Coming soon…

Illinois military families, are you ready for a new option in license plates?

Blue Star_mockup_v3

Coming soon to a Secretary of State’s office near you…

Yes, we are very excited to be working with the Illinois state legislature to bring this to fruition in 2014. Of course, the picture above is only a mock-up of what the new plate might look like, but the Blue Star Family Platoon is working hard behind the scenes and behind those closed doors where legislative action really takes place to accomplish what can only be called a modern day miracle in the great state of Illinois.

The idea was first proposed around a Saturday morning breakfast table at the Buzz Cafe in Oak Park. The next thing you know, we had the backing and sponsorship of the Chairmen of the House Transportation Committee AND the Senate Transportation Committee — two very powerful congressmen who understand the vital importance of recognizing our state’s military families.

We’ve already garnered the endorsement of some very important groups in Illinois: The Illinois Military Family Initiative, the Coalition of Veteran Organizations, and Vet Net.

Our state offers a great variety of military-oriented license plates. Every branch of the service can be displayed as well as wonderful veteran status plates, military honor plates and a very beautiful Gold Star Family license plate.

The only other state in the Union to offer Blue Star Banner plates is Tennessee, and I must say….our design is so much more distinctive. [smile]

As the bill moves along through the legislative process, Mother Goose will certainly be flapping and honking about it. I wonder who will get the plate that says “M.Goose”….

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A Legacy of Blue Stars

Recently Mother Goose was the happy and honored party to a luncheon date with Mrs. Joyce Carrasco, a TRUE Blue Star Mother. Please watch this quick video to learn more about Joyce and her dedication to our mission.

Joyce is the founder and president of our Blue Star Mother’s chapter in northern Illinois. She has a brave Marine son who is currently serving “somewhere” and a brave Air Force daughter who is also serving “somewhere”. Often when a career service person is deployed, they are unable to disclose their location for security reasons. I can only tell you they are in very sensitive areas of the world where only the most dedicated and courageous Marines and Air Women go.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending a quick hour with Joyce — she’s a very busy woman who is involved in many good causes but first and foremost supports her husband who is a pastor with the First United Methodist Church. When I asked her how they met so long ago, Joyce again smiled mysteriously and answered my question with gracious guardedness. She’s not quite at liberty to discuss her husband’s history or their own joyous beginnings as a couple.

Of course, Mother Goose wants to know more! But, of course, we will respect the privacy of these wonderful people.

I did ask Joyce about her childhood — whether her father had served in the Armed Forces, how she had become so passionate about supporting military families. She told me that her grandmother had ELEVEN Blue Star Banners in her front window! All eleven of her children served America during the time of WWII. Indeed, her father and her uncles, but also her aunties! Imagine that legacy!

Please join Mother Goose in a salute to Joyce Carrasco today! God bless you and your family, dear!

Blue Star Banner JoyceCarrasco

Mother Goose and the Blue Star Family Platoon

For the past year and a half, Mother Goose has been working on a mission with the Blue Star Family Platoon. It really all started as a response to a volunteer request for a non-existent organization. Well, you know Mother Goose…I just can’t leave things the way I find them. I have to always be starting some good somewhere in the world…

I began to attend family support meetings for parents of Marines, and seeing that they were hungry for connections to other families, I supplied them with Blue Star Banners. Each month I found myself at one of four different groups who meet in the Chicagoland area, collecting requests for the banners and then following up the next month and presenting the families with banners to hang in their windows.

Many of my readers have visited the Facebook page I created for Blue Star Families.

This old tradition is still a valuable one — it’s really one of the first levels of connections we military families can make with each other and with our neighbors. Each star on the banner symbolizes a family member who is serving in America’s Armed Forces during a time of war or hostility. Ever since WWI families have been hanging banners in their windows. Of course, the family of Mother Goose sports a two-star banner — one star for Adam and one star for Erik who are my twin sailor sons.

