The ‘Storm Bag.’ What’s in yours?

Yesterday was the last day of February and it brought some torrential down pours, lightening and tornado warnings.  I had no idea the weather was so bad till a friend who lived an hour away texted me to see if the storms had reached us yet.

tornadoesocc  (Not from my part of town, just a tornado photo.)

I immediately turned on the  weather channel to find out a pretty big tornado was west of us and heading down the I-80 corridor right toward our town.  According to the weather guy it was going to be by us in about 1/2 hour.

Having lived in Chicago all my life, we have seen many tornado watches, warnings and touch downs, some of which have been very devastating.  But touchdowns with devastation is rare.  The chances are slim of actually having your house blown down by a nasty twister.  But as anyone will tell you, take the warnings seriously, take cover and wait it out.

After hearing I might have a half hour before the storms were upon us, I quickly started to throw things in my messenger bag I felt were important-things I would really need if I had actually lost everything.

While visiting my cousin in Brooklyn a few years ago, I noticed an innocuous backpack sitting in the corner of her room that was filled and ready to go.  She is from Kentucky and had transplanted herself  after she landed a cool job in New York City.  Her dad, a Lt. Colonel in the army had prepared a ‘bug out’ bag for her in case of emergency.  This bag has the necessities for an emergency that you can grab and get out at a moment’s notice.  I think hers was geared more toward a Manhattan terrorist attack,  and the idea struck me as such  a smart concept.

I have applied this same concept to my ‘Storm Bag.’ I am going to pack one and have it on standby, should I someday have to head to the basement for cover.  I highly suggest you pack one, too, and keep in somewhere in your house where you can quickly grab it and go.  What will you put in your bag?   Here is a photo I took showing the contents of the bag I threw together last night.  Now that I have time to consider it, I am missing a few essentials, like a portable flashlight and a first aid kit.

Here is what I put in my bag:  My red book of passwords, a checkbook, sunblock, my prescription medicine, my iPad, my cellphone (I took this photo with it),  headphones, my credit cards and ID and insurance cards, safety deposit keys, my set of keys, all the cash I had on hand at home, my prescription sunglasses (might come in handy if I lose the ones on my face), and last but not least, my British copy of Jane Eyre.


I suggest a cross over bag you can put over your shoulder and across your body.  Either that or a backpack- You want to be hands free.

One last bit of advise to you.  If there are tornado watches and warnings in your area, put your shoes on.  Preferably toed shoes that will protect your feet from glass and other sharp objects.  If the worst happens and you end up climbing out of the rubble that was once your home, you do not want to be barefoot.

Think about creating your own Storm Bag. Of course everyone’s will be entirely personal.  Happy  Tornado Season.   I hope you never need it.



The Phone Call that Changed My Life, Part 3

It was already late, but I couldn’t wait till the morning-I had to call my mom.  Tonight I had a reply to her usual, “So what’s new?” beginning to our conversation.  I got right to the point.  She was so angry.  She yelled at me.  She cursed Charlotte for spilling the beans and ranted about how my father was going to turn over in his grave.  She told me he didn’t want me to know; Charlotte told me he did-when the time was right.   To some extent I could empathize with her reaction to all of this.  But more than that, it really pissed me off that she completely missed the point and couldn’t see it my way at all. Her behavior was over the top.  This was, after all, my story, my truth and being an adult woman I felt I was entitled to know this information about me.  Through all this drama and angst I got how she felt, but she failed to even consider how I was feeling.  She didn’t ask if I was okay after learning this shocking news.   She didn’t even offer me any comfort.  It was all about her.  She hurtfully lashed out with her words and sensationalized how she imagined my dead father would have reacted had he been alive to hear this news.  All of this really got me angry.

Over the weeks that followed I tried very delicately to broach the subject of my adoption to my mom.  I was hopeful to get any bits of information I could about my biological parents and any little details that might fill in the very foggy picture I had of my mysterious past.  She stubbornly pretended to not remember, and to make things worse, she tried to make me feel guilty for even wanting to know. In her mind, it was like I was dishonoring my dad’s memory to even want to  learn details of the past.   Because she didn’t want me to seek out my biological family, she painted a terrible picture of them,  putting  the worst light on my birth parents, making them out to be undesirables, drunks and crappy people.     I talked to everyone from my past, relatives, old friends, and neighbors, hoping someone had a clue, a missing piece of information that would bust the whole thing open for me.  I had no luck.  It was at a dead end.  I asked my mom one question that she did give me an answer to.  I asked her what my name was before they adopted me.  She told me it was Jane.  Pure and simple, it was Jane.  And the sound of it rang so pretty in my ears.  I loved it.  My name was Jane.

