Monday, November 30, 2009


As we approach the Christmas season this year, I am blessed that my mother was thoughtful enough to leave a very special gift to her children a few years ago. She gave us all a handwritten account taken from her diaries of her Winter Vacation spent with her Ba'buschka at the Dacha in 1932. What a treasure it is to have these memories from Nonna to cherish long after her death. The following is an excerpt from Nonna's writing. " We heard Babuschka calling, Petrovich, get the horses and the Sleigh out, we are going for a ride! While we were being dressed in our warmest clothes, caps with ear flaps, scarfs, mittens etc. my Uncle Szenya and Anatoly were already outside opening the gates. Now I could see the bright colors of the Sleigh and I could imagine why it had been called the most "important thing" in the Family. It had been in the family for several generations and was a very large Sleigh that could fit at least twelve people in it. All three horses had bells on their harness and it was very exciting. After everybody was seated and everything was in order, we took off. What a glorious feeling!! It was a very good day for a sleigh ride, as the Sun was still out, but it was very cold, about 25 below zero. When you breathed, you could see your breath turn into particles of the beautiful glitters. When we were far enough and Grandmother's house could no longer be seen, Petrovich took a road that was close to the woods. It was Grandmother's idea so we could spot some Rabbits or other animals. By the sound of bells and children's noises, the furry creatures would scatter back into the woods. " Not too close to the trees Petrovich, Grandmother was saying, We don't want to see any Wolves or wild Boars! It seemed that she really enjoyed to put a little fear into us and see that anxious look on our faces. After the sun went down and everybody was getting hungry we were ready to go back to the Dacha. For us, there was still plenty of day left, even though by then it was quite dark outside. The best times were still to come!

Nonna wrote all about that special Christmas and it was a time that she remembered for as long as she lived. My wish for you is that you too will have a special Christmas that stays inside your Heart for all of your days!

Love John

Monday, November 23, 2009


As we begin this week of Thanksgiving, each and everyone of us has much more to be thankful for than we probably realize. Here's a few things to list. Our health should be number one as we lift our heads up in prayer. Although you may be struggling with health issues or pains, it could always be worse. Number two is a bed to sleep in and a roof over our heads, some people do not have this often unthought about convenience. Number three should be loved ones in our lives. Whether it is family or friends, it is comforting to have caring people around us. Number four, we should be thankful for having food, often too much to pick from, each and everyday. Number five should be freedom, the fact that we can come and go as we please and that we live in a country that allows us to worship as we want to.

Nonna was a big fan of Thanksgiving, spending hours preparing and feeding her family. It was a special day to her for many reason, including those listed above. We may not be able to choose what happens in our life at times, but we all can choose how we react to each situation. We have the ability to shrivel up and wither away or we can bloom where we are planted. We can all choose to be a positive influence on those we come into contact with and make a difference in their day. We may lose every person or material item that we know, but as long as we keep our Faith and Soul, we can survive. I am thankful for my mother and although I miss her very much, I will choose to keep her spirit alive inside my heart. Be thankful for your blessings this week and carry that feeling with you each day of your life.

Love John

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Kind Of Seeds Are You Planting?.....

Some people have a unique ability and way about themselves to make those around them feel special. It is a God given talent that comes very natural for them. They have a way of radiating a room with their presence that can be hard to explain, but it is easy to feel. Nonna and Henry's Aunt Faye, were both these kinds of people. In the picture are Nonna and Faye, and if you take a good look at them, you see the warmth they created. I could give them both a huge hug about right now, and I know from experience that things would seem better almost immediately.
Nonna would really look forward to paying Aunt Faye a visit and I believe that they shared a lot of close talks and memories during those times. Faye had witnessed enough of life to be able to relate to Nonna and they loved to spend hours just sitting and drinking coffee and talking, catching up on the kids and grandkids, what was happening in the world and planning a good meal. I have a lot of pictures of my mother and my Aunt Faye, but I like this one the best because they both look so happy and vibrant in this shot.
I want you to think about a certain someone in your life that can make the pains and problems disappear, to make you feel good about yourself and to make you feel loved. I pray that you have thought of such a person and that you have had this experience of Joy. What makes them so priceless is that they put others ahead of themselves. They are not greedy and rarely show that they have needs. It is always about making you the focus of their attention and affection. Its about loving you enough to give the best gift possible, themselves.
Are you lucky enough to be this kind of person? Do you ever make an extra effort to be someone else's rock? Do you share your eyes, ears and heart openly with others? I ask you what kind of seeds are you planting in your garden of life? It is never too late to sow a garden of memories that will last well after you exit from earth, memories that give others a warm feeling when you come into their mind, memories like those Nonna and Faye left behind. You can do it!!
Love John

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drinking Tea With Nonna.....

The patches to the left were drawn by Nonna to depict those that victims and prisoners were forced to wear by the Nazis. These were worn to allow the Germans to identify the prisoners that were being targeted for both labor and extermination. I am deeply moved by the "tears" that Nonna added being drops of blood. Think hard about what this must have implied in mom's memory. Tears representing all of the sadness that wrought that part of the World during WWII. The loss of life along with the separation from loved ones. The lack of food and nutrition that caused sickness and death. The tears for the sounds of War and it's effects on living. Then, there is the blood. Yes, Nonna added the blood to each patch to show the brutality that thrived in conquering innocent people and dehumanizing those that were targeting. First, remove their weapons so that they may not up rise, then kill their spirit by the lack of food and savagery acts. Separate the women from the men so that each would feel weak and suppressed. It worked for a while, as most of the World stood by and watched.

