Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Her Quiet

Not one to talk a lot.
When she did,
She encouraged and praised.

Not one to charge into an activity.
What she did,
She did well.

Not one to chime.
Where she was,
She made a difference.

She was a peaceful one.
That is what
I will miss most,
Her quiet.

--the passing of a neighbor

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Remember Baba, Part III

How do I remember Baba? 
a smile,
and a hug.

Baba was always in the kitchen when we came to see her whether it was on Virginia Street in the early days or in the apartment building I lived in for 18+ years.  She was always cooking.

Not only was Baba a wonderful cook, but Grandpa and her owned their own grocery when they finally arrived in Gary, Indiana.  Grandpa was a butcher in Chicago first.  I also forgot to mention  in the last part that Grandpa Martin was in the Russian Navy, and we have pictures to prove that. 

A new home was built in Gary before the Depression but was lost due to hard times.  I remember them having a very small store in a bad part of town when I was very young.  They lived behind the store and that's where I remember Baba most endearingly. 
I was always anxious to visit Baba.  She always loved to see us and always had something warm to feed us.  Her bed had a feather blanket that would puff up so big.  It was just always fun to get in that bed and jump around and relish that blanket, looking up into the high ceilings. 

I was told she use to live upstairs for awhile but moved down to be behind the small grocery.  I remember very vaguely that there was activity between the kitchen and the grocery shop with Baba or Grandpa going back and forth.  As days wore on, Grandpa just sat in a chair in the kitchen and never said anything.  I don't remember Grandpa talking to me, but we were encouraged to talk to him. Baba was still her pleasant self, always welcoming her grandchildren and cooking. 

In the kitchen, Baba had a large set of windows where the table and chairs sat.  The table was up next to the windows.  Why?  She had an array of African violets in all colors, growing their hearts out.  It was a southern exposure--maybe the secret to African violets or was it just Baba? 

One winter, she asked me to pick out one baby violet that I could choose to take home.  Oh, my, what a treat--my own African violet.  African violets have babies, you know.  Take a leaf and immerse it in dirt, and a baby plant grows out of the leaf!  (It only takes 2-4 weeks when I researched.).  I took that plant she gave me and covered it with wax paper to make sure when I went out, the cold air would not kill it. I remember holding it so close and carefully and thinking, "It cannot die.  I will get it home safely."

When I was older I tried to have a conglomeration of African violets in my bay window when raising my kids.  I couldn't make them grow very long.  I tried and tried, but they just didn't prosper in my care.  That's why African violets still remind me of Baba.  She was a special expert, and they are special plants.

The other natural item that reminded me of her was the herb dill.  I wrote about dill a couple of years ago in my blog.  I grow dill all over my gardens just to experience the smell and the remembrance of Baba. 

Baba had a small garden in the back of her apartment that was all gated up.  She grew a myriad of vegetables--tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beets, dill and probably more.  I can still remember opening the gate to the garden and peering in, only to smell dill. 

Plant some dill, and after a rain, just smell the air--stupendous!

When she finally moved into our apartment building, my Auntie Mary took care of her, and she still was cooking up a storm.  She loved soups and making the most delicious hamburgers full of good things.  She also made the best meatball soup with rice.  I asked her for the recipe and she smiled and chuckled, "No recipe.  I just make it."   To this day, I still can't make that meatball soup like she did.  Was it just a recipe or the woman behind the recipe?  I think it was the woman. 

I remember Baba. 

Baba became bed-ridden due to her diabetes and died at the age of 91.  I had been to college and married by this time.  This was my grandmother of whom I knew so little. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Truly Celebrating Saturday

I went to a Saturday faith-based retreat with my friend Tammy and my daughter-in-law Amanda.  "It was called Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All" with Brenda Yoder of Shipshewana, IN.   I was so excited that Amanda accepted my invitation.  This was the first time we did something together without children and other family members.  This was Amanda's day to get away from it all and maybe get some inspiration for her life that never stops.   

The retreat was really for young mothers with children who are trying to balance their busy lives between work and home.  I learned some things I wished I had known when I was a young mother.  I never thought there would be something special for me today.

