Friday, April 30, 2010

Bill Austin SEPIA SATURDAY Week 21 Click here to link to others' posts

Bill Austin 1889-1956 

This is my Great Uncle Bill, another Ostrowski, my grandmother Rose’s brother and his wife, Louise in 1944.Check out his white shoes and she in heels. Sometime early in his life as happened all too often in those times Bill may have experienced discrimination toward the Polish because he changed his last name to Austin. Not only that he changed his first name from Walter F to William, no middle name or initial. I can only imagine what went through his head to do this but surely wish I knew the story to share here. Maybe it was just as simple as a wish to fully assimilate—as far as he was concerned he was American. Maybe the Polish last name did not match is idea of being an American. As if I do not have enough to deal with in my genealogy with the changing of the spelling of Ostrowski, Uncle Bill had to go further.

He was born to Frank Ostroski and his second wife, Frances Swartz in Detroit Michigan according to my research. But Frank and Frances moved on to the mines of PA and there they settled; Bill lived in the New Kensington, PA area all his life.

Well my grandma Rose did not care if changed his name to “Yehudi” as she would say; he was her brother and that was that, though she thought it was very silly. When I was learning to spell, I asked her if the name change was because Ostrowski was just too hard to spell , to which she said that Uncle Bill was educated and could read, write and spell. I do not know what schools he attended, or how far he went in school, but she recalled he was the smartest boy in the family. I remember going to visit with my grandmother and my Aunt Virginia to the Anderson St. house where Bill and his wife Louise lived all their life and where she stayed after his death. I was fascinated with that area of our town known as Parnassus, and I imagined that Parnassus was a mythical name. Bill and Louise had no children and so far I do not know Louise’s maiden name. I know that she was my godmother, so identified on my Baptismal Certificate.

I enjoyed our visits to Uncle Bill and Aunt Louise because she always made fresh cold lemonade or freshly squeezed orange juice. My Grandmother would tell her not to bother that we only had a short time to spend, but that was Louise’s hospitality. Louise always had glasses being iced in the refrigerator, so they would be cold; this fascinated me, something no one else did. And more remarkable, Louise lined the glass rims with sugar and served proudly to each of us, even me the kid with gorgeous linen and crochet coasters. Mostly grandma made sure that Bill knew about family events, so anytime anyone had a new addition to the family, a baptism, a confirmation, a graduation whatever, my grandma would visit Bill. I never understood why she didn’t just call him on the phone, but suppose that was her way of being sure that her brother heard the news and would attend the upcoming event. I don’t recall him coming to many of the family gatherings or if he did it was just brief. Perhaps the others were not pleased with his Americanization attempt; my family were all proud of their Polishness.

I found his WWII draft card on showng his residence as the Anderson Street address. At that time he was still using the name Walter Ostrowski. But I learned something else from that. I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I grew up very close with my grandmother, she and I went to the movies every Sunday. In our small town which thrived in the days of the steel mills and the Alcoa Plant, there were three movie theaters. And some Sunday’s she and I would go to two of the theaters.   But we always went to the Liberty first, sometimes they were not showing a movie I preferred, I really liked cowboys and Indians in Technicolor so we had to take in one of those. I found this clipping about Uncle Bill in my grandma’s collection which shows that was his employment; evidently he loaded the films and ran them. This was a newsclip which I love showing the old equipment.  It explains why we always went there first, no matter what was on. I imagine we got free passes. On his WWII draft card Warner Brothers is identified as the owner of the theater, formerly known as the Ritz. I’d thought our three theaters were independently owned. Interesting to learn that Warner Brothers owned theaters across the country and in our little town in PA. This is my limited information about Uncle Bill and Aunt Louise for our  21st week of Sepia posts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week 20 Sepia Saturday My 2nd cousins Roginski's (Click here to go to other Sepia Sat. Posts)

How can it already be  Week 20!   I know I was a late joiner, but the time has really gone along.   This photo is of the children of Great Aunt Veronica Ostrowski (my grandmother’s sister) and Alex Roginsky. I assume this photo was taken approximately 1900’s. What puzzles me is that it shows done by a company out of Chicago, IL and the family lived in PA always far as I know.  The children, all so serious appearing to have the same  barber which was likely Mom's bowl at home, are on the pony, (which also looks serious) Frank and Helen, and then standing left to right August  and Alex. The names are familiar in the Ostrowski line, another Frank (my grandmother’s father) and a Helen (my mother’s name too.) There go the repetitive use of the names. I wonder if it was incumbent on the Polish to name their first born after the maternal father? I believe there was another daughter in this family, Loretta, who may not have yet been born when this was taken.

The only person I recall is Augie, (August). When my Mom died in 2004 Auggie came to the funeral home and wanted to see me as much as anything; this annoyed my jealous evil half brother and his wife to no end, because Auggie arrived at the funeral parlour announcing loudly, “Is Patty here, I want to see Patty!” it was a treat to visit with him and hear his stories including how he was corresponding with an Ostrowski somewhere in Australia and thought he should go visit. Only problem was the person wrote to him in Polish and Augie’s Polish skills did not include reading, so he had to get the letters translated. Augie had  several health problems but still had the funny streak and found  a light hearted story everywhere.  I love that trait of the family.

Augie was in his late 80’s at the time and was annoyed because he could no longer drive his big Cadillac; in fact his kids had to stop him from driving period. Never easy but something we have to do for the safety of others as well as the elders. I heard that since then he had to move from his home in Springdale, Harmar Twshp. PA across the river to be with his son and wife or perhaps it was daughter and son-in-law.

