Kitchen Table Stories

To the Man in the Pink Elephant Socks November 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 6:52 am

What a week. Seriously, has it only been a week since Chicago’s post-Cubs euphoria when everyone was joining in what my friend, Sarah, hash-tagged as Theosbender? Well, not everyone, I’ll admit.

I, for example, a lifelong Indians fan was not only not celebrating, I was in a lousy mood. I spent the week either watching people celebrate the victory I’d wanted for my team or actively avoiding all local media and most of Facebook.

When I did poke my head out of my den loss, all I could hear were exhortations to join the jubilation. “C’mon, this is history, you have to enjoy it,” the very wind seemed to say.

But, my heart replied, it is not my history, not my victory.

Last Thursday, walking down Chicago’s LaSalle Street, everything awash in blue the shade of the Cubs’ uniforms, I felt irritated, isolated, and stubborn in my self-imposed exile from the biggest party in the last 108 years. “Is this,” I wondered, “how Trump supporters feel?”

Even as I felt my feelings, my very own brain kept telling me they were ridiculous, for any of many very good reasons including: it was only a game; jealousy is an unbecoming (let alone, unchristian) character trait; I was probably setting a bad example for my daughter; I seemed to be missing a pretty good party.

My brain, however, was no match for my feelings, which remained rawer and more bitter than I am proud to admit until time passed, the news cycle turned, and Ireland’s rugby team, while playing in Chicago, defeated New Zealand’s for the first time in 111 years. Note: it’s not that I am a rugby fan, it’s just that I am immature imperfect person and it felt good that the Cubs were no longer the team in town who could boast of the most historic victory (shrugs shoulders).

Today, post-World Series angst seems a charming little memory, and compared to this week’s maniacal pin-ball machine of fact, opinion, feeling and falsehood, I almost miss it.

Since Tuesday evening, the airwaves and inter-webs have so crackled so palpably I’m a little afraid to turn them on. An action-oriented person of next steps, I’ve spent the ensuing days trying to turn down tumult and assemble a logical foundation on which to stand and from which to move. Unfortunately, all I’ve come up with is a possibly useless but personally satisfying list of observations and suggestions, which I will now share:

I think we should bring back the raucous town meeting. Having just returned from Boston, where our days were filled visiting now-revered historical sites of civil unrest and property destruction, I learned about colonial Boston’s rowdy assemblages to debate the issues of day. This approach sounds much more fun and substantial than liking, sharing, and commenting about issues in cyberspace. Huzzah!

There is a need for schools to teach and for adults to learn or get refresher on logic, rhetoric, active listening, analytical thinking and the differences between facts and opinions. A crash course on propaganda tactics probably wouldn’t hurt us any, either.

In a related observation, I believe everyone it entitled to their own feelings and opinions, but not their own facts. Just because someone says something or writes something, doesn’t make it true. (Note: I write this as a statement of my opinion, rather than a statement of fact, just to be clear).

Political pundits are like meteorologists — cataclysmically wrong, in their predictions in the evening yet we still look to them for answers the next day — and should be done away with (the pundits — not the meteorologists. I still need to know whether or not I should probably take my umbrella).

I could go on, but by now, I feel like all of the words in all of our language have already been strung together as a means of de-briefing from Tuesday’s results, so I’ll end with a story.

Yesterday, I was on the train home and the man sitting next to me, drinking wine out of a small plastic cup, was wearing grey socks with pink elephants. Said I: “I like your socks.” Said he: “Thank you. My son gave them to me. I’m thinking of giving everyone a pair because you can’t be in a bad mood when you are wearing pink elephant socks.”

Then began a 30-minute conversation between me, the woman sitting next me (Ranjana) and Sock Man (James), about the election, civil discourse; the importance of getting to know new people, the things that matter, and much, much more.

While we did’t get into the weeds, I sense that our world views were vastly different. Even so, without any name calling or specious reasoning, we discussed and even disagreed about serious (and less so) issues of the day.

I stepped off the train, feeling better about my country, and in desperate need of pink elephant socks.



Of Baseball, Zac Brown, and Politics October 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 9:42 am

Picture this: I am lying on my couch, watching my beloved Cleveland Indians do battle with the foes from the other side of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Occasionally, my phone jangles with a text from my sister who is watching the same game from her seat in Jacob’s (er…Progressive) Field.