Many door prizes were handed out during the day.  One book of the give away was called How to Talk So Your Husband Will Listen And Listen So Your Husband Will Talk by Rick Johnson.  I told myself that would be the book for me right now.  Retired now 4 years and my husband 3 years retired--it has been an adjustment.  My friend Tammy looked at me and then... number was read off by the speaker!!  I couldn't raise my hand or believe I had won that book.  Was this really my book now?  Was it luck, chance, or something higher than all of this?  I felt I was there for a reason, too. 

Spiritually celebrating today. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Remember Baba, Part II

The more I concentrate on the dates in the "Record" of Auntie Mary's, more and more questions come up.  Information is repeated and out of order, but the basics are there.  I have added a few family dates and that adds to the disorganization.  I need to create some organization.  I need to do more.

Baba was born May 15, 1880 in Kovno, rural Ulbania now known as Kaunas, Lithuania.  I've taken the first part of this information from the Record and Googled the present names of the cities in Russia.  I'm no historian, but that's where the information stands now. 

Baba's maiden name was Mary Carlin.  Her parents' names were mother Agatha and father Casmir.  Her first married name was Schapalinski.  What happened to the marriage and to him?

The only oral story I have of Baba in Russia from my Auntie Mary is that she cooked for a Russian priest.  My cousin Sharon shared her only oral story from her mom Auntie Mary.  "Baba got out of Kiev, Russian by crossing mountains with potato sacks on her feet.  Nuns from the convent helped." Did this priest live in Kiev?  Where did Baba go from there?

Baba emigrated to the United States and arrived in New York City in 1905.  She officially became a United States citizen on November 24, 1953.  I remember her practicing her name in order to sign the documents.  She could not read or write.  I was 6 years old at the time.

My grandpa Thomas Martin (Marten) (Martenuk) (?) was born January 20, 1880 in Belogorodka, Russia.  He emigrated to the US and arrived in New York in May 1907 on a vessel of the Cunard Line.  He became a United States citizen on May 12, 1924. I understand names were changed on Ellis Island due to misunderstandings and misspellings and also to make them simpler--Americanized.

Baba and Grandpa were married in Chicago, IL on May 29, 1913.  However, my Auntie Helen was born July 4, 1905 in New York, and Auntie Mary was born April 29, 1909 in Chicago.  This is the part my mom didn't want to hear.  Helen from the first marriage?  Mary?  My mom told me Grandpa and Baba met on the boat coming over to America??  Never questioned this--very romantic.

Auntie Helen, Grandpa, Baba, and Auntie Mary (on their wedding day?)

Uncle Walter, Grandpa, Auntie Helen, Auntie Mary, Baba, and Lillian

My Uncle Walter was born November 26, 1914.  My mom Lillian was born April 30, 1919.

So many questions.

Part III--How I remember Baba

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Celebration in Pictures

 This is my writing desk with some of my favorite things.

Once again, March serves as that month of new beginnings.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Remember Baba, Part I

Thanks to a friend reading my blog, I've decided to research a little more on my mother's lineage.  Thanks, Ruth M.  You have stirred the ashes again.  I may not know much about Baba's past in Lithuania, but I can remember Baba.

I was tempted in the past to pursue the genealogy of my family at the Fort Wayne Library about 30 years ago but was discouraged by my mother Lillian not wanting to know the reality of her parents' background.  Her two older sisters were half sisters by dates listed in the "book."  She didn't want to listen.  She never told me anything of my grandparents either.  Everything was always hush, hush.  I continued to grow up with that "hush" for many years to come.

The only knowledge I have is from a "Record" book my Auntie Mary kept tucked in her desk.  It was her way of noting some facts about the family background and birthdays.  I guess it was somewhat of a family tree with no complete history.  No information was shared from this book.  Pictures were passed down with no names or dates.

My mom gave the book to me in 2001.  My Auntie Mary passed away in 2003, losing much of her memory long before that, and then my mom died in 2005.  I don't know how my mom received this book.  I never asked questions of anyone or anything.  That was the way of it.  My brother Richard never claimed to know anything about Baba' past, and Auntie Mary's daughter Sharon didn't know much either.  We celebrated holidays but never celebrated family.  Family was there for sure, but the joy wasn't.  Hard life for many, I presume.  I ran away from family looking for something more and less mysterious.

Part II--Baba's Early history as in the "Record."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Icicles' Last Hurrah

Okay, winter mini-blizzard over.  Back to inklings of spring like we experienced the beginning of the week--the 40's!!

