Tag Archives: family values

Thanksgiving = Family & Tradition

I have to get a plan together. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and there is so much to do!

The most important part of Thanksgiving in our house is family. Yeah, they want some turkey, and “fixin’s” and dessert. And more dessert…but the most important part of the holiday (or any day in my opinion) is spending time and making memories with family and a few close friends.

This year I am super excited because our son and daughter-in-law are flying in on Monday and staying until Saturday. When they come in for Thanksgiving, we like to go into Chicago and visit Christkindlesmarket at Daley Plaza. It is usually cold (and last year it was rainy) but it is a wonderland of German food and gifts. Go to their website to get all the info http://www.christkindlmarket.com/

Christkindlmarket Christkindlmarket 2

We also get a live Christmas tree and will do that before they leave to go back to home. When the boys were little, they loved going to cut down the Christmas tree. Tromping through a snowy or muddy field depending upon our fickle weather. They used to argue over who was going to cut it down. Now they argue over who HAS to cut it down. But they are good sons and don’t complain too much when I look at a dozen trees before going back to the first one :} And when in a hurry, we just go to Home Depot to get the tree. It doesn’t matter to me as long as we are spending time together.

getting the tree again getting the tree

Another yearly event, which takes much more planning than dinner or where we are getting the Christmas tree is the annual Christmas Craft. When other families are napping or watching football after Thanksgiving dinner, we clear the table of everything except the veggie dip because you have to keep your strength up when crafting.

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I’ve blogged about the craft before, because I write about what is close to me and what I love and our family getting together to do traditional things like the Christmas Craft and Christkindlmarket and cutting down a Christmas tree together.

I’ll post more once I have an idea for the craft, which is kept secret until Thanksgiving day – but I’ll share when I can. And how the Christmas tree hunt turns out.

No worries about Thanksgiving dinner though. We’ll have the traditional foods we do most every year. They are just the fixin’s that go with the main event of spending time with family 🙂

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Book Review Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story – A Gripping True Crime Book

Anatomy of a Kidnapping,  Anatomy of a KidnappingA Doctor’s Story

By Steven L. Berk M.D.

248 pages

Berk begins the fascinating account of his own kidnapping with the theory of why the agitated gun toting kidnapper did not kill him. He feels his medical history and time he spent with patients and in hospitals may have given him some tools to fall back on when he faced death at the hands of an unstable, drug addicted man. He mentions this in an almost casual way, not in arrogance, but more puzzlement. He is thankful for living through his ordeal, but doesn’t have any doubts that it could have gone bad in an instant.

The story is told in four intertwined parts. Berg gives the reader an insight to a young doctor’s life by sharing true events and encounters he had with great patients and odd patients. He doesn’t pull any punches or expound as to his greatness. He is frank and honest when telling of mistakes he made when treating some of the cases throughout his career. Everyone makes mistakes, but when doctors do, it can mean someone dies.

We follow his life through the hospitals he’s worked in up to his current assignment in Texas. From Arizona to Boston then to Amarillo, TX Berk keeps learning and growing as a doctor. He always wanted to become a missionary doctor, but during his residency at Boston City Hospital he began to realize he really wanted to focus on academic medicine. He also became interested in infectious disease and clinical research.

When a  medical school classmate asked him to serve as the chairman of the advisory board of an Amarillo medical school, Berk agreed. He loved the challenge and the goals of Texas Tech, and felt the he could help. With his leadership, the campus grew and improved. Berk did the same. He moved his family to Amarillo and settled in to a rewarding career.

The fateful morning in March 2005 was like any other. Like any other incident of this magnitude, he could look back and say he should have done something differently and it never would have happened. Life is like that, one little pebble can begin a landslide. Seeing it from the doctor’s perspective is haunting, knowing his fear for his family and his life on that Sunday morning puts the reader in the passenger seat of the car with him.

he third part of the story we hear along the way is that of the kidnapper. Jack Lindsey Jordan was born to a wealthy TX family, but had a frightful temper as he grew older. He had spent 10 years in prison on a felony charge just before the kidnapping. We see the series of events that led up to kidnapping unfold as the book progresses.

The last part to weave throughout the chapters is the actual court proceedings as documented from the trial. So you know in the beginning that Berk has been kidnapped, Jordan is caught and goes to trial. It is fascinating to read the account from the victim’s perspective.

Berk acknowledges that in the end, life is just not fair sometimes. He questions why he was not harmed during his ordeal and other people are shot. There are no answers, only speculations and luck.

