Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life Is Complicated

Many years ago I learned my dad was not my real dad. This disclosure was significant! For a long time, I kept it to myself because I was embarrassed and ashamed. Then in my later years I shared it with close family members and in my faith story which I gave at many services at my church.

About three years ago, one of my half brothers contacted me and asked if I could have lunch with him and his wife. Of course I agreed. After all, these are friends I grew up with in my church. Around this same time I met up with my half sister at her home in Arizona. We had nice conversations—catching up on each other's family—but the subject of my relationship to them never came up . . . until about two or three weeks ago. My half sister and I were talking on the phone—she lives many states away from me now. She brought up the fact that I had sung at her father's funeral and at the time her mother had advised her not to ask me. She told me her mother said, "You can't ask her because she knows." My half sister said she wanted me to sing because I had such a beautiful voice, and so I was asked and consequently I sang at his service, not knowing he was my biological father. She said a few more things and then I asked her what she meant by, "You can't ask her because she knows." I know what? She was quiet for a moment, and after the silence, I came out with "That I know your father is my biological father?" and she said, "Yes." Then the hush-hush information was out in the open.

I gave all of these details because Tuesday I got an email message from my older half-brother informing me my other half-brother died Monday night. He died suddenly, and unexpectedly. His obituary can be read here.  Later that day I got a phone call from my half-sister with the same news. She and I must have talked for an hour or more. All of this has left me a bit sad. While I wasn't close to him and hadn't seen  him since his mother's funeral in 1996, it affects me. Life is complicated.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

It's Time to Purge


Over the years, I have been a collector—not a hoarder. There is a big difference. I have had spoon collections; Amish decor such as faceless dolls, prayer caps, wall quilt, and even authentic Amish children's used clothes, hung on Amish made wooden hangers; ruby red glassware, milkglass (vases, baskets, etc.); cobalt blue collection of vases and other beautiful cobalt blue pieces; cranberry glass vases and pitchers; DVDs and VHS tapes; long play records; cookbooks (I had over 375 of them!); salt glazed pottery; you get the idea. I have no idea of the dollar amount I have spent over the years for these and other items. Knowing what I do now, I wish I had had more control. But I digress.

I'm now collecting empty bins. It''s a good thing!

Another car trunk full on my way to Value Village
In the last few months, I have begun purging. I have gone through clothes closets, book cases, and bins in my garage. I have made many trips to a local charity and am making progress. I have a lot to go through, but I'm committed to do this.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Weekend with My Friend, Joannie

Saturday I flew to Chicago to spend the weekend with my dear friend, Joannie. Joannie is an MD practicing at the University of Chicago. I met her in 1993 at my church when she was in her residency here in Minnesota.


Joannie picked me up at the airport in her yellow VW Beetle convertible—with the top down. The weather in the Chicago area was beautiful, so it was appropriate. We took off from the airport and headed to the Skyway which would take us to Indiana where we would visit Joannie's sister who is in a nursing home and then visit my Aunt Ginny who recently moved to a lovely assisted living home.

Aunt Ginny and yours truly

Entrance to Moody Church

Choir and orchestra and Moody Church


Sunday we walked (two miles) to Moody Church. I had never been there before but had heard so many good things about it. First off, I was so impressed with the choir. There must have been 120 or 130 voices, and some were young people and some were older. Some wore robes and some didn't. There was also a full orchestra. I loved the music that was selected. And then came the sermon. I really enjoyed that, too.

Abraham Lincoln statue in Lincoln Park

After church we walked about a block to Lincoln Park. A docent was there explaining to a bicycle tour group that this place used to be a cemetery were a couple thousand people were buried. At the same time a cholera outbreak occurred and the authorities determined the dead bodies buried so near Lake Michigan, their main source of drinking water back then, were the cause, so volunteers were solicited to dig up the bones and move them to a different location.

Chicago skyline

My friend, Dr. Joannie

From there we walked a short ways to a tunnel that took us under Lake Shore Drive. We made our way to a short wall where we sat to watch the water and people, plus take in the Chicago skyline. It  was such a lovely spot.

 
After a time, we walked about a half mile and again crossed under Lake Shore Drive. We were on a street with beautiful homes. I am sure they were pricey! I could imagine a movie being filmed in this location.

