Pączki Day 2017!!

Pączki are pastries traditional to Polish cuisine. They are similar to doughnuts.

They can be filled with any type of filling.  These are filled with chocolate cream, and strawberry jelly.  I usually prefer apricot or Prune/Plum Butter filling, but I decided to try something different this year.

Why a dedicated day?

This day marks the start of the final week of the pre-Lenten celebrations. While the practice of Pączki Day is traditionally observed the day before Ash Wednesday in the United States, in Poland, pączki sales are the highest on Tlusty Czwartek, or “Fat Thursday.” (The Thursday before Ash Wednesday).



Szczęśliwy Pączki Dziennie!!

(Happy Pączki Day)

Small Town with Big City Views


Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker  write for five minutes “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”

If you want to join in, click on the Five Minute Friday icon at the left for all the details.

Here we go…



I grew up in a small town in Indiana, right on Lake Michigan, population 4,937.  As a teenager, my BFF and I spent our summer days laying out at the beach, gettin’ a tan.  As I sat on that beach, I could look across Lake Michigan and see the Chicago Skyline.  I was in a small town, but it was like something bigger and better was within my reach.  I moved out to the suburbs at age 19, got married and started a family, and only went back to visit my family who still live there.

Recently, my family has moved to this small town.  Not so much by choice, but by necessity. I am seeing this town again through the eyes of my teenagers, who have declared that they want to stay, and not move back to the suburbs.  It was no small move for us, my kids had to leave the friends that they grew up with, but they have adjusted well.  This is a good experience for them, and they have found a new sense of freedom.  In this small town, they got out and met a whole bunch of new friends.  At any time they can meet up with their friends since everything is in walking distance, and a lot of their friends live just right around the corner, well…everything is just right around the corner in a small town.  My kids have spent time here over the years visiting my parents.  My dad would walk with them everywhere, take them bike riding, or walk along the lake.  The town has a lot more going on now than when I was growing up, and that’s what my kids love about it.  There’s a Cruise Night every month, where old cars line the main street, while 50’s music plays in the background.  There’s a huge festival called Pierogi Fest, which celebrates the Polish and Slovak culture here with a parade, food fenders, music, contests and tons of people.  My daughter is amazed at how many people she knows and recognizes as she’s out and about with her friends, never having that experience in the suburbs.

© 2013

© 2013

She loves to take pictures and has a real eye for it, so she is especially enjoying the opportunity to take pictures with her friends in the park that sits on the lake with all it’s trees and beautiful gardens. Capturing a sun set at the beach, or the beauty of that magnificent view of Chicago.

I never tire of that view of the city across the drink.  But I see it differently now.  You don’t have to give something up, when there’s always something else within reach.


#TellHisStory: Angels Among Us

tellhisstory-badgeI have told this story numerous times.  I have also actually written about it, but was never quite satisfied with it.  Not to mention I have lost the original draft as I copied it from one computer to the next to a disc I must have misplaced from one move or another.

So when I came across #TellHisStory on the blog of Jennifer Dukes Lee, I knew that it was time, I now had the ending to this story.

It was late one Wednesday night in October 1999.  I had just put my four-year-old twins to bed, and I was in the kitchen cleaning up when the phone rang.  It stopped me dead in my tracks, I just knew it was one of those calls that would define this moment in time.  As much as I dreaded it, I had to answer it.  It was my sister.  She tried to sound calm and casual, but as the oldest, there was no easy way to relay the following message to her youngest sibling:

“Hey Carrie…it’s Debbie.  Mom wanted me to call you to let you know that Dad is in the hospital, he had a heart attack.  He’s ok for now, but they have to run some tests on him.”  I asked some questions and found out more about the situation.  Him and my mom were just both here babysitting for me on Sunday.  Come to find out, he more than likely had a heart attack while he was here and just took an aspirin and went home.  My sister and I tried to make light of the fact that he was researching his symptoms on the Internet, and still going to work each day.  But by Wednesday, my mom said that he was looking a little gray, and instead of going to work, he went to the clinic, and they immediately admitted him to the hospital.  My sister ended the call, by letting me know she would keep me posted.  Surprisingly, I slept ok that night.  It was the next day that reality came crashing down.