At the same time, my Facebook feed keeps alerting me that my nephew, Kevin, is live at a 250-person Zac Brown concert somewhere that appears to be in the middle of the woods, and for a few moments I hear the melodious stylings of a man who looks more lumberjack than crooner.

That I, on my couch, am so in-real-time connected to my people astounds me. The ties we have to each other, in so many situations, are immediate and deep.

Yet, slogging through my Facebook feed, it also becomes apparent how dis-connected we are. I’ve seen posts, mostly political in nature, from people whose acquaintance I’ve enjoyed that make me wonder, in agony, How can you possibly think that to be true? I expect they’ve thought the same about a post or two of mine.

I wonder how much of our current national dialogue (the one that looks more like food fight than a meeting of the debate team) is impacted by the ease of connection we have. It is so easy to make a point when your point of view rests on forwarded articles, opinion pieces or video clips.

Having grown up in a household where having an opinion meant being able to articulate and justify that opinion, around a large kitchen table, to a council of (in my case) elders, I know that arguing your position, face to face with anyone, makes for better arguments. It also allows for disagreements voiced with passion and vigor, but without animosity and scorn.

So how do we, a people living simultaneously in connection and division, get beyond the acrimony to a point of civil, reasonable, well-informed and thoughtful discourse?

There’s plenty of room at my kitchen table. Come on and let’s give it a try (as long as we can keep the Indians game on).



Celebrating the Cleveland Cavs Elsewhere June 21, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 1:43 pm

That was the one word that came out when I flung open the patio door on Sunday and screamed into the Illinois night.
It came after high fives and hugs with my husband and the jumping up and down with my daughter, the scream that, as it turns out, had been brewing inside me for years, rising to the surface once in a while, only to be squashed in a series of painful, painful iterations of defeat’s cruel agony on gridirons, courts, and diamonds.
During the game’s last quarter, the last half of which I watched on my knees, about a foot from the t.v. screen in our a living room, the scream converted its potential energy into a kinetic tremor I felt through my whole body.
I’m not sure why I was even kneeling on the floor, other than as a good Catholic girl from Cleveland’s West Side, my body’s instinct in times of stress is to seek prayer, to whatever saint I could think of to act as patron of Beliveland (Jude, and his desperate causes, seemed appropriate). Or perhaps, in getting that close to the t.v., I was trying to feel like I was in  OraCLE Arena. Or maybe, some deep self-preservation mechanism knew that from kneeling, it was but a quick drop to the fetal position, should the MiraCLE not occur.
But it did. The Cavs won.
In the rush of emotion after every, single second was off the clock, watching from a place the length of the Indiana and half of the Ohio turnpike away (roads I’d traveled West on only hours before),  I needed to share in that moment by letting whoever could hear me know I was from Cleveland, and Cleveland had won.

After that, I had absolutely no idea what to do.

But my daughter, who’d spent a good part of the day devastated the she had to say goodbye to her cousin, Grace, for 18 whole days before our next summer trip to Cleveland, did. She ran to the fridge, opened it, pulled out two juice pouches, handed one to me, and offered a cheers to Cleveland (Note: the emoji pillow is because, after my scream, she suggested I could’ve just used the pillow to show my feelings, rather than frightening the neighbors).


From there it was all Facebook and Twitter and texts all around, a virtual joy-sharing that makes me want to thank Al Gore for his internet invention. I’ve spent the last 24 hours enjoying (vicariously) what victory begets you in Cleveland, like free ice cream at Mitchell’s and pierogis Sokowloski’s University Inn. I’ve watched that Nike commercial from 2014 about 20 times, and a certain video from  even more. Like someone who is so empty of food or drink they keep drinking or eating way beyond the point of fullness to cram in all of the goodness, I just can’t seem to help myself.
Jaunty with victory, I brought donuts into the office today. As it turns out, there are those who I work with who have such an intense dislike of LeBron James they declined to partake of celebratory donuts. Let that one sink in and rattle around for a bit. How can a Chicagoan dislike LeBron more than you like donuts?
I suppose these anti-LeBronist’s have their rationale, but I don’t pretend to understand it, and I do hereby officially require they stop citing “what he did to Cleveland” as one of their reasons for this dislike. Do you know what he did to Cleveland? He, who was welcomed home as the father welcomed the prodigal son, through an epically poetic demonstration of athleticism and sheer force of human will, won for Cleveland a championship.
And, if you’ve decided he’s a selfish jerk, tell me about the time you promised to pay college tuition over 1,000 students, at a price tag north of $41 million.
Enough already.

