Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Anticipation!

I am sure we all have stories of our youth concerning the anticipation of Christmas. 

I remember my sister and me trying to hide under an end table in our living room so we could see Santa.  Of course, Mom came and told us Santa knew we were still awake and was not coming until we were asleep in our own beds.  Drat, we thought we had it figured out; but moms know their kids best.  Remembering our attempt to see Santa is probably why I enjoy the commercial with the children all sitting on the couch with their headlights illuminating the fireplace.  Did we not all want to catch Santa in the act?

The most exciting stories of anticipation and suspense come from my husband Michael.  His family had a wonderful tradition that made the expectancy almost too much to tolerate.

Two weeks before Christmas, Michael’s parents would close off their living room.  The house had wonderful sliding pocket doors separating the dining room from the living room, making it easy for them to block the access from the dining room.  The living room also had a glass panel door with a key lock separating it from the hall access.  The glass pane was covered on the inside to hide all the activity going on behind.

To hear my husband talk of the expectation it was almost more than a child could endure.  The days would slowly tick by as the boys lay on the floor trying to see under the door.  Who was in the room?  What were they doing?  Was it Santa?  Was it his helping elves?

Joey, Michael, and Kevin had a truly exciting Christmas morning.  Finally, the three boys would come down the steps, still in their PJs to find the hall door slightly ajar showing ever-changing reflections from the fully lit Christmas tree just beyond their vision.  The boys would enter the living room to see all the gifts displayed not wrapped.  It was like walking into a wonderland of toys.  Being boys, they would find such delights as forts with soldiers assembled and ready for enjoyment, or a farmland fully displayed.  On one Christmas morning, it took Kevin nearly 15 minutes to spot the 10-speed Schwinn bike behind the door the boys opened.

Marguerite, Michael’s mother was a master at decorating and displaying.  So naturally she would have the Nativity scene displayed, and the stockings were there filled with even more fascinating wonders.  She would also make exhibits of winter scenes.  Like ice skating figurines on a mirror with cotton laid out to look like snow on the hillsides around a frozen pond. 

I remember one display she gave me.  She took a large round inflated balloon and worked her magic.  She soaked string in a sugar and water solution, and then she would wrap the coated string around and around the balloon until it took on the appearance of a white globe of lattice string.  Once it was dry, she would pop the balloon, allowing the string to hold the form.  Michael’s dad then cut a circle entrance to the sphere and flattened one side to stop the sphere from rolling.  Again using cotton and miniature figurines Marguerite would build a display of a town square complete with a Christmas tree.  It was a delight and so fascinating.

Her cost effective displays added to the wonder of Christmas.  Not to mention the 144 gross of cookies she baked.  Yes, that is 144 X 144….do the math.  She would seal them in decorative tins with tape to deter the boys from getting into the cookies.  This would have worked if Michael and Kevin had not gone out and purchased their own roll of tape.

Michael and his brothers must have enjoyed those Christmases of their youth.  I know that I love hearing the stories of how their parents kept the wonder and spirit of Christmas for everyone to enjoy.

I hope the parents of today are creating such magnificent memories for their children.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  It just needs to be from the heart.

Merry Christmas to all and God Bless!



Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Turkey Exploded!

Do you like the Thanksgiving celebration?  It is one of my favorite meals.  I love the dark meat, dressing, and gravy.  OOPS, almost forgot the cranberries.  I am not so much into the side dishes.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a long time.  I remember the first time I made the dinner for Michael’s family.  We had not yet celebrated our first anniversary so I guess that is why my cooking may have surprised my beloved father-in-law.

I learned how to make the dressing from my Mom’s mom.  Her stuffing was more like a savory bread pudding.  Sunday dinners at her home always had the same things, chicken, mashed potatoes, noodles, and dressing I always looked forward to the dressing.

My first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner was rather exciting for me.  I did not do the triple starch, only the mashed potatoes and my favorite the dressing.  I used about six loaves of bread along with 14 eggs.  Yes, you read that correctly, 14 eggs.  I love sage, so my dressing had a green tint to it as well as being moist.  The turkeys we served were always 25 pounds plus.  For the cooking, I believed in tightly crimping aluminum foil around the roaster to keep the turkey moist and it cooks evenly and in less time. 

