Monthly Archives: May 2013



imagesCAWP2JI2I hate flying…maybe I shouldn’t put it that harshly anymore because it’s kind of evolved into more of a love/hate relationship since I’ve been flying a little more frequently than I ever have. And, I’ve realized that it’s a perfect way to get from point A to point B without having to spend days in a car, so I’m learning to go with the flow.

Last week I was settling into my usual aisle seat on a crowded plane – a must for me. I guess I feel like I can escape quicker from that location, but to where I’m not quite sure. I don’t want a window seat since I’m fraught with a fear of heights and bouts with vertigo. I don’t want to sit in the middle because I feel trapped and a little claustrophobic. (I’m such a weirdo…) So I’m good in the aisle where I can busy myself checking out the other passengers and stretching my legs a little bit.

So all was calm…all was well as we sat in a holding pattern on the runway. But then all of a sudden the plane starts taxiing down the runway, and I immediately clench the arms of the seat so tightly my knuckles turn blue…as if holding on like that is going to do any good. The motors rev up, and I’m saying my prayers as I try to shut out of my mind all the things that can go wrong. Then I hear the happy, noisy chattering of two little kids, not more than 3 or 4 years old, two seats up across the aisle. They’re speaking in Spanish, so I’m not sure what they’re saying, but they are excited and squealing with delight as the plane powers up, speeds along the runway, eventually lifting off into the air. “WEEEE…..WEEEE,” they squeal bouncing up and down and laughing so loudly that it’s infectious. All the people around me start smiling and laughing, too. I can’t help but break out in a wide grin. Their dad tries to hush them, but sees that everyone else is having such a great time listening to their wonderful antics about their thrilling plane ride, that he also breaks into a broad grin. We are all enjoying this innocent outburst filled with so much glee that our hearts are lifted along with the plane. I’m surprised to realize that for the first time in my life I’m having a good time in an aircraft as I share in the chuckling with the people around me.

I’m reminded of what a gift childish innocence presents. All they know is the excitement and sensation of a kind of amusement ride as they ride in the magic plane! They have no fears. They are still immuned to adult thoughts of what could go wrong, and instead, go with the fun-filled flow and joy of it all. Why can’t I try to be more like these little children and think more about the exciting adventures aircrafts open up to us? The chance to go and visit loved ones in the blink of an eye, along with exploring our world is just a mere heartbeat of a ride away. Air travel is truly an amazing gift.

I’m going to try to be better and more fearless and less uptight the next time I board that big bird of the sky. I’m going to try to look at flying through the eyes of innocence, letting go and squealing with delight as I shout “WEEEE….WEEEE” as the plane takes off (to myself, of course!). Most of all, I’m going to keep forever in my heart the reaction of these two precious, little children who taught me to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!



0525121358_0001 (1)When I was an adolescent and the Vietnam War was in full tilt, there was a movement wherein you could purchase a metal wrist band with the name of a prisoner of war (POW) imprinted on it.  The idea was to wear the band in support of that person until he was released.

My serviceman’s name was Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. That’s all I knew at the time. Much later I found out he was a 16 year veteran of the United States Air Force working as a navigator when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam on October 6, 1966.  He was first reported missing in action (MIA) then later reported as a POW. I remember the sadness of those days as the many numbers of the fallen were reported daily on the news. I remember the protests, the peace signs, and the unrest in our country caused by this war.

I wore Lt. Col. Makowski’s wrist band for many years and prayed for him daily. I can’t even imagine the torture, physical abuse, starvation and loneliness this man suffered through. For four years there was no word about him or his whereabouts.  Then in 1970, his wife began getting letters from the prison camp.  He was alive and well.

As the war came to a close, the Vietnamese began releasing these prisoners.  Television stations would broadcast their return to the United States at the airport and would announce their names one by one as they descended the ramp from the plane. I happened to be watching one of these broadcasts, and I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears when they announced Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. He was released on March 4, 1973 after 6 ½ years of incarceration. I started crying as if I knew him.  I took my bracelet off and kissed it.  He was finally home safe.

I still have that bracelet, and every time I look at it I am reminded of that time in our history and of the brave military who fought during the Vietnam War.  We should never forget any war –Vietnam, the World Wars, Korea, or the Mid-East confrontations or the details that helped us to rise above these conflicts. It is because of those who defended us that we enjoy our independence. And despite some of our nation’s recent challenges, it is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As we honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country on this Memorial Day, let’s never forget and always be reminded of the price these dear soldiers paid for the privilege of our freedom. Even if the reminder is a small metal wrist band imprinted with the name of an unknown Air Force navigator.

P.S.  This is a repost of a blog I wrote last Memorial Day.  Since then I was able to contact now Col. Makowski…lou1

Back in May I wrote a blog entitled, “Memorial Day Remembrance” about a POW bracelet I used to wear during the Vietnam War in support of an American prisoner of war, Lt. Col. Louis F. Makowski.  Wearing the POW bracelet in his honor became a symbol of strength, bravery and hope for me, and when I had the privilege of watching Lt. Col. Makowski arrive home on TV, my heart leapt with pride and thanks to God for bringing him safely home.

It’s been almost 40 years since his release from that prison camp in Vietnam, where he was incarcerated for 6 ½ years. I’ve often wondered since then what became of him. So after the story was published, I decided to do some detective work and find out. I wrote him a letter and sent him a copy of the essay. I am happy to say I received a response from him and wanted to share the good news with you. I am pleased to report he is doing well. Now retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel, he lives a quiet life with his wife of 58 years, has four children and four grandchildren.