Today wasn't as warm as they predicted, but icicles have formed off the porch roof.  The icicles say, "Look, look at me!  I am snow, I am ice, I am dripping water.  How wonderful am I?  This might be your last chance to see me for a long time." 

I like icicles unless they come crushing down like they did when I arrived at home this afternoon and unlocked the door--not too large and right down the back of my head and down my neck.  Good that they weren't big and heavy icicles. 

According to Accuweather on the web, nothing below freezing for the next month and beyond, I hope. 

I feel the excitement of warmer temps and sunshine.  Is this the changing of the seasons thing?  How could I live in a warmer climate when Indiana has it all?  There is something to that. But you have to take the bad with the good constantly. 

Savor the icicles, my fellow bloggers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Soup's On!

We're always making soup at our house.  It could be chicken, beef, sausage, or chili soup.  It's usually done with leftovers and plenty of vegetables.  My husband and I fight over who is going to make the next batch.  He loves potatoes in all soups and I don't.  I would rather have a little rice or noodles in it.  I don't need double the carbs!

Today it's chicken soup.  My chicken soup has changed over the years to contain more veggies.  I use to just put in carrots and celery and rice.  Everyone said it was so bland.  Every time I make chicken soup I think I change the recipe every time.  I found that if I use the Blue Gate Restaurant's No MSG Chicken Base for the bouillon, it has an outstanding flavor. 

Today's ingredients are left over rotisserie chicken, celery, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, spinach, and noodles,  Last week, I was adding frozen spinach and the whole large bag almost emptied because of the large clumps.  It immediately melted into the water.  What to do? My husband likes spinach on a plate or dish, not in anything else.  Wow, did it taste like spinach soup!  I experimented and added some oregano.  It gave the soup a fabulous flavor and toned down the spinach considerably.  No complaints!!!

The pot you see in the picture belonged to my grandmother, Baba.  She made the most delicious soups, too.  I would ask her the recipe of something, and she would chuckle and say, "I just do it. No recipe."  I never took the time when younger to sit down and just talk to her about things--always in a hurry.  Regrets, of course.

After making the soup and having a cupful, I went outside today and once again cleaned the snow off the porch and deck steps--6 inches with drifts.  I wished I had counted how many times I had done this task this year. 

All is good--delicious soup for the next  few days, and the sun is shining again!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Frustration and Renewal

I planned on writing every day all month, but I don't have to because I am doing it for myself and family and friends and Ruth.  I don't want to get that bad taste in my mouth of just having to come up with anything at all to write about.  I don't feel comfortable with that.  I want my words to count on things that pertain/speak to me. 

Call it hard to keep up.  Call it lost of interest.  Call it you can't do it naturally.  Call it you're not a real writer.  Call it whatever you want.  I just can't write every day.  Is there something wrong with that? 

I do love to write--always have.  I do need to be pushed and have a deadline, but I also have to have a purpose.  Posts should be uplifting but life is not always like that.  I do look for the good and positive and don't like to be around people who can't manage that.  Some days are just hard to be positive and SAVOR. 

Teaching taught me a lot.
Don't take things personal. 
Shake it off. 
Make your own perks.
Be consistent.
Be fair.

Can life's lessons be any better than that?  As a child I was not given much guidance which I needed.  I was passive because I didn't know if things were right or wrong.  I knew things weren't good.  Auntie Mary took me to her Baptist Church, and they taught me what was right and wrong.  I clung to that.  I identified with that.  But I needed more.  I still remained passive after college.  I learned about family from my husband.  I learned about family having my own three sons and having five grandchildren.  I am still learning.  I know now I missed a lot in my childhood.  At least, I now know what family is.  I am almost 67 years old and have discovered much in the last 10 years. 

I am thankful to have been able to have aged and discovered what I was never taught as a child.

Life has been good to me.

Side note:  Snow storm tonight.  I am looking desperately for spring after a very long winter. 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Celebrating Quietly

No great happenings this week.  That's okay.  It was time to continue to organize, read, write, have lunch with a friend, and enjoy the spring snow??!!

Spring snow is big flakes turning to light snow with no accumulation because it was melting as fast as it came down.  Even if it did accumulate, it will melt this next week with temps in the 40's. 

