Friday, June 25, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Birthday

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Birthday."

My birthday is mid-November . . . November 12th to be exact. Ahh, autumn - my absolute favorite season. I always had the idea that because I was born in the autumn, I love autumn the best. 

Anyway, since my birthday falls in a chilly month, I never had pool parties or something similar to celebrate my birthday. It was usually something indoors.

I remember one year, however, that I had my birthday at Living History Farms in Urbandale, IA. It must've been for one of my early "teen" birthdays (13 or 14?). I remember having classmates from school in attendance, as well as a friend who went to a different school, but was on the local United States Pony Club team with me.

On this birthday, I vaguely remember going on a hay ride with all my friends, and maybe having a tour of the Living History Farms, and how farm life in the Midwest was, way back in the day. Then I remember being in some building with a fire crackling, and having cake around a long wooden table.

Other than that, I don't have many memories of spectacular birthdays when I was younger. Although, when I was about 5 or 6, I do remember being sick and having to stay home from school on my birthday.

The good thing is that I'd gotten a present from my mom early in the day - Legos - and I was having fun figuring out how to make things as I sat in the den, wishing I'd felt better, and watching TV (Sesame Street, I think).

I also remember that it was a gray, November day, and the Midwestern skies looked like gunmetal - dark, ominous.

At some point, when I looked outside, it was snowing! I was so excited. Now, I love autumn - the scents: apples, cinnamon, crisp air, pumpkin pie -  and I love the cool, crisp weather, the changing leaves.

The first snowfall, though, always seems like magic.

So,anyway . . . I do remember really fun memories of various birthdays as an adult.

When I turned 28, I was living in the Chicagoland area. My mom happened to be in the area, and my brothers were already in the area, because they were going to college in Chicago.

So we all got together with some friends at one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago - Rosebud on Rush (it's just down the street from Holy Name Cathedral where Andrew and I got married a few years later). I think my birthday was in the middle of the week, so we met midday on the Saturday either just before or just after my actual birthday. We had a great time and had some great food. And to top it all off, I think I may have even gone to a Chicago Blackhawks game on my actual birthday, probably with my brother Joe and his friend Travis.

Here we are at Rosebud on Rush. I'm the third one from the left.
My mom took this photo.

And the next year when I turned 29, I was in Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in Maxwell, AL. Well, it was getting close to the end of our 12.5 week training (we graduated exactly one week after my birthday, by the way). Anyway, towards the end of training, we had what's called a Dining Out - a formal dinner, where we were in our most formal uniforms, the Mess Dress, which is the equivalent of a tuxedo. Our Dining Out was just 3 days after my birthday, and during our last week of training, so while it wasn't a "birthday" party, there was a very festive vibe in the air. 

This is me in my Mess Dress just 3 days after my 29th birthday.

Then in 2002, when I turned 32, Andrew and I were recently stationed in the greater Boston area and were continuing to plan our church wedding for that December in Chicago (read: I was saying, "here's what I want," my mom was doing her best to execute my plan in Chicago because I couldn't get leave to plan it in person, and Andrew was just going along with it). 

Now I don't remember what Andrew and I did to actually celebrate my birthday. But my favorite memory from this particular birthday was a call from my mom. 

She'd said, "Guess what I'm doing right now on your birthday?" 

Of course, I had no idea, but I knew it must've been something good, so I smiled really big and I asked her, "Um, I dunno. What are you doing on my birthday?"

"I'm in Chicago and I'm tasting wedding cakes, trying to decide which one you'll like the best." 

Well, she certainly picked the right one, because it was absolutely delish. It was white cake and had a lemon butter cream filling plus a layer of raspberry glaze in the middle. SO yummy. Of course, she picked well, because she's my mom and she knows my taste. Besides, it WAS my birthday, so I must've been sending her vibes on what I'd like best.

