Fancy That !

Sunrise & Sparkles 3-24-14 007Fancy that, will you ! Yesterday was the fifth day of Spring in our region of the world. The temperature was in the mid-twenties and heaven decided we needed just a touch of snow to remind us that nature is a bit unpredictable. As many Midwestern folks commonly state, ” Welcome to our neighborhood, where the weather can change by the hour “. The wet flakes of snow attached themselves to the tips of grasses and trees to create quite a stunning scene. The snow didn’t last long, as it never does this time of year. However, we are ever anxious for April showers to bring us May flowers, and warmth, and color, and fragrance, and…(fill in the blanks). Always hope for the best!Sunrise & Sparkles 3-24-14 014


I would like to share a story with you. It is a story about life, and about a quest for answers. As a disclaimer, I have read more impressive and improbable stories that caused me to shake my head in utter amazement. This story is not so grand as that. However, it is a pleasant story which has several obvious and noteworthy events which could be construed as serendipity.

As you can discern from my blog page description, my mother was a war bride. She was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia’s capital). She had one parent who was Serbian and the other who was Croatian. My grandfather joined the Yugoslav army to fight the Nazi’s and was never heard of again. My grandmother died of a digestive disorder, perhaps cancer, during WWII. My mom had a sister, Milice, who stayed in Belgrade while my mom left home (after the Nazis occupied Belgrade) and wandered about Europe for nearly five years during the war. Her story is amazing in and of itself. Milice eventually married a good man named Tommy in 1963 and they lived in the same apartment for the next thirty-plus years until they both passed away. They did not have children. In 1980 my mom visited her sister and brother-in-law in Belgrade. Below is our photograph of them together. This is relevent to my story. Mom is second from left, next is Tommy, then Milice. The others are friends of the family. As a side-note, my sisters and I visited our aunt and uncle (with our mom) when we were children, but never saw them again. We never knew our maternal grandparents. IMAG0055This story begins in May of 2013 when Cheryl and I vacationed in Croatia. Due to a missed flight connection we ended up being rerouted to another city with a five-hour layover before we arrived at our intended destination, the Split airport (if interested, I wrote about this in my first post about Croatia). It was midnight when we arrived and an hour later when we checked in at Le Meridian Hotel in Podstrana. Due to the late hour and exhaustion, we slept in later than anticipated. We were rather bummed because we wanted to eat a hearty breakfast after traveling for so long. However, our delay turned out to be a blessing. We had a late lunch on the veranda of our hotel which overlooks the Adriatic Sea. There were but a handful of people eating at 2:30 pm so we had a generous amount of time with our waiter, Ivan, from Omis. Ivan was wonderful, and was willing to discuss anything we asked, including politics and the aftermath of the 90s war. He was charming and most helpful, and was a very fine waiter. He is also a martial arts instructor and excels at both of his careers.Croatia 457I mentioned to Ivan that my mom was from Belgrade and that my sister, Tracy, was going to tour much of the former Yugoslavia in early September, and that she was going to Belgrade to learn more about our aunt and uncle. To my surprise, Ivan has family in Belgrade, including a cousin that he offered to assist my sister, her husband and their companions when they arrived. As the date of my sister’s arrival grew closer, Ivan contacted his cousin, Marijan, who in turn interacted directly with Tracy. Upon their arrival in Belgrade at the end of August, Marijan was contacted and he offered to assist Tracy and Dale in locating the apartment building where our aunt and uncle lived for so long a period. DSC_0139He took them to the building, but there was no Tommy or Milice. They died in 1993 and 1997, respectively. With little hope of gaining any new information, they almost left. However, Tracy noticed a woman hanging laundry in the courtyard of the complex and decided to visit with her. When Tracy approached Jelena she told my sister that she normally hangs her laundry on the roof, and didn’t know why she chose to hang it in it the courtyard that day. Tracy, with the help of Marijan, began to question Jelena about our aunt and uncle. She showed her the photograph, and to Tracy’s amazement Jelena knew the people in it. On top of that she identified the girl in the photo as her niece (husband’s side of the family). The woman next to my mom is Jelena’s mother-in-law. Her husband, Dan (not in the 1980 photo) remembered my mom’s visit, as he was about twelve years old at the time. Below is Jelena with Tracy and another photograph with Dan (Jelena’s husband) and Tracy.DSC_0153DSC_0171As this encounter between not-so-old friends continued, a new revelation was revealed by Jelena. Milice’s best friend, and a friend of her family, Selena, is still alive and lives in an upper room of the same apartment complex. In fact, Selena opened her window to hear what was taking place and then came down to greet my sister, her husband and their friends, Mike and Pam. By the way, Mike took all the photos, except for Ivan’s.DSC_0160Selena invited my sister and companions to her apartment for tea and conversation. She shared photographs, stories and details about Tommy and Milice. Below is Tracy, Selena and Pam inside Selena’s apartment which she has lived in for over forty years.DSC_0183 Selena told Marijan which cemetery our aunt and uncle were buried. He then took them to this famous cemetery where politicians, heroes, and dignitaries are interned. It took quite some time to find the location of the burial plot. Tommy and Milice were so poor they didn’t even have a headstone or an inscription on the concrete slab which was placed over their bodies. The cemetery employees were very helpful, as was Marijan who went above and beyond all expectations to assist my sister.DSC_0234There are still many unanswered questions about our mom’s early years and her family, especially because the war disrupted so many lives and eliminated most records. So, to have located the graves of Tommy and Milice is rather spectacular. In fact, I find this whole affair to be remarkable. Please consider these points. What are the odds that Cheryl and I would miss a flight, be rerouted to Dubrovnik, have a five-hour layover, then go back to Split before arriving at the hotel after midnight? This type of thing happens regularly, however, without this delay we wouldn’t have met Ivan who we didn’t see again while at this hotel. What are the odds that Ivan had a cousin in Belgrade who would help my sister? What are the odds that they would encounter Jelena who was hanging her laundry in an unusual place at just the exact time my sister arrived? What are the odds that Dan’s daughter and mom were in the photograph from 1980? And, what are the odds that Selena was home, provided insightful information about our relatives and mom and was able to direct Marijan to the cemetery where our aunt and uncle are buried? There has been a six month period since Tracy had this experience which has given me time to reflect and consider the odds. The odds are pretty good if each instance stands alone. But, that is not the case as they are a combined set of circumstances that fit together to reveal one remarkable story. I simply cannot attribute this experience to chance, coincidence or luck. I believe that the Grand Conductor orchestrated this entire scenario. I believe each appointment was divinely directed by Him. So, the next logical question is why? To be totally honest I don’t know why He would do such a kind thing for my sisters, Valerie and Tracy, and for me. Certainly it is not because we deserved or earned this gift. Instead, I simply accept this to be the truth: a loving God saw fit to bestow a blessing, borne out of love, for some of His children. And for that I am most grateful, and humbled.DSC_0164

