Reader Appreciation Award

Thanks to Renee Spindle for nominating me for the Reader’s Appreciation Award. I am honored to accept the award and pay it forward…Here are my nominations for the Reader Appreciation Award:

1. Trifatherhood is written by a father as a letter to his kids. He is a triathlete and his observations are interesting coming from a father’s point of view.

2. Simplify2X I love the concept, photos and look of the site. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

3. Kristen Lamb’s Blog Not that she needs more readers, but there is a reason why this is a popular blog among writers. Check it out. Great advice and tips for writers.

4. Renee’s Revelings I love the personal stories and feel of Renee’s posts.

5. Me and My Muppet Quirky and silly, yes! Only from the mind of a writer! If you need a good laugh, go visit and see where they will go next.

6. Alenas Life Calendar style blog, easy to read and something different everyday. She mixes it up. Love her latest book review.

Now it’s your turn to nominate your favorites! Recipients of this award should nominate six of their favorites, copy the Award logo onto their site and acknowledge the one who nominated you!

There are many more that I love to read. More to come…

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Daisy Dash 5 K– Life Lessons and Paying it Forwar

By Diane Hiller

Thank you Daisy Dash, for reminding me about the rules of life. I only have one complaint. What’s with all the hills? Oh that’s right, we live in Clarendon Hills.  I’m the one in the middle of the photo with the white hat, gasping for air to get to the finish line.

It’s not like I’m making excuses or anything but I’m not an avid runner or athlete. Before training, I was running about two miles once or twice a week in the summer only. I started training about four weeks ago doing 8-11 miles a week and was injured two weeks into it. I was told to get an x-ray (which I didn’t) and no more running until the race (which I did.) So I toughed it out and ran today but did terribly.

It’s funny but I really don’t feel so bad about it. At least I’m able to run and finish a race. I like to run because it is hard for me. It makes other areas of my life easier to get through because of the discipline of running.

I was in a workshop downtown recently for grant writing. I was speaking to a woman next to me about the economy and how hard it is right now, with lots of roadblocks for nonprofits and for many people and families, as well.  She was from an organization on the south side of Chicago and knew a thing or two about roadblocks. But instead of agreeing with me or chiming in herself, she put her hand on mine and said, “Stop thinking of them as road blocks, they are opportunities for you that are opening up and you are lucky to have them.”

I remembered her words as I struggled today to finish the race. I realized my running parallels life in so many ways, I decided to share list of do’s and don’ts:

  1. If you can’t run, walk for a while. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail to live up to your expectations. Walk then run but don’t give up just because it’s hard.
  2. When an outstretched hand offers you water, take it. You don’t know where or if the next one is coming. Oh, and don’t forget to run through the sprinkler too, it will cool you off and makes you feel like a kid again. Accept kindness and laugh once in a while. Don’t take life too seriously.
  3. Smile and thank the volunteers in the race. Giving is as good as getting so don’t forget to pay it back in some way. Volunteer for something in your community that may not be the charity “du jour” but could really use your help.
  4.  Pay attention to road blocks on the route. They are there to guide us in the right direction. We think our road blocks in life are stopping us, but they are really there to open up opportunities for change and growth. My workshop friend was right.
  5. Even though you train and see success around the bend, you may get injured running. No matter how prepared you think you are.  Life is going to throw you a curveball. Be flexible and roll with it. Sometimes life isn’t fair, deal with it and move on.
  6. When life hands you lemons…take a big bite, spit out the seeds and be glad you are alive to enjoy another beautiful day in paradise!

 

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It’s Not Your Mother’s McDonalds

by Diane Hiller

I remember once every few months, growing up, my parents would treat us to a trip to McDonalds for hamburgers, fries and chocolate shakes. We didn’t go often; my mother home cooked most of our meals. It was the 1960’s and eating out was a novelty. You had expensive restaurants, breakfast restaurants, the neighborhood pizza parlor and McDonalds which were not on every block as they are today.  With a family of two adults and four children, that left pizza or McDonalds for the occasional treat for dinner.

I was a picky eater and so was my mother, in those days at McDonalds if you had a special order, it was a big deal. Don’t ask me why, but I used to eat plain hamburgers with pickles only (really?) and my mother, plain cheeseburgers. We would order and wait− and wait. The people behind us were never very happy about our special requests slowing up their orders. Sorry about that.

Fast forward to my trip downtown Chicago to a special Mothers Nutrition and Wellness Workshop sponsored by McDonalds. I was invited to attend, as a member of the blogging/media community they were trying to reach. It was held at the Rock ‘n Roll McDonalds, which can serve 300 patrons and is one of the busiest McDonalds locations. It commemorates their 50th Anniversary in business. Looking around, its sleek look and leather seating certainly didn’t resemble the McDonalds Restaurants I grew up with.

