When Next Year Comes


Once upon a time, in land not so far away, a man with a goat invoked a curse of some renown.

Like many tales, in the telling of the details, words were lost and words were gained, but, the essence of the story remains the same.

In 1945, during the fourth game of the World Series, Billy Sianis’ goat was ejected from Wrigley Field. Insulted at his goat’s harsh treatment, Mr. Sianis uttered a curse. “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,”

What actually happened is lost over the span of seven decades, but, the legend of the Curse of the Billy Goat lingered. For 71 years, the Chicago Cubs have never won the National League Pennant, and never advanced to baseball’s World Series, in spite of many efforts to break the curse.

Whether you believe in curses or fairy tales, for 71 years avid Cubs fans, some two or three generations deep, would hoot and shout and get their hopes up, only to have them quelled at season’s end. Loyal to the core, they waited – and waited and waited – until next year!

Like the magical moments in fairy tales, next year finally came, and with it something special happened – the curse of the Billy goat was broken.


After 71 cursed years, the Chicago Cubs won the National League Division and are now in the World Series, which they have not won since 1908. Cubs fans the world over are elated, with shirts and caps and big “W” flags flying on pillars and posts and prominent buildings. There are Chicago Cubs caps on the venerable lions guarding the Art Institute of Chicago, and extra-large Cubbie t-shirts on the Field Museum dinosaurs.

These expressions of appreciation, encouragement and hope are important, but, something more meaningful, more magical, more wondrous has happened and it is coming from the hearts and souls and reminisces of people. It started to show, then to grow, on social media, in newspapers, on television and radio and has gathered fans and their ancestors together like a mother bear leading her cubs home.

Whether calling in or writing, texting or phoning – the stories of Cubs fans past or present are pouring forth. A common theme seems to have arisen. While fans of the Chicago Cubs have been on Cloud 9, it is their mothers and fathers, uncles and cousins, great-grandmothers, aunts and uncles whose memories are invoked with the hue and cry of

    ”           is celebrating in heaven!”.

A local television station, WGN, has encouraged everyone to send in their stories of loved ones who have passed on and their relationship with the Chicago Cubs. The stories keep growing and filling the air with a wholesomeness that is sincere and welcome in these otherwise uncertain times. There is no barrier, it seems, to who a Cubs fan is; no matter the gender, skin color, religion, ethnicity, political affiliations age, or education – there is no box to check off on the roster of rooters as so many people reveal their heartwarming stories of the decades of fans; fans that continued to wait until next year.

Whether or not the Cubs win the World Series is yet to be determined, but, in my humble view, they have already won the World Series of Human Spirit.

I have shared a story in the past of Tom and Ron Santo, which you can read here.

Championship sign is from the Cubs.

Goat photo is mine.🙂


1 9 5

mccook-libraryIt was my first time behind the wheel after “The Fall”. Apprehensive, I mentally mapped out a route along roads less traveled with destinations that didn’t require me to get in and out of the car.

Bank – ATM – ✔️

Drive-up postal box ✔️

Coffee – ✔️

Library – ???

My library card had expired a month ago. I needed to renew it. To do so, meant going into the library.

I live in a city that does not have a library. Sad, I know, BUT, it is a very nice city that tries to treat her residents well, and does so in what I feel is a rather nice way. To own a library card, we must buy one from another municipality. My city, however, will pay half of the charge, up to $100. That means, if a neighboring library sells you a card for $200, the city will reimburse for half of that. Not a bad deal at all.

For many years, I have purchased my card from a small library with a healthy tax base in the next town over. It is the library where I was ‘mullioned” a few years ago. They are such nice folks, recognize me, and are part of a very large library system, which allows me library privileges in a very large inter-library loan system.

Most of you know my love of libraries, and how I often frequent them.

I have a “library habit”.

The librarian told me she could renew my card, but, the fee had gone up. She suggested another library, equidistant from our house, that was offering my city and another a card for $100. (which means it would end up costing me $50).

Of I went, down the road, to a charming library, nestled in a small but established residential area that was surrounded by thriving industries and major expressways. I parked on the street, closer to the entry than my own back door. Doors automatically opened and I was greeted by non-other than the head librarian, who asked if she could help me. I assured her I was fine, in spite of my very fat boot, and said that I was interested in getting a library card.