Sun, Sentinels & Scenery

3-10-14 pm 006A few days ago the temperature warmed up significantly so I took a ride on my scooter and shot some scenery. These images are with the sun to my back as it is about a half hour from dropping below the horizon. The warm hues of a late afternoon glow turn the metallic structures into something almost real. The tall spires of this electric utility sub-station reminded me of sentinels overlooking the plain of tall grasses.3-10-14 pm 007This is that time of year when nature plays tricks on us. One day it is well below freezing and the next above sixty degrees. Most of the winter hibernators come out on these days and the human activity looks like squirrels descending from their nests and scurrying about for nuts! It is like neighborhoods come to life just as spring flowers sprout up from the crusty soil of colder days. Soon, the earth will shed her blanket of snow and frozen ground and usher in a spectacular array of life and beauty. We are still a month away from such eruptions of color, but the wildlife senses the coming change.3-10-14 pm 0283-10-14 pm 029I passed these beautiful creatures grazing and simply had to stop and shoot. The sun cast rays and shadows which made for an idyllic setting. Horses are so graceful.3-10-14 pm 021Even this goose got into the picture, literally! The geese that left our area are now beginning to return. Although they are a wonderful sight to watch in flight, they can certainly create problems as they have acclimated to people and vehicles. As a side note, I try to be cognizant of my surroundings because I am so often pleasantly astonished at what I encounter. When I am preoccupied or running too fast I can easily overlook the sublime which may not be readily recognizable. For me, this applies especially to nature, but extends to all facets of my life. People are not exceptions to this truth for they are the most complex of all creation. Well, the sun was ready to set for another evening so it was time to pack up the camera and head home which is just what I did. Shalom.3-10-14 pm 036