My husband has been very proud of my efforts in support of military families in our area, but the cost of banners over the past 18 months has begun to take its toll on my checkbook balance… I had given away nearly seventy banners, and Mr. Goose thought maybe it was time for a new business plan.

So that’s why I’m VERY happy and excited to announce the launch TODAY of my peer-funding project and here’s a wonderful link to my site:

http://startsomegood.com/BlueStarFamilyPlatoon

If you click on that link, not only do you have the opportunity to support this good cause, but you’ll get to see a live video clip of me, Mother Goose, explaining my project and asking for your support! Wow! The real Mother Goose talking and telling a story! You won’t want to miss that show!

A huge thank you for your kind support of this fundraising campaign! If you can give, GREAT! If you can share it with others, GREAT! I’ll be sending out updates as the days go by so that you’ll know when we reach our tipping point and how the funds are being used.

We want to purchase more banners to give away.

We want to build a website for this good stuff.

We want to become a real non-profit 501(3)c so that we’ll be eligible for many grants and donations.

We want to expand our network and someday help to create a space for veteran and military families to gather.

Mother Goose is bringing smiles to the faces of proud military moms and dads all across the nation.

All big dreams start small — but no donation is too small for Mother Goose and the Blue Star Family Platoon!

Moms and dads are presented with banners!

Moms and dads are presented with banners!

Incredibly Strong Army Mom

Less than two months ago, Mother Goose received a request for a Blue Star Banner from a mom in Missouri named Kathy. Her Army son had recently been deployed to Afghanistan, and her daughter is an active Army Reservist. I dressed up the two-starred service flag with some pretty gold fringe as I always do and shipped it out via priority mail. The standard operating procedure for my organization — we send them out with a prayer that this family will be well and that their service member will be safe and sound.

Kathy with Mary and Matt.

Kathy with Mary and Matt.

Several days later I heard from Kathy again that she had received my package and was most grateful for the banner and had hung it in her front window for all the world to see.

Kathy's Two Star Banner

And then these heartbreaking words: “My time is short so I am trying to get all I can in before the end. I am in the end stages of COPD and I have tumors in my lymph lodes in my neck that I am going to the doctor to check tomorrow. I live on oxygen 24/7 and go NO where. I am getting a home health nurse next week because I cant even cook, shower, clean or do my laundry. So that will be a blessing. So THANK YOU for helping me.”

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema — it works painfully in the lungs, slowly reducing lung function and oxygen saturation in the body.

In the weeks since, Kathy and I have written back and forth frequently. Her most fervent prayer request was that she’d see her son one more time in this life. Kathy is an amazing woman of faith — she believes in the power of prayer and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. She is at peace with her situation and looking forward to an eternity in paradise.

But if only her body could hold on for a couple more months when Matthew was scheduled to come home from his deployment. The doctors have given Kathy 6-12 weeks to live. With hospice care now in place, Kathy continued to pray for her son’s safety and his return home to her arms. Her note from June 4th: “I am getting ready for hospice to come in……just got to make it a couple more months till my son gets home.”

This past Saturday evening at 9:38 pm, Matthew walked through the doors of his dear mama’s home, surprising her with a great big smile on his face. Thanks to the American Red Cross for making the arrangements for his return! Prayers answered! He will be home for the next two weeks, and this mother celebrates with that mother for the delicious joy of seeing a son’s face when she wakes up in the morning.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I read what Kathy wrote to me this morning: “My dear Blue Star family, I am so going to miss you all so much, please go to the “Mother of Deployed soldiers” group and there is so much support there also. I lived daily laughing, crying, reading, and responding while I was able to. It was a group effort to keep me going all this time. I would have never made it without all of you during this time. I am going to miss all of you, and I will be watching over everyone and waiting for all you to join me next to the Lord one of these days. Keep sending prayers, cards, and any help if you can help my children in burial expense because I have no health insurance or life insurance. God Bless you all and watch over you and your family and your soldiers. Love to all, Kathy”

Dear readers, please pray for Kathy. If you’d like to cheer her with a card or help with her final expenses, please send me an email at ncramer1216@gmail.com and I will share her address.

