Friday, July 24, 2015

The Eastland Disaster - 100 Years Later

100 years ago today, on a warm, rainy Saturday, 844 people, including 22 entire families, lost their lives in just 20 feet of water. My great-uncle Fred was one of the fatalities.  The Eastland disaster remains Chicago's deadliest tragedy but is also an unknown event to many Chicagoans. That fact puzzles me, but I promised my Grandma that I would always remember the event that forever altered her life. For those who would like to read about my connection with The Eastland, I've added the following post that I wrote four years ago. For more information, please go to the Eastland Disaster Historical Society. It's a sobering true story and a fascinating, albeit devastating glimpse into life 100 years ago. I will be attending the memorial today, held at the site of the disaster. I will remember the 844 souls who lost their lives, as well as the countless broken hearted loved ones who went on in spite of this tragedy. I remember The Eastland, Grandma. I always will.

Chicago's Titanic

I was young, probably not even three, when I remember first hearing about the Eastland Disaster. I lived with my grandparents and I would sit on Grandma's lap and ask her to tell me the story about the boat.  I heard it hundreds of times and knew every detail by heart, but I never tired of listening to Grandma tell the story, her story, of what happened 96 years ago today.  

Grandma was 26 and Fred, her brother and only sibling, was 24.  Fred worked for Cicero based Western Electric, one of the largest employers in the Chicago area. W.E. was having their summer picnic for employees, families, and friends on Saturday, July 24, 1915; over 7000 tickets had been sold for the day's event. Fred, Grandma, and her best friend Irene left their homes in Oak Park and headed to the south bank of the Chicago River to board one of the five ships being used to take people across Lake Michigan to the picnic site in Michigan City, IN.  The Eastland was docked and taking on passengers; as the trio got close to boarding, Grandma got a 'very bad feeling' and begged Fred and Irene to stay behind and wait for the next ship. Irene saw how upset Grandma was and chose to stay with her but Fred wanted to hear the live music that was playing below deck; he ignored the pleas of his sister and boarded the Eastland.  Minutes later, Grandma and Irene stood on the wharf and watched in horror as the ship, loaded with over 2500 men, women, and children, rolled onto its side and came to rest in the mud of the Chicago River in just 20 feet of water. The Eastland never left the river's edge, and Fred was one of 844 people who died that day while just a few feet from shore.  The Eastland tragedy remains one of the worst maritime disasters in American history and Chicago's deadliest disaster.

Sometimes the story would stop there because Grandma had no more words.  Her eyes were moist and far away, and she held me so tightly it was hard to breathe. Other times she continued on with more details, needing to tell the story no longer for me but for herself.  I can't begin to imagine the horror of watching the tragedy unfold, being close enough to see the frantic eyes of the trapped as they silently screamed and clawed at the port holes, hearing the terrified cries for help from the luckier ones who landed in the river. How do you walk through warehouses turned into morgues and peer into countless lifeless faces before you finally find the one you prayed you wouldn't find?   

But whether the story was short or peppered with details it ended the same way. Grandma would look into my eyes and tell me to always listen to my gut.  She said, "if I hadn't listened to my gut I wouldn't be here and then neither would you, and that would be a real tragedy."   

Once Grandma thanked me when she was through telling her story.  I asked why she said thank you when all I did was listen, and she replied: because you listened.

It's not hard to understand why I've spent the majority of my life working in end of life care; I didn't choose it, it chose me.  I've lived my life listening to my gut and listening to the precious stories of others without trying to change them or fix them or encourage them to forget and move on.  We do move on but we never forget because each story is part of who we are today.  I never knew my great-uncle Fred except through my Grandmother's eyes; I don't even know what he looked like. But today I remember him and the others who died on the Eastland. I remember those who were left behind and the hearts that were forever broken.  I remember the wisdom and blessings that Grandma gave me unconditionally.  And I remember that the word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT.   

Monday, July 20, 2015


No wedding post today. Things keep happening.  Good things. Surprising things. Things like being named Julep's Wonder Maven for August! What the heck, you ask, is a wonder maven? I think I said those exact same words when the lovely and newly married Julie called to tell me the news. Click the red link to Julep's blog so you can read all about it, but here's the short version: Julep (an awesome nail/beauty company) has a recognition program where people nominate  women who make a difference. Julep chooses a monthly winner, interviews that person, and then creates and names a polish for her. Julie nominated me in February (right in the middle of planning her wedding) without telling me a thing. I learned about it all a few weeks ago after Julep notified her that I had been selected. My biggest thrill was reading what my daughter wrote about me. My daughter who would rather cut off her arm than actually verbalize a feeling. Ever. It was very humbling and wonderful and of course I cried. My second biggest thrill is having a polish named after me, with my named spelled correctly, and by correctly I mean the way my mother spelled it which is basically incorrect. But hey, I've NEVER seen anything with my very own misspelled name on it: L-A-U-R-E. And now I have a wonderful, orange-red star dust polish that will forever be known as LAURE. Thank you, sweetie, for nominating me and most importantly, for your beautiful words. It means the world to me. And to anyone reading this post, please continue calling me Laure; Wonder Laure will be required for gala occasions only.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Classes with Finnabair!

