We’re ‘thisclose’

Bill Gates is on the current cover of Rotarian Magazine and rightfully so.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to match 2:1 Rotary International’s commitment of $50 million dollars per year for the next three years totaling $450 million.

All of this money we’ve pledged is to kill an enemy we’ve been chasing for decades. One we’ve got cornered and in our sights.


The statistics of new polio cases is exciting to see. As of this week (September 20th), according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), only 10 new cases of wild poliovirus (WPV) and 49 Vaccine-derived Poliovirus (cVDPV) cases have been reported globally this year. These WPV cases were in endemic countries while the cVDPV vases were in non-endemic countries.

Last year at this time we had 24 new WPV cases reported and 3cVDPV. The total for 2016 was 37 WPV and five cVDPV cases globally. There was no mention of why they thought there was such an increase in the cVDPV cases. That would be interesting to learn why there was such an up shoot in numbers in the last year.

When you breakdown by country where these reports of new cases are occurring, Afghanistan (6) and Pakistan (4) for the WPV. Nine of the 49 Vaccine Derived Polio Virus cases were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest were the Syrian Arab Republic.

This October 24th is World Polio Day. Leaders from across our land and Rotary Clubs around the world will pledge to eradicate this enemy through Polio Plus.  Launched in 1985 by Rotary, this effort is overseen by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. – Along with Rotary, that includes the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its mission: to immunize all the children of the world against polio.

For those who like to throw money at a cause – this one is it. I can’t avoid the cliche – there is light at the end of this tunnel. Rotary is there in the hills of small countries, helping to smooth the way for healthcare workers and politicians to realize they both can meet the needs of the people by letting them into their villages to get the vaccinations they need.

Just like many of us last year said we never thought we’d live to see the day when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, we are on the cusp of seeing the actual eradication Polio.

We really are ‘thisclose’….


Writers Without Borders

Now that may sound like a great charity – a foundation of mammoth proportions, but it just came to me. I claim it here – now – to be used later for something good. I hope.

This is what I meant by it:

Over the weekend we said farewell to a member in one of my Writers Groups as she moves a couple states over to bask in retirement.

It wasn’t a real ‘good-bye’ – more of a ‘see you later’.

You see, in my other (and first) Writers Group, (a smaller number) we all meet via Facetime/Skype/Hangout/Facebook – however we are able to all hook-up with video screens.  Through job promotions, and other personal happenings, we are no longer within a half hour drive of each other.

And that gave me the idea to link this retiring vagabond – this AARP gypsy, (I call my mother a geriatric gypsy – but this retiring lady is no ‘old’ person!) with us the same way.

Via video.

It shamed me to realize I didn’t think of that when another member left last summer, and I saw him last month for my 40th Class Reunion – I know! Who knew? Why didn’t I think about this option for him when he left for Cheese Land?

Maybe when several of us sign up for another conference in Madison, we might coax him to attend as well. Note to self – make sure he gets on the emails for that. 

That’s the beauty of not only technology and conferences, but of words. Writers can congregate online or in person. We do not discriminate.

So Miss D, we bid you temporary adieu…

…we’ll be seeing you via technology soon!


To Continue or Bail (or When to Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em)

I posted this on Facebook within the last hour:

Coming back from lunch yesterday this was my conversation:

Me: I’m half way through this book, and I’m not in love with the main characters.
Boss: Well, you created them, why not re-write them?
Me: It’s not a book I’m writing. I’m reading someone else’s story.
Boss: Oh dear.

Question: Do I continue and I hope I warm up to them? Or do I bail?

So far (two minutes in), the suggestion to bail was 2:1.

Now let’s be clear – the book/story only cost me 99 cents (thanks to Amazon) and takes place in modern day England and Las Vegas. While I like to think that I’m metropolitan, cosmopolitan, and I like Neapolitan ice cream, even with the references to Hyacinth Bucket in “Keeping Up Appearances” there is not enough to hold me to the characters.


Now it’s 3:1.

I wish I could put a finger on one thing. Could it be the wishy-washy back and forth of the female lead? I can’t call her the heroine; and the male lead is pretty much aloof. He may just now be starting to warm up to me.  But if I’m 55% of the way through the book, why it is taking so long? Why can’t I warm up to her family? Her friends?

At least I dislike her cheating ex!

But when I sum it all up, I just don’t care! It’s a cute title, cute premise – done by so many others so I thought I’d give this contemporary romance a try. For 99 cents, why not?

Now it’s 4:1.

This is when Kenny Rogers is singing in my head telling me it’s time to walk away…

At least the character’s name wasn’t Lucille.

Ode to a Poet

Her hair tumbles down her back,

Loose curls fly behind her

She runs from the words

They are tall trees in the forest

haunting her sleep

There is no rest for her.

The poet

looks over her coffee cup out the window

gray day like the night

the words assault her

use me!

no me!

Enough! cries she

I will walk in the sun

choosing my power over the words

(for s.t.)

The Power of Us

For those of you who attended the reunion, you heard of the use we have for the money we collected from the Friday and Saturday raffles (a total of $342). Those of you who didn’t get the chance to attend should hear of what this dreamer has in store…for us, the Class of 1977… and the Class of 2027.

This dreamer (and I am the first to tell you I am a Pollyanna), would like to see this class leave a mark on few other students for our 50th. So we’ve started off small with a couple of 50/50 raffles at the reunion.

