Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Weekend of WE and RE

There is no I in Sisters' Weekend. As we have moved from venue to venue over these last 15 years, the routine has pretty much been the same - the host makes the plans and the other two get to sit back and relax and enjoy. Although we are all strong women (translation, "bossy"), we've never had a power struggle on a sisters' weekend over what beach to go to (there has to be a beach), who gets the bathroom first, where to go to eat (we never met a meal we didn't like), or who gets to write the postcards to the Aunties, (that's Jan's job).

This year's trip to Jacksonville/St. Augustine was no different. One of us doesn't drink, the other two are cocktail mavens - so our non-drinker indulges us at the pubs and we reciprocate by finding the church where we all attend mass together. No questions asked. That's just part of the "WE" in sisters' weekends. The three of us also share our deepest thoughts and yes-, even at our age, dreams of the future and our hopes and wishes for our kids and grand kids.

Now for the "RE" in our weekends:

RE -energize by a weekend on a beach with only each other to worry about

RE-connect with each other and what's going on with our families and our health

RE-gale perfect strangers with our hysterical laughter

RE-minisce about fun times from childhood to "old ladyhood"

RE-new the promise to keep these weekends going

RE-invent the perfect martini or cosmo

RE-fresh our tans

RE-commend ideas for the next year's venue

RE- mind ourselves of our vow to stay out of tourist traps

This year we got suckered in to one. As they say, "Hope springs eternal."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kielbasi Quest Revisited

Anyone who knew my mother knows that she would travel on the bus from Chatham, New Jersey to Newark everyday to her job as the payroll person at Woolworth's. The traits I wish I had inherited from her were her work ethic, her stylishness (Newark was the capitol of fashion for us - think Orbachs, Kleins and Lord and Taylor), her devotion to her parents and siblings and her ability to add long columns of numbers without using a calculator or her fingers.

Instead, I seem to have inherited the transporting of kielbasi trait. She would visit the section of Newark that sold the best kielbasi and bread (I later found out it was Jewish Rye bread) to bring home to the suburbs for the entire family. When she visited our Aunt Caro in Arizona, the plane would be doused with the smell of the precious sausage that she carried in a shopping bag on board.

When we moved to Chicago, she'd bring the stash to our house, along with the best horseradish available. I can imagine the snarky remarks of the American Airlines stewardesses ( no flight attendant PC titles back then.)

Today I traveled by CTA to our tax guy (if you need a good one, call me)and made it there in record time on the Blue Line and the #80 bus. Thinking that Easter is coming up and I had time to spare, I took the #54 south to Belmont and the #77 west to Lockwood and visited my favorite polshki place, Gene's Sausage. I was restrained by the fact that I didn't have a car trunk to fill, but managed Kielbasi, farmers cheese, cold cuts, pork chops, Kosciusko mustard,a loaf of caraway rye bread, a gigantic pickle, a slice of headcheese for Joe, and two boxes of sinful cookies. Armed with my shopping bags I took the #77 back to the Blue Line and at Washington emerged in Daley Plaza for the #157 which stops in front of my building. On all these trips, I looked around as though, I too, was wondering about the smells, as I looked up from my book. Surely, I didn't look like the kielbasi culprit to my fellow travelers.

When I got home and thought about it - this is my third trip to Gene's on the CTA since we got rid of our car- and includes the trip last November when I loaded up on the mother lode of kielbasi for Aunt Caro and her family in Arizona (vacuum packed to avoid flight attendant remarks) I came to the realization that what the joke cards say about growing old are true.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

What Our Kids Are Learning About Health From TV Ads

Drugs for Everything - They see and hear the following:

Women stopping normal menses
Men enhancing playboy senses

Girls preventing fertile sex
While boys are feeding growing necks

Seniors helping spark gray matter
Models starving - can't get fatter

Big man making triceps bigger
Big gal melting plus size figure

Even babies have their doses
Same for dogs with halitosis

Lipitor - instead of diet
Hide my Valium – I will riot

Supplements instead of food
Pop a pill and change your mood

Slow your heart rate, thin your blood
Stop the headache – no more “thud”

Here’s a coupon, try the latest
Ask you doctor - it’s the greatest

I say to them -

Climate Change, a long term worry
Drugs will kill you in a hurry

I know you guys are smart enought not to believe all the stuff you see and hear. Just listen to the side effects they mention, turn the TV off and go outside and get some exercise!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Buried Treasure

I had some aging mushrooms that needed to be used soon. I was looking for a good appetizer with mushrooms and recalled a recipe given to me by a River Forest neighbor in the 1970s. I went to the bookcase cabinet where I keep the friends and family recipe scrapbooks - which I haven't looked at in years. After considerable browsing I found the recipe and decided to see if it was still a winner. I can't divulge who gave it to me as I won't use real people in this blog without their permission, and we've lost touch. For my kids, suffice it to say Bridget and Eddie and Cupcake Park. Here's the recipe:

Set: the oven at 375 degrees
Soften: 1 8 oz package of cream cheese with 2 tsp. milk
Beat:2 egg yolks and mix well with the cream cheese
Sprinkle: a shake or two of garlic powder and mix
Add:1 TBS minced scallions and 1/3 cup of finely chopped mushrooms
Toast: small rounds or triangles of bread of your choice - I do mine in the oven for 7 minutes and use multi-grain baguette rounds
Spread: The cheese mixture on the bread generously and bake in 375 degree oven for 5 minutes and broil on high for a few minutes until lightly browned and puffed up.
Serve immediately with something cold to drink and some red and green pepper strips as a contrast.
It will make 24 - 36 depending on the size of the bread.

This tasted as good tonight as it did all those many years ago.