This library, dear reader, and this librarian are everything a library should be! Not only was I welcomed with open arms (and a handshake), but, I was introduced to another library patron, Betty, who lived in my own city, and invited to come to a once-a-month coffee hour at the library.

My maiden voyage, after The Fall, was going pretty well – until . . .

. . . no, I stayed on my feet. It was while one of the librarians was entering my information from my expired card. The head librarian had just handed me a welcoming tote bag, and filled it with all sorts of useful items and the library’s brochure, as she offered me a chair to sit on. The registrar asked a few questions, then, casually said “it looks like you have some outstanding fines“.  I could not imagine what fines they might be, but,  I did remember returning a few items last month a day late.  I asked how much I owed.

One ninety-five!

How could that be? Surely I would have received a notice for such an outstanding fine, either via email, phone call, or, gasp, the U.S. Postal Service. I was flummoxed, fretting, and forlorn, for sure!

The registrar kept entering information on her keypad. I wondered if she was tapping out code for “felon in library – owes bigly” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that).

I endorsed a personal check for the library card fee, handed it to the registrar, and asked who I should make the check out to for the fine, calculating how I was going to square such an unexpected deduction in my checkbook. There HAD to be a mistake, but, one should not leave such outstanding debt dangling like a hanging chad (sorry, again). If I didn’t ante-up, would I be arrested? abandoned from libraries for a millennium? book lice sent to monitor my every page turned?

Oh, don’t worry. You can pay it anytime?“.

Are you sure? That’s a big fine. Can you check again and tell me which library I owe the money to?

She noted the items: two books, an audio, and I could remit payment another day.

Just that for $195.00?

We stared at each other, for a moment, maybe two, and then the registrar replied, aghast, “Oh, no! I wasn’t clear. That is $1.95!“.

It is good, is it not, to have a good laugh, even at one’s own expense, on a maiden voyage in a medical boot while renewing a library card?

Dewey Decimal is still used in libraries, or adapted for modern-day usage, but, that one distinctive decimal point is the one that can cause chaos.

Off I hobbled,  with all of my goodies, a new book, and a smile over my faux pas . I’ve needed a bit of an adventure, and I had one, once again while in a library.

Moving along . . .

. . .  and I am, truly, starting to move along!


I have graduated to a walking boot, which allows me to move about without the walker or crutches and can be removed for showering.

We should take joy in the small things, and this is most certainly one of them.

The orthopedic specialist confirmed the fracture on Friday. A well-defined plan of action has been established. It has me staying off the injured foot as much as possible for the next several weeks, then gradually using my foot a bit more, followed by physical therapy; all of which will take me right up to Christmas.

 A very good goal post, indeed.

I have been able to master the five steps which lead up and down to our family room and entryway. The boot allows me to slowly roam the main level of our home. I am able to be self-sufficient while the Antler Man is Up North; a commitment made long before my fall and one that I am thankful he was able to keep. The refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked and our dear, dear Jennifer has been checking in on me. The neighbors are “on call” in case of emergency. Encouragement, offers of help and support from friends will carry me through.

My friend, Donna, shared medical equipment, a shower stool being the most appreciated one. If you have ever been injured or had surgery, you know the pure joy of taking your first shower and the ability to take regular ones.

Thank you for all your kinds words, comments, emails, thoughts and prayers. They carry me through.

I am looking forward to the Durells on Masterpiece on Sunday night, and enjoying  my books group’s selection, “The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani. I was able to see the first three episodes of a new television series, This is Us, and have been inspired by more cooking shows, and recipes, than I can name.

What have you been reading, watching, making, baking, cooking, doing?

Legend of a Fall


It is, after all, Fall!

The brilliant display of October’s leafy madness has begun with the vibrant yellows and reds and browns taking center stage in what I sometimes refer to as the long goodbye. While I am not about to say a long goodbye, I am going to tell you a news breaking story; perhaps one that will take your mind, for a few moments, off of all the noise of breaking political news.

Those yellows and reds and browns are starting to fall in earnest. From the eyebrow window in our bedroom, where I am currently at rest, I can see the enormous leaves of the sycamore tree floating down. Sometimes, they startle me, resembling brown birds so close to the window. Actually, the don’t get all that close, which is best. A very large spider’s web hangs in a perfectly knit vintage pattern just underneath the brow of the window.

