Category Archives: Family

Presidentine’s Day and the fine art of mothering a comedienne

I am the proud mother of a sketch comedienne, which means I get to laugh every day.


Text messages crack me up. Phone calls make me snicker and don’t even get me started on the emails.

I get to see scripts before they become shows, and then I get to sit in audiences of admittedly varying sizes and laugh with them.

Oh sure, there’ve been less than comfortable times —  jokes that grandma shouldn’t hear, lines that require explanations, ambitious daughters who yearn to succeed and seek advice I can’t offer.

But comfort can be overrated, and lives without risk are boring. So, I thank God every day that I gave birth to a woman brave enough to put herself out there, and talented enough to do it well.

Katherine’s days are long, she works a regular job, teaches theatre games to children in a homeless shelter, attends early morning boot camp fitness classes, writes and performs weekly, and sees lots of shows in the extremely active Chicago theatre community.

I try not to think about the late night Ubers and early morning walks. But those days are also fulfilling and that same Chicago community has introduced her to some of the kindest people I know.

This week, Pure & Weary released its sixth video in a monthly series I’ve genuinely enjoyed. This video is edgy and I had to remind myself as I watched it, that my little peanut is a grown woman.

We watched it several times and guess what? Each time? We laughed.

Treat yourself to a little Presidentine’s Day humor. It’s all in good fun.

Baby Katherine

Awwww. This little peanut has been making us laugh since the day she was born.

Pure and Weary 14

Pure & Weary performed to a full house at this year’s Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.

Sketchfest group shot

And, lucky I got to be there too. It turned out to be a Girls’ Night Out with Katherine’s aunts from both sides of the family and her cousin Lizzy. 


Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?

We train all year for this event, alternating cardio, weight and cartography workouts.  We pack with precision. Wicking clothes. Check! Running shoes. Check! Sunblock. Check!

On the big day, we hit the road early, well before sunrise, fielding phone calls from various family members, concerned about our progress.

My mother’s birthday has become an endurance extravaganza. As I’ve written about before, the woman, born in the shadow of Coney Island, loves amusement parks more than anyone we know. She’s been celebrating her birthday at Disney World for the past 17 years.

This year, she met us in the parking lot, handed us rain ponchos she “keeps in her car for just these occasions” and said, “Let’s go!” We hit two parks, five rides, and three shows, all before we even checked into our hotel.

In the face of unrelenting rain, my mother charged on. My Fitbit kept sending me congratulatory messages about new step badges I’d achieved. Halfway through the day I’d earned a Hiking Boot, Trail Shoe, Classics, High Tops, and Urban Boot badges. I have no idea what that means, but I know I earned them in the pouring rain trotting after my 77-year old mother.

We exited Animal Kingdom and made our way to the buses, intending to head back to Epcot for a late lunch at Mom’s favorite French restaurant.

I jogged ahead as I was anxious to drag my drenched butt to dry land. “Will the bus to Epcot be here soon?” I panted.

“‘Bout 20 minutes,” the park employee said. “You catch it on the other side.”

Thankfully, mom caught up

“Here’s what we’ll do,” she said decisively. “We take the Boardwalk bus. We get off, walk across the bridge and take the back entrance into Epcot.”

We did as told and arrived at our reservation 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

We’ll never take for granted the privilege of scurrying along in Grandma Peggy’s wake. I’d write more, but it’s only day two of our celebration, she’s waiting in the lobby and Splash Mountain calls..


We paused briefly during our sprint through the parks, appropriately in front of the Tree of Life.




Thanks to the Red Devils for a golden opportunity

Golden footballs and priceless memories

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

A Popcorn Christmas

Twelve days before Christmas I sat on a couch next to Molly cursing a little as I strung stale popcorn on thin thread that kept slipping from the confoundingly small hole of its needle.

She leaned over and calmly said, “You know, I find this very relaxing. I don’t mind finishing myself.”

“Absolutely not,” I said. “I’m going to help…Ouch! Dammit!”

In the end, Molly strung almost all the popcorn, while I peppered her with annoying questions like, “Are you sure you want to do all this work?” and “Isn’t it going to take a lot of popcorn stringing to fill that tree?” and “Can we re-use this next year? Otherwise, it just seems like a lot of bother.”

Ten days before Christmas, we looped the popcorn strands on our tree. I admired it through the open family room doors as I sat at our dining room table; I checked it out from the sidewalk outside our house; I sat on our family room couch all alone in the dark just staring at that beautiful tree.

“This is my favorite tree we’ve ever had,” I said repeatedly through the holidays.

It turned out to be a Popcorn Christmas, which might be the very best kind.

My mother in-law unwittingly set the holiday theme early, when she spoke up at a resident’s association meeting.

“You really should serve popcorn at the Popcorn and Movie nights,” she said. Renown for her pleasant nature, Mary Jane almost never complains. “I just wanted to get my name in the minutes,” she joked.

But, really, the woman loves old movies and fresh theater popcorn, and her family loves her.

So, 2015 became a Popcorn Christmas for Mary Jane as well.

