Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reflections of a Gold Star Mother

It's been a few years since the call came and I returned home from church to find my children waiting for me.  They had known since before I left for Mass that my son wasn't coming home again.  They took me in the house and sat me in my lazy boy before they told me.

I banged my fist and I cried but it was something I could not change.  It was something I had to accept.  My son's wife and two children returned to the states and the sensitivities between siblings and in-laws was something that had to be overcome.  Everyone's emotions were raw.  We had to wait for the Navy to make the arrangements to get him home to us so that we could take him to his final resting place in The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

Later in the day, two uniformed officers from the Navy came to tell me what I had already heard through a telephone call from my daughter-in-law in England to an older son.  They informed me that I would be contacted to sign paperwork since I was second beneficiary.  Of course, I knew that my daughter-in-law would be the first contact but I was grateful to be recognized.

I didn't go to the cemetery until his headstone was put up.  I didn't want to go visit an upturned earthen spot in the ground.  I go from time to time to put fresh flowers on the grave.  Each year the Veterans put Christmas Wreaths on the graves for Christmas.

It's been a topsy turvy few years going between days of deep depression and days of doing what needed to be done for the rest of the remaining family.  As a member of the BPOE, Elks, I continue to proudly serve our Veterans at luncheons and services held in their honor.

The Navy investigation into the incidence that took my son's life concluded that he died from accidental causes and that he died while on active duty.  I had proudly flown a blue star pendant in my window while he was serving and now a gold star pendant to replace it for special days such as Memorial Day, The Fourth of July and Veteran's Day.  At our home Old Glory flies from May to November between Memorial Day and Veterans Day to lend support to our troops and this great nation. 

I applied to the Department of Defense for my Gold Star Pin and have received it to wear proudly on all National Holidays.  All in all, I have accepted the fact that my son isn't coming home but I can't help feeling emotional every time I hear a patriotic song or see a commercial concerning worthy veterans who have returned in need of help.

I went to the Memorial Day Service two years ago at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies as I had observed the Veteran's Day Service the previous November from a spot on the hill near my son's grave who is buried in a direct line with the huge flag pole in section 1.

Last year my son's wife and children planted a Cherry Tree in the yard next to our American Legion Post 77 in memory of my son and his years of residence in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania before leaving to join the Navy.

This is a society that I never wanted to join even though I always knew the possibility was looming in the background.  I grew up to honor Gold Star Mothers as my family was always linked to our Legion Post and I knew many of them personally from World War II.  My heart is healing but there will always be a spot there that longs to have my son home again.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Planters In The Works

A few years ago, I had my box planters and hanging planters well on the way by this time.  Then I scrapped everything from previous years and started over.  I  moved my box planters from the front porch to the railing on the side deck for a different look.  I did this mostly because my front porch railings need to be scraped and painted.  To date that has not happened.  My original intention was to hang some hanging planters on the front porch that gets very little sun.

All of my plans have gone awry again this year since we have had very little sun and mostly cold up until this week.  I  again moved my box planters and the one is sitting over a wild flower that just wont die and detracts from the rest of my entrance garden.  I would like to go back to the red, white and blue theme this year.

I've been thinking about going back to ivy geraniums for the hanging planters since those seem to do so well in the past and the fuschias that I planted last year died over the winter even though I wintered them with care in my basement.

My biggest problem this year is getting time to work on the plants.  Besides that the box planters now catch bird seed so that my rock garden doesn't get overrun with weeds.  I think I'm going to start all over again and decide on a different look for the porch.

Next week I'm going to be selecting my plants and we will get a view of what happens to the planters next week.  I'm determined to have them all done by Memorial Day in honor of my son.  I can't plant at his grave at The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies but I can put out a nice garden at the home he once owned when I put Old Glory out for the season of Memorial Day in May to Veterans Day in November.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Memorial Day Barbecue

Memorial Day Weekend is only two weeks away.  It's time to make plans for spending time with you family as well as to do the traditional patriotic things or visit the cemeteries.

