IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY

A blog about a life awakened and rejuvenated around Western New York.


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MAKING MY WAY BACK “HOME”

It’s been a while since I posted here. Situations and circumstances put life clearly on my doorstep. But we persevere. It’s what life is about.

So here I sit, less than two weeks to Christmas 2013. The tree’s up (the SECOND thing that gets my spirit right – the Christmas music that begins on Halloween not withstanding). That sight and those sounds brings the feeling closer to home. Those who know, understand. Losing both parents at Christmas time (mom on Christmas Eve ’86) it takes some doing every year to find my Christmas. It comes around eventually, but it is still a struggle. The girls are grown and all the magic of their wide-eyed Christmases lingers in the shadows. They “will” my spirit to come our and play!

So I am slowly coming home to Christmas. The decorations that have laced our traditions are being put into place. I will be ready.

A little known secret. Every year for twenty-six years, after all have retired to bed, I put on the suit to dress under the tree. All gifts wrapped and brightly adorned are placed beneath by me in the guise of the Jolly Old Guy! They believe because I believe. Even if only for ten minutes once a year on Christmas Eve, I AM the spirit of the Season. I am Santa Claus. We are all Santa Claus.

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For a journey through my Walter-ego, visit my poetry blog, I AM SANTA CLAUS ( iamsantaclaus.wordpress.com )


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PLANTING THE SEEDS OF FUTURE BLOOMS

It became a decent day to complete the chore of planting the remainder of the flowers in the various beds around the house. Frail and small in proportion to their soon to be abundant color and size. It is pleasing to the eyes.

Gardening relaxes me, much as it quelled my mother’s nerves back in the day. When she had her small spade in hand, she was transported to a more serene place and time. Those mindful adventures helped her. They probably kept her alive longer, with all the ailments she tended to keep private.

So, I come by my love of dirt naturally. And like I said, gardening relaxes me. Which I think is why when my writing partner, Marie Elena Good (from Maumee, Ohio) and I decided to branch out from “Across the Lake” the idea of a verbal garden appealed to me greatly. It was a thought I had held sequestered in the dark recesses of my mind (sometimes a very scary place) which was just waiting for the right time and place. A poetry place with a whole plot full of other like poetic minds planting seed. Seeds of thought that grow into “works of worded wonder”. The best of the best grows into “Beautiful Blooms”. All from a little spark of an idea; a nudge into rhyme. POETIC BLOOMINGS – the name of the place.

It is truly a joint effort. A communal garden. It eases my mind. While my botanical flowers take root and grow, I’ll watch them sprout until the poetry breaks ground and blooms.

Gardening relaxes me.


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EASING BACK TO NORMALCY

All plans and preparations were completed and the celebration to the union of two young people made for each other is winding down. Two days after the nuptials, the Mother and Father of the Bride take time adjusting to the facts as they have been presented to us. Our daughter is a married woman.

Now that part isn’t so hard to swallow per se, the kids were engaged for 18 months before the big day. We had time to adjust. Hearing the echo in the “cavernous room” left vacant, haunts memories of her well lived life so far. We haven’t decided the disposition of this space. We’re giving it time.  Maybe our Andrea will assume her sister’s room. The lack of adequate closet space (my wife’s bane since we bought the place) could be remedied here. Maybe a “Man space” for… (not an option she says as I type).

Lost in contemplative thought and I hear the sound of car tires on the stone approach to the house. A frantic ring of the doorbell summons Janice and me to the door, post haste. There stands the young newlyweds.

“Don’t you have your key?” my wife inquires.

“I don’t really live here anymore” my daughter quips.

A stabbing truth in the reality of this past weekend.

“Maybe so” we say, “but this will always be your home. You two are always welcome!” I complete the thought.

“Thanks, Dad” I hear from the man responsible for my daughter now. A calming hand on the shoulder of my despair. I think we’re easing back to normalcy.


