Friday, November 14, 2014

Photos in gallery

Due to technical difficulties beyond my control or knowledge, I was unable to post the photos. They'll be in the Photo Gallery section of my website at

Saints alive

As the thermometer drops to astonishing lows for mid-November, I share with you, in my next post, some final fall photos taken two weeks ago.
This month also includes what is turning out to be one of my favorite combos of holidays: Halloween/All Saints' Day/All Souls' Day. From the joy of dressing up (or greeting trick-or-treaters and remembering your own childhood), to the celebration of our connection with believers through time and geography, to the always-welcome Thanksgiving, November has gone up several pegs this year.
All Saints' Day, which celebrates the officially canonized and folks like you and me, is November 1 but in many churches was "moved" to be observed Sunday, November 2. The next day we remembered the saints no longer with us on earth, who this year were joined by my brother-in-law, Dave Burgwald, and my friend Nancy Milnes.
I rejoice in the hymns of these holidays, especially "For All the Saints." Beginning with the opening downbeat on the organ ("bahm" is my interpretation thereof), I rejoice in its message of the communion of the saints. I'll close with verses 1 and 4 of the 11 written by Anglican Bishop William W. How in 1864:

[bahm] For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
[bahm] O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall in love

People choose various ways to mark the end of summer. August 31st. Labor Day. The first cool morning. The autumnal equinox--which this year was September 22 at 9:29 p.m. CT. (Who knew? Well, obviously, scientists, but I had no idea it was so late in the day.)

For me, another way summer concludes is the end of Major League Baseball's regular season, which is this coming weekend. This weekend will also be the end of Wrigley Field as we know and love it; a jumbotron much bigger than the scoreboard will be installed in the off season. Don't get me started.

The change of seasons is one of the joys of living in the Midwest. And fall is my favorite season, by far. Here are its credentials for that honor:
  • The anniversary of when Bob proposed to me
  • Sweater weather
  • The start of school (even though it's been a few decades since the #1 Rule of Education was violated: "School shall begin on the day after Labor Day--every year")
  • The changing leaves, especially one stunning maple tree on Flossmoor Road
  • The slanting afternoon sunlight
  • The last two of course lead to the next: marvelous photo opportunities
  • Thanksgiving
  • A cornucopia of birthdays in our family, from late September through October

Soon I'll be uploading fall photos, as I learn the ropes of my delightful new camera. I hope you enjoy them.

Have a blessed autumn.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A nod to bobbleheads

It's true confessions time.
I am rather (that is, very) hooked on bobbleheads. We have nine in our collection and are poised to hit the decade mark this weekend.
On Friday, August 8, I went to the Cubs game and received the First Night Game bobblehead, celebrating that historic day, August 8, 1988, when the lights went on at Wrigley Field. Rick Sutcliffe was the starting pitcher that day, so that's who is on the bobblehead, pictured above.
The photo demonstrates how far bobblehead technology has advanced. Note that the Chris Sale bobblehead (acquired earlier this season at a White Sox-Yankees game) truly captures his arms-and-legs-akimbo pitching motion and scraggly beard. Now look at Ryne Sandberg in the middle, a bobblehead I acquired many years ago. About the only resemblance to the Hall of Famer is the hair color. It looks like a cross between a kewpie doll and Bruce Banner shortly before he transformed into the Hulk.
On balance, I'm at peace with my obsession. It could be worse. I could collect those life-size Fathead wall graphics.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our founding mothers

