Monday, November 30, 2009



Do you believe in Miracles?
Well all the angels do,
If you knew our friend Miracle
Then you'd believe them too.

The miracles that she performs
Delight us through the ages,
From magic to the unicorns
To wisdom from the sages.

The Miracle of faith is one,
Friendship is another,
The Golden Rule, the golden sun,
A baby with its Mother.

Why Miracles are everywhere,
They're in a child's eyes,
A tree, a leaf beyond compare,
The colors in the skies.

The Miracle of planet earth
We're told by all our teachers,
Is way beyond a scale of worth
When weighing all God's creatures.

The greatest gift they say of all
through laughter, joy and strife,
All God's angels simply call,
The Miracle of life.

Or maybe on a mountain top
Or in a valley wide,
Or any place that makes you stop
Where angels play and hide.

thanks to N. A. Noel and John Wm. Sisson for inspiration xo

Sunday, November 29, 2009



Everyday with Humility
We always make our way,
She gives us the ability
To humble what we say.

We always seek her tender eyes
When cast in our direction,
We're humbled as we realize
The depth of her affection.

Humility sits there with grace
She waits upon the faithful,
And humbly she sets a place
For even those ungrateful.

Humility with charity
An honored way to give,
A gift from your sincerity
That helps another live.

Humility in all we do
Though through this life we stumble,
In every age they always knew
That God rewards the humble.

And flowers in the early spring
On hill or forest lawn,
What would a heavenly angel sing
To greet them every dawn?

thanks to N. W. Noel and John Wm. Sisson xo

Saturday, November 28, 2009

peace & harmony


Here are two that are so close
They always stay in tune;
How could we have the shining sun
Without the silvery moon?

The only way that you'll find Peace
Is finding Harmony,
And when you find the two of them
They both will set you free.

Just sit there still with Harmony
And close your eyes with Peace,
And soon you'll feel an inner strength
From a source that will not cease.

It's when there's Peace and Harmony
That all of us can grow;
Beyond those of our wildest dreams,
Beyond yet what we know.

Side by side and on through time
go Peace and Harmony,
And trust me when you find the one
There will the other be.

Have you heard an angel pray,
Perhaps for love and grace?
What would an angel have to say
In such a heavenly place?

Thanks to N. A. Noel & John Wm. Sisson for sharing your angels

Friday, November 27, 2009

black friday

L-O-L-A looks exactly how we feel after the big feast yesterday.
Thanksgiving gives us permission to eat once a day - all day. Indulgence is the magic word and we all had our fill of food, libations, caffeine, desserts, conversation and enough hugs to last until the next holiday in a few weeks.
This year we house hopped between ours and Mike's so we did get a little fresh air to get us through round 3 and 4.
We must have done alright for most of us woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and breakfast was delightful. I refrained from visiting any shopping mall and stayed home to freshen up and watch Wayne garnish our gutters with LED lights that I have coveted the last three years. He connected the new Bose 321 GSX and now we can enjoy Adam Lambert with gusto.
I am still in gratitude mode and wish everyone a healthy, happy holiday season. If it gets too overwhelming, take a deep breath, exhale slowly and be still. xo

Thursday, November 26, 2009

giving thanks

Bless us, O Lord, for these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

happy 18th birthday steven

You made it the that point in life where you are still a boy and becoming a man. Alice Cooper got it right in his song 18. Don't always know what I'm talking about, it's like I'm living in the middle of doubt.. I'm 18 and I like it, love it. And you will, sweet son.

This is a huge turning point for you - probably a little more so than most - for you have already experienced things in life that some people never will. Your view of life at such a tender age is a gift and testament of your sage inspiration.

You are our youngest son and entering this stage of life enables you to have many privileges and more responsibility. You are becoming independent and able to make purchases such as lottery tickets. Win some for Big Daddy. You are able to vote, get married and also be charged as an adult. As parents we will continue to love and nurture you, and your brothers, forever. You make your choices and suffer your consequences. We are always here for you to lean on but it is your world now. Think carefully pertaining to your path in life as the choices you make now affect your future. College of DuPage and Columbia are great venues to further your education but always remember life situations offer tremendous knowledge. When you fall down, get back up. Dust yourself off, try again. Repeat if necessary. Keep making time to smell the orchids. Feel joy in your life by playing the piano and painting. Connect with God through his gardens. Be with those you love and cherish them. You are the sun in sunflower. The love you take is equal to the love you make. The world is your oyster.

Enjoy your birthday and make a wish, only then can it come true. We all love you. Be happy. xo

Tuesday, November 24, 2009



Wisdom is an angel friend you'll find
When you explore,
Through knowledge and experience
What lies behind life's door.

Wisdom leads you from the darkness
Moving toward the light,
By teaching you to find the wrong
And turn it into right.

Wisdom moves with generations
Father to the Son,
A cycle of renewal
Making Mother, Daughter one.

With Wisdom comes enlightenment
Of who we really are,
Living beings on a planet
Circling 'round a star.

Wisdom with her nature's crown
Will light upon your being,
The flowering of her glory
So much more than we are seeing.

For each of us to everyone just like
A simple flower,
Becomes a living sample of the
Beauty of God's power.

Wisdom's universal song for
Humankind is true,
You must do unto others what you
Wish done unto you.

thanks to N. A. Noel and John Wm. Sisson xo

Monday, November 23, 2009

lastone massage

LaStone therapy is the application of thermotherapy, using deep penetrating heated stones and alternating with extremely cold stones. Using different temperatures, whether hot or cold, on the body to bring about a certain reaction has been done for eons. Adjusting temperatures in bodywork to aid clients in healing has always been beneficial. This allows people to reconnect to the inner strength of Mother Earth.

Remember what it was like as a child when you would lay upon the earth and feel as though nothing was wrong in your life? People are searching for that sense of well being. We have forgotten where to find it.

In this fast paced society that we live in, we rarely take time to go out doors and lie in the belly of our mother, not realizing that we need the connection to Mother Earth. That is why LaStone therapy is so popular. The energies of the stones remind us of our connection to Mother Earth, allowing us to feel cradled and protected. Two types of stones are used.

Basalt is modified igneous rock that is formed by volcanic and sedimentary action. Basalt is the most abundant of the volcanic rocks and is made up of polycrystalline olivine, an iron-magnesium silicate. The olivine basalt is a fine-grained, black stone that is very dense and forms fine crystalline masses. Stones are formed downwind of a volcano and have cooled slowly, changed their composition as metamorphosis has taken place, and crystallized again and again, causing their great density. Then they have been broken and eroded by steam or water activity. The stones then washed along a river bottom and were given their smooth potato-like shape and size. This is why the black basalt stones stay hotter longer than any of the other colors Mother Earth has to offer.

Marble is metamorphic rock that at one time was nothing more than the muck at the bottom of oceans when the oceans of the world were not where they are today. The existence of the marble stones is a product of some very special circumstance in the rock cycle that began long ago and continues to occur. In the salt waters of the earth, limestone is constantly being formed in the collecting sediments on the seafloor. Limestone is the most common sedimentary rock on earth. Calcium Carbonate is the main component of limestone. As they eroded marble became accessible to our rivers that take the pieces of marble and tumble them into round, smooth stones.

