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A Pie Recipe for Pi Day


A Pie Recipe for Pi Day


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



You have seven days to plan your celebration of Pi Day–March 14, 2018 (3/14).  Are you thinking of baking a pie  or eating a piece of pie?  Having a piece of pie with a cup of hot tea is a fine and festive choice to enjoy while you are reading and/or writing a pi poem on 3/14.  In last week’s blog post, I shared with you one of my pi poems and gave you the framework for writing your own pi poem.  In this week’s WORDWALK post, I am sharing with you a recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie from my mother’s recipe collection.  This pie recipe was one that Mother made somewhat frequently because it was a favorite of my sister and my cousin Donald.


Whether fruit or cream pies, single-crust or double-crust–all of the pies my mother made were beautiful and delicious–worthy of having a pie photo in a famous cookbook.  As a younger child, I assumed that all mothers made picture-perfect pies; By the time I hit the double-digits of age, I realized that not all pie bakers were of blue-ribbon quality.  Thus, through the years, I gained a better appreciation for my mother’s baking skills.  Since she worked full-time as the postmaster of our small town of Blanford (Indiana), Mother thoroughly enjoyed the art of baking and never complained about time spent in her kitchen.  My mother’s Chocolate Cream Pie recipe is based on a recipe from what is now considered a “vintage cookbook”–The Art of Cooking and Serving, by Sarah Field Splint, copyright 1930 (Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio, 252 pages).  When our family still had the kitchen with the white cabinets, Mother kept all of her cookbooks in a large drawer near the northeast corner of the room.  Besides liking to eat my mother’s baked goodies, I liked to peruse her cookbooks.  Now, you can have a look at one of her favorite pie recipes.


Mother’s Chocolate Cream Pie


one baked pie shell


two tablespoons Crisco {trademark}

six tablespoons flour

one and one-half cups milk {My mother’s handwritten note on the recipe indicated that either whole or two-percent milk could be used.}

two squares unsweetened (baking) chocolate

three-fourths cup granulated sugar

one-fourth teaspoon salt

two egg yolks

one teaspoon vanilla


* * *


two tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

two egg whites (room temperature)


  1. Melt Crisco.


  1. Add flour, milk, chocolate (cut in pieces), granulated sugar, and salt; stir constantly, and bring slowly to the boiling point. Mixture will become thick and smooth.


  1. After removing pan from heat, stir in beaten egg yolks and vanilla.


  1. Pour into baked pie shell.


IMPORTANT!  Another suggestion which my mother wrote on the recipe was:  “Let the pie filling come to room temperature  before preparing meringue.”




  1. Beat egg whites until stiff.


  1. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar to stiffly beaten egg whites and continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff.


  1. As you spoon the egg-white mixture onto the chocolate pie filling, allow the egg-white mixture to form soft peaks. Be certain to spread meringue to edges of crust to form a seal in order to prevent shrinking of meringue.


  1. Bake in a moderate oven (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for fifteen minutes or until a delicate brown.


NOTE:  You may choose to use your own meringue recipe with the chocolate cream filling.  Some meringue recipes call for more ingredients (such as cream of tartar and vanilla) than does this vintage recipe of 1930.  Also, I remember my mother’s experimenting with the temperature and time of baking, especially after a new oven entered our kitchen.  Perhaps, you may find that 350 degrees for twelve to fifteen minutes is better while other bakers may prefer 425 degrees for only eight minutes.  Happy baking!


On Pi Day, March 14, you may find that, if you are not in the baking mood, a pie shop or bakery may have a special sale.  Also, some restaurants may mark Pi Day with a special price for a piece of pie.  Is reading this blog making you hungry for the artful wedge of pastry?  A piece of pie and a pi poem sound like a winning combination to me!


SHARING TIME:  In the comment section for this WORDWALK post, please share your favorite kind of pie, your favorite pie recipe, and/or your favorite pie story.