A whole decade had passed.  I still had no real information.  I found out at the beginning of 2011 the State of Illinois was opening up the adoption records in November.  I was ecstatic!  Finally, after all these years of waiting and dead ends and a lack of information I had a chance to finally come closer to learning about my past.  I filled out the forms and had them in a stamped envelope clipped to my refrigerator waiting for the designated day to send it.   In the meantime, my mom had gotten sick with heart disease and was very ill.  She was scheduled to have a do or die open heart surgery on April 3rd.  She was 81.   At the beginning of March I checked my mail box and there it was… an envelope from the State of Illinois!  I grabbed it and clutched it to my chest wildly anticipating that within seconds I would be holding my original birth certificate in my hands and I would finally learn the truth. For years this was the moment I had been waiting for!  I couldn’t believe it.  I ripped it open and unfolded the paper.  This is what I saw:




There it was.  Jane Clair Peace.  What a lovely, artsy name.  I couldn’t believe it was my name. And how wonderful it was to learn my last  name was ‘Peace.’  Beautiful.  I kept scanning over   the words thinking I might have overlooked some little detail.  And there she was-my birth mother… Diane Englund.  My imagination was reeling.  What kind of person was she?  Do I look like her?  Where is she now?  Know I knew her name and suddenly all I could think about was finding her.


The Phone Call That Changed My Life (Part 2)

“I was adopted? I was ADOPTED!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! So many memories came flooding back and in seconds I started to fit the missing puzzle pieces together in my mind. In one fell swoop it all made sense. I was feeling so many things at once, happiness, sadness, relief and betrayal. I had an instant identity crisis. I was furious all this time I was denied my truth. I was an adult person, damn it, and it was my right to know my story about my life and up until this point, no one had the balls to come forth and tell me. I had made it through 37 years of life and not one person from my past dared to let me know. I was angry at them all. I felt kicked off my center to realize I’m not the same person I thought I was. My head was spinning-It was so weird and crazy to hear this, yet despite all those other feelings, a part of me was thrilled.  I knew there was no way I could have been a biological child of my mom.  She was just so completely different from me;  we were obviously from different molds.

Up until the moment that Charlotte picked up her phone and bravely dialed me, I had not been told nor was it even hinted at that I was adopted. In all honestly, however, I have to admit I always thought something might be up. I didn’t really look like my parents-they were both short and smaller people. I was tall and big boned and I didn’t look like them at all, not to mention I could never find any photos of me before six months of age. It was just something I toyed with on my own. I asked Charlotte if she knew anything else, like information on my biological parents, or where I came from, and a million other questions that came flooding into my head all at once. She had no other info for me. All she knew is that Annie and Emil were not my biological parents. I’d have to find the rest out on my own.

After I hung the phone up that night I was numb. In fact, I walked around a little shocked and dazed for about a week. Every time I looked in the mirror I wondered who I looked like, where did I come from and what was my past history? Who is my biological family? Where are they now? Why did they give me up? Do I have siblings? Who’s nose is this? Where did I get this blonde hair and blue eyes? I was obsessed….I just couldn’t let it go. I felt like I wasn’t the person I thought I was. Of course, inside I was the same, but my story was different. There was now something new and mysterious about me I didn’t have the answers for and it was driving me crazy and I so desperately wanted answers.

The first thing I did after talking to Charlotte was call my dad’s sister Flo. I thought for sure she would know something. She and my dad were close and I thought she could give me answers. When I called her and blurted out I learned I was adopted, I begged her to tell me if it was true. I practically had to crank open her mouth and dust off the cobwebs-It was so difficult for her to answer me. For so long she was sworn to secrecy, told to never, ever tell me or else there would be dire consequences. Flo told me my dad was adamant from the moment he got me in his arms that under no circumstances was I to be told I was adopted-ever. As a result, they my aunt and my entire family and friends and everyone I knew as a child growing up had such fear if they ever let it slip that to get anyone to finally open their mouth and let the words out was equivalent to prying open a buried trunk that was rusted shut. Even though my dad had been dead for almost twenty years, it didn’t matter; it was still physically difficult for them to get the words out….but with my prodding and insistence that I knew… (it’s okay, I know), and with painful difficulty they admitted to me what they had kept secret for so long. And much to my dismay, nobody knew anything-no details, no names, no nothing. It had been many, many years, no one remembered. My Aunt Flo confirmed what Charlotte had revealed to me, but she was getting old and was ill and didn’t remember much. She told me to call my mom and talk to her. Of course, I knew I had to tell my mom….there was no getting around it and I thought maybe she would finally be able to explain things. But confronting her about this and letting her know the secret is out was another thing all together. And it was a call I dreaded. I knew almost without a doubt this wasn’t going to go well. And I was right.

