Tag Archives: chicago

Slan* Dear Pat ☘️

PAT WARD ADULT PICYesterday I attended the funeral mass for my cousin, Pat Ward. Many friends and family gathered at the magnificent St. Vincent DePaul Church in Chicago to pay our final respects to a guy whose mere presence could lift even the lowest of spirits. Pat’s family mirrored my own, with five boys and two girls and because he and I matched up in age, we became close cousin friends. That is, as best of friends as we could be, considering the distance that separated us. While my family lived in Chicago, the Wards lived in our state capital of Springfield, IL. Our mothers were sisters and they had still another sister and brother, whose families lived in Chicago, as well. Growing up, we were fortunate to have shared close bonds with our local cousins, but it was a special treat indeed when we’d all travel to Springfield or the Ward clan would take a road trip to see us.

Within the four families of cousins, age divisions were drawn to determine who matched up with whom. The agreed upon alliances looked something like this:

OLDER BOYS: John L,  John W,  Kevin T

OLDER GIRLS: Marcia L,  Pat L,  Nancy L,  Peggy W,  Denise W,  Mary Beth T

MIDDLE KIDS: Mike W,  John T,  Tom W,  Chuck L,  Kathy Q,  Dan T,  Tom T

BRINGING UP THE REAR: Pat W,  Dave W,  Donna L,  Tom Q,  Paul T,  Me…T  🙂

And for those of you counting, that’s 22 cousins. I know this because I had to count it out about five times to make sure I didn’t miss anyone.  And yes, a lot of Toms and Johns. These delineated groupings were pretty fluid, however, as cousins freely drifted in and out, depending on who was doing the coolest thing at the moment, probably.

The excitement felt when we all got together – WITH THE WARDS!!!! – was palpable. And as much fun as the entire Ward family was, including parents Uncle John and Aunt Roe, who were absolutely hilarious and always willing to share a good laugh, I always felt like I got pretty lucky landing in the same cousin group as Pat.

As kids, and even into college, he and I would write letters to each other – long letters sharing the goings on in our lives. Yes, we wrote hand-written letters! And OH! the excitement when a letter arrived in the mailbox. For you readers of a certain age, you may remember the old commercials on TV featuring Euell Gibbons touting the health benefits of Grape Nuts Cereal (which bore a most unappetizing resemblance to gravel). One of his lines absolutely cracked Pat and me up: “You ever eat a pine tree? Some parts ARE edible.” Every time we’d see each other, we’d say that line and laugh until our bellies hurt. And every letter ended with a PS: You ever eat a pine tree? Some parts ARE edible!! But my favorite part of his letters were the drawings he would always include. Pat LOVED the city of Chicago and was an amazing artist. Even as a kid, his drawings of the Chicago skyline were insanely impressive.

So after college, he followed several of his siblings to the big city and happily immersed himself in everything Chicago. He and his brother Tom lived life large as roommates on the city’s north side. In 2011, Pat suffered inconsolable heartbreak when his beloved brother, best friend and partner in crime, Tom, passed away unexpectedly. I don’t know if he ever really recovered from that devastating loss. Three years later in 2014, another blow hit the Wards when brother Mike, the gentle, soft-spoken sweetheart of the family, passed away. No one could believe it.

And now Pat. The news of his passing was beyond comprehension. As I try to wrap my mind around this most recent loss, I turn to the only thing that can offer any kind of consolation and hope that death is not the end: my faith. And though Pat will be missed, knowing that he is once again united with his brothers and parents, gives me peace. These beautiful words are ours by which to remember Pat:

AFTERGLOW

I’d like the memory of me

To Be a happy one

I’d like to leave an afterglow

Of smiles when life is done.

I’d like to leave an echo

Whispering softly down the ways,

Of happy times and laughing times

And bright and sunny days.

I’d like the tears of those who grieve,

To dry before the sun

Of happy memories that I leave behind

When life is done.