Since moving to Chicago in 2001, I have watched Chicagoans celebrate a White Sox World Series and three of Lord Stanley’s Cups for the Hawks. I’ve enjoyed the madness of it all, but in the way that one looks wistfully through the window to watch a party to which they weren’t invited.

On Sunday, I finally got my invite into the party, and, I’m not going to lie, it was really fun. Sure, it was a celebration for a team of professionals who make bajillions of dollars for playing a game. It’s not like they cured cancer (although, given the Cavs partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, they might have their hands in that, too).

And, I know, Cubs fans, other teams have waited longer, but Cleveland’s championshiplessness was (yes, I do enjoy using the past-tense there) failure, across-the-board and utter. Plus, how often do people scoff, their faces full of mocking, when you tell them you are from Chicago? Or Boston? Or other current or former long-suffering sports towns.

Being from Cleveland means that you know when you tell people where you are from, there is a high likelihood that a joke is about to be made about the river catching on fire or other mistakes on the Lake Erie shores. When this happens, you shake your head, realizing the jokester is neither very funny nor very aware of current events. That river thing, it happened almost 50 years ago and the Cuyahoga is part of a national park.
Still, it bugs you, because the only kind of burning river associated with your city anyone should talk about is the delicious kind made by Great Lakes Brewery, and you know also that your hometown is built of bridges and grit and, like the kid who the popular kids made fun of in high school and comes to the class reunion with perfect life, Cleveland has spent years knowing who it is and building its future.
And now, the future has a sweet title, and that title is World Champs.


(Great)Aunts April 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 11:52 am

Big day today. My nephew, Kevin, and his wife Caitlin, welcomed into this world a tiny, perfect, already-adored son, Charles Mackin Schohl.  Charlie.

Awwww.  Charlie.

Seeing picture of his beaming parents cuddling their wee nugget, in his standard hospital issued hat and blanket, I think of the July day, some 30 years ago, in the hospital room in Westlake, Ohio, when I first met Charlie’s dad.  Sitting in the standard hospital issued uncomfortable chair, my sister, Bridget, watching from her hospital bed, my brother-in-law placed Kevin into my nervous arms.  Inhaling his sweet baby smell, while making sure to keep his floppy neck from flopping too much, I morphed from mild-mannered fifth grader into Super Aunt Nora.

Moments later, when he began to smell slightly less sweet and his lungs worked their way into full-on newborn baby I-AM-HUNGRY-AND-YOU-WILL-FEED-ME-NOW roar, I handed him back to his father, fully recognizing that  being an aunt was one of the best  gigs going.

In that spirit, I dedicate this post to Charlie Schohl’s six, newly-minted aunties (Caitlin’s sisters Emily, Maura and Kathleen and Kevin’s sisters Allison, Colleen, and Megan).  Welcome to aunthood.

I’d offer you tips, but the job is a fairly easy one — adore your nephew, and if you happen to do so in a way that torments his parents just a little bit (noisy toys for Christmas; tickle-attacks just before bedtime), don’t worry.  Those are but a few perks of the job.

Other perks include: hugs, kisses, giggles, love, and homemade Christmas presents that will become your favorites.  If Charlie is anything like his Aunt Colleen, he will specialize in giving pictures of himself.

As Charlie grows up, you will glimpse in him little bits of your brother or sister.  You will also learn the things about him that are 100% his own.  You will crawl on the floor right next to him and make an utter and absolute fool of yourself to get him to smile.  When he’s older, you will cheer for him in whatever he does, be it ball game, concert, or mock trial (this is Kevin’s son, after all).  You will cry as hard when he graduates from Kindergarten as when he does from high school or college.

You will be proud and happy to see who he becomes.

I say all of this in what is now my official title of Grandaunt Nora (it’s a thing, I saw it on the internet, and it doesn’t make me feel ready for Bingo night at the retirement home the way Great-Aunt Nora does).

No matter my title, I know he is a lucky lad, that Charlie Schohl, to have such amazing aunts.  Just don’t forget to buy him the loud toys.







Cruelest April April 8, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 8:33 am

Of the many theories I have, one is that each month has its own personality.  August is sunny.  January subdued.  October vibrant, except when he’s feeling melancholy.  And April.  Oh, April, especially in the Midwestern clime, is a big, stinkin’ jerkface.

