First grade

I thought it had been lost decades ago…..I looked because we were supposed to bring a picture of me in first grade, 56 years ago, to my current school early in the month of February….my first grade classroom where I assist with special needs students today in 2018. This photo had been posted unexpectedly on Facebook and so, as always, it was time for a story.

It is class picture month at our school too! Which school…..yeah, I am getting confused too. Sometimes these past to present stories that continue to blossom in my mind amaze me.

So what it the same about first grade today in 2018 compared to 1962?

  • First of all, both elementary schools were named after courageous woman, Kate Buckingham and Elizabeth Ide.
  • With the exception of plastic today versus metal, the desks are really not a whole lot different and now we slice tennis balls to place on each metal foot of the chairs to protect the floor.
  • We have the same lined paper that we learned to place our letters and numbers correctly.
  • We, too, have the flag in our corner and we still say the pledge
  • The alphabet in the back of the room is attached in the same spot
  • Still globes exist on shelves and windowsills
  • Plants still grow as well as artificial arrangements decorating classrooms
  • Still tights and leggings for girls
  • Still learning how to tie shoe laces


  • White blouses for the girls and boys
  • Ties on picture day for the boys
  • Black and white photographs sitting at desk…only choice. Now, individual photos include a colorful garden background in 8 by 10, and numerous 5 by 7’s. Lots of choices.
  • Chalk board instead of white board
  • My room today’s theme is a classroom of monkeys
  • Back in 1962, it looks like it was elephants
  • Desk blotter and no lap top or COMPUTER
  • Teachers desk chair…much more comfortable and generally swivel today
  • NO STICKERS ANYWHERE IN 1962….especially on desks…
  • Books on shelves but more organized in 1962…of course it was clean up time for the picture
  • No snacks, lunch or water bottles….In 1962, we went home for lunch and went back
  • Walls are jammed packed with color in 2018

I brought the picture to school t o share with my first grade class. Actually, they were more excited about it more than I was and because they saw an old childhood photo of me just recently for a school contest, they knew who I was. They said the hair gives me a way even now……the same thin hair. 1962 they cried!!!! You must be as old as my grandmother.  Somehow, they don’t seem to make a correlation between teachers that can be as old as Nana!

And many asked for a copy to take home. Maybe they already understand the cost of an antique photo. They are much more mature than we were. Maybe they already realize they need to collect now so memories may be triggered in the future.

Mrs Sullivan………who was she? Where is her cell phone? I vaguely remember this old…..







Happy Valentines Day

After sitting down to tutor a young fifth grade student, she reminded me of Valentine’s Day.  She shared a story about her grandmother who lost her Dad when she was a teenager, then her husband just recently….Grandpa…..

It was a cedar box that her Grandmother opened when she was sad and inside were a special collection of Valentine’s Day cards. Beautifully wrapped in tissue, she would open each one and smile. Sometimes, tears of love would tag along.

The cards were elaborate with elegant designs in red, white and pink while others were framed in lace or velvet. To my love, my darling, my precious; written in neat handwriting to introduce the verse inside which was usually an encouraging message. After listening, I realized that many of us have probably done the same with our own inspired Valentines either preciously saved in a box or scrapbook.

My mother had a box just like Samantha’s grandmother. My Mother and Dad had passed away several years ago but I knew where the box was stored. So after returning home, I found her box.  I found my Mother and Dad.  A glossy silver card with a vase filled with flowers complimented the cover. In small writing, it said I love you in a white heart…he had signed his name though difficult to read…placed among the assorted floral collection designed on the card. To my darling wife stood proudly inside.

Now, I was excited…..this really was the true meaning of Valentines Day for me so I began the search of Valentines from my own personal scrapbook collection. I was looking specifically for Valentines that were given to me by my own children, now aged 25+.

I always loved scrap booking and am pretty organized in creating scrapbooks that preserve memories from certain years or should I say decades.  But, completely forgotten about, were my own childhood Valentines sent to me when I was in elementary school.

Lets be a couple of Love Birds graced the cover of my own childhood years in the 1960’s from Michael and Tommy….though can’t really remember who Michael and Tommy were. I had also saved several from my Mom and Dad; to a wonderful daughter. At that moment, I cried at the irony.