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REHEARSING TO BE MRS. KRUSE

It was an amazing 24 hours. The whole week really. Melissa had come home to be married out of our house like she always dreamed. We ate meals as a family. We watched movies together (wedding movies, needless to say). 

Cold, wet skies pocked the approaching days, and in a way we prayed for better weather. It poured as we entered the church to rehearse. Step here, do that. Don’t do this, the wedding party goes here… And it seemed to go smoothly (a precursor to the following nuptials). Dinner and a gathering again as a soon to be newly formed family. Drinks and laughs and food and long glancing looks.

Her mother looks contemplative. She knows our daughter will join the ranks as a wife and somewhere down the road, a mother. They’ve had their battles, both headstrong and driven. Melissa was too much like her mother, as much as neither would admit it. As much as they both hoped they would be.

And I was as melancholy as I had become as the big day neared. Mixed emotions, I guess you would say. Melissa was our first born. She was my helper, my right hand. She cared for her sister while mom worked nights and I tried hard to keep the ship afloat. Her chosen field (teaching) came to her naturally, again in her dealings with Andrea, her junior by seven years. The girls liked to play school. And in acting as teacher, Melissa did indeed teach her sister, how to read and write long before she had been enrolled at school.

She was my biggest fan. She enjoyed my music and was my best critic when it came to my verbal scribblings. I knew my poetry was good when I was able to elicit tears from Melissa through the touching beauty of some well chosen words. For a while it felt like I was losing that.

But all I was losing was the daily connection we had come to rely upon. None of the rest really changed.

The morning of the wedding moved like a high speed movie. Disjointed scenes, random clips of a pre-scripted show. Hair appointments, and dressing, photographs and in the milieu of time, a wedding happened. Me, on wobbly legs escorting this beautiful woman (the second time in my life) down an aisle to a new life. No practice was really necessary, she knew what to do all along. It was as if she were leading me to where she needed to be. I had been replaced. And she couldn’t have chosen a better man.

But in reality, it was he that made the correct choice. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple of kids.


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TIME FLEES

It’s been a week since I last posted. You see, I’ve been distracted, but I’ll go back and fill in with thoughts or profiles or attractions. I had done so well, and then it hit me squarely between the eyes.

My oldest daughter is getting married tomorrow. The past week was filled with preparations, last minute changes, fittings and gatherings and a whole mess of panic as it ebbed and flowed. But sitting here now I still find no relief.

The girls are off doing girly things (nails and the last blasts of tanning) before the rehearsal. And I find myself as Steve Martin did at the beginning of “Father of the Bride”; lost in a chronology leading to this day. Twenty seven years passes quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

We’ve spent a lot of time together the past few days. Family meals at a full table were reminiscent of days past. Conversations and melancholy rambles and getting on each others nerves occasionally. (Old habits die hard). Evenings were special, as we watched every “wedding” related movie in our DVD library. Looking back at it, I think we’re ready to begin this new phase. It will be different for sure.

As you get older, the phrase “Time Flees” takes special meaning. But for one day, I am willing it to stand still.

I can hear God laughing now.


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ANDREA LEA

With the spotlight shining brightly on the soon-to-be, bride-to-be, I think it only fitting to present the other bookend, my daughter Andrea. (She prefers AN-DREE-YA, call her ON-DRAY-A and there’ll be much hell to pay). As you can sense, she is a lethal combination of beauty and brawn – an attitude a mile long and wide, and there’s no hiding the fact that my Andrea is Sassy! (Her self- proclaimed moniker) And she backs that up every time.

Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism, but she says what’s on her mind and means what she says. The “sass” comes naturally. But this “Little Darlin'” has a tender side (which unfortunately she doesn’t let out of its cage very often), which is being displayed as we near the marriage of her sister, Melissa. Andrea was so thrilled when asked to be Maid of Honor, and she lavished her older sister with gifts and all the attention deserving a teacher and mentor.

