Monday, May 25, 2015

Peter W. Strine - Memorial Day 2015

I have written on Memorial Day in years past.  Today I got up early before the rain, and drove over  to Crete, Illinois to a cemetery that I visited many times as a child.  It's not far.  My mom took me there.  Her fiance is buried there.  I found his stone again without much trouble because his parents' stone is upright and clearly visible.

My mom honored him on the World War II site - I don't think he was a "Jr."  His father's name was Peter S., not Peter W.  My mom recalled him being a member of the 517th Parachute Infantry (not the 513th), 82nd Airborne (not the 17th), but in the uniform photos below he is wearing the 17th AB Division shoulder insignia, so it's likely that the headstone is correct.

Here are the photos that my mother kept, and following them, her memories of his death.

Here is the grave site in July 1963 - my mom planted this peony.  It's not there any longer.

 Based on the clothing, I think these two were taken the same day - sometime in the late 1930s is my guess.

And these - perhaps the early 1940s saluting for the camera?

In uniform - already a sergeant - I think his stripes denote Staff Sergeant.

According to the license plate on the vehicle, this series - with my mom - was taken in 1943.

I don't know when these were taken - but they had to be in the early 1940s at restaurants - back in the day nice restaurants had photographers who would take your picture at the table.

And then this - cut from the newspaper in 1945 . . .

In 1973, for the first class that she took when she went back to school to earn her Bachelor's Degree, my mom wrote a journal (that she lost and had to recreate) about Life, Time, and Death and made a short film with a cassette tape for sound.  I don't know what's happened to the film or the casette she recorded to go with it.  I know I was in high school when she made it and I was playing my guitar and singing the slow intro to Here, by America.
"I am thinking 
'bout the days 
We'd led ourselves astray 
In more than many ways 
Here, within the time we've spent 
Wonderin' what we meant 
By livin' all those years 
By livin' all those years"
She shared her journal and film with her classmates - there are notes from one of them and from her teacher in the notebook.  In memory of her fiance, Peter W. Strine, I would like to share one of her Death entries with you, entitled "Reflections on Death - 1."
My first occasion to seriously contemplate death was on the death of the first young man I was interested in. I had known Peter in High School and he joined the Army - just as we became involved in WWII. He was in the service in various parts of this country and finally volunteered to become a paratrooper in order to serve overseas. He went all through the war as part of a small group used as shock troops in Italy, Belgium, etc. He was waiting for a ship to come home, in a town called Nancy, France at a rest camp, when he became ill and died on July 12, 1945. I first got word of his death on August 13, 1945, ironically, V-J Day. The war was over.
At first, I couldn't believe it was true - the war was over in Europe and had been since sometme in May, surely it was a some kind of ghastly mistake.
We had planned to be married that fall and I had one pair of nylon stockings I was saving. Most of you are too young to know about rationing but during WWII many things were hard to get - Kleexex, cigarettes, nylons, etc. Also the nylons that first came on the market were made to last - they don't make them like that anymore.

The day after I heard of Peter's death I decided to ride the "L" downtown - I don't know why - I usually took the I.C. train - I lived in South Shore at that time. I took a street car to the "L" - I guess maybe I took this mode of transportation because I wanted to be alone in my grief and surrounded by strangers. I could think whatever I wanted to without anyone I knew greeting me.

I looked out of the dirty "L" windows as the train wove its way down the back entrances of what were to become slums in the Woodlawn area. The sun was shining brightly and people were laughing and talking and going about their business as though nothing had happened - I wanted to stop them - I wanted to know why, then it suddenly came to me that why should they not? Nothing had happened to them - they didn't know about Peter.

I then thought, who cares? Who really cares or knows? About anyone - and then I knew that he would only be remembered by those who knew and loved him for he had only lived 22 years. Twenty two years - so long and yet so short. It has now been 28 years since that time. Just think, he will always be remembered as a young handsome man with dark brown laughing eyes and wavy hair, forever young. Another thought was did his parents ever think when he was a baby that they were going to nurture him to maturity and then he was going to fight a war and die?

It seemed very unfair to think of this boy dying before he had a chance to do any of the things most of us have a chance to do. Marry, have children, be successful at a calling, grow old, have grandchildren.