And the next day of tutoring, I shared my collection with Samantha. She decided to make her Grandmother a special card to add to her box of treasures this year.  Nothing says I love you like the hand-crafted cards trimmed in elaborate lace and personalized just for you.

Alzheimer’s: The perfect love story

When I worked in home health care to help in emergencies, I was told that the husband would relay my care taking  job duties when I arrived at their home.

I knocked… but the door was ajar…he told me to come in. He would not leave her alone. When I walked in, the kitchen wasn’t in the best of condition; crumbs on the counter, frying pans that needed elbow grease. That is where he spent most of his time. She needed to be fed soft foods because of her condition. He tried to make interesting recipes.

She really didn’t know what they were but she ate them without complaint. She would smile as he picked up the fork and spoon, alternating between one dish and feeding her steadily. She didn’t know how to do that anymore. I just sat and watched.

“Sorry that the kitchen is such a mess, would you mind cleaning it after we are done. Then you can iron…I just don’t do well with the iron at all, he commented.

By his tone of voice, he wanted household responsibilities to take precedence such as cleaning and laundering. Not feeding his wife of 50 years; the latter was his job and his job only with never ending love and patience.

“She loved to cook and the holidays were always here at the house. She would invite neighbors, friends that didn’t have a place at a festive, dining room table with the best of food. I was out working in one job after another”. I really didn’t pay attention to what went on in the kitchen” I came and just ate,” he said, a sad tone escalating, “Why didn’t I tell her then…. I don’t know.”

“She knows, I am sure of it,” I responded assuredly.  Because of what you are doing right now.”

“It is the least I can do,” he said, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Quite, I said. Though her beauty had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s and other physical issues, to the unknowing eye anyway. Never to his.

She turned to meet his gaze. In a whisper, she said, “Thank you,”.

Unsure whether she was thanking him for his compliments or just a reciprocation for his efforts, it was a thank you with emotional meaning and trust.

He told me more about their life together, the minute he met her…. knowing that it was just natural for him to feel comfortable, the sense of humor they both shared, the instinctive level of intelligence they had assumed.

“No problems?” I asked though I knew that only fairy tales were without those.

“Of  course,” he said but I learned that women think differently than men.  It was probably better for me to just nod and accept. I have two daughters.I will never quite understand them either. I guess that is okay….it worked for us.”

“And women should just stop trying to figure you guys out as well,” I laughed.  He agreed.

Filling the spoon more slowly and gently nudging her to eat one more bite, he smiled at her, as their eyes briefly met.

“I guess with her beside me all these years, that is all I have ever really needed. You know you are with the right one when you lay your head on the pillow, place your arm around her and close your eyes to sleep.

You just know!

Lost in love

Lost in the past websites not only bring back detailed memories of events and places but can make you quite the historian. No, Kresge’s didn’t close that year, but Zayres did. Scary that many don’t know the real statistics.

And as I scroll with a midlife friend born the same year, we scream out the name of the person, place or thing with recognized excitement; we sing the phone number or song that was repeatedly drilled from one ad to the next in out childhood….will probably still remember to sing during our future days of dementia.  We stop for a moment at the photo of W.T Grants, a United States chain of low priced mass merchandise which briefly gives me the chills as I recount my missing child experience when I was only four or five.

I slowly turned and Mom wasn’t there. I just walked down the same aisle and I would be sure to see her and no Mom. So I turned down the next aisle, a little bit more quickly, a little more panicked…no Mom. The next aisle looked exactly the same as the last, cloth, linen that appeared colorless through my unmanageable tears….no Mom. Finally, someone grabbed my hand,

No, we will find her…. a saleslady had said. How did she know?

I was only sobbing a little by this point and the kind lady walked me to the service deck and I had to crane my neck to face the women behind it who asked me my name. I admitted no shame and spoke it clearly. It was strange to hear my name announced on the loud speaker. It was strange to hear my last name pronounced correctly. That was always an exception to the rule. But she found me…did not leave me stranded.