As for the buried treasure. Also in that cabinet was bag, full of handwritten recipes of my mother's and mother-in-law's along with others from my daughters, sisters, nieces and friends. My mother lived through the depression and would never think of buying a recipe card - she used the backs of envelopes, scraps of paper and whatever. In this picture is an envelope from Jersey Central Power and a voting receipt. Also the badly stained recipe offered in this post and one from our neice Barbara with her grandmother Crawford's nut bread recipe. I feel a family cookbook coming on.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Amazing What Pops Out On The First Warm Day

It is supposed to snow tomorrow. I decided to get out and about today, which was beautiful and warm. Here are some phenomena that I witnessed on my 3 hour jaunt around town.

  • Flip-flops in every possible iteration

  • Young women once again prancing around in underwear-like garments

  • Diners at sidewalk cafes

  • The silver painted mime on Michigan Avenue causing sidewalk traffic jams

  • Bicycles in force - most ignoring traffic rules

  • Trader Joe's cashiers in Bermuda shorts

  • Take -out picnic lunchers in any green (sort of) space available

  • Kids running around our sun deck

  • Bazillions of people walking Michigan Avenue

  • And OMG - the realization that I can't cover up the winter fat with bulky sweaters and jackets any more

Maybe another couple of weeks of winter wouldn't be too bad. Can I lose 10 pounds in a couple of weeks? In the long run - does it matter?


Thursday, March 18, 2010

It Must Be Spring

While I was out running errands today, our maintenance guys adorned the deck- (I don’t think Mies van der Rohe would approve of my calling his Esplanade a deck) -with five chairs and three chaise lounges – newly released from wherever they hibernate when they quietly disappear on the first cold day every fall.

They sit there, lonely and waiting for the dozens of others that will join them for the summer. In a long line, they will be there for us, and our diverse derrieres, various tanning products, books ,laptops, and friendly conversations. My imagination takes me a few months into the future.

In the evening the chairs will rearrange themselves into cocktail party formation and late on certain nights into a fireworks watching theater. The lake will be alive with boats and people. Suddenly the trees near Navy Pier won't look dead, but ready to burst into leafy shade for picnickers and the sun-shy to enjoy. The backdrop for the chairs will be green grass, yellow lilies and over abundant impatiens.

I can visualize the water turning that wonderful shade of turquoise that I had in mind when I picked out my living room carpet. I can hear the music of the revelers on their parked boats. Tied together on a Saturday in July for easy party hopping they are quite a sight.

I picture the seagulls diving from the seawall and I wonder, as I do each year, “where do they go in the winter?” Maybe they go to the same place where we hide the chairs, wherever that might be.

It doesn't take much to make me happy - the return of the chairs is enough for today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Said I'd Go Back and I Did

A while back I visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory while it was preparing for the Spring Flower Show. I said I'd go back to visit when it opened and I did. I guess I was still in memory lane mode, as this orchid reminded me of the time in High School when our friend Kathee was going on a trip to Bermuda and several of us schlepped all the way to the Port of New York, dressed to the nines to pin an orchid on her. I can't decide if that was lame then - it sure would be now.

This wisteria reminded me of the frangrance we enjoyed walking out of our back door at 24 Hedges Avenue where "The Wisteria That Ate Chatham " clung to its arbor and also ate the paint off the house, much to the chagrin of my father.

This pond of fish didn't bring back a memory but stirred a hope. If this diverse bunch of fish - big and small, black and yellow and gray and orange and white can live together in a harmonious community and look out for each other as I saw them doing, why can't humans?

Get on over to the Conservatory and take in the beauty for yourself. It ends in early May, but the flowers tend to fade a bit as time goes on. Take a book, like I did, and sit and soak it all in.

I've put the rest of the pictures on facebook. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Days After the Milestone

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU. BACK TO NORMAL TOMORROW. Or...... I might take another day off.

This is simply a thank you to Colleen who flew in to surprise me and Joe and the doorman who kept the secret, Kelly who gave her the buddy pass to get here, Southwest Airlines for keeping Kelly fully employed and unable to attend in person, only in spirit, Jody who wrote the creative birthday tribute, Terry who cooked the terrific meal and opened her home to us, Kevin who brought the great wine and Jacky who brought the good appetizers and (I suspect was the culprit behind getting me my own domain and website.) Thanks also to their spouses/significant others who put up with me. My sisters who sent the magnificent fruit arrangement and my wonderful aunts, uncle, cousins, nieces , nephew and friends who sent cards and other messages. I am more than blessed.

Don't worry, this is not some kind of After the Milestone countdown, just a heartfelt thank you. Phone calls from faraway Grandchildren are the best medicine for missing them. Sharing the day in person with Carrie, Sean, Mick, Jack, Kathryn, Kelly, Meaghan, Kevin ( who shared a birthday last week) and Finn (Batman/Bruce Wayne) are priceless. All I could ask for and more.

I took yesterday off - give me a break! I look forward to learning how to use my website for something more than a direct link to my blog. I'll be looking for guidance. I was the original technology resister. They dragged my typewriter and Monroe calculator with the tape away from me while I cried and moaned. I did manage to hide two of those calculators in the basement of the bank and took one with me when I moved out of North and Pulaski. I hate to admit it, but I still use it when I do the taxes.

As I have done for 70 years, I'm taking it one day at a time - but its looking good. The sun was out today, my class loved my character sketch of Uncle Dave and Joe and I finished the NYTimes crossword puzzle before noon. So I bought a lottery ticket. I'll let you know if I win. If I do, I'll hire a personal chef to help me get thin and a techie to teach me how to use my website. Look for me on but give it some time to develop.

Thanks again and pass the love around. Life is too short for anything else.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Zero Days to Seventy

Today is the day to reflect on the highlights of this journey, and the lessons learned. I'm pretty much a glass more than half full person - so if this has seemed too Pollyanna a story - you are only half right. Everyone has disappointments, missed targets and even heartaches, including me. I choose to spend more time on counting my blessings - all of whom I had contact with today in one way or another - and the memorable snapshots of life.