I believe that day I suddenly realized that nothing is forever and people only live on in the hearts of those their lives have touched and then, unless they have left something as a memento - a work of art or achieved special acclaim as an important person, no one will remember them because after everyone they knew is dead, who is left to remember.
 So, today, I honor the memory of a man I never knew. A man who died 70 years ago. The man my mother would have married - who made it all the way through the war and who was waiting to come home to her when he contracted what his death certificate called a "child's fever" and died in Nancy, France.

Lest we forget . . .

Sunday, May 24, 2015

We're Back in Three, Two . . .

And . . . we're back.  Well, it's back. 

I made a decision last week.  Here's the short story: I'm producing a second season of my weekly video podast, All About African Violets.

I took a good long break with some special episodes thrown into the mix - but now I have what I think is a good reason to start back up.

Episode 87 just went live online.  Check it out!  Plenty of people watch who don't even grow African violets - mostly to see what a my hair looks like  ;-D

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Swing Time . . .

It's Mother's Day today.  My mom has been gone for 11 years.  I'm not quite sure how time passes.  I'm definitely sure it's not linear, even though I, myself, am often linear - sometimes pedantically so, I'm afraid.  I think it's a control issue . . .  Anyway - I never celebrated Father's Day because my dad died when I was a toddler, and now that my mom has been gone so long, I find that this is just another Sunday . . . I don't reserve this day to think of her - I think of her all the time.

I thought of her a lot yesterday because I caught up with a childhood friend.  We'd had a falling out many years ago, but she stayed close to my mom.  We last saw each other at my mom's wake, 11 years ago.  Thanks to the modern marvel that is Facebook, we caught back up with each other and have been chatting there over the past six months or so.  So many things we have in common - not the least of which is a love of the fiber arts, in particular both knitting and spinning.  So yesterday we spent the day at one of my favorite places, The Fold, where we worked on C's spinning wheel (which she's decided to sell to get a newer, easier wheel), enjoyed time spent with The Fold's owner, Toni, and of course shopped a bit.  I came home with the third book in Hunter Hammersen's Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet series.  No yarn for me.  Yay!

We also went to lunch and talked - in fact, we talked so long that they locked us in the joint  :-D  We did manage to leave before they actually tossed us out.  We talked mostly about our families and our lives in the many years since we'd been in real touch.  And we talked about our moms.

This is my favorite photo of my mom. I wrote the following two years ago on FB:  "She was a true original - far ahead of her time. The true matriarch of the clan - and all my friends (and my cousins' friends) adored her. She lived every day of her life with joy and purpose, and I just cannot believe it's nine years that she is gone."

She was a second mom to my friend, C.   As mentioned, they stayed close throughout the years.  I'm really glad they did.  My mom was very fond of C, and I know my mom made a great difference in C's life.  Plus, it allowed us to reconnect all these years later.

There is something comforting about someone who has known you a very long time - even in this case where we were out of touch for decades.  We slipped easily back into the comfort of shared experience and friendship.  The threads were not difficult to pick up and knit back together.  It was a day well spent in the company of an old friend.  And it was exactly what I needed.

I have been caught up so tightly in the web of construction.  The good news is that it's done now. It's been done since May 1st.  Oh, there have been a few punch list things that were done in the last week, and there are a couple of remaining bits, but three months of construction is over.  I love everything.

Why am I showing you this?  Because in the past, that pond in the yard after a storm always equated to a soggy mess in the basement.  Not anymore.

And the bathroom is done (except that the shower head will be changed out this week and I still haven't decided on a picture for that frame).

This side of the kitchen is now done, too - and I really really love having that open space on the center bank of shelves.

And on Friday I managed to get everything out of the staging area that is rightfully my dining room.  I even dusted my mom's crystal chandelier.  The living room is close to being normal again.

A lot of this stuff is already put away and I'm getting all the remaining stuff on the kitchen bar put away today (hey, I had to move the lingering stuff out of the dining room and it had to go somewhere while I made some decisions about it :-D).

So yeah - I do love everything - but I had no earthly idea that the process of giving large parts of my space a facelift would completely deconstruct me.  Deconstruct me in ways that I would never have thought possible.

Oh. My. God.  I am not kidding.

