Thank You, Mom!

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Each April brings reminders of her. I was preparing for my second Fulbright teaching exchange to the former East Berlin. My mother died April 26, 1994, in Colorado so I flew out for the funeral and to help in close her estate with one of my sisters. My thoughts immediately went to my first Fulbright experience when my father passed in 1990 while I was in Neresheim, Germany.

We were well prepared for death as part of life and had been taught by their example. Both my parents spoke matter-of-factly about dying even though as young people, we did not want to speak about such subjects. So thoughts raced through my mind about preparing for the July departure to Germany with our two children as I sat on the long flight from Upstate New York Colorado.


During the second Fulbright experience in Berlin, I decided the children were older now and in second and fifth grades so we traveled to more cities throughout Europe. On the anniversary of my mother’s death, we were in Rome in St. Peter’s Square for a public audience with the Pope. All the chairs set up outdoors were wet from a rain so I attempted to dry them off for the three of us. Some lovely young students from Ireland offered me their tissues to help dry the chairs. We struck up a conversation. I smiled inwardly as I listened to these Irish ladies speak and thought my mother must have sent them to comfort me and visit for awhile.

My mother was a true Renaissance woman who loved to read, write and play piano. Even when she returned to college later in life, she pursued many subjects including piano, theory, children’s literature and library science. As my mother prepared for a 65th high school reunion trip to Massachusetts, she unfortunately died before making the trip and marking her May 14th birthday.

Mary Mooney Niemczura

Many reminders of my mother still remain. I keep looking for our Lily of the Valley in the garden. My mother grew these and clipped a few for a small vase. Their fragrance and that of lilacs remind me of her. I still have some of the beautiful coats and dresses she sewed for me in her impeccable style. As one of my sisters travels to Europe and visits Ireland, my thoughts turn again to my mother and all the love she gave her family. So, thank you, Mom, for all the fond memories!

M A age 20002


Posted in April memories, Fulbrights to Germany, gratitude, Mother | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments




Almost warm enough
Almost time for planting
Almost time to put out house plants
Almost time to put seeds in
Almost – but not quite


Almost no more frost
Almost but not too soon
Almost time for hanging baskets
Almost time for building birds’ nests
Almost but not quite


Time for planning
Time for scouring the catalogs
Time to buy new bird houses
Time to turn over garden dirt
Time but not quite


Time for patience
Time for potted plants
Time for potted herbs
Time to meander through garden stores
Time but not quite

Time to prepare hearts
Time to prepare souls
Time for prayers
Time for family and friends
Time for church and Him.


Almost Easter
Almost preparing the house
Almost practicing music
Almost time for baking
Almost time for Easter

Time now for planting
Time for gardening
Time now for family
Time now for friends
Time has now arrived!


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Eleanor and Hank

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My Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Hank moved to California before we moved to Colorado. It was always difficult to visit, but we managed a trip to California.  They were amazing people, both over 6′ tall and builders.  Some folks build homes and then some folks make their own adobe bricks to build a home and surround it with a 6′ wall.  This was definitely not an easy way to build a home.  My Uncle Hank built and flew helicopters in California.  He is lucky to be alive after an accident when a helicopter propeller nearly severed him after hitting his kidney.

Aunt Eleanor didn’t like to be called Aunt so as a late teen, I learned to simply address her as Eleanor. She is the one who taught me how to swim correctly and overcome my fear of water.  As a tribute to her, I managed to get my Red Cross Life Saving certificate in my college swim class.  One visit to Colorado, she brought a present for all us girls which was an inflatable wading pool.  Now on a hot Colorado day, this was a welcome relief for us to “swim” in this pool.

One of my sisters and I visited Eleanor and Uncle Hank in California and swam in their in-ground which they had dug themselves and put in the foundation and lining. The trip was for my high school graduation.  We picked fresh lemons and oranges off the trees.  Eleanor decided I needed a cocktail dress before I went to college.  I couldn’t fathom why I needed such a dress but picked out one she suggested which was a midnight blue and black and fancy neckline which was also off the shoulder.  My mother liked the dress but by the look on her face, she probably thought I was too young at 18 to have such a dress.  I felt special and wore it to several parties which were fancy affairs.