We were given a free lunch, a swag bag with gift card, coupons and pedometer, to name a few of the items used, to entice us to attend, on this very rainy Thursday afternoon.  It was moderated by a nutritionist for McDonalds, Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, who detailed their efforts to supply healthier alternatives for children and adults.

Sylvia introduced their new products that contain fresh blueberries, passing out samples of their new Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal. We were supplied with nutritional information on all of their products, asked to guess how many cups of vegetables are in their Premium Salad (3 cups) and given options for substitutes such as blueberries instead of fries. McDonalds also now offers a smaller size fry and apple slices in every Happy Meal. Sylvia and her presentation team explained how you can ask for no salt on your fries or no seasoning on your hamburger, substitute a whole grain bun instead of the regular bun, go light on the sauce or mayo or ask for it “on the side.” To cut down on sugar they suggested substituting plain oatmeal with a side of blueberries and to keep your salad on the light side, ask for grilled instead of crispy chicken, low-fat dressing, using only half the packet. Fat-free chocolate milk and 100% apple juice are also available. Special orders; they promised would be made to order quickly, and with a smile.

The reason for this effort and media campaign, In part is due to the backlash aimed at fast-food giants such as McDonalds because of the recent, alarming statistics that are surfacing about the rise in obesity in America. The CDC reports that percentages of overweight children and adolescents in the U.S. have nearly tripled since the early 1970’s. More than one in five children has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and poor academic performance. The National Institute of Health in 2004 cited a study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute published in January, 2004. It reported, “Young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age. Gina Wei, MD, Project Officer for CORDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) stated in their report, “It is important to watch what you eat. Knowing the nutritional content is important. Salads and grilled foods tend to be lower in fat than fried foods.”

Laughter seemed to be the reaction I got from everyone who found out I went to a nutrition workshop at McDonalds.  I was skeptical too and my guard was up because McDonalds has never been associated with healthy food and eating. In spite of this stereo-type and past history, they do seem to have made an effort to react to the demands of consumer groups who want healthier alternatives offered besides the hamburgers, fries and shakes they are famous for.

Their media campaign including these workshops is ramping up. I hope it does inspire some to eat healthier alternatives offered on their menu, if they are regular eaters at McDonalds, because the days of eating out once every few months are over.  We now live in a fast-paced busy world that wants “instant” and “fast” food.  What is evolving is that, healthy options are starting to be demanded and food industry icons such as McDonalds know they need to respond because it’s good for business. Although it is much easier to order a #1 with a soda, with a little extra work, you can find healthier alternatives on the menu. The next step in their effort should be to combine healthy alternatives into one easy “I’ll have a #7 on your healthy menu, please.”

You want nutritional information? Yes, there’s even an app for that, or go to McDonalds.com. No matter what you eat or where you eat out, the old adage: “Everything in Moderation,” is still good advice.

What do you think about healthier eating options at fast-food restaurants?  I would love to hear your comments.

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Memorial Day Remembrances

 By Diane Hiller

I thought It appropriate to re-post this remembrance today.

I found the box of photos on the bottom shelf in a dusty damp corner of the basement. As I leafed through the faded black and white images that were part of the contents marked miscellaneous, I realized I had come across old photos of my father. The pictures were faded and small, but in remarkably good condition even though they were unprotected  and strewn haphazardly among the other items.  I had never seen these photos of him, at his air base in England. He looked like every other G.I. I had seen in pictures. It was hard to believe this was my Dad. He looked so young − they all did.

Other G.I’s were standing next to him or casually sitting on the ground in a fenced in area. Some of them were smoking cigarettes, others had their arms folded and some were smiling at the camera. My father had never mentioned these pictures and so I had no idea who the other men were in the photographs. They were probably fellow mechanics or maybe gunners or pilots on the planes. The fly boys, as Dad called them got the glory, but he didn’t mind, they also had the bigger risks. He had wanted to be a pilot. He was glad now that his mother wouldn’t let him sign up to fly. I wondered how many of those men in the picture made it home safely.

As my father grew older, he would talk more about his war memories, perhaps to make sure this personal history wasn’t forgotten and lost forever. As I have mentioned before, he was stationed on an air base in England called Deopham Greene where he worked on B-17’s.   He recounted how anxious he would feel as he ran out to the field with his buddies to watch the Flying Fortresses limp home from their raids over Germany.  Nervously, they would count each plane as it came back, dreading when the count was short. One day a plane made it all the way back from a raid over Germany with an engine out, only to crash-land and catch fire on the runway. He remembers the horror of pulling the crew out of the wreckage, never forgetting the men they lost that day − men that he had known.