I have been completely discombobulated by three months of complete and total chaos.  Old habits. Old coping mechanisms.  Old patterns.  They all came roaring back with a vengeance.  I don't really understand it - and pretty much all I could do was stand back and watch myself train wreck. And now, like the old song says, I'm picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting all over again.  It's uphill at the moment.

I had a phenomenal contractor.  I adore him and his crew.  They were absolutely wonderful, but I apparently am a creature of true habit.  I need structure in my life and when I don't have it, all hell breaks loose.  My sleep was not good.  Food has not been good (Crap - construction is fattening  :-S  Did I already mention that?).  Most days I look like I've been rode hard and put away wet. It's not a good look for me.  Seriously, it's a good thing I have a job where people don't really see me much.  . . .  I'm really at the end of my rope - one of my friends called it Decision Fatigue.  All I've done for the past three months is make decisions and try to keep it together while my home was being torn apart.

Well, it hasn't been cupcakes, but food has been really really difficult. I mean, really, I used to say that I might as well have just slapped it all on my ass, except now I have completely different (and not particularly attractive) body shape - so I might just have well slapped it around my middle.  Blech  :-P

But the construction is done.  It's done.  All that remains is for me to take ahold of the pile of crap that's left in its wake, clean it up, and make some sense of it all.

I've been making efforts for the past couple of weeks to get myself back on track.  I've not been fully successful, but I'm making progress.  I took a day on Friday and worked in the house, which was a very smart plan.  I was able to get a LOT accomplished, particularly in the dining room (as you can see above).  I took another full carload to the Second Chance Shop.  I know, it's disturbing that I STILL have stuff to get rid of . . .

And yesterday was the first day I have felt like a human again.  I got out of the house for something other than work or errands and spent a wonderful afternoon.  Things are looking up, and I'm looking forward to feeling the results of my efforts . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Blast from the Past . . .

One of my cousins has gotten into in a big way.  My mom also was very interested in tracing her roots in Northern Ireland and she amassed a bit of information, and I had hired a genealogist in Northern Ireland before I went there a few years ago, and they unearthed some things. I never did anything with it.

During the mass cleanup of the basement back in January BC (that's Before Construction  ;-)), I found a couple of my mom's small, purse size notebooks where she had written some notes on the family research she had done when she visited Belfast. I brought them upstairs and put them with the rest of the info. It's all been sitting in an Anna Griffin file/fabric bag ever since.  I was supposed to mail it all to my cousin back in January BC . . . yeah. However, as has been my usual of late, I never managed to get that to happen, so her being in town was fortuitous.  I took everything over to her at her sister's on Friday night.

In one of the small notebooks, I found a coffee-stained page where my mom had written her Visa account number, her William A. Lewis ("Where the Models Buy Their Clothes") account number, and her Marshall Field's account number. Neither of the stores exists any longer. She had also written a little Imperial/Metric conversion for pounds/kilograms and miles/kilometers, and at the bottom of the page, she had listed the following four sewing patterns.

Butterick #3528 B.M.
Vogue 1519 (2)
McCall's 2398 (1)
Simplicity 7261 (1)

Sewing patterns. This intrigued me because my mom was never much of a seamstress - I was.  Although I don't sew much anymore, for many years I made all my own clothes. Since my cousin didn't need the info on that page for her research, I tore it out and brought it home.

I'm still banished to my office this morning while the painter is making the sunroom beautiful, so it seemed like a good time to see why it was so important for Mom to remember four patterns. As I found them online, all was revealed . . .

Butterick #3528 B.M.

October 4, 1986.  Yes, I made them wear those dresses in blue moire - massive sleeves and all (but no shoulder bows :-) ). It was the 80's, and you couldn't get much more 80s than this dress. They have both forgiven me, but hey, they looked gorgeous, as you can see.  So - first pattern decoded:  Bride's Maids dresses from my first wedding.

Vogue 1519 (2)

This was in the running for me on the big day - the B look - tea length without the train, hence Mom's (2) after the pattern number.

McCall's 2398 (1)

Clearly we have a theme going now.  Another dress in the running.  Mom noted (1), which was the first look with the jacket.