Our house has always been patriotic since my Dad returned from World War II, the big one, and put me on his shoulders to watch parade in Downtown Pittsburgh.  That was scary for a toddler watching those enormous tank wheel pass by but I was always a scardy-cat.

On the fun side of Memorial Day we always had a cookout and potato salad was the fare of the day.  Yum, my favorite.

In my adult years, I have to admit I was not one for cooking on a grill but God is good and he gave me a husband who loved to do just that.

barbecuing is open for the season.
In our house Bear was the grilling king.  He made opening up the grill and getting ready a real production.

In the old days we used a charcoal grill that took a long time to make enough burgers and franks for our family.  The real trick to doing the cooking on this type grill was getting the charcoal briquettes hot enough.  You had to light your fire earlier to get it going.  The most important thing to be grilled was the almost burnt hot dogs for Bear's Mom.  She loved those black delicacies.

As the years went by, he invested in bigger and bigger grills until he got a really big gas grill with a side table and it had a side burner on the other side for beans or a whatever pot.  I think the only reason this was so great was that it gave Bear more places to cook outside.  It wasn't that I couldn't cook the beans inside on the stove, it was the thrill of being able to do it all outside.  It also had two racks on top for heating up the buns or keeping the already cooked meats warm.

Before I was dating him, we belonged to a radio club that had a yearly picnic.  Bear would bring a grill to the picnic that was made out of stainless steel with a screened top to lay the hamburgers and hot dogs on for grilling.  Not exactly like the one pictured but similar since it was made by the people he worked with.  He delighted in standing over that grill while he drank his favorite brew cooking for the entire club.

At home the grilling started as soon as it was almost warm enough to stand outside.  He would start off with the hamburgers since they took the longest.  Even though we normally made our own burgers, we sometimes cheated and bought the frozen ones from the supermarket.

The buns were not bought in the store but the sandwich buns I loved to make for special occasions out of our weekly bread baking.  I learned this from experimenting with the recipe.  I was lucky to have a cousin who baked this traditionally every year and was a professional baker.

Then would come the hot dogs because they didn't take as long to cook.  Those were not as popular as the hamburgers but there was just one that had to be overcooked for Nunny.

bear's Mom loved her hot dog black.  As the year went by, some of the children started asking for a black dog but I think it was just to be cute.

Bear was creative when he entertained and I remember one cookout for his buddies from the tavern when he made shish kabobs and his friend brought a smoker to do a roast.  Our house was full of gadgets that went with the grill such as shish kabob racks to allow you to turn the kabobs without picking them up.

We have covered the grilling part of the barbecue, let's talk about the side dishes that are every bit as important as those hot dogs and hamburgers.

No barbecue is complete with out the potato salad.  My mother made the best potato salad and I have passed the recipe on down to my daughter who is now the potato salad queen.  I have never been fond of all the work that goes into it and whenever I can, I pass the chore on down to her.

Our other favorite cookout food is the fresh fruit salad or an ambrosia.

 Cold foods are now made safer outside with the invention of a blow up cooler that holds ice for the salads that are being served.

Our house was a conflict of what to drink when it came to soda since Bear loved Pepsi and I only drink Coke.  It was always bring your own drinks when the grill was on for a party or holiday.

Add your favorite beverage and there you go with a Memorial Day Barbecue.  Remember why we are celebrating and thank a veteran at the Memorial Day Parade.  Happy Barbecuing.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Madonna and Her Summer Plants

Summer planting took on a new twist last year.  I had planned to have my porch painted so that I could put the planters back onto the railings.  This didn't happen for various reasons.  But what did happen, my neighbor came to me and told me he was painting his mother's Madonna for their yard and he had paint left over and he would paint mine.  What a surprise and what an answer to my prayers.  My Madonna didn't get her crown this year but she is back to looking as beautiful as she should be.

The other toss of the coin was I wasn't happy with one particular wildflower that was taking over my planter and I didn't have the energy it would take to dig it out by the roots.  So I put my porch railing planter right over the main plant.  Some of the leaves from the wildflower extended out around the planter which gave it an appearance of having a border.