Happiness is:
  • Having a pale pink light bulb with a crucifix in it to use during air raid practice
  • Aunts who showed me how to shave my legs against my mother's wishes
  • Cousins who thought I was the cat's meow because I got to give out the Christmas Presents at Bopchi's Christmas Eve
  • Relatives who cheered for me at recitals, even though I wasn't very good
  • True blue friends from the 40s who are still true blue friends in the next millennium
  • Doing cartwheels across Sun Devil stadium when we beat ASU on their own turf
  • Having a loving 50 +year relationship which transcended lack of cash and plenty of clash
  • Beautiful children - inside and out
  • Sisters who have my back at all times
  • Helping a company achieve its goals
  • Improving a community of under served youth
  • Children who became awesome parents
  • Grandchildren - the reason I quit smoking 20 years ago- I want to dance at their weddings
  • Children and grandchildren with work ethics to die for
  • 80 and 90 year old aunts and uncles who call me on my birthday full of energy and life
  • Knowing this 12 day blog marathon is over and going back to real life, not my history

I want a do-over here:
  • Fluency in another language. - I'm looking for classes
  • Not enough quality time with grand kids - one on ones are best and need to happen more often
  • Still never learned how to do the twist - does it matter now?

What's next?
  • Back to regular blogging - kids got me a website for bday
  • Back to the gym - the treadmill awaits to help rid me of the winter bloat
  • Plan my countdown to my 80th
  • Sleep in tomorrow

Good night all of you who have made this a fun experience - you know who you are and you know I love you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

One Day to Seventy

Relationships punctuate our lives. Today I will try to examine only three; Those with my grandmothers,  my girlfriends and my sisters.

I had two loving grandmothers. One demonstrated it with hugs, kisses and food. The other demonstrated it with gifts of money and things and food. While grateful for my first piano, beautiful embroidered pieces and home made dandelion wine from the one, I was better served and happier for the physical affection, moral support and peasant food from the other. They both helped shape my style and values and I wouldn't trade them for a million rich grandparents of today. The food tributes also helped shape my body - ugh!

I have never lacked for friends. In my younger days I had my cousins and my best girlfriends, Pat and Diane.

In high school that expanded to include Noel, Phyllis, Jane and others.

In college Sue Mac and Sue S were my roommates and soul mates. They and their future husbands helped shape my music preferences and laid back entertaining style. We have recently re-connected and re-unite yearly for quality "girl time".

In our early married days, we were still friends with the college crowd, but only added superficial neighbors from our community and my dear sorority sister Julie.

Moving back to Chatham I was lucky enough to still have Diane and Pat and, for a while, Lyn Valgenti. Add  Mary Jane, Rita and other neighbors whose names are not memorable at this time.

River Forest brought Carolyn and JoAnne and Mary Lou. And later Geri and Kathy.

In my career I have had so many wonderful friends. To name them would invite trouble, but Jeanne, Dolores, Phyllis, Elizabeth, Glenda , Haydes, Jill, Bernadette, Bernie and Maria M. are my heroes to this day. They made me look good and never had ulterior motives.

Downtown we have beach buddies, Marcia, Mary, Eileen, Diana and a few who have left this earth, most notably, Millie and Nancy. These are summer friends and occasional well being check friends who share our love of beach and water.

The best part is reserved for my sisters. Separated by years in age - we didn't develop close relationships as kids. It was fun to blame EVERYTHING on younger sister Janis as she was too nice to rat on us. Patsy was the good one who never did anything wrong and whom all the aunts loved. Later we lived apart, I was in college when they were not, they served as bridesmaids and godmothers and names on my mailing list as well. It was not until our mother died , that we embraced the joy of our relationship.

As with many families, our mother was the glue that held ours together. When she died, those many years ago, we promised not to let her absence from the world keep us separated. We created "Sisters' Weekend" which we've held every year since Mom's death. We rotate between our homes in Illinois, Cape Cod and the gulf coast of Florida - and make sure the weekend is free from husbands, children and emotional baggage. We have noodled our way down gulf coach beaches, eaten our way across Cape Cod's seafood paradise and peed with laughter across Chicago attractions, including Navy Pier and the top of the Hancock. Lately we've branched out to the Indiana Dunes and the northern beaches of Florida - but the bond is unbroken and we always come away knowing more about each other. Patsy and I have perfected the Cosmo, Jan is our designated driver.

I am also lucky to still have the love and connection to Pat, Diane, Jeanne, Joanne, Mary Lou, Sue Mac , Sue, Mary and Marcia. Lately I am blessed with Martha, Jan, Bonnie and Darlene. These connections bring us full circle in life.

A note to our daughters, nieces, cousins and granddaughters - You will have many relationships in your lives, but cherish those with your sisters, both blood and acquired alike. These are bonds that cannot be broken. Our sons, cousins and grandsons - take heed and try to imitate us. Your life will be richer for it. Sorry, but women do it better and I'm grateful.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two Days to Seventy

This being the eve of St. Patrick's Day and a TGIF day to boot - I thought it appropriate to focus on celebrations and parties. Something passed down, perhaps genetically, is the ability to throw and enjoy a great party.

As children we had great birthday parties - not the Chuckie Cheese or rent out the indoor playground and then go for fast food kind - but the cake and ice cream and "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" kind. That was for the kids - the parents generally got to drink beer and eat hearty and gather around the birthday child for the singing of Happy Birthday and the opening of gifts. No competition for most lavish gift in those days. "Thank you for the package of 3 pastel colored fancy underpants. I love them."

