Moms and Bandages…Even in Spirit

1968 - Mom and Nancy in kitchen

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is a day to celebrate our mother, and we will celebrate her whether she is with us or not. Today is a day with mixed emotions spanning from my 25 year old daughter-in-law who has a fresh open wound of losing her mother only two weeks ago to me, a 57 year old who lost my mother eight years ago, to an 80 year old friend who lost her mother thirty years ago.

The 80 year old friend said she still misses her mother. When my mother passed, a co-worker told me that she had lost her mother years before. She said not a day will go by that I don’t think of her. She was right.

The first year that I was without her was difficult because I missed the daily chats we had in the past and the quick phone calls I would make to her when I had a cooking question. With time I became accustom to her being gone. Her spirit and teachings live in me, and I think of her daily and cherish the precious memories we shared together.

This picture of my mother and me in her domain…the kitchen…depicts her so well and everything in this picture stirs memories of the mother that I love dearly. My mother was happy to be a full-time housewife and mother. She spent hours and hours working in her kitchen using her Magic Chef oven to her electric Sunbeam mixer, to her metal flour and sugar canisters, to her coffee percolator, to her Sunbeam blender and to the knives she has hanging on her wall. She was also a seamstress and had sewn together the aprons that we have wrapped around us in this picture.

When I was young and had scraped, bloody knees my mom swept me up, cleaned the wound, bandaged it and then held me tight to ease the pain. I like to think that perhaps my mom continues to care for me like that even after she is gone. Her spirit dwells inside of me and continues to comfort. She eased my open wound and pain from losing her with a bandage of love that can still be felt. Every year the excruciating pain of loss lessened and the love increased.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…Jean Belle! I’ll love you forever!

What memories of your mom come to mind when you think of her on this special day? Answering these questions below about your mother will be a start to Keeping Your Memories of her preserved in writing so that she will forever be remembered. If you’re fortunate that your mother is still with you, ask her to answer these questions about her mother also.

  • What do you remember most about your mother’s appearance?
  • What sounds do you associate with your mother?
  • What was your favorite food that your mother cooked for you?
  • What pleasant smells do you associate with your mother?
  • What special touch do you associate with your mother?


Jake (My Dad) The Tool Man

My husband and I went to a large-scale hardware store today to purchase an electric sander that we need so we can 2017-04-29 Dad and Nancy
repair a door on our garden shed and restore some kitchen furniture. When walking in this store, we stopped and took a wide-angle view of the store to see what direction we needed to go. When I saw a sales clerk, I walked up to him to ask where to find the sander. He pointed out to us where to go and once there we stared at the numerous sanders and tried to figure out which one we needed. After consulting a son-in-law who does more construction work than we do, we settled on the palm sander.

With today, April 29, being my father’s 91st birthday what better place for me to be but at a hardware store.  Dad has been gone for over ten years now. If he had been here, we would have called him to borrow one of his sanders. He seemed to be a tool collector, and he knew how to use everything and used it at least once. However, if he didn’t have what we needed, he would have met with us to help us.

Today also reminds me of the multiple times in my childhood in the 1960’s when I tagged along with Dad to the local hardware store in our town. Lindy’s Hardware on Kennedy Avenue in Hessville was his mainstay for purchasing supplies and tools when he was making something or doing home repairs.

Lindy's Ace Hardware in Hessville

The difference between the large-scale hardware store and this small corner hardware store was you never had to search for something on your own. At Lindy’s the men who worked there along with the owner, Lindy, would stand at the front door and greet the customers (often by name) as they came in, ask what they were looking for, and assist the customer in finding the minutest item to the largest item that he or she needed. They were always nice to me when I walked in with Dad. I loved the awesome smell of that store that this hardware store carried. I can’t quite describe it other than freshly cut wood. But I will never forget the smell of that store.

Dad had a workroom in the basement where he built shelves and hung pegboards to organize all of his tools, nails, screws and nuts and bolts and a place to use his table saw. He spent much of his retirement time building wood creations and teaching his grandchildren how to do the same. My children loved exploring and working in Papa’s workroom.

Today in memory of my father on his birthday we are not having cake. We are sanding furniture! He would be proud of us!

If your father or mother is gone, what special memories come to you on their birthday? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and use the questions below to start Keeping Your Memories of what special memories you have of them. You can start with answering these questions:

  • What special ordinary place do you remember going to often with your mom or dad?
  • What kind of smell did it have? Can you still remember that smell?
  • How often did you get to go on a one-on-one errand with your mom and dad?
  • Was it special because you had multiple siblings and enjoyed having your mom or dad to yourself?
  • What is the recollection of the location?

He Has Run a Good Race


Mr. and Mrs. Stephens

One week ago today Mr. Stephens passed at the age of 91. He was…is…always will be…the father of Carol, my BFF since 1965. 91 years old. That is a long life, and it is easier to accept the passing of a loved one who has lived a long and fulfilling life. But I still mourn. And perhaps it is a selfish mourning. I miss being the child and being loved and cared for by not only my parents but also other elders in my life.