So we continue on our journey down memory lane, buying our first records at Rose, ski jackets at Robert Hall, Buster Brown Shoes and helped collect our S & H green stamps to buy a phonograph. Strange, how we all went to the same places for the same stuff at the same time.

Finally, the dining experience begins with chuckles of neighborhoods Chicken Unlimited, Aunt Jemina’s kitchen, Howard Johnson’s breakfasts, Cals Roast Beef and of Uncles Als barbeque, hotdogs, polish sausage. It seems like there is an Uncles Al’s for everyone’s eating pleasure across the county.

But when we begin to visit the photos of the more elite restaurants of our time, our moods become more contemplative of our own unique dates, desires. and turning points. It was the Chez Paree my friend celebrated prom.

For me, instead of prom, I chose a Jethro Tull concert instead but, yes I do remember the formal restaurants.  It was at Dunlap’s restaurant opened in 1935 that my fathers handwork in glass was displayed behind the bar and only polished until the restaurants closing in the early part of the millennium. A tear descended, while envisioning elegant ladies and their partners, sitting at the bar, my own Mom and Dad gazing with satisfaction in the smoked glass mirror beyond.

We began to crawl through the pictures to maintain our emotional composure. and suddenly, The Deacons Bench was discovered, boosting eighteenth century decor with hurricane lamps on the tables, scattered benches with embroidered seats and crisp red and white checked table clothes, My first visit when I was 10 with my Mom and best friend for lunch, mesmerized at being able to truly step back in time, my second visit for lunch with my Mom when I was twenty one; her sternly lecturing me about my after hours social life even though we lived apart.

Was I really too frivolous in those days?

Though a great work ethic, my free time had its moments of carelessness. Savings in the bank, a fleeting thought. Maybe, I should have been planning for the retirement that I don’t have now.  Finally, the Green Shingle restaurant that had somehow captured the most love in the early 60’s. It was my first date with my Dad in my best dress, shoes and gloves. It was my first steak sandwich medium rare but would not be last. It was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students after my Dad passed away. A college professor who passed away from cancer a few years ago. And finally, a date with my first boyfriend as we first held hands at the candle lit table.; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Until today, I never realized that we had all shared the same place. A Dad, a lifelong mentor and my first love in a building who enclosed the magic of it all.  Though the restaurant is part of that which is lost.  Love never is. Though life moves on to another dimension, the surrounding spirit remains as long as I do.

The friend I sit and laugh with today; another love of a new day.  How wonderful it is to be reminded. How wonderful it is to be loved.

Beverly Hills Chicago,then and now

Located on the southwestern edge of Chicago, my mother grew up in Beverly during the early 1920’s and 1930’s moving to Deland, Florida for her high school years in 1935. Her father worked for Illinois Bell and she would meet him at the 95th street train station Rock Island Railroad and walk home together along Longwood drive. There home was tiny compared to most. Father was in an executive position at Illinois Bell but a frugal man.

In the 1960’s, it was Beverly where my Aunt worked at Morris B Sachs on the corner of 95th and Western. It was in Beverly on 95th where my Mother bought my first French walnut bedroom set with desk and hutch that I still have.  Wilson Jump was one of the many vanished furniture stores.

My best friend and I would ride the bus down 95th west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited into the shopping mall which is still there but stores have changed. I can remember visiting Mary Jane Shoes, Lyttons, Chas A Stevens and,of courses Carson which is still there but remodeled. My aunt worked there too.

Unfortunately, I also remember Beverly where my fathers funeral and wake took place in 1967 and the funeral home is now a health food store.

Today, Beverly is still a beautiful area with street lamps trimming 95th street, its major thorough fare. Beverly features prestigious, architecturally designed homes which includes the famous Frank Lloyd Wright and George Washington Maher. Many are featured on the historic Longwood Drive where your will now find the Beverly Unitarian Church which was once a resident castle built in 1886.  This house at 10200 S. Longwood Drive was built in 1890 by Horace Horton, the owner of Chicago Bridge and Iron Company.

Open since 1942, Top Notch Beefburger is another great place to stop for a burger and a shake. The burgers are ground daily and come on a toasted bun.  Oreo shakes are an excellent choice along with fresh, cut fries.

