Memories of Ireland

A few years ago, two of my three sisters and I traveled with my mother to Ireland. It was trouble looking for fun. And boy, did we find fun!

We landed in Dublin in early March to Spring’s sunshine and dewy grass. After dozing on the plane, we rented a car in the early morning when many things weren’t open yet. So we took off with a map and sassy Volvo to see what lay beyond the city limits.

It began with a stop at a Celtic ruin, a nearby church and cemetery. As we stood at the top of a hill where a decorated stone stood sentry over the village below. Mist still hung low, keeping homes in its sleepy grip. The brilliant sun worked to bake away the dew that left the knoll slippery. Our footsteps crushed the moisturized grass that sparkled like diamonds in the light. Even my sunglasses didn’t feel strong enough for our welcome to my maternal grandmother’s homeland.

To the best of my knowledge, Marian Casey Kusche wasn’t born there and never stepped foot on the land she held in her heart. Yet, her Irish blood could not have been greener. I remember talking to her once about Ireland and how I wanted to see Blarney Castle – to kiss the stone of course! She said it wouldn’t be an easy task, but I caught the wistful look on her face.

Here we were, with her spirit on our ancestor’s land!

The sun rose higher in the sky, dispelling the dewy diamonds as we moved into Dublin for the next two days. The Hop on-Hop off bus was a great way to see the major sites in a major city. Of course we went to Guinness, St. Patrick’s church, the Episcopal Church which was in the midst of an archeological dig. They developed a display of the history of the Dubliner life back to ancient times based on their findings in this dig.

We discovered our cocktail of the trip – the woo-woo. It’s a cosmo but with peach schnapps instead of triple sec. Yum! By the second pitcher, it was relegated to our rallying cry throughout our trip – Long live the woo-woo!

We slept in a castle just on the outskirts of Dublin, traveled to the Cashel and Blarney Castle in County Cork. The weather had changed and sunshine left our backs. It rained that day and that’s why my pictures of the Rock of Cashel and Blarney are misty, also water soaked. The green all around from trees kept us feeling part of the land. We were wrapped in the earth of our forebears.

Along with our bonding trip we visited Kinsale, a quite town on the southern coast. We loved it so much, we stayed an extra day, and I cannot wait to go back. We drove the Ring of Kerry to see the black rocks that dotted the hills and competed with colorful sheep spray painted to tell who’s land it may have wandered from. Neon markings on white sheep decorated the black and green landscape.

We stayed in Dingle and enjoyed a night with the locals in a pub. The last thing we expected was meeting people from Chicago there. We had a great time! From there it was  onto Galway for a day of shopping, then to Shannon for the flight home.

When I look at my photos, I fondly recall the precious time with my mother and sisters, at the same time wishing I was there again.

I’ll go back there…soon.


A Writer’s World

For those of us who craft with words, you may be on your own, without a writer family to support you. Because even though your spouse loves you and puts up with the craziness of this world, they can’t understand why you haven’t finished that book yet.

It’s taken me a couple weeks to think about what to write about. Today after writers’ group, I had lunch with one of my fellow writers. It’s always great to let your hair down and enjoy being you – even if it’s only for an hour. Don’t worry, the words will beckon soon enough.

What this fellow writer observed today, is as the group expands, this still feels like a family. We are many colors and backgrounds, have multiple points of view, but of one writers’ heart.

There are those of us who are sage, others quick with a comment and all of us have a great sense of humor.

Today we heard and read the first words of a new member. We are rapt with his story. Within his pages he has pulled us into his struggle, his experiences. Like all the characters in stories written by the rest of us, we are vested in them. We yearn for them to succeed, to get their comeuppance, to learn. live, laugh and love like the rest of us. Because they feel quite real. That’s a compliment to my family of writers.

I guess that’s why I also see ourselves as the ever expanding family – yes our crazy aunt is still one of us, and the almost-goth girl joins us to remind us of our youthful days. We have  cynics, artists and teachers, the levelheaded and of course, the dreamers.

What makes us most like a family is the honesty and support. Whether it’s a shitty first draft (guilty!) or a challenging chapter, there are always words of encouragement, suggestions you could never see for yourself without their help (duh!). Each of us has a difficult day with the words, but we are ready to pick each other up and ignite a new creative spark.

This is true with my other group – yes I belong to two. In this case, we are sisters. Still a family unit of sorts, we are also invested in the outcomes, the growth of the protagonist and antagonist and the road they are leading us on. There is nothing better when we can gather for a weekend of writing and wine. We are there for each other, just like my blood sisters are. They keep me focused.

To my writer families, I am ever thankful for letting me find my way there, into your open arms.

There’s no place like Home.

Spring? (aka Mother Nature’s Cruelty)

I started this post last week, but the weather fowled me up, which is why that post was so poignant. So here it is:

We saw the end of February tiptoeing away without any snow on the ground. A couple days into March and it is currently hovering around freezing and sunny with a promise of a great weekend for the Chicago area. Snow, when it falls now is heavy, melting fast to saturate the ground and boost the season’s floral and fauna.