Trails of heat are flowing deep with my body, flowing upward from my feet, through my legs and swirling all over my back, lingering just long enough to melt the tension from each muscle. As the stones give up their heat, I find them resting in the palms of my hands, and I sink into the table, grounded in Mother Earth.

More hot stones now travel up the same paths as before, staying a little longer, their heat penetrating a little deeper, working out a few stubborn trigger points. Again, these stones find their way to my palms, replacing those that have now cooled.

Once again, fresh stones radiant with heat chase the last bits of tension from my muscles, like beaming sunrays melting their way through chucks of ice. I have been bathed in heat.

Turning over is an effort. Now I feel these hot stones resting on my front chakras, opening and softening each one. Another caresses the back of my neck. These stones have become a part of me. As the massage continues, I dissolve into Dreamtime, a world of fantastic colors and visions, allowing Mother Earth to heal me in body, mind and spirit, knowing I am one with all things, and that this is good.

As the cooling stones are lifted from each chakra, I feel a lifting of my spirit as well. I let go of the burdens I have been carrying. I feel light, buoyant, balanced, centered and cradled. I am whole.

As humans we are drawn to hold Mother Earth next to us. While we were children we longed to get outside everyday and play in the dirt and grass. We would lie on her body and feel the coolness of the grass, the warmth of the sand on a sunny beach, we even loved to walk in her waters or have rain fall on our faces. Children understand the need to be connected to Mother Earth and Father Sky. They seek them out daily, laughing and playing as though they had their best friend right beside them.

As a child you probably collected stones everywhere you went, most of us did or still do. We would see the beauty in a stone and want to hold the mystery of its energy near us, so in our pocket the stone would go. Once home you would add it to the pile of stones from days past and for a brief moment be able to recapture the heightened feelings of those other days of pure joy and excitement. What has happened to those stones we collected as a child?

Everywhere there is evidence of people needing to draw Mother Earth and Father Sky to them: we have pets in our homes, we plant flowers, and we grow foods to eat. People carry and use stones for healing powers. We have paintings of the sky and the sun within our homes. We love to sit and watch the sun rise or set. It gives you the strength to conquer physical problems and to overcome obstacles in your life.

I invite you to take a moment each day and go outside and breathe the strength of Mother Earth and Father Sky into your body. Become one with the energy of the Universe, giving thanks for what the day is about to offer you. Spread bird seed for the winged animals, feed the trees that shade your dwelling place, recognize these gifts, to see and feel the healing powers that are laid before us to use.
Happy healing! xo

Sunday, November 22, 2009

relax xo

Financial freedom - I could taste it... One more car payment and we owe no one save for our mortgage, and that debt will be paid very soon. I almost paid it off last year but wanted to relish this moment knowing each month I could, but chose not to. We always paid cash for cars until we had kids then leased or whatever. I could not stand paying all that money just to have it depreciate so quickly. Leasing seemed like renting and psychologically eased my anguish.

We usually buy two cars at the same time and when we bought the Jeep for Wayne (his bull) and my Grand Prix GTP in 2004, we knew they were winners and wanted to go the distance with them. This will be the first time in 20 years that we have no payment due and do not trade them in. Satisfaction. This car is absolutely perfect for me. It has excellent torque and I can merge onto expressways with ease . The sound system is remarkable, everything is in working order and I have received many compliments on the originality of the color. My license is RELAX XO so people would think twice about road rage. I must give credit to my son Mikey and his buddy Billy for maintaining and repairing my car when necessary. Nothing like a great mechanic. Oil changes are imperative.

My car is symbolic for financial freedom for at the time we needed new cars, we were strapped for cash having just purchased a second property and started my business within months of each other. Having extended ourselves so thinly we did not think we would qualify for another loan, but once we were approved, we knew this was the beginning of the end of our financial issues and began our quest for freedom. We are now totally debt free, with exception of the mortgage. When this is paid we will have gone full circle. It was a very steep journey up that mountain of debt. We climbed, we conquered. The good lesson learned was my sons no longer felt entitled to all life's material pleasures (no, you do not get a brand new car just because you turn 16 so you can crash it) and grasped the importance of watching their wallets (well, actually, their debit cards) and know that cash is king - always. Money can't buy me love. xo

more food for thought

No piece of paper can be folded more than 7 times

The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters

Pigs can get a sunburn

Mosquitoes have 47 teeth

A hummingbird weighs less than a penny

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar

In Albania, nodding your head means "no" and shaking your head means "yes"

It takes more water to fill a bathtub than it does to enjoy an average-length shower

In Texas, it is illegal to graffiti someone's cow

Oregon has more ghost towns than any other U.S. state

Your big toe only has 2 bones and the rest have 3

Turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth can save up to five gallons of water

Cats have 2 sets of vocal chords: one for purring and one for meowing

The typewriter was invented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1867
A pineapple is neither an apple or a pine; it is, in fact, a large berry
The bumblebee bat is the smallest mammal on Earth. It weights less than a penny

Americans on average eat 18 acres of pizza every day

The youngest U.S. president to be in office was Theodore Roosevelt at age 42

The smallest county in America is New York County, better known as Manhattan

Snapple real facts. now you know... xo

Saturday, November 21, 2009

my linda rose

If I stay here with you love, things just couldn't be the same, cuz I must be travelling on now and this bird you cannot change. I'm as free as a bird love..I'm going to fly like a freebird, yeah..

Been thinking of you my friend, you would have had another birthday this month - a toast to you! How about all those toasts after goddess nights? Good times, girlfriend. I was lucky when you found me (via Andrea) and gave manicures/pedicures to our clients at The Goddess Touch and you eventually became the manager.

Our trip to New York City honoring the fallen from 911 is on the top 10 of favorite memories. We were Sex in the City girls, only our version. Dawn, Linda, Andrea and Rob. I slept 12 hours in 4 days just so I could capture everything in the little time we had. The churches and Ground Zero where the Twin Towers stood just a year prior was eerie yet beautifully honored by all the visitors. Phantom of the Opera, Menopause Musical, delis, Times Square, The W lounge, brunch at the Waldorf Astoria, where we stayed. Who pays $90 apiece for Sunday Brunch here? We did. We got all gussied up and painted the town red. Shopping, shopping, shopping, browsing, browsing and shopping again at Macy's and all the little souvenir stores. I was adamant on visiting Central Park and the Dakota where Lennon was shot. Our Long Island Iced Tea toast at Tavern on the Green concluded our adventure. Seeing The Lady and Ellis Island was remarkable - I never knew how beautiful she is. Every morning I would get up early to surprise my ladies with coffee lattes loaded with whipped cream. I spoiled you. Remember they were filming Catch Me If You Can right outside our hotel? How about the Chinese delegation swarming at night and when someone sneezed and I said God Bless You - we thought I would get beheaded by the delegates in our elevator. Ha!

We gobbled the Mexican luncheon so we would make our flight and the stranger we shared the bottle of wine with is probably still talking about us to her hubby. Remember when we thought we would see so many celebrities while dancing at the lounge? Not a one - so we made our own party on the dance floor - with each other and soon more and more women joined us bumpin' and grindin' and how about Dawn teaching us how to belly dance - we sure put on a show and laughed our a**es off.