This memoir reads like a fast paced fiction novel by a New York Times best-selling author. Berk’s ability to bring all four parts of this story – his history, the kidnapping, the kidnapper’s history as well as the court documents together in a page-turning novel makes this book a must-read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Writing 101 Day 20 final assignment: Most Prized Possession is Not a Possession

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual

The final assignment for Writing 101 was posted for us 2 weeks ago. Many things have happened since then, most of them just life happenings both good and bad. They interrupted, precluded and overrode my attempts to get back to blogging. But I was writing in my head the whole time (who doesn’t???).

For the second part, I am pleading exception because I tend to rattle on about the most mundane things, I am sure you don’t want a War and Peace sized post.

My most prized possession is not a possession. There are so many things in my life I love, but most of them, like my children, are not possessions. They are people, events and of course books – but maybe I should say reading. So this is what you will hear about. It is nothing I can physically possess (altho the books could loosely fall into that category) but the non-things I treasure the most.

First has to be my family. Hands down, no contest, can’t imagine life without any of them. My husband, whom I have been with for over 40 years still makes my heart happy. We argue and disagree and make up. If you’ve followed any of my other posts, you will see him pop up time after time simply because I love and trust him with my life.

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Next are my children. They are grown men now, ages 30 – 35. If anyone thinks they can tell their kids what to do, good luck with that. The only thing I can hope for is that they listened when they were younger – they had no choice since they lived with us 🙂 They have grown into fine young men, I’d like to think because of our influence, but sometimes maybe in spite of it. I miss the toddlers they were, but love them as they are, funny, intelligent guys. One of them told me a few years back that he was appalled to hear my words coming out of his mouth when someone suggested something stupid. HA!! Thank goodness they actually listened sometimes.

My extended family is also treasured. My dad, my father-in-law, aunts, cousins… the list goes on. I talk to at least a few everyday via email (don’t be a hater about electronic communication, it beats NO communication these busy days) and know in a heartbeat I can call on them if I need to. And they know they can call on me and I’ll be there for them. We laugh and cry together. Every Friday is Family Night. Whomever is free comes to eat. It could be 5 or 15 of us, but it is a fabulous way to stay in touch, end a busy work week and start the weekend in a feel-good way. Life is good.

Events are what I prefer to give and get as gifts now that we have more possessions than we really need at our house. For example, I now give my hubby trips such as a day in Chicago, or tickets to a play or show (he was really, really thrilled with the Penn and Teller tickets for Father’s Day). He does the same for me. Our sons got him tickets to a “driving experience” and went with him. They had tons of fun and hubby got what he cherished most – spending a day with 2 of his sons (the other lives out of state or he would have been there too!).

Gen Washington

We also do things on vacation to make more memories. Sometimes good, sometimes bad 🙂 The 4th of July we spent the day at Mount Vernon with our youngest son and his wife. I is an awesome place to visit, but going on Independence Day ramps it up even more. We toured the house, the museum and grounds. We watched reenactments and had birthday cake to celebrate our nation’s birthday. If you are on the east coast, you have to go see General Washington’s choppers. And the Pioneer Farm on the grounds, right now they have the cutest baby pigs! So much history and pride in our country all around. And, like 2 years ago when we were at Monticello on the 4th, there was a huge naturalization program. It is so cool to see the excitement on the faces of brand new citizens of the United States. Happiness all around, and no physical possessions needed on my part.

Mount Vernon 7.4.14

Books. What can I say? I live to read and write. It is my escape when things go bad, my joy when things are good and takes me to places I will never go to in “real” life. The reason I don’t truly consider them possession even though they fill my house, is that I can read new books online, from the library or borrowed from friends for no cost and without keeping them. That said, I am really fond of my signed book collection. It is fast outgrowing the bookcase. I would be sad to lose it, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t live without them. Just don’t tell my super indulgent, patient hubby who rolls his eyes when I ask for a new bookshelf – then builds it.

So my short long version is: my greatest possessions are not possessions, but are the people I love, life experiences I have and reading.

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Writing 101 Day 14 – The Story Continues Part 3 The Greatest Loss

Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.

On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge,also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.

Here are parts 1 & 2 in case you missed them:

The Greatest Loss (working title until something else replaces it)

“Time is of the essence!” declares Charlie as he slowing moves across the crowded restaurant using his hated walker.

It was nice to be able to get around without falling over, but honestly, did his grandkids really need to put those neon yellow tennis balls on the front legs of the thing? He was steady enough to pick it up each time he moved forward. Most of the time anyway.