She has a playful repartee with her soon-to-be Brother-in-Law, Ryan, with neither passing the opportunity to nudge and cajole on many topics, but most decidedly – Ice Hockey and Music.

IMG_0058She loves ice hockey, and has a devotion to the local heroes (?), the Buffalo Sabres in general and her favorite #57. She spouts statistics and minutia that would have rivaled my mindless baseball trivia in my halcyon days. At last count Andrea has amassed 9(?) Sabres hockey jerseys and a Colorado Avalanche sweater. (Gabriel Landeskog is a god – IHHO!)

And there is no mistaking, the two sisters are as different as night and Pop Rocks. Melissa, always the levelheaded one, knew where she wanted to be and got there. Andrea has an idea what she wants and will know when she gets there. I have no doubt she will. My wife admonishes our youngest, “If you were my first born, you’d be an only child!” Knowing the headstrong nature of my Taurus, we all realize that’s a lot of bull. She would have emerged no matter what.

As she says, “Dad, timing is everything!”

As Andrea steps to the forefront, I tend to agree with her.


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WATCHING SISTERS GROWING CLOSER

IMG_0145(1)There is a seven year span between my two daughters. In their younger years, that difference was VERY apparent. The comparison between a six year old and a teenager is the shift from night to day. Neither was treated any differently; one not loved more than the other. So growing into that environment didn’t take a whole lot of work on my wife’s and my part. The girls had some figuring out to do.

Melissa, as you’ve found, is the older of the two. A brilliant student who actually struggled greatly early on. But she had found her stride and hit the ground running. Her levelheadedness and willingness to take constructive criticism in the nature it was given, allowed her to become the Salutatorian for her graduating class.

Andrea was our reader. She consumed material faster than I could travel to the library to keep her in fresh “meat”. She vowed to do her sister one better; to finish the top of her class. But fate and children can be very cruel and destructive. And Andrea found that out as she moved up into middle-school. She had been the target for a band of bullies – girls who two years prior were her dearest friends, found her success to be a currency she shouldn’t be allowed to accumulate.

She changed and in her defense found a new strength which became her new attitude. And believe me when I say ATTITUDE! However, she felt the need to wield that sword indiscriminately. Her mother, sister and I caught a stray edge every so often. And again to her credit, Andrea found how to use her “powers” for good. Today, Andrea refers to that time as “becoming Sassy!” She remains sassy to this day.

The girls found their bond naturally. They shared clothes, invading each others closets as if they were battling for the West Bank. They offered opinions on their musical style, often listening to the same groups or introducing the other to something new. Their communication expanded as their acumen with the new technologies left their mother and I scratching our heads.

And in the process a funny thing happened. Melissa and Andrea “became” the sisters we always hoped they’d be. They still “tussle” on occasion, but they work out their differences. As Melissa prepared for her upcoming wedding, her Maid-of-Honor (a title Andrea took great pride in accepting) became an extension of  her older (in chronological years) sister and they began to almost think the same thoughts. Andrea also accepted her new “brother” Ryan (with her own Ryan waiting in the wings). It was nearly perfect. My wife and I became very afraid! 😉

The process, though arduous at times became very clear. We did a decent job with the two of them. Two daughters who make us proud in their own right daily. And two sisters  in whom we’ve taken great joy watching grow closer.

MLWALW1A2


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I CAN ALMOST HEAR THE BELLS FROM HERE…

I wrote a piece of flash fiction this morning about a young man’s relationship with a grandparent. For the curious, flash fiction is basically a short story. And the premise for this bit of muse has festered for the past few weeks.

Since I started posting to this “journal”, each day becomes a new page in my life story. And after 57+ years, a lot of pages have gone unwritten. I hope to somehow make up for lost time.

(But, back to the grandparents…)

My eldest daughter Melissa is getting married very soon. And for as much joy and pride she (and her sister, Andrea) has given us, I feel a twinge of sadness, that I’m sure comes with the territory. But no story comes without those little twists.

