Monday, May 30, 2011

On this Memorial Day, some names to remember

As we were driving to the next town to take in a Memorial Day Parade, we passed a cemetery I've driven by hundreds of times over the years. I took notice of all the flags. I told my 17-year-old and my 7-year-old who were in the car with me that each of those flags was there because that grave site is one of someone who had served in the military.

Following the small town parade we attended, I asked the boys if they'd like to stop in the cemetery and take a closer look at the markers where the American flags were placed. They nodded in agreement. So, I pulled into the cemetery. It felt a little strange. I didn't know anyone buried there. I kind of felt like a trespasser.

It also felt strange because when I thought about it I have never gone to visit the grave site of a loved one. I have attended funerals, but have never returned after the burials. I've been in cemeteries, mostly on vacations in historic places where out of curiosity I've read the grave markers and wondered about the lives of those whose names are carved into the stones. I'm fascinated when I find extremely old ones or when it indicates that the person buried there lived a short life.

I'm lucky that I haven't lost many loved ones in my life. I didn't really know my grandparents. One died before I was born. Two died when I was a baby. The only one I really remember at all is my paternal grandmother, who I saw a handful of times before she died when I was around age 10. To be honest. I'm not even sure where they are buried, which I'm ashamed to admit. I've lost some beloved aunts and uncles who I saw from time to time growing up, but who lived in different parts of the country and are buried hundreds or thousands of miles away.

As I drove along, I noticed how well-maintained the cemetery was. Many of the graves that had flags beside them also had large plaques on the back side of the headstones with their name, rank, branch and war served. The first one I saw read "Peter Rickers. LT COL US ARMY. WWII  KOREA VIETNAM. 3RD ARMY 112TH DIVISION. LIASON FOR GENERAL PATTON. 1916 - 2006."  I was brought to tears instantly at the site of that. This was a man who had served his country in not one, but three wars.

We moved on from grave to grave. I wrote names down. I wanted to remember them. I wanted to look them up and see what I could find out about them. It was Memorial Day. I wanted their memory to mean something to a stranger on that day.

Clarence Shililng, US Army
World War II
1915 - 1994

Henry Verbeek, US Army
World War II

Robert Mauck, CPL US Army

Paul T. Woodnorth, Jr., US Army Air Forces
World War II
1924 - 2010

Julius Spoolstra, S SGT US Army
World War II
1916 - 1973

Andrew Vogel, US Army
World War II

Edward Van Kley, Jr., SGT US Army
1932 - 2009

In our time going through the cemetery, we noticed many visitors. I saw an elderly woman kneeling alone on the ground at a grave site. A bearded man in a leather vest with a military insignia who appeared not to be with her, helped her get up on her feet and then he walked on. Another elderly woman stood before a grave with her hand over her mouth, overtaken with emotion. Others were carrying dirt and flowers to plant. It appeared to be a pretty busy place as you might expect on Memorial Day.

We left after a few minutes and another cemetery sits down the road. It's another one that I've passed more times than I can count. And knowing that many of my towns early settlers are buried there, I've always wanted to stop in there and see what familiar names I'd find. It seems to be a much older cemetery than the first we stopped at. When I tried to pull in where a sign was marked to say "Cemetery Entrance," I realized it was too narrow for my SUV - or at least I'd be cutting it very close getting in. I drove around the block and parked on the street and my teenager and I walked through the gates.

While there were many flags that could be seen it was quite a quiet and lonely place. Not another person in the entire cemetery. We were all alone among the dozens of flags. Traffic whizzed by, radios could be heard from the car stereos as the windows were fully opened on the first sweltering day we've had in a while. The only other person that entered the gates was a slender teen in basketball shorts sneaking a short cut to his destination. Flags were everywhere, but no visitors.

It was immediately apparent that many of these graves hadn't seen a visitor in a long time. Of all the grave markers I examined, only three people had died this century, the most recent in 2004. Old simple stones were flush with the ground. They'd have been easily missed if it weren't for the flag sticks poking up. Grass and dirt had crept over the edges. Names and dates weren't visible. I wondered who had put the flags there. Perhaps some volunteers? A veterans group? Some members of the church next door? I really don't know. There has to be someone doing some kind of maintenance to the place. The lawn has been cut. A small garage is situated in the back and pick-up truck was parked beside it. However, many, many of the graves were sadly neglected. Veterans who sacrificed years of their lives were beneath my feet. As I followed each flag and stopped to try and read each stone, I pictured a young man in Army greens, an eager smile on his face that said he was ready to go off to a foreign land and leave everyone who he knew and loved not knowing what his fate may be.