Remember when you were upset about Billy's graduation so I literally put you in my car and we stayed in Delavan the weekend and went to dinner at the Victorian restaurant and we cracked up because people thought we were gay? Nothing like a little get away to take the blues away. Remember dancing at Circuit, the lounge on Belmont? One Saturday you insisted we meet at La Mex after I worked - promptly at 1:15 we sat at the entrance bar with our margaritas and 5 hours later Wayne came to retrieve us from our happy hour(s). Remember he came at 4 and we were not done so he came back? We had no shortage of conversation, dear friend.

I miss you. We shared so many memories at the spa and you were a huge part of its success. I miss driving around in Hinsdale and you showing me where all the celebrities and hot shots live. I miss giving you foot massages during your chemo treatments. I miss your insight when we shared our stories about sibling trials and tribulations. We laughed and we cried and never judged, we accepted each other for who we were. Like that song by Train : your best friend stickin' up for you - even when you know you're wrong. That was us, babe. You are in my heart, forever. We made lots of people happy and pampered them to bits. Service to humanity was our true spirituality. You are my angel now just as you were on earth. Diandra told me about the basket of flowers - thanks - I really needed them, but you already knew that... I am listening to Dido and Sarah for us. BFF xo

Friday, November 20, 2009

bill's girls

My professional journey began upon high school graduation where I secured my first full time job at Union Tank Car Company on Clark and Jackson in the loop. Within 2 years I was promoted 4 times and when I realized I reached my top level at this firm, I went to an executive recruiter who helped me find my next gig. I was hired on August 8, 1977 to work for Sandy Hill at Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc. on Michigan and Wacker. Sandy was the firm's up and coming go getter and in the 6 months I worked for him I learned a tremendous amount of how an association management firm works. Dorry Hodges and I were a great team and the founder noticed it as well. Since I had the required shorthand skills I was promoted to the administrative assistant of William E. Smith and what a journey this was.
We witnessed this remarkable visionary increase his employee base from 75 to 750 in the 23 years I worked for him. SBA became the largest association management firm in the world with additional offices in Washington, DC, California and its European presence in Geneva. My duty was to prepare, transcribe, revise, revise, revise, copy, collate and distribute the masterpieces he created. Anything that made his world smoother was my role as assistant.
His personal world was full of history and he had no shortage of tales to share. In addition to running the whole show, Bill faithfully maintained his one account, the Popcorn Institute. While most account executives held their board of directors and annual meetings in exotic places all over the world, we went to Florida every winter, the Hyatt O'Hare every spring and Iowa every fall. He and his beloved brother, Mark, literally built their beautiful home in Fennville, Michigan that we had the pleasure of visiting. He was an advocate for natural preservation and invested in a thousand acres of land and his pets were a goat named Pepe and horses Tanya and Kitty. He remained a bachelor until 57 until he met the love of his life, Marita, a much younger gorgeous Swedish gal. Marita and Bill lived on Oak and Michigan and he was a pioneer in founding the Chicago Tourism Council. He loved Chicago and spent many hours promoting his town quite successfully with the likes of Mayor Harold Washington, Christopher Kennedy, Jerry Roper and numerous hotel and business owners in the area.
The most impressive task I had was preparing his annual speech to all the executives of our firm. It was always inspirational and touched our hearts in a profound way. He always gave credit to the fine men and women in this room. I was so proud to work for this man.
I was at a crossroads as I considered starting a family for I just got promoted to accounts manager within the firm and knew my future would rise if I continued on that path. I wanted the whole shebang and chose my family, but later would be able to enjoy the best of both worlds by working part time - job sharing our duties for Messrs. Smith and Christensen, the company chief financial officer.
Genny Bertalmio and I split the workweek as a team and these boys got more productivity from the two of us than 3 people working full time. We never called in sick and loved working in this manner, while both of us raised our 3 children. This was not common and not acceptable in the 80s. Women worked full time or not. What a testament to Mr. Smith's vision. Today facilities offer day care within their company.
Due to the experience I gained working for these beautiful people, I was inspired to begin my own business, which will be told another time. Genny and I were Bill's girls and she is still working there. We adored this man and were proud to be part of his success. He passed at 90 years old a few years ago and they held an amazing memorial shortly thereafter. Bill Smith's legacy remains strong and one of the firm's partners, Henry Givray, is now chairman, and I am confident Mr. Smith is smiling at the great job he is doing. I spent half my life at this company and will treasure the memories forever. I was fortunate to enjoy my career and embraced each new day. These are indeed, blessings. xo

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Land of Make Believe 1992
Masquerade 1993
Razzle Dazzle 1994
Steppin' Out 1995

Greg Gale's Stormdance Troupe put on quite a show. His genius choreography enabled 100 dancers between ages 5 and 90 to perform the weekends prior to Thanksgiving at the Willowbrook Ballroom. And boy, did we razzle dazzle 'em...

Our rehearsals were held at the ballroom every Sunday morning from 8:30 until noon from August until showtime. This was only the group rehearsal, for we practiced during the week at the health club as well as private dance lessons if solo performances were given. Dance is the answer we would chime. It relieves depression, keeps you in shape, great social avenue and helps focus, concentration and coordination. It was the best form of exercise and the most fun. Our troupe became our new family and Greg referred to me as Sister.

Stormdancers hailed from many walks of life and we held an assortment of professions from lawyers, doctors, McDonald's business owners, you name it. Most dancers were seasoned and had years of lessons and talent. Helena was a Luv-A-Bull. Heidi and Roz competed and most times won first place with Greg as their partner. Greg and Shelly Gale were international ballroom dance champions. We had the best of the best teaching us. Connie Payton (Mrs. Walter) donated her furs for modeling. (She and her cronies complimented me on my legs.) My buddy, Patty, and I were not so talented and we referred to ourselves as the Polish (wannabe)ballerinas. What we lacked in experience we made up for in passion. We danced our hearts out.

Our energies were off the charts so we combined our strengths to serve a purpose, choosing to perform and give the proceeds to the DuPage County Health Department AIDS Program. My organizational skills enabled Greg to focus on the big picture. In return he gave me piano lessons and I still remember how to play Somewhere in Time, Impossible Dream and All I Ask. Roz was master seamstress and pretty much designed and made all the costumes with direction from Greg. I am so not into sewing so I just cut the patterns for her at times; she did the majority of it all. We all gave what we could to this venture and that is what made these events so magical. Wayne did the lighting and sound for the shows, Danny played drums and Mike and Steve performed a group dance number. My whole family was involved, as were other families.

After the reception and dinner, we entertained our guests with music, singing and primarily dancing including ballroom, flamenco, artistic, hip hop, funk and we showcased our talents with solo performances. I performed an artistic dance to Elton John's the One and Jeff Beck's Moodswings. I learned ballroom, salsa, flamenco, swing, hip hop, funk, and even a little ballet. The only previous dance lesson I had was taking modern jazz at the Kelly park district when I was 10. Let this be a testament that we are never too old to try something new.