It was during our visit when I asked her of the house in Hermosa Beach which they had built. Eleanor and Hank drove out to the desert and made adobe bricks with the sand.  I asked about snakes which they had encountered.  But the huge tarantula spiders were another matter.  Before they could build the adobe bricks, they drove their Jeep over the tarantulas which hopped two feet into the air at times.  When I think of this today, it is difficult to fathom why anyone would go about building a house in this fashion.  But Hank is a Niemczura which explains a lot.  In addition to day jobs, all the men in the family built houses, furniture, maintained gardens and apple orchards and enjoyed working with their hands.  With the high cost of housing in California, Eleanor and Hank saved a great deal by building their own home with a wall around it.

Eleanor had a framed newspaper article with a photo which I inquired about.  It was of her brother whose submarine went down in WWII, and all were lost.  She missed him I could tell.  In later years when I caught up with her and wrote, she answered me that she was proud that I was an independent woman with a career.  She had been a docent at the LA zoo because of her love of animals.  They were a different generation, strong and resilient.  I miss visiting them and hearing their stories.  So, as best as I recall, I remember them with my blog today.

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A Courageous Move


As a girl of ten years, I don’t recall much of the drive from Massachusetts to Colorado. My parents made the brave decision  to move West.  I remember being in 4th grade in Massachusetts and then living with our Aunt and Uncle for about six weeks in Raton, New Mexico while my parents drove to California where my father’s brother lived.  This was a necessary move because of the health of one of my sisters.  The move proved to be fortuitous.

All five of us piled into the car for the long journey. Another sister was on the way and was born in Colorado.  This was a bold, brave decision and move for my parents.  My mother’s sister and family lived in Raton where we stayed and attended school for about six weeks.  The next thing we learned was that we were moving to Pueblo, Colorado where our father accepted a job as an industrial engineer at the CF & I steel mill.  We rented a couple houses before we finally moved to Belmont where our father built the house.

All our furniture and belongings were left in storage in Massachusetts until the moving van brought it our final destination. It’s a vivid memory that we invented games and played “store” with empty cardboard boxes.  Imagination is a powerful device, and we never lacked imagination in inventing toys with these empty boxes.  My parents purchased a sofa bed which we girls apparently slept in until our own beds arrived.  I took everything in stride except that Pueblo was much less verdant  with only brown prairie and pinion pines to gaze at.  The summers were hot and dry.

Before moving to Belmont, we rented houses and began school at the nearby elementary school. I was in 5th and my sisters were in 3rd and 1st grades.  My introduction to the 5th grade classroom was met with “oh, no!  Not another Mary Ann.”  I looked around the room to discover there were already two other students with the same name.  I think my sister in 3rd grade fared better except for the fact that she was writing cursive which we began in 1st grade in Massachusetts.  She had to listen to her classmates tell her she “wasn’t supposed to be writing cursive yet.”  The rest of the class learned in the spring of that year.  All the teachers were impressed with our reading abilities and said schools in Massachusetts must be ahead of those in Colorado.

We learned to adjust to our new schools quickly and got involved with the local 4H clubs and activities. I began my first job at 11 which was babysitting and later cared for lawns, gardens and took in mail for neighbors when they went on vacation.  By age 13, I added another job which was church organist.  That kept me busy for the next five years and playing daily as well as three times on Sundays, and all the funerals and weddings.  We sang in the church choir.  We continued piano lessons in Pueblo.

A phone call this morning from a friend mentioned traveling through Western Massachusetts yesterday and past towns where we lived. He said it was a bold and brave move for my parents to have made i.e.  without a job in Colorado, to move the family to a better climate.  I doubt I could have made that same decision and move across the country with young children in tow.  They had great faith and trust to make the move.



Posted in church organist, Colorado, health, Massachusetts, Sturbridge to Pueblo, traveling across the country | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Fast As Lightning




Quick as a flash of lightning, I accepted a challenge by fellow blogger Annika Perry to try my hand at writing a fast-paced poem for this week’s blog.  It actually uses the German word blitz to describe the form.  Contained within are events of the past week.

