All posts by Dona

True Love

My mom and dad had a couple of friends, Patti and Bill, with whom they spent a lot of time. I remember going to their house many times and they would come to ours. They had children around my age — Mark a little older than me and Kim a little younger. I was probably closest with Kim, but I also remember handing out with Mark some.

At some point — I don’t think I was in my teens yet — Bill suffered a massive heart attack at age 35 and died in the night. Since the adults talked around kids a fair amount, I heard more about it than I probably should have. Apparently Patty called to Mark to call an ambulance (I don’t know if 9-1-1 was even a thing back then) but Bill was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.

My mom also told me that Patti told her that she and Bill had such a wonderful marriage and while she would miss him, she had no regrets because the marriage was perfect. She wrote the letter of thanks after the funeral that pretty much says that.

Not long ago she and I exchanged a few emails and I meant to send this to her. I asked her why she and my folks stopped hanging out and she said she thought it was because because she had to work extra hard after he died and didn’t have much free time.

Saturday. Pat and Al, Just, thank you for shoulders to lean on and for being friends. Al, for being pall-bearer even though I know it cost you. Those years we had are worth this now, you see. So don't worry about me. Pat.
Patty’s thank you note to my parents.

First Teaching Job: Bartlett Learning Center

After graduating from NIU with a bachelors degree in Elementary (K-8) and Special (K-12) Education I applied for a job in Elgin Public Schools (U46) and was told to go elsewhere first for experience and then apply back to U46. So I just kept working at the restaurant instead.

My cousin knew someone who worked at a private school that needed a long-term substitute teacher, so I applied and was hired by Bartlett Learning Center in Bartlett, Illinois to substitute for a middle grade class of students with special needs for a few months while the teacher recovered from breast cancer surgery.

I don’t remember much of the teaching during those two months but I do vividly remember taking the bus to the train station, riding to Bartlett, then walking the short distance from the train station to the school. I’d pretend I was a Victorian era governess arriving at my employer’s residence each morning, mostly because the train station and nearby general store (where I’d buy a green river in the afternoons while I waited for my train) was that old.

I also remember learning how to write an IEP.

I remember it more clearly after Sr. Jane came back — I was kept on as her assistant, and eventually was given my own classroom.

Each year in the spring the school put on a musical to raise funds. They were a lot of fun and the kids really seemed to enjoy them. They were also very well-done.

The school was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, third order of St. Francis and for a while three of them were my best friends: Jane, Barbara and Margaret.

Here is a brochure that tells a little about the school. It is now called Clare Woods Academy and has moved to Woodstock, Illinois.

Best Exotic Premier Vacation House Ever

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Original draft November 2015. Added photo.

Every November since Clare moved to Olympia, I have accompanied my husband to Seattle when he has his annual meeting at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Each year we’ve stayed a few days post meeting and done some traveling with Clare. The first year we mostly stuck around the area and stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast not too far away from Olympia. The second year we stayed there again, but also spent a few days on the Olympic Peninsula at Kalaloch Lodge. This year Clare wished to visit the San Juan Islands, so we did…

Andrew was with us this time (yay!) and after looking at lots of rental possibilities I settled on what was advertised on vacation rental sites as “Most Premier Whale Watching Vacation Home on San Juan Island.” I could not figure out the name of the actual house and assumed the owners were making a play on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” movies. It turns out the house is actually called the San Juan Waterhouse.

You could say I obsessed a bit the in the weeks before the trip. So much so that I pretty much knew the drive from the ferry to the house by heart. We got there after dark so the drive was a little scary — no lights on the roads after you are out of the town of Friday Harbor. We picked up a pizza and salad at Van Go’s Pizza so we could eat when we got to the house.

The house has everything you could possibly need. We watched a little television after the pizza meal. Andrew found a video called “Terminal Velocity” and placed it in the DVD player just when I was chatting with the owner about our arrival. Andrew heard me mention the names of the owners of the house (Ken and Suzanne) and called to me, “Mom! We are watching them on TV!” It turned out that the owners were subjects of a couple videos (one National Geographic and one Disney) about peregrine falcons.

The house is amazing. We were impressed with it at night, but even moreso when we awoke in the morning. One thing I noted on Facebook that night was that I could see the lights of Canadians over the Haro Straight from my bed.