All I can do now is watch the leaves fall, so, I might as well watch them perched on high, for I will not be shuffling through leaves this year.

I have gotten ahead of myself, so, please let me begin again, which takes me to late this past Monday afternoon; a perfect time just between dusk and dinner for clearing away the mass of sycamore leaves that have been carpeting the deck.

With rake in hand and a feel-good mood at being outdoors and accomplishing a much-needed task, I raked away leaves, many of which are as large as a grown man’s hand. I moved still blooming pots around, gathering leaves that had settled in corners and nooks. Really, our deck in Autumn is like an English muffin with more nooks and crannies than one can imagine.

The leaves formed their own pile on top of the deck as I hauled a bushel basket full of plant matter to the compost pile, along with kitchen scraps and all things organic. The pile of leaves would be shoveled down the deck stairs and onto a tarp, then hauled back to top off the compost.

On my final ascent up the small flight of stairs, I slipped. It happened so quickly and without preamble that I stumbled backward . I knew, as soon as I hit the ground, just two steps below, that this was not going to end well. I let out an involuntary primal scream as I came down hard. My head hit the ground, but, I fortunately – very fortunately – landed on a pillow of leaves. Those leaves saved me from a head injury.

I felt for my phone to call Tom for help, instinctively knowing that my left foot was twisted and I would need help getting up. Tom, however, heard my scream from up in his office in the barn. Before I could tell Siri to call Tom, he was rushing toward me. He gentled me into a sitting position on the erstwhile steps and we attempted to take measure of the damage, pulling a sycamore leaf out of my hair!

I was shaking like a leaf!

Aside from a bruised elbow, all moving parts were flexible, but, my left ankle was already swelling and hurt like the Dickens. We iced it and nursed it through the night, then decided it would be wise to go to the Emergency Room in the morning.

As I sat on the gurney in the ER, ex-rays completed, waiting for Tom to return to my side and for a doctor to see me, I thought I might as well check my cell phone for messages. Good thing I did, for there was one that had me laughing out loud. There, on my little smart screen, was a message. This message in my inbox was from the very same hospital I was being treated at. It was an invitation – for me – encouraging me to participate in an upcoming marathon run!

A nurse, walking by, looked in. I guess my laugh was way-out loud and not common, of course, in the ER. Those of you who know me know I would be the last person running a marathon, and the humor of the message’s timing was . . . well, let’s just leave it right here.

I have a small break in my foot. I am in cast and using a walker. I am, gratefully, not in pain. Well, at least not in foot pain. My legs, my arms, my neck, my hands are holding me up in ways foreign to me and using a walker is a bit of challenge. I am hopeful for a walking cast soon and so very thankful that this is my only injury. I will be fine and I hope you are all well and active and enjoying the emergence of fall or spring, depending on where you live.

So, dear reader, this is the legend of my Autumn fall.



Perfectly Imperfect


We often see only that which we perceive as perfect, unflawed, without blemish. Fashion models and model homes. Flawless complexions and svelte figures. Glossy advertisement and enhanced photography. It is, I think, human nature to appreciate beauty, but, we often are swayed as to what beauty is.  For instance, this bouquet. It caught my eye – for its perfect imperfection!

There is usually a floral arrangement at the information desk just inside the Visitor’s Center of the Morton Arboretum. It is most often a seasonally inspired collection of flowers, branches, leaves and more.  I believe the natural materials used are gathered from the grounds of the Arboretum. The arrangements are always an inviting and cheerful welcome to the Visitor’s Center; a handshake, if you will, to the vast acreage of Morton Arboretum.

On what was mostly a crisp and cloudy day, the sun suddenly appeared, just as I passed this Autumnal arrangement. I walked past, then pivoted around for a second look.

Some things are worth a second look.

It was the unusual color of the leaves that gave me pause. I am familiar with hosta leaves and their many variations, but, I was unfamiliar with this particular color combination. I stood a few feet across from the desk for a moment and admired it, before I stepped closer and took a few photos with my cell phone. It was then that I realized that these leaves were a bit past their prime. They were, in fact, fading , wrinkled – and beautiful!

I squealed (more a squeak) drawing a few quizzical glances.  “Oh, sorry. I was just admiring this arrangement and love that the leaves were left to fade a bit”.