My son and I spent the next thirty or forty minutes pulling back grass and wiping dirt to expose the life of another hero. A life summed up in a few lines etched into a stone. A stone that had been overgrown and forgotten. Here's who we met today:

Herman Whiteman, S SGT US ARMY
World War II
1914 - 1991

Charles Isaacson, US NAVY
AM 53
1936 - 1958

Roger Haschan, SN US NAVY
1949 - 1998

Ray Bales, PVT US ARMY
World War II
1917 - 1976

Wilbert H. Riches, 2D LT
1931 - 1958

John A. Pekownik
World War I
1989 - 1961

Harold E Hix, PFC US ARMY
World War II
1909 - 1975

Donald E. White, PVT US ARMY
World War II
1910 - 1985

Carl M Prizhorn, TEC US ARMY
World War II
1907 - 1976

Donald G Petersen, PFC US ARMY
World War II
1925 - 1944

Jack E Sweatt, PRC ARMY
1924 - 2003

George Petersen, PVT US ARMY
World War I
1896 - 1978

Dennis Paul Mason, SGT US AIR FORCE
1954 - 1980

Ralph C Mason, MAJ AIR FORCE
World War II
1920 - 1992

William M. Staley, FA US NAVY
1930 - 1973

George B Ander (there may have been more to this name - likely Anderson, but it was covered with too much dirt to be read.)
World War II

Frederick M. Semmelhack, SM2 US COAST GUARD
World War II
Buried beside Frederick, was his wife, Evelyn, who had "Gold Star Member" printed below her name.

Andrew Liptak
BTRY E83 Field Arty
World War I
1890 - 1960

Richard C Valdivia, CPL US ARMY
World War II
1925 - 2004

Emil J Kalguth
World War I
1894 - 1959

Michael C Horn, SP4 US ARMY
1949 - 1982

Julius Horn, SGT US ARMY
World War II
1920 - 1993

Joseph D' Angelo, US ARMY
World War II
1919 - 1980

Benjamin Orville Burt, MSOT US AIR FORCE
World War II
1917 - 1980

1946 - 2004

John Frank Baranowski
World War I
1890 - 1953

I hope I got the information correct as I was scratching down what I could read onto slips of paper in my purse. We kept going until I ran out of space on my scraps of paper. My son was a bit puzzled and dismayed. "Why is it like this?" he asked of the poorly maintained markers. "These are veterans and they're put here and just forgotten." I wasn't sure how to answer his question.

It doesn't look like burials take place there anymore, so I don't know how much of the responsibility goes to the cemetery. As for family, many of these men died long ago. Many of their spouses are no longer living. Their kids may no longer been living. Descendants may not know they are there. Spouses, children, grandchildren may live far away or have moved away. For some, it may be too painful to revisit the loss. Or there are relatives like me, who haven't an inkling that the uncle who dodged bullets and saved lives as a member of the greatest generation is buried beneath the ground in a grave marked by a simple overgrown stone where a stranger places a flag once a year in a town they've never heard of.

Memorial Day is to honor the fallen of our country's wars. From looking at the dates on the markers, a few of them likely did die at war. And even if I was the only one who glanced at their grave this Memorial Day - a stranger rather than a loved one - it means they were remembered. And for all those who also served at war and then came home to be wrapped in love in amidst post-war celebrations or those who came home treated like the enemy and viewed as a disgrace for following their duty, a duty they may have been drafted to do, I remembered them today. I don't know their stories. Some may have come home and buried the scars of war as they found happiness in becoming fathers and grandfathers. Others may have endured nightmares and demons from those wars that led them to their graves earlier than they should have.  I just know that they are there now and it looks like it's been a while since they were remembered.