Pomegranate and Awaken

 cut the chase

cut the pomegranate

pomegranate arils

pomegranate tasty

tasty and sweet

tasty and red

red robin bobbin’

red robin in garden

garden snow-covered

garden still dormant

dormant only parsley

dormant but for daffodils

daffodils trying to flower

daffodils not ready

ready for yellows

ready for spring

spring in your step

spring showers

showers gently falling

showers bring green

green buds

green leaves

leaves in table

leaves on trees

trees swaying

trees housing birds

birds finding worms

birds singing

singing arias

singing anthems

anthems sweet

anthems in choir

choir rehearsals

choir practice

practice piano

practice voice

voice soprano

voice coach

coach sports

coach the team

team members

team spirit

spirit renewed

spirit and souls

souls praying

souls awaken

awaken cues

awaken nature








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Snow, Snow, Snow



Where are my Boots?

On my feet I glibly replied to my husband.
I continued to clean off the
car and push snow down the
driveway. Lifting is no longer
an option. Predictions for
this storm were twenty to
thirty inches of snow in our
area. We are shrouded in white.
I measured under twenty inches.

For us, spring is simply a
calendar date. Others around
the world boast of the flowers
in bloom. Last glimpse  of our
daffodils, they were about four inches
above ground. When this melts,
I’ll note their progress. The sun
is intense today. The snow is rapidly
melting like in Colorado after snow storms.

Determined to stay ahead of the
amount of snow I had to clean off
the car and down the driveway,
I donned boots, gloves and coat
hood to brave single digit temperatures
and winds whipping at my face. Good
thing I only stayed outdoors for about
ten minutes each time. Though retired, I
still watch school closings,  recalling when I

relished those presents called snow
days. Over the course of thirty something
years in Upstate New York, my husband
never had a snow day until this week.
I received a phone call announcing the County
was closing.  The State government too.
My husband was pleasantly surprised.
Stores closed early – a snow day for all.
My children charged me with the task

of taking photos of our snow to display
in this week’s blog.  My husband’s boots
are too large but come up higher allowing
me to take the photos. The yard is
too pretty to put footprints in the snow
so I leave it to enjoy from the inside out.
It has occurred to me that I might be
able to build a snowman. Maybe.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Posted in blizzard, Nor'easter, snow, snow day | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s super…


Glue! Not Superman this time.
There was a television show when
reporter Clark Kent changed into his
Superman costume to come to
the rescue of others.

How did super glue get into
the washing machine amidst her
clothes and intimates? She was
still sleeping so I couldn’t inquire.
Tired from her return from Denmark.


I stood staring into the washing machine
and couldn’t fathom how this glue had
made it through a load of laundry,
soapy water and agitation. I stood
glued as visions of what might have

been if the glue had opened in the
washer, or better yet, the dryer.
Manufacturers must figure in the
odds of a tube opening when exposed to
soapy water and the machine’s motion.


Super glue? In her load of laundry?
Why had it even been in her suitcase?
Certainly it had not been on the suggested
list of items for the student trip.
Over and over I asked myself why.

What if the glue had been in the dryer?
Do manufacturers figure in
exposure to heat and motion
as the dryer drum rotates? There
I remained motionless and amazed


at the scenario in front of me. Now
awake, I bellowed to her from the
basement. Why is there super glue in
your laundry? Oh, I forgot I put it
in there. Why was it necessary to have it?

Oh, my belly button ring broke at
night in the hotel and hurt me so
I decided to fix it with super glue.
Where did you buy it? In Denmark.
How did you fix it? Holding the ring  in my

belly button, I tried to fix it with super glue.
I got some on my skin too. How did you remove
it? Oh, with nail polish remover.  The rest
came out gradually. Did
you realize that the glue could have

leaked into your suitcase? I know,
Mom. It was a pretty stupid thing
to do, but I needed it fixed. Why bother
wearing one in the first place?
These useless questions between

mother and daughter continued.
She was home safe and sound.
No harm done to the washer.
Unlike the suitcase on the
return trip from France,


which was held together
with mere staples.
I think Guardian Angels have
long hours of overtime work
with teens! I, too,  must have

had an Angel watching over me
yesterday when I found the bottle
of prescription medicine in the washer!
The label still on. The medicine dry.
I wonder how these things happen?

This time I have no one to blame
but myself. If only I could recall
how it came to be loaded into
the washer in the first place. I’ll
be vigilant once more until the next time!


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