We competed at the Indiana competition, all of us taking first place for group and individual performances. We performed for various private parties and Vickie, Roz and I were our own version of the Supremes performing at a Christmas party at O'Hare Hyatt Hotel with 1,500 people in attendance. We had the time of our life! My dad's personal favorite was when Greg dedicated his performance of Malaguena to him. That man sure could flick his cape.

Each show had a theme - Make Believe incorporated every talent available since it was our first show. Each year was improved and Masquerade had Phantom of the Opera themes woven throughout the show. Razzle Dazzle was my very favorite as it was a tribute to Bob Fosse and included our Wilkomen act. Steppin' Out was a tribute to the older, classic dances like swing and ballroom. Each and every dancer will tell you how they hold these memories close to their heart. As Leann Womack croons I hope you dance... xo

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My sister, my partner. These words reverberated through our home for the better part of 2008. Helen and Steve were the last survivors in the Wind/Nalepa saga. Their sister Mae is still alive, but did not interact with them for the latter part of their lives. They went everywhere together - two peas in a pod, frick and frack. We believe they lived so long because of White Castle, their hangout. They would sit for hours in that place and had many names for the characters that passed through the doors: flea market, grey-haired lady, hot dog man, blue blue, the flea, snake eyes, diet coke, pluto, the top, dibash, mexican joe, oye (short for oyster) and Bob's pet name. Helen had a keen sense of humor and always made her opinion known but in a way that made you crack up.
After George died, Helen learned to drive a car for the first time in her life. I remember practicing with her in Resurrection Cemetary and she did get her license and a car that sat in the neighbor's garage. She conquered her fear of flying and went on numerous vacations with Steve and her sister-in-law from her first marriage, Ruth and Joe Parker. Once they experienced their first cruise, they were hooked. Just as my folks loved Vegas, they loved their ships. The first year they flew to Florida Wayne and I drove down to be with them and help her get through not being with George. We knew upon arrival at the Colonial Inn in Miami that she would be just fine. Years later when our youngest was 2 our family drove to Florida to be with the 4 Cliffhangers. We surprised our boys by making a pit stop in Disney World the first week and upon arrival they all moaned how they wanted to be with Gramzie. They were in Disney World! When we arrived in Miami they were thrilled to be by the ocean and in the pool all day with her. These were great memories for all of us. Uncle Steve made us dagwood sandwiches and we sat on the balcony people watching and waiting for the roof inspector (a crane.) Simple pleasures - and they were loaded with stories and jokes. Just their unique humor alone caused us to chuckle the whole week. The four Cliffies eventually went on 14 cruises together visiting Alaska, Mexico, Caribbean and all over the area. We encouraged them to make time for leisure as they worked so hard all their life. They vacationed with us every weekend for 7 years when we bought our summer home in Delavan and Uncle Steve loved going for rides in the speedboat.
Helen called the shots in her household. If Bob stayed on his meds, life was livable, but if he did not, we had to intercede and get him back on track. Helen was very co-dependant so this was not as easy as it sounds. The Cliffies were very healthy and until they reached their 80s they barely visited the doctor, just for the annual checkup. Their last decade made up for it. I cannot begin to count how many doctor's visits and hospital ER visits we had to endure with them. There were at least 4 close calls with Helen and 2 with Uncle Steve. They almost died each time causing stress for each other. They leaned on each other more than most married couples. They were together all their lives - from birth. Imagine the things we had to purge through upon her death. Mama mia. One thing I must say, Helen did not lack for anything. Her clothes were beautiful and plentiful and she was one classy lady. She could have blended in with the Hinsdaleans very easily based on her taste. She was extremely organized, everything in its place and she was very wise with her investments. The only queer incident was finding money in strange places like the pantry floor and in photo albums, hampers and in the closet in a windbreaker. As I was in her bedroom a picture was falling off the wall and I almost tore it off but changed my mind when I noticed it was St. Anthony. I gingerly put Him back up and immediately afterward I started finding all the money. It must have totalled over $10,000 after all was said and done. They did the classic hide the money in the mattress. This was fortunate because it was about this time that Bob was really out of sorts and finally I put my foot down about getting him proper help and his own living arrangements for the greater good. They were too old to live with him and the toxic cycle had to end. Finally Wayne agreed and we asked Thresholds to help us with the process. They are the very best support group for mental illness and secured disability, a great apartment, link card and helped Bob live his life with the quality and support that he deserves. He still lives just down the block because he needs the comfort of that neighborhood but this is a great success story for our family. Bobby is doing wonderfully and talks about possibly attending school. He never worked and never will, but he is the best he can be. Funny how he gave me such grief at first and I became his biggest supporter.
Wayne spent the last few years shopping for groceries and maintaining their lawn but taking care of 3 homes took its toll. He was very loyal to his mom and put her needs above his own family, something I did not appreciate but sucked it up and did my best to deal with. I remember when Helen needed some TLC she would suddenly get sick and call Wayne to take her to the hospital. We drove in the city rushing her to Holy Cross, or Hinsdale if not life threatening, only to find she was miraculously healed and joking around with us. After a few of these cry wolf calls we got wise and realized she just needed more time and attention. Easy fix. We fervently tried to encourage them to move out near us so they would have better hospitals in emergencies, we could visit easily and I could make sure they ate properly. Now these two Polish people loved to eat - they looked forward to their toochies all the time. I would cook big meals and put aside food for Helen, Steve and Bob which Wayne would deliver when he went in to see them. Whenever I would come in, I would find the food still in the freezer or barely eaten. They just ate from White Castle.
It was getting harder to help them and just as we feared, she fell down the stairs breaking her hip. After surgery her Dr. Simon sat us down and indicated typically geriatrics die within a year at this age. We were crushed, for Helen was always so strong and determined to be as independent as possible. We did everything we knew of to keep them together in their beloved home so they could visit their beloved WC and stay together. They were each other's life force. Helen went to the rehab center in Hinsdale and relearned to walk but it was apparent her dementia was increasing and I remember crying for an hour after this epiphany. She could not name her boys. We hired a caregiver named Harriet to live with her but immediately Uncle Steve had issue with her. He did not want anyone else living in their home. We moved Helen upstairs after 25 years and hoped it would work out but Uncle Steve went ballistic and we frantically drove in the city one night to retrieve him from the home and it took 3 shots of blackberry brandy to calm him down. It took 3 hours to get him to stop ranting and raving about the caregiver. Helen remained in her home with the hysterical caregiver unaware of any goings on. We decided to have Steve live with us and within a month Helen came as well. I figured if I raised my 3 boys I could take care of them as they were just as demanding as little kids. We were in for a rude awakening for it was more challenging than we thought. My home was no longer our sanctuary and literally turned into a senior living facility with nurses and bathers and priests and physical therapists coming and going all day. We had oxygen tanks and hospital bed and sofa bed and commodes. They were always hungry and I was serving them like a slave until my youngest son told me to stop and put them on a schedule. Wise kid, my son. I used a tray to bring everything down at once and figured it out. I was still juggling with trying to keep my business afloat for a few clients and almost took a leave.
Unfortunately within a month Helen fell again breaking her other hip. She did not have surgery and really spiralled downhill rapidly. She lost her will at this time and did not know who I was. She called me Annie and said "you look like Jesus and when I touch you I feel Him." She may not have known where she was and who I was, but she felt our love. Helen called Wayne Joe and this broke his heart for he was her favorite and took care of her his whole life. She remembered Jim and Bob, who never really bothered with her and hurt her most of her life. I spent a lot of energy trying to get him to not take it personally, but this situation was really taking alot out of my family. Finally I researched her symptoms and after consulting with her nurse she was ready for hospice. The nursed agreed and Dr. Simon followed up with the necessary meds and met with me to get me through the next phase. I was just about ready to break when I was walking my dogs and George whispered in my ear"hang in there it won't be long" and that night my angels gave me a date of March 2 and another of March 4. I followed all the notes for impending death, documenting her journey and close to her final days we told Uncle Steve and the boys to say goodbye as the time was near. Oh my God, Uncle Steve was like a wailing wall. For 3 days we prayed the rosary around her and listened to his intense grief. Finally I asked Wayne's cousin to take Uncle Steve so mom could pass in peace. Bob and Bonyok came by on Friday to say goodbye taking Uncle Steve with them. Wayne and I lit candles and prayed while listening to music. Her breathing was indicative of death and we stayed up all night. At dawn I switched from holy music to Andrea Bocelli and somehow I knew she wanted this. At 11:30am she took her last breath, then another, and another, one for each of her sons and each of her grandsons. This was the most profound experience I have ever been a part of in my life. What an honor and privilege to assist in her passing to the next life. Later that day we saw two lines in the sky and knew Dad came to get her soul. March 1. My angels got it right for her memorial and funeral were March 4.
Uncle Steve continued to live with us and Bonyok and Dianne had him over at times, but his mental health was deteriorating and we thought he might die of a broken heart. He was physically strong but dementia was severe. After much anguish and in order to bring some semblance of sanity back into our lives, we counselled with Wayne's cousin who suggested we look into the Veteran's Home in Quincy. His doctor advised us to admit him. He always shared his amazing war stories from when he served our country during World War II in the Rhineland and central Europe, achieving 2 battle stars. On August 1, after Uncle Steve's 91 birthday, we drove him down to the new home. It is exactly what he needs and my fears vanished when we spent time there. He is still with his fellow vets reliving old war stories and remembers very little, repeating what he does know.
We sure experienced the gamut of care giving, rehab, hospice, mental illness and still keep forging ahead. Being the sandwich generation,we are stronger for our challenges and have learned many things enabling us to share our life situations. It is true when they say they broke the mold with these two Cliffhangers. xo

