Thursday, November 7, 2019

54 Years, 54 Memories

In the wise words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

54 memories on my 54th birthday….in no particular order

1.     Camping in Acadia National Park in Maine (with no flashlight) on our honeymoon.
2.     Seeing our daughter for the very first time.
3.     Walking by the ocean at sunrise with the pounding sound of the waves.
4.     Setting up our family’s pop-up camper in Peninsula State Park.
5.     2nd grade stamp club with Mrs. Candy Heart (my favorite teacher).
6.     Singing “Victory in Jesus” at 1st Baptist with my Dad playing piano.
7.     Playing Barbie Miss America with my neighbor Lynn, every day, all summer long.
8.     Playing cards and drinking tea with Milt, Dale, and Kathy in their Wicker Park loft.
9.     Sleepovers at Janet Aarup’s, making an air-tent from sheets and a box fan.
10.  Walking Michigan Avenue between Columbia College and the Art Institute with Mandy.
11.  Waiting for my mom to bring my sister Julie home for the very first time.
12.  Helping my mom decorate her school classroom at Parkside and Glenwood.
13.  Opening day of our gift and antique shop, Favorite Things.
14.  Following Milt out of a summer party to introduce myself.
15.  Long walks with Beth through Lincoln Park.
16.  Current scones with clotted cream and jam at the 3rd Coast.
17.  Singing in children’s church led by Rich and Cheri Strahm.
18.  Staying up all night on New Year’s Eve with my high school youth group.
19.  My surprise 16th birthday party after a dinner with my family at Yesteryear in Kankakee.
20.  Learning to make Swedish Pancakes with my grandma, Honey.
21.  Winning a spelling bee in 8th grade, after being the first one out the year before.
22.  Door County sunsets and Far Away Joe’s pizza on the Ephraim town shore.
23.  Shopping at Marshall Fields with my Mom.
24.  Buying snacks at the canteen at Pine Trail Camp.
25.  Catching lightning bugs in the front yard with my best friend and neighbor Michelle.
26.  Walking to Parkside elementary school, trying to avoid the barking dogs at each fence.
27.  Giving a tour of Moody to Chicago’s Mayor Daley.
28.  Meeting Johnny Cash and shaking his hand.
29.  Crying in Notre Dame cathedral.
30.  Eating sushi and other mysterious items from a food truck in Okinawa, Japan.
31.  Walking and crying through the World War II peace museum in Okinawa.
32.  Moving into my own apartment at Illinois State University.
33.  Teaching my very first college class.
34.  Cutting Milt’s hair, on our honeymoon, and leaving a weird hole on the side off his head.
35.  Driving up to our Florida home and Nana saying, “Wow, you have a lot of work to do.”
36.  Junior high marching band with Mr. Pitts and lots of Sousa tunes.
37.  Antique shopping at the Covered Bridge festival.
38.  Opening Christmas stockings and playing the Johnny Cash Christmas album.
39.  My first real news reporting assignment at the capital in Springfield, Illinois.
40.  Reading Flannery O’Connor for the first time because of Rosie de Rosset.
41.  Evenings on Culby 2 at Moody, the snack shop crowded with my friends.
42.  Researching my book in the University of Wisconsin Madison library.
43.  Attempting to wait tables at the Summertime in Fish Creek
44.  Dancing with our entire family at Mom and Bob’s wedding.
45.  Fishing with Honey and Papa.
46.  Christmas bingo and molasses cookies at Grandma Storms house.
47.  Buying our dog Buddy after he put his paw up to the glass.
48.  Sabrina’s kindergarten graduation – which dissolved me in tears.
49.  Swapping shirts with Sabrina on an unexpected picture day so she could look presentable.
50.  New Year’s Eve celebrating with Dan, Jill, wearing vintage, of course.
51.  Fondue New Year’s Eve party in our very first house – crowded into the basement.
52.  Trick or treating in Thornton, spending all night going house to house.
53.  Looking out at my family & friends, at LaSalle Street Church during my wedding.
54.  Sitting in my Florida house and feeling overwhelmingly thankful.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Airport Incubator

I’m sitting in the airport at Charlotte, North Carolina, on a Thursday afternoon. I am on my way home after a business trip. To my left is a grand piano where a pianist is offering a very energetic rendition of the Friends theme song. Also to my left, is a blue haired young man in his 20s with a nicely contrasting lilac bandana across his forehead.

He is sitting on the ground, back against the staircase, enthusiastically singing along with the piano player, throwing in special requests (Do you know any Beatles?) and then, without luck, asks if he could jam on the piano for a bit. To my slight right sit two suit-coated men. The older man has white hair, a mustache, and glasses. He’s slowly drinking a beer. His lunch companion (it’s almost 4 pm, so maybe not lunch in airport world?) is a tall young man that looks like a mix of Anglo and Asian. He’s sporting a pin striped linen sport coat that is slightly wrinkled. All of a sudden they jump up and gather their suitcases, leaving behind 1/3 of a beer and 4 pieces of sushi.

It is such a microcosm of humanity, airports, and a rather safe one since we’ve all been screened – shoes off, everything in a plastic bin. Put your feet apart. Keep your hands over your head – don’t overlap them – just touch them together.

Relieved after such intense scrutiny, we wander through the airport world towing wheeled luggage and babies and staring at our cell phones. Some people are running – dashing for a missed flight. Others are strolling, sipping giant cups of soda that will no doubt send them dashing down the aisle to pee in the tiny airplane bathroom in just an hour or so. Every so often you see children running, escaping their mom’s hand, tripping adult passengers.

Glancing up, I see a giant American flag hanging from the glass atrium, and more pieces of Americana flags on the airline tails I can see behind the glass.

The piano man and the blue hair boy are making friends now. They are opposites – the piano guy is prematurely balding with a blue striped polo shirt, grey Dockers and dorky black gym shoes – the kind that look completely vinyl and a bit elderly orthopedic. Now they’re making a video – the blue hair boy just did the rock star hand thing with his two outside fingers up. He’s interviewing the piano player and giving him a shout out on Insta. I think they’re exchanging phone numbers.

And now they’re singing – and a woman jumps up from her seat and dances to their impromptu duet, right in front of the grand piano. And when they quit, people all across the atrium area burst into applause.

It is a sweet place, airports. Filled with frustration but also anticipation. They are a place of odd community – people brought together by a desire to go someplace else. We are together for a brief moment – just this one spot in the grand scheme of life. Most of us passing by one another, hurriedly, on our way to the next gate, the next place.

But a few of us stop, smile, snap a photo, request a song, make a friend.

Our world can be a crazy, mixed up angry place sometimes. But today the little instant friendship that formed in this airport brought a tear to my eye.

Mary McLeod Bethune: She Has Given Her Best

I first heard about Mary McLeod Bethune when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute. She was an early graduate of my college - and a...