When my aunt Virginia, his cousin died, I heard nothing from him. I do not know if Augie is still alive or not. None of the other Roginski’s are alive to my knowledge. This is another limb on the family tree that has stopped growing unless there are some descendants out there somewhere.

I found these photos in my grandmother's collection.  This last is from the 1940's sometime, noted as taken during one of Frank's furlough's.  Oh but the soldier is another 2nd  cousin, Frank Janosky and his wife who sent this photo calling herself "the blur in the middle" while Alex Roginski is shown on the left.  Typical of so many in the family they needed no chairs, simply squatted and posed.  That does not seem comfortable to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cinderella Pact (Click here to get to author's blog)

After Rove’s book, I needed light reading which I found in the girlie chick book, “The Cinderella Pact” by Sarah Strohmeyer. I had previously read her “The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives” which I reviewed on this blog on February 11, 2009, (  find it at  )  however, I was not impressed with that book and thought that I would never read anything by her again, but I was wrong.

Sarah is one of the writers on the Lipstick Chronicles blog that I follow with relish and glee.....  a group of women mostly mystery writers.    You can check it out at    Besides that she has her own blog  which you can get to  by clicking on the title to this post.    Those are quite enough blog backs for one review. 

  After I read her essay explaining Cinderella which was my all time favorite fairy story, I thought maybe I would enjoy her Cinderella Pact. I wasn’t making the connection with my earlier read, one reason why I have committed to posting my reads on my blog, to track what I like and not, etc. When I saw this book in Barnes and Noble, I also spotted the previous one which made me a bit tentative to this purchase. But what the heck, writers can change, there are different likes and  dislikes depending on moods of readers (especially me) and not everything I write is accepted or liked by everyone or even myself at the same time either.

I enjoyed this book and breezed through it in a few evenings. There is no deep engaging thought or plot, merely a cute, amusing story and that was sufficient for me this time. The introduction is 10 ways to indulge your inner Cinderella; my favorite is “Act like Cinderella. Trill while you do dishes. Invite birds to sit on your fingers, chipmunks to nestle in the folds of your skirts. Do not mind that the neighbors have called your relatives expressing concern. Pity them for they know not that you are a woman of noble birth, kept captive among commoners.” Set in Princeton (Pg. 1) “a magical kingdom with shady tree lined streets and at its center a big castle of a university….,” Nola Devlin, the main character is an overweight editor at Sass magazine who creates the wonderful character of Belinda Apple. Irony pervades as the honchos at Sass contract with Belinda as their feature columnist and Nola as her editor. Nola keeps this deep secret till the end forces her hand and then those who suspected chime, “Oh I knew it all along!” There are several comical happenings as Nola keeps on creating. With her two close friends Nancy and Deb, she enters into a Cinderella Pact to lose weight. Oh haven’t all of us done this with friends and without as we battle our bulges!

I can’t spoil the story but true to Cinderella the book culminates in a grand ball, a sort of fairy Godmother, a prince in waiting, and everyone lives happily ever after. There are no wicked step sisters, sisty uglers, but there is Nola’s very own full sister who also adores Belinda and who through her own choices could qualify as a sisty ugler. This book is about daydreaming and fantasies while working and living life. Her opening line, “We are all Cinderella’s, no matter what our size” grabbed me as well as Belinda’s Guide to Indulging Your Inner Cinderella.

I liked a couple of lines in particular, pg. 43—“daydreaming, the refuge of worry warts” and pg. 45, “buying things because life is short.” That buying and treating self was one of my mantras during my career; a bad meeting sent me right to the mall at lunch time for a purchase of clothing, shoes, cosmetics, didn’t matter. But the most philosophical is on pg. 318, “Why I love life. You come for the love. You stay for the irony!”

This book has been made into a TV Movie on Lifetime, as “Lying to be Perfect.” I will pass this book along to friends to enjoy. It’s a great lose yourself here chic book!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My whimsical blue bottle garden

Sometime back on our travels I noticed somewhere in Arkansas or Louisiana several bottles in a yard on sticks and in the ground as garden art. I think there was a sign "Grandma's bottle garden." I thought it looked cool and always planned to do that someday. I had been saving blue wine bottles for this purpose. But most of the wines I prefer Chardonnay, Pinot noir, merlot, pinot grizio do not come in blue bottles, so progress was slow. And then like many of my ideas, I forgot about it. But I did have these five bottles setting awaiting their spot outside. Jerry thought this was another dumb idea and ignored it as he can do so easily when he is uninterested in my antics.

This week on my pedaling around town voila, someone had beat me to it and had  a display of  arrays of wine bottles of all colors in groupings on their front flower border and near the street on the mowing strip. I pedaled over and got off my bike to take a look recalling, this is something I intended to do and had not gotten around to. Whoever lives there on Main St. right off Maple in town is selling these wine bottle arrangements with dowels for $20 for six and on up, $40 for six blue bottles. Something is wrong here, that is an empty wine bottle!  Who would have thought anyone would buy that? 

Now, I am way ahead of this, I do not need to buy wine bottles, because that is my almost daily beverage of choice and I can empty those easily while enjoying its medicinal effects. I was curious about how they mounted the bottles and if they had soldered them to the dowel. Closer exam showed they only stuck the bottle atop the stick. And I was fixated on how to anchor the bottles onto something so they would not shatter in the winds. There was one quite lovely potted arrangement with white rocks over the top of the pot for $40 as well. No one was home because their little sign by the bottles said, to leave money in the mailbox to purchase them. See here in “Mayberry” we do such things and expect people to be honest. It’s a good place to live. I would have liked to talk to whoever was doing this and offer a supply of future bottles to them, but no one around. I thought they looked way cool and put that on my to do list for this week. So today I sent Jerry scrounging to the garage below and he found 4 fiberglass dowels, one short of my need. But I found an old wooden spoon I'd saved fpr dirt work, burying the spoon into the dirt gave me another dowel.