Years ago, killing time on a long car trip with my friend, Kimberly, after we’d covered the important topics of family, friends, if (as is her theory) heaven turns out to be a never-ending banquet of our favorite foods what would be on the buffet table, the conversation turned to our favorite and least favorite months.  I’ll admit I don’t remember her answers.  I also don’t remember what I said was my favorite month.  What I do remember, to this very day, is her reaction when I told her that April was my least favorite month.

“April?!” she cried, outraged.  “How can you hate April? April is springtime and loveliness.”

“Not so”, I countered.  April is supposed to be springtime and loveliness.  Really, April is cold and moody.  April is winter, with a better p.r. person.

Today, April 6, walking out of the office with Kimberly, into a snowstorm, she finally agreed with me.  “You’re right, Nora, April is the worst.”

Little consolation, really, being right about what a bummer is April.

Not always have I been such an anti-Aprilist.  The two years I lived in Washington, D.C., I got to know her through beautiful days of cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and the heady smell of hyacinth masking the District’s usual smells of egotism and artifice. Say what you will about our nation’s capital, D.C. does springtime right.

Maybe April just doesn’t like us Yankees.

I’ve tried, with all my might, to accept April for who she is, the better to not set myself up for the disappointment.  But it’s hard, especially when April, not unlike some fourth grade girls, does have moments of captivating beauty and charm.  On days when the sun shines and her blooms blossom, she is the most popular girl in the room, shining her light directly on you.  The next day, though, she will Ice. You. Out.  No explanation given.

In the same way that I’ve suggested to my fourth grade daughter that the best way to deal with people who are nice one day, heartbreakingly cold the next is to enjoy, but not expect the good days, while not trying to understand or predict the bad.  Appreciate what you can, but don’t expect too much.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.  Perhaps we expect too much from April.  Baseball’s Opening Day, at non-domed stadiums in non-warm places in April, isn’t that just asking for trouble?


In Chicago, the wonderful organization Misericordia ( does their Candy Days fundraiser the last weekend of this month. The fundraiser involves thousands of people throughout the Chicago area volunteering to stand on street corners collecting donations, for which they in exchange give the donor a packet of Jelly Bellys.  To see those volunteers in their white vests is to know that they are doing a great thing for a wonderful place, and also to know that the temperature will be at least 20 degrees below what it’s supposed to be.

Oh, April, as I sit wearing wool and boots rather than that cute Spring jacket that hangs, rarely used, in the back of my closet, I will try to  do as I day, and appreciate your days of loveliness with acceptance of your cold.  I will hang on, knowing you can’t last forever, and that, if nothing else, at the end of the month, I know where I’ll get some candy.




Foot Washing, Holy Thursday-Style March 25, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 12:20 pm

Tonight, while my husband is downstairs watching March’s basketball madness and my daughter just drifted off to sleep, I am in a Holy Thursday state of mind.

I’ve just returned from Holy Thursday mass as the lovely church of St. Anne’s in Barrington, IL, and I am filled with a joy that I usually have trouble locating after regular Sunday mass going.

Right from the get-go, I was amused by the altar servers, who, if the Keystone Cops had a liturgical division, would definitely have qualified.  During the first reading, there was much side chatter between the priest and the altar servers. Eventually, one server got up, walked out of church, and came back carrying the biggest Lectionary I’ve ever seen, which he then thudded on the altar.  Another server, the one with the unenviable job of carrying the thing that holds that smelly burning incense (help me out here, former altar servers), was not sure when she was supposed to carry this smelly incense carrier, nor where she should go when she carried it.

But all of this turmoil, the priest navigated with utter calm and with a broad, mischievous smile rather than narrowed eyes and crossed arms.  His entire demeanor expressed love instead of reprimand. He seemed, quite wonderfully, just happy to be there.

Then, it was time for the foot-washing. Here, I’ll admit that this rite used to gross me out.  Feet.  Ewwww.

But one year, I think when I was in high school and had gone to Holy Thursday mass because I was on the list to do one of the readings, I sat on the altar and watched Fr. O’Connor as performed this foot washing, and I got it.

In washing the feet of other, the priest, playing the part of Jesus, shows us how we are to live – by humbling ourselves to lovingly care for others.

Today, the smiling priest and the deacon, knelt and washed the feet of 12 parishioners.   Well, okay, the smiling priest only did four, and the another priest did another four, and a third priest did the last four, while the deacon dried off all 12, which really didn’t seem fair to the deacon, but there was only one of him, so, I guess that’s just how these things work.