On this, Independence Day weekend, I make my traditional observations:
  • This is a wonderful country, and I'm proud to be an American.
  • I really don't like firecrackers.
  • Oh, say, how I wish "America, the Beautiful" was our national anthem.
Today I add a fourth observation. It's one that I've always suspected but has been made clear by Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts, which I started reading this weekend:
  • The women behind our founding fathers were remarkable and, with the possible exception of Abigail Adams, have not been given their appropriate place in history.
The first of these women who took multitasking to another planet is Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who practically ran the colony of South Carolina. She was in charge of a plantation for her father off in Antigua and later as a young widow, developed the indigo crop in the colony for international trade, ran a school, and, of course, raised children (her two sons fought in the Revolutionary War, served in state politics, and were key figures of the young nation).
Mercy Otis Warren was an influential writer for the cause of independence through her poems, personal letters, pamphlets, and plays (even though theater was banned in her native Boston).
Deborah Franklin wasn't just the women behind a founding father; she took care of much of his ventures such as the postal service when he was in London representing Pennsylvania. His presence there brought ridicule and threat to her and her Philadelphia household after British measures such as the Stamp Act. But this is the clincher: his second term in England was to be seven months, but he decided to stay 10 years and lived with another woman and her daughter.
I come by my patriotism honestly, as my parents named me after Betsy Ross (that's my real first name, not Elizabeth). I choose to believe the accounts about her creating the first American flag and honor her work to create a vital symbol of the new nation. And I've long made peace with the kidding of my childhood. When I went to college, it was a conversation opener for my rather shy self. I'll never forget the equally shy Purdue engineer at a mixer who said quietly, "Betsy Rossen. I'll have to remember that and flag you down."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Commuting & communing

Over the years, I have commuted to work in a variety of ways: on foot, short drive, very long drive, and commuter train. Oh, and walking into my home office to do freelance work.
My current commute is a combo platter. I drive to the Homewood Post Office and park the car, leaving it for Bob to drive home (he walks the entire distance in the morning). Then I walk two short blocks to the Homewood train station to board the Metra Electric line north to downtown Chicago. From Millennium Station (Randolph and Michigan), I walk a very short block to the Randolph and Wabash stop of the CTA Brown Line, which I take to the Merchandise Mart. My favorite part of the whole commute is when my "L" train crosses the Chicago River to my stop at the Mart, seen in the first photo here. The view is wonderful; the water, soothing.
I walk through the Mart on the second floor, over the walkway and into the River North Point building, which is in the center of the second photo. Then a space-age elevator to the 11th floor and the offices of Ogilvy & Mather.
This may be my favorite commute of my entire working life (or at least right up there with walking into my home office in my slippers). Other than the very steep and numerous stairs up to the "L" platform, it is easy and relatively stress free. (The stress comes at the end of the day, when the Brown Line is sometimes stopped on the tracks "momentarily," causing me to worry that I'll miss my Metra train and have to wait a while till the next one.)
I enjoy the early part of my morning commute as well, when I have the opportunity to have a quiet time of reading and prayer, in what has turned out to be the designated "quiet car"! The trip is a joy in itself, en route to a job I thoroughly enjoy.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Remembering the marvelous month of May