In a spot outside the bedroom closet window along the front my blue bottle garden is now in bloom. Jerry is still shaking his head, but I feel I accomplished something unique. And what a good way for me to contribute to Earth Week, recycling my own wine bottles. Well I do separate and set them into recycle anyway, but this use is right up my alley. I now will begin to save my other green and tan wine bottles for a bottle garden out back! Just what I needed another reason to open a bottle of wine! And think of it, drought tolerant and never need to fertilize.  A winning arrangement for sure!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Magpie Tales Week 10 (Click here to link to others posts)

Tonette parked her car and raced up the walkway to the big house, hair flying behind her, heels clicking on the concrete, steeling herself for the comments that would spew toward her as soon as she opened the door, comments peppered with the sarcasm that came so naturally to her mother. Time’s tenacious tentacles had her in their grasp again. Oh someone would say, “So glad you could join us” and the tempo of pleasantries would arise, settling down the torrent of accusations that were bound to come later… another commentary about being on time.

Tonette tried, she really did, but tempus fugit was not her friend, tempus FU was more like it.  She was absolutely inept at being on time. Inept, there was one of those words that came at her out of her mind, remnants from years of Mom’s commentary. Despite all the self help books she had studied, despite all the positive vibes she sent herself, Tonette still was plagued by nagging critical diatribe that fell like rain every time she visited Mom, the caustic words burrowing deep into her. Time would diminish the sting but the sarcastic seeds entered her mind and soul and spread their roots, thriving like unwatered cacti, waiting to prick at her heart in unexpected moments.

Tonight she was already 30 minutes late for the gala that Mom and Floyd, her fourth husband, were hosting to introduce the newly elected Congressman to family and friends. For Tonette, a mandatory appearance at one of Mom’s events always conflicted with a late meeting at the office or with a new client who had to take just one more moment; why did she schedule so tightly sabotaging her own efforts. Time waits for no one, certainly not for Tonette.

The jazz quartet was playing “Time After Time” and Mom was dressed in glorious attire for the evening, gorgeous as always, gilded and sparkling, Congressman on one arm, crystal flute filled with champagne in her other hand, swishing through the crowd and raising one eyebrow toward Tonette. “Oh here she is my never timely daughter; let me introduce you…Tonette, Dear, so glad you made it! Where ever have you been this time? Don’t say, we can chat later!” Mom steered toward her. Tonette winced but just as quickly plastered a grin across her lips and tried to project a sparkle with her eyes. Time again, as though she enjoyed this.

The angry exchange would come four days later when she returned to the house to visit with Mom. Why did she do this to herself? This time the piercing of Mom’s shrill words was expected but still hurtful, “who do you think you are, you are impossible, can’t you be on time for once in your life, can’t you think of anyone else, can’t you plan? Buy a watch for God’s sake! Buy an alarm! With your entire staff of secretaries can’t one remind you to keep time…. Why is it asking so much ……” Tonette could not take it anymore and simply picked herself up, saying “Bye Mom, see you later I’m late for a client…”

Three days later, Tonette was moving along in quitting time traffic, as rapidly as she could, down the freeway to the hospital. The call came, as she was just about to leave for the day, “Tonette, your Mom’s been taken to St. Francis…. “Reeling into the lot as the clock on the dashboard ticked off minutes, and turning off the key, Tonette raced out the door and up the walkway to the entrance. Why do they build parking lots so far from the entrances of hospitals? Stopping ever so quickly at the directory Tonette saw ICU 4th floor and sped toward the bank of elevators where several people were waiting. As the elevator doors opened, and people exited, she entered with the others and pushed button 4. At the ICU desk, Tonette gave her name and the nurse directed her to the room, cautioning, “Only the briefest moment, now you don’t have much time to be with her, “As Tonette dashed for the room, she thought, this time I am not late…….”She entered the room and saw her mother, hooked to the respirator and IV tubes, but in her hands, a pocket watch……’ Floyd sat in the corner, head down, “Tonette, she doesn’t have much time……but she has been waiting for you…”

And this friends, has been my almost untimely whack at the prompt for the week....time and clocks and did we already come to week 10....Clocks and watches remind me of Aunt Jinx who wanted to be absolutely sure that when she  left this life, Jerry, not me, would take all the collection of grnad clocks...he did and has..I have a life long unmechanical ability that plagued me with timepieces  all my life.  I could make a watch stop just by putting it on my wrist.  It was not until the quartz watches hit the market that I could wear a wrist watch.  And so Aunt Jinx never wanted me to touch the antique clocks,  "stay away from them before you mess them up, you know how it is with you.....Too much magnetism" 

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Father Lewis S Ball Sepia Saturday 19 (Click here to visit others' on Sepia Saturday)

For this week I show a photo which I treasure, my father and my hero, Lt. Lewis S Ball and Combat Crew 193, First Air Force, First command 113th Army Air Force Base (Wing), D squadron, Unit Combat Crew 193, Charleston, South Carolina  

My father is standing, back row far left, hand in pocket, pilot, 2 Lt. Lewis S Ball, standing at the far right, Eugene de Palma, bombadier and Flight Officer; and Raymond Pachucki, front row 2nd on the left, radio operator. The other men are F/O Allyn A Pierce Harris Co., TX; F/O Allen Cantor Wayne Co, MI; Sgt. David R. Hackney Milwaukee Co. WI; Sgt. John P. Flynn NewYork Co, NY; Cpl. Calvin J. Arent Berrien Co, MI; Sgt. Charles V. Brewer ; Sgt. Theodore Hirsch Berrien Co., MI. Believe me I have searched and searched to find any trace of remaining families, etc.