So, perhaps as you sit down to dinner tonight or as you say bedtime prayers with your children tonight, you can include one of these names. The name of one of these fresh-faced young boys who went off to war and came home forever changed -- for us. And you can thank the Lord for them and remember them. We owe it to them. Remembering is what this day is all about.

Thanks to those serve our country: past, current and future

Memorial Day was originally meant to be a day of reflection for those lost in the Civil War and has in recent decades become a day of remembrance of those who died serving in wars since. I've had several relatives who have served in wartime, but were able to make it home - my grandfather, who served in World War I; an uncle who served in World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge; uncles who served in the Korean War and a cousin who served in Vietnam. My mother has talked of a couple cousins of hers that went off to war and didn't return and who I was never able to meet.

Other relatives served during peacetime, including my father, my father-in-law, my brother and a couple cousins. I have friends who have served in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in the current war. My childhood next door neighbor was a World War II veteran. My current next door neighbor is a Vietnam Veteran. I've got many people in my family and others in my circles of friends that I am so proud to know for sacrificing years of their lives so that people like me are able to enjoy the way of life we have.

I now have a couple more relatives to add to that list. As Memorial Day weekend was spend at backyard barbecues for many of us, I was no different. On Saturday I was dodging the raindrops to grab a burger off the grill and chatting with others at a party. It wasn't just a random long-weekend celebration, though, it was a farewell gathering for my nephews, two brothers who will both be leaving this week to begin their military service. One is going into the Army National Guard, the other to officer candidate school for the Marines. I've known these two their whole lives. I babysat them, changed their diapers, clapped as they blew out birthday candles, bought them noisy toys at Christmas and have watched them grow into young men who feel compelled to volunteer to serve their country.

Best wishes to Jeff and James Dubish! As an Aunt, I'm so very proud! And as an American, I thank you!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dress up isn't just for girls

Over the years, I had accumulated quite a collection of Halloween costumes. I figured instead of keeping them packed up until the month of October, I'd let the kids get some use out of them. They now have designated dress-up drawer filled with pretty much every super hero, good guy or action hero you can think of: Superman, Batman, Robin, the Hulk, Woody, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Power Rangers, Storm Troopers, Spiderman, Mr. Incredible, a firefighter, Jango Fett, Flash Gordon, an Army solider, Buzz Lightyear and more.

Playtime is always more fun with a mask and a cape.

Three generations and Elvis

I've always been a fan of Elvis. In a way, I've always had the taste of someone older than me when it comes to music. Although I've always stayed up on current hits, as a young girl I liked Elvis and the Beatles just as much as what was in the top 40.

I remember my dad singing to us as kids. He was a fan of classical music and really didn't listen to anything else. I always loved to hear his voice, though, and his stories about singing in a barber shop quartet in his college days. Among the songs he'd sing to us when my sisters and I were little girls was "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" and "Love Me Tender."

When my oldest son was a year-old, I dressed him as Elvis in a little white jump suit. When he was three-years-old we visited Graceland and he tried to sneak under the ropes across the King's shag carpeting.

Four years ago, when my oldest son turned 13, I took him along to see an Elvis tribute artist, Dennis Stella. He enjoyed the show as much as I did and we've since attended several more shows with Elvis tribute artists and my dad has joined us for most of them. I think it's pretty cool. Three generations of us enjoying the music of one artist. Each year when Irv Cass comes to town to do his show as Elvis at the American Legion along with Rod Stewart tribute artist Steve Bobbitt, we get tickets. This past January I got tickets for us to go to the Elvis Birthday Celebration at Star Plaza Theatre that featured several Elvis Tribute Artists as well as D.J. Fontana, who played drums for Elvis and a couple of ladies who had been back up singers on some of Elvis' recordings and tours.

Last week we went to see Dennis Stella again. He's my dad's favorite of the Elvis tribute artists we've seen. It was nice to again listen to some Elvis music with my dad and my son. For the most part, my dad is a fan of classical. I like all kinds of music, but usually favor country or pop. My son is a rock and metal fan. Yet, the music of Elvis draws us all together. So, thanks, Dennis for the great show and giving me a fun evening together with these special men in my life.

