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Deep Fried Butter by
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I never knew you could fry butter, Pepsi, Oreos, Peanut Butter Cups, Twinkies, Snickers, brownies, or cookie dough until I attended my first state fair in Indianapolis, Indiana. We went with our daughter and small grandkids in August, 2010. The amusements were fun and the kids liked the animals and riding the ponies. But that food! I never knew everything imaginable could be fried. Until we went, I felt I had been deprived of this experience as a child and had in turn deprived my own kids. I guess missing out on deep fried butter wasn’t such a bad thing.

Not totally thrilled

Grilled cheese was the healthiest option there

Riding a pony was fun

How do you fry Pepsi?

But that food! I never knew everything imaginable could be fried.

RetroFlash — 100 words

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Paper Dolls, Potholders, and Pies by
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Prompted By Hobbies

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My brothers had real hobbies when we were kids. They built model ships from kits and airplanes with balsa wood and glue. They collected marbles to play with their friends and baseball cards to trade. They played pick up games of baseball. In contrast, I cut out clothes for paper dolls, wove potholders, and baked following recipes in Baking Fun and Facts for Teens. My hobbies growing up in the 1950s were passive, solitary, and highly domestic.

Looking back at my hobbies as a young girl, I realize how passive and home-bound they were.

Paper dolls were from the pre-Barbie era. I spent hours cutting out their outfits and attaching them to the dolls with tiny tabs that bent over the edges of each doll. I guess you could say I was developing my fine motor skills, but other than that, what a time-wasting hobby that was.

At least weaving potholders on a small, square loom with stretchy colored bands created something useful. The problem was, once I had gifted tons of these to my mother and grandmothers, what could I do with the excess stockpile? I tried selling them door-to-door with limited success. Obviously, only households without girls who also had this hobby would buy them, and no one wanted more than two.

When I was clearing out a kitchen cabinet to prepare for a small remodel several years ago, I discovered this:

Baking Fun and Facts for Teens featuring chapters entitled …
• Baking days are fun
• The whole crowd loves cookies
• Pies to make you proud

Published in the 1950s by Wesson Oil, this was apparently my bible for domesticity written for pre-teen girls of that era. The cookbook promises: “…The knack of making good things makes you somebody special … Remember, practice makes perfect — and helps you win showers of praise.”

Well, this hobby explains a lot. Even in my radical college days, protesting the war in Viet Nam went hand-in-hand with baking my husband-to-be German Chocolate cakes from scratch. Despite living through the bra-burning days of feminism and reading Ms. Magazine faithfully, a recipe for domestic living had been drilled into my head by my childhood hobbies. It went something like this:

• Combine marriage with having children at young age. Stir until brain is thoroughly blended.
• Mix well with changing all diapers and washing clothes frequently.
• Heat oven to 350 degrees to prepare and serve a family dinner every evening.
• Continue to whip all responsibility for management of household and children, even when working outside the home, until you are well beaten.
• Never sift through these ingredients, as it may cause recipe to boil over.

Looking back at my hobbies as a young girl, I realize how passive and home-bound they were. They were preparing me for a life that quickly became obsolete.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Now for Happy Anniversary* by
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Prompted By Anniversaries

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On August 18, 2018, exactly 50 years after Fred and I were married, we had a very rare and special anniversary. All of our kids and all of our grandkids but one came together to celebrate. We had a casual party that also included a few close, lifelong friends. There was only one gift I wanted. Pictures. Especially photos of all of our family together. My maternal grandfather used to say, from two people came many. Exactly how I felt. I come from a family that marked every special occasion with a family photo. This was the best gift ever.

The grandkids

I come from a family that marked every special occasion with a family photo.

*Per the John Shutkin rule, this qualifies as a RetroFlash, even though it includes a captioned photo and this footnote. I had to write something positive on this prompt so as not to be a Debbie Downer.

April 19, 2015 by
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Prompted By Anniversaries

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I also wrote about this in a previous post I published on the sixth anniversary of my mother’s death under the prompt Those We Miss.