On Sunday, five days before he passed, I went to visit Carol and her family to celebrate Mrs. Stephens’ 90th birthday and to say goodbye to Mr. Stephens. I don’t believe at any time with all the days, nights, hours that I spent at that home did I ever go into her parents’ bedroom until that day.

In these 52 years, I have never seen him lying down asleep. But that Sunday I saw this 91-year-old man in his well-worn body laying in drug induced subdued pain. For the first time, I stood over him. For the first time when I spoke to him, he couldn’t respond to me. For the first time in 52 years, I gently kissed him on his forehead when I said my last good-bye.

On my drive home that day I reminisced about my past and how enjoyable it was because of the wonderful people that I had in my life.

As a young child, life was simple. I played outside. I rode my Schwinn banana seat bike without a helmet down the middle of the side streets. On rainy days I played board games and watched TV. I walked by myself to school. I ate whatever my mother fixed that day for dinner. I shopped for frivolous luxuries on my weekly $1.00 allowance.

In the 1960’s it was not unusual that my friends shared bedrooms with multiple siblings as it was common to have four to seven siblings per family.  There were even a few families in school that had twelve siblings. And many siblings had friends within the same families. My four brothers all had a close friend from Carol’s family also.

The majority of my friend’s mothers were housewives who devoted the majority of their time to managing a tribe of children and overseeing the maintenance of the home that was infested with their children and their children’s friends coming in and out of the doors continuously throughout the day.

But our childhood was enjoyable because our fathers, like Mr. Stephens, and many of the fathers of my childhood friends, provided for us and set an example before our generation of being hard-working individuals who grew up during the Great Depression.  They knew the struggles of poverty and knew it was possible to do better in life with hard work and determination. They knew how to make life better for their children and through all of this they taught by example to work diligently.

This past Monday Mr. Stephen’s wife, children, grandchildren and great children gathered along with extended family and friends to celebrate his life. His grandchildren shared how he impacted their lives with his patience and wisdom along with his willingness to teach, to help, and to love.

A portion of his obituary read:  “He was a 1943 graduate of Hammond Tech High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served on the USS Kingfish submarine during World War II in the Pacific Theater, as a Torpedoman Second Class. After the War, he served on the USS Atule submarine in the Arctic Ocean, finished his tour on the USS Toro, and was honorably discharged in 1947. Upon returning, he began working for local steel mills, and retired from Bethlehem Steel after over 40 years in the steel industry. He was an avid runner, running in the Chicago Marathon in 1979 at age 53. Ed also enjoyed fishing, camping, boating, water skiing, and traveling coast to coast with his wife and children to see other family and friends.”

Mr. Stephens was also a second father to many. I am so thankful for the kindness and patience he has always shown to me my entire life. He has impacted my life and taught by example. May I only do the same for my children and grandchildren as he has done for his.

What childhood memories do you have of your friend’s parents? Preserving the legacies of these important people will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will enjoy reading about your childhood.

Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of someone who impacted your life as a child.



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.

Happy Valentine’s Day


Every Valentine’s Day I think of my father. He has been gone for ten years now, but I still remember the greeting cards that he gave to me every year on Valentine’s Day. Those cards are all glued into my old scrapbooks. I cherish those cards.

On this 10th anniversary of his passing, I felt a trace of his spirit with me. On my train ride home tonight from work I passed by a woman in a seat holding three red long stemmed roses wrapped in plastic wrap. Memories immediately filled my heart of my dad’s tradition of giving my mother the same three long stemmed roses. Exactly what I saw this woman holding.

My parents always said those three roses represented my mom, my dad and God. If there are red roses in heaven, I know Dad will be giving them to her. I love you Mom and Dad!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.




Practice Makes P-E-R-F-E-C-T


My mother passed away eight years ago yesterday and my favorite memory of her concentrated on her love of words and the game of Scrabble. She often challenged family members and loved to win.

She enjoyed playing Scrabble and kept an “official” Scrabble dictionary to settle word challenges. She loved to be competitive and would challenge both her adult children and grandchildren. She often played competitively with many two letter words that would rake in high points.

After she died I found well worn papers with coffee cup stains on them showing at some time she had perused a dictionary and copied two to three letter words that she could use which proves she actually studied to win.

That was one of Mom’s life lessons that she taught us by example… If you want to be good at something, you have to work hard behind the scenes to learn how to accomplish the goal and continually practice to make yourself better.

This memory and others of my mother have been written and recorded for my children and grandchildren to read after I am gone. If I hadn’t preserved the memories of my mother, she would have been forgotten.

Preserving the legacies of your parents will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read these life stories and understand their family heritage. Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your parents starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your parent(s)?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your parent(s)?
  • What was your proudest moment of your parent(s)?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parent(s)?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your parent(s)?