Happy birthday to my almost adult

Happy birthday to my biggest boy. I cannot believe I'm the mother of a 17-year-old. This was his last birthday as a child. A minor. A non-adult. A teenager still under my complete responsibility. This time next year, he'll be a legal adult. Not yet able to have a beer, but old enough to smoke a cigarette, to see an "R" rated movie, to join the military, to get married, to vote, to say "I'm 18 now, Mom, you can stop bugging me to get a haircut." My baby will be old enough to do any of those things. I can certainly voice my opinion, but the decisions will no longer be mine. They'll be his.

Oh, and yes. I need to stock up on candles. He requested a pan of brownies instead of a cake. We told him one candle had to represent 7 years.

RIP Zoey the bunny

Our house so often resembles a zoo. And not just because my boys have been known to act like monkeys. The boys, like their dad, are nature lovers and animals lovers. They find a creatures. They put it in a tank and it becomes a temporary pet.

They've cared for injured birds and other animals. They've gone to the creek to bring back tadpoles so they could watch them grow. We've had grasshoppers, snakes, caterpillars, praying mantises.

Last week my 12-year-old went down the street to cut his uncle's lawn. He came back with two toads and a baby bunny. The toads are nothing new. They find dozens of them in our yard or around the neighborhood each year. These two toads were pretty big. I guess I should be glad he discovered them before the mower blades did. They were placed in a tank in the garage with some water, rocks, sticks and greenery and released the next day.

The bunny was a new one. We had a domesticated rabbit as a pet when my oldest was about 5. He was brown and my son named him Napoleon. This one was wild, but it didn't keep my son from getting attached to it and naming it. When he found it, it made no attempt to run away and there were no other rabbits nearby - a hint that it wasn't healthy and perhaps had been left by its mother while she tended to the healthier ones of the bunch.

My son set up a glass tank to make it comfortable for his new pet, which he named Zoey. He added grass and made up a little bed with towels and put in some cardboard containers that Zoey could snuggle up in if she got cold or scared. He put parsley, carrots, spinach, lettuce and cucumbers in the tank for her, but she barely nibbled. He used chicken-wire and made a little pen to put Zoey in to let her get out of the tank for some exercise. He was taking great care of her. We kept telling him that we wouldn't be able to keep a wild bunny and that she'd have to be let go eventually.

After four or five days, my husband discovered that Zoey hadn't made it. My 12-year-old sadly buried her in the back yard - adding a canopy to keep the burial site from getting wet and a fence around it to keep the dog away. A sad day for the little guy...but happy to see how he cared for Zoey during her final days and after.

Get with it, Mother Nature!

The spring flowers are blooming, but the garden isn't doing so good. For the past few years, my husband and boys have planted a garden. I wish I could say I had something to do with it, but I don't. It's all my husband and the boys and Grandpa. I plant flowers. They plant the food.

My father-in-law has a huge garden. He has a MAJOR green thumb. Everything he plants seems to do well. Tomatoes the size of a large softball, two-foot-long cucumbers, bunches of green beans, sweet carrots, spicy radishes, leafy lettuce. It's wonderful because it's always more than they can eat and we benefit from his green thumb. His garden is also big enough so that there's extra room there to grow what won't fit in our small yard. My 12-year-old usually stakes out a portion of the garden to grow the sprawling vines of pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupe. Here's a picture of some of the pumpkins that he grew.

And here's some more of the goodies.

At home, we always grow sunflowers as a border around the garden. We've had flowers up to 12-foot tall. I love to look out the window and see this:

This year, my husband thought it would be nice to build a greenhouse and start from seed instead of getting tomato, pepper, zucchini plants. However, he wasn't counting on the cold weather we've had. Snow flurries in April, temperatures near freezing when we're nearing June. Nothing has done well. Maybe one of these days Mother Nature will realize it's spring, but by then it will be summer and she'll be cranking up the heat.

Don't you love when they love eachother?

Siblings. When you put two brothers together, what do you often get? rivalry. arguments. fights. quarrels. wrestling. teasing. tormenting. knock-down-drag-out-fights, as my mom used to say.

I know that my sisters often fought. It was more dramatics. Tears over toys, crying over clothes, feuds over friends. It never came to punches. Sometimes pinching or hair-pulling. Occasionally slapping or kicking. We never threw punches, though. Most of our disagreements involved spiteful words. That's usually how it starts with boys - at least my boys - and it often ends with something physical. Something physical that results in crying or bleeding.