In High School most of our parties were organized by a church, a school or a service organization - except for the informal ones where we met in finished basements to dance to the latest music. I remember a particularly risque one when an older brother of a class mate "smuggled" a Sam Cooke record home from a college in the south and we heard him for the first time.
In college we had fraternity parties- and yes -I did go to toga parties, football day parties, and dances in the Student Union - again pretty much organized groups - except for the "boondockers" - where we'd head for a dry wash/arroyo on the Sonoran Desert and tap a keg (or two).

When we were first married we had "pot luck" parties with other Polo Village residents and everybody brought their own beer. Joe and I once cashed in some Buffalo Nickels to buy a six pack.

When we moved back to Chatham and in the vicinity of the Biroka clan - the non organized parties started all over again. My mother and aunts were great hostesses and had a come one, come all attitude. God forbid you didn't eat or drink enough - that was always noticed -and there was always food for three times as many people as had been invited.

This brings us to the Prom. Arthur Andersen had an annual fancy schmanzy dinner dance usually at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC. We were all expected to attend - we called them proms, because we had to dress to the nines. Most of the time they had our guys (not many woman Androids back then) working their butts off up until the time of the prom so they'd have to rush to the hotel and change clothes. One year Joe wound up with one brown sock and one black one and we worried a partner would notice. AA had a strict code of behavior outlining proper attire and the number of drinks per hour that were acceptable - which is why the after-parties were always the real attraction.
When we were transferred to Chicago ,Andersen still continued to throw an annual party, but rather than black tie - they were themed - such as the roaring '20s party pictured above. We did win the Charleston contest!
Dinner parties in River Forest allowed us to entertain in our homes and take turns with our very social neighbors. The Smithings had the same pattern silverware as ours so we could always have matching silver at these fun gatherings.

During my career I must have planned at least a dozen very big parties for customers, employees for recognition meetings, Christmas, and all the major anniversaries. Pioneer Bank's 75th anniversary party was the biggest and best. That's how I met the caterer who wound up doing most of our weddings and our family reunion. I think we threw some pretty good wedding receptions including the one when I did a flip with my "mother of the bride" dress on and didn't even lose a sequin. Our kids were always first on the dance floor and last ones off - to say nothing of the bar. Kevin is notorious for his wedding dancing/gymnastics prowess, but our girls cut a pretty mean rug as well.

846 Monroe became the major gathering place for the Crawford Clan where our house, yard and patio made the ideal setting for several "geritol parties" as each of Joe's siblings started to reach milestone birthdays , the day after the wedding parties, and our 25th Anniversary party. No outside help needed - we created our own entertainment.

After we moved downtown, we entertained less - but we'd go to Navy Pier and dance at the Baja Beach Club - good excercise and a fun thing to do. We even joined in the Karaoke a few times. Now the kids have their own homes and they're the ones who throw the parties and they sure proved that they inherited the genes.

I have purposely left specifics out of this post to protect the not so innocent. I will, however write them up off-blog for my own enjoyment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Three Days to Seventy

I have always believed that we need to be involved in the process of choosing our leaders and voicing our opinions about how we are governed. We are so blessed to have the privilege of doing that, unlike so many others in this world. I was fortunate to grow up in an era when civil discourse and exchange of ideas was the norm. Here are some of my experiences around politics and involvement in the process.

In the 40s-My father's father , a Polish immigrant, had a picture of Woodrow Wilson over his piano - I have not idea why. I stayed up all night listening to my parents listening to the results of the Truman vs. Dewey presidential race.

In the 50s- I was so un-political that the only elections that meant anything to me were the ones for Student Council, Homecoming Queen and Class President. I was annoyed that we couldn't use the gym on election day because it was a polling place.

In the 60s I voted for the first time, for JFK and cried when he was killed. I worked as a judge of election for the first time in Chatham, New Jersey as my mother had for many years. I got involved as an opponent of the Vietnam War and a supporter of the civil rights movement. I was unaware of the great civil rights challenges - as I lived in a community with no minorities and didn't see what was happening elsewhere. If I had lived in Chicago, I would have been marching with my kids in tow.

In the 70s I joined the small band of Democrats in Chatham and attended meetings. I was asked to run for Borough Council and lost. I was able to increase Democratic participation in the voting process. I also had the privilege of meeting our governor, our local State Senators and Hubert Humphrey, who endorsed my candidacy. In this decade I also met Mayor Daley the first and had some pictures with him and our kids - shortly after we moved to River Forest.

In the 80s I voted for my husband for Village Trustee, knocked on doors for many of the candidates in the 31st. Ward ( near my office) and:

  • Voted for a Republican President for the first time
  • Met young Richard Daley -then State's Attorney - he nevcr looked me in the eye
  • Shared a podium with Jane Byrne ("short, blond women will rule the world," ) I said in my speech
  • Judged a break dance contest with Harold Washington on a flat bed truck at the corner of North and Springfield - he was my favorite
  • Went to Harold's wake at City Hall
  • I met David Orr and have a picture - but not in the 8 days he was mayor
  • Co-hosted a meeting with Eugene Sawyer at the bank at a Chamber event
  • In the 90s -I signed up as an election judge in my building so I could meet people, became a precinct captain because the bank needed some signage permits and I could schmooze the Alderman. I also became certified to register voters, worked as a volunteer at the 1996 Democratic National Convention and experienced Clinton's speech live. By now Richard the second was mayor and appointed me to a city Loan Review Committee. Because of that, we were invited to all the Mayor's Christmas parties, receptions at City Hall - big program kickoffs, etc. He still never looked me in the eye. I also co-hosted an affordable mortgage program kickoff with then State Senator Miquel Del Valle, now City Clerk - who I think is the real deal.