I will never forget the actual anniversary of the day my mother died, April 19, 2015.

In Jewish tradition, every year we light a candle for the Yahrzeit or anniversary of a loved one’s death. Although it is a beautiful reminder and celebration of a person’s life, it falls on a different day each year because it is based on a lunar calendar. Every year, I have to consult with my brothers about what night to light the candle for our mother. As meaningful as that tradition is, I will never forget the actual anniversary of the day my mother died, April 19, 2015.

Mom with middle brother and me

My father had died a slow, sad death three years earlier in a nursing home, and my mother did not want that to happen to her. Happily, she got her wish. Sadly, I didn’t make it to her bedside in time to say goodbye.

Although she was 91 and had been experiencing stomach problems, the end came very quickly. My brothers, who lived near her, rushed her to the hospital and called me mid-day to say I should come as soon as possible. She had what turned out to be a perforated ulcer and was not doing well. The choice was a 5 to 6-hour car ride or catching a flight from Chicago to Detroit. I opted for the latter, thinking it would be quicker, booked the last seat on the next flight, and threw a few things into a carry-on bag. When my husband dropped me at O’Hare Airport, neither of us quite believed she would die.

With Mom in 2012

Because I barely made the flight and had a middle seat in the last row of the plane, the flight attendant confiscated my small bag. I begged her not to do this as my mother was dying and time was of the essence. I didn’t want to add a half-hour to retrieve it at baggage claim. Despite my begging and tears, the bag was taken. Rain delayed the flight, getting off the plane took forever, and picking up my carry-on from baggage claim added more time to the journey. Plus, I had lost an hour due to the time difference. My sister-in-law picked me up and we slowly drove to the hospital through a pouring rain.

When I finally made it to my mother’s bedside around 11:30 pm, it was clear that they had been keeping her alive so I could say goodbye. I hugged her and told her how much I loved her, but despite one of my brothers claiming she had reacted to my presence, I knew she was gone. As soon as the doctor disconnected the respirator, she died. It was just before midnight.

Perhaps if I had not been so delayed by the airline and the weather, I would have made it on time for Mom to know I was there. She was always there for me and I missed the chance to be there for her this one last time. Her decline had been so rapid that I’m not sure she was aware of much once she lost consciousness at the hospital. I wish I had at least been able to talk to her by phone, but given how quickly she became gravely ill, it wasn’t possible. In retrospect, short of dying in her sleep, this was pretty close to the ending my mother had wished for herself. I knew it was selfish of me to want to prolong her suffering so I could have a final goodbye. As it was, she would never have wanted to be on that ventilator just so I could see her “alive.”

The last time I saw my mother alive was on March 1 at a reception for my niece’s wedding. My in-town daughter’s family also drove there for the celebration, and we were all glad that we had this last chance to see Mom. She hugged her three oldest great grandchildren and held her youngest one, who was a baby. Here’s a picture of my granddaughter with my mother at that party. She was devastated when her Bubbe died.

Bubbe with one of her great grandkids

The funeral was a blur to me. I knew what Mom wanted because she had asked for these things for my father three years earlier. Although it was not customary, we put a spray of roses on her casket and family members threw them into the grave before we shoveled in the dirt. Her children each delivered a eulogy, as did her great granddaughter pictured above. We had framed photos displayed in the lobby of the funeral home. I know she would have liked it. The following October, we put the marker on her grave and did our own dedication service. At lunch after, we shared stories of mom.

Stones are left on top of the grave as an act of remembrance

Every time I drive past patches of Queen Anne’s Lace growing near a highway, I remember my mother and the anniversary of her death. Mom loved this wildflower and often took my kids to pick bunches of it that grew on the grounds of her apartment complex. She always told us that, while some people thought of it as a weed, she thought it was beautiful. It was her ability to see the beauty of simple things and her optimistic view of life that I remember to balance out the pain of that terrible anniversary.

