Mom and Grandma

I’ve written many posts about my Mother…dozens of posts over the last four years. Some of those mom- posts had the highest number of readers all over the world. People in 131 countries have read about my Mom. She was a kick.

Her funeral, a celebration of her 99.9 years of life was April 7th. I will probably always have more memories to share, but with her passing still raw in my heart and mind I wanted to share my daughter’s eulogy.

Most of my family, like many, have spread out all over the USA. My oldest daughter, Joy, remained in the home Indiana area. It was usually a thirty minute trip to the nursing home, but she and my Mom were buddies.  She knew Mom as well as anyone. She saw her more than anyone in the family.

Grandma and Grand-daughter at 99th Birthday Party.
99th birthday party

Here are Joy’s words from the funeral:

Grandma had a little red book she kept by her recliner at home, and later by her bed at the nursing home.  It contained a list of her friends and family’s phone numbers – her life line to the world. She loved keeping in touch with everyone she knew and she would work her way through the list, checking in on friends, until finally her eyesight prevented her from reading the list and making those phone calls.  When I opened the book on Sunday to begin calling people to inform them of her passing, I noticed a note written in her little scratchy scrawl – “when I’m gone, call my friends.”  It was so Grandma.  Friends and family were her life.  And Grandma would never have missed the chance to make sure people were thinking of her!

I sometimes think Grandma measured her own worth by the number of friends she had – and how many people attended her funeral.  Obviously, looking out at this crowd,  she was worth a lot.  She spent the last 14 years planning her funeral.  You see, Grandma didn’t exactly follow Grandpa’s wishes when he died.  Shortly after Grandpa died, fourteen years ago, Grandma went to the funeral home to plan her own funeral.  I have a feeling she wanted to make sure we followed HER last wishes.  Grandma definitely knew what she wanted!  Recently when she was last in the hospital, she made me promise I would ask the funeral director to brush her teeth – I did, but I’m sure Rich, the director, must have been laughing inside.  She also wanted to know what I planned to write in her obituary to let people know she almost made it to 100.  You see, Grandma knew she wasn’t going to make it to 100, but she wanted to be sure everyone knew how close she had come!

Grandma & I spent a lot of time together.  My favorite times were over a meal or snack.  One day Grandma said, “Kid, I just don’t have an appetite.”  Grandma really ALWAYS had an appetite – just not necessarily for the food at the nursing home.  I said, “well Grandma, we’re very close to Burger King.  Why don’t I get you one of those Whopper Jr’s you love?”  Grandma paused and then said, “maybe I could eat a hamburger with ketchup, pickles, and onion.”  Then, without missing a beat, “and maybe some fries, and how about a root beer?”  She devoured it all when I returned. Watching grandma eat a hamburger or drink a milk shake was like watching a child open a Christmas present.  She would close her eyes and savour it. It always reminded me that it’s the small things that matter in life.

A few months ago I had the privilege of videotaping Grandma.  Our school was celebrating the 100th day of school and a teacher friend thought it might be fun to show the students a person who had lived almost 100 years.  Grandma shared stories of her youth, telling me about her one doll, little money, and pet chicken, but her final words are what will stay with me and I hope stay with you.  When I asked her if she had advice for the students, she looked at the camera and said, “Kids, treat each other good.”  My grandma was wiser than her 8th grade education. She knew what was important.  So to honor Grandma,  I leave you with her message – treat each other good. 

I will miss you forever Grandma, but I’m so grateful to have had all the wonderful times we had together.

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Your Money Your Choice

So I have a box of 100 conversation starters. Most people love a good conversation, but to have one there must be a good question to start the flow. These 100 questions I have are fantastic. Each one makes my brain churn. I will be using these ‘conversation starters’ with a monthly meeting group.

I thought I would throw one of these questions up here to see if anyone wants to post  their answer. I doubt if we get much of a conversation going because Who’s got time for this nonsense? But we may have a myriad of opinions.

Before I ask you the question I did some research to help with background. A few more facts always helps before an opinion is given.
So…the question.
question mark

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives money every year to many worthy causes. You have been given the entire amount of Foundation money to spend. You may only spend it on one cause of your choice. What will it be?

Here’s the background research I did:  The Gates Foundation has about $40 Billion dollars today. Every year they give approximately $4 Billion to many causes. Over the years they have given over $39 Billion dollars away.