In the 00s I continued to support candidates from my old days on the northwest side, gave money for the first time to a candidate running on a Republican ticket, our daughter - saw my alderman lose on dirty campaigning on their side and lethargy on our side, worked hard for Obama--had an invite to the acceptance speech gave it to my neighbor- I was working the polls. I started attending City Council meetings to get fodder for my writing. I also supported and worked for Toni Preckwinkle.

I recently resigned as Precinct Captain and have tuned out all political news.

I am hoping that the next generation brings us back to civil discussions over valid issues. The time has come. Come on kids, start working on it! Stay involved and exercise your right to vote. It is precious.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Four Days to Seventy

Life's a Beach

New Jersey ...Keansburg, Cliffside, South Seaside Park, Long Beach Island, Asbury Park, Sandy Hook, Cook's Lake, the Lake at the Polanka, Copper Lake at Camp Mogisca, Lake Hopatong, Lavalette, Harvey Cedars, Barnegat Light, Manasquan, Point Pleasant and Seaside Park

Massachusetts...Cockle Cove, Dennis, Sandwich, Lighthouse Beach, Hardings Beach, Nauset Light, Coast Guard Light, Lake Chargoggagogmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg
(for real) - it's the Indian name for Webster Lake.

Sabino Canyon Creek, Sabino Lake - now vanished, Beach on the Old Nogales Highway

St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Fort De Soto Park, Passe-a-Grille, Sand Key Beach, Harry Harris Park, Pennekamp, Anne's Beach, Ocean Pointe's beach, Sailport's beach, Tampa Municipal Beach, Cedar Key Park

Illinois...Oak Street, North Avenue, Fullerton, 12th Street, Olive Park, 57th Street, Cathy Osterman, Montrose and Illinois State Beach Park

Long Beach, Mt. Baldy, Michigan City, Beverly Shores, Union Pier, Lakeside, New Buffalo, Sawyer and Bridgman, Irish Lake, Lake Barbee

Carribean.....Eagle Beach, Baby Beach and Rodgers Beach in Aruba, Ambergris Cay Beach in Belize, Punta Cana and Roco Ki beaches in the Dominican Republic

New England
..... York Beach in Maine, Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, Misquamicut Dunes Beach in Rhode Island, Hammonasset Beach in Connecticut

Padre Island

Santa Monica, Malibu, Laguna, Sausalito


Favorite All Time Beach: Pass-a-Grille on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Favorite Swimming Beach: Eagle Beach in Aruba

Favorite Beach Food: Bologna sandwiches and beer

Favorite Bathing Suit: Red plaid one in 8th grade and green watch plaid maternity suit

Best Adventure: Finding the beaches in Sabino Canyon in college

Scariest Adventures:
  • Losing Terry at Sandy Hook
  • Having to be rescued by my kids from an Oak Street Beach undertow
Two Beach Rules:
  • Calories consumed on a beach do not count
  • It should be illegal for males over age 8 to even buy Speedos
Best Beach Music: None - the sound of water is better than any other

Monday, March 8, 2010

Five Days to Seventy

In 2000 we had been in our condo for eight years and were still waiting for the excitement of downtown living to wear off. Also in 2000 we were blessed with the arrival of Meaghan, followed in 2001 by Kevin. We'd have to wait until 2006 for Finnegan's grand entrance into our lives.

By now we both had yucky commutes. After 27 years of taking the train downtown, Joe now had to drive from downtown to Downers Grove. After years of a 15-20 minute drive to our North and Pulaski branch and my beautiful wood paneled office. I got "kicked upstairs" (actually I kicked myself upstairs)to a national position and had to fight the 18 wheelers on the Kennedy to Rosemont. Joe continued to drive, but I switched to public transportation and got rid of my car. It was not the end of my traveling for work, however. As the training manager for our retail branches, I was able to visit our bankers in California, Texas, New York and Florida - Joe retired in 2004 - so he traveled with me to play tourist while I worked. Our favorite was New York - we'd stay near Times Square and see at least one play every day. Being able to visit my aunts and uncles in New Jersey was an added bonus. My worst training travel memory was spending 2 weeks in the swamp named Orlando in the middle of summer - with training so intense we never got outside until it was practically dark and it was time for the daily rain shower. Joe was glad he missed that one.

We hadn't had a wedding in a while, so we needed an excuse to get together. We planned a family reunion in 2004 and decided to include the entire Crawford clan. So glad we did - as many who attended then - probably couldn't travel to do it now. We held the party in the same banquet room where several of our weddings had taken place and literally packed the place. Old neighbors of ours from River Forest came - as did neighbors from where Joe grew up -and some of kids friends. Needless to say, we had a good time. If there is a common thread in all of us it is our expertise in throwing a party.

In 2007 we attended the 50th reunion of my Chatham High School class. Most of us recognized each other and within hours, it was just like 1957 all over again. The obnoxious guy was still obnoxious, the "clique" was still in tact, and we all got along and shared a weekend full of stories and tributes to our departed classmates. I think the 50th reunions are good - because everyone is comfortable with who they are - most are retired - so there's little competition for the loftiest title and the biggest house. We are all so grateful for health and family. Pat Denver and Diane (Duchamp) Conlan and I were just like the kids we were when we met.

I always said I would retire when I stopped having fun at work. So in November, 2007 I tendered my resignation to take effect on my 68th birthday in March, 2008. I had a wonderful surprise retirement party - even Joe was in on it - that brought many of my old Pioneer friends together with my Banco Popular family. I cried for about 2 days and then realized the joy of doing what I want, when I want and how I want. My timing was perfect - it was shortly after that when the entire banking industry hit bottom. I always said I'd rather be lucky than smart.