Queen Anne’s Lace

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Traveling Abroad with Kids by
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Prompted By Family Trips

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The family trips I remember as a child consisted of traveling by cousin. We always drove somewhere where we had relatives who would put us up. On the way there, we stayed in motel rooms that allowed roll-away beds to accommodate a family of five. Since we had family in Cleveland, Bridgeport, and the Boston area, we generally drove to one of those locations. Renting a cabin on Cape Cod was as exotic as it got. My husband’s experiences were similar.

I wondered if they would have been just as happy going to a resort near home that had a pool.

When we thought our own kids were old enough to appreciate exciting travel, we decided to take them to Paris and Israel. Our son was turning thirteen, we had family in Israel, my parents were meeting us there, and we thought being in Israel would have a greater impact on him than the modest Bar Mitzvah we had planned at home. Paris was to be an exciting appetizer to break up the long flight and expose them to a bit of culture. We naively thought that our daughters, who were ten and seven at the time, were ready for this adventure.

What we didn’t anticipate was chicken pox. Out of nowhere, our youngest came down with this illness a few days before we were set to leave. Her older sister had already had it, but not her older brother. As we waited for her to recover, we shaved days off of our time in Paris. Finally, she seemed fine, but as my mother-in-law drove us to the airport, she vomited in the car. That should have been a bad omen, but she was prone to getting car sick. Unfortunately, she continued to vomit into various containers I held for her the entire flight. We arrived with her feeling chipper and ready to roll. I, on the other hand, was beyond exhausted.

We now had only three days to see all of Paris. I’m pretty sure we ran through the Louvre in an hour. Nevertheless, we persisted. Eiffel Tower — check. Notre Dame — check. The Seine — check. Latin Quarter — check.  Champs-Élysées — check. Montmarte — check.  Arc de Triomphe — check. Sainte-Chapelle — check. Luxembourg Gardens — check. Centre Pompidou — check. As I recall, the kids mostly wanted ice cream and places where they could run around. Maybe our oldest remembers some of this? I know chicken-pox girl doesn’t.

Then on to Israel and Kibbutz Ein Dor where my aunt, uncle, and cousins lived. My parents and uncle met us at the airport, and I was relieved to have some back up in managing the kids. Once we got to the kibbutz, most of the kids running around had active cases of chicken pox. I figured correctly that if our son hadn’t caught it from his little sister, it was fine to let him swim in the pool and eat in the communal dining room. Of course, everyone shared everything there, and our ten-year-old daughter came down with a fever and stomach bug. No problem. The kibbutz doctor gave her a shot of penicillin in her butt, an indignity she had never experienced in the good old USA. The high points for them were climbing to the top of Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, getting soaked in Ein Gedi, shopping in the Arab market, running around the outdoor sculpture garden, and finding archeological treasures. The low point for me was almost losing little chicken-pox girl in the crowded streets of Jerusalem — See The Story of the (Almost) Lost Child.

With my aunt and parents

I know the kids enjoyed Israel better than Paris. It was a much more active vacation with mostly outdoor touring and afternoons spent in the kibbutz pool. I wondered if they would have been just as happy going to a resort near home that had a pool. Which is what we did the following summer. It was so much cheaper and more relaxing for us.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Enough by
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Prompted By Guns Then and Now

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When our son was five, all he wanted for his birthday was cowboy guns. We were horrified and tried to talk him out of it. After all, it was 1976 and he was the child of the trauma we had lived through before he was born. The shocking violence of the war in Vietnam, aired nightly on our television. The assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Bobby Kennedy. The riots that erupted in our major cities.

My grandkids live in a very different world, characterized by mass shootings, increasing gun ownership, and everyday violence that claims so many lives in cities like Chicago near where I live.

Instead of calling the card game “War,” we called it “Winner.” But he persisted about the guns and we relented.  After all, making something forbidden fruit only makes it more attractive. He stuck to his guns for about a week and then abandoned them to the bottom of the toy chest. He actually became a gentle guy who abhors violence in any form.

The same was true of my brothers, pictured above in their cowboy phase. I think they are holding their cap guns, and I remember them shooting at each other and smashing the rolls of caps with rocks. They both ended up being pacifists.