Here it is, topped with stargazer lilies (one of my favorite flowers, also found in my bouquet):

This photo only: © 2002 Brad Baskin

So I have no special memories of one birthday in particular, but lots of small memories from a bunch of birthdays.

Please click on the button below to check out the rest of this week's Memory Lane Friday posts:

Come back next week when the topic is July 4th!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Stormy Night

These were taken Saturday evening from our front yard. And YES, the clouds were actually those colors that I captured in the photographs! It was stunning to see in person and almost as stunning looking at the photos. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dads and Grandfathers

In honor of Father's Day, here are some very important fathers and grandfathers in my family. Fathers, grandfathers, and godfathers lead the way.

Sir Rafa, June 4, 1989 (Culver, IN)
Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather

Dad, December 14, 2002 (Chicago, IL)
This photo only: © 2002 Brad Baskin

Daddy and Baby Liv (Concord, MA)

Grandpapa and Baby Liv (Hanscom AFB, MA)

Grandpapa and Baby Livie (Hanscom AFB, MA)

Sir Rafa and Baby Liv (El Paso, TX)

Joe (Uncle and Godfather), Pia (Tia and Madrina) and Baby Liv (Alamogorodo, NM)

Daddy and Baby Liv (Alamogordo, NM)

Liv and Sir Rafa (El Paso, TX)

Nonno and Liv (Lake Ozark, MO)

Grandpapa and Liv (Marion, IA)

Joe and "Baby Heart" (Chicago, IL)

Nonno and Liv (Urbandale, IA)

(All photos © Sonya Heilmann, unless otherwise noted.)

For more on my dad, check out Memory Lane Friday - My Dad.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stormy weather

Some photos of today's stormy weather earlier this afternoon . . .

And this evening (these first two are from my camera phone) . . .

These were taken from right next to the house, looking out into the back yard, and into the neighbors' back yards . . .

The "river" in the foreground is in our yard and the garden in the background is the blue-gray house's back yard:

Memory Lane Friday - My Dad

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is about "My Dad."

He's the guy that my brother Alex and I think of when watching The Lion King. There's a part where Simba has gotten into trouble with the hyenas, and Mufasa has to come in and rescue him. Later, Simba mentions that the hyenas were pretty scared of Mufasa. And Mufasa says, "Nobody messes with your Dad!" That reminds Alex and me of the kind of guy our dad is.

So what do I say about my dad? Well, I have a lot of stories, so I'll just have to narrow them down to just a few.

 Here's a picture of the two of us. I must've been around 4.
 This must've been about the time we moved to Wilmette, IL.

 Here's a funny photo of Dad as he's floating at the lake house, Lake Ozark, MO, circa mid-90s.

First, as you can see in the photo above . . . I have to say that he's the kind of guy who would be the instigator in something super fun . . . but this thing (whatever it might be) would also be high on the list of "Mom won't like this!" activities.

For instance, in a previous Memory Lane Friday about A Family Vacation, I recalled that he served us ice cream, M&Ms, and Twizzlers for breakfast one morning before skiing. That same trip, he took us to eat nothing but cookies and milk for lunch one day. And then to top it off, we went to this funky, weird place called "The Irish Camel" that served awful Mexican food!

He is also the guy who is up for seeing movies - action, adventure, space - anything fun, fast, and loud. I remember seeing the original 3 Star Wars movies, Jaws 3D, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Terminator 2, probably a couple Star Trek movies, stuff like that. Anytime a fun movie was out, we could count on Dad to take us to it.

At the movie theater, he always used to get the HUGE vat container of popcorn - the biggest one - with butter, and one huge soda. He'd have us all share it, though we always complained that we wanted our own individual sodas. Nope. That wasn't going to happen. One big popcorn and one big soda (with one straw) to share among all of us.

One time, he'd gone to get the popcorn and soda, and when he got back to the aisle where we were sitting, he tripped and dumped the whole container of popcorn on my sister's head. She was SO mad! She must've been around 8 years old, and would not stop complaining the entire movie, but the rest of us thought it was hilarious. We couldn't stop snickering about it, and that made her angrier!