With two four year olds, I stayed busy.  But my mind kept wandering to the land of what ifs?  I was a wreck all day, periodically wiping tears from my eyes as I thought of my mom being alone if something were to happen to my dad.  They did everything together.  During the day I had gotten word that they would be doing an angioplasty on Friday.  By Thursday night, I was exhausted with worry and as I lay in bed all I could do was pray, and the Lord met me right there with an awesome vision and peace that passes all understanding.  The Lord showed me a vision of my dad lying in his hospital bed, and I saw on each side of him, these beautiful angels.  I couldn’t see their faces; they had their backs to me and were facing my dad.  They had these soft, feathery, white wings and long flowing white robes.  Their hair was long and golden, but for some reason I knew they were male.  They each had a hand on my dad’s chest, as he lay there with a peaceful expression on his face.  As fast and clear as the vision appeared, it vanished abruptly like turning off the TV.  But I had a smile on my face and a peace knowing that whatever would happen tomorrow, it would be ok.

The next morning I received a call from my brother.  He’s the second oldest.  As a teenager, he clashed with my dad on several occasions.  It wasn’t until my brother became a father himself that him and my dad shared a mutual respect for each other.  One would never suspect the turbulent relationship they had as he was growing up.  My brother is an awesome dad, he’s a tall guy standing 6’ 3” and is covered in tattoos, that’s what he does, he’s a tattoo artist.  He was with my mom as they did the angioplasty.  He called to let me know, that they were unable to do it, because my dad’s arteries were so blocked, they had to schedule an emergency open-heart surgery.  My mom and brother actually saw how badly blocked the arteries were.  My mom wanted all of us kids there at the hospital.  I could hear in his voice how serious this was and that he was a little shook-up.  Even after this call, the vision was still fresh in my mind, and the peace still enveloped me like a favorite blanket.  I couldn’t say that I knew the outcome for sure, I just knew that God was in control of the situation.

We all gathered at the hospital with my mom.  My other brother who lives the farthest away was also there.  When I got to the hospital, I was able to see my dad before the surgery.  As I walked into his room, I got the chills, because it was just like my vision.  He was in good spirits and greeted me with a lighthearted, “what are you doing here?”  I wasn’t a daddy’s girl.  That was our thing, he gave me a hard time whenever I would call to talk to my mom or stop by for a visit.  Once we left his room, we sat in the waiting room for 11 hours.  A nurse took the whole family into a room and explained the surgery step by step.  At some point we knew that machines were the only thing keeping my dad alive…well not the only thing.  I was reminded of God’s awesomeness and how He created these bodies.  But through modern technology, and the wisdom God imparts to the doctors, mere humans are able to repair His creation.

My dad came out of that surgery and recovered in record time.  He also changed his lifestyle and ate healthier and exercised.  He rode his bike, played tennis, and golf, and walked in numerous 5K walks, always placing in the top three for his age group.  He also went on to be a volunteer at the hospital with the Mended Hearts program, where he was able to talk to families as their loved ones faced the same surgery he recovered from.  He was two months shy of his 60th birthday when he had his surgery.  His mother also had a heart attack at 60, but unfortunately, she passed away.

While I was visiting with my dad as he was recovering, I told him about my vision, just to see if he happened to see the angels.  He didn’t.  But he did tell me that the night before the surgery, he just said, “Lord, it’s in your hands now.”  Which was ironic for my dad to be so brief, since he loved to talk.  But he knew that was all he could do.

Fast forward 13 years later and its another October evening, 2012.  It feels like déjà vu, but it’s not…oh how I wish it were.  My sister has made another call, this time she ends it with, “Carrie…it doesn’t look good.”  Later that night, she calls back and tells us that my dad had passed away.

We get through the blur of the days leading up to the funeral.  We gain strength from each other as we sit through the full military burial, which is always beautiful, yet emotional.  My dad was in the army and very active with the Veterans.  We all still miss him everyday.  I’m reminded of little things out of the blue that let me know grieving is a bit of a process.  Even now, as I am able to finish this story, the tears are flowing, but they are healing me.  God has revived this story within me, to remind me of that vision I had.  That vision wasn’t meant just for that day 13 years ago.  God wants me to draw hope and strength from it today.  I have no doubt that those two angels were there to welcome my dad and were glad to see him.  I am also sure that they are present among us in my families’ lives, though we don’t see them, as we all deal with our grief in our own way.  I know those same angels must be walking alongside my mom each day as she is able to go on with her life, and have a lot of good days.  Especially those days when we share memories of my dad that can only make us laugh.  I realize now why this story was never written completely…because it wasn’t finished until now.