Ooops. I lied. I said my next post would be about my daughter's wedding, but I forgot all about my day of art goodness on July 12. I figure I'll tell you about that first, before I go all "mother of the bride" on you. I spent the entire day Sunday learning from Anna Dabrowska (aka:Finnabair) as she taught two different mixed medias classes at Cafe Crop in Merrillville, IN. I've loved her unique style for some time, and when I learned she would be teaching just 50 miles from home, I knew I had to get there. Finn was born in Warsaw and now lives in Ireland, so her coming to the U.S. is a big deal, and teaching in Indiana is beyond exciting. My wonderful husband gave me this treat as a gift for our 37th. wedding anniversary. Yes, the extremely broad "hint" came from me, and he finally picked up on it with a bit of encouragement from moi. What a fantastic day! I won't bore you with a ton of details except to say that Finn is a lovely person with a patient and easy teaching style. I applaud her attitude of anything goes probably because it mirrors my own. The people in both classes were friendly and fun, with some hysterical conversations going while we worked. Why is my table always the rowdy one? Hmmm. I continue to be amazed at how 40 people can use the exact same materials and make the exact same project and how each project turns out completely different. Art rocks! My mind is spinning with all sorts of new ideas, so keep an eye on Little Joys Studio for future fun. Here's a few photos for your viewing pleasure:
Me and the fabulous Finn at Cafe Crop, Merrillville, IN
9x12 Mixed Media Canvas
Close-up of above canvas - texture goodness!
The VERY generous kit from one of the classes - all supplies were included.
My hands AFTER scrubbing; it was a very good day!

So there 'ya go. If you ever get the opportunity to take a class with Finn, jump on it. You will not be sorry. I guess I'll begin working on a wedding post next. Or maybe my Wonder Maven news? What exactly is a wonder maven, you ask? Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I'm Still Standing

Hello to anyone who's reading this. It's ONLY been 15 months since my last post. To list the many reasons and situations that came about to cause this to happen would take days, and it would also be super boring. Suffice to say that 2014 wasn't the best year of my life, mostly due to medical crap: surgeries, hospital stays, infections, depression. Did I mention depression? It's impossible to write anything worth reading while wishing that a giant hole in the earth would just swallow you up. 2014 was less than stellar, but it did make me face a few things I've been reluctant to even think about, like admitting to myself AFTER 22 YEARS that I do, indeed, have a chronic disease. Like how in the world I still believe I can work a full time job. Or host a full blown family party. Or walk around the best art fair in the world for 6 hours (five of which are spent "resting") and feel perfectly fine the next day.  Or telling myself lies like maybe I'm just tired and I'll feel better tomorrow, or that I'm "weaning" myself off my cane. I seriously made that statement out loud. Sometimes I even amaze myself. But those are just the physical demons that jump around inside my aching body. The bigger questions, the far scarier ones, are much deeper and so much more difficult to confront. Like who AM I without an income or purpose? How do I go forward from here? Am I a burden? Do I still matter? Those questions that never once entered my happy little mind when I was able to work, to help people, to make a difference in someone's life. The questions that haunt my mind in the quiet of the night. My mother used to say that before you could teach a Biagi anything, you first had to hit them over the head with a 2x4 to get their attention. I think 2014 was my own personal 2x4. So now I'm paying attention and I still don't have the answers, but I have begun to face some facts. I'm in the process of applying for Social Security Disability, which is no picnic in the park but at least it's in the works. I eventually want to check into volunteer opportunities and I'm leaning towards suicide support and education, to honor Beth's memory. I know I still have gifts to share with the world. I know I still matter, even when I don't feel like I do. So yeah, now I'm fully reminded of why it's been so long since I've posted. The reason I haven't deleted this post is because maybe someone out there will read it and know they're not alone. The depression hasn't gone away, and it sucks, but depression lies. It lies and tells you things that aren't in your best interest. I try to remember to tell myself this and remember that daylight always comes after the darkness. I promise. I promise that to me and to you. I also promise my next post won't be 15 months from now, and it will be about a much happier topic: my daughter's wedding. I promise.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