Michael and his dad pulled the roaster from the oven, and slowly carefully, peeled back the foil to lift the turkey out to carve.  To their surprise, the turkey had self-carved compliments of the egg rich dressing stuffed into the bird.  The legs had separated from the carcass and the breast had fallen off the bone.  Lifting it out of the roaster was the biggest problem of the day.  My turkey exploded!  However, it remained very moist since the foil sealed in all the liquids.  Dad O’Kane had never seen such a thing before, and to my delight, he enjoyed the dressing. 

As time went on, we enjoyed cooking the holiday meals and tried some of the strangest things in our cooking methods.  One year Michael read a recipe in a magazine that deboned the turkey before cooking it.  He carefully pulled the skin back, and carved the breast meat off the bone and removed the breastbone.  Then he stuffed layers of the sliced breast meat and dressing to fill the cavity.  To finish, he delicately laid the skin back over the redesigned main course, and stitched the skin back in place.  This certainly made for easy carving at the table and interesting conversations for the family. 

One year we did the side dishes the day before.  I had two very large electric roasters, which were set up as a steaming station.  The side dishes were ready when the bird was ready.  I guess, as we got older we developed stress saving methods.

Michael, who happens to make wonderful bread, now bakes about six loaves of sage bread for the dressing.  We control the ingredients in an effort to avoid preservatives and unnecessary fats.  Besides, it makes the house smell so luscious.    

Today, I still have the same results; my turkeys carve themselves.  Oh yes, our birds are still 25 pounds plus.  What do we do with all the leftovers?  The answer is simple; club sandwiches on Friday, turkey salad on Saturday, and the rest, “turkey pot pies” putting all the left over meat, gravy, and veggies, in frozen pie shells for quick meals down the road. 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for us to express the many reasons why we give thanks.  We have love, family, friends, and freedom.  Remembering, the freedom of religion was a major reasons the pilgrims sought refuge in this land.  We should remember our troops fighting so that all of our freedoms remain.  So in this season of gratitude, let us remember our troops, home and abroad, as they stand ready to defend our land and liberties.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!



Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween what a great holiday!

Many say it is their favorite holiday.  What better time to dress up and be someone or something you are not.

Now this no doubt will give away my age; but back in the day, we went trick or treating for three nights.  We had our pillowcases ready and we went as a group.  My sister and I went with our cousins.

In our little town there were two houses you had to go to as quickly as your legs could carry you.  One house gave out caramel apples while the second house a good distance away gave out cinnamon apples.  It was a duty to ourselves to get to those houses first, and then retrace our steps to the other house after we collected our apples.  The first night was all about the houses east of our house.

At the end of the first night, we would return home, and dump out our haul and sort it on the table.  We put the candy we wanted to share with the family in one bowl, and candy that did not impress  put into the distribution bowl for the following night’s callers.

We did not get to go to the “apple” houses the following night.  With that end of town completed, we would move from out house to the west end. 

It was a fun time of year.  People would try to guess who you were as you approached their houses.  The gas station next to us would allow us to get something from their candy display, as did my uncle in his bar.  The only bar in town we would venture into since it was family owned.

Sometimes we would change costumes over the three nights.  The rest of the ritual was pretty much the same.  After the allotted time we would return home and again sort the candy.

By the third night, we were running a bit tired.  However, there were treats to be had and we needed to collect our morsels.  We knew that by the third night we would be receiving someone else’s unwanted candies.  We all knew by the third day we would be collecting someone else’s hand offs.  But there was the possibility that one person’s dislike was another’s favorite.

I remember one Halloween when my sister and I both were down with one of those childhood things, chicken pox or the measles.  Our cousins stopped at the house to collect their treats, and to show us their costumes.  No fair!  We couldn’t go out with them.

Things were different back then.  As far as we knew cars did not take kids to the different neighborhoods.  Maybe it was just that our little town was not that impressive.  So glad too, or the “apple” houses would have been invaded before we could get to our treats.  No free x-rays offered by the local hospital for pins or needles, and  we were not destructive in our outings. 

Rarely did we encounter a house that did not participate.  We even had a few we were afraid to go to the door.  I would assume every child has had creepy feeling about a house. 