A few blocks from this the area changed to commercial buildings. Joannie knew of a fabulous restaurant there called "Hashbrowns Cafe." We went in and it didn't take me long to know this was going to be great. I ordered the blueberry pancakes and they were the best I have ever eaten!

Blueberry pancakes with vanilla sauce and strawberry jam


Monday, May 29, 2017

Be Sure You Read the Document Before Clicking "Purchase."



My friend Bonnie picked me up at 6:30 am Saturday to drive me to the airport for my 8:30 flight to Chicago. Once in the terminal, I printed my boarding pass and made my way to the gate (which was about as far away from the entrance as possible). Once at the gate, I was struck with concern because no one was there – not one customer or agent. This prompted me to look at the monitor to see if my gate had been changed. To my surprise, my flight was not listed. Then looking down the hallway, I noticed a man wearing a suit with a Delta insignia on it so I approached him and told him my situation. "Ma'am, your ticket is for 8:30 PM." What?? How could this be?! I told him I had to get to Chicago. What could I do? He got on a computer and checked for another flight. He found one and told me there were two standby spots remaining. I had to head to another gate (not near by), for the 9 AM flight and hope to get on it.

I arrived at the new gate and spoke to the agent at the desk. She told me my name was on the "list." So, I waited, and waited. The gate area became more crowded and noisy. Shortly before the boarding commenced, the agent announced the flight was overbooked and she was asking for 16 volunteers to take a later flight. She first offered $400 per person. Then the price rose to $500. There were several people who approached the desk. I was thinking I'll never get on this flight! Now she was offering $800 per person. I was watching my name on the monitor to see if she was going to put a seat number behind it. After all the passengers had boarded, I heard my name announced and approached the desk. She gave me a new boarding pass. I was the last one on the plane and my seat was in business class. Whew! I learned a big lesson: read carefully before hitting "Purchase."

 

Friday, May 12, 2017

New York City, Day Three

Since Donna, Amy, Andrea, Morgan and Montana spent the night in the city, we were able to walk the couple of blocks from our hotel to meet them and walk through part of the "Garment District" to get to the subway. Along the way, we walked along the Fashion Walk of Fame and saw many of the big designer's plaques embedded in the sidewalks.



Going on the subway for the seven of us was a lot of fun. I was a lucky one to get a seat! This could be due to me walking with my cane and a passenger having pity on me.



L to R: Andrea, Heidi, yours truly, Montana, Amy

We took the subway to the station nearest the St. George Ferry Terminal where we boarded the ferry to Staten Island. From this ferry we had a great view of the Statue of Liberty.


The ride on the ferry was really relaxing and gave us time to visit and people watch. After making the round trip we walked toward Trinity Church taking time to have lunch in a little shop on the way.

Trinity Church is an Episcopal church on Wall Street which was founded in 1697. President Washington and Alexander Hamilton were regular worshipers there.

Amy, Donna and Montana outside Trinity Church

Grave stones at Trinity Church

Alexander Hamilton's grave stone

Only a block or two away is the 9/11 Memorial. I had been there before, so sat and watched others as they made their way around the memorial pools.


Heidi and Andrea
After spending some time at the memorial, we boarded the subway again and went to Chelsea Market. Since I had been there the previous day, I returned to my resting place in the market and the owner of the restaurant provided me with a big glass bottle of water and a nice drinking glass. Perfect! An hour or so later, some of our group formed across the hallway from me and took a well deserved break.



We took an Uber ride back to our relatives' hotel and bid them farewell. It was a wonderful, fun-filled time spent together and I believe it was a birthday Amy will long remember. Heidi and I were pretty well spent, so we stopped in a little shop on the way to our hotel and each bought a slice of pizza to eat in our room. On the way back, Heidi took this photo of me:


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New York City, Day Two

Friday morning Heidi's college friend, Angie, came into the city from upstate New York to spend part of the day with Heidi and me. It was really nice to see her again. We were pretty much ready when she arrived so we contacted Lyft and got a ride to Chelsea Market. This is an old building that was formerly the National Biscuit Company — Nabisco. Inside it is a food hall, shopping mall, and a television production area for both YouTube and the Food Network. The sidewalks inside range from smooth to cobble stone. And people—there were hundreds of them.

Our first stop was a chocolate shop. Heidi tasted a sample brownie and said it was dry. So we walked out of there. But it was only a couple of shops away where we found this store.