On this, the last day of May 2014, I want to reflect on and thank God for the many good things of this month.
Right off the bat (no, this is not a baseball item), on May 1, I received an email from a relative in Denmark, Flemming Rossen. We have been getting acquainted, and I'm delighted that he contacted me . . . having found me via my website! In 1979 I reestablished contact with our Danish relatives--my great-grandfather, Peter Rossen, left Denmark in the late 1800s and settled in Chicago--but had only been in contact with the Copenhagen branch.
Flemming lives in western Denmark, Peter's place of origin, which my parents and I visited in 1980. He sent me a photo of us from that visit, so I got to say hello to my 25-year-old self. Ah, youth. I look forward to continuing my exchange of info and photos with Flemming as I get more adjusted to my full-time job and new schedule.
Speaking of work, my job as a proofreader at Ogilvy & Mather, a major ad agency, is going very well. I started full time April 30, so I now have a full month under my belt (although I usually don't wear a belt). The work is challenging, the people are terrific, and I feel that I make a real contribution. Proofreading is something I've been good at for a long time . . . and now I can ply my trade on something other than menus, billboards, and TV graphics.
May 11th was one of the best Mother's Days of my life as a mom. My daughters, Miranda and Dana, treated me to a brunch downtown at The Gage on Michigan Avenue. It was a delight from start to finish, with two beautiful young women. For all of this I'm very grateful.
The Grande Prairie Singers, with which Bob and I sing, had its season-concluding concert May 18. "Forces of Nature" was a dynamic theme, with selections from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah to "Singin' in the Rain." I also was in an ensemble of altos on the wonderful "Down in the River to Pray."
Bob and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary May 26. Our customary celebration destination is a ballpark, depending on whether the Cubs or the Sox are in town. So on Saturday, May 24, we watched the White Sox play the Yankees and got to experience Derek Jeter's last series in Chicago. He is one of the greatest ambassadors for the game that baseball has ever seen. (It was also Chris Sale Bobblehead Day. Me likey.)
I'm so thankful to be Bob Burgwald's wife. He is a constant encouragement to me--as he has been these past seven years of un- and underemployment and other challenges. With him, I know what it means to be cherished.
A sad occasion was also part of May, though it too is an occasion for thanksgiving. On May 15, longtime friend Nancy Milnes died after a three-year battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). I'm grateful that her suffering is over and for all the hope she brought to my life.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day at the park


Birthday party for a ballpark

On Wednesday, April 23, I had the pleasure and joy of attending Wrigley Field's 100th birthday party.
There was quite a crowd outside the ballpark before it opened at 11:30 . . . but it was a happy crowd. We were all excited and happy to be there, just as we each had dozens of times before.
When it opened in 1914, the premier cathedral of baseball was called Weeghman Park and was home to the Chicago Federals (aka the Whales). The Cubs played at West Side Park but moved to Weeghman two years later after the Federal League folded. The name changed to Cubs Park in 1920; six years later, it was named for its owner, William Wrigley, Jr.
Few of the facts and figures were in the forefront of my mind while I waited in line (my dear husband was off parking the car). I just knew I had to have the day's promotional giveaway, a replica Chicago Federals jersey. I got one plus a birthday cupcake, courtesy of Jewel-Osco. All this and I was barely inside the ballpark.
I entered through Gate D and made my way to Aisle 215. The going was slow as I gawked at the mural-size photo of concession workers half a century ago and smelled the aromas from the Decade Dogs stand. Finally I climbed the stairs to the field, up and out in the sunshine, overwhelmed by the green of the field, the festive bunting, that big beautiful scoreboard.
Suddenly it's 1964 and I'm holding my dad's hand as we step onto the walkway. We're en route to seats in line with first base and Ernie Banks. We're at home at Wrigley Field.
Eventually I got to our seats--my husband, Bob, was already there--and was ready for a history lesson disguised as a nostalgia tour. We sat in terrace reserved on the lower level, in the 12th row, just to the third-base side of home plate. From there, we experienced a celebration done right. Popular music from all through the decades came from the Lowery organ (at a pleasing decibel level). Organist Gary Pressy accompanied Wayne Messmer on the National Anthem for the enthusiastic crowd, altogether fitting for a ballpark that in 1941 became the first to feature an organist.
The pregame ceremony was perfection, highlighted by the introduction of Cubs and Bears stars (Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers) from the past 50-plus years (the Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970 before moving to Soldier Field). From the 1969 Cubs (Ernie, Fergie Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Billy Williams) to 1980s teams (Andre Dawson, Lee Smith) to the recent past (Ryan Dempster), the players evoked the joy and heartbreak that is the life of a Chicago Cubs fan.
Oh, yes, and a baseball game was played. In tribute to that first game in 1914, the Chicago Feds (Cubs) played the Kansas City Packers (Arizona Diamondbacks), complete with throwback uniforms. We were fortified by hot dogs, today's version of a Frosty Malt, and, when we couldn't bear the thought of an ice-cold pop, coffee. Although we were bundled up, we were cold--Bob even put on his gloves--and left after the seventh inning. So we saw a great ballgame (things fell apart in the ninth).
Only a few things would have made the day even better: if my dad had been able to be there, if Kerry Wood had shown up for the festivities, and if they had served Smokie Links like the good ol' days. But it was still a wonderful day at the Friendly Confines.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The sound of music

