A Quote to Start Things Off

"Passive Aggressive. It works for my mother, it works for Duolingo" Luis Von Ahn , co-founder of Duolingo from his TED talk, How to make learning as addictive as social media.

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Pictures of Memories I

Pictures of Memories I
Snow kidding! These "kids" now range from 17 to 23

Sunday, November 12, 2023

60 Days in 60 Year: 1982

I usually think of a year to write about and then a topic comes to mind when I think of the events of that year,  This time I had an idea for a topic and I thought of 3 different years that could fir the topic.  Those years were 1976, 1979 & 1982.  The topic was discovering that the world can be a scary place.  I finally decided on 1982 but let me tell you about the local events in 1976 , 1979 and 1982 and then dig a little deeper on 1982.

In 1976 a murder occurred on the street where I lived.  I was 12 years old at the time and  one of the 3 victims was just a year older than me.  His name was Michael Columbo and he and his parents were killed by his sister and his sisters boyfriend.  Patty Columbo is still in prison for the murders and Frank Deluca died in prison earlier this year.  Michael Columbo would have turned 60 this year.















In 1979 John Wayne Gacy was arrested for a series of brutal murders rapes mutilations of young men my age and living in suburbs near mine.  He received the death penalty some 15 years later.




Both these cases changed my view of the world a little.  When a brutal murder  occurs on the street where you live, in a house that would later be on your newspaper delivery route it's going to effect you.  When boys your age are being abducted in neighboring suburbs and being raped, murdered and buried it is more than unnerving.  It makes you wonder if you are truly safe. 

In 1982 when I was still in high school the unspeakable hit close to home again.  When I say close to home, I am not exaggerating at all.  Tylenol capsules filled with potassium cyanide were sold at two grocery stores, one in Arlington Heights which neighbors my home town of Elk Grove Village  and the other in Elk Grove 4 blocks from my house.  This was in my senior year of high school and occurred at a store my family had been buying groceries, including Tylenol my entire life.   




A 12 year old girl from my hometown was one of the seven who died.  She stayed home from school because of a stomach ache was given one Tylenol and died within hours.

As heinous as the first two crimes, they Tylenol murders to me was equally as perverse.  Especially when you consider the crime has still not been solved more than 40 years later.  Also the randomness of the victims, anyone who  bought products from either of those grocery store was a potential victim, which means I was a potential victim.  It is one thing to think that I was a target demographic of Gacy, but another thing entirely to realize that I was buying groceries at that store when there were tainted Tylenol available for purchase.  It is chilling.

This case also singlehandedly changed how products are manufactured.   Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers  of Tylenol, not only responded to the crisis by recalling 31 million bottles of their product, but also introduced tamperproof packaging and child-proof caps.    They lost quite a bit of money in the process but  received well deserved praise with how they handled the situation.

Evil (read about any of these cases and the word evil, will come up again and again) is an age old problem.  Encountering it on my street, in my town, and near my town isn't unusual, as it exists everywhere.  But seeing such extreme examples of evil , may have been one reason why I was always on the lookout for good.



Saturday, November 11, 2023

60 Years in 60 Days:1970

 1970: Keith 


I was in first grade in 1970.  It was my first year as a full time student as kindergarten back then was a strictly half day affair.  My older sister was in 2nd grade and my younger brother was doing whatever 4 year-olds did back in the early 70's. I don't have any memories when I didn't have both an older sister and a younger brother.

I do have memories before my youngest brother, Keith was born  on veteran's day 1970.  I remember some of kindergarten.  I remember my first day of first grade and I certainly remember walking home from school that day in Mid November when my Mom was coming home from the hospital with Keith.

I also sadly have many memories of life without my baby brother.  He died a little more than 14 1/2 years ago.  An event that is very well chronicled on this blog. This is the fifteenth birthday we have celebrated without him. 

 By the time Keith was starting first grade, I was starting 7th grade.  Because of the age difference we weren't all that close growing up.  He started high school when I was in college living at home and volunteering in the same high school youth group I had been in while in school.  He starting attending that youth group and we spent quite a bit of time together because of that. As a result we became closer and even though we weren't exactly super tight, he was probably the relative I was closest with.