My final thoughts on this amazing woman: the love of a mother is so powerful and the faith of this particularly special mother is beyond my understanding. We all go through trials of many types and levels requiring much patience and persistence in prayer. We all have our own packages of suffering and joy co-mingled in our daily lives. Kathy Jenne has touched my heart so deeply though I’ve known her less than two months — I realize that we all have an obligation to love one another regardless of the length of our friendship or acquaintance, regardless of our geographic locations, regardless of our busy-ness.

I have seen pictures that Kathy has taken in the past two days — pictures of friends helping to move her bed into the living room where she can see out the window, friends gathering around her, making her good meals and sitting together visiting, pictures of her handsome soldier son laying across her bed with his face smiling into hers. These are the pictures of love — these are the images of a life well-spent in loving one another.

I guess this is why I’m so passionate about military families and our brave troops and Blue Star Banners — these connections are vital to the hearts and well-being of Army moms and Navy moms and Marine moms and Air Force moms and Coast Guard moms. I will continue my mission of making those connections, inspired by the faith and love of an incredible mom in Missouri.

God bless you today! With love, Mother Goose

At the Booth with a Goose

Every weekend, indeed everyday, brings new opportunities to build awareness of the old Blue Star Banner tradition. Mother Goose and, of course, Mr. Goose have been spotted in several locations lately — making those connections to military families and explaining the benefits of having a banner hanging in their front windows.

Mark is completely in charge of setting up our booth and blowing up the balloons.  Thank you, dear!

Mark is completely in charge of setting up our booth and blowing up the balloons. Thank you, dear!

In fact, just this past weekend, we braved the drizzle and dropping temperatures in lovely, convenient Oak Park to occupy a booth at the 40th Annual Day in Our Village celebration. Thousands of local residents visited Scoville Park and were treated to tasty concessions, an excellent variety of live music, pony rides, face painting, hair dyeing, balloons, candy, a lot of brochures, information overload AND the opportunity to sign Thank You cards to send to the troops.

Love that kid in the front...

Love that kid in the front…

Yes, that’s dear Mother Goose manning the Blue Star Family Platoon booth!

You may notice that she is wearing large dark sunglasses even though the day is obviously overcast. Nobody even knew that behind those glamorous Hollywood shades, Mother Goose was hiding two hideous eye infections…

We had thousands of visitors to our booth and so many folks signed the Thank You cards. People care very much about our brave servicemen and women — often Americans really want to do something concrete to show their support, but are simply unaware or unsure of ways they can make a difference in the day of a soldier or sailor.

Hundreds of Americans signed cards to send to the troops!

Hundreds of Americans signed cards to send to the troops!

Mother Goose is always glad to provide those ways and opportunities.

A very special shout out to a friend of Mother Goose who showed up at the booth with a container of freshly baked bars to bolster the energy level of this goose. Regina is the mom to a very special Marine — a Purple Heart recipient who will be retiring from the Marine Corps this autumn. In fact, Regina and I met BECAUSE she had a Blue Star Banner in her front window!

Regina saved my life with her home-baked, still warm from the oven gooey bars.

Regina saved my life with her home-baked, still warm from the oven gooey bars.

THAT’s exactly why I do this for a living! Well, actually, I don’t get paid…yet.

I am working towards making that dream come true.

Doesn’t it seem like this would be the perfect career for this goose?

In the weeks to come you will be called on to support a very special project of mine. I will share details as the days draw nearer, but let me just say right now that Mother Goose is going way out on a limb with a military family support project that will dazzle you and bring a tear to your eye…

Enough said.

M.Goose Spots Some Banners in the Windows

Sometimes Mother Goose just goes out joy riding. When I was a youngster, we’d drive through the countryside, the dirt roads and sometimes the trails through the forests…just to go for a ride. We would look for deer in the fields at twilight, a gravel road with agate potential, a blueberry patch along the side of the road. Sometimes we went looking for “real estate”.