My mother’s father, who was English, fought in World War I. He had suffered from the effects of breathing in mustard gas that the Germans used as a weapon during the war and my grandfather suffered complications from this for his lifetime. My husband’s brother served in Vietnam and we have a nephew who served in the Gulf War.

I realized after closing up the box of photos that every generation of my family since my grandfather has been touched by war, as many families have been. We were lucky and they all came back alive, many did not. Those are the men and women we honor on Memorial Day.

I admit, sometimes I get caught up in other things. I get too busy getting out the Jell-O mold and potato salad recipe; I want a day to relax and an extra day off work. Occasionally, I need to remind myself of the real meaning of the day. Here is what I learned:

The origins of Memorial Day were started when it was a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. Originally called Decoration Day, it was made official on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.

In 1915, A Canadian Army Doctor, John McCrae was at Flanders in Belgium tending to the sick and wounded on the battlefield. He wrote the poem Flanders Field, which is now often recited at Memorial Day services across the country. The poppy is a bright red annual flower whose seed can lay dormant for years in the soil until it is disturbed, and then it germinates and grows. Ironically this is what happened on the battlefields of Flanders. The doctor was moved by the poppies growing amidst all of the death and destruction in the fields. The poem became a symbol of the war and moved two women on two different continents to do something for those affected. Anna Guerin of France and Moina Michael of the U.S. sold artificial poppies to help those impoverished by World War I. The practice of selling poppies is still happening today in many towns by veteran’s organizations. In 1971, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday and was switched from May 30th to the last Monday in May.  In 2000 the White House instituted a National Moment of Remembrance to be held at 3 pm on Memorial Day, to preserve the meaning of what Memorial Day stands for.

Growing up my father always flew an American Flag on holidays and always took us to the services on Memorial Day. Because of that tradition, I have always taken my family to the Memorial Day Parade and services in Hinsdale.  I have been privileged to sit on the dais alongside the war veterans and participate in the services. This Monday, take your children to see these real-life heroes, as they honor their fallen brothers and sisters.

Please join me in remembering those who have fallen by attending a service, flying your flag and visiting a cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of those who died, making the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe and free.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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World War II War Brides: Courage Wasn’t Just on the Battlefield

In honor of Mother’s Day, a love story written by a daughter to her mother.

As I perused the internet one day,  I  stumbled upon a Facebook group called War Brides from World War II. It chronicles the history through ship lists, photos and personal histories of the brides, who made their way over to America and Canada after World War II.  My mother was a War Bride and I instantly felt connected to the people, as I began to to read through some of the stories lovingly re-told on those pages.

My mother and father’s love story , I thought was unique, set against the backdrop of war ravaged England. What I found were many such touching stories of love. I was moved to tears reading some of them.

My father’s eyes would light up reminiscing. He was stationed near the town of Attleborough, England. My mother’s home village. One night my dad and his buddies went to a dance held there.  He was a tall Yank, a Staff Sergeant in the “Mighty Eighth” Air Force, 452nd Bomb Group, Propeller Specialist. My mother was playing the piano, she was a secretary turned ambulance driver due to the casualties of war. He looked across the crowded room and saw her, it was love at first sight. They danced and he later met her parents. They invited him over for Sunday dinners. My parents would talk for hours about their future and all it held. Just as many in love do, except that this was during war when their fate was up in the air, with the buzz bombs and B-17’s.

There were happy times too. Now that the statute of limitations has run out, I can confess. My father used to recount a story I’m hazy about. It had to do with a stolen parachute, a bicycle in the dark and my father pedaling furiously to my mother’s house to proudly present her and her sisters with a silk parachute. This prized possession being made into stockings and blouses soon after that.  Earning points with the family was surely a catalyst for this crime spree.

My parents were married and gave birth to my sister. Then came the end of the war and Dad had to depart with his unit back to the U.S. to be de-mobbed (discharged.) There would be a long absence while my mother went through all of the proper channels to be brought over to America on a ship with other War Brides and their babies. There were tears when she left her family. My granddad hugged her goodbye, slipped her all of his savings and told her, “If things don’t work out, you can always come home my dear.” I’m sure that scene was played out hundreds of times in parlors all across England.

On May Day (May lst) 66 years ago, my mother and sister entered New York Harbor in the dark of night on a War Bride ship. The ship was anchored until morning because of the deep fog.  Sleep was fleeting with the anticipation of the next day and what it would bring. My mother missed her family back home but also missed her new husband who she hadn’t seen in months. What would this new country be like? She didn’t get much sleep that night and remembers the sound of the foghorn bellowing it’s deep eee-ooow all night long.