No matter the logistics, witnessing the Holy Thursday washing of the feet combined with the Gospel of the day is for me, the clearest of Jesus’ marching orders:  “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Amen, I say, to that.


Democracy, As Viewed From My Couch March 4, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nora Lally @ 12:37 pm

While home sick from work and lying on the couch surrounded by tissues and covered in blankets, I decided that I need to learn more about the candidates running for office in my local and state elections.  This cough-phiphany came after hours of intermittent napping to the white noise CNN’s Super Tuesday pre-game coverage.

So much arguing.  So much blaming.

Honestly.  When my daughter and the boy next d00r behave like that, we send them outside and make them run around the yard for 15 minutes.

Recognizing that the eventual winner of this Executive Branch melee will likely get to Washington only to face off with the Legislative Branch in a game of governmental red-rover, with each side trying to break through the locked arms of the other, I think it wise to get conversant in the politics of my own zip code.

But how?

To the Google Machine!

First, I searched “League of Women Voters” because I’m pretty sure they always hosted the Candidates’ Nights in my high school cafeteria.  I remember going to my first one with I turned 18, sitting next to my Dad, watching him keep track of candidates the way one who plays the ponies might make notes on a racing form.  Can’t tell the candidates without a scorecard, after all.

The good news — I found the website for the McHenry County League of Women Voters.  The bad news — either I missed their voter education events or they did not have any, because the calendar listed none before the March 15 election.

Eventually I website hopped my way to the  McHenry County Clerk’s Office, which gave me options to find my precinct and build my sample ballot.  Jackpot.

After typing in my address and selecting my party affiliation (Democrat, thank you very much), a ballot appeared on my screen and…What-the-What?!

There are five Democratic candidates for President.  Five.

Sanders and Clinton are there, and my kinsman Martin O’Malley is still on the ballot even though his candidacy, if it ever started, never really moved far (although — side note, if you did, actually, need something moved, Martin O’Malley would be your guy because his biceps are enormous. I know this because during his gigs in his Irish band, O’Malley’s March, he made a point of wearing very tight shirts).  But also running for President are Willie J. Willson, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuenta, and Larry (Lawrence) Cohen.

Who are those other people? Do you mean to tell me, dear sample ballot, that in all of the hours and days and weeks and months of media coverage on this election, and I’ve not heard one story — even of the human interest, aren’t they wacky variety, on these other candidates?  How is that even possible?  Honestly.

But that’s not all.  After that surprise, I saw this part:


(PLEASE NOTE: Next to the name of each candidate for delegate appears in parentheses the candidate’s preference for President of the United States or the word “uncommitted”.)”

Following this was a list of names with one of the presidential candidates in parenthesis behind each of the name. Five for Clinton. Two for O’Malley.  Six for Sanders.

Wait.  What?

Has this always been a thing in primary elections and I just never noticed? Do my selections for the delegates have to match who I vote for in that previous question about President of the United States, or can I mix it up a bit?  Say, select the two for O’Malley because, you know, family loyalty and all that, and then pick the other three for whoever I voted for in the primary?

The biggest question of all, though, is how do I not even know how this works? I am an educated, informed citizen who loved high school civics class, minored in political science in college, and has voted in every election since I was 18, and yet I’d only made it to the second question of my sample ballot and I already felt like I was failing some sort of citizenship test.

Thinking it could only get better from there, I regrouped, focusing on my mission to learn about local elections, especially the county board positions. Turns out, if I’d pulled the Republican ballot, I would’ve learned about the two candidates for the Board Chairman position and the four candidates (pick not more than two) for the other seats.  On the Democrat ballot, however, there were none. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

I knew that I lived in a Republican stronghold.  My husband and I frequently joke that we, along with the parents of the boy next door, are probably on some sort of countywide lefty watch-list.  Still, not one Dem candidate who wants to try for a seat on the county board? Wow.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only Democrat spending so much time watching the presidential election, in the wide-eyed and horrified way one often gapes at a car crash on the highway, that I wasn’t paying real attention to the politics of my own community.

I think that much in the same way that a few seconds of staring at a car crash on the opposite side of the highway by everyone who drives by causes, eventually, a traffic jam on the other side of the road, watching the car crash of our current presidential race has caused a slow-down, do a dead stop, of local citizen involvement.

I’m not saying the presidency is not important.  I’m also not saying I’m going to run for a spot on my county board (not yet, anyway).  But my town is looking for volunteers to serve on the Zoning Commission, and I’m going to submit my application.

Right after I figure out this sample ballot.