Walking along we slipped into a little hallway where we saw elevators to the YouTube studio and the Food Network. We thought we might see someone familiar enter this elevator, but no such luck.


I didn't want to shop so I found a place to sit and enjoyed watching the myriad of people. It was fascinating. I saw many, many people stop to have their photo taken at this sign.


After awhile, the girls returned to where I was sitting and we found a place to have lunch. We were fortunate to find a place to sit down. As I mentioned before, this mall was packed with people! While we were eating Heidi told me there was an archway of lights they wanted me to see. It was really pretty.

 

When we had had enough, we contacted Uber. By then it was pouring rain. The Uber car parked on the opposite side of the street so we had to cross over and got drenched. It was raining so hard, it was difficult for the driver to see—not that it matters, because the drivers in NYC make up their own driving lanes!


Angie stuck around in our hotel room for awhile and we had a great visit. She is a pharmacist, so it was interesting talking to her about medications and such. She and her husband have three children.

After Angie left, Heidi and I got ready for our big evening. Our dinner reservation was for 5 pm at Carmine's Italian Restaurant. Since it was still raining, we contacted Uber to take us there. Heidi and I got there early, so we sat at the bar. That was really fun because the bartender spoke to us a lot. He didn't mind us sitting there at all, and it gave me a chance to look around and notice each chandelier was unique. Also, it was fun to watch him interact with the paying customers. When the rest of our party arrived, we were taken upstairs to our table. This restaurant reminded me of Buca di Beppo – very Italian with food served family style.

L to R: Amy, yours truly, Heidi, Andrea, Donna, Montana, and Morgan

We ordered beverages and one appetizer: fried zucchini strips, which were yummy. I had raspberry lemonade to drink. We also ordered a delicious salad.


For our entrees, we ordered spaghetti with meatballs, manicotti, and chicken alla romana.



When we had eaten all we cared to, we ordered the strawberry shortcake for dessert and told our waiter it was for Amy's birthday. He told me he and the other waiters would come to our table and sing a rousing "Happy Birthday" to Amy.




And now it was time to go to the Broadway show, "Hello, Dolly!" staring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. It was located in the Schubert Theatre which is across the street from Carmine's.


As we stood in line to enter, I could feel the excitement in the air. We entered the beautiful theatre and found our seats which were in the second row of the balcony.

L to R: yours truly, Heidi, Donna, Morgan, Montana, Andrea, Amy, and Andrea's neighbors Ellen and Pat




The musical was fabulous! The audience erupted in applause and whistles when Bette made her initial appearance. At intermission I learned Heidi and Andrea had never seen the play or movie and had no idea what the storyline was. I think this made it extra special for them.

As Dolly Levi (played by Bette Midler) entered the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, the waiters began singing "Hello Dolly," and the audience in the Schubert Theatre gave her a standing ovation. I had no idea Bette Midler was so well loved! I believe this birthday celebration for Amy will be one she will always remember.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

New York City, Day One

Last Thursday I met my daughter at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. It was the start of a very special long weekend—a weekend to celebrate my niece Amy's 50th birthday. After leaving my gate, we made our way to the outside of the terminal and waited for our Lyft transportation to take us to our hotel in midtown Manhattan. We soon discovered our driver was a very good tour guide. He made the ride very enjoyable.

Once we got situated in our hotel room, Heidi sent a text to my niece Andrea to see where she and the others in our family were so, if possible, we could meet them for lunch before they had to go to Andrea's for the night. They were at St. Patrick's Cathedral and said they would wait for us to come. So we started out for the twelve or so blocks. Thank goodness I had brought my cane with me! I knew there would be lots of walking and the cane makes it possible. Once we found them, we walked to a place where we could eat. It was really nice seeing them!

L to R: Donna Mae, Morgan, Amy, Andrea, Montana, Heidi, yours truly

After the others departed, Heidi and I made our way to Rockefeller Center, stopping by the Magnolia Bakery first that was just around the corner. Everything in the bakery looked tempting, but I settled on a big slab of German chocolate cake, which, by the way, was an excellent choice!

Yummy things in the Magnolia Bakery

Yours truly eating German chocolate cake

My sweet daughter

Rockefeller Center
 
It was really nice to sit in this famous setting, enjoying the sights and eating our treats. The weather was perfect—not too warm and not chilly. Just right.