Joe had already established a retirement routine so we weren't driving each other crazy as we would have if we both retired at the same time. We subscribe to the Lyric Opera, Shakespeare Theater and Goodman Theater. We both take classes at the Newberry Library - Joe takes more than I do. I attend City Council meetings to get fodder for my political stories and just wander around playing tourist. I'm still partly involved at the YMCA - mostly advisory. I'm working with the International Latino Cultural Center and hope to add a few more volunteer gigs to my life. We're now free to visit Tucson more often and Florida occasionally.

Now this 12 day blogfest has only 4 days left. I have no idea what I'll write tomorrow since today's post brings us up to date. I am not going to worry about it. Nothing in my life was planned in advance - I just let life happen and drag me along and I think it turned out OK. I'll have some more of that please.

Six Days to Seventy

Diplomas and Weddings and Babies, Oh My!

There were college graduations all over the country and weddings that started in 1990 and strung themselves out with the last one in 1997. Only the first two were celebrated at our River Forest home. In 1991 Joe, earned his Masters in Taxation from DePaul , retired from Andersen and joined the IRS - I referred to it as "sleeping with the enemy". We had also reached the age that would allow us to sell our home without a big capital gains tax. The big old house had served its purpose, but with the kids starting to move out it wasn't necessary, and was probably three $10,000. projects waiting to happen. It was a great party house and often a gathering place for the Illinois Crawford clan.

Now on to the babies. Andrew soon became oldest cousin to Carolyn '92, Carrie and Jake '93, Erica '94, Jack, Cathleen and Stephen '95, Ryan and Kathryn '97, Bridget and Kelly '99. What a treasure chest of beautiful children - our true riches.

In 1992 we moved into our condo downtown. We (our friend and attorney Jack) closed on the house in the morning and the condo in the afternoon. I cried all the way on the drive down on the Ike, but as soon as we said goodbye to the moving men, and hello to our attorney, as we looked out the windows at our floor-to- ceiling lake view, I knew I'd never look back. We had cut our living space in half and doubled our quality of life.

I was now in a senior management role at the bank. Our owners had decided to sell all the banks they owned, except ours - so six of us with the help of a brokerage firm and a cartload of lawyers put together a private placement and became the class B shareholders of Pioneer Bancorp, Inc. We paid a darn good dividend.

We ran the bank for about 4 years until we sold it in 1994 to Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. It was a logical marriage as their sole branch in Chicago shared our market, our customer base and our mission to serve the underbanked community. I remained with Banco Popular and finished out the decade as the manager of our 21 Chicago Branches. I continued to be active in the community and as chairman of the Logan Square YMCA board drove the fundraising efforts that allowed us to build a new building to replace the falling-apart former bank building it called home.

Sadly this is also the decade when we buried our mother - just weeks before Terry's wedding. My mother had a very deep faith which allowed her to die peacefully and smiling. The sendoff we gave her was the best I've ever experienced. Her 10 grandchildren and our cousin Sr. Dianne, pulled it off without a hitch. Every time I think about doing something not so nice, I remember she is watching - sometimes I do it anyway - just so she'll have a reason to say LYYYYNNNNN JAAAAAANE!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Seven Days to Seventy

We spent the rest of the 70s and all of the 80s in River Forest. Joe served many years as a Village Trustee. I completed my degree and really got into my career at Pioneer Bank. There I met and worked with many awesome people whom I consider friends to this day. It was a bit of a wild time for me as I had never had the opportunity to "own" my life - going as I did from parental care to married life. My friend Jeanne and I certainly sowed some wild oats - those were the days when banking was actually fun - and lots of money was spent on parties and outings. In addition - I was now happy that I could actually contribute to our family income and also the success of the company I worked for.

I had finally found a calling. Having been a terrible housekeeper and a mediocre cook, it was nice to know I could use my talents in creating bank products (NO, not that kind....), marketing our brand and guiding our employees through changes in banking, also in the change of ethnicity of our customer base. I inserted myself in the growing Hispanic community and served as a member of the Illinois Hispanic Chambers of Commerce representing the North and Pulaski Chamber of which I was the president. Pioneer Bank was the first bank in Chicago to sponsor a major Hispanic festival and one of the first to support the Chicago Latino Film festival. I was especially proud of that. We were all frantically busy - but here are some highlights of this exciting decade -I like to call it the decade of learning:
  • 1980 - Joe passed the CPA exam and Colleen graduated from OPRFHS and went off the Illinois State

  • 1981 - Kevin graduated from OPRFHS and went off to Georgia Tech

  • 1982 - I graduated from Rosary College

  • 1983 -Jody graduated from OPRFHS and went off to Kent State and I completed the ABA's National School of Retail Banking at the University of Oklahoma

  • 1984 - Terry graduated from OPRFHS and went off to Indiana University

  • 1985-Kelly graduated from OPRFHS and went off to St. Leo's in Florida - and I completed the ABA's School of Bank Marketing at Colorado University in Boulder

  • 1988 - Jacky graduated from OPRFHS and commuted to UIC

All of this translates into full life, partial empty nest and definite empty wallet. In 1987 our first grandchild was born and the richness of that event made up for the empty wallet.

Eight Days to Seventy

Now fully ensconced in community life in Chatham and reunited with Diane and Pat (and their spouses) from CHS days- Joe coached boy's little league and worked part time at the deli. My mom helped out with the kids - they could run through our back yard to her front door -. My sister Patsy lived nearby in Boonton and her oldest and my youngest were born right around the same time. Our kids loved visiting their big old house, looking at movies in the attic and swimming in their in -ground pool.

In 1972 I ran for Borough Council on a platform of starting girls' sports, specifically soccer, in town. My cousin, Judy, a CHS senior was my campaign manager. She created all my Snoopy themed posters and fliers - no hate/smear campaigns in those days. She also helped organize neighborhood gatherings including one in my mom's backyard which also featured Congresswoman Ann Kline. Hubert Humphrey sent a representative and invited me to one of his events. Running as a Democrat in Chatham was like defying gravity and I lost. I got more votes than any other Democrat before me and in the next election a Democrat, classmate Joe Marts, did win and go on to become mayor. AND several years later the girls sports program in Chatham got underway.