You have Pat. You have. Well done. Until we meet again, slan* dear Pat. ☘️💔☘️

*farewell

 

I wanted to share Pat’s artwork and humor.

PAT WARD SKYLINE

Besides his drawings, he was loved also for the silly “gift certificates” he’d present to family members on special occasions and I found this one particularly funny. Please be sure to read all of the restrictions placed on the “gift”!!! That was Pat all over.

PAT WARD GIFT CERTIFICATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Sickness And In Health

 

 

With Christmas come and gone, I wonder how many of us can remember what we were doing the morning of December 24th. I imagine most of you, like myself, were in the throes of Christmas plans. Lauren Chase was, too. She was excited for a trip to Florida to celebrate the holidays with family. She was excited to shed the coat, gloves, scarf, boots and gray skies of a Chicago winter and swap them for shorts, flip-flops and sunshine. And she was excited to see her husband, David, who was en-route to the Sunshine State to meet them. What no one planned for was an emergency crash landing of the small aircraft carrying Lauren, her mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law. What no one planned for was Lauren’s devastating injuries, needing to be air-lifted to a hospital in Memphis, undergoing surgery to relieve swelling in her brain and the coma that she has been trapped in since that fateful morning. Lauren and David are very close friends of my son, Mike and his wife, Laura. This is Lauren’s story.

The last ten weeks have been filled with multiple surgeries and tests, MRIs, tubes and ventilators and a terrifying night when Lauren suffered a cardiac arrest and needed to be revived. The last ten weeks have also been filled with prayers. Thousands and thousands of prayers. From the start, doctors had regularly reported grim news to David, only to be proven wrong time and time again, as Lauren refused to give up her fight. Her medical team of specialists have been at a loss to explain Lauren’s progress. With Lauren’s refusal to give up, David has also refused to accept their prognoses and has been at her side day and night, talking to her and gently caressing her. And kissing her. Mike and Laura recently took a road trip to Memphis to visit Lauren and reported back that David absolutely smothered her in kisses the entire time they were there. His devotion to her is visceral. Though she still has not awakened from her “nap” as it has been sweetly referred to by family, she is slowly transitioning into lighter stages and is able to blink her eyes and give a “Thumbs Up” on command. We are quite sure the affection with which her husband showers Lauren is giving her the strength to keep fighting, which in turn, fuels David to remain her super-hero advocate. Mike and Laura certainly witnessed his super-human strength during their visit.

People talk about love so casually. Love is easy when times are good. The real test comes when times aren’t so easy. But, real, true love – the kind that’s not so pretty – is an awesome thing to witness, as Mike and Laura can attest. Almost two months to the day prior to the accident, Lauren selflessly donated a kidney to her twin sister. And now she is fighting for her life.

I have included a link to Lauren’s most recent update. Please check it out and keep them in your prayers. Despite the original formidable reports, or maybe in spite of them, she continues to grow stronger and will be entering a rehab facility in Atlanta soon. While monetary contributions to offset their staggering medical bills is appreciated, what the family is asking for more than anything are your prayers. And that doesn’t cost anything.  David and Lauren are inspiring people of faith and know that nothing is impossible with God.

UPDATE: A lot has happened since this post was written three months ago. Lauren was able to be moved to Sheperd Rehabilitation in Atlanta and made amazing progress pretty much right away. She had reached a wakeful state and even began communicating – not verbally, but with YES/NO buttons, to which she answered all questions correctly – even about events that happened in her presence while she was still in a comatose state!! This news filled us all with wonderful hope. However, almost as quickly as she seemed to be improving, her health took a rapid decline and Lauren and was placed in ICU at a different hospital. She is still fighting hard but has suffered setbacks, delaying any rehab therapy. The goal right now is to simply stabilize her. David is hoping to get Lauren accepted into the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the absolute best rehab facility in the world. Mike and Laura are hopeful to have their friends back in Chicago. And Lauren will be so happy, when she awakens, to learn that she managed to miss a Chicago winter, the only thing about Chicago this Southern girl was not fond of! So, again, I ask for your prayers for Lauren, David, her team of doctors and that RIC will accept Lauren.