In between the quarrels, however, are those blissful moments when they actually seem to like one another. They sit next to each other and talk. They share games and toys. They give each other their candy or their money or other possessions. Those moments are so nice. Some days they are rare.

Recently, I got a new camera. Well, not brand spankin' new, but new to me. A Nikon D60 off Ebay. And I found out yesterday I could have probably gotten the newest model with all the extras for maybe $100 more. I wish I'd done a bit more homework!

Anyway, I took my new camera along on our first really warm day this spring. We went to our favorite park. The plan was a stop at the park followed by ice cream...but there was one condition. They didn't get ice cream until they let me snap a couple pictures. It was met with much resistance. It was actually a VERY warm day. We'd gone from 40 degrees to the 90's in a matter of hours and the intense heat was making us all a bit grouchy. They were in no mood for smiling for photos when the heat wave had their taste buds craving sundaes.

Finally, they agreed. And once I started snapping, they perked up and interacted like brothers who actually like each other. So, here are some shots from that day. A little playtime outside can bring out the best in them. And ice cream never hurts. :)

Overflowing with artwork

As a first time mom, you want to hang on to every scrap of paper that documents the childhood of your baby. Actually, I still want to do that - even being a mom of 5. I love to be able to look back and something they created years ago, when their hands were much smaller. I do have stacks of artwork and school memorabilia that I've saved. However, with five children you have to cut back at some point to keep from drowning in a sea of paperwork. I have read articles and blogs by moms with similar difficulties. One suggested framing it all (not enough wall space), one suggested scanning them and saving them all on your computer (the scanner isn't functioning) and someone suggested taking pictures of the artwork. That seemed do-able. This way, I still have a permanent reminder of the things my little guys have made, but the sea of paperwork is reduced down to a lake, perhaps a small pond. I still can't resist keeping some of the sweetest mementos...and these pictured below may have to stay in the permanent collection. Who would have thought having artistic children would cause such a dilemma!

I've got a headache

These allergies have been kicking my butt. I'm so tired of it. I have no energy and am tired ALL the time. My ear hurts, my throat hurts, my eyes are itchy, my nasal passages are congested, my head hurts. That's how I felt when I woke up today. I bummed around the house a little, took some Tylenol and went back to bed hoping I'd feel a little better.

I woke up at 1:18 p.m. "Oh, crap!!!" I thought. My 9-year-old was supposed to be at a birthday party at 1:30. And it takes 15 minutes to drive there. We grabbed the gift and ran out the door. It was at Funflatables. Perfect place to be on a day like today when the rain was pouring down.

My son ran and jumped non-stop until he was dripping with sweat. On the way home, he closed his eyes and said he wanted to try to take a nap. He had a headache, he told me. Places like Funflatables can understandably cause headaches in parents, but not often kids. We got home and he bundled up on the sofa and went to sleep. I hope it's just an allergy headache and we don't have some germy virus making its way through our house during the last two weeks of school. Gives me a headache just thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Did I tell you about the time I abandoned a child at Oprah's studio?

I've been seeing blurbs today about the big Oprah finale taking place this evening at the United Center. Got me thinking back to my couple of visits to the Oprah Show years ago. It was the early 1990's. At the time, getting tickets was no problem at all. You called the number. Someone answered. You told them you wanted to go to a taping. They gave you a date. You said "okay" and then you showed up on the designated date. Back then, there was no website to go to so you could get more details or find out if there may be a celebrity guest showing up. I don't think she was even giving things away yet. Your only line of communication was through that phone number, which was never busy when you called.

I went to two tapings, probably in 1992. One time I remember going with my mother-in-law, who raised her hand to one of Oprah's questions during a commercial break. "See me after the show," she told my m-i-l and the two chatted for a few minutes.

The other time, I went with a co-worker, my sister and my niece, who was 15 or 16 at the time. We showed up early as instructed and went to a nearby diner for breakfast. When we got to the front gate, we were notified that you had to be over age 18 to be part of the audience due to the racy content. It was about older women dating young guys and some moms going after their sons' friends. Today, we call them cougars -- and see them all over TV. Twenty years ago, it was "too racy."