The fact that this was allowed to be carried out with such little resistance really makes me wonder why. Why was this annihilation not stopped sooner? What kind of person could survive these most unspeakable acts and live a normal life? How do you overcome the total loss and separation from your family? Only God and those who managed to do this can have the true answer. My mother was one of these special people and she found a way to regain hope within her heart. You see, once you lose hope, you have nothing left! You must believe that all tides will turn, that the storm you may be experiencing will not last! You must reach deeper inside your soul than you ever have and find a little corner to find comfort in. Nonna did this and she is to be commended for doing so.

If you could sit down with Nonna over a cup of Tea and lay your burdens out to her, what do you think she would say? Nonna would tell you that you have much more to be thankful for than you have to worry about and that you should remain steadfast in your hope. Don't lose hope! She may also give you a hug and comforting smile. I bet things would begin to improve for you at that very moment. Life is good, no matter what besets us along the path, and if you believe in yourself just a little, you can begin to see just that! Enjoy that cup of tea and little talk with Nonna and make the most of your days!!

Love John

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Are You Free??

As we celebrate Veteran's Day on this November 11th 2009, all who live in freedom should be thankful. Thankful to all of the brave and mostly young soldiers who have answered the call over the years to capture and retain freedom. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice by spilling their blood on foreign soil so that people in America and around the world could be free. This fact was never missed by Nonna, after all, she had witnessed just how valuable being free really is and she knew what not having freedom was all about. She lived being held against her will, and being exposed to true inhumanities being carried out by those that want to extinguish the very core of moral aptitude. Nonna understood what it was like to seek refuge from bombs falling and to watch helplessly as evil plodded on. She also knew what it felt like to see freedom fighters come in and rescue others, to witness barbarism being defeated. For this reason she held a special place in her heart to be a Patriot to her new homeland, America.
The day that Nonna earned her citizenship in America was a day of deep felt thanks and a true understanding of just how priceless freedom is. She knew that, although priceless, it came at a huge cost to those who served to allow her the privileges she now enjoyed. Because of the Soldiers that served in WWII, she could live without bondage. She never forgot what this meant to her.
And so the World moves on and evil exists, it is because of the brave men and women that protect us today can we live as we wish. That, my friends, you must never forget and most of all, you must never take for granted. May God bless America and keep his watch over all of Freedom in the World, and may God bless and keep our troops safe.
Love John

Friday, November 6, 2009

Magic Happens Around The Fireplace....

It is true that magic happens around the fireplace. Nonna loved being near a roaring fireplace and having her loved ones nearby. My Guess is that however symbolic this may have been to me at that time, it meant a whole lot more to her. I'm sure that memories of her youth and happy times in Russia flooded her mind when she would look at the fire. She could sit for hours and enjoy her tea as the logs burned away, remembering stories that she had been told about old Mother Ruskia and her grandfather, Jacob the Cossack. Smelling her Babushka's homemade bread and special meals as the cooked. Perhaps hearing her mother sing or play her Violin, as the family was gathered around. The fire served multiple purposes, to cast a warmth over the house in the deepest and coldest winters that hit that part of the world. Cold enough to make Chicago in January feel tropical in comparison. The fireplace was a central point of gathering where grandmothers and dads would share stories of yore and teach children about life...... I can only imagine what mom could recall as she enjoyed her fireplace. It must have seemed quite magical to Nonna as a young girl, yes magical.

The fireplace creates warmth, comfort, safety, light, tales and magical memories that last a lifetime. My question to you today is are you seen as a fireplace to those around you? Do they thaw out and seek you for warmth and comfort? Do you offer someone the light that they can not find from anyone else? Are you creating magic in someones mind that they will carry memories of for a lifetime?

We should really try to be this way towards those that we love and care for, to make a special effort to be like a fireplace in their lives, to be magical when they look back on you later in life. We do have a choice how we want others to remember us once we are gone. and you must not allow everyday burdens to cast a "douse" on your flame. Do you think that whatever bad has happened in your life in the last week will have any lasting impact on the future? So go out and be a Fireplace to those around you, what are you waiting for?

Love John

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What's An Extra Hour Worth To You??

As October ends we find a great gift waiting for us to take advantage of. Yes, today we move our clocks back one hour, essentially giving us a 25 hour day. What is an extra hour worth in your life? Just think if Nonna and Anna knew that they could have one more hour to talk and be with each other. What value would a mother see in having this time to tell her child how much she is loved and to pass on motherly advice that could be carried for a lifetime? To tell about past family members and what their lives were all about, what made them stand out and what made them special. To share maybe a few family secrets that need to be told or to just hold each other and be together.
Time is the most important element that makes up our life on Earth, and it is probably what most people least appreciate. What do you think an extra hour is worth to family when facing the loss of a loved one? What about more time to complete a task or to enjoy a special moment, would you consider that valuable? What about spending an entire hour praying or reading your Bible?
It is a fact that time stands still for no one, yet today we have actually gained a free hour to do with as we want. I want you to find something of worth to do with this time. Call an old friend that you have lost contact with and catch up on things, or call your parent and let them know what they mean to you. Spend this time to write a letter to someone dear to you, yes, using paper and pen, I can imagine that it may very well be a treasure for them to keep.
It is up to you to decide how you will utilize this remarkable gift that you have been given today, but I encourage you to make the most of it.
Love John