This fatal flight would have been nearly the last flight before this crew would have shipped to England for the war effort. Although I have all the names of the men on this flight, from the accident reports and records I have obtained in my search for information over the years. I can match only three to the men in the photo. Just months ago I was contacted by the nephew of Eugene de Palma, bombardier and matched that name and face. Three years ago I was contacted by the niece of Raymond Pahucki and identified him in the photo.

I have written about my father other places on this blog, explaining how I never knew him. (See my sidebar for the blog posts in the heading "Somethings about my Father".)  He was a pilot in the US Army Air Corp and he and his entire crew disappeared on a flight that should have but never returned from Nassau, Bahamas to Charleston, SC. June 20, 1944, never a trace found of the plane or crew. I came to earth in November and he left that June, although he knew of my (or someone’s imminence).

I am one of what were 185,000appx. USA war orphans, so designated as "orphans"  by our government, those of us who lost our fathers in World War II. I belong to an organization known as the American World War II Orphans Network (AWON) and I have a tribute to my father on their website. If you want to read more you can access that at     It  was not until after 2004 and my increased activity in searching for and finding information that I began to really talk abou my dad. All my years growing up there was no discussion; I thought my family was wierd but I learned that was the way of that generation, silence, all too frequently.  One of my AWON colleagues has written a poem, "The Wall of Silence" which describes those feelings.   I hold deep gratitude to AWON for uniting me with others who clearly understood how different we were and for removing that reluctance to mention.  Even today sometimes people's eyes glaze over, they don't want to hear nor to listen, but I think Sepia Readers might be interested in just a sliver of this history.   

Louie, as he was called, was born April 3, 1922 to Frank Ball and Anna Kudzia Ball in Harwick, PA, the middle of three sons. They were a stalwart Polish family and devout Roman Catholics. Louie was a Boy Scout and a member of the championship first aid team of PA. Louie worked at Duquesne Light Company, Harwick mine before enlisting in the Army, against the wishes of his mother. I was told by Uncle Henry  and others that my father was exceptionally smart and that he was the favorite son.  They say Louie had the best sense of humor and was full of fun. The  3 brothers are in this photo Eddie, Henry and Louie.  I remember very little of Frank Ball, my father's father who died when I was maybe  7 years old.  I had infrequent contact with my grandmother Anna Ball. 
Lewis (Lou)  and my mother, Helen Pauline Konesky married at Maxwell Field, AL June 12, 1943; this is their wedding picture.  This was to the consternation of his mother, my Grandmother Anna Ball who was adamant that the eldest son, (Louie’s brother Edward who was also off in the Army) should have married first.  Perhaps if Louie had lived Anna would have accepted Helen and Helen would have  gotten along with Anna.  I like to think that.  There are many reasons for the bad blood between my mother, the surviving widow who remarried, and my Grandmother Ball, grieving mother who went to her grave at 80 still believing that someday Louie would be found and come home. For these and other reasons I hardly knew my father’s family even though we lived close in PA. I was blessed though to have contact with Uncle Henry and his family( my father’s baby brother) who lived in CA as we did; we lost Uncle Henry in 2008. Today again thanks to the internet and my AWON tribute, I am in contact with my cousins, daughters of Uncle Eddie after years of silence. It is interesting to hear what they know of Grandma Ball.   The photo below was taken sometime in early 1944 with my Dad home for a short leave:Left to right, Henry,Mother Anna, Lou, and Frank Ball.  My grandmother Anna gave me this old photo when I left for California so long ago.

But for this Sepia Saturday the photos will suffice. I have assembled a huge scrapbook about my father and am working on a memoir about my life growing up and surviving without a father, never knowing anyone else like me until I joined AWON in 1990’s, always wondering what if, and yet not having many answers until my mom died in 2004 and we found a suitcase full of letters and paperwork. But as I said this is not my story this Sepia, this is only to share some photos of my dad.

Dad was stationed for a time at Ft. McCoy, WI, not far from where we live today. I am amazed when I trace his steps and see the same places today that he saw so may years ago.  He loved to take photographs and in that suitcase in Mom’s closet I found this one taken in February 1943 outside their barracks at Ft. McCoy. It was developed across the river here in La Crosse, WI.  These are 4 of  dad's friends in his writing left to right, Tony, Jackson, Joe, Jerry,  Looks like they are all enjoying a smoke!  And here outside the barracks  also at Ft. McCoy, prior to the time he  left for pilot training, Lou (my dad) and Jobe.  No last names and no way to identify these men. 
I close this post with a quote from one of my father's pilot training books.  It was a dedication to the brave men who were pilots during that siege of a time, warning them that they were not immortal and what might be ahead.  I use this line every time I post something about my dad---... their memory becomes a treasure...he holds the sky...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An excellent read: Courage and Consequence by Karl Rove

Karl Rove’s new book, “Courage and Consequence” subtitled, My Life as a Conservative in the Fight is the best political book I have read since “Partners in Power” which I rReviewed April 18, 2009 on this blog I have always admired Rove whom I considered a brilliant strategist and analyst. The guff he takes from the mainstream media corroborates his brilliance which they abhor. I enjoy his columns now in the Wall St. Journal and hearing his commentary on Fox News. I try not to purchase a book as soon as it is released, but I did with this one. It’s not for light readers or browsers at 520 pages and another 53 pages of notes in the back, but each evening I so looked forward to getting back to Karl. At times he uses words that sent me to the dictionary and even then I could not always find a definition, like “vexillology” on page 3. Another stumper was “peloton” on page 386.