“Mom, mom, mom,” chanted his six-year-old great-granddaughter. She didn’t really want anything other than being the center of attention. Hopping around like a kangaroo on crack, she banged into the back of at least three people on the way to their table. One lady dropped pasta down the front of a previously lovely white sweater when her lunch was disrupted by the girl.

“Katie, come back here,” hissed Charlie’s newly divorced daughter Amanda. “Dad, we’ll just meet you at the table, don’t hurry.”

Amanda may have told him not to hurry, but Charlie heard the impatience in her voice. She was irritated with her granddaughter and her father. He tried to step it up a bit, but his hip was really sore from a fall the night before. Of course he didn’t say anything about it to Amanda, she’d be one step closer to moving him to a nursing home and herself in his house.

Finally arriving at the table, he thumped down in the chair with an audible sigh of relief for having made the journey from the car safely. Gone were the days when he could hop out of the car without even thinking about it, jog to the stairs and take them two at a time. Sitting quietly collecting himself while the women in his life chatter over their lunch choices, he wondered how he slipped unnoticed from a vibrant young man to the old codger he’d become.

Charlie rather enjoyed watching the spectacle going on around him. Until Katie grabbed Amanda’s purse upending it all over the table and his lap. Bits of gum, pens and papers surrounded their table like shrapnel.

“Dad, I’ll be right back, Katie and I need to go outside and discuss proper behavior,” said Amanda as she steered the contrite young girl towards the door.

Charlie began picking up the papers he could easily reach, when he flipped over an envelope with his name on it. Frowning he looked inside and realized it was from a mortgage company. His house was paid for, why would they send a bill with his name on it to Amanda’s address?

Part 2

A much more subdued Katie walked stiffly back to the table where her great-grandfather waited. Amanda followed, her lipstick a tight blood-red slash on her pale face. She sat down in the chair looking every bit as tired as her father.

“Katie,” she said quietly. “What do you have to say to Great-Grandpa?”

“I’m sorry I was noisy and rude and made a mess with Grandma’s purse,” Katie answered as she looked down at her scuffed crocs.

Charlie cleared his throat and attempted to look sternly at the little girl. She really did look small and even a bit sorry.

“That’s ok Katie, now eat the rest of your lunch and you can have a scoop of orange sherbet for dessert.”

Relieved to be out of trouble, and a little  bit afraid of the only man who ever made her follow rules, she settled onto the seat to eat the lunch the server brought while she was outside. One hand held half of a grilled cheese sandwich, the other picked daintily at the fruit dish. Strawberries were her favorite, she ate them first. She started on the grapes as Charlie turned from her and waved the mortgage bill at Amanda.

“How long have you had a mortgage out on my home?” he asked.

At first Amanda just sat looking at the bill in her father’s hand. Then she began to cry.

“Daddy,” she sobbed. “I had no choice.”

“We always have choices in this life,” he answered, then sat back to wait for her explanation.

Amanda struggled to get the words out, but eventually the silence was too deafening to keep quiet any longer.

“Dad, I had to put Julie in rehab and take legal custody of Katie. Six months ago I went over to visit unannounced and found Katie alone. She’d been alone for an entire day. When Julie finally came home she was so high she didn’t even know me. They wouldn’t take her at the hospital unless I paid up front. I am so sorry, I had no choice.”

Charlie leaned over the table placing his gnarled hand over his daughter’s ice cold fingers. Letting out the breath he’d been holding, he smiled faintly at his only child. How could he have not know what was going on in his on in his own family?

Part 3

“I have my house on the market,” Amanda started in a monotone. “As soon as it sells, I planned to pay off the mortgage, and then find a small apartment to rent for Katie and me. We won’t need much space, I have been slowly selling my furniture in case the rehab facility needs more money.”

The server cruised up to the side of the table with a chipper snap of her gum. “Can I getcha any refills?”

“That would be just fine,” answered Charlie, more out of the need to get rid of her than thirst. He glanced at Katie. She had pulled a book out of her backpack and was quietly thumbing through the pages.

“The market is starting to open up,” Amanda said, drawing his attention back to her. “Don’t worry Dad, It should sell by fall and you will not have to worry a bit. I am so sorry you had to find out. You shouldn’t have to worry about me now that I am past 50 for heaven’s sake.”

Charlie grinned. “Do you think you will ever stop worrying about Julie? I know she’s really in trouble now, but once she cleans up her act, settles down and starts flying right, do you think you will ever go to bed not worrying about her?”