But that was guns then. Now, we have a different story. One of my grandsons has a nerf gun similar to the one in the featured image. He shoots mostly harmless foam bullets at his brother. I’m hoping this phase will end peacefully as it did for the generations before him. But he also lives in a very different world, characterized by mass shootings, increasing gun ownership, and everyday violence that claims so many lives in cities like Chicago near where I live.

Here’s guns now. Last year, there were 43,560 gun deaths in America, more than half of them suicides. This year, as of now, 21,593 people have died at the hands of guns. The June 29, 2021 issue of the Chicago Sun Times described several recent killings, part of the violence we have come to expect in certain neighborhoods here. Internal gang conflicts led to two shootings on June 27, killing Nyoka Bowle, a 37-year-old woman, and wounding 10 others at one site, as well as killing Kristine Grimes, age 23, who was waiting for food outside a restaurant, and wounding five others standing with her. In Calumet City, a man executed his girlfriend Jeaneen Walters in the midst of an argument She was 30 and mother of his young child. A 14-year-old boy and three others were shot Monday night in East Garfield Park. An Aurora man shot four people in a nightclub parking lot, killing one of them, Khalief McCallister, age 23.

On November 3, 2015, I wrote about one of these everyday shootings that plague our country in Chicago Now. I’m reproducing A Tale of Two Grandchildren below. Guns violence now is vastly different from when my son and brothers strapped on their six-shooters.

# # #

Yesterday, I waited for my nine-year-old granddaughter after school. When she didn’t show at up our arranged spot for Mondays, I worried that she was confused and looking for me where I usually pick her up the rest of the week. And that was what happened. Never once did it cross my mind that someone shot her. But that is exactly what happened to another nine-year-old, a boy named Tyshawn Lee. He was killed in an alley walking to his grandmother’s house on the South Side of Chicago at about the same time I was worried about my granddaughter being late in Evanston.

Tyshawn, age nine (Chicago Tribune photo)


My granddaughter, also age nine

How can this keep happening to children whose main mistake in life is living in the wrong neighborhood and being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are we so afraid of a small minority of NRA members that we can’t speak about how tragic this is?

I guess it’s our politicians who are afraid of a powerful lobby that owns them. But we must also share in the blame. We don’t vote. We don’t make our voices heard. We mostly shake our heads when we hear about a six-year-old killing his three-year-old brother. And then we go on with our lives.

Like many of us, I thought things would change after 20 children and six teachers died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Now almost three years later, nothing has changed. In fact, according to Nicholas Kristoff in The New York Times,

“First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.” Amazing. Tragic. Inexcusable.

Bet you didn’t know that more preschoolers (82) were killed with guns in 2013 than police officers were in the line of duty (27). Injuries and deaths caused by guns are a huge public health issue.  Most Americans, including gun owners, recognize there is a problem and support solutions like universal background checks, more regulation of gun dealers, and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and people convicted of domestic violence or assault.

To those who think the right to bear arms means we still live in the Wild West, except our weapons are capable of doing so much more harm, if you don’t like the word “control,” how about “safety.” Aside from registration and banning military style weapons, we could use our technological skills to create guns that only fire for the owner. What’s wrong with that? You accept that you need a license to drive and liability insurance for your car. Why not for guns?

My heart breaks for Tyshawn’s grandmother, who heard the gunshots while waiting for him to arrive at her house. She knew there was a chance her grandson had been killed, and her worst fears were realized.  As a fellow grandmother waiting for her grandchild to arrive safely from school, I can only begin to imagine her fear, but I can totally feel her grief. Our grandkids deserve a safer world.


My grandkids are part of what has sadly been dubbed “Generation Columbine.” All of them were born after the 1999 mass shooting there. The older ones know about the slaughter of young kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 young children and six teachers were killed by a gunman wielding an automatic assault rifle. They also know about the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a former student killed 17 people.