This book heartily endorses and praises GW Bush, his decisions, and affirms those policies. But it also reveals Karl’s thoughts and background. There are mistakes which he freely admits and fully owns and acknowledges. He says on pg. 33 “politics is about ideals” and I absolutely agree. But in the epilogue he says “at its best politics is about advancing human dignity and prosperity.”

There is enough about his early years, growing up and schooling to show how he became so analytical in approach to his work. His early involvement with his high school debate team and the early seeds of nerdiness planted back then bloom into ability to think deeply later. I was enthralled with those analytical explanations because they resonated with what I used in my career, quality over quantity, analysis of data, accuracy of data, assumptions based on facts, mathematical projections based on assumptions, etc. There is little about his 2nd and current wife and son, but then there is also little about his failed first marriage so if anyone is expecting such personal details this is not the book for them.

He reveals in broad references how badly his family and especially his wife, Darby, were affected during his siege by the special prosecutor. Karl mentions how Darby and her friends prayed fervently and focused their “Grace Group” on things over which we have not control in this life. (Pg. 357--). Karl acknowledges his own struggle….” I could relate to the lack of control, but I was having a bit harder time discovering the presence of God in this particular challenge, even as I believed on a deep level that He was in control of my life and events. But it was a distant knowledge, more head than heart, more rote than real and not as strong a source of comfort to me as it was to Darby.” I underline those words because I find them an excellent summary of how one can feel trying to hold onto faith when the world turns upside down. That is one example of the excellent writing throughout this book.

There is a small section of photos of young Karl, parents, and others. For those of us that like, are and have background in and retain interest in government and politics, this is the book to read. On Pg. 55 he discusses measurement and goals and Pg 79, “elections are about differences.”

I have recommended that all my political friends, especially those involved in campaigns now read Karl. He shares his strategies and issues and includes a step by step guide on how to win a campaign. The strategy on how to track and target voters and donors is excellent advice. I underlined and made four pages of reference notes as I read; phrases or issues I would want to re-read or look at again and again. From his early years with the College Republicans he begins associations and friendships with future power players, including the Bush family. He accepts and truly understands decisions and different personalities. From his early years with Lee Atwater, he writes “That was Lee and you took him on his terms or not at all…….loneliness may be the normal state of genius. And Lee was a genius at politics, at understanding people and what would move them. “

While analysis is necessary there are times to make a decision and go with the gut. Page 43 reveals one of Karl’s first such opportunities when he was recruited by Bill Royall to be Virginia’s GOP finance director. At the time he was working at the Republican National Committee and quite satisfied. There are people who agonize and tweedle-dee decisions to death under the guise of analysis and getting all the facts, Karl knew this was not the time for that. He made his decision overnight and that 1976 decision opened many doors. Ability to recognize the hand of providence in play is essential to progress; hesitation or staying with the familiar leads down the path of complacency and often disaster and regret.

On pg 227 he discusses the tension between loyalty and ability in appointments, and in hiring and as staff traits. “Both matter a great deal. But if you can’t have both, I learned it was important to go with ability and work to foster loyalty. In a firefight, I’d rather have an able soldier next to me than an ineffective friend.” I recognized a similarity with my hiring decisions during my career in state government; I always went for the ability, the one with the smarts. Anybody can be surrounded by dummies. Often I found that in many departments and legislative committees, loyalty was the deciding factor. There is nothing worse to me than a dumb political appointee or dumb executive steering programs, and I encountered several in my career.

His chapter “Thinking Big” is a total defense of Bush. Pages 410—413 remind us of Bush’s warnings and stymied efforts to avoid the Freddie and Fannie collapse brought on by the democrats and Frank and Dodd. Pages 459—address the mistakes during Katrina, again something the press blamed Bush for, but the source was the corruption in Louisiana from the governor to the mayor of New Orleans neither of whom can agree on whose responsibility is the safety of New Orleans. . He says after it all, “Louisiana is Louisiana.”Page 467 describes validation he receives from Bill Clinton who tells him he will never get the credit he is due.

Most interesting to me is the Chapter (pg 344--) about his nightmare with the special prosecutor over the Valeria Plan/Joe Wilson fiasco. He writes, “Chris Mathews did not know squat but stirred the pot.” While I was thankful when Karl was exonerated, I always thought he had been deserted by Bush & Co. but there is absolutely no validation of my though in this writing. Reading the details about how Karl survived the hunt was most interesting.

I laughed at his fear of being sentenced to perpetual meetings on pg. 362 and his ruminating about McCain (pgs 386--). He closes with the admission that through his time spent in the white house he learned what he didn’t know really and then mentions traits of consequential presidents. This book has a permanent place in my library.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magpie Tales Week 9 (Click here to visit others through the portal)

The women said, “Slap on a little lipstick and you’ll feel better!” All the movie stars had red lips. All the beautiful women in the movies and in those magazines we looked at over the counter at the Sun Drug or at JCMurphy Five and Dime.  Betty Ann was a lucky one; her older sisters, Arlene and  Delores bought those magazines and she could see them at home.  Never mind TV it was black and white back in those days, lips didn't matter.

I could not wait to get my first lipstick; I remember it today so many years ago, fifty or so. It was Tangee Natural and gave a slight tint to the lips. Not so much as a real color to say, “Read my lips.” Tangee was our initial step to the world of makeup and glamour that surely awaited us beyond our early teen years. It was the only selection all our mothers allowed, the tube of preference. Did every mother own stock in that company? Tangee was not much more than a slightly tinted Chapstick, but we wore it with pride.