My mother and sister were among the 70,000 women and children that came over in 1946 with “Operation War Bride.” The G.I.s who married foreigners were promised free passage and citizenship for their new family. Some of the voyages were anything but a vacation at sea. Some of the first ships were not well equipped for the amount of women and babies they housed. There were stories of running out of baby formula and food, overflowing toilets and un-inhabitable conditions on board. On one ship many babies died and the mothers were unjustly blamed for the less than hygienic conditions on board.

The women who took those voyages after the war were starting a new life for themselves and their babies. Before commercial aviation became more accessible, many of them were leaving their families at home possibly never to see them again. My mother was fortunate enough to go back in 1949, but then had to wait another ten years to make the long trek home.

In total, 100,000 war brides left the United Kingdom between 1942 and 1952. The British War Brides were the largest single group of female immigrants to the U.S. When they arrived, they were not ensconced into a larger immigrant group. They were disbursed into American society and went where their husbands went. They were alone. A staggering one million marriages took place between military personnel and foreign nationals during and immediately after World War II.

There were promises made and broken, men who abandoned their new wives, poverty, and the realization to some that their dreams of a land with streets paved with gold didn’t pan out. It took courage to leave their families and country behind. Their lives were changed forever. They were not immediately accepted with open arms in America, the culture difference and accents made it difficult for the women who came over here,  from “over there.”

When we remember the courageous men and women who fought during the war, we shouldn’t forget the courage it took these women who braved the new and unknown in order to start a new life , they influenced their new homeland with their culture, food and customs just as other immigrants had done before and after them.

In spite of the war, a little bit of something good happened along the way. Love blossomed and these immigrant brides, courageously prevailed and in doing so, changed the course of history.

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Max and Honey

Please note the adorably placed paw.

After mouth surgery, Max gets a comforting paw. They needed to pull 11 teeth! The patient is doing fine thanks to great care by his nurse, Honey.

After thinking they were pulling two teeth, I got the call from the vet. Eleven-thirteen needed to come out. We adopted Max in December. The previous owners were moving out-of-town. My only thought at the time of the call was, what were they feeding this dog? Candy? I later found out that these small breeds are prone to tooth problems. I told the vet to go ahead, what was I going to do at that point, say no? Poor little thing,  he was already under anesthesia. After I got off the phone, I put away the vacation brochures.

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Kreativ Blogger Award !

I checked my emails this morning and was so surprised to have gotten a nomination for the Kreativ Blogger Award from one of my fellow bloggers. Thank you Joan!

Joan just started blogging at her new blog site : The Thing About Joan and already has a following. It’s because she really puts creativity and a bit of herself into her posts. The pictures, commentary on life with kids and recipes help make life seem a little more fun.

As part of accepting my award, I would like to thank the academy ( Kreativ Blogger,)I’ve always wanted to say that.   I must name 7 things you might find interesting about me. So here goes:

1. My youngest daughter and I share the same birthday. What a great birthday present!

2. I always hated my middle name. It begins with a “C.” I like it now, age has a way of mellowing you out. Can you guess what it is?

3. I’ve met Jon Bon-Jovi and Barack Obama. Don’t ask me which one I liked meeting more, they’re both very nice, but… I was a huge Bon-Jovi fan.

4. I grew up with three sisters. And there are no male heirs to carry on the family name. I feel guilty I didn’t hyphenate.

5. I once worked in a zoo. ( I know what you’re thinking, no a real zoo)

6. I’m related to Sir Edmund Burke, William the Conqueror’s step-brother and Calamity Jane. My family would agree with the last one.

7. I have always wanted to sing in my husbands band. He won’t let me – I sometimes feel like Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, “Ricky, let me sing in the band!”  I actually think she dressed up once incognito and snuck onstage.

Insert light bulb icon here.

Now it’s my turn. Here are four of my favorite blogs. In no particular order:

1. Renee’s Revelings – Reading Renee’s blog, I feel welcome, as if we are  sitting down and chatting at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee.

2. Breathing Space– When I read Grandmalin’s blog, I feel like I’m somewhere on vacation visiting friends. I always find her posts interesting.

3. The Stanza- A writers blog, I find her posts very thoughtful and her pictures draw you into the story.

4. You Can Just Go. It’s Like Supercuts-I’m not going to lie, Dashley is my daughter. I got her started in blogging recently, she went to college and majored in screen writing. Her blog is quirky and humorous. She posts photos of all different kinds of things she finds interesting, she loves going to estate sales as you can tell from her posts.

Here are the rules for those nominated:

  1. Copy the Kreativ Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  3. List 7 things about you that people might find interesting.
  4. Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Kreativ Blogger Award.
  5. Leave a comment on the blogs you nominate to let them know about the award.

Don’t forget to visit the blogs above and thank you again to Joan! Happy blogging.

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