In 1973 Joe -now working for Arthur Andersen - was offered a promotion/transfer to Chicago. So, once again, we did the Birofka Goodbye thing. Joe went to Chicago, taking Colleen and Kevin with him. They lived in a company apartment at 2 East Oak Street and were on their own all day. They regularly punched all the buttons on the elevator on their way out the door in the morning - causing the building manager to call Joe at work. Andersen flew me out to Chicago where we looked at houses - Joe used a compass to draw an area with an acceptable commute time and we chose River Forest, which I described to my mother in a letter as "an Irish Catholic ghetto where you weren't okay unless you had lived there for 2 generations." Luckily, it was where Joe had gone to St. Luke's School and we moved to the same block as Carolyn O'Leary, his classmate who had been there for 2 generations. She introduced me around and later became the kids piano teacher. I stopped crying after about 2 years.

In between selling the house in Chatham and closing on the one in River Forest, we spent about 2 months in Arizona with Grandpa Jack and Joe's sister Jeanne. Jeanne's daughter Cecilia and our two oldest got lost for hours in Sabino Canyon and re-appeared just before we called out the militia. They had stumbled upon nude bathers in Sabino Creek. What a fun summer. Some highlights of our new life in Illinois.

  • The kids attended Joe's old school
  • We got to know Joe's side of the family well
  • Uncle Bob took a van full of his nieces and nephews to his island in Canada
  • Joe was on the St. Luke's School board
  • Colleen traveled downtown on the "el" to classes at the Art Institute
  • Our neighbors thought we were weird because we went downtown - they also thought we were strange because we had Jewish, Black and "Mexican" friends
In 1978 I gave up full time motherhood and got a paying job. A friend from Chatham had moved there when her husband accepted a job at a bank in Chicago. We socialized with them and one thing led to another and voila - the girl who was going to write the great American novel became the 38 year old bank clerk - even though she flunked the typing test. The bank had a tuition reimbursement program, so I signed on at Rosary College a few blocks from our home and went to school at night - wrecking the curve for all the 18 year olds who couldn't translate a fraction into a decimal. I was realistic this time and majored in business. That novel would have to wait.
In 1979 we ended the decade at the old Masonic Temple (now Bloomingdale's home store) where Joe received his Masters in Accountancy from De Paul. It was colder than you know what - and our car wouldn't start- so we had to pile all the kids in their Sunday best into Pendergast's van with no seats in it and drive like the dickens to make the ceremony- with the kids rattling around in the back. Today we would have been arrested for child abuse for doing that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Nine Days to Seventy

Writing these posts have made me realize how truly amazing we all are to experience and survive such action-packed lives, especially for those of us who let our paths reveal themselves instead of trying to plan every event.

Decade three started with the whirlwind of engagement parties, showers, and long distance planning for the big fat Polish wedding in June. For a honeymoon we spent a few fun days in New York City. Pack rat that I am, I found the receipts for the wedding in my bridal album. Flowers for all 6 female attendants, the two mothers, two grandmothers and the altar vases was $105.25. The NYC hotel near Broadway was $13.00 a night. We saw The Unsinkable Molly Brown among other shows. I have no idea what the ticket price was, but I'll bet it was less than what we pay today for a Sunday New York Times. Returning to Chatham from New York City we bid the whole family a tearful goodbye - saying goodbye in our family (known as the "Birofka Goodbye") takes longer than the average Sunday Mass. We drove across country to our married veteran student housing (Polo Village, built around an old Polo Field). Joe had college classes and 3 jobs (so what's new?) waiting for him. I was going to go back to college - but a few things got in the way:

    • 1962 - Colleen Jo Crawford was born ( named for Joe)

      • 1962 - first Thanksgiving - I invited 13 people and had to call my mom on a pay phone to get cooking instructions

      • 1963 - Kevin Edward Crawford was born and got his middle name from my dad who died that same year
      • 1964 - Joe graduated from U of A - no jobs in Tucson so we -

      • Traveled to Chatham to visit my mother and wound up living a block away from her and..

      • Joe got a great job in New York ( think Mad Men) and became a commuter and....

      • Jody Lynn Crawford was born (named for a friend and me)

      • We got our first clothes dryer

      • 1965- Terry Jeanne Crawford was born (named for Joe's sister Jeanne)

      • 1967- Kelly Ann Crawford was born ( named 'cause we liked the name)

      • 1969- Jacky Diane Crawford was born ( named for Grandpa Jack and Diane Conlan)

        Is it any wonder that I missed the 60s altogether and Jody had to send me a book on it. I never learned to do the twist,- but I did manage to join War is Not Healthy For Flowers And Other Living Things and get an MIA/POW bracelet and become an election judge and get involved in Democratic Politics in our very Republican WASPY (2.5 kids and a dog) community. The kids went to my alma mater, St. Patrick's.

        Love is blind. Getting a clothes dryer with the third child is Ecstasy. Living a short block away from my mom and 3 loving aunts is nourishing. Living a short carriage walk across the Passaic River to my "bopchi's" house in Summit was the way we should all grow up - it was fattening, but nothing can replace those wonderful visits to the Matriarch who fed our souls and bodies.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Ten Days to Seventy

    I started my second decade going into 7th grade in New Jersey as Lynn and ended it engaged to be married and living on the other side of the country as "Serge" short for my maiden name Siergiej.