Today’s Halloweens are different, and in some cases, nonexistent.  Some communities prefer to do parties instead.  Others take their children to the various malls where the stores hand out treats and parents can be with their children.

All this being said, I think fondly on those memories of our candy collecting. I can’t pass a candied apple without remembering our mad dashes to the two special houses.

I think I will close here and go dip some apples, isn’t Fall great!

Trick or Treat!




Friday, August 10, 2012


Here we go again, more family to introduce.  This time, I would like you all to meet my older sister, Nikki.  My sister happens to be a fashionable person.  You know the type; she can wear blue jeans and a t-shirt and look great.  Me….not so much!

Nikki has her favorite colors, although she looks good in just about any color.  Me….not so much!  I wear a lot of black and white, or navy and white.  Nikki does too.  Again, she looks great.  Me…..not so much!

Now, I don’t say these things because she always impressing me.  Big sisters often have their younger sisters look to them in awe.  Well, at least I did and still do.

Nikki could sing, and boy, could she dance…and still can.  Me….not so much.  I cannot keep a beat in my head so that ruins any chances of being able to dance.  Dancing for me is a spectator sport.  As for singing, just be glad you are not sitting near me in church.

I often think of the scene in the movie White Christmas where Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen do that song Sisters.  Since I don’t sing or dance we will never be doing that scene for anyone.  Nikki could pull off her side.  Me….not so much!

Nikki has never been one to have long conversations, and we have different interest.  I am the quiet sit in the corner and read type so unless she wants a book report from me we just talk family. 

I am sure you all are aware that family is extremely important to me.  We chat and I catch up on all sorts of happenings with Nikki, her husband, and her daughter and her family.  Then we talk about anything that is happening in our brother’s lives.  Well, if we have heard from them recently.

After we talk about each other, then we check on any news from our cousins.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to see my cousins very often living in Durham, almost “500 miles away from home”.  Hey, that sounds like a song I remember.

Okay, now that you know her a bit and about our relationship, I can tell you a story.  It’s her time to be in my blog instead of her suggesting what stories I should tell of other family members.

If you have kept up with my blogs, you know the person my Dad was during his life.  Dad had a soft spot for sales.  If he could find a good one, he would buy it, needed or not.  Mom was somewhat flabbergasted with the sale items he would find.  She told him, just because it is on sale, doesn’t make it a bargain.  If you don’t use the item, it is not a good sale.

Nikki was on the receiving end of one of Dad’s sale finds.  As a little girl, she liked the color red.  Well, Dad knew she loved the color red and he happened to come across a sale of dresses in her size.  Therefore, he bought her seven red dresses.  He bought every dress in her size that was in red.  There were some variations in style, but they were all red.

Who buys seven red dresses in the same size for a growing child?  I still wonder if Nikki ever had the chance to wear all seven before outgrowing the size.  We went to a parochial school, so that meant uniforms, no chance there to wear her newly acquired wardrobe.

To this day, this is one of our family gathering stories.  Of course, Nikki and I are the only ones who actually experienced this particular event.  We are the oldest of the siblings.  I still have an inward giggle when I see her in anything red.  I can’t help but think back to the seven red dresses.

I am not sure how she will appreciate me sharing this with you; but I figured since she likes to give me suggestions on stories for this blog, I thought it only fair that I share one about her.  I love it!  Nikki….probably not so much!

Friday, July 13, 2012


In my last blog, you met my brother Joey.  He is the oldest of the boys, and at 57 says I am the only one still calling him Joey.

In this blog, I would like to introduce you to my brother Frankie.  He is the second of my three brothers, and yes, I still call him Frankie.  Frankie has a wonderful jolly personality.  If you hear him laugh, you automatically find yourself laughing.

All brothers have times of challenge and my brothers are no different.  The three years that separate Joey and Frankie are enough to let them be friends; but close enough to torment one another.  Don’t all brothers do that anyway?

I remember Joey had a Volkswagen Beetle.  It most likely was his first car.  Picture this; a rope going from the hood under the car to trunk and then over the roof, somewhat holding the car together as the ends tied on the hood.  Tied dyed shirts were the fad at the time; but his was the only tied down car I ever saw.  In addition, the vehicle stalled on a regular basis, which required a push to pop the clutch and get it going. 