Amanda actually smiled. “I guess you’ve got me there. No matter how hard I try, I still worryabout her.”

The refills arrived, untouched plates were cleared and Katie decided she really wanted vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and whipped cream. Lots of whipped cream, but no cherry. She hated them. The server, still clueless to the family drama going on at her table, zipped off to continue flirting witha nice looking bus boy. “Oh to be young again,” thought Charlie.

“When I walked in here today,” Charlie said, “I was thinking about how much fun we used to have when you were a little girl.”

Amanda smiled.

“We were busy all the time, playing cards after dinner. Heck, just making dinner was more fun than work since you used to help your mom and me every night. I was feeling pretty useless lately.”

“Dad, of course you aren’t useless!” she interrupted him.

Holding up his hand to stop her, he continued. “Here is what we are going to do. You are going to sell your house. Then you will pay off the mortgage you took out on my house. But, you will NOT move into an apartment. Katie and you are moving in with me. The schools are still good in my neighborhood, she can start in the fall. We will teach her how to play a rummy, using an upside down box to hold the cards just like you did.”

“I can’t ask you to do this,” Amanda protested.

“You didn’t ask me, I am telling you,” replied her father with more authority in his voice that had been there in years. “I will not take no for an answer, young lady!”

With that Amanda laughed out loud. “Geeze,  I don’t think you’ve called me young lady for 30 years!”

Charlie turned to Katie. “Are you ready to go home?”

She hopped off of the chair after one last lick of her ice cream spoon. “Ok Grandpa, can we come to your house?”

He smiled and nodded while slowly rising out of his chair. Making his way out of the restaurant, he walked a little taller. In the span of an hour he got something back he never thought he would ever feel again. They needed him. Even though circumstances were far from ideal, he could help make the situation better. It was good to have new purpose and meaning in his life that he thought he would never feel again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing 101 Day 15 Life Changing Event??

 

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

I have been thinking all day about the Writing 101 prompt of the day. I have attended events, concerts, plays, movies and backyard BBQs, but honestly, in my 57 years on this planet I absolutely can say with certainty, not one of them was a life changing experience. In as much as I enjoyed most of said events, without one, two or most of them I would not have been devastated.

Maybe I am not Zen enough to put all of this importance on ONE MAJOR EVENT. I dunno.

buddy 9In the last 10 years I have been privileged enough to attend concerts of some of all-time favorite artists. Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy. I have seen plays in Chicago with superstars such as Zero Mostel, Donnie Osmond (don’t laugh, he was a very hot guy and had his shirt off most of the play), David Hyde Pierce and my personal favorite Tim Curry (Huge, HUGE fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show here!!) and many more I am surely forgetting.

 

I learned to actually appreciate opera after attending several for my Opera Appreciation Class in college. Oddly enough I hated the one in English, loved the one in Italian. I was fortunate enough to see both the best (Aida – was fabulous) and the worse (Macbeth – biggest bust ever!) of the year according to the Chicago critics.

As far as events like family picnics, trips to the zoo with our children and vacations, almost all of them have been great. There was the unfortunate incident with bad clam chowder (my dear young cousin and I fondly pronounce it chowda in honor of the east coast) in Oregon giving me food poisoning for the last four cold and rainy days of our vacation.

Don’t for a minute think we had a lot of disposable cash. I didn’t work when the kids were young, but stayed home raising them while my husband worked. We did the zoo and museums on free day, camped because it was lots of fun for three little boys and a big Old English Sheep Dog. And it was cheap. We watched our money and ate at home, not restaurants to save our money to do things with the kids and as a couple. Jim Hartman_5

 

I don’t want to gloss over hardships we may have had. Money was really tight some days, weeks, months. We made do. One of our sons had a major medical issue but is thankfully back on his own, working and thriving. We’ve had sickness and deaths of those close to us. Two come to mind that passed away too young.

After all of this information telling you that one event didn’t shape my life, I have to tell you that all of these events had a part in shaping my life.