    I think I need to break this down in manageable chunks. Let's start with the last years of grammar school. Major events. New baby sister, confirmation, menstruation, first trip to Arizona, first TV and first almost -new car,breaking it to Sister Claude that I wasn't going into the convent - our class trip was to the Mother house in Mendham-, getting hit by Sister Georgene with a St. Gregory's hymnal for turning around to look at the boys, walking home for lunch with Pat Denver and putting on lipstick for the walk - taking it off for our mothers - putting it back on for the walk back to school and wiping it off for the nuns. Our major challenges were finding a route back and forth to school which didn't subject us to the harassment of the "publics" , trying to stifle hysterical laughter while singing a requiem mass in Latin and finding enough sins to make up for weekly confession. We finally graduated from St. Pat's in 1953 and spent the summer strategizing how we were going to join those same "publics" at Chatham High School.

    High school years should be fun and carefree as ours were. We didn't have advanced placement courses, obsessive parents, class trips to Paris or Aruba, skating rinks, one-sport wonders, drugs, metal detectors or busing (except for the township kids). We did have sock hops, bonfires, soccer championships ( no football at our school), a fantastic choir, a real after school hangout John's, vanilla cokes, slumber parties, makeout parties, Tri-Hi-Y clubs, CYO and a senior class trip on a bus to Asbury Park for the day, guys with letters in 4 sports and teachers who looked out for us.

    This is when I learned to use algebra (I still use it today) drive -thanks, Jack H., smoke, drink beer out of shot glasses ( in a group with a quart of beer), put on eyebrow pencil, play field hockey, do flips across the soccer field, be the top rung of the cheerleader pyramid, tumble and dive over people and ice skate (on a pond or lake) with my tumbling partner Noel who also held me by the legs upside down over the railroad bridge where I painted Class of '57 for all to see and of course I was in and out of love at least twice a month. Best of all I was Features Editor of our school newspaper and learned to love writing. Prom and graduation were bittersweet as we all were going off to college all over the country. We were attached at the hip and had our first class reunion after 4 years in fear of losing touch after college. Best friends with Pat Denver and Diane Duchamp.

    I choose the University of Arizona in Tucson for many reasons. I wanted to be a gym teacher and started out in Phys Ed.. Then came Cat Anatomy - with my very own stiff kitty to cut up and I quickly became an English major. Truth to tell, I took a lot of esoteric courses in philosphy and the humanities and majored in football games and fraternity parties. In college I learned to cook on an iron in my dorm, and live on chili dogs and buckets of delivery spaghetti. I tried my hand at fencing and modern dance. Major events ( in chronological order, not order of importance)
    • Joining a sorority

    • Making the cheer leading squad - our big away trip was to El Paso - no PAC 10 back then
    • Voting in my first presidential election - JFK

    • Having three roommates named Sue

    • Meeting my future husband on a blind date

    • Shooting a gun and wearing a pair of Levi's - both for the first time

    • Discovering a beach in the mountains

    I was the first person on my mother's side and the second on my father's side to have the opportunity to attend college. If I hadn't been a dippy teenager - I might have taken it more seriously and graduated with honors, instead of having so much fun and leaving with only an MRS. but 50 years later, who's keeping track?

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Eleven Days to Seventy

    Okay - this one is easy. I was born in Summit N.J.. As the first of 28 grandchildren on my mother's side I had 8 adoring aunts and uncles (3 of whom were serving in WW II) who spoiled me rotten - I had them all to myself for 5 years until my sister Patsy and cousin Peter came into the picture. I was somewhere in the middle of 12 grandchildren on my father's side and the aunts and uncle had their own kids to spoil. Here are some of the things that happened in my first decade of life.

    • World War II ended

    • My parents bought their first (and only) house in Chatham, N.J. for about $5,000.

    • My father drove a Hudson - my mother never drove a car

    • Baptism, First Confession, First Communion, May Crownings

    • I learned to read, write, dance, play piano, ride a bike, roller skate & play hop scotch

    • I was best friends with Pat Denver and Dee Brennan

    • We went to St. Patrick's School with K, 1&2 in the same room, 3&4, 5&6 and 7&8 also shared rooms. Boys had gym (dodge ball) on one side of the building , girls on the other

    • Art was coloring mimiographed pictures - I can still smell the paper

    • I was in the "Four Jills" with Lyn Valgenti, Diane Duchamp and Sharon McCandless - we made a record on Lyn's father's equipment-I still have it

    • I fell and hit my head on a radiator running to greet my godmother and still have the scar on my eyebrow

    • I decided to become a nun

    • I met Tony Phipps and decided not to be a nun

    • Tony's brother stabbed me in the palm with a pencil. The lead is still there

    • I decided to become an actress and move to Hollywood

    This is the decade that showed me the importance of family, friends and faith. I have the unconditional love and support of my extended family to thank for the ridiculous amount of self esteem in the person you see today. They taught me to think that nothing was impossible ....except maybe the going to Hollywood thing.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    The Twelve Days of Seventy

    If I wake up breathing, and in my famous words "If I don't get hit by a truck" for the next 12 days I will have reached the age of 70. Before this, my most traumatic decade turn was my 30th birthday when I thought for certain my life was coming to an end. I will never forget the day that they stopped carding me at the liquor store.

    40 was a fun and raucous party with both my family and my friends. I had just started my banking career and I was full of energy and happy to be a contributor to our family income
    I'm not sure I remember what we did for my 50th ,and we were all probably too busy to make much of it, but I remember being grateful to have lived a year longer than my dad had.

    60 was a fun surprise with both my sisters and their husbands coming to Chicago for the weekend. We had a great time. It made me sorry that I hadn't bought any IRAs - ( I just never thought I'd live long enough to cash them in).

    70 will be truly a gift and I hesitate to even write this,as I am so superstitious about jinxing my life that I won't even turn the calendar page over a day early.

    So over the next 12 days I will attempt to encapsulate the moments of my life that I think defined this journey of mine. This way, if I don't make it to 70 my kids will still have a record of the 69 that came before.