In 1987, the year I left home to reinvent myself, Keith started his senior year of high school. Over Spring Break that year he had his first hospitalization due to mental illness.  This was the beginning of his road to a Bi-polar diagnosis.  I think back then they just called it a nervous breakdown.

That Fall he did go away to school, actually pretty close to where I had landed and he spent his first two semesters of college the farthest he ever lived away from my parents.  The next year He went back home to a local junior college and started to find his own way. While there he met the woman he would eventually marry and he got married before either of his older brothers.

Keith eventually graduated from college and began graduate school but never completed it.  I think the only job he ever had was at McDonalds, but he always worked hard and he always took care of his family, And I never met someone who loved his kids more fiercely than Keith did.  

Some Friday night in the summer of 2006, I was at an outdoor movie night at a local park with my family.  My cell phone rang, it was my Dad.  Keith was sick, He had only 10 % use of his heart and his kidney function was at the same rate.  Within a week, he was getting treated at the Mayo Clinic.  

His kidneys were shot because of the lithium he took for his bi-polar, but we never discovered what happened with his heart. From 2006 to April 2008 Keith's life developed into a consistent pattern.  He'd be hospitalized he'd then go to a nursing home (one of the only 30 somethings in the joint) then go back home far a month or two and then he'd be hospitalized again  because either his heart medicine was creating problems for his kidneys or his kidney medicine was messing with the bi-polar or any other such permutation. rinse, lather, repeat.  

Keith loved trivia, especially Jeopardy. He was an excellent chess player and  loved all kind of puzzles especially those in Games magazine.  I am sure, he would have been great at current games, like Wordle and Nerdle. 

Keith died at the age of 38 so I always think of him as 38. Or I think of him at 27, when he got married.  Or I think of him at 30 when his son Robert was born.  Or I think of him ay 32 when his daughter Sarah arrived. Or at the age of 22 when he visited me in Russia and said of my filing system, "A place for everything and everything on the floor." Or at the age of 17 when I saw him graduate high school at the old Poplar Creek concert venue. Or playing tee ball at the age of 7 or 8.  Or at the age of a few days, that November day on 1970 when he came home from the hospital.  I guess I remember him a lot.  I miss him even more.


Friday, November 10, 2023

60 years In 60 days: 1965

 I was born in 1964.  I turned 1 in 1965.  I don't have any memories of life in 1965.What I do know is that  my sister turned 2 in June , I turned 1 in September at the time that my Mom was pregnant with my younger brother who was born in March of 1966.  By the end of 1965 My Das  was 27, my Mom was 26, my sister 2 and I was one.  .  I am now 59 years old so I am older now than the combined age of my entire family in 1965.


 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

60 Years in 60 Days: 1989

 In The Spring of 1989 I took a class, I forget what the actual name and course # was but the gist was that it was the course where education majors got their pre-student teaching experience.  Over the course of the semester you travel to a school,  are assigned a teacher and a class room and you observe  and assist in the class room culminating in preparing and giving a lesson essentially being teacher for a day.  I forgot how many visits it was it was either 6 0r 12 in a 6 week period.  

I got to know the students pretty well, and one of them was going to be in a local theater play.  I told him that I would attend.  Back than my wardrobe was pretty exclusively jeans t-shirts and I had a pretty good sweater collection.  I had one suit and a few dress shirts and a couple pairs of slacks.  Each day I would go to school,  I would wear the same outfit, my suit.  I would then go back to the dorm and put it away until the next class.  When I went to the play I was wearing my regular out fit of Jeans, Turtle Neck and Sweater.  

The play was really good.  It was Agatha Christies Mouse Trap and my student did an excellent job.  I went up to him after the show and the first thing this kid (who by my math is now 50ish) says to me: "Mr. Roller, You're in civilian clothes!"


I was thinking of that story today, because my youngest daughter has a starring part in her school play.  I wore Jeans and the show t.shirt to school today and wore the same thing to the production.  I don't think I've ever worn a suit to teach school.  I guess I just wear civilian clothes.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

60 Years In 60 Days 1993


1993 Foreign Soil.

From Late 1992 to Late 1994 I lived in Russia. 1993 was the only year in my life that I was not in the United States at all.  I embraced life in Russia and did not have much culture shock at all,  It wasn't until I got home that I realized the impact of missing an entire year of American culture.  I was able to keep up with the really important things like the Bulls Threepeat.  I heard most of the major developments.  