Happy Pie Day!  Happy March!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


March 7, 2018, Wednesday



Easy Guide for Writing a Pi Poem


Easy Guide for Writing a Pi Poem for Spring


On this eve of meteorological spring–March 1, 2018–I am sharing with you another pi poem.  Of all the pieces which I have posted since January 19, 2013, my blog posts about pi poems are at the top of the list for the most views on my WORDWALK blogsite.  Thus, to help some students and other hobby writers, I am including an easy guide for writing a pi poem of 32 lines, along with a sample pi poem; however, by following the numerals of the mathematical pi, you may write your pi poem of lesser or more poetic lines.  You need only count the syllables per line to coincide with the numerals of the mathematical pi (as noted below).  The rhyme scheme, or lack thereof, is totally your choice.  Nevertheless, be certain to add as many poetic touches as are appropriate for your creation.


I am giving you the following sample of a pi poem and then the guide for writing a “piem” so that you will have two weeks to craft a pi poem by “Pi Day”–March 14 (3/14).  While you may choose any topic for the focus of your pi poem, I selected “Primavera” (Spanish and Italian for “spring”) for the topic of my sample of a pi poem.  Try your poetic hand at being a “piemist” after you have read the pi poem and then the poem again with the syllabic guide.


Welcome, Primavera:  A Seasoned Pi Poem


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Spring blessings


upon the heel


winter’s frosted clouds,

on ochre petals of daffodils,

on trills

of robins’ measured notes,

in hyacinth air,

from sweet voices

of children swinging,

from the soft whir of bicycles,

from fragrance of earth where I will plant

perennial Summer Soul

To hear the quiet affirmation–

dear Nature’s



alas, your turn has come to choose.

How will our March,

April, and May appear?



precious secrets

to planters,


tillers of your magical soil.

Bless their fields,


with fair rationings of rain,

lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.

Primavera, come!”


NOTE:  Below you will find my pi poem with each of the 32 lines preceded by the number of syllables in the line.  These numbers, in order down the left column, comprise the first 32 numerals of the mathematical pi.


Welcome, Primavera:  A Seasoned Pi Poem


(3)  Spring blessings

(1)  come

(4)  upon the heel

(1)  of

(5)  winter’s frosted clouds,

(9)  on ochre petals of daffodils,

(2)  on trills

(6)  of robins’ measured notes,

(5)  in hyacinth air,

(3)  from sweet voices

(5)  of children swinging,

(8)  from the soft whir of bicycles,

(9)  from fragrance of earth where I will plant

(7)  perennial Summer Soul

(9)  To hear the quiet affirmation–

(3)  dear Nature’s

(2)  welcome:

(3)  “Primavera,

(8)  alas, your turn has come to choose.

(4)  How will our March,

(6)  April, and May appear?

(2)  Whisper

(6)  meteorological,

(4)  precious secrets

(3)  to planters,

(3)  gardeners,

(8)  tillers of your magical soil.

(3)  Bless their fields,

(2)  gardens

(7)  with fair rationings of rain,

(9)lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.

(5)  Primavera, come!”


Happy writing, and enjoy meteorological spring!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 28, 2018, Wednesday



More Tales of Guide Dogs



Winter Tales of Doggie Boots and Olympic Doggie Dreams


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While a vast audience was watching the Winter Olympics on February 12 and 13, Willow–my fourth guide dog–and I were keenly attuned to the broadcast of the Westminster Dog Show.  Despite the learned judges’ decisions, I know that my Black Labrador is my “Best of Show.”  Happily, Willow does garner a host of fans and an admiring audience.  For example, whenever she wears all four of her blue boots, my guide dog grabs the attention of even more spectators than usual.  As Willow and I were walking down State Street on a recent wintry day, a group of students from Milwaukee School of Engineering cooed, “Oh, she’s so cute in her blue boots!” and “Ah, that’s so sweet.”


After taking a couple of tours around the block of Red Arrow Park’s ice rink (which Willow finds very interesting this winter), a man who was heading toward his parked vehicle, quipped, “I have never seen a dog in those {boots}.”  Nevertheless, I have heard that such boots are quite common on paws of Chicago canines.  Certainly, Willow is wanting to keep up with the style set in “The Windy City,” “The Second City.”