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

express yourself

Comments from readers of my bloggs:

Love the blog and pics ~ love you!

That was awesome...

Such a beautiful story.  Loved the photos and your writing is tops!  You have such a wonderful talent and beautiful soul...

I read all 4 and have to say WOW so nice to read.  I love the way you write.

Love your blog!  the two of you still look as fantastic now as back then.  Lots of great memories, the picture on the wall, the front door, and the beautiful smiles.  How about that long hair ~ I forgot about all that.  Love it...TFS.

Oh, Rob, I read your blog and admire the person you have become.  Keep writing.  You touch many souls!  I was thinking of you and your entire family on Thanksgiving.  Hoping you all were doing well.  My prayers are with you all.  Love you all.

What a beautiful and touching story of your family.. The trials and tribulations that made you stronger, and such a remarkable person. Your inner beauty just shines seem to have turned everything into a blessing for you and your family.
A true story of life, love and commitment that most of our generation has witnessed. You write from the experience of an old soul who has done this many times.
This touched my heart and soul - hug

This is the first blog I've read...what a good one!  You are a talented writer, Rob, and I'm so happy you're enjoying life.  Have a wonderful holiday and know that I think of you often.  Much love...

I reviewed your blog and you did an awesome job.  You portrayed things truthfully and respectfully. I feel so bad about your mom; I really loved her.

The good life is there for all of us, Rob; it's in you, too, I can tell by your writings.  We just have to make it happen.

Very nicely put! Beautiful picture of your mother - she was such a sweet lady the times I've met her.. now there is no more pain and suffering in her world! God Bless. xoxoxoxo

I agree - she was a beautiful Sweet Lady and her pain and suffering is over. Her and Bob created a beautiful family together..

Went to your site, so very nice and beautiful... like you

Love the testimonial to your Mom and Dad, she would have loved it

I thought it was really great, too, Robbie. What a fantastic thing to do.

Love your testimonial to your family Rob its BEAUTIFUL. You are very lucky to be part of a big family.

Sweet Helen very nice, Wayne O has her sweet manner. George I didn't know

Rob, I may not leave a comment on each blog, because most often I'm sipping coffee with 2 hands - I just want you to know that I'm reading all of them and they touch my heart or leave me smiling and/or amazed. I honestly enjoy them... extraordinary job :)

Wow this is so cool. Thanks 4 sharing some very special memories. The pictures look familiar. LOL
I love it Robbie to ME your tribute is beautiful. I am looking at the beauty of it and nothing more. I am not looking to pick it apart. And analyze it. I knew your Mom very well we had been best friends for over 40 years and shared many stories.. Laughing. Crying you know the whole thing best friends do. Even more because we were Sisters. Of course we shared with each other stories we would not share with any one else. We spent many hours on the phone over those 40 years. We had for years been on vacations together partied every Friday night for 20 years together. Worked together. It is good to share how the depression disease can effect so many lives and hopefully people can learn from it and go for help and if they know of some one suffering from depression help them to get on medication for a year. I am able to control it some people are not without help. You and the Family did not let her down, the disease let her down. she did not take her medication like she was supposed to and the disease took over. We love you Rob and we love everyone connected with this amazing family they know who they are when they read this - all 31 of you. Yes this is an amazing family who has had many ups and downs like all families doe and it just makes you stronger. Love from ME Keep the Faith (Love N Hugs) Have a great day and I know you will because you are a survivor

You have a phenomenal talent and mind and you live it!

AHH cool words. Memories of the past they are never to be forgotten. I just made that up. HMM did I quote someone else? Who cares -LOL - the sun is shining and I am happy.

OMG I cried thru this whole story to me it is beautiful and I love it! thanks for sharing. UB read everything also and thinks its beautiful as well. Chicken soup for the soul.

Wow and look if you did not go through this you would not be able to tell, you might not have had your sisters and brothers or Wayne and your sons. We all walk a life we sometimes do not want or think I wish I was someone else, but in the long run it made you stronger and it makes you look at life as a wonderful woman and and a wonderful wife and Mom and sister to your sisters and brothers.

Beautiful job, Rob!! nicely expressed. I can almost feel what you are saying. Your Mom would have been proud of all this. Look what a beautiful family Virg and Bob made. They must have done something right two very highly emotional people who loved their family. And so much fun to be around. We are glad to have been a little part of all those wonderful memories.

Oh wow that is so nice to read about them that way and yes I remember the fun times with the music and laughter in the house when your Mom and Dad came over lots of good times - you join in singing and the laughter was always there

I love it so cute and so true it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing some wonderful memories.