I have learned the following (and wish I could always live by them but sometimes just can’t – I’m only human)

  • No amount of worry will affect the outcome of any situation
  • I cannot make people act differently, but I can control my reaction to them
  • Sometimes I just have to act happy when I am not. Ironically, it does improve my mood
  • Money is nice, but you can have a great time with little or none
  • Keep learning and growing. Your little grey cells will thank you
  • Family dinner is important. Talk to your family. What a concept!
  • Hold your friends close or let them go – you’ll know which is appropriate
  • Enjoy your life or change it
  • Live, laugh and love (to quote some wise, famous person who remains a mystery to me)

© Laura M Hartman 2014

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Writing 101 Day 10 – Home in 1969

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
We moved into the little white house on Weston Avenue the summer I turned three. One might think that I would be too young to have memories of the move. Surprisingly I do. Of course I have many, many more memories of the following 15 years I grew up there. These include the birth of my brother, dad putting an addition on to accommodate said brother and the horrible task telling my parents he died while working in another state.
Our house was in a fairly large city, but it seemed smaller then. We knew everyone on our street and most of the people a block or two over. If one of the kids in the neighborhood did something they weren’t supposed to do, the mom of your friend would either tell you to knock it off, send you home, or do the worst thing they could possibly do – call your mom and tell her what you did. We all pretty much behaved, who wanted to be grounded to the house when there were so many things to do outside with the other kids?
I have so many fond memories of that house, they tumble around in my head like a slide show. Snippets of happiness from Christmases, birthdays, graduations and everyday life can be brought to life again as I remember and share them with family and friends.
channel 7 newsIn the spring of 1969, with the war in Vietnam raging on the nightly news with Fahey Flynn and Joel Daley, life was still pretty carefree for me. The front porch was one of my favorite places to be. Dad screened it in to keep out the bugs. It was shaded by the huge maple tree in our front yard.  I was way too mature to play on the swing set, but not to old to still love to swing. Dad made a porch swing that fit perfectly on one side of the porch between the front door and the side yard where Mom’s climbing rose-bush spread up the side of the house. (photo of the channel 7 News Team from Google Images)
The summer of ’69 brought hot weather and lots of free time. After I got up in the morning, I would help mom with whatever chores she had for me. Usually making my bed, helping with dishes and dusting the furniture. It didn’t take long, then I was free to do as I wanted. Most days that would be reading books while swinging on the porch swing.
Sometimes I would ride my purple Sting Ray bicycle to my friend’s house, or go down to the neighbor’s front porch to play gin rummy. We had games that lasted all day, stopping briefly to run home for a sandwich and chips in our small cozy kitchen. Mom always had WJJD, the local Country station playing. I hated it. My taste ran to rock and roll  Tommy Roe, CCR, Bread and Neil Diamond. I had a transistor radio that Icarried around to listen  to their music where ever I wanted to go.
Our house was small, but big enough for Dad, Mom and my brother and me. It made me feel safe to be within the walls that sheltered us. We always sat down for dinner together in the kitchen without TV for distraction. No internet, no cell phones, no running around from activity to activity to fill the hours of summer. It was good to grow up in a home that was a small oasis in the midst of a turbulent time.
Easter 1969 Easter Morning 1969, my brother and me
If you look closely, you can see the porch swing inside the porch window. That same swing is on the front porch of our current home. My dad gave it to me when they moved from the house on Weston. A better picture of it is the one on the top of my page with the shawl draped over it.

 

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Utilitarian knitting

How many of us knit something knowing that it is going to be plain, useful and probably scoffed at if talked about? Most of the time we see pics of projects they are made of lovely soft alpaca or warm wool. Friends oooh and ahhh over lacy shawls and complicated mittens, sweet baby sweaters and cabled hats. But whip out a ordinary garter stitched dish cloth (or dish rag as I fondly remember Grandma talking about) and they ask why you would waste your time.

I am proud to have grandmas that taught me to recycle and re-purpose items that I already have to save money. They also taught me that homemade items were better and lasted longer than store bought.

A few weeks ago my hubby was complaining that the sponges we were using to wash dishes with were stinky. Again. He was right. In the summer humidity, sponges get gross in a day or so. I’ve read that the amount of germs found in them is an unimaginable number. I’m normally not too worried about “germ reports” but it does stand to reason with sponges.

So I decided to make a few dish rags for everyday use. I got some great yarn – Tatamy Tweed – from Stitches Midwest last week. It is 45% cotton/55% acrylic and feels really good to work with. Within 3 hrs today I made a very plain, useful dish rag that is hanging under my sink right now waiting for me to do dishes.

You may think this was a waste of 3 hrs. I was watching a movie with my son and husband the entire time I worked on it. We chatted, I knitted and the morning was quite enjoyable. Washing dishes isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I’ll be a bit happier thinking that I enjoyed making this simple piece of utilitarian knitting while spending a Saturday morning with my family. Thanks Grandma and Grammie for instilling useful skills and values in me so very long ago 🙂

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