One early chilly morning, Joey was ready to leave the house for school but was unable to start his car.  He came into the house to get Frankie to help him by getting into the family car and giving him a push. 

Frankie was slow to rise.  So naturally, he was slow moving when Joey called him into service.  Frankie would help anyone, even his tormentor.  So Frankie got up, dressed, and put on his jacket to go out and help.

Frankie got into the family Studebaker and started it up as Joey got into his Beetle.  You can tell by the fact that the family car was a Studebaker, how long ago this event happened.  Unfortunately, Frankie did not give Joey a gentle push.  It wasn’t intentional, but he gave the car a bit more gas than necessary, which caused the vehicle to jump forward, ramming into Joey’s car.

My sister Nikki and I stood in the window watching and could not help but laugh.  In his younger years, Joey had a tendency to overreact.  Turning red faced and jumping from his car, he headed for his rear bumper to inspect the damage.  Then Joey started towards Frankie in the other car with his red face and yelling that Frankie had hit his car too hard.  Frankie sat in the Studebaker laughing but taking the precaution of locking the car door.  Joey, not deterred, ran for the other door.  Frankie reached over and locked that door as well.  No automatic door locks in those days.

Joey must have felt like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs story.  He was certainly huffing and puffing.  He wanted to get his hands on Frankie so badly.  Frankie just sat in the secured car laughing as Joey went ballistic.  The funniest part of the entire event was Frankie, being the jolly person; we saw his shoulders shaking with his laughter.  This of course, was not helping Joey who by now was running late and worried about a dent in his bumper.  How could a person be upset about a ding in a car held together by a rope?

My brothers had their fair share of childhood ordeals; but they were good brothers.  Unfortunately, the years and miles have separated all of us.  However, when we do get together we love to reminisce about those younger days.  This is one of the stories we recall and results in Frankie again laughing until his shoulders shake and all are laughing with him.

I hope we never forget those great times, which is one reason I write.  I also encourage others to take the time to record your memories for your children.  I am sure Frankie’s daughters will get a laugh out of this episode.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Bull

Many of you know already that I am the second of five children.  All three of my brothers are younger.

As with any family, we have a variety of personalities from the parents to the children.  In the past, I have written about my Dad and most recently about my Mom.  Dad’s war injuries plagued him the rest of his life while Mom was a delicate person with a low energy level.  Now we come to my brother Joey who is the oldest of the boys and the adventurous type, always exploring and trying new things.  He is the type that draws others to him.

I have also written about the limited amount of activity in our small hometown.  You could play softball or climb the hills.  Climbing the hills was the more adventurous way to spend the day.  I did my fair share of climbing but not with my brother as the leader.  Since I was older than Joey, my hikes were lead by an older cousin.

As time went on, my brother Joey took on the role of leader, and as usual, he had a band of young boys that followed his lead.  One day they decided to climb the hill, which was an easy feat for my brother.  He always was physically fit and still is today. 

The “fun” started when a hysterical younger boy came running to our house crying that a bull had gored Joey.  We did not know exactly what to make of this but almost immediately another boy came to the house with the same report.

Now my Dad never got upset unless we were in danger, and this was definitely one of those times.  Both Mom and Dad got in the car and drove to the nearest location where they could access a path to climb up the hill.  I am sure their thoughts were full of frightening sights not to mention how to get medical assistance to him must have weighed heavily in their hearts and minds.  I can still see Mom and Dad struggling to climb a path no wider than a foot.  Dad had a knee that would lock up making the climb difficult.  Mom, frail and delicate, was holding onto Dad’s hand as he pulled her along behind him on the path.  Both were breathless and pale as snow, still they attacked the path as though they were raging war on the hillside.

Suddenly from far below they hear Joey calling to them as he came along through the creek bed.  Both showed instant signs of guarded relief.  As they scrambled down the path, they ran to him to check him over for injuries.

Much to their relief they did not find a mark on him from the incident.  Apparently, the bull got out of its pasture and charged Joey who climbed a tree, and the bull missed him entirely.  However, the bull stood by the tree trying to wait out Joey’s descent but eventually wondered off allowing Joey to climb down out of the tree.

