Pictures Simply Capture the Memories

My cousin, Susie, was born September 26, three months and one day before I was born. She was born in Missouri. I was born in Indiana.

Our first pictures of us together – Susie was 13 months old, and I was 10 months old – were taken with an 8mm camera at our grandma’s home in Missouri.

Our last pictures of us together – forty-eight years later – were taken with a digital camera at her home in Missouri on Memorial Day 2008.

I cherish all of the pictures taken of us in between.

Susie passed on July 3, 2008.





My Annual Day of Thanks


Clockwise:  Carol; Nancy 1 week after surgery; Nancy and Bruce 5 months after the surgery.

Today is my thirty-seventh anniversary of the day I almost met my Maker! It is my annual reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to put all that crosses my path in perspective.

It was Friday, February 15, 1980. I was leaving work with plans to meet my friend, Carol, for our weekly Friday night game of racquetball. After scraping the car windows of ice and snow, I sat in the driver’s seat, inserted the key and started the car.

In a split second I felt that familiar rush in my head. It was that frightening rush that I’d previously had four other times since I was thirteen. I held tightly onto the steering wheel and braced myself expecting to have another grand mal seizure. It never came. This time I became nauseous and it felt like my head was going to burst.

I turned off the car, walked back into the office and laid my head down on my desk. Again I waited to have the seizure, but it didn’t happen. Ken, my boss, had me come into his office and lay down on his couch after I explained to him I was feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Ken tried to contact my parents but was unable to reach them because they routinely went grocery shopping on Friday nights. And this was the pre-cell phone and pre-voicemail era so it was impossible to reach them. He eventually was able to contact my brother, Bruce, and told him that I seemed to have the flu and asked him to come to the office and take me home.

I don’t remember Bruce picking me up at work, however, I briefly remember sitting in his car in his driveway while he stopped to tell his wife that he was going to take me to the emergency room (“ER”) at a local hospital as he had determined that it was something other than the flu. By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was incoherent and eventually became comatose.

Thankfully in 1980 medical technology was advancing and the doctors were able to run a CT scan and an angiogram to detect a blood clot on my brain had hemorrhaged. The neurosurgeon diagnosed me with arteriovenous malformation (“AVM”) which is a congenital disorder of blood vessels with a tangled web of abnormal arteries and veins. We finally had an explanation for my previous seizures.

Carol, my friend that had been waiting for me at the racquetball court, was a nursing student and ironically was working the midnight shift in the ER that night. When she started her shift, she was given details about patients and was shocked when she learned I was the patient with the brain hemorrhage.

In the meantime, my parents were finally contacted and arrived at the hospital. Doctors advised them to notify close family members and friends as they gave me only four days to live. From the ER I was transferred to the intensive care unit (“ICU”) where family and friends came to see me. Miraculously, two days later I came out of my coma.

Living in Northwest Indiana we were, fortunately, only 35 miles from Chicago. The local neurosurgeon arranged for me to be transferred to a Chicago hospital that had an excellent neurosurgeon with surgical experience in repairing AVM’s. That surgeon was out of the country at the time so I stayed in the ICU for a week until he returned.

Once I was under the Chicago neurosurgeon’s care, I underwent more testing and preparation for the surgery. The day of the surgery I had absolutely no fear. The surgery was successful and recovery went well. I had minimal recovery time and after only one week I was sent home. From the point of near death to brain surgery to going home was a span of only three weeks.

Life is definitely a journey and mine has been interesting with some of the obstacles in the path, and I will forever be thankful to God for every extra day that I have been given. I am especially thankful that I have been blessed with my husband and three children and now their spouses.

In 1980 I was journaling as I found it important to record my journeys in life and recorded my experiences during this time and am able to read my reaction and emotions when I was twenty years old. Have you been Keeping Your Memories of your life journeys? If not, now is the time to begin. Grab your pen and paper or pull out your laptop and begin to answer these questions:

• Describe a time in your life when you had a serious complication.
• Describe an incident in your life that was your biggest challenge.
• Describe one moment in your life that changed everything for you.

March is Trisomy Awareness Month


March is Trisomy Awareness Month. Alas, I have been knowledgeable of Trisomy 18 for close to six years because of the birth of my grandniece Delainey Belle.

In August 2010 my niece shared with us, “My unborn daughter has been diagnosed with Trisomy 18…it is a fatal chromosomal defect…if she makes it to birth she will not live very long. I will be thankful for every moment with Delainey Belle!!!”

Trisomy was a foreign word to all of us, however, too soon did we come to know Trisomy 18 is a genetic chromosomal disorder which occurs in approximately one in every 3000 live births. Most of these babies die before birth and those who do make it to birth typically live only a few days. However, less than 10% of babies live at least one year. There was much sadness learning that my niece’s baby wasn’t expected to live more than one week.

Delainey Belle was born on November 15, 2010. It was a day of joy and celebration of her birth mixed with fear and sadness that she may not be with us for long. However, she came home from the hospital fourteen days after her birth and her days expanded into weeks and her weeks expanded into months.

