Author Archives: smalltownmom

Lincoln’s assassination, still a sad anniversary

LincolnI still am saddened by President Abraham Lincoln’s death. Reading about it, after reading about his life and the Civil War ever since I was young, it seems as new and shocking and horrible as it must have been that day, April 14, 1865. I remember standing in Ford’s Theater, being in the house across the street, and being transported back in time. The AP report in this link–just one of many media reports–is certainly not written in the pyramid style we learned in J-school.


How Jessica Mitford Exposed A $48m Scam From America’s Literary Establishment

Great story.

David Gaughran

Cerf1Jessica Mitford took on the American funeral industry, the California Department of Corrections, and the Ku Klux Klan, but it was her 1970 exposé of The Famous Writers School which led to Time calling her “The Queen of the Muckrakers.” And if a courageous editor hadn’t reversed his decision to kill her story, it might never have happened.

Mitford had been aware of The Famous Writers School’s existence for some time. Anyone who was a frequent reader of newspapers, books or magazines would have seen its ever-present advertisements, inviting aspiring writers to cut out and apply for the free aptitude test. While Mitford was suspicious, she didn’t have anything concrete until her lawyer husband took on a new client.

Bob Treuhaft was approached by a 72-year old widow, living on Social Security, who had cleaned out her bank account to make a down-payment to The Famous Writers School. On the…

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Parenting boys: Holy Angels kids earned their wings

Thirty-four years ago, when we parents walked our little boys into the kindergarten doors for the first time, we weren’t thinking about now. We were sizing up the other wide-eyed six-year-olds in the room that day. The scent of white paste hung in the air, paper alphabet letters decorated the walls, and children bolted to the toy trucks and blocks in the corner, or clung to our arms.

These boys, these little boys who first met in kindergarten, would be part of the Holy Angels Class of 1989 that, throughout grade school, was just a bit larger, a bit more creative, a bit more rambunctious, and at times more hot to handle than most for their persevering teachers. The boys’ common lot and spirit bound them together—my son Jeff, and Matt, Tony, Ross, Pat, Dan, Peter, Kevin, Bobby and more.

When teachers caught Jeff looking out the window more than at his books, his friends defended him. “He’ll discover something great out there,” was their attitude. When a snowball fight got out of hand, the friends were quick to explain it was “all in fun.” When it was time to party, the boys turned to music and started a band.

So on the night after Christmas 2014, in downtown West Bend, a packed crowd came to hear Mandi, Matt’s younger sister, sing out her beautiful, soulful heart @WestBendTap+ Tavern. Matt, a musician too, was there from California with his wife and six-year-old son. Matt and Mandi’s parents Steve and Sharon were there, and other parents of some of the boys from the Class of ’89. In a way, we were representing our sons, who lived in so many other places now and would have come if they could. The night took us back, and we reminisced, chatting over wine and beers, about those growing-up years for our boys, the struggles we all faced raising our children, our worries for them, and how our visions of the future often collided with their own dreams and definitions of happiness.

So here we were, settled in at the pub, as Mandi played the guitar and sang the blues. The circle was unbroken, families once thrown together by chance, still connected. Common bonds, music, and social media keep our sons’ friendships strong through cross-country moves, job changes, and the arrival of their own sons and daughters. Maureen brought a book Ross sent with photos of his family. I shared Jeff and Malissa’s amazing and difficult year with their two little boys. Matt told me his son went to surf camp over the summer.

Sharon expressed what I am sure many of us were feeling. That, after all these years, after all the worrying we did about our sons, their education, and their choices, our sons are good people and they really are great dads. We couldn’t ask for anything better.

Donut resuscitation. Thank you, Pick ‘n Save.

flowers and donuts I appreciate good customer service, and service recovery when it’s needed. Today I was pleasantly surprised when I received a followup to my customer complaint email to Pick ‘n Save after I purchased a bakery item there that … well, it just tasted funny. Strange, because I usually am quite satisfied with the products there at the north side store. The director of the store called to apologize and asked what he could do to make everything right. I expected perhaps the $4 replacement price. He was soon at my door with a smile, a dozen of my husband’s favorite powdered sugar donuts (they really are good), a gift card and a bouquet of flowers. It does pay to complain. I believe it helps us to be alert consumers, get value for our money, and helps the stores improve their products and processes too. Thank you, Pick ‘n Save!