One of my favorite things to do at night is look up at the sky. When we lived in Chicago there were so many lights in the alley and front you couldn't see the stars in the sky.
I like keeping the child inside of me alive and that keeps hope alive as well. Your blogs are truly outstanding, Rob.
So inspiring and beautiful.
A very nice perk.

Hey sister, love the blog.. and love you too! cheers xox

Amen to that sister!!

Congratulations Steve..
I can tell Steve some stories but I am sure he has heard plenty... Good for you Steve..

Congratulations to Steve and you! I know he is doing a wonderful job and it's not easy but you and Wayne seem to be doing a fantastic job of supporting him. Oh and thanks for talking about Sookie Stackhouse series.. After reading about it from you on facebook I started to read the books and I LOVE them.



So lovely..

Hi Rob, I found this link that I get - check it out.. I am going to buy one and try it also.

Dancing at Willow Brook sounds like great times.. My sister and I did the line dancing there with friends! Fun times for us as well - love those cowboy boots. LOL

OMG it brought tears to my eyes to see that picture of Helen, she was such a sweet Lady and I know she was a bigger than life part of your family. She was your Angel! thanks for sharing her picture.. Love Me..

I am going to print this and hang it up


Sounds like a fun tradition watching spooky movies a few weeks before to help get into the spirit of the moment. LOL. Not Me! I am chicken! I like living in a fantasy world that everything is beautiful.

Hi Rob - I was reading your blog on chakras (very good) and wanted to ask if you would be interested in visiting/speaking to our massage class. I'd have to clear it was the director of the school..It's the New School for Massage and Bodyworks. It's located on Chicago Avenue and Wells. It would be great for your to talk to us. We have a small class of 8 students, All of which would love to hear you. I know you mentioned that teaching may be another step for you.

My anatomy instructor teaches us on Wednesdays and she gave me a couple dates that would work for her. Thanks for giving it some thought.

Monday, November 16, 2009

rob & wayne

Our journey began in the early 70s and it is interesting how people in our lives were interwoven with each other. My brother Bo and Wayne's brother Bob were friends. My best friend, Jan, was Wayne's neighbor and their moms, Helen and Dottie, were best friends. When I was in Girl Scouts we had a luncheon at Polonia Grove celebrating our accomplishments and our entertainment was the local karate academy. Wayne was one of the performers and I was the one my fellow scouts called upon to break a board. Wayne held the board for me and I broke it (with his assistance, of course, but we kept the illusion.) Later we would become tae kwon do black belts together with our sons. Our friends met up at stand federal bank parking lot at night. We usually had 20 cars parked most evenings while we listened to the latest music by Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, Humble Pie, et al. I didn't get to see Wayne much at first since I had an early curfew and he worked most nights and did not arrive til 8:30. We were ships passing. I did not date many guys for I was usually more of a friend and knew all their secrets and what jerks they were. Wayne was different. I knew. When I did see Wayne, we talked for hours about school and music and I watched him play softball. He was leaving for his annual family vacation and I loaned him my Deep Purple 8 track for the trip. When he returned, he was wearing burgundy jeans and a white tee shirt with a deep tan. My friend, Cindy, and I were drooling but I called dibs first. Wayne and I hit it off while listening to Allman Bros. Statesboro Blues and that night it was official. Friday, August 10, 1973 standing by the window in Ken Szeredy's home. Our chemistry was off the charts and Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On was on the radio of his green 1973 Camaro when he drove me home (2 blocks.) We courted for 7 years before tying the knot on June 7, 1980. During this time we got most of the kinks out of our relationship which provided for a smooth marriage. The courtship was not easy for we were to learn life holds many challenges especially when you have family members involved.

Wayne and his Dad built a love nest in their attic and we spent our time together listening to music and making out in that room. Helen was not thrilled with me at first, even going so far as calling me a slut. I worked very hard to try to win her over and when she broke her arm I helped by ironing for her. I was fortunate to have George in my corner at that time. She was going through a rough patch with her current daughter-in-law and was leery of any woman moving in on her sons. I was determined to make it work as I loved her son and expressed this to him one night while listening to Allman Bros. Stormy Monday. I still get tingles whenever I hear this song. I go back. It was reciprocated and our story began.

Wayne was fiercely bonded to his family and especially to his younger brother, Bobby. At first we got along, but after Wayne started spending more time at my house and less time with him, he resented me and unfortunately this escalated into ugliness. He would break little mementos I gave Wayne and even spit on me. For many years Wayne ignored his antics hoping he would come around and I knew blood was thicker than water. After a few years of being abused by his brother, Wayne finally realized he had to step in and put his foot down. It did not matter for now Bobby was becoming ill. He was using and selling drugs at an early age, he even raised mj plants in the attic, but he was a genius in school and only 3 credits shy of graduating with honors at Loyola University when he had a mental breakdown. After numerous violent episodes, calling cops and visits to Madden mental facility, Bob was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. We found spoons and journals with unbelievable rantings and delusions written in them. He did not sleep and refused to take care of his hygiene. Helen and George were older parents and this really took its toll on them physically and emotionally. They were old school so it was up to me and Wayne to help them realize he needed help beyond their love and support. The hardest part for us was watching their hearts break during this ordeal. It crushed George and I am convinced this was a catalyst for his premature death. Bob continued to harass me and Wayne pretty much disowned him which added further heartache. By this time I was glad to finally have his support. He was not Wayne's best man at our wedding and gave a snide remark during our reception toast.

We had a routine on Saturdays as our schedules were filled during the week with school, work and band rehearsals. We spent the mornings cleaning our doll house that we absolutely loved and around noon Bombhead would walk over with Lady and we shared soup and sandwich lunches together. One day he came over and seriously pleaded with us to help him, for he felt Bob was in trouble, some guys were after him. Wayne is a fair guy and despite his feelings he would honor Dad's request and help Bob. When Bob asked Wayne "why after all this time did you help me?" Wayne said "because Dad asked me to. " This brought tremendous relief and gratitude from George and Helen and was a testament to the power of forgiveness. Good thing Wayne took the high road because things would really get tougher in the years to come. Dad died soon thereafter so Wayne had a clean heart about his decisions. Bob's condition worsened and Helen could not cope with George's death; many nights we found her standing by our bed because Bob went after her with a knife. She would sleep with us - yikes! Wayne continued to take George's place and took hold of the family reigns. This was a noble challenge and later it took its toll on our own core family. When things calmed down a bit we tried conceiving a baby but were infertile for 3 years. After our efforts failed, we were resigned that it was God's plan for us to just be together and travel. My sister was having babies one after another so I was blessed to give my love to them when my maternal itch consumed me. St. Jude came to me, encouraging us to build a home in Darien, and we did just that. We really needed to distance ourselves from the overbearing energies of his mom and brother. After building our mini-mansion (in our eyes) we conceived during my first cycle in our new home. I remember breaking the news to Wayne by playing Loggins & Messina's Danny's Song. Michael George was born on June 5, 1985 on the due date (exactly 50 years to the day and hour after my dad.) I continued to work part-time but found I was pregnant right away and 15 months later on September 10, 1986 Daniel Wayne was born. I knew he was a boy because just prior to delivering him, the radio played Elton John's Daniel, that was the name we picked. I quit working to be a full time mom to my bundles of joy. Helen retired from her job at Armstrong Container after 40 years. She loved the social aspect of working but her body was slowing down and it was time for her to readjust her life. She continued to live with Bobby and moved downstairs to live with Uncle Steve. They spent many nights visiting with their youngest brother, Achie. His wife died and he did not cope well. He died while choking on food at the local diner. His son, Ed, was very close to Wayne and they remain buddies to this day.

