Thursday, December 24, 2009

Are You Blessed... Merry Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas Eve today, are you truly thankful for all that you have? You have more conveniences and blessings than you can count, a warm shelter to find comfort in, some degree of healthfulness, food in the home and most likely, loved ones surrounding you. People over the years have not been as Lucky as we are today. Many struggles with War, starvation, lost and missing family, and a steep price to be paid for even attempting to celebrate the birth of Christ.
The card shown here was sent to me by Baby Luci, Nonna's precious cousin, who lives in Russia. We are excited to learn that some of Nonna's family managed to survive Stalin and Hitler, and with thanks to " The Secret Holocaust Diaries" we have come into contact with some of her relatives that are still alive! The fact that Nonna's loved ones from a world away could be located after so many years is astounding. My nephew Zach and his friend Bob, made a trip to Konstantinovka this summer and left a few books with Vladimir, a local newspaper reporter, and searched as best they could for links to Nonna's family. After Zach left to come home, Vladimir ran a story asking for anyone with information about this family to please come forward, and with God's guidance someone did and now we can learn more about my dear mother's past life!
Through distress, grief, War, Communism and survival, more of Nonna's life will soon be known. I believe that this is truly our family's Christmas miracle for 2009 and I only have sympathy that for all of those years Nonna was left remembering and wondering what happened, that she did not live to find out and seek out her loved ones. I also believe that God knew what was best for my mother and although finding out this information may have been wonderful for her kids, it very well might have not been good for her.
So my friends, have a Merry Christmas and remember that you are blessed and take a moment to say a little prayer for Nonna.
Love John

Friday, December 18, 2009


Of all the holidays we observe, the Christmas Season was Nonna's favorite. She would look forward to this time of year and loved to decorate her home with beautiful arrangements. Picking out a tree was always a family event, which us children loved to do. Southern Louisiana can be fairly warm in December, but it always seemed that on the evening we went to get our tree, it would be cold and most years, raining. I remember that mom would walk around the lot several times looking for the perfect tree, then we would load it up and head home for some hot chocolate. Several years, Henry would have to trim the top just to get it inside and us kids hated that the tree had to stand up for at least a day before we could start decorating.
Nonna took her time with the lights, she had the old fashioned type that were round with Styrofoam coating, then painstakingly put her special ornaments in just the right places. When she was finished with the decorations, our turn came with the Icicles. We loved the Icicles. but had to lay them very carefully over the ends of each branch. The end result I always believed and still do, was the prettiest Christmas tree I had ever seen.
One year, Nonna came up with a brilliant idea that would add to her enjoyment of the season. She went to a department store named Goudchaux, which was owned by the Sternburg family, in search of a nice Santa suit. Home she came and opened up the bag and pulled it out, to which Henry asked," what is that?" Nonna said "its your Santa Suit and we are going to have fun with you dressing as Santa!" Henry laughed a little, but put up no argument.
Nonna's plan was simple, Henry would get dressed on Christmas eve and she would drive him around town to friends homes and they would knock on the door and surprise the kids. Henry practiced his HO HO HO and was ready to go! After they had been to a few houses, Nonna decided to spread the joy, so if she saw a party going on , she would stop and take Henry to the front door and ring the bell. She got a kick out of the entire charade and Henry was beginning to enjoy meeting strangers as Santa!
After getting back home late one year, Nonna told Henry to walk across the street and get a bike that they had been hiding at Grandma's house. Without even thinking, off Henry went across the street, Santa suit still in place. As he was walking the bike back home, along came a gentleman who had obviously been parting in much spirited celebration. He drove past Henry and slammed on his brakes and got out of his car. His first words were " Santa? now I know I've had too much to drink, cause I'm seeing things". "Did you bring me that Shetland Pony I asked for?" to which Henry answered, " yes I did and you had better get home and tie him up, cause he is running loose in your living room!" Henry said the old drunk staggered back to his car, falling as he tried to get in, and off he drove! By the time Henry made it back home, he was in tears laughing as he tried to tell Nonna what had happened! They remembered that night for the rest of their lives, and relished the memory.
I ask you, what are you going to do this Christmas that will make lasting memories? Give it a try, for Nonna's sake and may you enjoy the Merriest of Christmas's and think of Nonna!
Love John

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do Setbacks Increase Your Determination?

Often in life we are faced with setbacks and at times things just don't go the way we had hoped they would. Things happen that stop us in our tracks and change our direction. Many times these changes are not what we had thought of and maybe even never considered that we might face. When these events affect you, how do you react? Are you prone to freeze up and get frustrated or do these times actually increase your determination? For Nonna, there was only one way to cope with setbacks, and that was to be even more determined to move on. She faced what many would consider as being past the breaking point many times in her life. Being forced to be separated from first her brother, then witnessing her father being destroyed for no reason. The separation from her Grandmother and the loss of her mother at the hands of evil minded people. The loss of her homeland and traveling thousands of miles to start over, on her own. To adapt to a new culture and language, to find a way to fall in love and carry on. None of the above things that happened to Nonna was how she thought her life would play out, but she always kept her faith and was determined to find happiness in some way. I guess it can become habitual to keep going, no matter how tough things are.
I am sure that my mother felt abandoned at times in her life. She had many chances to question her God on what he was doing with her, but she remained steadfast in her belief that bad times would soon pass and that she just had to remain strong, to stay determined and see it through.
Nonna would tell you that at times she felt angry about what happened to her, but she did not dwell on it. She would tell you to pick up the pieces and move forward, that this was the only way to survive, and she knew all about surviving. So when you face a setback, think of Nonna and smile for her grittiness and determination and draw strength from her.
Love John