The phone call that changed my life. (Part 1)

On a late August night back in 1999 I got a phone call that would forever change my life.   My late father’s cousin Charlotte called me all the way from California with an urgent need to tell me something. I was really surprised to hear her voice on the other end of the line.  We talked small talk for a minute or two and I wondered why she decided to call so unexpectedly.  We usually didn’t call each other that much, but I was still glad to hear from her.  All I remember is her saying there is something really important she has to tell me and she asked me if I was sitting.  I told her no, but to go ahead anyway, whatever it was, I could handle it.   Within seconds my heart started to pound with tension and fear not knowing what to expect out of her mouth.

“Well,” She said, “Your dad told me before he died I can tell you this if I felt there was a reason you needed to know.” She went on to explain how bad she felt when we had talked a little over a year prior, when I called to let her know my last son Jeff was born.  Despite my happiness in my new baby, my heart was heavy as I expressed to her my disappointment in my mom.  Specifically, my mom’s reaction when I initially told her I was pregnant with this now born, beautiful baby boy and her lack of interest in being a meaningful part of my other four children’s lives.    I was bewildered as to why my mom was so crass and snippy with me when I revealed the news to her.  All my life I knew she wasn’t a big fan of kids-because of that I dreaded telling her I was pregnant again, even though this one was well thought out and planned just like the previous four.  And because I was apprehensive, I waited until I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.   When I finally made that dreaded phone call and happily announced I was five months pregnant, (again), my mom’s reaction was a stiff, “Oh, my GOD Emily!  That’s DISGUSTING!”  It brought me to tears and flooded me with anger.  I couldn’t believe how harsh and unloving her response was.

Ever since I was a little kid my mom had a way of making me feel unloved in a variety of ways, be it a nasty look, a snarky tone or genuine intolerance of me.  My father was my saving grace.  From him I got unconditional love and a feeling that I was wanted no matter what and it was that love that was strong enough to counter balance my mom’s constant negativity.  My dad’s love  carried me into adulthood and helped me to become the stable, happy adult I am today. That conversation bothered Charlotte for months; so much so, that she felt compelled to call me and tell me the truth. And just like that, she blurted it out.   “You were adopted, Emily. I thought it was time you knew.”





Dear Universe, hear my plan…


Sometime after my last son graduates high school we need to move to new digs.  The property taxes in my current home are astronomical and most of the tax revenue goes toward funding the district high schools.  After Jeff is done with the school system, it's obvious we need to move on.

The idea of a new home is both wonderfully exciting and scary at the same time.  The prospect of a new home gives me a sense of adventure and wonderment of what is yet to come.  I have hopes of fulfilling dreams of new things I want in my life, and for my life now that I am fifty.   I want to live simply and make positive changes.  I know that if I want all these plans to happen I must put them out there in the world so the Universe can meld and mold them into fruition.  Here goes:

We want to move to a sweet community not far from where we live now.  It must be easily accessible by expressway. I want to move to the country, preferably with a few acres on a wooded lot.  I want to have trees and wooded paths where I can  walk the dogs and enjoy nature.  A little pond or stream running through would be lovely, thank you.  In addition, I want an open area where we can have yard parties and plenty of space for the dogs and grandchildren to run and play.


My  new home will be a stone farmhouse with divided light windows, a finished attic, possibly four bedrooms and a couple of bathrooms.  It must have a large screened in porch overlooking our property where we can sit and enjoy three seasons.  What means more to me this time around is my surroundings.  I want lots of nature, expansive space, comfort and clean air.

My new home has to nurture the pursuance of my art.   I must have a heated outbuilding suitable for an art studio so I can have the space and privacy I need to treat my art as a full time job.  In this outbuilding/barn I will not only create art but I will use it for showing my work. I will have gallery showings with wine, cheese, and locals coming to mingle, gawk and buy.  This building will also facilitate art retreats and art lessons.  It will also be used for girlfriend escapes, which are a necessary factor in a woman's life-this woman's life.  Most of all, this home will be a place where my family will want to come and spend time, and where friends will flock.

I will give my little parcel of land a name.  It will be an entity worthy of a title.

We will sell our current home fairly quickly and will get a really good price for it.  The money made from this house will fully cover the cost of our new home.  The property taxes on our new home will be 30% of what we pay here in Tinley Park.

So there  you have it Sweet Universe.  I have written down my intentions and I'm sending them out to you.  Please do what you can to make this happen.