When Danny was a year old my company, Smith, Bucklin, called asking me to work just a day a week. My boss was the founder and owner, Bill Smith, and he was a visionery, offering me part time work which was uncommon in the workforce. I gave them a high figure and they agreed to pay it. It was too much money to turn down and Helen wanted respite from Bob and Steve and offered to watch the boys one or two days a week while I worked. She was happy to do this and understood how lucky I was to have the best of both worlds - being able to raise my sons yet get away for a day or two continuing my career and helping financially. This is what she did and it worked for her. Wayne would pick her up on Monday nights after I spent the day making sure I had a clean house upon her arrival. I painted her room a pretty lilac and decorated it with a brass bed and dainty flowers. She brought 'salvation' in the form of toilet paper, canned food, Huck Finn doughnuts for the boys and all the ingredients she needed for whatever she was going to make the next day. Oh how grateful I was to come home to a delicious home cooked meal on Tuesday night. My favorite was breaded pork chops and she would label everyone's plate. She went back home on Wednesday. Tuesday nights we took advantage of her being with the boys and had date night - at Willowbrook Health Club. We killed 2 birds with one stone - getting our stress buster workout and social time. We really did not have a social life the first four years raising our kids. We were so happy to finally have a family we did not miss restaurants or movies. We were at every park in our area almost every day and participated in various activities ranging from scouts to the YMCA, to gymnastics and park district activities. They were just as happy riding their little kirby cars in front or playing in the Echo behind our home. They took music lessons for 8 years. We tried to expose them to a variety of things but felt it important to have down time and avoid burn out. Our boys were very active and took a lot of our energy just keeping up with them - true boys. Since Helen watched them while I worked, we never asked her to babysit for anything social and we never left the boys with a sitter. Wayne took vacation for 2 weeks during Christmas holidays so he could be with the boys while I worked. We were to be blessed one more time (everything happens to us in 3) for my little chachi, Steven Robert, was born on November 25, 1991. I told Helen the best gift she ever gave them was her time. It was a win, win all around for they adored her.

Wayne was totally involved with raising our sons; we shared this responsibility and always made unified decisions throughout their upbringing. When we did not agree, or if we did not know how to solve an issue, we went to the professionals. We were not born knowing how to be parents. I do not believe in corporal punishment, as my parents raised me, but did not know what to do. Mike was very non compliant as a young boy due to attention deficit disorder. I discovered a place called Tuesday's Child located on Fullerton and brought both boys for early intervention using positive reinforcement. Mike was 98% non compliant upon arrival and 98% compliant upon completion of his program. I continued to teach other parents these concepts for almost 3 years. People kept telling me to spank him when he misbehaved. I refused and here is a perfect example why: as a toddler, Mike kept playing with the video player. Mom says do not touch that. Mike continues as he pleases. Mom slaps his hand. What does Mike do? Slaps mom's hand. Case in point. We raised our kids the best way we knew and often tell our boys we know we make mistakes but they will get their chance to raise their kids the way they want to. Their response is they are not having kids. Right. Being a parent is the hardest thing we ever did and the most rewarding. We did it our way and are very proud of how they are growing into beautiful young men. It all began with a song. Music is huge in our lives. Wayne is my music man and played with Snapps and a few other bands and occasionally jams with his buddies, Danny, Tom and sometimes the Reyes brothers. So many memories with those guys. My dad is also a musician, playing drums and accordion so naturally music is in our sons' genes. Mike plays guitar, Dan the drums and Steve the trumpet and piano. I am the eternal groupie and love dancing. Needless to say, Helen and I became very close and I referred to her as my angel. Everything in time. xo