I filled the planter with red, white and blue petunias.  I'm not really fond of petunias but they do continue to grow over the summer.  I ran into a sale of hanging planters priced at 4/$20.  I bought 3 petunias and hung two of the hanging planters at my deck.  The other petunia I centered in the planter and split the fourth planter that had a small white and blue flower in it.  I placed each half on the side of the petunias.

This year is gardening on a budget due to family medical problems so I'm satisfied with my red star flowers that are growing each year further into the entrance surround.

Lily of the Valley new growth in garden
To My wonder this year the lily of the valley popped up with 3 very strong plants.  I expect these to take over the garden in a few years.

Asian Lilies budding and ready to pop open
My day lilies are coming back each year a little more profuse than the previous year and I expect them to bloom very shortly.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother Mary Come To Me

The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; and, as a tribute to Mother Mary, Catholics set up May Altars.

In Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, Madonna of Jerusalem is one of our three churches.  The parishioners do an excellent job of setting up a May Altar.

2014 May Altar at Madonna of Jerusalem Church
Before each morning mass whoever is in attendance recites the rosary invoking the Blessed Mother's continued compassion on all for peace in our world.

I grew up attending St. Scholastica School and we were also taught to set up our May Altars, which I have attempted to do.  A long time ago I asked my Aunt where she had gotten her stone statue of the Blessed Mother.  She went out into her yard and gave it to me.  That statue has moved with me to 5 locations until I finally settled in my present home.

Madonna in 2013
My son-in-law painted her at one location with white paint which wore off over the years.  The year my husband died, I bought blue, white and green paint to paint her.  That coat of paint lasted 10 years and started to flake and peel off for the next two years.

Madonna in June 2014
Last year, my neighbor offered to paint the statue after he painted his mother's.  I was so grateful because now she stands on her stone overseeing my garden which I have tried to keep up with flowers that will bloom in May.  There are currently no blossoming flowers in my little grotto  except the Lily of the Valley have started to bloom a bit early.  None of the Day Lilies have grown big enough to bloom yet.  I'm hoping they will during the month as I continue to say my daily rosary.

My old neighbor, who owned a greenhouse, taught me that isn't safe to plant flowers in the ground until Mother's Day because of the chance of a freak frost.  I will be purchasing flowers for the planters between now and Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spring In Pittsburgh Is Finally Here

After so much back and forth with rains and warmer days, we are finally feeling the effects of Spring here in the Pittsburgh area.  We will be having rain off and on all week, but the temperatures are predicted to be pleasany.

Budding Forsythia Bushes

I need to walk more and I truly miss my Tipper who I would walk when the weather changed.  Yesterday as I was walking I stopped to talk with some neighbors who have forsythia bushes along their fence.  They are just starting to bud this year.  In years past, they have been in full bloom along with the daffadils.

Dogwood 2014
Last year on my walk I spotted the neighbor's Dogwood Tree and it's blooms.  They are not as full as previous years but they were definitely starting to show their white blooms.

Dogwood Spring 2013
In 2014 at this time the Dogwood Trees were just full of blooms.  As I've stated before, what a difference a year makes in the growing patterns of the flowers.

Purple Azalea
Even though the dogwood isn't as full, the Azalea Bush is in full bloom and showing beautiful colors.  I'm thinking of putting an Azalea behind my Madonna.

Tulips for the Madonna

The Madonna across the alley from me has some spring blooms cropping up just in time for the Month of Mary in May.

Tulips under the Rhododendrongs

The tulips are starting to bloom very nicely and this group of bulbs flowered just below the Rhododendrons that I featured last year.  This year the buds are just starting to get big enough and should be open soon.

Blossoming Tree

I'm not sure what this tree is in one of my neighbor's yards, but the blossoms remind me of crab apple.  I'll have to ask my neighbor what kind of tree this is but it is in full bloom.  What surprised me was that there was a bird in it singing but it never flew away.  The birds are getting used to my comings and goings and don't flit away as much when I go in and out of my kitchen.

So spring has sprung, the grass has risen and I know where the birdie is.  In the tree waiting for the blossoms to turn into fruit.