The faded leaves, which I assume were originally a cream color, now mimicked the orange of the pumpkin. They told the story of their emergence from the once frozen soil and of their once tender leaves tasting the springtime air. They spoke of the long, hot summer with too much rain and not enough. Their natural, defining grooves had deepened as they matured, much like my own wrinkles and scars. The once deep green had softened and thinned but were still soaking up the water from the pumpkin pot. I found it brave and I thought it wise for these leaves to still be on display; a natural reflection of life as one season gives way to another.

~ Perfectly Imperfect ~



Betwixt and Between


Betwixt and between the midnight hour and dawn, in that never-ending zone when sleep evades the weary soul, the night grows still and the crickets set down their bows, I found myself wide awake.

It is in these soulful hours that I found myself wandering the darkened rooms of this old house, hearing the faint fall of my footsteps as the floorboards creaked and groaned. It is in these wee hours that I often catch sight of the ethereal shadows of our wandering herd of deer and, perchance, a lone car, heading home from the graveyard shift or venturing out to an early morning flight – but this night, I was alone.

I don’t mind these occasional sleepless nights, though I know they can be lonely times for many. I still have my health and always a book to read or a post to write. I’m grateful for that. I know the time may come when occasional becomes always, but, for now, my late night hours are few. While I don’t mind the occasional sleepless night, I know the awakening day will be long and I will feel a heavy weariness by mid-afternoon. It is what it is.

So, I roamed the rooms then placed my book near a comfortable chair and lamp. I set a cup and saucer out and filled the teakettle, put a few errant kitchen items in their place, and walked to the wide door overlooking the deck. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see a crafty spider knitting her web. She worked her magic upon the air betwixt and between the eaves and the glass;  knitting and purling, tatting and knotting her lacey snare. She paid me no mind. I let her go about her solitary task, amazed, once again, at the marvels of nature.

The teakettle whistled, breaking the lure of the web. I steeped my tea and sweetened it with a bit of local honey. Wrapped in a blanket, I watched the steam rise from my cup, then settled in to sip and ponder, read and write, betwixt and between the midnight hour and dawn.

Do you have sleepless nights? What do you do when sleep evades you?

Doing the Stroll – Part 2


Goji berries, rustic outdoor furniture, antique carts, solar panels, country charm and ingenuity; all this and more at Cherry Lane Farm, which was opened to visitors as part of the McHenry County Farm Stroll.


Trudi Temple is a well-recognized gardener, entrepreneur, author and speaker, especially in the Chicagoland area. I have had the pleasure of touring her private garden in the western suburbs, reading her inspiring book, “Trudi’s Garden; The Story of Trudi Temple”, and, like many of you, I have ordered from Market Day@, which Trudi established.


Cherry Lane Farm was our first stop on the Farm Stroll, and we were one of the first visitors. We parked the car and followed a path that meandered through a woodland garden, which was cloistered inside a handmade waddle fence. Bird houses dangled from stately trees and perched upon tree trunks.


Age-old benches and found objects, heirloom plants and new introductions abound on Trudi’s farm; a living testament to what hard work, creativity and sustainability can yield.


We wandered the paths, some under the multitude trees rooted on the property, others leading to the vegetable garden, or the wide pasture where a wind turbine was generating energy. We sat in a magnificent gazebo – surely a haven for family and friends. With all the nature and creativity that surrounded us, what impressed me the most was the evidence of the far-reaching visions of Trudi Temple. She is a remarkable woman whose respect for nature continues to grow and instructs all who find their way to Cherry Lane Farm.


A barn houses plant materials that Trudi uses in arrangements, as well as a shop for antiques, books, dried floral arrangements and other delights. An outbuilding is creatively sided with reclaimed windows of different sizes and shapes. Inside sit long tables, for workshops, I assume, and a patchwork of quilts adorn the walls.


It was such a pleasant day.


We bumped into three members of my garden club, all in groups of their own and all pointing or asking if we had seen this or that, enthusiastically sharing what they had discovered. Even strangers were friends for the moments in time at Cherry Lane Farm. It isn’t often that a piece of land and a crop of buildings is so lovingly developed  that it creates such a wholesome sense of place.


Juliet Batten

Author, artist, speaker, teacher and psychotherapist

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