From out west came boxes of Cracker Jack, from down south barrels of Garrett’s Popcorn, and from the New York grandson a subscription to a popcorn of the month club.

Grandma Mary Jane will have her fill of delicious popcorn in 2016.

And, we hope you do too. Throw a few kernels in a kettle, cover them in your choice of delicious oil and pop yourself a batch or two.

Good, old-fashioned popcorn doesn’t cost much; it just takes a little time.

As Molly and our proud tree, still sagging with ornaments that tell the story of our lives because I’m loathe to take them down, knew all along –

It’s worth it.

Christmas 2015 021

A morning view of our popcorn tree, seen from the dining room. I love sitting at my dining room table, with a cup of tea and my lap top, before anyone else wakes up, and admiring my tree.

Christmas 2015 022

Our ornaments tell the story of our lives. We even have a few treasured ornaments from my grandparent’s tree.

Popcorn Christmas cracker jack

I had a little fun making homemade cracker jack for Christmas, but I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. This is the corn and peanuts about midway through the cooking process.

Popcorn Christmas Grandma MJ

General Popcorn and a few of her kernels. It was a crazy Packer Christmas sweater Christmas too.

Star Wars popcorn

Like many of yours, our Popcorn Christmas took us to the movie theater for Star Wars. I am the only member of my family who believes the pivotal moment in this movie might not be binding, and that’s all I’ll say on that subject.

My favorite Christmas tree

A good cross section of the ornaments, framed in popcorn. Molly made the Popsicle stick ornament in nursery school, the spaceship ornament behind it represents the year Charlie traveled to Alabama to attend the Space Academy. My mom made the gold and blue ornament during one, unprecedented year of crafting back in 1970, the crystal mittens are from a collection of ornaments Molly’s godparents give her every year for Christmas and the gorgeous crystal Santa and his globe was a gift as well.

The view from the family room couch

A nighttime view of our tree from my perch on the family room couch. Man, I love this tree.

Mastering the Art of Kostelnik Cooking (a post by Molly)

A random act of Christkindl

My favorite Christmas video

Hooping it up with the nieces

We spent a splendid week on the hard courts, watching our nieces own the game of basketball.

From our perch on bleachers throughout Wisconsin and Illinois, we saw a couple of blowouts and a genuine nail-biter involving a ref mandated wholesale uniform change, the likes of which we’d never seen before.

Through our nieces we could trace the sport’s evolution — from a loosely called fourth grade barn burner in a tiny Catholic grade school gym , to an in sync prep game in one of Wisconsin’s largest high schools, to a fast-paced game in an NCAA Division 1 auditorium.

Proportional to the athletes, the intensity level didn’t vary. They may have traveled a time or two and needed repeated instructions to line up properly to defend a free throw, but the St. Josephat Hawks played hard. We sat on the edges of our folding chairs cheering for our niece Erin, until her teammate, a little girl named Elizabeth, sank a shot at the buzzer for a thrilling 10-8 victory.

It’s no coincidence that our niece Rachel has been on championship basketball teams since she first picked up a basketball. A gifted athlete with an easy-going personality, she combines natural strength with a smooth style. Her eighth grade team won the state championship; she and the other four starters on that team all play on this year’s Sun Prairie High School squad. The night we saw them play, the Cardinals won 61-33.

I’m pretty sure our niece Shakeela Fowler was the best athlete in the McGrath-Phillips Arena, and that includes the members of the DePaul men’s basketball team who also came to watch the Blue Devils play Illinois State Saturday night. Nowhere near as tall as her 5-3 listed height, Shakeela fired no-look passes like a speedy Brett Favre, finding players who never even knew they were open. Though her program is rebuilding (DePaul won 89-41), Shakeela played with sophistication and class.

We’re going to enjoy following the Hawks, the Cardinals and the Red Birds this season. Fowl coincidence? I think not. They’re all going to soar.

Rachel jump shot

I intend to go to several Sun Prairie games this winter so I thought I’d lay a little low at the first one. I didn’t bring my camera. Fortunately for me, the Sun Prairie Star featured this great shot of Rachel taking a jump shot (she gets air!) in an earlier game.

erin in blue

I’m including this blurry cellphone shot of my niece Erin warming up so you can note the uniforms. A few minutes into the first quarter, the refs asked the St. Josephat players to change their blue uniforms to the home whites. So, the whole team ran off the court, accidentally landed in the boys locker room, let loose a hearty scream, ran out of the boys locker room and into the girls, changed to the home whites, and sprinted back to the court to resume play. 

Erin Free throw

I like Erin’s expression in this shot as she waits to rebound the free throw.

Erin rebound

I also like that she’s the only one going after the ball following the shot. 

Erin and me post ga

Post game.


As I’ve noted, Shakeela is an outstanding athlete.

Shakeela size

I took this shot to note the size difference. It cracks me up. 

Kathy Keith Traveian and the mascot

My sister Kathy, her husband Keith and his son Traveain took some grief from the Depaul Blue Demon.

Shakeela fan club

The smallest player had the biggest fan club. It was fun to see Erin watch Shakeela play. 



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