But, remember, you are going to spend the entire $40 billion on your ONE cause/problem/charity.  How will you spend it?
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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It Beats good old fashioned LUST

Love, intimate love, has been beaten over the head by psychologists for too long. We’ve had so many proclamations of what “true” love is my head is spinning.

I guarantee you that Eric Segal’s book/movie from forty five years ago supposedly telling us what “love is” is utter nonsense. Remember “Love Story.”  Yuk.  “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Double Yuk.  The only good thing about that dreadful movie was the half-decent music “Where Do I Begin.”  It was an instrumental theme in the movie, but Andy Williams turned it into a Mega-Hit.

So now we have a new breakthrough in a method for finding the “right one.”
Romantic Heart

Psychologist Arthur Aron did a study that supposedly accelerates intimacy between two strangers by having them ask each other a specific series of 36 personal questions. The first two people to test this in his lab fell madly in love and invited the entire lab to their wedding. After this series of questions are asked and answered the two people are then told to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. That’s FOUR minutes.
Eye staring

The idea behind this program is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. I can buy that. To quote the authors of this study, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.”

Okay, that sounds reasonable too. So let’s play the game. For all you folks who want to fall in love, set down in a comfortable place with a potential mate and ask the following three sets of questions. Each set of questions is more probing then the last.

Set I

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?


Set II

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  2. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  4. What do you value most in a friendship?
  5. What is your most treasured memory?
  6. What is your most terrible memory?
  7. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  8. What does friendship mean to you?
  9. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  10. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  11. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  12. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


  1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
  2. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  3. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  4. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  5. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  6. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  7. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  8. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  9. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  11. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  12. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

If you made it this far, you’re ready to stare away. You must stare into each other’s eyes for FOUR minutes.

Have at it. Fall in love. Invite me to your wedding.
Romantic Couple

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Grandma had GOOD TASTE and China proves it!

When my Grandma Anna, born 1896, was asked what kept her going so strong, she always had one answer: Pabst Blue Ribbon. She drank Pabst Blue Ribbon over ice. It kept her going until she was 96 years old. I don’t think she ever drank more than two in one night. Well, maybe once or twice, but that’s another long story.

Most of beer and wine drinkers are semi-snobs. We know what we like and we’re going to tell you about it. Pabst Blue Ribbon has “made themselves over” more than any branded product in history. They are a genius of staying alive with a beer that tastes like pee. (Yes, George even worse than Bud)

PBR was first introduced in 1882. They are survivors. The first print ad I can find was in 1900 when folks were into elixirs and extracts. Over the counter cocaine, morphine and alcohol worked wonders on your body, but mainly they were working on your brain. If you had indigestion they had the cure and here it is:
Pabst Extract
In 1913, PBR changed their image again. Notice the suited guys with the nice small glasses. This isn’t like the Bud image of grabbing a long-neck and chugging it down while hoping Jimmy Johnson crashes on the next corner. No sir, Pabst had become a “Beer of Quality.”
Pabst 2

After surviving prohibition PBR re-made themselves again. In 1936 PBR was introduced in the innovative “Tapacan.” A new way to drink beer and learn how to beer-can bowl too.
Pabst 3

Pabst decided to take on a racist tone in 1938 and show what the rich people with servants were drinking. Of  course we had to make sure our servant had that nice genteel slang. Don’t ax me why they did that.
Pabst 4

In 1940 men did wear suits and ties to a baseball game, but PBR wanted you to know they loved drinking beer while watching the Cubs lose another game. Bottle or can, you would feel like a winner even though you’re team wasn’t. (and still isn’t)
Pabst 5
That same year, 1940, Pabst did another innovative ad. This one for the ladies who also could enjoy a PBR. Another ad in color. Three decades later Pepsi did a similar blindfold taste test.
Pabst 6

It was 1942, the war was looming. Not enough rich guys to drink beer so Pabst went after the tired, the poor, the hungry. Middle of the road folks could also now drink PBR. And, way before the Colonel, we discover that Pabst has 33 secret ingredients.
Pabst 7

Celebrity endorsements and cool looking tennis geeks started advertising PBR in 1945. These 33 unique beer flavors (I didn’t realize pee had more than one flavor) could now be enjoyed by all.
Pabst 8