Back in the 60’s in the country parts of northern Minnesota, any random passerby could pull into the driveway of an abandoned house and walk right into the empty house. These “real estate” adventures comprise some of my fondest memories. With our parents and grandparents permission, we could go snooping around other people’s homes and lives — houses full of stuff were highly regarded as treasure to our family!

Imagine fully furnished homes just empty of people and left to the rages of time! I began my stamp collection from the abandoned mail of these homes. We also collected antique “Ball jars”, door knobs, glass medicine bottles, barbed wire and tools. Once we found an abandoned home in a quiet valley complete with a functional piano on the front porch. I launched into my memorized material and entertained my family. For some reason, we never felt like we were trespassing…just checking the “real estate”.

Today I didn’t go into any of the homes I stopped at — just stood outside. I didn’t leave anything but blessings. I didn’t take anything but pictures.

Blue Star Banner in Stickney.

Blue Star Banner in Stickney.

Blue Star Banner, Marine Flag and U.S. flag proudly displayed at my friends' home.

Blue Star Banner, Marine Flag and U.S. flag proudly displayed at my friends’ home.

Blue Star Banner in a watchful neighborhood of Berwyn.

Blue Star Banner in a watchful neighborhood of Berwyn.

Pray for the Gold Star families when you encounter this banner... Only God knows the deep pride and sacrifice of these families.

Pray for the Gold Star families when you encounter this banner… Only God knows the deep pride and sacrifice of these families.

Brave Marine Families

When Mother Goose heard the news yesterday of the mortar explosion which took the lives of eight Marines and injuring so many others, the tears just rolled down her feathery cheeks. Any accident like this is a tragedy, but for Mother Goose, this one hit home especially hard because she had spent Monday evening with a group of eight proud Marine families.

Blue Star Banners for Marine families in Berwyn.  March 18, 2013

Blue Star Banners for Marine families in Berwyn. March 18, 2013

These families gather every month to support one another and share their questions and concerns as their young sons and daughters prepare for Marine boot camp, for their specialized training and sometimes for their deployment into areas of the world which would put them in harm’s way.

I was there to present four of the families with Blue Star Banners to hang in their front windows. The three moms in this photo have sons in boot camp and will be graduating in San Diego in the near future. The handsome, young Marine in the center just recently graduated and will begin his time of training this week. His mom will hang this banner in her window and look at it everyday, missing her son, but knowing that our country needs him.

Their sons and daughters might have chosen another career path, one not so fraught with danger and sacrifice. They could have gone to college and learned a safe profession. Probably nobody would have complained if they had decided to be accountants or teachers or managers or doctors.

But for some reason, some mothers give birth to babies who have a special spark of courage within their hearts. They are seemingly born with a desire to serve and protect. These moms and dads raise boys and girls who grow up to be men and women who want to defend freedom. They know the cost of freedom and are willing to pay, sometimes with their lives.

America is a great country because of our brave Marines.

In places across America, hearts will break as the uniformed Marines arrive at the front door with the worst possible news. Eight fallen Marines will be laid to rest. Gold Star Banners will be presented to grieving mothers and fathers.

For most of us, life will go on as it always does…

But please keep the families of those brave Marines in your prayers in these days and weeks to come. God, please bless all of our military families with peace and comfort, especially those who have lost loved ones this week.

For the Love of Blue Star Mothers

Mom’s Prayer for her Son

I Give To You, My Son-
I held him as an infant; I hugged him as a boy
and through the years he has become my greatest pride and joy.

I love him more than I can say,
his life more precious than my own,
but gone are the whims and notions of the little boy that I had known.

For the years have passed so quickly since the time it all began
and now he stands before me with the conviction of a man.

He wants to serve his country, he states aloud with pride
as I try to sort out the emotions that I’m feeling deep inside…

a union of the uncertain fear, which I cannot control
and the allegiance which lies deep within my patriotic soul.

I trust that my years of guidance will serve as a strong foundation
as he performs the duties requested from his beloved nation.

God please guide him as he travels to the places our soldiers have bled
and walk with him through pathways where those heroes’ feet have tread.