Among other things, Colonel Makowski wrote that he has hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God given American values. My heart was humbled by his very kind words to me, and I thanked this courageous and wonderful man for taking the time to respond. The lesson he has taught me through this experience is no matter what your circumstances are and how hard life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful.  You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

God bless you, Colonel Louis F. Makowski and all our military…and my Dad, Sargeant Albert Rylak, World War II veteran, deceased, and God bless America!

Army Sargeant and Sherman Tank driver, World War II



imagesCAN7OBL3For me, the past few years or so have been fraught with knock downs. Who hasn’t had periods like that? It seems like one negative thing after another keeps happening, and you really have trouble finding the silver linings to all those gray clouds hanging over your head. Seems like they just will not go away. You know what I’m talking about.

imagesCAN4SGQOIn the midst of all the turmoil, I’ve developed a mantra…“FORWARD NOT BACK.” When I find my mind peeking into the past, dwelling in the negative places and wondering why, I try really hard to turn my thinking around by repeating these three simple words to myself, FORWARD NOT BACK. Surprise betrayals? FORWARD NOT BACK. Financial woes? FORWARD NOT BACK. Joblessness? FORWARD NOT BACK. Sickness? FORWARD NOT BACK. Rough times? FORWARD NOT BACK. Don’t know which direction to go? FORWARD NOT BACK.

In Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s this year he said a phrase with tears in his eyes that I immediately wrote down and keep tucked in my daily devotional. I repeat it to myself every morning. “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. What matters is that you gotta get up.” See?! Even Ben Affleck goes through rough times.

A few years ago I read a book based on a lecture written and given by Randy Pausch called, “The Last Lecture.” Randy was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and was an award winning teacher. He was married to a beautiful woman Jai, had three young sons and was battling terminal pancreatic cancer. He wrote and gave this lecture as a legacy to his children. It was heart-wrenching to watch, and yet in the midst of all the tragedy surrounding this young family, there was an aura of positivity. It was mind boggling to see and experience. Randy said in his lecture that you had to decide if you were a Tigger or an Eeyore. Tigger doesn’t dwell on the “not helpful” stuff, but moves ahead making the best of the moment.

During one interview with Randy and Jai, she was asked how she copes with the inevitable. Jai said she taught herself a simple phrase when she began to go into a dark place. NOT HELPFUL. It became her mantra during this difficult time. It was a reminder to her to not let negative thoughts come between living fully with Randy in the present.

Life surprises you at every turn, sometimes whacking you upside the head with a super blow that knocks you off your feet. The secret, like Ben said, is that you gotta keep getting up. NOT HELPFUL; FORWARD NOT BACK…whatever you use, get yourself a mantra. It helps you to cope and diverts your attention away from the negative stuff and into the positive light. It’s a simple strategy but it works. Give it a try it.



K&MI love Mother’s Day.  From macaroni necklaces to current day treasures, to me it is a positive Wedding-Key West 075reinforcement that I’ve done at least two things right in my life – Katie and Megan. I can still recall those soggy Cheerios breakfasts in bed as the girls, with big grins, eagerly watched me choke down the gooey circles. And my first Mother’s Day was so special as I proudly carried my firstborn Katie, adorned in a little pink dress with an eyelet bonnet framing her little cherub face to Church. I gazed at her in awe during the Mass, utterly amazed at this miracle, as the people around me smiled knowingly…so much love for and in one little creature. Two years after that my beautiful Megan was in my arms, carried to the same pew with big sister in tow as a rambunctious two year old making lots of noise.

When they were little, it was easy to know how to care for them.  First as babies and then as little girls, it was instinctive to fulfill their needs and make them happy. Even in times of restlessness, I savored and enjoyed each moment.

The years have swiftly passed with many evolutions and powerful changes. There’s been so much learning and growing together, my girls and me. Now as a mom to adult children, I often find it not so easy to know what to do. To see them floundering or going in a difficult direction is hard when you want to steer them to your way of thinking of what would be better. The advice I give during times of stress doesn’t always go over well, and I’m finding, through experience, that listening is the only thing they really want from me at the moment. I have had to train myself to hold back my advice, along with the words I want to say. I’ve learned that most times they have to go through what they need to experience in order to learn and to grow into who they are meant to be.  But it’s still hard, as a mom, to watch their struggles.

I can still see those two little cherub faces in the beautiful, grown women they’ve become.  My heart bursts with pride at all the wonderful things they’ve accomplished and for the lives they’ve made for themselves. Although I fight the urge to dry their tears away and pick up their pieces, I continue to assure them that everything will be alright in the end, even though I know from experience that most things won’t turn out the way they’ve planned. But that’s life, isn’t it?!

So on this Mother’s Day I count the many blessings that have come to me through my two amazing children ~ these miraculous gifts from God!  Without question, becoming a mother was the best thing I ever did.

Thanks, girls, for being such great kids and for making me proud! Wedding-Key West 066





          ~What a comfort it is to know

that I have yet to meet my greatest love

I find strength in that fact and relief to realize

that no one has ever filled the gap

to gain that eternal notoriety

as the one to whom I compare the rest.

          ~I feel confident in understanding

that this time I have spent in mediocrity is not wasted

but is, instead, a learning and testing ground

providing me with the wisdom to recognize you when I see you.

          ~After the near tragedy of almost believing

that it was over for me

this thing called love.

         ~Nearly forcing me to almost consider

that my life would dissolve into

the catastrophe of forever looking back instead of forward.

          ~What a challenge

thrilling in a way

to understand that you’re still out there to be discovered

And that when I find you I’ll suddenly know

that it’s you.

          ~I’ll know that this transitional time

of loneliness and wanting was worth it

that there’s no more someday

only this day and each day after

as the pieces finally fit

and make sense.

          ~That with you, in you, through you

I am home.