In 1947 Pabst allowed white servants to get a say-so. And this one knows good beer, too.
Pabst 9

At the close of the ‘50s, PBR returned to the middle-class folks and captured a fisherman showing off his best catch of the day. Of course it’s PBR in a can that now tastes like catfish-pee.
Pabst 10

 OMG, if Gregory Peck and Bob Hope drink PBR then I must be wrong.
Pabst 11


Pabst 12

Those wonderful ‘50s, when woman dressed up to go to the grocery store. Lord know if they are going to supply the party favors, they better buy PBR.  If you can read the small print I think today’s woman would be insulted by the line that says Pabst is perfect for bedtime. He-he-he.
Pabst 13


1963   Pabst broke color barriers with this ad showing us that light-skinned African-Americans actually drink Pabst too. And this was near the end of print-ads for beer. They switched to TV so we could see men drinking PBR while riding bulls, hitting home runs, racing cars, bowling, getting tackled,  dunking and sitting around drinking beer and laughing uncontrollably.
Pabst 14



PBR has moved to China, designed a spectacular bottle and used the fact that Chinese people are enamored with ribbons. The advertising advises one to drink this incredible beer (which now tastes like Shar Pei pee) out of a champagne flute.

This beer in this bottle in China sells for (drum-roll please) $44. (My grandma knew damn good beer)
Pabst Blue Ribbon

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Nose for News

Our daily newspapers were the main source of news for most of the 20th century. When one looks back at headlines it seems we could read about the great tragedies of those times. Those headlines were the things we were taught in school. They were our USA history.

I remember the history and myths of the Great Chicago Fire. It happened on October 8, 1871. A definitive cause of the fire has never been proven. The story was always told about the cow that kicked over the lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn. It seems the origin was that barn or nearby. The great tragedy of the Chicago Fire was it killed around 300 people.

Until recently I had no idea another fire happened on that same day. It was the great fire of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. What? You never heard of that one either. It was also on October 8, 1871. The difference?  The Peshtigo fire killed over 1000 people. More than three times the amount of lost lives then the Chicago fire. I guess Peshtigo was unknown and a poor headline.


Many headlines were just plain false. The Christian Science Monitor, a well-respected paper, published this headline when the news of the Titanic hitting an iceberg was released. They kind of got this one wrong.
Titanic Headline

One of the most famous political headlines was published by the Chicago Tribune in 1948. The headline was on the morning paper showing that Dewey won the Presidential election. They kind of got that one wrong too. Truman had fun showing off the headline:
Dewey beats Truman

More recently, July 2004, John Kerry was running for President and the New York Post ran this headline stating Kerry had chosen Dick Gephardt as his running mate. He probably should have based on his real choice of slick-haired John Edwards.
Kerrys Choice for VP

Another type of News Headline was the FAKE HEADLINES. When I was a kid, every tourist spot sold fake newspaper headlines with your name on them. I have a few in my scrapbook. One says, “Dan finds Gold in Black Hills.” Crazy stuff.
Well, there is a website where YOU can create your own fake newspaper headlines and troll your friends.  Have fun, here’s the spot:


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Worms for Sale

My Father was not a dreamer. He believed in hard work. Showing up every day. Respecting your boss. Respecting your employees. Just having a job through the Great Depression was lucky, so guys, like my father, felt an obligation to do the best job possible to help their company be profitable and in return they kept their decent job.

My Mother was a dreamer. Her childhood situation would force anyone to dream of better things. Her German speaking grandparents allowed her to play outside as a child, but she had to be tied up with a rope so her father wouldn’t kidnap her as he threatened to do. She told me she always dreamed about life on the other side of the fence. After nine years of schooling she went to work in a factory during the depression to help her single mom get their own apartment and put food on the table. She dreamed of marriage, children and owning dishes, pots, pans and furniture.

When I was a youngster I learned that both of my parents’ life lessons were correct. Dream your dreams, but you must work hard every day to attain them.

So, when I was 11 years old I wanted to go into business. My best buddy, Johnnie, was 12 and we were as close as brothers. We played every sport and liked to ride our bikes to the river and fish. We had to ride miles out of the way to buy fishing worms. Our homes were close to the roads and highways leading to two popular fishing lakes, two fishing creeks and two rivers, including the Wabash River where we liked to fish. We decided there was a huge market in our neighborhood for a Night-Crawler business. I told Mom.