Add to this horrible epidemic of mass shootings the terror of kids who live with the potential of being shot on a daily basis. I have written many times about the how gun violence threatens the lives of children in the Chicagoland area every day.

As part of the duck and cover generation, my childhood fear of harm came from without and felt remote. Nuclear war was possible but it was an existential threat. My Generation X children were drilled to fear “stranger danger.” If approached by someone they didn’t know on the way to and from school, they were instructed to run. There were handprint signs labeled “helping hand” on some homes in the neighborhood indicating they were safe places to go.

My grandkids don’t fear abstract outside forces like nuclear bombs. They may be leery of strangers, but once they get to school, the real fear begins. Will someone come in to shoot them? I can’t promise them it won’t happen or reassure myself that they will be okay. How have we allowed schools to go from safe havens to places where kids have to fear an intruder with a sick mind and an AR-15 in just three generations?

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Why My Purse is so Heavy by
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I have tried buying smaller, light weight purses to spare my back. But that will only work if I don’t overload them until they are bursting with essentials that I can’t leave home without. Or so I think. I’m going to inventory the contents of my smallish summer purse. Here are the items that are must-haves for me:

  • Phone (not pictured because it was taking the pictures for my story)
    Anniversary card for my son and daughter-in-law (now I just have to send it on time)
    Pills (just in case)
    Band-Aids (what grandmother wouldn’t have some of those)
    Pen (to write notes or checks — yes, I know I could use my phone for these things)
    Keys (much pared down — only for my and my daughter’s house and one car fob because I retired my work keys and we are seeing if we can get by with one car)
    Lactaid (never know when we will find ice cream)
    Tums (for eating something I shouldn’t)
    Alcohol wipes (again, just in case)
    COVID emergency bag (hand sanitizer, extra masks, rubber gloves — not ready to let that go yet)
    iPad Mini (mostly for reading e-books when I’m waiting for doctors or grandkids)
  • Mints (never know when I may need fresh breath)

Of course, I also stuff a wallet in there. In addition to needing some cash for tips or places that don’t take plastic, it holds a driver’s license, car insurance and AAA card, three medical coverage cards, a few essential credit cards, library card, blank check (you never know), old business cards (could probably toss those after eight years), voter ID card, and prescription savings card. I know. I could put a few of these on my phone along with the picture of my proof of vaccination card. I’m afraid to carry that one with me in the event I am mugged.

The purse itself is amazing. It holds all of this as well as a key chain with pennies representing my grandkids. Their names are on one side and the penny is from their birth year. How could I leave home without this special Mother’s Day gift? But here’s the thing. My light weight purse weighs a ton. And it only has one outside zipper for my phone. I would prefer a second one for my house keys, but still, this bag is a feat of engineering.

I never leave home without all of this unless I am just taking a walk in the neighborhood. Better to be prepared than sorry. I envy my husband who just stuffs his phone in one pocket, his keys in another, and his wallet in his back pocket. I guess he figures if he needs anything else, he knows where to find it.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Double Jeopardy by
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My father loved Jeopardy. He had a vast supply of general knowledge and would have been a great contestant if the categories were limited to art, sports, history, geography, and pop culture of the 1940s. If he knew the category, he could come up with the answers swiftly from the comfort of his lounge chair. I knew he would never win in person as his overall anxiety would have made it impossible to press the button first to give the answer.

My parents loved most of the game and quiz shows that were popular when I was growing up.

Nevertheless, Dad persisted and insisted on watching this show, starting with those hosted by Art Fleming from 1964-75. When Alex Trebek became the host in 1975, my father’s addiction was even stronger. I think Dad watched almost every show until the end of his life. It wasn’t much fun to watch with him, as his recall of facts in the categories that he deemed the good ones was swift and amazing. If I beat him in what he called the dumb categories, things like movies or music or celebrities after 1949, he called foul and I quickly learned his version of watching Jeopardy was too competitive and stressful for me.