But even as recently as this week when I was watching Dave with relatives. Someone asked what year it came out and I didn't know.  I can usually recall the year a movie came out by remembering what was going when I saw it.  For example, I remember  Ferris Buellers Day off came out in 1986 because I watched it with fellow camp counselors from Camp Manitoqua and I worked at Camp Manic Toga in the summer of 86.  I remember Ordinary People came out in 1980 because we were reading the book in my sophomore English class and the class took a field trip to go see it.  Dave came out in 1993.  I didn't see it in the theatre so I have no reference point to the year.

The same is true about sports, t.v. and news of that period.  In the 30 years since I've come home from Russia there have been multiple gaps in my shared experiences with others because of the disparity of our 1993s

Don't misunderstand me.  This is not a bad thing,  It's been kind of like found money. On Spotify I am often discovering albums that came out in 1993 or 1994 that I never was aware of and enjoy discovering them 30 years later.

My years in Russia were the best 2 years of my life to that point.  I made lasting friendships, did worthwhile work, and was stretched in many ways.  I may not have been in the U.S. in 1993 but I certainly had found a home.  



Tuesday, November 7, 2023

60 Years in 60 Days 2013

 

2013: The Beginning of the year of limericks

I turned 49 in the year 2013.  I remember going with my wife and kids to the Cook County forest preserve in Elk Grove where there is actually, wait for it, a grove of elk.  We were hanging out watching elk, climbing trees, and having all kind of birthday fun when an idea came to me.  For the rest of the year, I would write a limerick each day and post it on Facebook for all  to see.  

Eventually the task got a little much for me and I did not write 365 limericks that year, but I wrote well over 200.  While my limericks never quite went viral, I am sure a few of them made a number of  my friends, family and acquaintances sick.

The year of limericks was a bit of a turning point for me in a few ways:

While I have dabbled in poetry along with other kinds of writing and studied poetry while obtaining a degree in English, I never considered myself more than an occasional  poet.  The limerick experimented jump started this part of my writing.

Facebook has become a curator of my limericks.  Thanks to Facebook memories my limericks from 2013-2014 pop up on the anniversary of the day I wrote them.  The November 7th 2013 popped up again today.  It is about knock knock jokes.  

While knock knock who's there jokes are lawful 
A lot of them are just plain awful 
When you knock knock who's there 
You best be aware 
There is such a thing as a doorbell.




Monday, November 6, 2023

60 Years In Sixty Days:1997

 1997: She Said Sure 


1997 was a year of great change for me. I started the year miserable and lonely.  Which is a line from the movie Marty.  But I  had not yet seen the movie Marty, which is a pretty good reason to be miserable, but I had others. 

I was living in a different state than I am now.  A state of  habitual sin.  A state of unfulfilled desire. A state of deep regret.  A state of hopelessness.  I mean South Carolinas not the bad, you can play tennis year round but I wasn't nearly the man I wanted to be and I was doing nothing to change.

A friend sought me out and offered me the hope of real change.  As I started to work through my issues and allow God to change me from the inside out.  I discovered something.  I discovered someone.

I had a friend in a different state.  She was in a state of healing.  A state of awareness.  A state of discovery,  She was changing in Illinois while I was changing in South Carolina.

W e had been friend for going on 7 years.  Everyone else noticed that we were meant for each other.  But we were oblivious.  Why would I date her? I would ask, she's my best friend.  Then one Day I said I should court her, she's my best friend.

She flew down for Spring Break and it was clear that courting was like friendship with help.  By the time Spring Break was over I knew and put an emerald engagement ring on layaway.  

In July I moved back to Illinois with marriage on my mind.   .  When I earned enough to pay for the ring I asked her parent for permission to marry their daughter. They said yes and I made reservations at a fancy restaurant for the proposal.