4 Months Later...

My last post was December 17, 2013.  That was before I tore my MCL and blew out my knee on Christmas Eve while STANDING AND DOING NOTHING.  My orthopedic surgeon told me "sometimes those things happen."  Umm, thank you?  It was also prior to weeks of physical therapy (with no improvement), surgery on my arm for a ruptured tendon (totally unrelated to my knee), and seven days in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia (also unrelated), all while enduring the worst winter Chicago has seen in years.  Since the pain and mobility wasn't improving, my insurance company finally decided to approve an MRI, which showed fraying around the meniscus.  SO I'm having knee surgery next week and I have high hopes that it will fix the problem and allow me to live my life again with some semblance of normal...normal for me, that is.  It's been 4 months of immobility, pain, depression, stress, bed rest, and CRAP, not exactly a picnic over here, 'ya know? I haven't even felt like being in the studio, which is not like me at all.  I've piddled around a bit and worked on some digital collages that I plan to turn into cards, but I was just too sick and way too tired for any creative spark to light the way.  But then a few of my art friends turned me on to The Documented Life Project.  Wow. My heart began to beat a bit quicker.  I fell in love with the idea of combining a planner with an art journal.  I knew it was something I could work on in bed.  I could use my stash but lord knows I also found a few new goodies I just HAD to have - I love the internet!  And so I began. Drawing and doodling and painting and coloring.  It's like kindergarden but without being taken to the nurse's office in a wheel chair because I couldn't stop laughing.  True story. Anyway, I try to do a little each day but there's no stress because hey, it's MY planner.  The videos from the Art to the 5th girls are fun and fabulous and so informative that I've watched them again and again.  Best of all I have a work of art planner and it's only the end of April!  For now I may be filling my datebook with doctor appointments and surgeries, but at least it's pretty and I'm a happy documenter. Here are a few photos of my planner:

On a different note, I bought a pair of shoes at Payless, clogs identical to a pair I own that cost WAY more that the PL $25 sale price.  I bought them even though they were white and ever so ugly because I had a vision, oh yes I did.  They went from blah to wa-LAH with some imagination and a few colors of alcohol ink. Now they are me and I love 'em, I love 'em, I love 'em (nod to the PL Easter commercial). 
Close up of the wonderfulness.
Just one more...sigh.

Well, that's all I've got right now.  If you're the praying or positive energy type, I'd sure appreciate sending some my way for an easy and successful surgery.  I hope to post again before another four months go by...Peace.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Tags

Hello everyone.  It's been a while, I know.  I've been busy like everyone else this time of year, blah, blah, blah, but I decided I'd better post something before we ring in 2014.  I was sharing photos of some of my journal pages and I received positive feed back from a lot of folks.  I plan to continue doing that, but today I decided instead to show you a few of the goodies I've been making using shipping tags and digital collage.  I've been playing around with digital collage for a while now, "learning" this skill on my own.  More like figuring stuff out by trial and error, but that's my usual learning process.  No matter, it's been so much fun to sit and play with NO CLEAN-UP!  Some of the images are my own, but I'm also a fan of Deviant Scrap, especially Tumble Fish Studio and Hidden Vintage Studios. After I create the digital collage, I color the tags, add some trim, sew it all together, and finish it off with vintage silk ribbon and a jingle bell. I'm using these tags as cards, enclosed with gifts or given just because

I hope you're having a blessed holiday season with family and friends and eggnog, too.  I need to get my jingle bells in gear  and wrap some presents, but I leave you today with this wish: 
Peace on Earth.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years

50 years ago today the world changed in an instant.  

It's impossible to believe it's been 50 years. 

I decided to republish a post I wrote a few years ago because 

it says it all and I have no words to share right now.

50 years from today, my hope is that the world knows peace 

and cannot comprehend such violence and destruction of life.   

Please hope along with me?

November 22, 1963

I was 8 years old and in third grade.  In 1963, grammar schools in our area didn't have lunchrooms; you had one hour to go home, eat, and get back to school.  Since I lived only two blocks from school, my usual M.O. was to race home, eat, watch Bozo's Circus until after the grand prize game, race back to school, and still have plenty of time to play a rousing game of 4 square before afternoon class.  Eight year olds have a LOT of energy.  On this particular Friday afternoon, Bozo was interrupted with an emergency bulletin.  I knew it must be big to break in on Bozo.  The newscaster said that the President had been shot in Dallas, and that the situation was very grave.  I asked my mom what grave meant and she didn't answer, so I turned and looked at her; she was staring at the T.V. and finally said it was "very bad news."  I prayed as I ran back to school; I prayed for the man who was a father, I prayed for his two young children, and I prayed for his pretty wife.  My own father was a police officer and I had never once worried about his safety.  He was strong and he protected others so who would want to hurt him?  I began to realize that if someone could hurt the President, someone could hurt my dad, too. I quickly pushed that thought away and went into class. The teachers seemed upset and I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. A little after 1PM, our principle came on the intercom and announced that President Kennedy had died.  What happened next will be forever etched on my heart.  Dan C. sat in the desk in front of me and the instant we heard the news, he dropped to his knees, crossed himself, and began praying.  We went to public school.  Even in 1963 you didn't pray in public school, but Dan did, and his genuine, heartfelt response is the image that comes to mind when I remember that awful day.  We were dismissed early and I cried as I walked home from school.  I cried for his children, I cried for his pretty wife, and I cried for myself, too.  A Dallas police officer was shot and died while trying to catch the man who killed the president. That was the day I started praying for my dad's safety.