Sunday, November 15, 2009

helen & george

Helen was born to Angeline and George Nalepa in 1919 (Polish) and George was born to Lettie and Charles Wind in 1917 (Irish and Norwegian). Helen had an older brother, Stephen, and younger sister, Mae and brother, Ed (Achie.) George had an older brother, Andrew, and younger sister Adylin. They were part of the greatest generation, surviving both World Wars and the Depression. George was stationed in the south Pacific during World War II and proudly served as the cook at times for his fellow navy men.
When Helen was a child, she helped her folks in any way possible to bring home money and the kids would go 'junkin' by the railroads collecting cans and glass for nickels. They lived on the north side of Chicago initially and Uncle Steve tells the story of how he would watch his little sisters while they slept under the kitchen table while their parents played cards with their friends. They moved to the southwest side of Chicago, on 38th Street for a little while and Helen would go to the bar and carry buckets of beer back home for her Pa, sipping the foam on her journey. Their dad was fortunate to work as a boilermaker so they did have a meager income and yet Buscia always found ways to help the other not-so-fortunate neighbors by donating food and clothing. Helen's parents never spoke English. Eventually they purchased their first home on Sawyer for $9,000 in 1946 and they all lived together in this 2 flat.
Helen met George through her dear friends, Joe and Veronica Keller at Christmas in 1953. They were married the following July 24, 1954 and she only agreed to date him because he wanted to include her son, Jimmy, on their dates. Helen was previously married to Swede but he died of a bleeding ulcer after 11 years, bearing a son, James Samuelson. George was divorced and had a daughter but we never knew too much about his side of the family. Wayne found out his dad's family tree by sheer coincidence for his boss offered to provide this information as his hobby was researching family histories and he did this for the Winds. Helen and George lived on the second floor of the Sawyer home. Her parents (Buscia and Cisawz) and Uncle Steve lived on the first floor. Mae and her husband Frank had 2 sons, Bob and Ronnie, and Achie married Angie and had one son Ed (Butchie, Banyok) as well as stepdaughters Judy and Patsy. They all lived in Brighton Park.
Helen and George were proud parents of Wayne (Wild Bill) and Bobby (Bondiga.) George adored his sons. I remember Helen told us the story that when she married George, all he brought with him was one valise, and we have it with us still. Their union was one of the happiest relationships I have ever known. George settled down by this time for we heard many stories of how he obtained the nickname Stormy. He was a mild mannered man, but if you crossed his path with harmful intent, look out. He was no stranger to brawls as a youth and when a man flirted with Helen at a wedding, the guy had to be carried out of the hall. One time George came home with a black eye, telling the boys he ran into a ladder, when in fact a truck driver relentlessly harassed him and finally he pushed George too far and their altercation resulted in the other guy landing in the hospital. Wayne found out the true story from one of George's co-workers when they worked together at Strickland. George and his brother Andy would always pull pranks and one time put a truck in first gear and George made it look as if he was pulling the truck uphill into the little town. George was a master mechanic and Wayne worked with him when he was a teenager loving every minute of their time together.
Helen was always looking after her family - both core and extended. She did all the cooking, cleaning and shopping for her folks and brother as well as her own. Helen loved to do this. She was so organized and being Polish, her home was spic and span. When her eldest son, Jimmy, married Linda to avoid the draft at a young age, she paid for his wedding, all the girls' dresses and bought and furnished his beautiful home in Orland Park. Helen and George were very generous to people and had more friends than Carter has pills. It was not uncommon for them to be invited to 3 weddings on a Saturday and they attended them all, oftentimes bringing Buscia, Cisawz and Uncle Steve. They did everything together. Every Sunday they would go to Wissagurda, a forest preserve in the area, for picnics. They spent weekends in Twin and Gages Lakes in Wisconsin, but every summer beginning in 1960, they drove down to Miami Beach, Florida and stayed at the Blue Grass Inn. Mae and her family went as well so Wayne has tons of happy memories with his cousins, especially swimming and later on attending the best concerts at the local hotels. George spent his time golfing with Frank, all day, while Helen and Mae attended to the kids in the water. They would come home tan and refreshed. They vacationed this way for over 30 years and when Wayne and I went down there ourselves we found a plaque near the pool with the Wind and Mazur names reflecting their visits. I was told as they approached the southern part of Florida, the boys would put their swim trunks on and as soon as they arrived, jump in the pool. Fond memories of days past.
Unfortunately, life got more difficult and Jim and Linda (who had 2 sons, Jimmy and David), decided to sue Helen and George for their Orland home. The agreement was that Jim and Linda pay Helen and George $100 per month but after a few years they chose not to honor the agreement and took legal action. I remember coming over and seeing George on the porch with his head hanging low with hurt in his eyes and he showed me the papers. They went to court and the judge asked what they paid for the home ($23,000) and what it was worth ($67,000) and as karma would have it, the judge ordered Jim and Linda to pay the appraised value to Helen and George, totally reversing their intent with a slap on their hand as well. Typical of Helen and George, they declined and only asked for the amount they originally paid. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the family disharmony. Jim and Linda remained estranged, denying Helen and George time with their grandsons for many years. Helen was very close with Mae most of her life and even took care of her when she had TB, risking infection herself. Unfortunately, Mae was so jealous of Helen and her friends and lifestyle, she disconnected and after a huge fallout the sisters were estranged for 35 years. Their sons tried to get them to bury their hatchet and Helen was willing to, but Mae refused, so Helen went to her grave without reconciliation. These are harsh memories, but this is not uncommon in families.
Helen's dad lived to 89 and though he suffered from dementia (one time he put a bucket on his head and wondered why his hat did not fit) his demise was due to being struck by a hit and run in the alley and upon being hospitalized, he developed pneumonia and died. Helen's mom developed diabetes which caused severe gangrene in not only one, but both legs and amputation left her legless for 4 years. She was the best patient I ever had the honor of meeting, never complaining and always singing in Polish. Many times Wayne would make a big production running down the stairs with a purposely heavy foot making lots of noise and rush into her house playing Polkayashu on the harmonica. She roared with laughter every time. On Sundays their home was filled with the aroma of fried chicken and spaghetti sauce and the endless polka tunes playing on their radio. Helen and Steve took very good care of her, lifting her, changing her linens and I witnessed George and Wayne having to carry his grandma many times in and out of the house and room to room. Their care giving was a huge testament to family loyalty and it amazed me how beautiful their dedication was to each other. Mae and Achie visited often, but the brunt of their load fell upon these older two siblings. Buscia passed at age 88. This family has great genes. George's parents both died in their 50s.
I began dating Wayne in 1973. Our story will be told at another time, but just for reference sake, it should be known that when I met his family, they were not prone to PDA. Ever. Having come from a huggy family, I initiated this new affection and they gradually embraced it by hugging and saying I love you whenever we got together and that twinkle in his eye told me George liked this. George and I were each other's biggest fan. He called me Blue Eyes and I called him Bombhead. When Helen worked the second shift, she always cooked her meals during the weekends so Monday it was Wayne, Bombhead and me enjoying her delicious spaghetti dinner. All three of us smoked in those days and enjoyed doing so together after the meal, talking and sharing stories. Oftentimes when Wayne's friends came by to pick him up to go out for the night, Wayne would be all dressed up and ready to roll and once they got talking with George (they called him KnifeEdge) it was at least an hour later before those boys left the house. If they weren't eating Helen's cooking they were surely shooting the breeze with his Dad. I really wanted to get married but Wayne was not ready and George pulled me aside and explained how important it was that we waited. I took heed and after 7 years of courtship, we tied the knot on June 7, 1980. The year before our wedding, we planned a surprise 25th wedding celebration for Helen and George, inviting all their friends and had Eddie Blazonczyk polka band at Polonia Grove.
Our first home was on Christiana, only two blocks from Sawyer and George would come over every Saturday with his dog, Lady, to visit us. He was so proud of us and Bobby. He always entertained us with his stories and there was no shortage of laughter when he was around. Wayne played with his band at Ye Olde Place neighborhood bar, and one particular night he got a surprise visit from George, Helen and his godmother, Aunt Helen. That was one of the coolest moments I ever witnessed. One of his favorite quips to Wayne was use you head for something besides a hat rack and when Wayne was a small boy he called him newt. George put Helen on a pedestal and lovingly joked about trading her in for a new model and she would sarcastically tell him to go ahead. He was a pleasure to be with and I cherish our memories. Again, grief and sadness filled our lives for on New Year's Day, 1982, George died of a massive heart attack at 64. He worked diligently his whole life, as did Helen, and they even purchased a condo in North Miami Beach, Florida for their retirement in a few months. I was home alone New Year's Eve as I was sick and had to study for my finals while Wayne played in his band that evening. We spoke on the phone to mom and dad prior to their attending a party and I mentioned we were considering starting a family of our own. Dad was thrilled about this, but was not feeling too well. At the party, George danced with Helen, holding her so closely but Helen's best friend, Aunt Helen Florancic, noticed he looked sick. They refused to go to the doctor and the next morning called us. Wayne went over there immediately. I insisted they call 911 for the pain in his arm sounded like he was having a heart attack, but after talking to him he insisted he was alright and they did not want me over there to sound any alarms. Much to my chagrin I stayed home but later we went to get a heating pad for him and when we arrived at my mom's for new year's day visit, we got a call from Helen. We dashed over and dad was on the floor of the boys' bedroom and even though I performed CPR, I knew he was already gone, and the paramedics took him to Holy Cross Hospital where they pronounced him dead at 3:00pm. Our world shattered. The best of the best was taken way too early. Wayne was only 26, Bobby only 22. Once again, Helen was a widow.
I learned a very important lesson from this heartache - life is way too short and instead of always living for the future, we decided to enjoy the moments while we have them and just plan a little bit for the future, balancing work and pleasure. It is better to be safe than sorry. I would never take a chance like that again and if I suspect the worse, I dash to the ER even if it is a false alarm. Helen and George dedicated their lives to their family, core and extended, and their work ethic is admirable, but they waited too long to enjoy their moments in their golden years. No doubt they are rocking the heavens making up for lost time. xo