Simplicity 7261 (1)

This last pattern, though, was initially a bit of a mystery.  Nothing to do with a wedding. Was she thinking of it for her Mother of the Bride dress???? (OMG I hope not  :-D ) Did she want a new coat?  That seemed more reasonable, but if that was it, why this one?  Totally NOT her style at all.  A little more sleuthing, however, turned this up:

Ah - this makes more sense.  The third pattern that had been in the running for my wedding gown.  :-)

I was living in Denver back then, and she'd written them all down so she could go to the store in Illinois and see them.

Which did I choose?  The McCall's one was the winner. A friend from the theatre, Micheal Gold, (he also stood up in the wedding) made it for me.

I immediately recognized the pattern when I saw it - but interestingly enough, I had no recollection of the two that didn't make the cut.  Clearly the McCall's Laura Ashley look was far and away my first choice.

My marriage didn't last even five years, but last I checked, my maid of honor still has my Laura Ashley wedding dress hanging in her closet because she loved it so much.  :-)

Funny how the past finds us now and again, isn't it?

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I am going to paint my front door red and change my name to Elizabeth Arden (obscure theatre reference for those of you keeping score at home  ;-D )

Yet . . .

Well, we're stumbling to the finish line, I'm afraid.

Not all the trim came in for the sunroom cabinets, so they are not done.  Yet.  Plus, I realized that I forgot to buy pulls for the cabinet doors.  Great.  No putting stuff away in them. Yet.

But they're gorgeous  :-)  So is the granite.  :-)

The granite's in the bathroom, but not sealed.  The backsplash isn't done, and the sink is not hooked up.  That means that I cannot use that bathroom for anything.  Yet. 

But it's gorgeous  :-)

The painter is here today and he's working in the sunroom.  That means I'm banished to my office, which is a disasterland on par with the living and dining rooms . . .

 Most of that corner is stuff from the sunroom - but I've determined that I don't want baskets all over in there any longer, so it's time to get rid of them.  But probably not this week.  Crossing my fingers for next week  :-)

The ORKIN man was just here, and I'm about to hop in the car to make a quick run to the Second Chance Shop so that I'm there right at 10 when they open.  Then I'm racing over to the dealership for my car's first service.  It's free  :-)  Then I have to pick up a can of red paint for the front door, and then I'm back here.

And when I'm back here, I'm going to be in my office, so I'm thinking it's time for me to get stuff filed, stuff dusted (again), and stuff put away.  That will go a long way toward getting this space back to being functional.  There is still a lot in here that will eventually be in the new bathroom.  I think I'm going to move it all into the guest room where the rest of the stuff is so that I can get this room in some kind of order again.

That's my exciting Saturday  :-D

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Neverending Story . . .

Oh. My. God.

No, it's still not done . . .

 I washed the kitchen curtains (OxyClean for the win!)  They were still drying here, but they look like new again  :-)

The kitchen is pretty much done and the shelves have undergone a serious transformation . . .  You can't see the completely full third shelf, but you can get a pretty good idea (and you can tell how . . . um . . . grey . . . the kitchen curtains were.  Eeeuuw!).  So - from this . . .

 To this:

 The sunroom has gone from this:

To this.  The space will be primed and the new cabinets in tomorrow.  Cross your fingers.  (You can see some of the "before" kitchen shelves in this photo, too.)  The painter will paint this room completely over the weekend.

 Last time you saw the bathroom, it was gutted to the studs.  At the moment, it looks like this:

And this:

There is water in the tub to keep any other workmen from using the faucet or standing in it.  The tile and grout are not sealed yet, and the shower glass is not in yet.  Tomorrow the vanity should be done and the rest of the backsplash should also be done.

I'm not even going to show you the living room and dining room because although I managed to get the sofa cleared off (which means that I got the front hall closet put back together - well, mostly put back together), the dining room is now full of plants and stuff from the sunroom because the painter is coming this weekend to paint in there.

The hall's done, though  :-)

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  My amazing and wonderful cleaning lady will be coming early tomorrow morning, and she should be able to get the sunroom pretty clean, and also the guest room, my room, and the guest bath, as well as the kitchen.  The rest (my office and the living and dining rooms) she's going to have to come back for next time - and I'm getting a quote on having the windows washed.

That's the update from The Third Coast.  I realized today that this work started on February 2nd, so it's been chaos and dust here for two and a half months.  My hair is standing on end more than usual.  I love everything that's happening - I just wish it would have happened a little faster  :-D