Most responsible adults would have left disappointed. Yet, when someone at the counter suggested she could sit in a waiting room while the rest of us went into the studio, we decided it was a good idea. We still laugh about how we abandoned my niece and left her to watch a rerun in the waiting room with a security guard, while we went in for the taping. We can laugh about it now. Looking back, I have to wonder what I was thinking. She was bummed, but still happy to have gotten a day out of school and a chance to be in the building. And years later, she was able to return and see a much better show than we did.

I still remember shaking Oprah's hand on the way out and telling her how wonderful she looked in the peach suit she had on. (WHEN is that color going to come back? It looked great on her.)

Not too long ago, my niece finally got her chance to get in and be part of the audience for real. She sent in an e-mail on a whim and ended up right in the front of a show featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It made up for the crummy circumstances of her first visit.

Called out by the kid

Kids say it like it is. And it doesn't always come out the way you want it to. Yesterday was check-up day at the doctor for my youngest. He likes the doc. He's a sweet guy who usually ignores mom, but that's fine with me. He focuses on the patient - whether he's 16 or 6. He asks the kid the questions and waits patiently for the answers. And I mean he waits patiently! He sits on the edge of his seat waiting for responses to such significant questions as "Do you eat a lot of good food?," "What's your girlfriend's name?" or "Do you have diarrea?" And he should get extra points for his acting, because he really convinces those little people on the other end of the stethoscope that hearing about their diarrea is the most earth-shattering and interesting thing he has ever heard.

In the long line of questioning, my 6-year-old was quick to answer questions with either a nod or a simple "yes" or "no." He didn't elaborate even when there was a bit more he could explain. Like when the doctor said "Ok, let's assess your risks. Does anyone in your house smoke?" I was floored when he answered "yes." I shook my head and said "nobody smokes at home." To which he answered, "Yeah, Dad does." I was puzzled. Neither my husband or I have ever smoked cigarettes. Ooopps. I forgot about the two or three cigars my husband might smoke outside over the course of a year.

Next question was "Are there any guns in your house?" Again, he surprised me with his response of "yes." Again, I was behind him shaking my head "no." "You're talking about dart guns and toy guns?" I said. Nope. That's not what he was talking about. I had forgotten about a b.b. gun that my husband had shot a few times at some varmints that were destroying his garden. My son hadn't, so he answered the doctor's question. His Elmer Fudd ways were exposed. By the time we left the office for what was a routine check-up, our household had become one of gun-toting, chain-smokers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I love girl time!

I grew up in a house with sisters. My dad was outnumbered. I live in a house with six males. Oh, and the dog is also a male. I am very outnumbered. Everything in my home revolves around boys. No hint of anything girly. No shades of pink. All tough stuff. Rowdy rolling around on the floor wrestling. Destruction. Testosterone.

So, I was so happy to have an opportunity to spend a little time with my sisters this weekend. I’m in the middle of the girls. I have an older sister and younger twin sisters. One sister lives a little less than an hour away. Another lives a little over an hour away. The other lives more than two hours away. So, it’s not often we get together. In fact, the four of us are only together usually for Thanksgiving and Christmas and whichever kids’ birthday parties fall during the year that we’re all able to attend.

The past couple years we made a conscious effort to schedule a “sisters weekend.” Our first one was in January a couple years ago. We met for lunch, did some shopping, stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast. The next morning was a gourmet breakfast followed by an afternoon at the spa for manicures, pedicures and massages. It was wonderful.

Last year, my sister told us about a Sisters Weekend near her in St. Charles, Illinois. I think it was organized by their chamber of commerce or local business owners group to encourage shopping in the downtown area. This time our sisters get-together was two nights. There were lots of fun scheduled activities. This time, our sister-in-law also joined us and it was so nice to have her there.

This year, time has just slipped away from us and we haven’t gotten a weekend on the calendar. The busy sports and travel seasons are gearing up, so who knows when we’ll fit it in. However, this past weekend, we were able to get together for an impromptu sleepover at my sister’s house. It was a short one. I was away from home for only about 17 hours, but it was so refreshing! I met my twin sisters at IKEA. It was my first time there! I loved browsing. Then we met my older sister and had dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. We all love those types of restaurants! We had a great time. Back at my sister’s, it was time for a chic flick. Great choice – Valentine’s Day. We loved it!