UPDATE II: Well, Lauren will not be returning to Chicago, much to the (admittedly selfish) disappointment of Mike and Laura. While they desperately miss their friends, they nevertheless are thankful that Lauren has been accepted into TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Facility in Houston. And though Houston seems far from Chicago, God’s hand in this is impossible to ignore as Houston is home to Lauren’s twin sister. Yes, the same sister to whom Lauren lovingly donated a kidney only weeks before she found herself fighting for her own life. 

So, we are grateful that God has lead Lauren to where she needs to be and continue to pray for the team who will work to strengthen her body, for David, that he remains strong and faithful and most importantly, for Lauren’s full recovery. And that we always keep in mind that God works in Kairos – God’s time, not ours. 

 www.youcaring.com/lauren-chase-493783/update/485188 

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Confessions Of A Seventh Grade Nothing

THE GLORY DAYS

I was recently asked what job I dreamed of having as a kid and wasn’t really sure how to answer because I don’t ever remember dreaming about being a particular “thing.” But as I thought more about it, I guess I could say I thought about being a teacher. Not because I had any great desire to teach or an over-abundant love for children. Nor did I entertain any grandiose fantasies of my future self, making a profound difference in a kid’s life or presenting myself as an unsung hero, inspiring young minds to seize the day. No. My adolescent brain entertained thoughts of a teaching career while sitting in my seventh-grade classroom, hoping and praying that the teacher would not utter the words that I knew were inevitable… “Pick a partner and…” It didn’t matter how that sentence ended because those first words, the words I dreaded, would simply paralyze my twelve-year-old brain.

I was the new kid at Queen of Martyrs school on Chicago’s south side. The path which led little brother Paul and me there was a bit circuitous but was the result of a hasty move from our old, comfortable neighborhood to a new and completely foreign world.  No longer was I accepted simply by virtue of my last name. I was a legacy at my old school, having had five older siblings pave the way. Everyone knew us. I was the mascot of our grammar school football team; my eighth-grade sister, the captain of the cheerleaders. Life was good.

That all changed when we transferred schools and I came to the brutal realization that I had nothing going for me. Suddenly, I was a gangly, stringy-haired, self-conscious, nerdy introvert in desperate need of a friend, but sadly lacking one. Oh, did I mention I wore glasses and a retainer? I wasn’t cool. I was the most uncool kid you could imagine. A few kind souls reached out to me, a welcome I happily accepted. My brother didn’t suffer as much, having found his niche as a star of the fifth-grade football team. Soon, his reputation garnered a little respect for me and I was able to bask in his shadow.

But his benevolent umbrella couldn’t help me when I was stricken with the inevitable directive to find a partner. The worst were days when my possible partner was absent. My heart would go into absolute panic-mode as I’d scan the classroom, silently beseeching someone – anyone – to notice me and offer to partner-up.

Those were the times when I fantasized about becoming a teacher. As a teacher, I would NEVER, EVER direct my students to “find a partner” or allow them to arrange their desks as they wanted – an activity that would send the other kids into fits of joy. No, I swore that would never happen on my watch.

Well, fast-forward four decades and I never did become a teacher, which is probably a good thing. But, to those teachers who may find themselves reading this, I now beseech you to always consider the outcasts when addressing your classroom. That is one way you can leave a lasting impression on those kids. The smallest acts of kindness will always be remembered, as will the hurtful moments of isolation, which manage to plant themselves deeply into one’s psyche.

I suppose the silver-lining of that experience is that I was able to draw upon those memories to teach my own kids to notice the outsider on the playground and be that kid’s friend. Because he’s the kid who needs a friend. So I guess I did become a teacher after all. Class dismissed.   🙂

 

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B-A-T-A-W-A-GA-MA…My Devious Plan Gone Awry…

Batawagama signI have recently become aware of deeply buried memories. Memories that I thought I had successfully erased from my brain. But, the same brain that cannot remember where my glasses were set down minutes before managed to dredge up recollections from many years ago. Painful memories. Memories of forcibly being made to do things I did not want to do. Yes, that’s right. Memories of summer camp. And I have Facebook to thank for this.