After our respite, we set out for the Empire State Building. I don't remember how far away it was, but off we went. Once inside, it was fun seeing the front desk on the first floor of the office building where Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle stopped to ask permission to go to the top.

We snaked our way through lines to buy our tickets and then proceeded up the elevator to the 86th Floor Observatory. On this level, we could walk around all sides of the building, allowing us to see 80 miles in each direction! Looking to the west, we looked down on part of the U.S.S. Intrepid aircraft carrier that has now become a museum. My brother served on this magnificent vessel during the Vietnam war. President Trump was expected to make a speech on the carrier that evening and from our vantage point, we could see many police cars with their lights flashing on the nearby streets.

We stayed on this observatory for quite awhile. I was enjoying hearing all of the diverse languages. I also loved seeing the excitement with the young children.

Looking south toward Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty
After looking around the gift shop, we got back into the elevator that took us to the 102nd Floor Observatory. I had not been there before. It's the highest observatory in the city – 1,250 feet above ground. It was awesome!

Walking back toward our hotel, we agreed it would be good to have dinner in the steakhouse across the street from it. It turned out to be a good decision. Both of us were very tired and we enjoyed sitting down to eat a fine meal. I mentioned to Heidi I wondered how far I had walked and she showed me an app. on my phone that showed I had walked seven miles! I never, never could have done it without my cane.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Dear Friends and Old Memories

Last week I flew to Chicago and my dear friends, Jack and Jean, picked me up at the airport and took me to Joliet to spend a couple of days with them.

Arriving in Joliet, Jack asked what I would like to see, so he drove us past the church where Steve and I served for nearly ten years. The church, which was sold to another faith years ago, still looks cared for and vibrant. Down the short alleyway is the parsonage which we lived in for five years. Hans celebrated his first birthday there, and we lived there when Peder was born.


Old parsonage
We drove past Anselmino's where we used to buy our meat. We loved the Italian bulk sausage we bought there—used it in spaghetti sauce and on our pizzas. The store is no longer, but it brought back good memories. Next we drove out to where Hans started elementary school—Union School. He attended his kindergarten through second grade there.

Union School
Not far from Union School was our new (new in October 1975) parsonage. We moved into it in October of that year. A couple of years later Heidi was born while living there.


The day we moved into this new home, our new neighbors from across the road, the Eich's, walked over to meet us. I'll always remember their welcome: a nice cake in a Tupperware cake container. Doris, the mom, introduced herself and her three daughters to us and told us the girls were available if we ever needed a babysitter. This was the beginning of a dear, dear friendship. We took them up on the babysitting offer! They no longer live in that house, but 21 years ago built a house that is very close to Wooddard's.

Just down the road from this parsonage is the Joliet NASCAR race track. It is located in what was farmland when we lived there.



Next Jack drove us to where the former U. S. Army Arsenal was located. This spot has been changed into a lovely cemetery for veterans. It is called the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.



After touring the cemetery, we drove to the Eich's and spent a couple of hours visiting. It was so nice to catch up with them again.

 
L to R: Bob, Doris, yours truly, Jean, Jack

L to R: Bob, Doris, yours truly, and Joanne
That evening we went to see Jeannine, who is one of Jack and Jean's daughters. Jeannine and her husband have four very nice kids. Their household is busy, but I got to meet each of them over a couple of hours. It was very enjoyable.

L to R: Juliana, Jack, Jean

L to R: Jean, Jeannine, Juliana, yours truly
The next day we got to tour a portion of Joliet Central High School. In the ten years we lived there, I was never inside this beautiful building. Jeannine works in the special education part of this school.



We visited the classroom where Jeannine assists and had lunch together. I was very impressed with the school and the program for those with special needs.

Next Jack asked me what I would like to do, so I said it would be nice to see our friend, Florine. I called her and asked her if she would like to go for a ride through Pilcher Park with us and she agreed. Joliet was really in "spring mode" with tulips, daffodils, and flowering trees. It was really lovely.



Driving through Pilcher Park we spotted white and red trillium in bloom.  They were really pretty.



That evening we joined our good friends, Dee and Bob, at my favorite Joliet area restaurant, the White Fence Farm. They are famous for their fried chicken and delicious corn fritters.


Corn fritters

Fried chicken

John, one of Jack and Jean's grandsons. Notice the chickens in the carpet!