A Thanksgiving Serving of Stories

Along with the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy this Thanksgiving, we’ll have a generous serving of family stories. Many of those stories revolve around food, just as the old kitchen table (not a TV tray) was the hub for family roundups and daily debriefings.

My Dad, Mike, (he married my mother, a widow, when I was 19) grew up in a big family of 12 children raised by immigrant parents, including a strong-willed, persevering Croatian woman everyone knew and loved as “Grandma Ogee.”

In one of the charming family books prepared for reunions and remembrance, Mike remembered some of the “loaves and fishes” miracles a18e87749a0db9e048328226bdc9e1f3 mother had a way of creating for her struggling family.

“I remember when Ma would send the children to the meat market to ask for some bones for the dog (which we didn’t have). Invariably the butcher would put in some nice ‘bones’ with an ample amount of meat on them. From these she made delicious soup.”

He recalled that she always blessed the bread when she put it into the wood stove on large wooden paddle. And blessed it again when she cut the large, round delicious loaves into pieces for her family. She also had an “uncanny” way of making a whole pot of egg drop soup with only one egg, my Dad remembered.

So thankful was my Dad and all of his family for growing up in a home, not with a lot of meat, nor with a lot of eggs, but with so much love. These are the riches we pray for this Thanksgiving.

What family stories will you tell? Which ones will you make?

Las Vegas desert is full of life

IMG_4463It took millions of years for wind and water and subterranean upheavals to create Red Rock Canyon, a part of the southern Mojave Desert near Las Vegas. A world away from the bright lights of the city and well beyond the lush moraines of the Midwest, the desert is dry and deceiving. There is life here, all around and sometimes unseen. The desert cottontail finds vegetation in rocky canyons and mesquite thickets, but you rarely see him in the day. Bighorn sheep hug the rocky terrain and the white-tailed antelope ground squirrel spreads his body on shady desert soil seeking the cool. The creosote bush efficiently gathers up any water it can find to nourish its small yellow flowers. Native Americans used the Indian paintbrush to treat rheumatism, as a hair brightener and as a food.

Red-tailed hawks, cactus wrens and the clever greater roadrunner are among the birds who rule the air here, and the coyote, kit fox and mountain lion, snakes and chuckwallas are some of the hundreds of living things that roam the rugged terrain and make the desert washes their highways. You’ll see signs for wild horses and burros crossing the roads, and you may see a few humans on bikes, a row of water bottles buldging across their backs in the 100 degree heat.

At Red Rock, the great sandstone cliffs are made up of Aztec sandstone. A Bureau of Land Management publication says they are about 100 million years old and represent lithified sand dunes that formed in a vast desert that covered large part of the Southwest during the Jurassic age. The sand slowly changed into sandstone as subsurface water percolated throughout the sediments and deposited cements of iron oxide and calcium carbonate in the pore spaces between the grains. Over thousands of years, these rocks were slowly uplifted thousands of feet and exposed to the elements and erosion. The red color of much of the Aztec sandstone is from iron oxide that “rusted” to orange, red and brown hues. In some ares you can see the older gray Paleozoic limestone resting on top of the younger sandstone, the result of compressional forces in the  crust that forced the old rock up over the younger rock and helped to preserve it.

The visitor center at Red Rock is beautifully presented, environmentally friendly and contains outstanding educational exhibits. A “sure bet” the next time you visit Las Vegas.


Back to school, way back when

Annual Meeting Attendees 6-26-1421082014_3

The start of school and the end of summer are almost synonymous, long after our own school days and those of our children are over. New scents and sounds take over, like they did for us at Washington School. Saddle shoes, polished wooden floors, white paste and construction paper, freshly laundered cotton dresses, bells ringing in the corridors, children rushing out to the playground. Can you find the Hopalong Cassidy shirt? I’m in the picture, along with my best friend, and others who are Facebook friends today. Hope your school year is as fun as ever.