What set these flashbacks hurtling past other deeply hidden memories from storage was my recently added friends on Facebook. Actually, they’re more than friends. They’re long-lost cousins with whom I was thrilled to re-connect. We were not as close to my dad’s side of the family because of distance and age difference. My dad was the baby in his family, with his oldest sister almost twenty years his senior. His siblings were married with children when he was still a kid, making his nieces and nephews (my cousins) only a few years younger than him. My cousins’ kids were my age. Follow me so far? But, distance also separated us as several of the family were located in the beautiful states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Upper Peninsula Michigan, to be exact. And that’s an important distinction. Kind of like trying to tell someone from Sicily that they’re from Italy. No they’re not. They’re from Sicily. They are Sicilian. It’s different.
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What Goes Up…

 

ELEVATOR

 

Today, I am so excited to share with you my son, Brian’s, super-exciting project. As many of you already know, Brian is nearing the end of his Master’s Degree program in Cinema Directing at DePaul University. DePaul’s Cinema program has skyrocketed  in national rankings of film schools and is regularly ranked one of the top schools in the nation. Not bad for a program that is less than ten years old. The city of Chicago has become a film-set mecca and the huge Cinescape Soundstage is ground zero for most Chicago-based film and television productions.

As his final class project, Brian is directing a short film entitled, What Goes Up. It is a dark, atmospheric look at how one man’s choices in life affect his final moments. Brian is very proud of this film and made a decision to treat it as a serious, independent film, rather than just a class project. This decision has been as terrifying for him as it has been exhilarating because of the risks he is taking to make his concept a reality. He told me that when others heard his idea, they thought his vision would be impossible for a student to capture onscreen. Among other obstacles, it required outdoor filming on a rooftop with a gun, which, in turn required insurance, a permit, and Chicago police presence. He also needed to figure out how to create an elevator for a major part of the film. Brian was fortunate enough to find a Producer and Director of Photography who believed in his vision and made the impossible possible. They were able to rent the elevator set from the set of “Chicago PD” at Cinescape Soundstage. The finished product will be entered in film festivals from coast to coast and promises to be fantastic. And creepy. I am confident it will receive a lot of well-deserved recognition.

When this film is completed, What Goes Up, will represent the  physical embodiment of what started out as a simple idea he and a fellow student had when they put the pen to paper almost a year ago. This is what dreams are all about and you, dear readers, have the power to help this dream happen. I am calling out to my readers to check out Brian’s Kickstarter page and think about donating to his campaign. Even a donation as small as $5 is an option, and one he would be thrilled to receive. The following is his public appeal:

“We’ve been lucky enough to gain access to several beautiful filming locations, as well as find a talented and experienced crew. A film doesn’t come without its costs, so it’d be greatly appreciated if you would donate to our kick-starter campaign and help us cover rental, food, production design, and transportation costs. Please like and share this with your friends! Thank you!”

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/320657146/what-goes-up

And remember…

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.  – Walt Disney

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.  – Colin Powell

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

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Thinking Green During The Polar Vortex…

Sub-Zero Temperatures Put Chicago Into Deep FreezeWell, I’m back after a very long hiatus. If I’d been blessed with a good imagination, I would spin some great tale about my wild adventures  to explain the absence. But, truth be told…I have just been experiencing a bit of a dry spell. Uninspired days, which have folded into weeks,  most likely brought on by the arctic winter we’ve been experiencing this year. We, here in Chicago, or Chiberia as it’s since been re-named, have been buried under the evil white stuff for months. As soon as a path is shoveled down the driveway, the local news tells us of yet ANOTHER snowstorm headed our way. Add to that, the sub-zero temperatures and it’s no wonder I’ve been in a funk lately. I know the rest of the country has also been hit by this malevolent polar vortex. This is truly a moment when we as a nation can come together and moan, grumble, gripe, lament and, yes, grouse. (A thesaurus is truly a writer’s best friend)

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You Might Be From Chicago If…

Chicago-skyline nightI wish I could take credit for this, but, truth is, I saw it on Facebook and just had to share it on my blog. It is SO true! Parentheses following some of these are my own comments.