If you are just looking to have dessert, at Western and 92nd street is a place your should never miss during the spring and summer months; the Original Rainbow Cone Ice Cream that opens March 4th.  Josep Sapp worked as a Buick mechanic by day and operated a small rainbow cone ice cream shop in 1926, the same location it is today.

At the time, this area was not considered Chicago, however, there were century old cemeteries that Chicagoan’s liked to visit and guess were they would stop for a cone on their way back to the city. The original rainbow cone consists of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and orange sherbet.

Best of eating in Andersonville Chicago

Andersonville’s began in the 1850’s as a Swedish neighborhood and after the Chicago Fire, the entire commercial strip was dominated by Swedish businesses,  Today, Andersonville is comprised of unique, locally owned businesses of many cultures that add a strong sense of community to the neighborhood and has been known as another Mayberry, similar to the town in the Andy Griffith Show. Committed to encouraging unity in the neighborhood and hosting some of the best restaurants in the Chicago area, Andersonville prides itself in being known for its excellent service and prized cuisine.


On  north Clark Avenue, Anteprima offers a delectable and changing menu of wonderful Italian home style cooking.  Offering reasonable three course menus , Anteprima buys from local and organic producers whenever possible beginning every meal with rosemary salted bread sticks and ending with a dreamy chocolate hazel nut tart.  Enjoy beautifully presented pastas or break from the ordinary lunch with grilled octopus.  To compliment your dinner, high-quality Italian wines are available in carafes so you can have more than one glass.

m Henry

Looking for a great breakfast, brunch or lunch, m. henry offers an intercontinental breakfast served with a fresh baked muffin, scone or warm baguette and petite fruit salad served all day. However, known for their fried eggs sandwiches, m. Henry offers a wonderful organic coffee menu and a dandelion, shallot and leek omelet served with house potatoes. Some have also praised the quiche as being the best as well as perfect pancakes.

Big Jones

Inspired by the American South, Big Jones is known for its famous Southern heirloom cooking with Chef and Co Owner Paul Febribach who has been featured on Chicago radio with his recipes published in the Chicago Tribune, Sun-times and the Chicago Magazine just to name a few. Most recently Fehribach has been honored as a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Big Jones gives a taste of New Orleans by celebrating with Mardi Gras classics such as buttery king cake and more.


Cozy bar and biestro, Vincent is another great place to dine on Balmoral Ave. Adam Grandt began his career at the award winning Carlos Restaurant hired as Executive Chef at Sage Grill in 2008. Now his dynamic style adds nothing but accolades for his innovative presentations at Vincent.  Mussels in saffron or any style is one of diners favorites including big burgers and orange creme sickle mousse for dessert.  Mixed drinks are excellent along with exceptional classic meals.

Antica Pizzeria

Charming and an inexpensive experience, Antic Pizzeria  offers delicious Neapolitan pizza and menu choices that include tender calamari and house made desserts that include tiramisu. Mario Rapisarda (Cocco Pazzo, Spiaggia) and Faris Faycurry (Dylan’s Tavern, Villa Nova) combined their 25 years of expertise and created the Andersonville neighborhood’s first ever wood burning pizza oven.  Antica delivers and helps families prepare special events or create a wine tasting.

Hopleaf Bar

Awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourdman for 2016, Hopleaf Bar can also be a haven for great food. With a Belgian-inspired kitchen, Hopleaf offers a great mussels and frites experiences as well as an extensive collection of beers.  The first Monday of every month features Belgian Fried Chicken served with a Kwak in its famous glass. The Chicago Traveler praises HopLeaf  for its grilled cheese that is filled with cashew butter, cheese and fig jam, pan-fried on sourdough bread.

Hamburger Mary’s

When visiting Andersonville, Hamburger Mary’s is a must with perfectly cooked burgers and a variety of toppings to select. The fried ice cream is a great conclusion to any meal at this bar and grille. Hamburger Mary’s received the Good Neighbor Award in 2013 for being the business that best exemplifies the spirit of community support and customer service. Hamburger Mary’s franchises began in San Francisco and their motto is you are what you eat only offering the best in healthy ingredients.