I mention this because we hardy born-and-bred Midwesterners will tell you we are not fooled by this mishap Mother Nature has left us to ponder.

No siree!

You see, living here near Lake Michigan we live by the four seasons and four words – cooler near the lake.

For that reason, we who are closer to the lake tend to keep sweats and sweaters at the ready year round. A warm summer night can turn chilly. Memorial Day weekend can be cold and rainy – which is a bust for cookouts. You can’t even hope for one good day out of the three! There is nothing worse than standing inside a garage with thirty of your favorite (or not so favorite) people watching the rain assault my sad excuse for a lawn. The children will jump in the puddles and the adults will hug their beers (in cozies of course). Since most people I know won’t discuss politics in groups, that leaves the rest of the conversation to weather (which currently sucks because you’re in a garage) or sports.

Now, the Chicago area is blessed with college and professional sports that can keep a sports fan engrossed year round. Three months away from that glorious weekend of burgers and brats and we’ll be spouting baseball stats, the off-season of the Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks – actually, don’t get me started on the Blackhawks.

But here in the early days of March, we know that we haven’t seen the last of snow. Mother Nature has a way of reminding us who’s in charge by dumping about six to twelve more inches before she’s supposed to retreat like a lamb. Except she started like a lamb so she could go out like a angry lion with a thorn in its paw. Roaring, snarling and snapping – for posturing sake, of course.

All because the daffodils, grape hyacinths and snow drops will be bursting from that muddy mess I call my  garden. I think there are angels that sit on Mother Nature’s shoulder and whisper of retreating. They whisper louder than Suzie Snowflake who is finally ready for a nap.

In our house we take the opportunity of a late snowfall to guess when it will disappear again.  So we each pick a date on the calendar. I pick a date in April because as one of those born and bred Midwesterners, I know it can snow here in May (a couple of Mothers’ Day come to mind). The winner doesn’t get anything but bragging rights.

So, before I think about changing to a lighter coat and stuff away my mittens and scarf, I’ll look at the calendar to remind me that it’s still early March. I’ll see that this weekend we lose an hour of sleep but gain daylight after dinner and know that soon  buds on the trees will return and things will change from gray to green.


Dreams (a poem)

Last week I dreamt

Of fields so green

Of flowers yellow,

Pink, white and purple

Things are bright, happy

Birds sing their agreement

Winking sun plays peek-a-boo

With puffy cotton clouds


Then the fields turned red

The happy colors gone

Screaming as they faded to death

A sky dark as steel wool

Held the sunshine hostage

I tried to grab as many flowers

That I could carry

Running off to safety


I turned to the tall trees

Asked for their ears

Their help to stop the blood

They merely pulled their roots

From the red soaked ground

Seeking higher ground

I weep as pink and yellow,

Green, purple and white

                             Died in my arms


(photo credit –


When former law enforcement personnel, employed as consultants, and even news anchors tear up and choke on their words of grief, it is time to say ENOUGH!

I grew up around guns – guns that were locked up after being properly cleaned. My father, a veteran, shared his passion for these with my brothers and his childhood friends. He even took me once to learn how to shoot. It was at my request because I wanted to be near him. He had many outlets for he and my brothers to bond, but little opportunities with which me and my sister could bond with him except the father-daughter dances in grade school.

Guns are not my passion, and quite frankly, they are not my thing. Having stated that, I can respect those who legally own guns; who use them for protection and sport. What I don’t understand is how guns find their way into the hands of the mentally troubled and criminals.

I also have issues with bump stocks and AR-15s (like the one used yesterday in Parkland, Florida). What purpose does it serve to make these things available to the general public? When I once said to my gun owning brothers that you don’t need an AR-15 to shoot squirrels, they laughed at me and said, “Sure you do!” Unless you are military or law enforcement, you have no NEED for such things. Even if you are a collector (like the Las Vegas shooter), you don’t need such a menacing piece in your coveted compilation.

I read last week that guns sales have dropped since Trump took office. It appears that gun zealots don’t feel their rights are threatened any longer since neither Obama nor Clinton are at the helm. On the campaign trail, this current president has suggested armed guards in schools would prevent shouting such as the one yesterday. Throwing a book of matches on a burning fire doesn’t extinguish the fire.

I know my gun owning friends will have much to say to me, but when you hear law enforcement officials say that an AR-15 isn’t for hunting, it’s a killing machine, people need to speak up further. Why won’t our executive and legislative branches do their job and listen to the professionals? To the survivors? To the healers?

I’ve tried to keep this blog free from politics. And it’s sad to realize that the shooting death of children, of unarmed suspects who are shoved in that category because of the color of their skin, or the language they speak, or the faith they practice are now lumped into the political abyss.