Then there's the side of him that gives good (or tries to give good) advice.

When I was a student at Culver Girls Academy, in Culver, IN, I was a member of the Culver Equestriennes. This team does mounted drills to music.

To be a member of this organization, a rider must be enrolled in the Horsemanship department, and must meet or exceed a certain GPA, maintain a high level of horsemanship, and maintain a "citizenship grade" of B or higher. Riders may try out for the team after a semester in the Horsemanship department.

 The Culver Equestriennes. I'm in the line closest to the camera, third from the right.

Well, my friend Rosann and I had been members of the Equestriennes since the second semester of our Freshman year. At the end of our Junior year, just before the final ride the week of graduation, it was time to elect the new senior captain (out of the current juniors) for our Senior year on the team.

Since we'd been teammates since our freshman year (as were only one or two other teammates), Rosann and I wanted to run as co-captains. Our Freshman year, we had co-captains lead the team. We just knew we could run the team effectively as co-captains. But the coach said no, without reason. We pressured her to tell us why we couldn't and the answer was basically, "Because I said so. End of conversation."

Rosann and I were understandably upset, but ran as individuals.

When it was finally time to vote (right before we were to go out to the stables to mount up for the final ride of our junior year), we nervously voted.

And then just before we entered the arena as a team, the coach told us the results. It was a third girl who had won. She had gotten 6 votes, Rosann and I each got 4 votes, and then other girls got the remaining votes. Rosann and I were so upset. If we had run as co-captains, we could've gotten 8 votes (possibly more) and would've won!

But we had a performance to ride. I put on my best and biggest smile (we were always encouraged to smile big for all performances . . . besides, it was fun!), even though I just wanted to cry.

After the performance, we had to quickly get the horses ready for the Culver Lancers (the boys' mounted drill team). Then we could go up to the balcony to meet our families.

I'm pretty sure I forced out a half-hearted "Congratulations!" to the girl who became captain, a classmate of Rosann's and mine, with as big a smile as I could forcefully plaster on my face. I'd been trying to avoid her, but we were in the stables together, so it was inevitable.

One of my friends, Debra, who a classmate of mine and also on the team, said, "You should've won. If it makes you feel any better, I voted for you." So did my friend, Brenda, a senior who'd be graduating in a couple days, also a teammate.

Then I headed up to the balcony to find my parents. I think I gave them a short, snippy, "So-'n'-so won. She's captain," as we watched the other teams perform.

But in the car, as my parents drove me back to my dorm, I couldn't hold back the flood anymore and I burst into tears. I was so heartbroken (and mad). I explained how Rosann and I wanted to be co-captains, but the coach said no, and then I explained all the rest of the drama.

My dad then tried to explain that it's usually not the best riders (or football/hockey/soccer players, or whatever sport it is) that get to be captain . . . it's the most popular ones. He went on to tell me I had a gift - I was such an accomplished equestrian, having won awards (which was just the icing on the cake), that I could practically ride in my sleep, that it was so effortless for me. This was more important than holding a "captain" title for a year.

Then he explained that when he was on the football team, he was considered to be a talented football player. But when he ran for the captain position, he didn't get it. It went to the most popular guy on the team who was just an average player, at best. So he knew what it felt like, and wanted me to understand it had nothing to do with my horsemanship ability.

I didn't believe him at the time, thinking he was just saying that to get me to stop crying. But as time wore on, and the sting wore off, I could see his point. I found out later, after talking with Rosann, that a similar event happened with her and her parents, and that her dad gave her a very similar story.

Well, then there's how my dad leads by example. He'd received a commission in the Army back in the day. He was the only one in my family with a commission. All the rest of my family members served honorably and bravely as a part of the enlisted corps.

But since I'd be going to college and since I had a strong urge to join the military and serve my country, I knew I'd follow in his footsteps and get a commission, too. But I went Air Force, not Army (or Navy) like all my relatives before me.