My parents loved most of the game and quiz shows that were popular when I was growing up. Their favorite was You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx with announcer and straight man George Fenneman. The show moved from radio to television in 1950, and I remember watching them laugh hilariously at Groucho’s antics, some of which I understood. Groucho made jokes at the expense of the contestants and poor Fenneman, much of which was ad-libbed on Groucho’s part. I remember his cigar and, of course, the duck that would come down to give the contestants $100 if they said the “secret word.”

We also watched I’ve Got A Secret, hosted by Gary Moore because my parent loved him and his panelists Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, Kitty Carlisle and Betsy Palmer. The concept was pretty simple. The contestant had a weird, interesting, funny and/or unusual secret that was whispered in the host’s ear and revealed to the audience. The panel received a clue and then asked yes or no questions to try to guess the secret. That was the whole concept, more for laughs by the witty panelists than for the secret itself.

A variation on this theme was To Tell The Truth, hosted by Bud Collyer. Again, there was a panel of celebrities including Kitty Carlisle (again), Orson Bean, Polly Bergen, Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Bill Cullen, and Don Ameche. Each contestant claimed to be the same person and panelists had to guess which one was telling the truth. The imposters could lie but the actual person had “to tell the truth” when questioned. At the conclusion of the show, Collyer would say, “would the real (name of person) please stand up.”

Another similar show we watched was What’s My Line hosted by John Daly and featuring panelists like Arlene Francis, Steve Allen, Bennett Cerf, Fred Allen, Tony Randall and Dorothy Kilgallen. The celebrity panelists were supposed to guess the guest’s occupation, once again by asking witty yes or no questions. At the end, panelists were blindfolded to guess the mystery guest’s line. The guests tried to disguise their voices and included people like Warren Beatty, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Ty Cobb, Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, Alfred Hitchcock, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Soon, shows that billed themselves as “real” tests of knowledge emerged. On The $64,000 Question, hosted by Hal March, contestants entered an isolation booth and appeared to struggle to answer very difficult questions. This show and Twenty One, hosted by Jack Barry, were part of a huge scandal when it was revealed that the more likable contestants were given the answers ahead of time and their anguish in the isolation booth as they tried to come up with the answer was entirely faked. When turned out that Charles Van Doren, a popular contestant on Twenty One, was more of an actor than a genius, this type of show was finished. It was at that point that my father turned back to Jeopardy to prove his smarts.

There were two shows from that era that I watched secretly with my mother. Dad would have hated them, and in retrospect, they were pretty awful. Queen For A Day, hosted by Jack Bailey, featured women who shared their tales of woe with the audience. Their stories were all quite pathetic, but the one that was the saddest of all became Queen for a Day and received a prize like a refrigerator that didn’t come close to solving her problems. Still, she was crowned on television and cried tears of joy. The other forbidden fruit was This is Your Life, featuring Ralph Edwards as host. The guest was sometimes a celebrity like Bob Hope, Bette Davis, or Jack Benny. The honorees would have their life story told, culminating in a mystery guest from their past who would speak off-stage and then come out to a flood of tears when the honoree realized who they were.

After I left home, I didn’t watch quiz or game shows, which became increasingly less intelligent and witty and more based on greed, stupid challenges, and “reality.” Except for Jeopardy. My husband liked to watch it occasionally, so I kept him company. When I was with my father, I generally avoided watching because the older he got, the more he grumbled or gloated. And then came Jeopardy James, and I was hooked. For 33 days from April to June, 2019, the affable James Holzhauer, gambled outrageously to win a total of $2,464,216. During his run, we taped the show to watch at night. Then he lost, my interest waned, and sadly Alex Trebek died.

Thus, I ended my brief flirtation with my own version of Double Jeopardy. Perhaps another great host and charismatic winner will lure me back?


I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

The Club No One Expects to Join by
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Prompted By Cliques and Clubs

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Drawing by Retrospect contributor Marcia Liss

Loving a child with disabilities grants you membership to a club which people never aspire to join. In my career in early childhood education, I taught children with unidentified (in those days) special needs. As an administrator, I believed children with disabilities needed to be included in our preschool, supported by classroom aides. It was only when I became the grandparent of children with disabilities that I fully grasped what it meant to be a member of the club of families who join together to love, support, and fight for the rights of these children.