When will this country come together (in spite of the idiots in Washington and the highly pompous NRA) and tell them ENOUGH!

When we can plan marches for our civil liberties, why can’t we gather in numbers strong, so the Powers-That-Be will have to face us as we shout out…




Happy Pizza Day!

Friday is a great day to have pizza. Alright – any day is a great day!

My earliest memories of pizza were when my parents would go get a pizza from Louie’s after we went to bed on a Friday night. In the morning there would be a few pieces left for us kids to nibble on before our parents came down in the morning. Cold pizza and Saturday morning cartoons – the best!

In our town there were a few places where you ordered your pizza from. It depended on where in town you lived. Starting south and moving north, there was Canale’s pizza (don’t forget his broasted chicken!) on Tenth Street. Mike’s pizza for those who lived near St. Therese hospital, Louie’s, if you were downtown near the courthouse (most of the lawyers and judges in town ate lunch there) and finally, Quonset.

The legend as I know it is, three brothers returned from WWII with the knowledge to make pizza and a secret sausage recipe. Each one (being Italian) knew the way to people’s hearts were throughs their stomachs and each had a different dream. One brother opened an upper scale restaurant called Ted’s Log Cabin. For decades, the place was a Mecca for the locals looking for great food and wine.

The other brother opened Louie’s which features not only pizza, but other great dishes. A lesser known offering is D.O.H. Devil On Horseback is a family favorite that I make at home now. It’s basically garlic bread, topped with sliced tomatoes, provolone and bacon bits. Get toasty and melted in the oven and voila! If you add roast beef, you have an Angel on Horseback.

Mike’s Pizza is not well known to me, but like Louie’s and Quonset, their pizza is thin crust and scrumptious.

The last brother opened the Quonset. Quonset, however, is home away from home. Like a few other places in town, you’ll run into someone you know. The bombers are the other delectable on the menu as well as Italian beef. If you’re looking for a burger and fries, you’re out of luck! But vegetarians or vegans, don’t fear, there is a house salad on the menu.

The “Q” is the place my son worked at in high school, but more importantly it is THE PLACE to take visitors on their first night in town. The same is true of misplaced locals returning home for the holidays or a special occasion.

During the time he worked there, not only would my son come home smelling like Quonset pizza, he had to put up with his parents who seemed to become barflies before his eyes. You see, when he worked (never at home), we would go there and watch him haul buckets of ice, wash bar glasses (that warmed the cockles of my heart) and interact with the regulars.  It’s a comfort to know we were able to embarrass him even in his teenage years.

So while I ate leftover pizza for lunch, we’ll raise our glasses in honor while we devour our D.O.H.

What’s your favorite pizza?

The Princess’ Snow Day

During the summer of 2017, the area was hit with such a rainstorm that viaducts flooded, roads were closed and the only north-south road open was Green Bay Road. Most the road in one lane in either direction and a 30mph speed limit. That day a half hour drive to work was two and a half hours!

For those of you around the country and overseas (yes, I do have a few followers outside the bubble I call Illinois), there is a motto about Chicago traffic. Even though I’m not living inside the city limits, the traffic encompasses all the surrounding counties. My favorite line delivered by a traffic reporter that stuck with me was: It’s another character builder out there today! It’s also grit-my-teeth, clench my jaw, and try finding your zen moment.

With the knowledge we were getting about a foot of snow over the next 48 hours, I planned accordingly. That means, that I know my half hour drive can be at least an hour long and at its worst, two and half hours.

Been there. Done that.

My wonderful neighbors plowed our drive and wiped off our cars, making me feel like a princess. Friday is my day to drop off laundry at the laundromat – another princess thing I do for me. They were opened and with that little item on my to-do list complete, I began what I thought was to be my adventure going to work .

As snow swirled around the car, adding to the five inches already mashed onto the street, I settled in for the drive by clutching the steering wheel and praying I didn’t slip and slide, or fishtail. Digging deep into my memories of driver’s education, I kept five or six car lengths between me and the car in front of me. Now I just prayed I wouldn’t have to stop suddenly.

Yet what I came across was less traffic and no school buses to stop for. Because all the schools closed for the day – even the empirical Chicago Public Schools (gasp!) closed because of the storm, the traffic was light.

Like two creams and one sugar light.

Not only were parents home with children trying to put boots on while still in their pajamas to play, but the libraries were closed as well. I thought to myself, what was the first thing we did as a kid or with my own? Run to the library, of course!

As I wait here at the office for the municipalities to catch up plowing the roads while six more inches fall around of us, I shall sip my tea and count my blessings – I’m not shoveling.

And now for the latest princess thing to happen to me today – I received a box of Valentine chocolates (I’ll never tell who they’re from!). I’m looking forward to watching television and eating bonbons! That is, IF it doesn’t take me two and half hours to get home.

Happy weekend everyone!