After Spring Break I had written lyrics for a proposal  and gave it to a friend who had written music for other songs I had written.  About the same time I got the ring paid off,  he sent me the  cassette with the song on it.  I asked a H.S. senior from our youth group to accompany me at a fancy restaurant.  On the big night, he chickened out.  So instead of bringing an accompanist  ala Breaking Away.  I brought in a cassette player ala Say Anything.

I was so nervous.  I could hardly eat dinner.  Because I knew I was going to propose. I turned on the tape player and began to sing:

It's A beautiful night

Your a beautiful girl

I thank God for the day 

That you brightened my world


The song continued and when I ended with the title question Will You Marry Me My Darling?, Amy was unsure of what just happened.

/I had a  habit and still do of showing all my poems, songs and writings to Amy to see if they are any good.  She must have thought that's what I was doing.  

"Is that what you are going to sing when you propose?" She inquired.

"This is me, proposing," I replied.

So she said, sure.

After which, she took out a piece of paper from her purse of all the ways she had known that I was going to propose that night.  It turns out that since I had telegraphed my intentions, that she also was very nervous and didn't eat much of her dinner either.  So our first official act as an engaged couple was to go to Denny's and have another dinner.

We got engaged 26 years ago this month.  We have been through many changes since then but I'll always remember 1997 as the year God changed two people and led them to the path of being one couple.
"




                                             





Sunday, November 5, 2023

60 Years in 60 Days: 1977

 1977: The Year I Led The Packers in Sacks

I was not always the physical specimen that blogs before you. In Jr. High, I was a 6'1 stick figure of a kid whose social awkwardness was matched only by his lack of physical coordination. I was in Jr. high in the 70's when bullying was not only not frowned upon but was an elective in many school districts.  I was teased quite a bit for many things but in the Fall of 1977 and 1978 I got teased on Monday's for what someone else did on Sunday.  That someone just happened to share my name.

Football in the 1970's was a pretty big thing. The biggest football rivalry in my area was that of the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  In 1977 Walter Payton the Bears running Back was having a breakout year and was voted MVP of the league by the Associated Press. Payton led the Bears to a 9-5 record that year and their first playoff appearance in my lifetime. The Pack went 4-10 but had one player with a familiar name who helped lead the defense.

His name was familiar to me at least, as his name was Dave Roller.  And as Robin  might say Holy John Jacob Jingelheimer Schmidt Batman, that's my name too



.  

When some of my fellow students at Elk Grove Jr. High heard my name on their televisions on Sunday afternoons, they would let me know about it on Mondays.  It was always funny to them how different a professional football player and  a gawky kid could be even if they had the same name.  It wasn't  a big deal but it did become a bit of a ritual in the Falls of 78 and 79.  There were always a couple of kids in my math class who would comment about how well I played the day before. 

In reality Roller played pretty well for the Packers.  He led them in 1977 with 8 sacks was once carried off by the fans after a Packer victory and I believe was one of the first players in the NFL to celebrate after a tackle with a sack dance.  

I have never met the former NFL player who shares a name with me and my father.  In Jr. High it was just one of many things to be teased about.  But when I think about it now, it's cool to share with your name with someone who achieved excellence in their field.  Even if it's just Lambeau Field. 


Saturday, November 4, 2023

60 Years In 60 Days: 1987

 1987: The Year I reinvented myself  and remained basically the same.



I graduated high school in 1983 and spent most of the next 4 years living at home.  During that time I volunteered about 30 hours a week with my high school youth group, took some classes at the local junior college (dropping a few, and passing most of the rest),  worked some part time jobs, got my first full time job, and after working there a year tried and failed to go on a 2 year short term missions trip to the Philippines.  

As 1986 came to an end, I decided to reinvent myself.  I decided to head off to college at the same time that most of my friends from high school were finishing college. In the Summer of 1987 I enrolled at Western Illinois University. Western was a 4 1/2 hour drive (a Goldilocksonian distance) from my house.  

I packed all my stuff in my van and took one of many trips to Macomb, Illinois.  It may have been on  that trip  that I wrote my first country song, She Drop Kicked my Heart (In the Football Game of Love).  Parentheses were very important in the music of the eighties.  