Chicagoland does not feature much in the way of hills, but the plains certainly are alive with the sound of music. Especially now, during Holy Week.
I have the joy and honor of singing in two choirs, Grande Prairie Singers and my church's. This week is especially rich in harmony--and dissonance, as befits the solemn aspect of these days--at St. John's Episcopal Church. We're singing at the Maundy Thursday service tonight, Evening Vespers tomorrow, the Great Vigil of Easter Saturday night, and of course Sunday morning's joyous Easter celebration. We are blessed to sing excellent anthems, hymns, and chants and privileged to help lead the congregation in worship.
Through music, we also can connect with the communion of saints reaching back centuries. In what our choir sings this week, many of the words are from Scripture and the early church; the music, spanning the Middle Ages to Mozart to 19th-century hymns to contemporary service music. Imagine how many believers have praised, confessed, and prayed via these works. Even now, throngs join us from heaven to worship God.
One of the many blessings of the parish of St. John's is that our music director, Michael Soto, is an accomplished--no, make that truly gifted--organist. He enhances our worship more than he knows. To quote Victor Hugo, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my father's 87th birthday, and I'm very thankful for him. Among the things he taught me are
  • the whys and wherefores of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs
  • to always understand the question (applicable in so many areas of life, including "Jeopardy!" because it translates into "always remember the category")
Unless my almost-senior mind is playing tricks on me, I haven't seen Dad (who lives in Florida) since my wedding to Bob Burgwald seven years ago next month. Gotta remedy that soon because he doesn't travel any more. We do talk on the phone often, most recently the day I got tickets to the Wrigley Field 100th birthday party game on April 23. I also sent him a card along with some clippings from the Chicago Tribune about Wrigley, including an article that made a great concession to the wonders of that long-ago treat, the Smokie Link.
In George Carlin's classic monologue on the merits of baseball over football, he concludes soothingly, "In Baseball, the object is to go home, and to be safe. I hope I'll be safe at home, safe at home."
Dad, I'll be coming to your home soon.


Friday, April 11, 2014

I Wrote With Light!

Note to Betsy:
The word photography means writing with light but most photographers claim ... Literally it means: "To Write with light" I cannot think of any better way to say it.
Several years ago, when I was first introduced to your website, you told me that photography literally meant writing with light. I had never heard that before. As I began to experiment with my camera, I began to see light (and shadows, and colors, and people) in a completely different way -- one of which resulted in the above photo. It is definitely one of my favorite experiments, and the best picture I have taken using the streetlight outside my front window to "write with light".
Thanks for the visual image you gave me to see my world differently. It is a pleasure to be able to Seize the Season! with you!

Kathleen Hazlett

Hope Springs Eternal

My revamped and revitalized website is taking shape. And the 2014 baseball season has started. These are harbingers of Spring and of hope.
First, my thanks to Kathleen Hazlett for her incredible, creative help with the website. She is a gem and can be found virtually at
Then there is baseball, another light of my life. Both Chicago teams are off to at least semi-good starts (the White Sox more so than the Cubs). Just watching a game--after the winter we've had--is joy on a plate. Home or otherwise. Baseball is the game of hope, not played against the clock, and has taught me much about how to live expecting good things. Of course, I'm still learning.
True baseball fans have yet another reason to enjoy this season: it is the 100th "birthday" of Wrigley Field. I look forward to being there in a few weeks for the big celebratory game and will be sharing my thoughts on Wrigley throughout the season. I'm also writing a memoir about baseball and hope and will give updates on that as well.
In the words of the last line of the national anthem, "Play ball!"