The Ridge Avenue drugstore up the hill from our junior high school displayed delicious devilish Revlon lipsticks. We girls of the 50’s looked longingly at the tubes on display. We busied ourselves and saved our dollars from babysitting until we could buy our first very own tube of something scrumptious, a vibrant red “Cherries in the Snow.” We stashed those cherished tubes in our lockers at school, slathering our lips as soon as we arrived at school. Blowing kisses to each other and to the occasional boy with our garnished lips. By the time we headed home our lips were back to Tangee Natural and all was well. Ahh we were on our road to glamour.

Until, the parent teacher conference when Mrs. Terwilligear said, “Why does Patty slather her lips with that atrocious red paint? Why don’t you get her a tube of Tangee Natural? It would be so much more becoming than that painted mouth”

None of us, least of all yours truly ever imagined we’d be outed by our Eighth Grade English teacher. We lived in our fantasy world of “what happens at school stays at school", years before Las Vegas adopted the phrase as its motto. My mother was shocked or maybe not; but she was never one to beat around the bush, she confronted me as soon as she returned home “So where were you getting that red lipstick you’ve been wearing at school?” Busted and too sheepish to deny it. Denial would have meant a story and I never could react fast enough to Mom to make something up. End of my ruby reds; didn’t matter that it was my own babysitting money earned for such a purchase as this; down with the tube! Afraid to test my independence further, I surrendered my tube of Cherries in the Snow to Mom the next day after school as ordered. My friends and I were up the same creek in the same boat and so we regressed to Tangee and secretly savored that day when we might be able to have those red lips again! That walk home from school the next day was a sad one for all three of us, “What do you think your mom will do with the lipstick?” " I don't know and I'm not going to ask, the sooner she gets over it the better for me." 

Today I smile recalling my early episode of the lips. I have an array of lipsticks, few of which I ever remember to smooth on. When I do treat my lips to something like this, my new favorite Black Honey, which is lighter, more neutral on my lips than in the tube, the lipstick is soon gone with the first cup of coffee or bite of toast. I seldom keep lipstick on. Actually I use a gloss or a lip balm for the moisture; where is that Tangee natural when I would like to use it! We have come so far that the circle is complete and I would be willing to close the loop back at the beginning.

This has been my girly tale  based on actual life events; I was there and lived to tell about  it!  This is week 9 of our Magpie  endeavor,  created by Willow and enjoyed by many of us out here in the blogosphere.  To see how others used this week's photo prompt, click above on the title and  then click on any of the other Magpie participants.     I', loving this new Magpie Stamp...though it  looks more like a crow or raven to me :)

Holy Hilarity, The Bible in 50 Words, Lanesboro,MN

Here is the front of yesterday's  bulletin,  Prince of Peace Lutheran church here in La Crescent where I've been attending (more later on my church search in MN) as we celebrated  Holy Hilarity Sunday.  I had never heard of this but it has  been their tradition for the past eight years, held the Sunday after Easter.  They say that long long ago in many Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant  countries Easter Monday was observed as a day of "joy and laughter."  It was the time to laugh at the devil because Christ had risen, God's supreme joke played on the old master, Death.  This practice evolved into the Bright Sunday celebrations on the weekend following Easter.  All that Lenten deprivation fades into joy.

Serendipity in action again as I had posted about my great Aunt Mary and her humor and laughter on Sepia Sat.  Aunt Mary would have loved this service as I did.  I have not laughed so hard at one time over and over continuously  for such  a long time.  It was tremendous and did me good! The entire  hour and half was hilarious with corny jokes and stories, jugglers, costumes, mimes, joyous music and presentations.  I admit to being skeptical as to what I might encounter, but from the prelude opening the service with Angie playing ragtime music on the piano to Pastor Mike's introduction ala Old Time Talk radio and Groucho Marx jokes, I was in! Even the young who don't have a clue about Groucho laughed out loud!    As I sat there, I thought that if  a person who never went to church would come to this service they would see true Christian joy and glee!  But then again as I shared with June after the service, a visitor might think everyone was nuts!  Pastor Barb has to be worn out from her miming and expressive costumes and changes.  Costumes and silly hats were tossed into the air to members of the congregation to don  from an  antique trunk  which had belonged to a Swedish immigrant, Thekla in the 1800's who migrated to Chicago, her name stenciled onto it with destination. Several youth and men hauled the wooden trunk  in and out of the sanctuary.  Pastor Barb's duet  with her husband of "I Love to Laugh" a sing along from Mary Poppins was absolutely gleeful and we were filled with the laughter as we sang along.  This is a service I would not want to miss in the future.  Oh and all that laughter generated a potty trip immediately following the service for me!

My happy mood stayed with me all day as I broke out in smiles over nothing at all; it's still here today as I recall corny joke such as typos from Church Bulletins, "Rummage Sale--get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands"  or "The peacemaking meeting had been cancelled due to a conflict."  That last comment would fit the Methodist church I left here in town, but more on that later.  I felt Great Aunt Mary's spirit along with me laughing through the day.

Here I share the Bible in 50 Words, part of what we read yesterday in the service.  I thought this and the  bulletin cover very worth sharing.

We drove our Grey Goose, our new HHR acquired to tow behind the motor home, over to Lanesboro, one of my favorite places. This photo is from February when we still had snow--long gone now to lovely green grass all around.   Lanesboro, MN  is an old town that has been resurrected with crafty artsy places shops and restaurants, but this is the off season with few tourists and the perfect time to visit. Bike trails abound and yesterday was a perfect day to walk along and get ice cream or other refreshments.  My giggles continued when I saw these hand crafted wooden spoons  in the window at one  Lanesboro shop.  Don't they make you smile?  Dancing spoons----& the dish ran away with the spoon!   Jerry commented that while I seemed to be lifted maybe I  was turning beyond the bend with my giggles.   Maybe I still am around that bend , but it's a good feeling. 