Since my dad had been a Major in the Army, I decided that when it was time for me to graduate from Officer Training School, I wanted him to administer my oath of office. It was the same one that recited when he raised his right hand and accepted his commission. It's the same one Andrew took when he was commissioned. It's actually very similar to the one that each U.S. President recites on Inauguration Day.

Here's my dad as he administers my oath on 19 Nov 1999.
 My mom took this photo of us.

Here he is as he pins on my Second Lieutenant rank.

So my dad, the Army Major, administered my oath of office, and pinned on my new rank (which he also did at each of my promotion ceremonies).

This is a common bond that he and I share. He's said on occasion that none of his other kids ever followed this example of his . . . and he's said this with a grin on his face. So I'm the only family member to share this common bond.

So there you have it . . . a not-so-brief snapshot of my dad. But before I sign off . . . check out a couple photos of my dad when he was much younger.

 Here he is as a little boy, less than a year old.

 Here he is when he was about 17 in Auburn, NY.

And here is one more from when I got married in 2002:

Wedding photo © 2002 Brad Baskin

Before you go, please click on the box to read this week's other Memory Lane Friday posts:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's time for the rest of the story . . .

After last week's Memory Lane Friday post about A Time I Was Scared, and having also spent last weekend at my parents' place, I decided to ask my mom if she remembered the incident . . . the one where she and I (as a 4-year-old) got separated in a crowded place in Solvang, CA.

Needless to say, when I asked her, "Do you remember when I got lost in Solvang?" the answer was "Well, of course I remember! I was panicked!"

Hahaha! I should've expected that answer.

Anyway, when I asked her for details, she confirmed that yes, I was about 4-years-old, and yes, she remembers a red British-styled telephone box nearby.

Then she filled me in on some stuff I hadn't remembered.

First, I guess my dad had been with us, and not off somewhere else (the men's room or a different store, as I recently speculated). I hadn't remembered him being with us in the minutes leading up to the separation, nor did I remember him being with us in the moments following my mom's finding me.

But apparently he'd been there, and when my mom panicked, he was calm, and nonchalantly said to her with a sigh, "Don't worry about it; we'll find her." That is seriously so like him!

And second, my Aunt Marie (my dad's older, only surviving sibling) was with us, too. She was an Italian immigrant, having come to North America as a young girl, ultimately spending a majority of her adult life in California. (I'll have to tell you more about her sometime in the future.)

Anyway, she was a good talker. She could really keep a conversation going, and keep it entertaining. This is one of a number of things I miss about her (she passed away back in the mid-'90s).

So of course, while my mom was recalling the incident, she was telling me "You know how Marie enjoyed a good conversation, right? Well, I was doing my best to pay attention to her because I didn't want to seem rude. And that's when I realized I'd been so wrapped up in my conversation with her, I'd ended up losing you! . . . And then your dad wasn't even worried about it! Can you believe that?"

Yes! . . . because that's how Marie was with conversations, and that's how my dad is - never one to panic or get worried about anything.

So there you have it . . . the rest of the story about that time I was scared. 

Here is Marie (on the right) with my maternal grandmother, Oma, waiting for my graduation from Culver to start:
June 4, 1989, Culver, IN (My dad took this photo.)

One more thing while I'm thinking about "the rest of the story . . . "

In a different Memory Lane Friday post about A Family Heirloom, I briefly mentioned that I had wanted to talk about an item that had been in my Oma's kitchen in El Paso for years. But since I didn't have that item in my possession, nor did I have any photos of it, I decided to talk about something else instead (a blue topaz ring). 

Well, now I have it. 

It's this cast-iron "warming plate" thing that had been passed along to her by her mother. My mother remembers it from her grandmother's kitchen, having spent a lot of time at her grandmother's house when she was little (they actually lived next door to each other when my mother was growing up).