On a particularly challenging day of February weather, I think each person whom Willow and I passed on our way to Metro Market positively remarked on Willow’s choice of footwear–PAW-wear.  At the supermarket, Willow and her boots received more attention and comments.  On our sojourn home, Willow was spoiled with more compliments for her wearing her blue boots.  I will confess that prior to the onset of comments, I had no idea that this particular set of boots is blue.  Well, believe me, we have had many affirmations that the boots are blue and, therefore, patriotically match her red-and-white coat.


Of course, what bystanders do not realize is that Willow’s sporting all four boots is undoubtedly deserving of a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.  Would the Olympics consider a new event?  The wearing of doggie boots on salt-covered sidewalks?  How about a BLUE medal for such a feat?


The reason I am totally in favor of this new Olympic event and medal is that although my three previous amazing, much-appreciated, and beloved guide dogs worked so especially well for me–they would not wear boots.  I thought I had just not found the right style of boots, so I kept trying through the twenty-seven years of working with guide dogs.  Thus, I accumulated a significant collection of doggie boots.  At times, I have mused that I could start a doggie boot store.


With her Golden-Retriever goodness, my graceful and gorgeous first Leader Dog, Keller, allowed me to put all four red boots on her paws.  Then, she rolled onto her back and pointed all four boot-bedecked paws up toward the ceiling as if she were telling me, “These boots are not made for walking.”  The winters that she was an instrumental part of my life were the harshest winters of my twenty-seven winters that I have spent in Milwaukee.  I recall snowdrifts so high in our inner courtyard that Keller could not guide me through the drift.  To precede to the circle drive where we could take a cab to the technical college where I taught, I had to drop Keller’s harness handle, change from the short leash (used for guide work) to the long leash, have Keller stay while I managed to climb over the snow drift.  As soon as I was safely on the other side of the drift, I called Keller to me; she, agile and willing to please, quickly jumped over the drift.  Should this be an Olympic event–worth a blue medal?  During those early winters of the 1990s, Keller and I had plenty of practice with such wintry feats.


Following in Keller’s pawprints, Heather, my second Leader Dog, saw no reason for wearing boots.  Although Heather was too much larger than my Golden to wear her red plaid coat, Heather gladly and frequently wore one of two fleece-lined coats–but never a boot.  My Yellow Labrador Retriever did happily welcome the application of the paw balm called “Musher’s Secret.”  One at a time, in the proper order, she held up a paw for my rubbing on the paw “protector” and later for cleaning each paw.


Throughout our ten years of working together (along with Heather’s one year of semi-retirement and thirteen months of retirement), my second guide dog and I had many winter adventures–one of which that happened during the blizzard of April 7, 2000 is a whole story of itself on a previous WORDWALK post.  The second most memorable winter feat of my Yellow Lab occurred when we were walking home from the technical college.  At approximately the halfway point on our trek home, we just crossed the historic drawbridge over State Street when sleet began stinging our faces.  We were at a point where turning back was as far as our destination.  The remainder of that long block had no building to enter for cover.  While I could close my eyes behind my glasses with side shields and pull my scarf up for additional protection, Heather had to squint through the pelting sleet to take us to a safe location.  Amazingly, my Leader Dog safely guided me through the next major intersection and up the hill.  The farther we walked away from the Milwaukee River, the more the sleet subsided.  Of all the walking I have done with all four of my guides, that afternoon walk with Heather was the only time one of my guide dogs and I were caught in a heavy sleet storm.  Did Heather deserve a blue medal for safe guiding in sleet?  From my perspective, her work was of Olympic proportion.  As usual, when we arrived home, I thoroughly dried her and thoroughly praised and thanked her for her confidence, commitment, and courage to guide me home under such wintry circumstances.


My regular readers of WORDWALK know that my third Leader Dog, Zoe, was my extraordinary Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix whom I always refer to as “practically perfect” for me.  My beautiful Zoe proudly wore two hand-me-down coats from her buddy Heather, as well as a new red coat of her own; however, not even my practically perfect Zoe would wear a doggie boot.  Like Heather, Zoe was very accepting of Musher’s Secret–but no boots.  In all other ways, Zoe would be on the podium to medal in all other canine events.  (I still miss her in Olympic proportions.)