Here are just a couple photos  of Lanesbo including its famous waterfall, someone's RV atop the waterfall at another observation point, we were below in the abandoned park and fishing spot.  Its American Legion post #40, which makes it one of the first around was closed; we had not walked that way in the town before so it was a new  site to us.  And it's 1880-s firehall which has now been made into a restaurant.  Our favorite sandwich shop. German, Das Haus has not yet opened for the season so we did not get Reubens on their homemade bread--another time.

  I acquired an old "ooga--aooga"  rubber bulb horn to mount on my trike in one shop.  Watch out now around town as I use my clown horn....hilarity will abound.  Can't wait till I surprise friends with a blast from the past....and then there was Jerry, waiting patiently for me in this candid shot; fittingly he found an open saloon to which we adjourned for a glass pint of  liquid refreshment before heading home on this gorgeous day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sepia Saturday Week 18 Ostrowski Sisters (Click here to view others' posts)

Today I share the oldest photo I have of my beloved maternal Grandma, Rose Ostrowski Kochanowski (1895-1970) with her sisters and brothers, some of Frank Ostrowski’s children. I found this torn and ragged at the bottom of an old suitcase when I cleared my mother’s house in 2004; Mom had written the names on the photo who knows when. I was amazed to discover this and so wish I could have known about it when my grandmother was alive to tell where and when, etc.

This was the wedding of Rose’s brother Joseph to Catherine Buhl (Buehl) in New York. Date unknown. Joseph (1878-1957) is the oldest of Frank’s children from the first wife and appears to have migrated from Poland with his parents. I have not been able to identify the three young girls seated in front. The others are, seated left to right, my Grandma Rose, brother and the groom Joseph Ostrowski, the bride Catherine Buhl (sp?) and brother Ben Ostrowski (1883-1959). Standing are her sister Veronica (Vernie 1892-1961) who married Alex Roginski, brother Walter F known as Bill (1889-1956)who changed his name to Austin, and sister Mary (1891-1964) who married Thomas Janosky.

Rose, Mary, Veronica and Bill were Frank Ostrowski’s children from his second wife, Frances Swartz who was from either Germany or a German occupied part of Poland (1869- 1902). My grandma never distinguished half brothers or sisters; they were all family, all Ostrowskis and that was all that mattered.  By the way my line of Ostrowski's spelled their names with or without the "w" and several other variations... The sisters remained very close throughout their lives. Rose outlived them all except for the baby, Francie whom we saw on previous Sepia. Many Sundays I accompanied my grandma on the bus ride across the river so she could see her sisters Mary and Vernie. Sometimes they made the journey to my grandma’s house, but Aunt Mary’s house was bigger with a formal dining room so most gatherings were there. But my grandma would haul pastries and pies along that she had carefully made the day before. All the sisters could cook, but Rose was the best baker and so these treats were often  her  contribution to most gatherings.

Here are the sisters and their husbands in 1945 during one of Francie Mroz’s visits.

Seated left to right, Mary, Rose, Francie and Vernie; behind them their husbands ( left to right) Tommy Janosky, Teofil Kochanowski, Al Mroz, Alex Roginski.  This is the only photo I have of all the girls and guys together. Notice those old  cars to the side.

I recall little about Great Aunt Vernie except that she became very ill and bedbound at the last; I think she suffered stokes. Aunt Mary remains very vivid in my memories; she was always in a good mood and always smiling. Somehow she found the good and the humorous in everything. Whenever I would act silly or burst out into uncontrollable laughter as a child my grandma would say, “you are just like Mary she thinks everything is funny too!”

Actually whenever I would act out or up as in this photo of me with a purple costume wig and my Grandma Rose in 1961 after Granpap died, she would say, "just like my sister Mary!"  I had decided that we had enough of being sad and that  Granpap would not want us sitting and mourning.  My poor Grandma didn't find a lot to laugh about at the time, so I tried to cheer her up being silly. 

Aunt Mary’s laughter was so contagious that people caught it quickly just being around her. I remember Mary and my grandma washing dishes after a big family dinner and holding their sides doubling over with laughter at the sink. Rose threw her wet dish rag at Mary telling her to “stop making me laugh I am going to wet myself!” That only brought more laughter and my grandma’s mad dash to the bathroom. Today when I get an attack of the giggles I think of my great aunt Mary.

 I don't know how she kept a straight face for this snapshot of their 60th something wedding anniversary, Mary and Tommy Janosky. But he looks like he is about to laugh, maybe expecting something from Mary soon.   Rose kept this photo which featured the cake she had made for them and all the  pink roses.  

In that same suitcase was this old photo of a mystery girl, whom I believe is posed for Communion and who must be one of the Ostrowski's though no one could identify her.  She is certainly serious.   

As a result of these Sepia Saturday posts I have been contacted by some previously unknown relatives in PA, FL and OK; all part of the Ostrowski lineage. They were Googling and found me here. I hope that the same good luck continues so I can resolve more of this puzzle of my family.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Irons and dresses ??