You Might Be From Chicago If:

1. The ‘living room’ is called the ‘front room’.  (Or, as we always said, Frunchroom)
2. You don’t pronounce the ‘s’ at the end of Illinois and, you become irate at people who do.
3. You measure distance in minutes (especially ‘from the city’) and you swear everything is pretty much 1/2 hour away.
4. You have no problem spelling or pronouncing Des Plaines
5. You go to visit friends, or family, down south and laugh when they complain about the traffic.
6. You understand that no person from Chicago can be a Cub fan AND a White Sox fan.
7. It’s ‘Kitty corner’ not ‘Katty corner’.
8. You know the difference between The Loop and Downtown.
9. You eat your pizza in squares, not triangles, and you never refer to it as ‘pie.’
10. You own celery salt. (I do..didn’t think that was a Chicago thing…)
11. You understand that the primary is the official local election. (Is there another election?)
12. You have drunk green beer on St. Paddy’s Day.
13. Stores don’t have sacks, they have bags.
14. You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example: ‘Where’s my coat at?’ or ‘Can I go with?’ My English teacher had fits with this one.
15. Your idea of a great tenderloin is when the meat is twice as big as the bun, ‘everything’ is on it and a slice of dill pickle is on the side.
16. You carry jumper cables in your car. (Ugh, unfortunately)
17. You drink ‘pop’- not soda.
18.. You understand that I-290, I-90, I-94, and I-294 are all different roads.
19. You know the names of the interstates: Stevenson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Dan Ryan, and the Eden’s.
20. You call the interstates ‘expressways.’
21. You refer to anything South of I-80 as ‘Southern or Central Illinois.’
22. You refer to Lake Michigan as ‘The Lake.’
23. You refer to Chicago as ‘The City.’
24. ‘The Super Bowl’ refers to one specific game in January 1986. (Have there been others??)
25. You have two favorite football teams: The Bears, and anyone who beats the Packers.
26. You buy the ‘Trib’, not the ‘Tribune’ or the ‘Times’, not the ‘Sun Times.’
27. You know that despite being on the lake, there is no such place as the Waterfront.
28. You think 45 degrees is great weather to wash your car.
29. You picnic or ride your bike in the ‘forest preserve’.
30. You cried when Bozo was canceled on WGN.
31. You know what goes on a Chicago style hot dog.
32. You know what Chicago Style Pizza REALLY is. (And, don’t EVEN try to say any other pizza reigns supreme)
33. You know why they call Chicago ‘The Windy City.’ (Hint: it ain’t cuz of the windy-ness)
34. You understand what ‘lake-effect’ means.
35. You know the difference between Amtrak and Metra, and know which station they end up at.
36. You have ridden the ‘L’.
37. You think your next door neighbor is a cousin to Tony Soprano. (Well, I’m pretty sure he is…)
38. You can distinguish between the following area codes: 847, 630, 773, 708, 312, & 815.

39.You have, at some time in your life, used your furniture . . . or a friend’s body, to guard your parking spot in winter.  (Ugh, unfortunately…)
40. You respond to the question ‘Where are you from?’ with a ‘side’. Example: ‘Westside,’ ‘Southside’ or ‘North Side’. (Then once honed in on which Side, the question is: “What parish are you from?”  My personal favorite actually said to me: “I’m Jewish, but I’m from St. Denis.”)

(Annnnnd….finally….drum roll…)

41. You know the phone number to ‘Empire Carpet’! (588-2300 EM-PIRE!)

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