Eleven months after we were married (no shot gun necessary here), Melissa was born. Having her so early in our married life gave us little time together before it needed to be shared with another person. DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a COMPLAINT by and stretch of the imagination. It only illustrates that the three of us, Mel, my wife and I had to grow up together. At times, Melissa did a better job of it that than we did.

In her first nine months of life, Melissa had all she needed, being spoiled by both sets of grandparents. She was well dressed and entertained, spending an equal time with both families. Living a stones throw from home during her first four years, the opportunity presented itself to visit home as often as possible, with baby girl in tow. Melissa would “get to know” my mother very well.

Mom doted on her. Melissa was mom’s third grandchild, but you wouldn’t have known it. She treated her like her first. On Sundays after church, the three of us would stop for coffee and a visit, and mom would light up like her dreaded “Christmas tree” when she saw Melissa.

“My Missa!” she’d coo. “My good Catholic girl, My Missa!” as Melissa was dressed in her finest frilliest frocks (Say that fast a few times).

Mom promised to teach Melissa how to cook, and sew and crochet (mom’s afghans are legendary, adorning the back of the couch and the back seat of my car to this day, twenty-eight years after the fact). Mom for the first time in a long stretch looked forward to that Christmas, with two new baby grand-daughters (my niece Katie having been born a month before Melissa) to celebrate.

We never anticipated mom passing away from a brain aneurysm on Christmas Eve that first year.

Melissa has grown to a fine and beautiful young woman (both of my girls have, actually). She has become a wonderful cook. She doesn’t sew at all and her crocheting phase was short lived (having been taught by my mother’s sister, Anne who had become a surrogate grandmother at one point). We’re fairly certain, Mom has guided my daughter in “absentia”.

But she is loving and caring and will make a fine wife and somewhere down the line,  an excellent mother. She continues to be a source of joy and pride. There’s no hiding the fact that Dad will walk a misty aisle when the day is finally here. My wife’s parents are still with us, and will share in that day. My mom and Dad will be looking down proudly from their Celestial perch. Hidden in the peal of wedding bells will be the sound of my mother’s murmur, “Missa, my Missa!” loud and clear.

I can almost hear the bells from here…


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SCHROEDER, LUCY AND THE IDES OF MAY…

Today , May 15th – a reprieve from the weather gods, a return to sunshine, blue skies and seventy degree temps. Ok, so I wussed out a bit when the mercury dipped. I’m just sick of those elongated “winters” three weeks from the first day of Summer.

Summer. (Follow closely kids, because here is where I go off on a tangent or a flashback if I get it right – a little mental slight of hand). Today I’m at work listening to music specifically from 1969 – “Summer of Love” (see how nicely I tied that in?) That was the year I became a teen. What did a debilitatingly shy momma’s boy know from rebellion? I just knew the music was boss. That year, and those tunes are the soundtrack for this life.

The melodies and lyrics so clearly sit right on the tip of my cerebellum.  I found my escape in what blasted from my transistor radio (we won’t get into it now kids, it would take some doing – think of it as an iPod in which someone else picks your playlist – yeah, scary, I know!). I also found my poetic powers that summer… in a roundabout way.

My parents bought a console organ – a nice piece of furniture since no one knew how to play the damn thing worth a lick. I was never sure what possessed them to make this acquisition, but all these years later I see the method to their collective madness. And I thank them. I taught myself how to play it. To this day I can not read a note of music, but I did learn to play. I would place my radio nearby and work out the melodies of the sounds I heard. It came as random noise at first (someone squeezing the life out of a goose) but I did eventually get better.