This "warming plate" thing would be on one of the stove's gas burners, and would be used to warm up tortillas (and probably other tasty things). Well, one day my Oma asked Cacá (pronounced ka-KA, which is what my Uncle Ralph began calling her when he was young), where she got this thing.

Instead of saying "Oh, I got it at __________," she just handed it over to my Oma, saying, "You can have it."

And my Oma began using it at her house ever since, first in the kitchen at the Blue Ridge Circle house, and then at the Mountain Walk Drive house.

I always loved how tortillas ended up after being warmed up on that thing. Not only did I like my tortillas warmed up before eating them with huevos con chorizo, I liked my tortillas (the flour ones) just on the verge of being toasty, when they'd have a hint of crispiness on the outside, but were still soft and easily wrapped around some delish huevos con chorizo.

Anyway, when my grandmother finally moved into my parents' house, my Uncle Ralph spent a lot of time and effort packing up items of value and making sure these items were dispersed among family members. I had asked him to find this "warming plate" thing in the kitchen and set it aside for me.

He did. Last weekend at my parents' house, I went through a few of the boxes, and finally found it, bringing it home with me.

Sadly, I can't use it on the electric stovetop that I have. When Andrew and I finally get a chance to switch it out to a gas stove, the very first thing I make for breakfast will be huevos con chorizo, and I can guarantee I'll be warming up the flour tortillas on this thing!

Here it is. I put it on a silicone pad because it has some heft to it, and I didn't want to scratch the glass cook-top, nor did I want to accidentally crack it when I put the cast-iron "warmer" thingy on it.

Here's the bottom of it. Note the bump at the 12 o'clock position; this is why it doesn't work on a flat glass cook-top. It sits just right on a gas burner.

For the record, I dislike cooking with electricity. Gas is much better. It's easy to control temperature during cooking, and a gas stove-top is easier to maintain. The glass cook-top seems to be hard to keep clean, and it has to cool down completely (which takes forever) before you can clean up any spills. Plus, the glass cook-top likes to scratch easily. I think it sucks. This is the first and last time I will have a kitchen with an electric stove/oven. And Andrew knows this for the next time we need to look for a new house . . . whenever that may be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Time I Was Scared

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Time I Was Scared." I've been trying to think of a time I was actually scared, and not just nervous, jittery, startled, or something else that's milder than scared.

The one time I can think of being really, truly scared is when I was very young. I must've been around 4 or so, and my parents and I lived in California.

Well, one day we were visiting touristy Solvang, CA for the day. Solvang is this Danish village near Santa Barbara and Buellton, CA and seems very cute, touristy, quaint. I remember a lot of walking around, and being out in the sunshine. It was nice when we went into a store because of the air conditioning. Not that I minded being outside a lot when I was young . . . I just remember the stark difference between the bright California sun's heat and light, and the coolness and momentary darkness upon first walking into a store.

At some point as I followed my mom into a store, I suddenly became overwhelmed with the number of people heading into the store at the same time. It was like I was in a stampede. I was surrounded by adults, all strangers.

Panicking, I didn't know what to do because my mom was not in sight anymore. Well, in a 4-year-old's brain, logic obviously doesn't function in a common-sense manner. Why would it, right?

Now, I don't know why I hadn't been holding my mom's hand . . . maybe I had been, or maybe, as 4-year-olds sometimes do, I'd wrangled my hand from hers.

But the point was that I was not holding her hand at the moment, and I found myself separated from her, in a crowd of strangers.

So what did I do? I turned around and walked right out of the store. Made sense at the time. Well, it made sense to ME, okay?

I found myself out in the open, strangers walking up and down the sidewalk, window shopping, busy. I looked around, hoping to spot my mom . . . of course she was already inside, so I wouldn't have seen her outside. But how would I have known I wouldn't see her outside, but because I was LOST and she would be the only one who could save me, I expected to see her.

And . . . I didn't see her.