Loving a child with disabilities grants you membership to a club which people never aspire to join.

My first four grandchildren were girls, and three of them had significant special needs. The twins were my first grandkids and pretty early on, my daughter, who holds a PhD in clinical and developmental child psychology, and I knew they were not on a typical developmental path. One of them was in speech and occupational therapy at 18 months, and while the other was a bit ahead of her sister developmentally, she was still not where her peers were. They attended my preschool in a class for two-year-olds in which parents gradually transitioned out. Only my daughter couldn’t do that. She stayed to support the teachers and help with her daughters. It broke my heart when we hired an aide for my beloved granddaughters so my daughter could leave the room.

Following the birth of her third daughter, who is developmentally on-target, her sister, my younger daughter, gave birth to a seemingly healthy but very small girl. After a brief stay in the NIUC, she went home and seemed to be developing well but remained small and underweight. She was ultimately diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. Now I was in another club I never expected to join — grandparent of a child with CF. Her family quickly learned that they had to scramble and advocate to get what she needed to survive and thrive. My daughter, a biology major, understood very well what was needed. But it was networking with other CF families and the support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) that led to obtaining the right medications, equipment, and medical care.

When you are part of the club of loving a child with disabilities, you don’t have to worry if the child you love will get invited to a birthday party, be on the best soccer team, or be asked to slumber parties. She won’t. Other parents mean well, but they (rightfully) don’t know if they can manage the child’s needs. They ask their children to be inclusive and some are. Still, it’s not easy to make many friends, both for the kids and their parents.

Luckily, there were other clubs my daughters and I could join. My preschool provided a support group for parents/guardians of children with disabilities. It felt great to belong to a club where other members could offer emotional support and suggestions for finding good therapy and dealing with the school system. In my community, there is also a wonderful organization that maintains a Facebook group where parents/guardians can try to find answers from others in their “club” to questions like:

  • Is there a place where my child can interact with his age-mates this summer?
  • How can I get virtual schooling for my immunocompromised child when school reopens this fall?
  • What can I do when parents tell me the neighborhood school is not good for kids with special needs?
  • Can someone help me find a residential school for my severely compromised child?
  • How do I get recess privileges back for my child who can’t finish her work on time because of her disability?

Thankfully, my grandchild with CF is doing well. The club for parents whose children are living with CF helped my daughter research and obtain a medication that tackles one of the genes responsible for my granddaughter’s illness. Another club, the CFF, funded research and helped with insurance issues. There is even a club specifically for me: Grandparents of Children with CF. In this club, I raise money annually to support CFF research. If you want to help me pay my dues, you can donate to my annual fundraiser. My granddaughter participates in swimming and cross country and is excellent at both. Still, she needs to take her meds, do her treatments, and watch her diet. All of these things make being a typical teen challenging.

My twin granddaughters with serious challenges still struggle, but at least they are in private placements where they have peers and appropriate educational and emotional support. This past week was a break between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer school for the one who lives at home. It was a tough week for her parents, who are still working remotely. Now that I’m vaccinated, I tried to help as best I could, but as she and I get older, it’s harder being in this club. Still, I feel blessed to have her in my life.

I remember when a friend with a grandchild the age of my twins told me she would like to get our grandkids together but she was sorry that she didn’t know how to manage it. At the time, I thought just ask me. Maybe we can take the girls to the zoo or a beach. But she never joined my club. I didn’t blame her for that, but I also didn’t want her pity. People who join the clubs supporting people with disabilities, aside from those who are directly touched by the situation, are those with extra capacity for empathy and caring. Thank you to all of the amazing people who choose to join.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

How Katerina Became Bert and Other Pet Name Tales by
(164 Stories)

Prompted By Naming Pets

/ Stories

Savannah and Aspen in fancy dress

When my parents broke down and finally let us have a dog, it was literally a “doggie in the window” of a hardware store with a sign that read “free puppies.” My father named him Checkers, although that was the name of Nixon’s dog and we hated Nixon. Still, not a bad name for a black and white dog. Probably a better choice than the awful free puppy I christened Tigger, which we all know is a cat’s name. Sadly, Tigger grew into an ugly black dog, too much for me to handle with two young children and a third on the way. We were all relieved when our handyman adopted him as a guard dog, which tells you something about his temperament. I have no pictures of Tigger.