Except for one friend from high-school (who switched schools the next year) I didn't know a soul on or off campus.  As Billy Crystal would later say in City Slickers, I was given a do over. 

 \



 
I did well in my two summer classes and quickly began making friends.  As a youth group leader, I would often meet with graduating seniors to talk about growing spiritually on campus.  One of the best ways I suggested to do that was to join a campus ministry.  After high school I had many friends who were involved in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.  So I decided to join that one.  It was a very small group at that time and I was instantly involved in leadership there. I also got immediately involved in a local church, and started DJing  at the campus radio station, which was a life-long ambition.

So from June to September I managed to become every bit as busy as I was back in the Chicago suburbs, if not busier . And, my undiagnosed ADHD was not a respecter of zip codes, so my lackluster academic career continued to lack luster.  






Following WIU sports was a big part of my campus experience.

Adjustments had to be made along the way, but I survived and thrived in college.   The college adventure ended as it began with me packing up my belongings, but this time traveling not across the  state, not even across the country, but travelling across the globe. A few months after graduation, I utilized the English degree I had struggled to earn while serving a two year term as a missionary in Russia.  In 1986 when I first felt called to the missions field, Russia was not remotely open to most Americans let alone mission minded ones. 

Looking back, 1987 was a year where I began some much needed changes in my life.  In many ways it was my first foray into life on my own.  Many of the experiences I had at WIU shaped who I am now.  But some of those changes didn't start until after I graduated.  Others of those changes didn't start until I got married, or until I became a Dad.  Some changes are still taking place and other changes that I am not even aware of may be just around the bend.

That being true, there is still an awful lot about me that is exactly the same as it was in 1987, making up songs on my way to college life.  For example I still write songs and perform them while alone in my car.  But many of the things true in 1987 and still true today are my character and my compass.  My belief system and my sense of direction is what propelled my trajectory in '87 and still does today.  Although it may be time to admit that Nashville ain't calling any time soon.  








Friday, November 3, 2023

60 Years In 60 Days: 1964


Dick Allen in 1964

 I was born in 1964.  Some people may call that my rookie year, but if you know about baseball you know my birthday on 9/23 was just a late September call up and my Rookie year would be in 1965.

  In a similar fashion, Dick Allen (my first White Sox hero) debuted for the Philadelphia Phillies on 9/3/1963 came back in the spring of 1964 and played his rookie season.  He played all 162  games for the Philadelphia the only Phillie to do that in 1964 and just 1 of 12 in the majors. 

When I was growing up I wanted to be the starting third baseman  for the Chicago White Sox.  In 1964 22 year old Allen was the starting 3rd baseman for Philadelphia. Allen had an amazing season, one of the finest rookie seasons in MLB history. He led all of MLB with 125 runs scored.  His 13 triples were tied for first with Cubs 3rd baseman and fellow hero of my youth, Ron Santo.  He had 201 hits and 29 homeruns (5th overall for both achievements.  

Allen  had many successes but a few bumps in the road that eventually saw him be voted N.L.  Rookie Of the year.  He was an adventure at 3rd base amassing 41 errors at the hot corner.  He also led the national league in strikeouts which is great when your a pitcher but not so good when you have a bat in your hand. Allen struck out 138times  in his rookie year   but still managed  to hit .318 in '64 with a slugging percentage of .557.  


Allen's Phillies spent 135 days in first place that year but lost 10 games in a row from September 21st to the 30th in one of the greatest sports collapses in the 20th century. That most of these 10 losses happened in my first week alive is merely coincidence.  At least I hope it is. 

 Bleacher Report has an excellent article about Allen which talks about how claims that Allen was somehow to blame for the collapse have no basis in fact.  That article can be found  by clicking here.



Dick Allen as I remember him


1964 was a great year to be born and a fine year to play your first full season in the majors.  I discovered Dick Allen for myself in the early 70's and he is one of the main reasons I became a White Sox fan,  

Closing Thoughts: 

The scout that signed Dick Allen to the Phillies also saw Babe Ruth play and said of Allen that he was the only player he had seen that hit harder than Ruth.  

Dick Allen died December 7th 2020 in at the age of 78.