Now that Mom and Dad had an opportunity to calm down and find out what happened and to hear the entire story, they slowly returned to normal. I am still amazed to this day that they attempted to climb that hill.  It all boils down to the willingness of a parent to do anything to protect and aid their child.

I and my siblings were fortunate to have parents that cared.  They protected us and came to our rescue whenever necessary.well to the rescue of physical danger anyway. 

Yes, all five of us have different personalities, and most of us have mellowed as we aged.  However, Joey will forever be the adventurer in our family.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A mother’s lesson in fudge

Sorry I have not posted anything recently.  I so wanted to do a post for Mother's Day, and before I knew it the day was over.  However, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day or even In-Law’s Day can be any day you want to do something special for that person.

My Mom passed away seven years ago.  She dealt with cancer for seven years prior.  I think of her every day.  There are days when I want to call her and tell her what is going on in my world.  Even though I can’t call her on the phone; I still talk to her.

Recently I was trying to think of something to post about her.  I can tell you my Mom was a complicated woman.  She had complicated emotions and held so much inside.  She was a strict person; but she would fight like a mama bear to protect her five kids.  However, I wanted to write about some of our fun times, so I decided to write about “impossible fudge.”

When I was growing up we had a great lady who lived next door.  She taught me to ride a bike and was our babysitter.  She and my mother were friends.  In time, Joyce married our cousin Chuckie.  I am getting off subject again.

On Friday nights Mom and Joyce would get together, usually in the summer, and make fudge.  Okay, they would try to make fudge.  We didn’t have a candy thermometer so judging the fudge was always tricky.

I can’t tell you how many times Mom would be putting the fudge in the freezer to get it to the right consistency.  Sometimes we had fudge soup while other times we had hard tack.  It was always a waiting game to see what we would end up with for the evening. 

Fudge became the challenge, which is why I refer to it as “impossible fudge”.  Joyce would later refer to the attempts as “spoon fudge.”  What I learned from Mom’s attempts was that she did not give up.  She would try and try again almost every Friday night. 

This complicated woman with five kids taught us things that at the time we did not realize were life lessons.  Who thinks of fudge as a life lesson?  It wasn’t the fudge; it was the determination she had to keep trying. 

When Mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, I was terrified.  Mom had health issues; but I was afraid this one was just too much for her.  Well, she fought her battle with the same determination as she did her attempts at making fudge.

It was this same determination that would save my life, even after Mom was gone.  In 2010, I went through the ordeal of a ruptured appendix.  Before I could be released from the hospital, my right lung collapsed.  I was in a lot of pain and struggling to breathe and was ready to give up.  I hurt too much to keep fighting.  As I lay in the hospital bed, after making my peace with God, I just sort of collapsed into the bed.  I was sure this was the end.  As I collapsed, God and my Mom sent me a message to keep fighting.  It was just the simple unexpected thought of my Mom that brought me out of my resigned state.  If Mom would fight for her life then I should too.  And, I lay in the bed for a bit thinking of my Mom, and remembering how she did not allow the fudge to win, but tried time and time again. 

I can’t tell you if she ever got the fudge right; but I know I got her lesson.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Shroud of Turin

Easter is upon us, and for many that means special services and Stations of the Cross.  Christians have many of these special services but I would like to speak of something not exactly a tradition.  However, I have found this to be an amazing part of building a faith.

You may have heard of the Shroud of Turin.  Some will know exactly what I am speaking of while others will not.  No matter; I will take this opportunity to try and relay some key points about the Shroud.
The Shroud is a fine linen cloth measuring 14 feet three inches long and three feet seven inches wide.  This historical cloth is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.  Initially, the cloth was probably meant for Joseph of Arimathea.  Joseph was a high ranking member of the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus, but held his beliefs in his heart.  Nevertheless, he had the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus upon His death.

Many believe the cloth used was to be Joseph’s burial shroud; instead he used his own tomb and cloth for Jesus’ burial.
As the story goes, on Easter Sunday, Christ was raised from the dead.  At which time the image of a tortured and crucified man was imprinted upon the cloth. Years of research have shown that it was formed by a burst of complex radiation coming from a dematerializing body about 30 to 36 hours after death.