I finished a book called The Good House by Anne Leary--a good fast read.  I didn't think I would like it when I began reading, but I  got caught up in the character and her struggles.

I celebrate the quiet--a luxury.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Another Name Game

I've chosen to write about my real name because of  Elsie 's posting.  She creates one of my favorite blogs.

I began as Tamara,
Named after a Russian ballerina.
Lovely beginning.

No middle name was assigned
Because Mom couldn't think of one?

One can pronounce my name the Russian way
As Baba, my Russian grandmother did--
"Tamarachka," (second "a" silent and rolling the "r").
Such an endearment.

Horrors to me when my 7th grade
Latin/French teacher called me Tamara (roll the "r"),
Sounding like Tamata.
I then became known as Tomato.

My last name was mispronounced,
And then I was named "Maniac."
What beautiful school nicknames!

By now, when my name came up on the roster,
People would stop and hesitate.
I wanted to raise my hand and stand up and say,
"That would be me!"

I preferred my name just pronounced "Tamra."

After high school, my cousin Sharon said,
"Get rid of it all and call yourself Tammy!"

People still stumble and hardly know
My real name now.
Then I explain why my real name
Has been left behind.

Now being older and wiser, I like my real name.
It's still different than most names.
But if you're a close family member or friend,
It ends up as Tam.

That is me!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blame It On The Sun!

I woke up this morning and saw the sun, and especially in my sunshine place. 

I had a hair appointment for a trim.  I was excited.  I would angle my sides a bit more!  Wow, some of us really live dangerously!!

The sun said, "Spring is on its way!" 

I checked the internet weather report--going into the 40's next week!  How exciting is that after this winter?

My hairdresser talked to me more about low lights to cover the grey.  I've been thinking seriously about it for 6 months.  Drab is starting to show.  I don't want to look like a skunk but want to enrich the tones I do have.  She said to call as soon as I wanted to, and we needed 1 1/2 hours to do the job since I already had a haircut.  I wasn't expecting to get in by tomorrow!  So be it! 

I had weathered the winter and held down the fort again for all those neighbors who had gone South.  (By the way, it is cloudy again down there for the 2nd day!)  I was ready for a change just like they had gotten, but my was cheaper and hopefully, would last longer than 1-3 months!  Oh, the games people play with themselves!

No, I am not taking a photo before and after, but I will tell you how I feel about it tomorrow if that is what hits me to write about! 

I imagine my kids and grandkids reading this.  That's who my audience really is as I write this year.  I want to print out my blog.  I will never publish a book, but I will publish my blog!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tea for Two or Three?

Cleaning and organizing definitely has its benefits even though we put these tasks aside constantly and would rather do other things.  Afterwards though, one feels uplifted and contemplative. 

After four years of retirement, I was able to rid myself of a whole file crate of my favorite lesson plans this winter.  Only 4 folders remain--my very favorites. 

I have taken books to the library for their book sales.  I am giving books to other teachers I know which should be used in a classroom, leaving more books at my grandkids' homes, and am asking myself the question, "Will I ever read these?"

I am also getting rid of "stuff."  Stuff I haven't used for years.  Will my kids like it or their kids?  Probably not--donate it! 

Some things one just can't get rid of--memories, winners, and legacies.

I'm a Downton Abbey fan these last two seasons.  I like tea and have gotten my husband drinking it at night with me.  I've developed a liking for Chamomile.  I even grew some this past summer in my herb garden!  I like lavender now, too, which I'm growing, also.  (Sounds like old age to me!!!!)

I've been looking at teapots.  I have a collection of fancy tea cups and saucers from my mom which I sometimes take out during Book Club.  But wouldn't it be super to have a nice teapot? 

Surprise, surprise while I'm cleaning and sorting, there in a bottom cupboard is my Auntie Mary's lovely old teapot.  It has a chipped spout and the gold paint on the handle is partly worn.  It's funny how some things just make it through the journeys of change. 

I remember this teapot.  I know my Auntie Mary liked coffee a lot, but she always had this teapot in her kitchen.  I'm not even sure right now where she kept it.  But it was there.  I suppose she drank tea.  It could possibly be a ceramic piece that my Auntie Helen, Mary's sister, painted in her ceramics era.  She loved using the gold paint. There is a scribbling on the bottom in gold.  Can't make out what it says.  So, to me, it's a teapot Auntie Helen painted and my Auntie Mary adored.  I some how have it now.  Can't remember when/how that came to be.  One night in bed or in the shower, it will come to me! 