Butternut squash soup, cucumber mint salad and a gluten-free winter risotto are some of the delectable’s waiting for you at Andies Restaurant. A delicious Mediterranean dining experience, Chef Andie Tamras brings some of the most worthy recipes from Tunisia and Morocco. A favorite for over 30 years, Andies plants their own vegetable garden as well as herbs such as basil, thyme and cilantro. Andies gives back by contributing to community service organizations such as Care for Real and Sarah’s circle

Jin Ju

The heart of Andersonville cuisine also offers traditional Korean dishes in a romantic setting with dimly lit candlelight. Jin Ju offers barbeque pork spare ribs marinated in a spicy sweet red pepper sauce and a great seaweed soup with scallions in a mussel broth. Their Mandoo soup is wonderful with dumplings, scallions and egg in a clear broth . Jin Ju also offers private events and can customize the menu to suit your party’s needs.

Lady Gregory’s

Floor to ceiling windows bring a passionate beauty to Lady Gregory’s in Andersonville. Inspired by Irish Victorian author, Lady Augusta Gregory quoted as the greatest living Irishwoman, this Irish bar and restaurant  is acclaimed for its lobster mac and shepherd’s pie. Also know for a whiskey selection of 300 and 100 beer s. Lady Gregory’s also provides an entire separate gluten free menu as well as a kids menu.  You can also order online for a curbside pickup. A true Celtic experience and a distinctive place to visit on Saint Patrick’s Day.

What does child poverty look like in your state?

Hopefully, 2018 will bring a better year to the poverty and homelessness crisis in the US. especially among individuals with long-term disabling conditions whose statistics increased in 2017. However, homelessness among families with children declined 5.4 percent nationwide since 2016, while local communities report the number of persons experiencing long-term chronic homelessness and veterans experiencing homelessness has increased according to Continuum of Care in Dupage County in Illinois.

“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets. This is not a federal problem—it’s everybody’s problem.”

As I walked an older woman  through the doors of First United Congregational Church of Downers Grove, she could barely speak and she pointed toward the sixth floor.  I knew exactly where she was going. I helped her as many have done for others looking for solutions.  I made sure she found a comfortable seat in the mass of people waiting to see a counselor. She thanked me with a tear in her eye as I looked around the room at so many young and old… children… who could not smile or greet me; their dignity ravished by their situation. Their only hope was Hopes Front Door.

Who or what is Hope’s Front Door?  In the southwestern suburbs of Chicago in Dupage County, Hope’s Front Door often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They play an integral role in ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and the overall communities they support. When clients walk through the doors, they determine their immediate needs. They help them with either food, medical, dental and/or transportation vouchers, plus a clear pathway into the network of social agencies that can assist them with the long-term restructuring of their lives, by helping move them out of living a “crisis to crisis existence”. They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in six local communities.

Childhood hunger is not just something that happens in other cities or counties. One in six children living in DuPage County experiences food insecurity. Everyday Hope’s Front Door provides food vouchers to help area families have access to fresh food.  Over 72,800 live in poverty in DuPage County, once known as a fairly stable employment community, with over 27,000 living in extreme conditions.

Unfortunately, to afford the average rent, according to a survey completed by Bridge Communities,who also connect homeless families to a better future, you would have to work 110 hours per week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment which is approximately 1,176 a month.  A one night survey conducted at Bridge on January 28th 2016 indicated that 642 persons in DuPage County were homeless on that night, an increase from 2014.

Through the help of their program partners and supporters, Bridge Communities provides free transitional housing to homeless DuPage County families each year. During the two years each family spends in their program, they are able to save money, learn budgeting skills, and obtain better employment, so they can live self-sufficiently once they graduate. I work with one of the families children who is doing exceedingly well and loves the new opportunities given; working hard to maintain a much more promising life.

Program supporters and partners are instrumental in helping the needs of their communities and there are many ways to give your support in volunteering or making a donation as well as becoming a partner. Area businesses have become an integral part of providing special services.