SchroederLucyThe neighbors started to call me “Schroeder” after the piano playing fool from the Peanuts comics. At first I hated the tag. I hated any nickname (I still shudder at them to this day, but have grown more tolerant). I seemed to grow into the moniker. I started writing melodies; “love songs for no one” (Thanks John Mayer). And at thirteen, I lamented lost love that was years from being reality. First crushes die hard. Needless to say, let she who throws the first Schroeder, be labeled the first Lucy (just to keep the illusion straight).

But for as badly as I tried to write the music, the words flowed sweetly and with a depth I never knew I could possess.  My lyrics could certainly stand on their own. My non-musical poetry.

The music on my 1969 playlist takes me home every time. I miss the house in which I grew up and the parents who gave me every thing I ever needed (wanted, on the other hand was a lesson hard learned). I miss the neighborhood and having an audience who came with lawn chairs to listen. I miss being the Schroeder of my youth. This one’s getting a little long in the tooth. I shoulda listened to my mother and practiced more. I coulda been somebody. Maybe even could have been a poet?

Maybe Schroeder?


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MY MOTHER IS ALWAYS WITH ME…

It is said that the greatest gift you could give your children, is to love their mother. It is unfortunate that I did not always strive to present such a prize to my girls. Thankfully, people can change. It seems I’ve finally gotten around to giving my girls the gift that they always deserve. What my daughters have learned in the growing we all did as a family can be attributed to the lessons I was taught by my mother. No better day to pay that tribute forward.

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Irene Marion (Kura) Wojtanik 1930-1986

My grounding was the same as hers, being raised in the very same house into which she was brought, an old wooden clapboard three family house on Wood Street. (I don’t know how they did it then, but I guess you did what you had to do) It was near the railroad tracks that guided six or seven different lines through the neighbor every day for three-hundred and sixty-five.

Raised with her brother and her sister (half-sister/cousin) by my grandparents; he a Naturalized Citizen from Poland and she the American born sister of his first wife who had succumbed to Tuberculosis. My mother’s sister was a product of that union and thus the confusion. But they grew as true siblings. (I never knew the convolution until I was much older researching our genealogy)

The closeness had been expressed in later years when after meeting, dating and marrying my father brought me and six siblings into the tight confines of our house. We each offered different challenges, but she handled it and all subsequent speed bumps with her motherly grace and resolve. Her toughness was exhibited when my oldest brother (her firstborn, Joseph) died nine hours into life. (Complications from her toxemia). The next year she welcomed my sister and we moved forward from there.

As we got older and started to find our footing in the world, mom found our independence both comforting and disturbing. She was glad we had direction. But she also worried that the family was fracturing in that we didn’t spend times together as a family. My mother out of frustration would always tease (threaten), asserting that “one of these Christmases, I’m taking a long trip and I’m not coming back!’

She became her own self-fulfilling prophet when on Christmas Eve 1986 my mother died from a brain aneurysm. The loss of her on such a day could have been devastating for the family, but it began the process of pulling us together closer. That found completion when four days short of the twentieth anniversary of her death, our father passed from this life.

But in all that time (27 years this December) there hasn’t been a day that I’m not reminder of my mother. I have her hazel eyes and her facial features; my youngest daughter bears a strong resemblance to my mother as a young girl (from the photographs I’ve archived). I don’t need to look far to find her.

My mother is always with me. She is the whisper of the wind rustling the leaves as I walk down the street. She’s the feel of softness in my freshly laundered socks; the consoling hand on my brow when things are not well. She has presented me with my creative flair.

My mother lives in my laughter, and is crystallized in every tear drop ever shed for her. From her I have originated, she was my first home. When I need direction, she is the map I follow and she guides every step that I take. My mother becomes the model I consult when my parenting skills go askew.

She remains my teacher and supporter, my mentor and friend. Mom is my protector, steering me from disaster. She is everything I could have ever asked for in a mother. She had been my first love and my first heartbreak and nothing in this life has been able to separate us. Not time. Not space. Not even death can remove her influence from my life. My mother is gone, and she is always with me.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mother, my wife Janice and her mother, and all mothers on today your special day!