Longer story becoming shorter now, I don't have to buy a teapot.  If I really want to use it, I will.  I am not really the tea party type.  I do love dishes of all kinds though.

I have moved the teapot to one of my bookshelves.  It will stay there for now, and I will add it to my "List of Personal Property To Be Distributed to Certain Persons:" that is to be enclosed with my will.  I have two granddaughters--mmmmmm.  Lillian Grace has always loved tea parties.  Will Evelyn Mae? 

Maybe I'll have to buy another one after all!!! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I see March as the month of beginnings.  Not January.  It's a month of cold followed by another cold month. 

March has so many possibilities.  It can come in as a lion or a lamb.  Which will it be?  This year--lion.  So be it.

This is transition month.  Whatever transition it takes, I am ready.  Things are changing because the sun says so.  We hope for the best, but much of the time, it is not the best.  But the best is yet to come.

Come on, March!

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Sunshine Place

I don't know if my body craves more sunlight or what.  I do take extra doses of D3 recommended by my doctor since my vitamin D levels can bottom out without the extra dosages.  This was the first winter after 3 1/2 years of retirement that I discovered my new place--my winter sunshine place.

This winter has broken records with snow and cold.  Could this be another reason I've been drawn to this place?

I never realized it before but the early morning sun makes its way into my kitchen through the patio doors very brightly in the winter.  If you sit in my husband's kitchen chair, that is where the sunshine really hits you. 

I sit there on quiet mornings with my cell phone, or a Kindle, a book, or sometimes my writers notebook.  In warmer months, I'm in the same place somewhat with the same items only outside in a wrought iron chair on our porch. 

As I look out the patio door, I can see the pines on the east side boundary of our property with snow still covering everything since January.  Animal tracks are everywhere, and you can just imagine  the greenery and flowers that will eventually fill this space. 

I clean the porch off after each snow.  It's my way of controlling the cabin fever that will overcome me if I can't see the bare porch.  This year we ran out of space to put the snow from the porch and deck steps going down to the street.  I was almost fanatical this year about keeping up with snow and ice.  I always thought, "I will win."

I guess I oversee my sunny porch as I sit in my sunshine place.

Where is your sunshine place?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Personal Challenge

I have committed to posting every day this month but not posting for comments.  I just want to write for me, my family, and people who just happen onto my blog.  Some people have commented why I haven't been writing much.  I did not know.  I did not know there were people actually waiting for a new post! 

It's March and Ruth has taught me to write every day, although I don't, but having written for 3 years on TWT I felt this is already ingrained within me.  I will write every day, Ruth!  Thanks to you.

March is a wonderful month.  It's the beginning of spring even though it doesn't look/feel like it.  New things will begin to pop up whether the weather cooperates or not.  The pussy willows will break out and so will crocus.  Someone told me their crocus along the house has already popped!  Snow will melt soon after it falls.  Life goes on and so does spring.

I first felt like I can let this challenge go, but is that really what I want to do?  I think I'm becoming a real writer of words, memories, legacies.  I must write even though I go in spurts.  I have found that I'm pretty scattered but I am finding voice and my real self.  I am in the trimester of my life, and I must be who I am.  I do love to write.  I do love to read more and more.  It's the part of me that keeps me above water, and I can fall back on if needed.

Hello, March and all its madness!

Celebrating and Savoring

So much to celebrate over the last week. 

We finally celebrated Lucas' January 9th birthday,
Participated in Indy with our 7 year old Daisy, Lilly, selling Girl Scout Cookies,
Babysat a sweet almost one year old Evelyn Mae for 24 hours successfully,
Breathed in another clean bill of health for our 5 year old grandson James,
Experienced another Taekwondo competition for our now assertive 7 year old Noah, and
Enjoyed 2 nights in Ft. Wayne with my oldest son Eric and his dogs Shadow and Sienna.

And, of course, there was a lot to savor in between. 

Now to savor more snow dumped last night, but it will melt by the end of the week and thereafter if it should snow more. 

Savor the light at the end of the tunnel!