Five Minute Friday: Story


Five Minute Friday was started by Lisa-Jo Baker about a year ago, where hundreds of people write for five minutes flat on the same prompt that she posts on her blog at 1 minute past midnight EST every Friday.  She describes it as a writing flash mob.  I’m still trying to get used to the idea of “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”

If you want to join in, click on the Five Minute Friday icon at the left for all the details.

Here we go…



I love a good story, with its many twists and turns and unique characters.  Especially when an author uses their words like an artist uses a paintbrush.  With every stroke the story unfolds as a beautiful picture comes to life on the canvas.  Some days I read a book and I can’t put it down, saying to myself “just one more chapter, just one more chapter.”

My life is a story that is not yet finished.  Each day is a new page, each year a new chapter.  Even though I am surrounded by unique characters, and sometimes the twists and turns are so surprising, I don’t find myself so eager to experience the next chapter.  But I cannot put this story down, and say that’s the last chapter, I don’t want to read anymore.  I need to continue to turn each page, each day, and read it carefully so that I understand what is being said, follow where the story will continue, or anticipate when it might veer off into an unexpected journey.  I need to savor the interaction with the characters, because in any chapter they may move away or just be gone.  I need to live my story in such a way, that the characters I leave behind will want to tell my story again and again.  That they will smile and laugh when they remember what a character I was. I don’t know when the end of my story will be, but when the Author is finished, I hope He will say, “now that was a good story.”


Blizzard of 2011

It started Tuesday afternoon at about 1 p.m.  The snow did not stop falling and blowing (30 – 40 mph) until Noon on Wednesday (today), leaving 19 inches of snow with 3 – 5 foot drifts.  This is the 3rd largest blizzard in our area.

My mom always talks about the blizzard of ’67.  It was my sister’s 4th birthday, I wasn’t born yet.  But she spent the day cooking and cleaning and preparing for a birthday party, she was unaware of the snow falling until my dad walked in from work late that evening, covered in snow.  The whole issue with that blizzard is that no one knew it was coming, so it paralyzed many areas.  With this storm we knew it was coming, the weatherman had been talking about it since last week and gave everyone plenty of time to prepare.  Those who weren’t prepared probably just chose not to believe it was coming.  With history repeating itself, Elijah’s birthday is today, with the blizzard coming to an end in the afternoon, I made sure I was fully prepared to have a birthday celebration at home.  Monday we went to the store to stock up on food and stuff.  Tuesday, I baked the cakes and cooked his favorite dinner (Italian Beef sandwiches), just in case we lost power.  With the way the storm was coming in, the worst of it hit us while we slept.  Not taking any chances I also made a pot of coffee before I went to bed.  If we lost power I could still heat things up on the stove.  I also cranked up our heat so it would be nice and warm in the event the power went out in the middle of the night.  Thankfully we did not experience any major difficulties.

This morning we all went out to shovel and got some welcomed help from a neighbor with a snow blower.  Cook, Joshua and Olivia went to her friend’s house the next block over to help her shovel out, and helped another lady whose husband was out-of-town.  They had fun helping.  After that Elijah had his cake and opened his presents and we’ve just been hangin’ out inside enjoying this quiet lazy day.  As Elijah is known for saying, he summed up the day as, “the best day EVER!!”

This is what our backyard looked like before we went to bed, and then what it looked like when we woke up in the morning.

Being so close to Chicago, I have been watching the news and seeing what they are dealing with in the city.  Last night they closed down the major street that runs right along the lake called Lake Shore Drive (LSD).  This was after 3 accidents occurred, but not in time to prevent 900 drivers from being stranded.  Emergency crews were able to get the people to safety leaving their cars stranded.  I have never seen anything like it!!  Lake Shore Drive looked like a parking lot with cars buried and stuck between snow drifts.  Today they have crews out there to dig the cars out and tow them away, there’s about 200 cars left to remove.  I am so thankful that I didn’t have to be anywhere or try to get home like so many people experienced.

Even though the snow has stopped and some people are slowly getting dug out, I don’t know that the worst is over.  Tonight and tomorrow we will be experiencing dangerous wind chills of 25 to 35 degrees below zero.  One thing we can say for sure is, the snow isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.  But hey…I like snow…right?!?!  Anniehow!

Photos by Olivia Jakira