This little girl couldn’t speak, but you felt her share her soul when she deeply stared into your eyes and felt her love when she reached her little fingers to your cheek to stroke it. Delainey Belle knew how to communicate and share her love.

Delainey’s parents, grandparents, extended family and friends were so thankful that Delainey Belle was a fighter. Her strength and defiance of dealing with her Trisomy 18 condition helped her beat the odds and statistics that were against her.

She was with us for only twenty-three months and one day as she passed on October 16, 2012. But in that short time she touched an extraordinary amount of lives and continues to bless many of us with the precious memories of our times together.

Delainey Belle has taught us the value of life and what is truly important to happiness. She was given love, devotion and commitment from her family and in return she gave us twenty-three joyful, priceless months of enriching our lives with her beautiful spirit.

If you have a loved one that you have lost, grab your laptop or pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of that loved one. It is a helpful therapy while you are grieving.

  • What legacy did he/she leave?
  • What special moments did you share with him/her?





Blizzard of 2016


This past week for two days I had to call off work. I live 60 miles outside of Chicago where I work so the weather there can be totally different from the weather by my home. Chicago got only approximately 2″ of snow and we got 15″ of snow.  I am proud to say Midwesterner’s are resilient and can normally withstand snowstorms, but it is the blowing and drifting snow that stops us. On the open country roads the snow blows horizontally causing massive drifts and blocks us. Cars and trucks get stuck and people either abandon their cars or are stuck in them for hours.

The wet and heavy snow also caused mass power outages on Day 1 and commuter trains not running the morning of Day Two. In our home we had no electricity for 21 hours which also resulted in no heat and no water.  We have well water so when the power goes, the water goes…which means no flushing possible!  When I moved out this way, that really freaked me out because I had never experienced that before! With a cold, pitch black home on Wednesday night we went to bed at 9:00 p.m., and we slept under the covers with a 56 temperature in the house.

Of course, my experience was minor in comparison to those who were left stranded in their cars and trucks for hours on country roads or walked through the blizzard to their homes.

All of this certainly made us aware of and appreciate the luxuries and comforts we take for granted having electricity.

While clearing out my refrigerator/freezer and putting food in coolers to set out in the snow before anything was spoiled, made me think how my grandparents and great-grandparents lived like this daily. They had to work hard every day just to handle daily activities of eating and keeping warm.

Suckers Flat MO - CopyMy grandfather is the six year old boy in the center of the picture standing between his parents. I can only imagine the hardships that these folks struggled through everyday. The men in this picture worked in the lead and zinc mines at the Suckers Flat Mine in Webb City, Missouri in 1890. The women, most likely, tended to the food, taking care of children, animals and daily chores.

Many of the businesses in our town were also closed beyond their control due to power outages so it wasn’t possible to hop in the car to pick up something quick to eat. And what I did have in the house I couldn’t cook, but we certainly didn’t go hungry as we found things tucked in our cabinets that obviously weren’t our favorite. Again, our ancestors experienced this daily.

It was a “hallelujah moment” when lights were on again Thursday afternoon and life was back to normal. Here’s to our ancestors who daily worked hard back in their time!

Do you remember stories that your grandparents told you about their experiences as a child or their grandparents who lived without the luxury of electricity? Now is the to pull out your laptop or pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of those stories.

Balloons and Butterflies – A Tribute to Delainey Belle


It was October 16, 2012. I will never forget that day. I was at work and was rushing to wrap things up because I was leaving early to attend the Association of Personal Historian conference in St. Louis that week. Unexpectedly, I received the phone call from my nephew that afternoon that I will never forget.

My twenty-three month old grandniece had left us. Christy and Tim’s daughter, Delainey Belle, was born on November 15, 2010 with Trisomy 18.  This chromosomal condition was diagnosed before her birth. They were told that it is a fatal condition with most of the babies dying before birth and those who do make it to birth typically live only a few days. And less than ten percent of babies with Trisomy 18 live at least one year.

Delainey Belle had been defying the odds given her. As time passed and her extensive care had all been put in place, her mom eventually returned to work. But fortunately on this day her mom was scheduled off. She loved Delainey Belle to the moon and back and was with her from her first breath to her last.

That day I went on to the conference and while hearing the importance of preserving priceless life stories, I was inspired to create a memorial book for Delainey’s short life. At dinner that night I shared with fellow personal historians about this precious child and was given suggestions on how to create it. I left the conference early to attend the wake and funeral.

The tributes started pouring in from family and friends. It was amazing to read the tributes of how Delainey Belle touched so many lives. The most common words used in everyone’s writings were: love, thankful, blessing, smiles, hope, and inspiration. We easily found pictures of everyone holding Delainey and smiling at her and was able to match them with their tribute. The love was shown in those pictures with the eye contact Delainey shared with all who met her.