Oh Sweet Land of Liberty, humbly I give to you, my son
praying you’ll return him safely home when his work for you is done.

—Author unknown—

For the past 71 years, Blue Star Mothers of America have gathered. They serve behind the scenes while their children serve America on the front lines all around the world. They support one another, share each other’s burdens, comfort and listen. They pack care boxes to send overseas to the troops. They throw baby showers for young military moms and families. They raise money to buy wreaths to lay atop the graves of our fallen warriors at Arlington National Cemetery and other places of rest. They have round table discussions about PTSD and the risk of veteran suicides. They work through the stresses of the deployment cycle and hold each other tightly if the most terrible news comes to their doorstep.

From the first recorded and official meeting of the Blue Star Mothers in Flint, Michigan, the call has gone out across America to join hands and work together for the common good of military families and our nation. The need for support was great in 1942, and a shocking three hundred mothers showed up at the Durant Hotel in response to a notice in the Flint News Advertiser. With World War II raging around the globe, these mothers knew better than anyone else how critical it was to mobilize in support of their fighting sons and daughters serving in all branches of the Armed Forces.

During those dark days of the War, Blue Star Mothers worked together in hospitals, schools, churches and train stations to pack and ship packages to the troops, roll bandages, organize community recycling programs, and write letters together. They hung their Blue Star Banners in their front windows with pride in country, pride in family.

The moms in 1945  with their official uniforms.

The moms in 1945 with their official uniforms.

Today a fresh generation of mothers hang banners and fly American flags. They still volunteer and support the troops and military families across our great land. They provide support for active duty service personnel, promote patriotism, assist Veterans organizations, and are available to assist in homeland volunteer efforts to help our country remain strong.

Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers in 2013

Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers in 2013

Nearly every state has chapters of this good organization — check their website to find a group near you. If there is no organized chapter near you, then by all means, find four other moms and start one!

Like the children they have raised, they are brave and resilient. Love for the United States of America runs deep within their veins. They still pray for each other and the sons and daughters who are deployed far and away.

May God bless the Blue Star Mothers.

bsmlogo

A Seamstress on a Mission

Amazingly, Mother Goose has found yet another soul who has taken their grief and pain and transformed it into an avenue of healing and comfort for others. Like Dawn Hedrick and Richard Casper, this woman has experienced great personal loss.

I am honored to introduce Chris Davidson, a North Carolina resident with a gift for stitching memories into lovely patriotic quilts and banners.

Chris Davidson, Memories in Stitches

Chris Davidson, Memories in Stitches

Memory quilts are a beautiful tradition. The quilt is sewn from the clothes of a loved one and seem to contain even more comfort and warmth than a regular quilt. When Chris lost her two adopted sons, she began quilting the fabric from their little shirts and outfits into her designs. Sewing and quilting became her grief therapy.

Soon she was creating quilts for others in her community — Memories in Stitches, rose out of the ashes of this mother’s tragic loss.

Chris’s husband is a retired Air Force serviceman. Through his connections with the Air Force and living in a small town, Chris became aware of a need for customized, hand-sewn Blue Star Banners for military families. Military families are tightly connected, and orders for her banners have well-exceeded her expectations. She also creates the most exquisite Gold Star Banners and quilts to honor the memory of fallen soldiers and servicemen.

When Chris sews her banners and quilts, an invisible staircase to heaven opens above her. Her prayers are carried up to the throne of grace; blessings come flowing down onto the quilts and banners she is sewing. “Some banners and quilts go together very smoothly,” Chris explains. “Others can take a lot of time, and if anything can go wrong, it will.”

After a year of making these beautiful keepsakes, Chris Davidson has come to the conclusion that the recipients of these difficult quilts and banners simply need more prayer and comfort than others, and she’s OK with that. “I had one banner,” says Chris. “I don’t know why, but I was in tears most of the time making it.”

Sometimes she works through the night to make a special banner to be presented at a funeral or memorial service for a fallen soldier. The heart of Mother Goose breaks to think of those nights at the sewing table of Chris Davidson.