After too few winters with my Zoe, the seasons somehow do go on with my little Willow.  The only “boot-wearer” of the bunch is also quite adept at what I call “Puddle Alert.”  My Black Lab comes to a stop and wants me to feel with my boot the puddle that is ahead.  I praise her, but a blue medal would be nice.  Don’t you think?


For more evidence, I mention last Saturday’s walk.  The sidewalks were finally clear of snow and salt–I thought.  To avoid another construction project, Willow and I turned down a sidewalk where we do not travel as often.  Two-thirds of the way down the double block, Willow came to a dead stop.  I tried a couple of times to have her “hup up.”  She would not.  Then, I discovered the reason:  a wide patch of ice, at least six feet in length, was on our path.  “Ice Alert!  Good dog, Willow!”  Medals or no medals–these guide dogs do know how to impress in Olympic ways!


Blessings for all guide dogs and their handlers throughout the remaining days of this winter!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 21, 2018, Wednesday



Another Love Letter from My Dad during World War II


For This Valentine’s Day of 2018,


Another Love Letter from Europe during World War II


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa and her father, James F. Massa



My parents, James and Mary Massa, were married in a very simple ceremony in Rockville, Indiana, on December 4, 1942, while my dad was serving in the Army .  For just three days less than 55 years, they were each other’s Valentine.


Throughout their marriage, my parents saved a multitude of greeting cards of various types, from each other and from my sister and me.  All of these cards were placed in the large, lowest drawer  of the tall chest-of-drawers in their bedroom; they kept some other mementos in this deep and wide drawer also.  One year, during the later years of their marriage, my mother decided that she would go through the cards which Dad had given to her; and then she would recycle the card to her Jimmy for the particular occasion.  Then, Dad decided to follow suit:  rather than shopping at a card store, he, too, perused the collection of cards in the lowest drawer and selected a card to recycle to my mother.  At first, they found this new custom more humorous than I did; nevertheless, after a while, I arrived at the mindset that this new tradition of exchanging cards from their earlier years was precious.


In our keepsakes, my sister and I do not have a February-postmarked letter from my dad to my mother during World War II.  Perhaps, the February letter was (or letters were) lost or deliberately not handed down to my sister and me.  Thus, this third letter which I am sharing on WORDWALK is dated a few months after February, during a brighter and happier time.  As I copy this letter below, I think of all the service men and women who are unable to be with their loved ones on this Valentine’s Day, and I keep them in my thoughts and prayers.


* * *


May 3, 1945


Dearest Wife,


Received your letter and was sure glad to hear from you.  I’ve been listening to the radio, and the news seems pretty good.


How’s Lydia [my mother’s next older sister who was expecting her first baby] feeling?  I sure hope she doesn’t have any trouble.


How’s the weather there?  Has it warmed up any yet?  It’s partly chilly here also.


I received a letter from Charlie [my dad’s older brother who was serving as a mechanic, perhaps, in England at this time] and one from Johnny [my dad’s next younger brother who was serving in the Infantry, in Europe].  They are alright.


Honey, I really miss you.  I can’t hardly wait till I get home to you.


How’s Billy and Donald Ray [young nephews]? Tell them I said “Hello.”  How’s the blond at the office?  [My sister and I have no idea who this person at the office is.  While my father was overseas, my mother worked at the Welfare Department at the Vermillion County Courthouse of Indiana; she also worked at her parents’ grocery store in Blanford, Indiana.]  Tell the folks I said “Hello.”


Honey, closing with loads of love and kisses.

Your husband, Jimmy


* * *


The above letter was written on a “V–MAIL,” which measures four by five inches.  As I noted in other blog posts, my extraordinary father was in the 638th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  Our family was so blessed because after serving in World War II, my dad and his three brothers–Charlie, Johnny, and Jules–came back home to Indiana safe and well.