For many years scientist have been trying to prove or disprove this “miracle”.  Some will believe, while others will not, and still others will find that the Shroud does not bring them to a Christian faith; because their faith was already rock solid.
I would like to give you some history on the Shroud of Turin.  I hope this is of interest to you, as I have explored the topic with two very well know researchers with the Council for the Study of the Shroud of Turin.  These two wonderful people are Dr. Alan Whanger and his delightful wife Mary.

King Abgar the V of Edessa was suffering from leprosy and wrote to Jesus asking that He come and cure him of his horrible disease.  Jesus responding saying He was unable at that time; but would soon send someone.  It was at this point Jesus was going to Jerusalem to bring about His passion and death. Copies of these letters are still in existence.
Historical records show that Thaddeus, also believed to be Judas the Zealot, took the Shroud to King Abgar.  The king did have his miracle; he was cured.  As a result he converted to Christianity.  Now, at the time when the cloth was brought to Edessa it was sealed in a cloth envelope, with only the face showing.

As was the custom at this point in history, likenesses of the pagan gods were mounted above the city’s main gate.  People entering the city were meant to pay homage to the displayed gods. 
Abgar had a tile image of the Shroud face take the place of the previous display.  With the display of the Shroud face there was also an inscription above the main city gate, it read “Christ the God.  He who hopes in thee is never disappointed”.

Now Edessa was a city along the trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Far East, so that this provided for many to see the face on the Shroud.  This also explains why early icons of Jesus Christ all have similar features.  It is believed that these icons were copied from the Shroud.
When King Abgar died in 55AD, King Ma’nu, a known pagan, came into power in 57 AD.  He was known to persecute the Christians.  He wanted the new icon destroyed.  He failed in this plan since the cloth was hidden to avoid destruction.

The year 525AD brought to the city of Edessa a major flood that almost destroyed the city. Workmen repairing the city gate found the hidden icon.  By this time the city had once again returned to Christianity and was recognized as the City of Churches.
In the year 944, Romanus I, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, decided his last act in office would be to bring the icon to Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire.  Constantinople had a collection of relics and icons and the Shroud would have been a major relic to possess.

Romanus sent troops to Edessa and laid siege to the city for six weeks.  Even with the city of Edessa under Muslim rule, the people wanted to keep their treasured icon. It took many concessions and promises on the part of Romanus in order to get the people of Edessa to finally relinquish this precious relic.  There is an interest fact here about the icon.  As far as the people of Edessa knew it was only the face of Christ.  Remember the icon was sealed in a cloth envelope and had never been opened.
During the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was overrun and many of the churches relics were carted off including the Shroud.  In 1204 the Shroud surfaced in a small village in Lirey France.  Many believed the icon was in the possession of the Knights Templar in both France and England.  It is believed that the Shroud was smuggled back to France and placed on public display.

No one is exactly how Geoffrey de Charny gained control of the Shroud, but he brought it to Lirey in 1357.  This is when it was declared the true burial Shroud of Christ.
The ownership of the icon fell to Margaret de Charny; she in turn relinquished ownership to the Savoy family, the ruling house of France and Italy.  This is when it was moved to the royal capitol of Turin Italy in 1578.  A special chapel was built for the sole purpose of housing the shroud.  The chapel is in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist that adjoins the royal palace.

The Shroud was nearly destroyed in 1532 when a fire broke out and the silver box that held the Shroud started to burned and the molten silver fell upon the Shroud in places. It is the repaired of the cloth that some have used as a reason to believe the Shroud was a hoax.  The burned areas of the Shroud were seamed and rewoven.  It is from these area materials were taken for the radio carbon dating process.  This also explains why the results came closer to the date of the mid- 1500s.
The Shroud was moved again to safeguard it during World Word II. Then in 1983 Umberto II, the exiled king of Italy, bequeath the Shroud to the Vatican.

There is a great deal more about the Shroud of Turin that I would love to share, and I would suggest that anyone interested in learning more buy the book “The Shroud of Turin An Adventure of Discovery by Mary and Alan Whanger, on

Have a Blessed Easter and Celebrate the Risen Lord!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How do you leave your home town?

Back in 1991 I retired from my banking career. At the end of December 1994, my husband Michael took the golden hand shake from Sears. We had an entire world in front of us.  Where to go? And what would we do? 