Today’s been a grey wet day; while the rains keep on coming, the grass gets greener and our ground absorbs much needed water. This seems like a good enough day to tackle a shopping expedition.  My Sunbeam iron, purchased in CA at Costco for $25 January 2005 ( this I know because I have found the original booklet and receipt)  has been hinting that its time is about to come to an end—spitting water when it should be heating it to steam, messing up clean clothes and finally offering only the highest heat setting. I iron more now in retirement than I ever did all my years in career land when I dressed for work in suits and the like that required dry cleaning. Back then ironing piled up on the extra bed until I needed something or I ran out of hanging space on the door knobs. But now I iron most everything. I press my cotton t-shirts and occasionally iron pillow cases, always the ones for the guest bedrooms. I do a fair amount of sewing and quilting that involves pressing seams and the like too so it is necessary to have a good iron. My board is up at all times downstairs so the iron can be used whenever needed.

I think back to my childhood in PA when Monday was washday and Tuesday was ironing just like in the nursery rhymes and I had the chore to iron pillowcases, hankerchiefs, underwear and other odd things; it made no sense to me to iron any of that and I would tell my mother that “When I grow up I will only have clothes that do not need to be ironed!” I despised ironing and considered it the highest torture.  Why couldn't people blow their noses into  something that was not ironed just the same!  The nose doesn't care.  Back then ironing was a loathsome task that started by sprinkling clothes, which had been dried on the clothes line—now does that make sense to dry and then wet again? These wet clothes were then rolled, bagged into a dampened pillow case and placed in the freezer to be taken out one at a time to be ironed. Surely this kind of work was dreamt up by the likes of my mother to keep me in slavery. Mom was not interested in my commentary and sat calmly at the mangle pressing sheets while I ironed while  I vocalized constant complaints. If I could drag it out long enough she would be done with mangling and then take over ironing which left me free to pursue my interests. Child labor laws were unrecognized on Catalpa Street despite my protests. So it is all the more odd to me that today I iron willingly and like my clothes to look pressed. My ironing board is up at all times awaiting use.

I had decided that when my Sunbeam gave it up I would replace it with a Rowenta, the best iron on the market to my knowledge. Rowentas are made in Germany and the model I desired has a stainless steel plate, vertical and horizontal steaming, as well as a tiny point to get into crevices and folds. It is the story of my life that a need to purchase replacements never occurs when sales are underway, as when a month or so back Hancock Fabrics featured all Rowentas on sale.

Hancock’s had a 10% off coupon in the recent mailing, and I thought Sam’s Club carried Rowenta so I planned my route. First to Sam’s and then over to Hancocks if needed; both are in the same area, right across the small shopping area from each other. My luck was matching the dreary day; after no seeing an iron in sight at Sam’s I asked an associate, who walked with me to the aisle I’d previously cruised and who then said, “Well we only had one brand, a Rowenta but looks like we have none now.” That figures. So I trudge back out through the liquid sunshine and over to Hancock’s where I found the Rowenta Professional model on sale for $99, but that’s not the one I want. First of all it does not have an automatic shut off, which I consider essential. Although it is advertised as “just perfect for crafters and sewers with no shut off keeping it ready at all times”, this crafter and sewer tends to wander off to other things forgetting and could burn the house down. I’m only a phone call away from distraction at any given time! The model I prefer because I am sure this will be the last iron I have to purchase ever, is $159. Phooey, even with 10% off, that’s up there. I wander around and decide that perhaps I can iron just a week or so longer with the old Sunbeam and by that time maybe there will be other sales.

But I recall that I saw Rowentas at Sears, last year when I was replacing the downstairs vacuum cleaner. Well might as well drive down the road and across the highway to Sears while I’m out and about. Sears is at the mall but today not many are out having done their shopping before Easter. So I park in the back and enter, of course I am at the far end of the store from where the irons are stocked. Let me add that I have recently yet again somehow reinjured a muscle on my right leg along the calf and under the knee and it is highly protesting my walking along today after my Curves workout this morning. But I trudge along and find the irons, not before browsing through the clothing on display.

I have long ago relinquished all hope of finding any apparel to my liking besides my jeans and t shirts and even those get iffy as to fit at times. But when I’m out like today I always check around. In addition to the ever hideous display of women’s clothes, I notice something like a wrap dress, but I stand there in amazement. At one time I wore Dianne von Furstenburg wrap dresses which were quite stylish and fashionable, of gorgeous fabrics. But here are some wrap dresses made from low grade cheap cotton that leave me gaping with mouth wide open and then bring me to laughter.

These “dresses” resemble a poor imitation of the factory dresses that my mother and aunt wore in the 1950’s when they worked at Pittsburgh Plate Glass. I know this because just last year when my aunt passed away and we cleaned out her house, I found several of her old “Du-plate uniforms” which they sewed out of blue chambray and denim for heavier wear and which had lasted down through the ages. I tossed my Mom’s in 2004 when she passed; back then I was amazed to find them stuffed into the back of her closet. The women wore these at work and then in later years at home to clean the house or when they had a dirty chore ahead. This is back in the day when women wore house dresses. My mother and aunt were Teofil’s daughters and never ones to toss out what was not used up, so the dresses lasted years beyond their original purposes. In 2009 the last of these found their way into the estate sale or to the Goodwill store. But here is a copy of the ad of these Sears knock offs of the factory uniforms, which are being sold as something fashionable for today’s juniors to wear. I continue to be amazed at the lack of design ability today and surely Helen and Virginia are laughing from the Beyond. Perhaps they are smiling down in pity that somewhere in India or China underpaid sweat shop workers are sewing factory dresses for today’s fashion conscious young women to wear. I will now be prepared to control my laughter as I begin to see young women wear these cheap imitations of factory dresses.

And by the way I did purchase the Rowenta iron I wanted at Sears, at a lower price than at Hancock’s. The Sunbeam will be on its way to dumpsite burial.  There is just no comparison between the two but here they are; dueling irons.  Really no contest!  A Mercedes next to a Dodge Colt or something less.