Hoping that you have enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 14, 2018, Wednesday


Another Heart-warming Visit with Peanut


To Warm Your Heart This February,


Enjoy Another Visit with Peanut of Blind Faith Farm


(Book by Wisconsin Writer Jim Thompson)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



As we enter into the snow-filled, frigid, days and nights of February, are you ready for an extraordinarily heart-warming story?  This week’s WORDWALK blog post is unusual because I am primarily sharing with you a link to a segment that was broadcast on Milwaukee’s television channel 58 program CBS 58 SUNDAY MORNING on February 4, 2018.  While this post is a follow-up to the book review that I shared on September 27, 2017, the February 5 broadcast was a follow-up to a feature story aired on the same program last November 19.  Reporter Jacquelyn Abad again takes us to Jim and Laura Thompson’s Blind Faith Farm where Peanut happily meets a new friend–Bennett.


With a four-paw recommendation from my Leader Dog Willow and a five-star recommendation from me, I encourage you to take four minutes of your time to listen to and watch the following link for another heart-warming adventure of Peanut of Blind Faith Farm (which takes you to the Channel 58 website with a “play video” button that is easily accessible).


After watching the video, if you would like to read more about Peanut and Blind Faith Farm or if you would like to purchase a copy or copies of Jim Thompson’s heart-warming book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, please visit the following website:


SPECIAL REQUEST:  In the comment section of this blog post, please add a comment about the video, the book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, or another heart-warming book which you recommend for winter reading.  Thanks!


Happy February!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 7, 2018, Wednesday


January Sunbeams (A Poem)


January Sunbeams


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Having survived a number of the record-setting gray days

on this Frozen Tundra, beside the lake–

I graciously welcome into my abode

the rare January sunbeams

that take their rest for a few short hours

upon the beige carpet of my living room.


“Willow, come!  Sunbeams!”

I cheer for my guide dog.

When she joins me, I encourage her:

“You have to catch these sunbeams.”

My British Black Labrador complies:

she nestles down into the rare sunshine comforter.

In this patch of sunbeam,

I know Willow does not dream of

her blue boots, red coat, nor salt.

My mellow Lab is in

a yellow Jell-O of cozy contentment.


After catching her limit of January sunbeams,

Willow returns to her bed,

beside my computer desk,

and patiently awaits the sounder

that alerts her

to my computer’s shutting down–

our cue to arise for a winter walk.


To waylay cabin fever,

Willow and I leave some January sunbeams

alone in the warmth of our living room

while we, bedecked in Arctic attire,

head outside

and hope other January sunbeams

will follow us,

warm our path,

brighten this January day,

lighten the load of this Wisconsin winter.


Enjoy this “Once-in-a-Blue-Moon” Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


POST-SCRIPT:  Once again, I give many thanks to all of you who added a comment on my previous blog post (“A Collage of Aunts:  An Update,” January 24).


January 31, 2018, Wednesday


A Collage of Aunts (An Update)


NOTE:  For this week’s WORDWALK post, I revised the essay “A Collage of Aunts,” which I first posted on January 29, 2014, in the midst of Polar Vortex II.  Since my Aunt Kathy will celebrate her twenty-first-plus-six-decades birthday this weekend, I thought that my family and, hopefully, you will enjoy this updated version of “A Collage of Aunts.”


A Collage of Aunts


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



The Milwaukee Streetcar Project seems a little less bothersome if I count my blessings—instead of days, months, and years that my guide dogs and I have been surrounded by construction.  Among the blessings which I count are my

seven aunts.  Only one of my dear aunts is still living—my Aunt Kathy, whose birthday this weekend, prompted me to ponder my “Collage of Aunts.”


Only one of my aunts—Aunt Rosemary—died in infancy.  On Memorial Days and at other times when we went to the cemetery in Clinton, Indiana, we visited Aunt Rosemary’s small grave.  I do wonder what she would have been like if she had been given the gift of a long life as all the other aunts received.  I remember hearing that my Aunt Rosemary was a beautiful baby; I wonder what she would have looked like as an adult and what she would have done.  Would she have had 20/20 vision or worn glasses?  Would she have melded into the collage of my aunts?  Would she have become a liberated woman before the era of women’s liberation—as my other aunts and my mother?