Leaving Wheeling at the age of 43 was very hard for us.  My Dad, sister, niece, Michael’s mother and our extended families lived in the Wheeling area.  But we were ready for a change.  Looking at a pack of seeds, my husband thought we should head for a warmer climate.  This may have had something to do with him shoveling 30 inches of snow from our driveway in 1994.
So wanting to find a good location with lifestyle and economic advantages we went off to the library.  Hoping to find the best location where we could find opportunity, we passed by the magazine display.  There in living color was the best place to live in America…the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.

Okay, it was a warmer climate and only eight hours from Wheeling.  So we decided we should make a trip to check the area out before any decisions were made.
The day we planned on going to North Carolina we woke to six inches of snow.  Now we thought, do we go or not.  My reaction; we packed the night before so we should go.  Of course, I was not the one who had to shovel the snow again to back out of the driveway.  But we decided to go for the adventure.  I should mention that the snow stopped by the time we made it to Parkersburg, so the rest of the journey was uneventful.

We arrived in Raleigh and got a hotel room for the next couple of days.  We started the next day by going out and having breakfast while checking out the local mall.  Michael had been in retail for 24 years, so we decided we would grab a paper and check out the classified ads.
Just as we found a parking place in the mall’s lot, a woman excitedly approached us, and with almost a full embrace said “It’s snowing; it’s snowing.”  Yes, they had enough snow to lie on top of the grass for maybe an hour.  We spent three days in Raleigh.  We checked out housing, jobs and tried to get a feel for the people.

Our next stop was Durham.  We decided to stop at the Visitors Center where a pleasant elderly man greeted us.  He told us about the places we should visit.  He told us to go to the Chamber of Commerce and check out a relocation package and suggested we leave our car to his care and walk.  When we arrived in Raleigh just a few days before we saw the smallest snowfall; but now we were walking around Durham in shirt sleeves.  The gentleman suggested we eat lunch at one of the restaurants in Bright Leaf Square area but we could not come to Durham and not go to Bullock’s Barbeque Restaurant.  Now remember we are from above that Mason Dixon Line.  To us barbeque is an adjective, but in the Carolinas it is a noun.

We did go to the Chamber and collected some information.  There was a lot to review.  We walked through downtown Durham, and arrived at the Bright Leaf Square Mall.  We had lunch while we looked over some of the material.  The people in this town were and still are very friendly.  Strangers on the street greeted you.  Now Wheeling was considered a friendly town; but Durham surpassed what we knew as friendly.
After lunch we walked back to the car and stopped in again at the Visitor’s Center and thanked the gentleman for his suggestions.

We rode around the Durham area looking at housing subdivisions and just enjoyed the rest of the day.  We then returned to the motel we were staying in Durham.  We looked over all sorts of information on both Raleigh and Durham.  By now our eyes were beginning to swim and we were getting hungry again.  So we decided to again take the gentleman’s advice and go to Bullock’s. 
We arrived and were seated immediately.  We were given menus and we looked over the choices. I am a rib fan; there was no doubt as to what I would order.  Michael isn’t like me I have a favorite I stick to it, but he eats different things all the time.  So he got the Brunswick stew and the chicken.  The food was good, and we were ready to head back to the motel and do some more reading. 

As we approached the checkout, a man was there to take our bill.  He looked at us and knew immediately we were new in town.  He asked if we had friends or family in the area.  We told him no, we were just considering relocation.  Now how he knew we were new amazed us.  People were lined up out the door waiting to get a table, so how did he know we were new?
Then this gentleman did something amazing.  He reached behind the chair he was sitting on and gave us a business card.  He told us that when we arrived with our things to give him a call and he would send his kitchen help over to help us unpack. 

We were in total shock, Mr. Bullock had no idea who we were, but he was going out of his way to help us.  That is when I told Michael if we move to North Carolina, we are going to live in Durham.  The people here are amazing. 
We also told everyone back in Wheeling, just how great Durham was, and most of all how Mr. Bullock treated us and how helpful he had been to perfect strangers.

To this day, I still tell the story of our search for a new “hometown”; and I also tell them of Bullock’s Restaurant and the wonderful Mr. Bullock.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Me and my Pens!