As a Chicago lifer living in the city and suburbs, I have watched the deterioration of many families due to job loss, high cost of living, low wages and no adequate health care; many who are friends as well as my family. Some who are older and been homeless for many months have just chosen to mark time in emergency shelters..hoping that illness will help them leave this life quickly. Others continue to struggle with one crisis after another; losing just a little bit more of themselves as the days go on. Though, somehow, someway, they do believe in God’s love for them.  I guess we all have our priorities such as fair rights for women, gun control, ant-political protests, racism………but what about this?


New Years Eve in Chicago

As a child at home, it was about watching the ball drop in New York at 11 Central on TV and then turning on whatever Chicago hosted an hour later for a second New Year’s eve celebration. Sometimes I didn’t make it past 11 pm. On occasion, we would go to a friends house to spend the night. I would play with the other kids upstairs and of course, the parents would do the unspeakable…have fun…dance to the sounds of Mitch Miller in their finished basement.

Sometimes other shows were on that hosted Guy Lombardo’s Band playing Auld Lang Syne; his final New Year’s Eve appearance took place in New York, 1976. Not many may remember him.  And if Guy Lombardo traveled to Chicago, many celebrated bringing in the New Year at the Aragon Ballroom to listen to his orchestra, which was a powerhouse attraction in the 1940s.

Aragon is still in existence today at West Lawrence Ave in Uptown Chicago. The Aragon was known as one of the most elegant ballrooms in the world and has a capacity of 5,000 still offering live entertainment.

If my parents went out for a New Years Eve extravaganza, it was also to the beautiful Edgewater Beach Hotel, a resort hotel complex on Lake Michigan that featured such stars as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. Other new year celebrations included live music at the Willowbrook Ballroom, that had a history of over 80 years entertainment before it was destroyed by fire just a couple of years. A variety of big bands would take the stage for dancing events that occurred on a 6,000 square foot dance floor.

Over the decades, restaurants, ballrooms and historic tradition have come and gone but for those who celebrate at home in front of their screens, you can still watch the ball drop in New York and catch other Chicago New Year’s festivities from all media, too numerous to mention. Certainly not on only four to eight channels back in the day.

Today, popular celebrations that have created timeless tradition in Chicago is a trip to Navy Pier where you can enjoy entertainment and family attractions. Navy Pier offers exquisite cruises along the lakefront with an amazing fireworks display on New Years Eve.

Reserve a table to celebrate New Years at a fine restaurant in Chicago that offers the best six course cuisine at the new West Loop, Bellemore. In the Western suburbs, you may want to try the most popular Meson Sabika in Naperville where you can enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner at this fine Spanish tapas restaurant.

Maybe your New Years Eve is just centered around pizza delivery, lots of wine and banging pots and pans in your yard with the little ones.  Regardless of how you spend the evening,hopefully, the New Year will bring to you nothing less than an abundance of health, happiness and peace.

Happy New Year!

Decades of holiday decorations

Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the early 1960’s, for my Dad, it was the Christmas Tree. The Christmas tree that was real. Not the fake trees that were first metal, silver and generally had coordinated ball ornaments that were all the same.  The metal tree also rotated in a stand to music with floor lights. My father had to have an 8ft real tree with over 600 colored bulb lights where two lights of the same color were never together, bubble lights which were effectively scattered as well as intricate ornaments  placed with care on each branch to compliment the space. Tinsel was hung one string at a time. And that was it…sometimes he would put colored lights to frame his creation around the front window facing the street.  The tree took hours, sometimes days to complete but it was his masterpiece and still remembered by many today.

After Dad passed away , I tried to carry on the tradition in the 1970’s for my Mother. She switched to a fake, green tree with the new Italian lights and garland while living in Dolton.

And then during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Christmas became more involved with my own little ones and the art of decorating traveled outdoors. I also worked for Christmas Around the World part-time and still have the manger scene today. Now, it wasn’t about just the Christmas tree, though we did have a perfect cathedral ceiling foyer to show off our large green, fake tree. It was about the entire house even changing out the art work to celebrate the holiday. It was about stringing lights to frame the garage and wrapping the garage with ribbon.