Although I grew up in a small rural town during the 50s and 60s, my aunts were excellent examples of the many choices I could have in my future.  I did not need the women’s liberation movement because I grew up with these strong, independent, supportive, and caring aunts.  Both directly and indirectly, they taught me so much and enriched my life.  Sharing with you a mini-portrait of each of these aunts is challenging because there is so much to tell about these special women.


Often, I have thought that an entire book should be written about my mother’s oldest sister—my Aunt Zita—who was so special to me and who was an extraordinary woman of her generation.  If you have read my blog of May 20, 2013, you know how she was always there when my family needed her.  When my mother became postmaster, one year prior to my entering grade school, I often stayed with Aunt Zita.  She was the more tolerant and supportive of my creative ways.  I enjoyed being at her restaurant which she managed alone after the much too early passing of her husband.  With her especially calm demeanor and dedicated employees, Aunt Zita ran her extremely successful Italian restaurant with an appearance of great ease.  In her living room, attached to the restaurant, I used to devour the World Book Encyclopedias which were at easy reach for me from her bookshelf.  While managing the restaurant and being head cook, Aunt Zita raised her two sons and sent them to college.  At the restaurant, our extended family had an abundance of happy times.


Of all my aunts, only one chose not to work outside her home.  My mother’s other sister—Aunt Lydia—worked on the farm that she and her husband called “home.”  For her generation, she was tall; and she had beautiful hair.  Aunt Lydia loved to talk.  When I was between jobs for a period of time, Aunt Lydia called me on the phone most afternoons.  She always had news to share, but also managed to give me some gentle advice and had a quiet manner of understanding others.  Like all my aunts, Aunt Lydia was a very good cook; for one of my favorite recipes from Aunt Lydia, please refer to my blog post of September 5, 2013, where you can read a little more about this aunt who raised three children on their Illinois farm which I so enjoyed visiting.


Although each of my aunts was blessed with laughter and a sense of humor, Aunt Theda was the one who greatly enjoyed telling a humorous story or a joke.  She had a memorable laugh:  when I think of my Aunt Zita’s restaurant, one of the sounds that echoes in my mind is the laughter of Aunt Theda who was a waitress at Binole’s Restaurant for many years.  Then, Aunt Theda decided to go to “Beauty School” to become a beautician.  For decades, she worked as a hairdresser and owned her own shop.  I remember so distinctly that after my cousin Carole (Aunt Theda’s only child), two of our grade-school friends, and I went to a movie at Clinton, Indiana’s Palace Theatre on a Sunday, we walked to Aunt Theda’s shop for a ride home; however, she treated each of us to a “wash and set”—quite a treat when I was in the seventh grade.  Like all my aunts, Aunt Theda had a powerful work ethic.  Undoubtedly, if there had ever been a car race among the aunts, Aunt Theda would have won.  She did have a heavy foot to fly through those seven miles between our hometown of Blanford and Clinton, where her business was located.  Even at age 80, she was still the beautician for a few of her longtime customers.


No one of my generation became a restauranteur nor hairdresser:  almost all of us became teachers.  While all of my aunts taught me so much, only one of them was a teacher by profession.  The wife of my dad’s youngest brother (Jules) taught at the elementary level in her home state of California for many years.  One of her two children also became a teacher.  For decades, Aunt Kay was involved in politics.  After she retired from teaching, this aunt from the West Coast became a travel agent and conducted some tours: this profession seemed to suit her very well because she and my Uncle Jules had traveled around the world throughout their long marriage.  Besides traveling to exotic places, they also, from time to time, came to the small town of Blanford for a visit.  I looked forward to their visits because I knew great and stimulating conversations would ensue.  Aunt Kay was one of the most intelligent people whom I ever met.  Since she knew so much about such a wide variety of topics, I always thought she should have been a contestant on my favorite show—Jeopardy.  I think she would have been a five-time winner and would have returned to the show for the Tournament of Champions.  (Please visit my archived blog post of February 5, 2014, for Aunt Kay’s Quiche recipe.)