Checkers as a pup

Allowing kids to name their pets leads to the most creative and special pet names.

Because our son was allergic to dog and cat dander at the time, we next opted for an 8-month-old Yorkshire Terrier already named Rocky. That name never suited the mop-like critter who came to us paper trained and never fully understood that we preferred he do his business outside. Next came Tami, a kitten born to our friends’ cat Ninja. My older daughter had naming rights for that pet and thus chose the girly name with unique spelling.

Rocky circa 1981


Tami with an “i”

But is was our youngest child, an animal lover who ultimately became a veterinarian, who takes the prize for naming pets. Her best friend next door had a cat named Heidi who had kittens christened Gray Guy and Shy Guy. Her friend kept Gray Guy, who eventually came to be known as Gregory. When one of my  friend’s cat had kittens, my daughter pounced, insisting taking one of them would be good for the aging Tami, who was peacefully co-exiting with the aging and incontinent Rocky. Thus, Pippen joined our household. This was during the height of the popularity of the Chicago Bulls. Pippen, AKA Mu Mu, was a great cat. Much like his namesake, sometimes he decided to rest rather than play. Turned out he had a heart condition and didn’t live long past his first birthday.

Pippen with the future vet

Of course, she demanded a new cat, ostensibly because Tami was bereft (she wasn’t). This time, we adopted one from the Tree House, a no-kill cat shelter. The paperwork was copious and we promised to be wonderful owners. This kitten was named Katerina, a name a girl of a certain age would choose. But that name evolved to Tree-Bert (maybe she climbed trees since we l let our cats roam outside in those days?) to Kat-Bert to Bertie to Bert.

Weird B.J. with Bertie

Bertie was a pretty good cat, but when Rocky and then Tami died, once again my daughter insisted our pet needed a companion. B.J. (remember B.J. Armstrong?) moved from a cage in the local animal shelter where our daughter volunteered to living under our beds. He never received an endearing nickname because our daughter left for college and we were left with Bertie and the people-hating B.J.

Our animal-loving daughter had two Weimaraners post-college, Savannah (Van Van) and Aspen (Baby Brown) which are the featured image. But when she added more pets as a parent, she let her kids choose the names. Thus, Flynn Rider from the cartoon Rapunzel (AKA Flinner, Lou Bob, Flinny) joined her family. After the death of the Weimaraners, Flynn Rider’s brother Rex (for T-Rex, of course) moved in. Rex also goes by Sexy Rexy, The Lorax, and Rex-a-pod. Her next addition, a female, was named Charlotte Grace (AKA Gracie, Guacamole, Guac, and Mole). The latest to join the menagerie was christened Boise (back to naming pets for cities, or in this case a college) who will also answer to Boysenberry, Berry, and Stinky Jinky. Oh, and I forgot their snake (Freudian slip?) named Marge (from the Simpsons) Bouvier (to honor Jackie Kennedy?).

Allowing kids to name their pets leads to the most creative and special pet names. One of our grandsons wanted to name his new cat Window because that’s where she liked to sit. While she is now called Winnie, I smile when I remember her secret first cat name. Aside from Flynn Rider and Rex mentioned above, my grandkids have named a minnow Tsunami, a crawfish Nick (to honor a friend), and a beta fish Ash. Several goldfish were named Glub-Glub. But my all-time favorite was our son Jonathan insisting at age three that the parakeet we got for him be named Jonathan. After some convincing, he settled for Jonny, which is a good thing because the poor bird perished when he and a friend knocked its cage down.

Marge Bouvier looking regal

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

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