Once the movie was done (a little after midnight), two sisters went off to bed and one of the twins and I spent a little time on the computer looking up video clips and giggling. Then, as happens at many a girly sleepover, we put our heads on the pillows and chatted. And chatted. And chatted. Next thing I know my sister says “I think I hear birds chirping. We better go to sleep.” We checked the clock. It was 4:30 a.m. Needless to say, we were a bit groggy when we were awakened by our other sisters’ laughter at 9 a.m., but it was a wonderful time with my wonderful sisters! I’m so blessed to have them in my life! Now it’s back to the boy fortress, but a weekend like we had - with time to relax and regroup -makes it that much sweeter to come home.

May every girl find her prince

*Note: This blog was written on April 29, but I'm just getting it posted.

Just as I did thirty years ago, I got up early today to watch the royal wedding. That year I was eight-years-old. I was in awe of all the tradition, the crowds, the dress, the whole fairy tale.

In 1981, I got up about 4 a.m. This time I woke up at 5 a.m. as my husband’s alarm went off to wake him for work. It was perfect timing. I tuned in just to see the bride arriving at the church. It was a bit different than watching the royal wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in 1981. Looking back, they looked so nervous and unsure. This time, the couple looked so at ease, so confident, so comfortable, so in love. I guess that may be in part because Diana was so young. I know that when I married, just before I turned 19, I was nervous and just so immature and more into the party that would take place afterwards than the meaning of the vows and the seriousness of the ceremony. However, I did marry my prince who I grow to love more every day. It’s been almost 20 years since I walked down the aisle and I still get giddy when we’re together.

As I watched the royal wedding, I thought the bride was stunning. I wasn’t so much into the fashion and the celebrities in attendance. The moment that really got me was when William first glanced at his bride and told her she looked beautiful. It made me melt. Every girl should have a groom that looks at her that way. Even without all the pomp and circumstanceand all the riches that go along with his status, that was a moment that defined him as a fairy-tale “prince.” It’s the way my guy looked at me on our wedding day and still does – wrinkles, gray hairs, c-section scar, extra pounds, stretch marks and all.

A tear-filled day (but in a good way)

*Note: This was written on Thurs. April 28 -- just posting it a bit late.

Well, today was an emotional day. I admit I’m quite sappy and it often doesn’t take much for me to reach for Kleenex. I began the day at a wedding of a couple I had never met, but weddings always make me weepy. I was covering a “royal wedding” that was part of a WGN contest for a local paper. It’s been a few weeks in the making. Chicago’s WGN Channel 9 sponsored a contest in the weeks leading up to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Viewers picked a winning couple and then got to vote on all the details – the rings, dress, menu, flowers, table settings, honeymoon locale. So, I went out to Meyer’s Castle, a mansion in Dyer that was designed to resemble a Scottish castle, for the event. The site is a wedding venue, restaurant and upscale nightclub.

I talked to the bride before the wedding, which was kind of neat. Even at weddings I attend where I know the couple, rarely have I been in the room with the bride before she walks down the aisle. It was quite fun.

The wedding ceremony was aired on live television. After asking a producer where I could stand to be out of the way, he asked me to fill in an empty seat. So, I was able to enjoy the wedding from the same vantage point as the guests. As soon as the bride began to tear up during the vows, I did the same.

I came home and wrote my article to get in for deadline. Then it was getting to work on last minute details for a dinner I was coordinating with friends in the Junior Woman’s Club. The dinner was to honor our local vets and it was so touching to see so many heroes there with their spouse or guest. Many were World War II veterans. Our speaker was the brother of a local Marine who died while serving in Iraq five years ago. After he was done talking, his father also said a few words. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place, myself included. I felt so proud of our club at the end of night for doing something to bring such an exceptional group together and to show our appreciation for them and all they have sacrificed.

My buddies from the Lansing Jr. Woman's Club.

The Band of Brothers Pipes & Drums were there!

Some of our distinguished guests. This couple met while serving during World War II. Aren't they adorable?

Some more of our guests enjoying the dinner.

The Honor Guard presented colors.