Christy wrote this poem and read it at the funeral:

Delainey Speaks

Even though you think you shouldn’t,

Laugh anyway, it makes me smile.

Even though you can’t carry a tune,

Sing anyway, it calms me.

Even though you think you can’t,

Try anyway, I always did.

Even though people say you won’t,

Do anyway, I proved them wrong.

Even though you may have obstacles,

Overcome them, I was able.

Even though you have tears,

Shed them anyway, I had to.

Even though you think you can’t,

Live anyway, I did.

Confessions of a Food Stamp Recipient


I admit it. I used food stamps. There. I’ve said it.

The last couple days I have read in the news that politicians in Kansas want to put a limit on where public assistance aid can be used. Lawmakers in Missouri are considering a bill that would prevent food stamps recipients from buying steak, seafood, cookies, chips and energy drinks. I’ve read comments from others making judgmental remarks of people who are on welfare. When people make derogatory comments to me about welfare recipients, I cringe because that was me.

I had been a stay-at-home mom with my three children, 11, 7 and 5. My husband and I had marital and financial struggles and in 1999 when he left for the last time and our divorce became final, my struggles escalated.  I found a full time job and in addition had financial assistance from my parents, family, friends and church. I received little child support and there were long periods when no child support contributions were made.

I started working full-time, but my income was still at poverty rate as a single mother with three young children. It finally came to the point that I had to make an appointment at the welfare office to apply for food stamps and financial aid.

During this difficult time I continued journaling as I always have done. It was a means for me to release my sorrow and despair. My journal entry excerpt dated Tuesday, August 17, 1999 reads:

“Now I have experienced the feeling of total humiliation and embarrassment! Last week I applied for food stamps. Other people have been suggesting to me that I do that, but I had said that is one of the last things that I would ever do.

Fortunately the caseworker I was assigned to was understanding and made me feel less uncomfortable. I told her I didn’t want to be there. But she said I’m the person for who food stamps are for. I’m temporarily going through a tough time and need help until I get ahead.”

Three months later on November 9, 1999 I journaled the following while sitting in the waiting room at the welfare office in North Hammond:

“I never thought I would be in this setting. I’m sitting in a dirty, green vinyl chair. I had to brush all the crumbs off of the chair before I sat down, I hear a baby crying. I see applicants dressed in shorts, jeans and t-shirts with stains on them. Women with unbrushed hair pulled tightly back in hair clips and pony tails. There is a mixture of black and white men and women.

The gray haired, heavy set, security guard is sitting at an old metal desk in the waiting area. I hear jingling of keys and garbled radio messages as a young, thin security guard is toying with his keys and walking the halls. Three female office workers are talking and laughing behind a glass encased reception area.

This welfare office is located in an old bank building in a run down industrial area on the north side of the city. This room is so dirty. There are crackers and crumbs on the floor. Lights in the ceiling are out.  Dirt on the walls and vents. Dirty windows. Desks are filthy. Milk from baby bottles has spilled down the sides and fronts of desks lined up against the walls. An old clock that doesn’t work is still mounted to the wall.

A young mother is going out the door with a crying baby on her hip, and the mother is yelling at the baby to shut up. They leave and the older security guard says it’s terrible that these babies are having babies.

I had to wait forty minutes. Finally I am called to the second floor to meet my caseworker. The professionally dressed woman came around the maze of cubicles to direct me to her cubicle. Her desk was completely covered with high stacks of papers. She just piled mine on top so she could pull my file up on her computer.

I left that building drained and discouraged. This is not the life I am used to or want to remain. I feel so defeated. I have little life left in me. I don’t trust people anymore.”

I firmly believe that politicians need to walk in the shoes of the common person.  Let them experience the difficulties and disgust that low-income people receive. Let them experience the humiliation given applying for and using food stamps. I had paper food stamps at the time and there were many cashiers who gave an attitude of disgust that I was using them and what I was buying. Honestly, I never purchased so much food before. But at least this was one less issue I did not have to have sleepless nights over wondering how I was going to pay for it.

I was on food stamps for two years. I eventually found a job in Chicago that paid enough to no longer be eligible for food stamps. I was on the road to financial recovery. Financial struggles never end for most people no matter how much your income, but I was no longer needing governmental help. I’m thankful for what was provided. Sometime later I found a book of food stamps that had a few dollars left in it that I had not used.  I did not need them anymore, but I kept it to always remind me of that time.

The good part of this story is that you can always make yourself better with struggles you go through. I have learned that there may be hardships and obstacles in your life, but if you keep your faith, keep your determination and keep the love for others, you can make it through that difficult time. It also helps you to understand what others are going through and to have compassion. As you go through life, you realize how blessed you are with the simple things.

Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of difficult times and experiences in your life and what you have learned from them.  Start with the following questions:

What was your biggest challenge that you faced?

  • What led you to this challenge?
  • How did you overcome it?
  • How have you become a better person from experiencing this challenge?
  • What life lesson did you learn from going through this challenge?