And the new millennium came and it was still about Christmas trees, though now we had switched to white lights and lace lights trimmed the porch and frame.  The fake tree finally fell apart and still in the same house with the cathedral ceiling all these years, we are back to a real tree from Home Depot and unfortunately, not quite as large. Though the indoor decorations have remained, the outdoor lights have broken, wreaths have withered, faded, a wooden replica of Rudolph has lost its leg and Santa flying his sleigh with his plastic reindeer have seen much better days.

As for this year specifically, I have had help, we have scaled back as far as outdoor decorations though the weather in Chicago has been unseasonably warm.  A deck decorated in lights from last year still works and flower pots from summer are left in their spots filled now with fake poinsettia leaves and maybe other items from the dollar store.  An easy fix.

It is a little sad for me as I leave for work everyday and think …..hmmm….maybe today when I come home, I will add a few more decorations outside. Though I haven’t yet.

But when I do leave in the morning, it is strange that the sign of hope by my driveway seems to be especially illuminated with light from the sun, sky or the spirit world. Every morning it gives off an unusual brilliance….a special message.

Many friends and family have passed away through the decades, and maybe this is there way of telling me that it doesn’t matter what kind of costly decorations we have to celebrate the holiday season, as long as we share the sign of hope with others, there is nothing else that is more vibrant….more important! There is always hope if we truly believe.

Just thankful

The last day of school was my birthday. Now I am old enough to legally retire but I won’t. It was also Grandparents/ Grand friends Day, surrounded by those that know and truly get me. Not one myself…yet But certainly a celebratory holiday before Thanksgiving break. And when I walked into my first grade class yesterday, the other teacher had a plant, chocolate which I can’t live without, and a beautiful portrait of the twenty three girls and boys holding a Happy Birthday sign.  Then as they do for all birthdays in the classroom, they put together a birthday book for me to treasure. I found out that I was osum (awesome), amazing , nice and actually smart. Who knew?

As the day went on Grandparents visited sharing how we had to walk to school, did not have IPADS and didn’t get a holiday called Grandparents Day when we were growing up. Later in the day after the grand group left, we switched gears and decided to focus on the final turkey project: what I was thankful for this year.  I made one too and it didn’t take me long to write how thankful I was for all of them in the classroom.

The day was not over after coming home to Happy Birthday decorations, hundreds of beautiful Facebook messages which I truly appreciated. Finally, the end of the day approached with a wonderful meal at my favorite restaurant with family.

Today, I decided to think about my own writing of what I was Thankful for back in my day when I was a child. I wonder if  had written a thankful message in first grade? Probably not, because I was not very good in that particular grade. I wondered what my own children had been thankful….probably just an extended holiday from school.

I saved many of my own elementary writings that I had recently bound in a book  according to dates through the years.

So I opened the cover of the book today and was shocked to find one of the first writings saved. It was written on November 21, 1967, my birthday just fifty years ago yesterday…..just. I had just turned 12 and it was written in cursive with ,of course, my favorite type of pen, the blue cartridge. And at the top of the paper it said Warren School, Room 104, Grade 7.

I was thankful for Thanksgiving in the Country

I can’t wait to eat my aunt’s turkey, cranberries, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy on Thanksgiving Day. My cousin will be there and we can talk and play games. After dinner we will probably take a ride in the country and see the leaves of red, brown and gold fall from  the trees. We may even see snow. My aunts pumpkin pie will taste good after the long ride. When it is time to leave, I will say to my self “I wish it would never end” but then if it weren’t for the Pilgrims, we would not have this wonderful day to enjoy every year.

Yes, it was family tradition to travel about an hour from the southside of Chicago to a small town just south of Kankakee…in fact there were two towns. When I was very young, it was Kempton where my mother’s family was raised, the small town with the big heart sign always greeted us at the turn off to town and in later years, it was in Cullom, only about 500 people, where my cousins were in charge of dinner just a few miles from Kempton.  Here we would join family for a Thanksgiving feast many who have passed and some who I still keep in touch today.

And my first graders are better writers than I ever was…..

Regardless of whether you are dining together with family or friends in the city or country or spending sometime alone…..Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!