He is considered by many to be the best  baseball player not to be enshrined in Cooperstown.  


Thursday, November 2, 2023

60 Years in 60 Days 2016

 As of today there are 60 days left in 2023.  As it turns out, I have lived in 60 years from 1964 to 2023.  I had one of those ideas that generally gives me more stress than it's worth when I try to implement them.  The idea was simply this: Write one thing a day for the next sixty days about one of those years.  

I decided today to write about 2016 to start things off.  While it's true that the Cubs won their World Series that year on this day, that is not why I chose it.  I chose it to write about a friend's father.  My friend's father died 7 years ago on November 2, 2016.  His obituary appears here.  

I never met Dick Ciccone. I have only known his son  Rich since the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year when I spent the fall semester as a  long term sub at the same middle school Rich was starting at.  Besides teaching the same type of classes, we found that we had some things in common like having fathers who went to Notre Dame at the same time. Also, Rich could relate to the struggles I was experiencing helping my parents with difficult health issues as he had been through that already with his parents.  

This year I'm back at the school as a building sub and Rich and I have renewed our friendship.  He requests me to teach his classes  when he has compliance days or IEP meetings and I gladly do it as several of his 8th grade students were in my 7th grade class last year.  He lets me use his classroom as kind of a home base when I am not subbing in other classes and  I enjoy working with him and his students any chance I get.

Last month I watched a movie called Continental Divide.  I hadn't seen it for a while.  It features John Belushi playing a Chicago Newspaper columnist based on Mike Royko.  Mike Royko was one of my heroes growing up.  I started reading his columns in the Chicago Sun Times and then in the Chicago Tribune.  After watching the film I decided to see if I could find a biography about Royko. 

I was at school and the teacher I was subbing for had an off period, so  I was researching Mike Royko biographies.  I soon found out that one of the definitive biographies about Royko had been written by a F. Richard Ciccone who I recognized to be Rich's dad.  I popped into Rich's room and he reminded me that his Dad had been the managing editor of the Tribune when  Royko moved there  from the Sun Times.

I was already reading  a few books so I waited until I finished some of them before requesting  Royko: A  Life In Print by F. Richard Ciccone from my local library. It came yesterday and I told Rich  about how I wad going to pick it up after school while he was preparing me for his classes that I'd be doing for him while he was in an IEP meeting.  He didn't seem as thrilled about it as when we had talked about it last month.  I remember asking him if it was difficult to talk about his dad back in October as I was gushing about Royko and he assured me it was fine, so I really didn't understand his reaction and attributed it to just being distracted by the impending IEP meeting prep.  

I got the book yesterday and it is amazing. In the introduction and the first two chapters, the elder Ciccone immerses us in the world of Royko, also sharing that Mike Royko wasn't the only Tribune employee who could craft mesmerizing prose.  I attempted to tell that to Rich today and I immediately sensed the same expression I had noticed the day before.

That is when Rich told me that today was the 7th anniversary of his father's death.  He shared how difficult it can be as so many people view today with such positive memories.  I remember being at Rosati's around the corner from our old house 7 years ago and going crazy as the Cubs won the World Series. 

This is why I chose 2016. It reminds me that one person's best memories can trigger another person's worst. When I was in college there was a restaurant called The Sports Page and true to their name they had several framed front pages on their walls celebrating great sports achievements of the time.  One such front page celebrated the Bears winning the Super Bowl on January 26, 1986.  In another spot of the   front page there was an article about the upcoming space shuttle flight for teacher Christa McAuliffe.  Two days after the Bears won their Super Bowl The Space Shuttle Challenge exploded less than 90 seconds into its flight.

Every year I have lived so far houses someone's most amazing achievement and someone else's  biggest regret.  This of course is an understatement.  We can certainly say the same thing about each day I have lived. It is difficult to be on the lookout for both, but can so be beneficial. The book of Proverbs reminds  us that,  "A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (Proverbs 17:17 NIV). .With this in mind, we should always be on the lookout for opportunities to help our friends rejoice, grieve or even just remember over important moments in their past.  
  

A to Z 2023 Road Trip

#AtoZChallenge 2023 RoadTrip