Like Aunt Kay, Aunt Louise had a mind at which I marveled.  Even into her 90s, Aunt Louise, the wife of my dad’s next younger brother (Johnny), had an unbelievable memory—not just for events or happenings, but for the corresponding dates.  As the years progressed, Aunt Louise became even dearer and sweeter in my mind.  Having raised two sons who were devoted to their parents, Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny were perfectly matched in so many ways.  They viewed life from a very positive and happy pair of glasses.  Even during harder times, they were able to look ahead to brighter days and enjoy life.  For decades, they traveled to Las Vegas three or four times a year.  With family gathered around, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.  They were always sharply dressed.  Since they lived 90 miles away in Indianapolis, my parents and I enjoyed meeting my aunt and uncle at Turkey Run State Park for dinner at the lodge and a nice Sunday visit.  Due to their very positive attitudes, Aunt Louise lived to age 92; and Uncle Johnny also lived to age 92.  The famous radio commentator Paul Harvey really should have noted this couple’s 67 years of marriage.  Aunt Louise certainly left me a goal to live my life with a more positive attitude.


Fortunately for many others and for me, 26 years after my paternal grandmother’s first child (“Charlie”) was born and 24 years after my dad (“Jimmy”) was born—my grandma gave birth to my Aunt Kathy; thus, I am still blessed with one “young” aunt who should write a book about her childhood when she was growing up on the farm with four much older brothers.  In 1956, my dad’s sister married my mother’s nephew Bill; thus, our families (who had known each other in Italy) had become even more connected. In the summer of 2013, my cousin Carole and I—who were flower girls for my aunt’s wedding—went to Minnesota to help Aunt Kathy and Bill celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary.  (For a fun gift for their 57th anniversary, instead of a bottle of champagne, I gave them a bottle of Heinz 57 Steak Sauce.)


Through the years, Aunt Kathy moved to two Eastern states and two other Midwestern states for her husband’s work as a chemist and food plant manager; likewise, her three adult children live far from “home.”  Despite the miles between us, Aunt Kathy and I have remained close.  Perhaps, too often, I told my nephews, when they were in a not-so-talkative stage, that I would send them to the “Aunt Kathy School of Conversation!” Yes, on the phone or in person, Aunt Kathy is a most pleasant force of rapid conversation.  I like people who can easily carry on a good conversation.  Undoubtedly, her superb communication skills and her vibrant energy led also to her being an outstanding employee.  When she was in her teens, Aunt Kathy began working at the Vermillion County Hospital; along with raising her three children, she continued to work at doctors’ offices and at medical clinics as a medical transcriptionist.  Although she has been retired in Minnesota for a number of years, Aunt Kathy is quite active at the Y and with church groups.  Besides being blessed with good health and good neighbors, Aunt Kathy is blessed with four beautiful and extremely intelligent grandchildren, as well as one darling great-granddaughter who loves Elvis’ music and her “G.G.” (great-grandma).  Thus, traveling to Mexico, Oregon, and Ohio is important to my “jet-setting” aunt.


When my sister and I visited our Minnesota relatives in August of 2011, my aunt gave to me a gift which I cherish.  During the time that my dad was in the Army (1941-1945), he gave his little sister a powder compact shaped like an Army hat.  Her giving me this gift from my extraordinary father continues to mean so very much to me.  In December of 2016, when I sent copies of my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, to family members and friends as Christmas gifts, Aunt Kathy called me after reading my holiday book.  On a voice-mail message, my aunt, filled with emotion, managed to say, “Your parents would be so proud of you.”  These words from my Aunt Kathy meant more to me than any words from even a reviewer from The New York Times could mean.


While I would not visit Aunt Kathy in Minnesota in the middle of winter, visiting my aunt is as close to being home with my family as this “senior-citizen writer, once-upon-a-time flower girl” can be.  Aunt Kathy is far away from Indiana, but her heart still exudes that Hoosier and Italian-family spirit which still warms and nourishes my soul.


Each of my aunts is unique and remembered so fondly; each touched my life and embellished it in so many ways.  God bless all my special aunts!


SPECIAL REQUEST:  In the “Comments Section” of this blog, please share a note about a special aunt of yours; or, if you know my Aunt Kathy, please add a birthday wish for her.  Thanks!


Counting blessings and sending birthday wishes to my Aunt Kathy,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


January 24, 2018, Wednesday