Chris Davidson Gold Star Quilt

Typically it takes her about four hours to sew together a banner for a customer; quilts can be designed and constructed in about a week. Bless her heart, Chris prefers to donate the banners and has finished 21, yes 21, already this year. She has a waiting list of at least thirty more, and works 10-12 hour days at the sewing machine to complete the orders.

She would like to continue giving these banners to the families, but the reality is that fabric costs money. In fact, all of the projects for the past two years have been funded by her dear husband — in total, $2,000 in supplies plus the cost of maintaining her sewing and quilting and embroidering machines.

If you visit her Facebook page (and Mother Goose is confident that you will!), you will see so many photographs of Chris’s extraordinary work. You will also see a place to donate to her cause. I hope that you are moved to help this kind and gracious woman with her patriotic and heart-felt stitching business. She’s not trying to make a profit by any means — she’s just called to help folks heal from their losses and find comfort in these quilts and banners.

Mother Goose salutes Chris Davidson, a seamstress on a mission.

Chris Davidson Blue Star Banner

The Blue Star Banner Tradition

Last evening, Mother Goose was invited to attend a monthly get-together of U.S. Marine families in our area. They are a very friendly, a very sociable bunch of folks and it was very gracious of them to invite a Navy mom to their gathering. As you might expect, there was food and beverages…

By my best guesstimation, I would say there were approximately 10 or 12 families represented and sitting around the tables. A large portion of their monthly times is devoted to just getting to know each other, discussing their sons and daughters who serve and then listening to a guest speaker talk on a military family topic. Last night’s topic, “Preparing for Deployment” answered many of the parents’ questions. Gunnery Sgt. Luke, a local Marine recruiter, spoke from his own personal experience and from his heart about what the Marine and his family can expect in the months leading up to a deployment.

In addition, Mother Goose was asked to step to the front of the room and do a brief talk about the Blue Star Banner tradition, a topic near and dear to my heart. Many of my readers are aware of this grand old tradition, but for those of you who are new to military family life, please sit back and listen to this story.

The year is 1917. America’s brave troops are fighting in the trenches and on the front lines in Europe — it’s called The Great War not because any war is great, but because the greatest powers in the world are struggling to subdue tyrannical governments and prevent the spread of German imperialism. It was also great in terms of loss of life — in total more than nine million combatants were killed in the four years of war and strife.

The place is Ohio, USA where Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry is praying for the safe return of his own two sons from the European arena of battle. With a goal of honoring his sons and their service to the United States, he designed and patented a banner that would symbolize for generations to come the service and sacrifice of sons and daughters, husbands and wives in the U.S. military.

The Blue Star Banner was quickly adopted by the public and the U.S. government as an official emblem of military service.

Captain Queisser hung his banner in the front window of his home and soon more and more banners appeared in the windows and doors of military families across the nation. Besides the obvious honor of showing the world a family’s pride and patriotism, the banner also served as a way to connect with other families with deployed loved ones. The banner has remained essentially pure in its design and tradition for nearly one hundred years.

bsf-ww2

However, it soon became obvious that when a family had lost a son or daughter to the price of freedom and the cause of liberty, a special change must be made to their banner. At that time and to this day, a Gold Star on this banner represents the ultimate sacrifice for that family. Their courage and love bear witness to our nation’s bravest men and women. When we see a Gold Star Banner in the window, we are reminded that freedom is never free.

The tradition of hanging these beautiful banners in our windows continued into the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and then into our most recent wars on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even Hollywood recognizes the significance of this tradition. If you watch carefully, you’ll see them in these movies:

The Fighting Sullivans
Flags of our Fathers
Saving Private Ryan
It’s a Wonderful Life
Benny and Joon
Working Miracles

In an ongoing mission to elevate the awareness of the Blue Star Banner tradition, Mother Goose was proud to present Blue Star Banners to five of the U.S. Marine families at their meeting last night. Semper Fi.

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