She never laughed at the idea. Instead she questioned me about where we would find them and how we would sell them. I explained that big fat juicy night-crawlers liked watered grass and they lay across golf greens late at night, just waiting to be grabbed.

She thought about it and said, “If you can talk your dad into taking you out at night, I’ll help you sell the damn things.”

I needed Mom to do the convincing of Dad. You see, in our home Dad made all the big decisions…like should Red China get in the United Nations and does a Nuclear Arms Treaty make sense…the big decisions. Everything else, Mom figured out how to get her way.

So my poor Dad would shake me awake around 11:30 and my buddy, Johnnie, would come running across the street and at midnight we would be out at the Lafayette Country Club with our flashlights, grabbing night-crawlers. We’d get home around 2-2:30am with at least 1000 of the slippery foot long worms.
We did that every Thursday and Friday night.

We had signs up on telephone poles all over the neighborhood and a sign in our backyard. NIGHTCRAWLERS—35 cents a dozen, Three Dozen for a Dollar. Saturday and Sunday only.

The doorbell started ringing Saturday mornings at 5am. Mom did the selling. The worms were kept in our basement in peat moss and dirt and we would have small coffee cans holding a dozen and bigger cans holding three dozen. Up and down the stairs my Mom would trudge. She would wake me around 7am to help because there were lines of guys waiting to buy our huge worms. We would sell out of worms by nine o’clock. Helping Mom I would hear her humorous one-liners. Every fisherman would get a quip from my Mom.

Most serious fishermen would buy either three dozen or six dozen. Before Mom started down the steps she would ask them if they wanted male worms or female worms. The puzzled looking guys would say, “What’s the difference?”

Mom said, “You get more worm with the male ones.”

Sometimes, after the sale, she would ask them, “You know how to make your fish stop smelling?”


“Cut off their noses.”

Another line she used to use on them: “Cook a guy a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a guy how to fish and you get rid of him for the whole weekend.”


BTW: That first summer Johnnie and I went into the Night-crawler business, we made $800, four hundred each in three months. Huge bucks for kids. That was the summer of 1954 and $800 then is the same as $6980.00 today. The summer of ’55 we did over $1000.
I might have been a millionaire if I’d kept going, but the next summer I was 13 and it was time to leave home and become a priest. And boy is that another long damn story.

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I know it’s Friday, but “Thank God It’s Over” fits.

Most of you have already buried your parents (sorry, but I don’t have young readers). I have no patent or claim to those painful memories. Odds are though, I probably was luckier than most to have a Mom for over seven decades.

There was 125 folks attending the Funeral Mass for Mom on Tuesday and many told me the funeral was beautiful. One older friend of Mom said it was the most beautiful funeral she had ever attended. Well…I never thought the word beautiful could fit a funeral, but my Mom planned it so it would be beautiful.

St. Lawrence Church

When my Father died in 2001, my brother and I took Mom down to the funeral home to make arrangements. There is nothing worse than going through the mourning process while picking the “right” casket, the clothes, the flowers, etc. The list seems endless. Then one has to consider the price of that casket versus the other one. Not a good time to make decisions like that.  And my Mom decided my brother and I would not have to do that task. She planned and paid for every facet of her funeral fourteen years ago, just weeks after Dad passed.

She only made one mistake. Her chosen pall bearers were too old to lift her. (They were all my age.)She had picked all women for pall bearers (that was my Mom, a feminist before the word was invented).

My daughter, Joy, gave a beautiful eulogy talking about Mom’s last weeks at the Nursing Home. With her permission I will print her words in this space soon.

At the luncheon after the funeral I was asked more than a few times about a particular story I told in my eulogy. A friend said I should write about it in my blog. Okay. I will. Monday.


Today is catch-up day. My brain needs to join my body back in California. It’s still on overdrive running through the airport at Houston. Thanks to yesterday’s huge weather mess in Chicago, everything flying through the skies was delayed, cancelled or re-routed. I spent 21 hours from rising to arriving home. My suitcase and I took different flights out of Houston but we both made it. Because of my superb physical condition (ha) I naturally was thinking of another famous athlete sprinting through the airport just like me. The only difference was I wasn’t doing it to practice my fast getaway after murdering two people.

Check this video out. Have a great weekend.

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