Carson’s Conundrum

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My name is Carson. Carson Doran to be exact. I am a West Highland Terrier, often referred to as a Westie. I am a bit larger than most of my breed, weighing in at a little more than 22 pounds. I am about five and a half years old, but not totally sure of my birthdate. You see, I was a breeder dog in a puppy mill for a while and accurate records are not a certainty. I eventually escaped, was found and then adopted by this most awesome couple in December of 2010. So much for the history lesson. By the way, I hi-jacked this blog site from Michael because I am bored stiff and wanted to complain about my situation (it seems that a lot of people like to complain, too). I have a bit of a problem; a conundrum to be more precise. I find myself very weak, can’t walk on my own very well, and have a bunch of hair shaved off my left hind leg and a couple other places on my body. I even have a bunch of staples over my knee. Odd, but I don’t recall putting those in and I don’t know how to use a razor. As to the weakness and bad limp, I can only assume they are related to the missing hair and staples. Sharp, aren’t I?12-26-13 016Here’s the puzzle: one day about two weeks ago, I was playing in the snow-chasing wind-blown leaves of all things when my body went one way and one leg didn’t. I wasn’t too concerned at the time because I wanted to chase more leaves. I can’t help it; I chase leaves as much as I chase squirrels! It’s crazy, this behavior. I guess it’s the Terrier in me, or so I’ve been told. The next thing I know  my parents started babying me; you know, carrying me up and down stairs and not letting me run. It was weird. Then I went to several doctors. I don’t like doctors or their offices. Then, it happened…the mystery. I awoke in a strange place-in a cage that reminded me of the old days back at the mill. I hurt and noticed the missing hair and then the staples. I thought staples were for paper so I almost freaked out, but was too tired so I just layed there. Good news, the next day my folks picked me up. They were so kind and gentle and treated me like a China Doll or some foo foo pet. I didn’t get it and still don’t, but hey, I’m at home which is what counts. As a matter of record, my folks treat me pretty darn good most of the time, but that’s between us. Okay? I can’t afford them getting big heads, if you know what I mean. Too many big heads these days.2-24-13dSpeaking of home, I like laying on a soft carpet or bed soaking up the sun’s rays. It appears I will be doing this for a while so I better make the most of it cause who knows when this show will end? If you’re interested, I can tell you a little bit about what happened to my leg; actually my left hind knee. My dad told me after I bugged him a lot. It seems I have the same injury as many elite athletes get; a torn ACL, except on dogs it’s called a CCL for Cranial Cruciate Ligament. It appears to be the most common injury among canines, and the most common surgery…duh. There are three ways to fix a totally torn set of ligaments. My folks chose the ‘gold standard’ method called a TPLO which is probably Latin for Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy. It seems that through selective breeding, exceptional dogs like my kind, have knee bones that don’t quite fit together as they should so the knee slips out of socket more easily than it otherwise would, and voila, a rupture. Larger dogs are more prone to this injury, but us active smaller pooches rupture these ligaments because, well, we’re active a lot. Remember the leaves! I can’t help it. Checkout this next photograph.Carson's X-Rays 2-21-14 001This is a photo of an x-ray (radiography, as my doctor calls it) before the surgery. The knee (actually called a stifle in dogs) is just to the left of my…male part that protrudes from my body (I was going to say man part, but that didn’t make sense). I don’t have an after-surgery photo as yet, but this is what you would see: a metal plate, six screws and four pins of some sort attached to the lower bone which has been shaved a bit so this injury won’t occur again. That’s the theory, anyway. Oh, and let’s not forget those staples which itch like mad. I am supposed to take it super easy for six weeks. Aaaahhhh, I don’t think I can manage that. Guess what? That’s exactly what my folks said, too. They have to do all the heavy lifting and make sure I don’t run or jump or chew my staples off. I have to Not be a terrier for a while which is going to be a real challenge. I like being me. Really. Here’s another photo of my body: Caution, it’s x-rated.Carson's X-Rays 2-21-14 004Pretty cool, huh? The actual x-ray reveals my tail bone much more than this picture, but you get the point (ha, I crack myself up!). Well, I won’t be doing anymore of this for a while (see photos below) so I better get off this computer before dad catches me playing blogger. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Spring. These snows and constant frigid temps are getting old. Not to mention the fact that they can be a dangerous combination. I’m lucky that my folks love me and care for me enough to baby me and pay for this surgery…I overheard them saying something about my college fund being significantly reduced. Can’t be worrying about things I can’t control, so I won’t. Don’t worry. Be happy.12-26-13 008Or this………………………………………………………………………………………………..1-22-14 013