We have done much in our fifty-eight years. We’ve built careers, raised families, and are sandwiched between our children and our parents who may be in need of help these days. We’ve looked race and bigotry in the eye, brought women rights and sexuality into the light; and no matter how you look at these things privately we are the threads that when woven together like we were that sunny weekend, are a rich and vibrant tapestry. Our life’s experiences have created textures and hues that enhance this durable fabric. We wear it like a comfortable sweater; wrap ourselves in it as if it were an heirloom quilt.

This tapestry has a story to share with future generations and the Class of 2027 it’s as good a place as any to start. It says the future is yet to be written. Go forth and write.

The idea: to place into the hands of at least three deserving Waukegan High School Seniors, a two thousand dollar scholarship each. Six thousand dollars needs to be raised in ten years – to be distributed at graduation of June 2027. Perhaps we can coax East Class President Mickey Wolff to return home once again for the occasion.

There is still much research to do. Fundraising. Investing. Do we form a 501(c)(3)? The one thing I saw from our reunion weekend is that there is nothing this Class can’t do….

What do you say Class of ’77, are you ready to make another mark?

-Mary Beth

Reunion Wrap Up

It’s been a week.

In that time my feet have slowly recovered from standing all of Friday night at the Meet & Greet. Over 120 people came – one hundred of you were classmates and you all looked fabulous! Those few hours weren’t enough to catch up with old friends or get to know the new friends we made that night.

That’s why there was a Day Two.

The weather couldn’t have been better – I ordered it back in April when I reserved our shelter. It’d been percolating for four months, so it had to good. Some faces the same as the night before and newer faces made the day even brighter than the Sun.  Bernie and the Bicentennials even made a brief but mute appearance under the shelter! Again, there weren’t enough hours to catch up with everyone and take all the pictures I wanted to take.

Day Three was for letting go.

Twenty seven of us bowled at Bertrand’s and their newly refinished lanes. Several were slick enough that even I fell on approach. Of course, my husband will tell you I can fall without the aid of varnished floors. My knee and hip will tell you otherwise, but they like to complain all the time. We laughed and had a wonderful time.

Thank you to everyone who came to the reunion, especially those who traveled near and far. Thank you classmate Dino Kallianis and Captain Porky’s for the FABULOUS food on Saturday. Thank you Pete and Nick at Anastasia’s for opening your doors to us and thanks to your fantastic team for taking such good care of us Friday night. Thank you to Bertrand’s for having lanes ready and yummy pizza.

Thanks to the members of my Nitty Gritty Committee and their families. We met often and worked long hours getting this together and their families deserve the kudos as well.

Everyone of us had a gift that we brought to the table and that what made this reunion so special. My ladies out there, Shirley, Lydia and Lucille, you did your part, too and you have my undying thanks!

For those who couldn’t make it, you were missed and we hope you make it to the next one – in 5 years! In the meantime, don’t be stranger! Send me your email so we can keep you informed.

Once Divided, Now United


Note: This was recently submitted to the Lake County News Sun for consideration

“We’ve waited a long time for this. It’s going to be epic!” said Tony Fontana, who spearheaded this event.

Forty years ago neither Waukegan High Schools were immune to the racial tensions that were prevalent to those times. But the students came to class, ate lunch, danced at Homecoming and Prom, and played sports together. We rose above it all.

Today, the unfortunate re-occurrence of these tensions in our country gives the Class of 1977 another dimension to its 40th reunion. We again stand united – this time black, brown and white – but also East and West.

For the Class of 1977, in the middle of our high school years, the schools were separated from East and West Campuses to East and West High Schools with East Bulldogs facing the West Raiders in sports. The tried and true Purple and Gold now shared space in town with Green and Gold for loyalty and team spirit.

We were students who had been schooled together now divided.

Fast forward forty years and like the Class of 1976, the Class of 1977 is saying, “Once divided, we are now united.” That is the theme of the first major reunion for either school in almost thirty years.

“The class lists in some cases hadn’t been updated since the ten year reunion,” said Mary Beth Bretzlauf, reunion coordinator “I am most fortunate to have a team of committed volunteers who poured over the lists for “lost” or deceased classmates. Others called phone numbers that were mostly disconnected. Everyone came to the table ready to use their talents. We called ourselves the Nitty Gritty Committee.”

Facebook was very effective in getting the word out, and finding classmates, surveying the dates best for classmates and sharing memories. Still with so many classmates who didn’t have Facebook accounts, the committee had to rely on those with Facebook to reach out to the classmates who didn’t.

Instead of gathering for one night, the Class of 1977’s reunion is a weekend of events. Beginning with this Friday, East and West come together at Anastasia’s at Fountain Square in Waukegan for appetizers and cocktails. The next day, there is a catered picnic by Captain Porky’s (classmate Dino Kallianis’s establishment) at Greenbelt Forest Preserve. Sunday winds down with a bowling challenge at Bertrand’s Lanes in Waukegan.

“There is such a thrill to see the ticket sales come through from Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan,” Mary Beth said when asked about the numbers for the weekend. “We got a better than expected response with about hundred classmates committing with many bringing their spouses or partners. One call I made was to a classmate I hadn’t seen since grade school. He’s coming and I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see him and catch up on what he’s been doing.”

And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what these reunions are all about?