Do you buy quality pens?  Or has the world of texting and instant messages taken over your need for a beautifully crafted writing instrument?

I remember learning cursive writing.  I had a wonderful third grade teacher, by the name of Mrs. Link, who taught us to release our death grip on our pens.  To reinforce this she would walk up and down the aisle, and snatch a pen from our hand as we practiced our continual loops, circles and slanted lines.  If the pen did not release easily, she would stay at our desk and help us until we became comfortable with the process.  I remember Mrs. Link’s words of encouragement over five decades later.  It was her encouragement that probably brought the love of the written word to me.

Writing became an even bigger joy as I found quality pens.  I wanted a Cross pen for so long, and now have several; but a more recent love has been with the Waterman line.  It is so nice to find a pen that fits your hand, and feels like an extension of your being as you write.  Some people like a heavy pen, or a slim pen or maybe a roller ball over a ball point.

Now this may sound odd, but I believe that my appreciation of the written word also brought me to my love of reading.  I can remember in grade school reading every Nancy Drew mystery in the school library.   Soon I was reading everything I could find.  I was a voracious reader, which made me wonder; could I write stories instead of just writing in my journal or writing research projects in school? 
My first manuscript was written by hand.   That satisfied two things, the use of a great writing instrument and I actually wrote out a full length story.    

I must admit now, I rely on the computer to rewrite and update the story I wrote long ago.  However, I do so in a script font, and convert to Times New Roman before submitting any writings to whomever will read and judge my work.
When I started a job at a bank, I was given two pens.  Here I am over four decades later, and I still have those pens.  They were long and skinny and made of plastic.  I have changed refills in the pens many times over the years.  Would you believe after all the use those pens have been provided, they have actually molded to my hand.  This molding has made them a perfect fit for my hand.

I hope young and old alike will have the opportunity to find that perfect pen for them, and enjoy the written word as I do.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dating in the 70’s.

I met my husband in 1969, but didn’t know his name. I was pledging a sorority at the time, and I tripped going into class. Now to hear him tell you he had nothing to do with my near fall. As I remember he was stretched out in his seat and he remembers balloons tied to my ankles. I said I was pledging to a sorority.

Early in January 1970 this same young man took me and a friend to lunch. She assumed I knew his name. I was still trying to figure out who he was, but without luck.

Then came January 31st 1970; he called and asked me out. I said yes. Now I grew up in a strict household and my mother approved all my dates. Well, maybe she didn’t really; but it felt that way to me.

When I told her about the call and the fact that I agreed without checking with her first I expected her to be upset. Instead she thought we should “frost” my hair. This was even a bigger surprise to me. So Michael came to pick me up and Mom and I were watching him arrive at the front door from a back room window. I told her yes, this is the guy that I had gone to lunch with a few days earlier.

Michael knocked on the door and either my Dad or one of my brothers answered the door. Needless to say he was rather surprised by the blonde he was picking up that night. I had been a brunette the prior day, and now I was a blonde. I found our later he was not thrilled.

I asked him where we were going, he told me out for pizza. That seemed a safe date. So we went to a pizza parlor away from the noise of town. Afterwards, we ended up on a dark rarely traveled road. Now I have to admit I had a sheltered life when it came to dating. However, I knew enough that this could mean trouble. So I was ready to defend myself if needed.

I asked him what we were doing at the location. He said “I want to show you the stars.” I’m thinking, “I bet you want to show me the stars.” I was surprised when he got out of the car, and told me to do the same. Remember this is January, and January in Wheeling WV is not conducive to be being outside on a cold night.

Nevertheless I got out of the car. He immediately started pointing out the various constellations in the sky. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, but also relieved.

When we got back to my home, we said good night and I went inside. Sure enough, there was Mom waiting for me. “Well, what did you do tonight?” she asked. I told her we went for pizza and then out to look at the stars. Mom being silly said, “So, that is what you call it now.” I explained that he truly did show me the stars. Of course, as a mother she wanted to know exactly what we did while star gazing. So I asked her to step out on the back porch. I showed her the same stars that Michael had shown me. Mom thought it was hilarious. However, to this day I can spot Orion’s belt with no trouble.

Now, here we are years later; and on January 13th we will celebrate 39 years of marriage. I guess you could say our destiny was written in the stars.