So what did I do next? I went to the first thing that caught my eye. Wanna know what it was?

(Photo by Kevin Law, 13 Sep 2007, Covent Garden, London, England.)

Yep, it was a red British-style telephone box not too far away from the store entrance where my mom got lost. I saw it and being red and big, it was appealing to me as a 4-year-old.

I walked into it, and stood there. I watched people going by, wondering if I would see my dad walk past. (He had gone to some other store, or maybe he had gone to find a men's room, so that's why my mom and I were temporarily alone together.)

I vaguely remember walking out and looking around wondering where my mother was, and what took her so long to come get me. You know, because I assumed she knew exactly where I was. Why wouldn't she? was my reasoning!

As each minute ticked, I became more and more worried, thinking, I'm hungry. Who will feed me? Where will I sleep? I'm tired.

Finally, I see her coming toward me. She was fighting hysterics, so of course I was confused. *I* was scared because I didn't know where she was, but why was she acting scared? I wouldn't have understood at that age, right?

Well, we were reunited, and my fear was immediately forgotten. I know my mom remembers this incident; I remember talking to her about it within the past few months. But if I asked for details, I wonder if it was actually Solvang? I have distinct memories of what the town looked like - and it was very old-world looking.

Now, I don't have any photos of me or my family during our trip to Solvang.

But I do have photos of one of my last visits there as an adult. I was stationed in California while I was in the Air Force. I lived there from late autumn 1999 to June 2000. From where I lived, Solvang was oh, maybe about a 45 minute drive. I'd estimate it was about 40 miles away.

Here are a few photos from the Solvang area from late 1999:

And here is the California coast, somewhere between Lompoc and L.A.:

That's it for this week. Please check back next week, when the Memory Lane Friday topic is "My Dad." I have it tough, because I have to wade through a lot of great stories!

Before you go, please click on the button to check out this week's other "Memory Lane Friday" posts:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A great day to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan!!

Woo hoo!! After 49 years, the Chicago Blackhawks have finally won another Stanley Cup!! Yee Haw!!!!

(The video is from The Chicago Blackhawks' Facebook page.)

Who would've thought this day would FINALLY come? I mean, who among die-hard Blackhawks fans?! I wished it would happen, willed it to happen, but in all my years as a Blackhawks fan, the dream always slipped away, sending the Blackhawks golfing -  many times before the playoffs even started and sometimes quite early in the playoff season.

Now that it's happened, I still can't believe it. It's like I dreamed it. It makes me homesick for the Chicagoland area . . . I'm glad they finally won, but of course it had to happen when I live far away. Isn't that how it always works?

But seriously, as a Blackhawks fan, this is just an awesome moment.Their last Stanley Cup win was in the spring of 1961, when Kennedy was still President. I wasn't born until autumn 1970. It's just too fun knowing that they've finally won, and Livie and I got to see it!

Just so you know, I am doing my best to help Livie become a big Blackhawks fan, just like me. I can't wait to take her to a home game at the United Center with my brother (her Uncle Joe) . . . we'll get some of those United Center nachos, a soda for her, and a beer for myself and Joe.

Last night during the first period, she even said she'd like to see a game in person. So maybe next season . . .

Here she is wearing her "Blackhawks Diva" bling shirt:

Thanks to our cousin Christine from the great state of Texas (home of the NHL's Stars, of all places!) for getting Livie's fantastic "Blackhawks Diva" tee. There's bling on it! Liv loves it because it says "Blackhawks" AND it also has bling! And I think she also likes the fact that it says "Diva" on it . . . while she wouldn't admit she likes it, she DID go around saying, "I'm a diva" this morning.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Southwest

Here are a couple photos from El Paso, TX and US 54 heading north from El Paso to Alamogordo, NM. 

Heading to Alamogordo from El Paso:

In Alamogordo, looking westward out the front windows of my house as we watch some clouds. We're waiting to see if the storm brewing off in the distance will roll in:

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