.  Tony had been killed in a mine in Vietnam.  They would be shipping his body back home for burial.  In that moment, it seemed like the world stood still....KILLED???  DEAD??? NEVER TO RETURN??  Sweet baby faced Tony?  I was stunned.  I had never known anyone could get killed.  I was  a kid...people don't get killed...they just die when they get really old!  That was the way it goes, doesn't it? 
And if that wasn't the worst of the story...when the body returned home in the casket...his parents had to go to the funeral home and make the arrangements...only the body in the casket wasn't Tony.  They accidentally mixed up the caskets...but left Joe and Vicky with hope.  Maybe somehow Tony was still alive!  We all prayed that their dream would become reality.  That their wonderful child would be returned to them, but the reality was that he did go home...to his heavenly father. 
I remembered that I never thought that war was so glorious any more.  It had taken away one of the sweetest young men I ever had the privledge of knowing.  War WAS hell....but hell happened right there in our neck of the woods.  It happened to Tony's parents, siblings, family and neighbors.  We all grieved over this senseless loss of a man who would have made such a huge difference in this world.  After all...his life already had made people happy. All that was left was longing.  A longing to see him again.  I am sure that when the time came for his parents to go home...Tony was there to see them over.  
Years and years have gone by...my thoughts on war are still the same...WHY?  My thoughts of what is put on the line is understood....that when a young man...and now women go to war...not only do they stand on the line or go to the front...so do all those who love them.
I have seen his name on the wall of the Vietnam Vets.  I go to his grave and salute to the young chubby faced young man that I once knew and loved.  I pray that his death be not forgotten.  For a future was cut short so that you and I may have ours.  I pray that in his last moment, he wasn't alone.  That he knew how much he was loved.  That today, men and woman around the world give a moment of time in prayer over Tony and all the others that gave their lives so that we have freedom.  God Bless you and keep you smiling, your eyes sparkling, and your heart gleaming until we all reunite on some porch somewhere else in peace and harmony. 
Dedicated to ANTHONY FIRAK.

I'm back...and need help

I am putting out a plea to any service man or woman....any family member of the armed forces....I am a storyteller with The Story Spinners. I am searching for personal stories from all eras of Service to our country. Our men and woman who fought or served or gave their lives to give us freedom...if you are willing to share your story with me...so that I may share it amongst the crowds on memorial day...I ask please to message me your story. I will be happy to honor your soldier's name or keep it anonymous if that is your wish. I am thanking you in advance...and thanking all those who have served and are still serving. God Bless America and those who keep it safe.
I want to thank all of my blog readers for their comments on this blog.  It was what I needed to inspire me to continue blogging.  I had initially hoped that the word for the day would get people motivated, reminiecsing, interjecting.  I waited quite a while before I truly received some in put.  Thank you if you have been one of them.  We all get side tracked in our lives, often times we don't think what we share will make a difference, but truly it does.  There isn't a moment that my life is not influenced by another words or actions.  I am motivated by the things others say or do.  By the memories I have....and I would be inspired by others stories as well.  I have vowed to make a promise to continue blogging as a way to capture the past, cement the present and hope for the future.  I am inspired by the needs that so many have and knowing that by being a storyteller I can help. I am inspired by the fact that something I may write will  heal, inspire, cause someone to reflect, educate or simply to entertain.
If any of my readers have suggestions on a topic...or a location, piece of history...please post your comments.  We can go on this journey together. 
I have lived my whole life in the Chicago area of Illinois.  Many of my memories are from right here.  As a storyteller, I research all sorts of things to put together a program.  I am like a dog with a bone...I don't give up.  I love the hidden, the unusual, the forgotten, the touching, the humanistic story. 
Sometimes when given a challenge, I might become overwhelmed with the topic and then once I start the research...it all starts coming together and I become totally immersed in it.  I tackle it from every angle.  I look for the key that will open the door to everyone's heart and minds. 
I will continue with a word a day for now to continue the inspiration.  I will open my eyes, my mind and my heart and hope to entice, intrigue all of my readers.  I will try to take you down paths perhaps you have traveled before...or perhaps paths you never traveled.  I will take you back to the past and alert you to the future.
In the meantime...I ask wholehearted,....share with me your stories.  And for the moment in particular...ones of war, soldiers, families and friends of them.  Memorial Day is a day that should not be left forgotten.  I will begin tomorrow with a story about a wonderful young man, his name was Tony.  Lost...but not forgotten.

May 8

Days seem to roll into weeks.  There has been some challenging things going on with my life.  More and more challenging events to plan for. Storytelling is such a rewarding career.   I am currently in the midst of Mother's Day stories.  As I perform tea stories and Mothers Day stories and look into the eyes of some of the older women sitting in front of me...it gives me the sense of putting on an old comfortable sweater.  Their eyes seem to sparkle as they are invited to reminise about their mother and grandmothers.  They laugh and shake their heads up and down as I tell them stories about mothers and children and they tear up over some.  The most recent event I told at they gathered around me after the stories were finished.  I was so overwhelmed by their true and heartfelt emotions.  One resident shared with me the story of how she had a heart attack at the age of 6 1/2 years of age and was maybe to live to be 20..."I am now 81 years old"  "You reminded me of the stories my mother used to tell me when I was so fragile so long ago".  Another women said "you tell your stories from your heart...and you looked right into all of our eyes".  Can you imagine that there is gratefulness over having someone look into your eyes as they speak.  How much they NEED that!  This was overwhelming to say the least.  When I share tea stories and the background on tea...there is so much interest and amazement.  You are never to old to learn! 
More stories throughout the week.  I will even be performing on Mothers Day.  Since my mother is no longer here on this Earth and my children no longer live in this state...I am so happy to be with women who may not have a visitor that day.  Perhaps they will be my mother and I their daughter for the moment.  Either way it is a win, win situation.  My next challenge is a program on The Traveling Vaudeville Circus...talk about an awakening and unveiling of an era.    Then I move on to Memorial day.  I would love if any of my readers would like to share any stories of war days.  Please email them to me at thestoryspinners@att.net
To all of you MOMS....HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.  May you be blessed with the greatest gift we all have...and that is memories.  Whatever they are...take the opportunity and share them with someone. 
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