Book News

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Book Club for CCAH will read “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead.  Zoom meeting will be at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, November 20.

The Christian Church of Arlington Heights is open for Book Club discussion, using Zoom technology. We also have worship and other other “On-line” activities. Contact our minister, Rev. Allison Lundblad with her e-mail at to be placed on the distribution e-mails for worship, bible study, book club and other church events. Also check out the church’s website for announcements and worship. The website is: 

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Book for October 2020 was “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger.  Leading the discussion was Kay Belt.  Joining the meeting was Peg Zimmerman, John and Stephanie Herron, Joan Froelich, Colleen Schumm, Sue Minarik (who recommended the book) and me. The book tells of a minister’s family from the point of view of one of the sons, a nine-year old who’s sister is murdered at a July 4th celebration.  It was a summer of death that shook a small town.

The book speaks to the many kinds of faith and of Grace at both a Christian level and during life in the world at large.

Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Book Club for September 2020 read “Flight of the Sparrow” by Amy Belding Brown.  Book Club met using Zoom Technology. The novel was about a Puritan woman kidnapped by Indians, enslaved and ransomed back to her family in the 1600’s. It was set during the English settlement of  Massachusetts as Puritans met  Indian opposition to their arrival.

The woman reentered her life following her living with an Indian tribe which kidnapped her because she was wife to a church leader.  Discussion centered on her imprisonment to the strict Puritan rules. As an Indian, she felt freer.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Book Club for August 2020 read “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead.  Leading the discussion was Kay Belt; joining in was Peg Zimmerman, John and Stephany Herron, Colleen Schumm, Joan Froelich and me.  The novel fictionalized having an actual underground railroad for slaves to escape from masters.  Of course, there really was not such a railroad. It means actually escaping, going into the danger of escaping enslavement. There are the slave hunters, the rugged terrain, and perils of having no maps to follow.  Discussion was positive and we wished there really had been such a railroad.

Recommended by Irvana
Beach Music by Pat Conroy

Book Club for July 2020 read “Beach Music” by Pat Conroy.  I became a fan of Pat Conroy’s writing when Dan Webster was our pastor and he loved anything written by Conroy. I recommend it and remind readers not to skip the Prologue – probably the best writing of Conroy.  He also dedicates the book to his brothers, including one who committed suicide.

Book discussion was by Zoom – Each person saw a unique value in the very long book.  Kay Belt served as leader. Joining the group was Stephanie and John Herron, Joan Froelich, Colleen and Mike Schumm, Peg Zimmerman and me.

Everything I Never Told You – by Celeste Ng

Book Club for June 2020 read “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng.  Discussion of the book was by Zoom; Kay Belt, leader, and participating was John and Stephanie Herron, Joan Froelich, Colleen Schumm and me. It was a book we didn’t want to stop discussing. Has clues for life, friendships and parenting.

During time of separation, we pray for those ill and those working to keep us safe. We thank our church leaders.  If you are in need of prayers, let us know.  You may call the CCAH office at 847-259-0059 or leave a message in the posting technology below at the end of this page.

May 2020 Book Club
Little Fires Everywhere

Book Club for May was “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng.  Book was chosen by Kay Belt who served as Zoom discussion leader.

This Book Club is 11 years old. Our former pastor, Rev. Steven Welker, asked members to start small groups.  Kay Belt came to me and asked about having a book discussion group. We would read mostly non-religious books. All are welcome whether we’ve read the book or not, we would take lunches to church and argue over literature.


The Alchemist – by Paulo

April 2020 Book Club  read “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho.  Book Club met using Zoom.  We downloaded the Zoom technology and passwords.  Attending were the following: Kay Belt (Leader), John Herron (his wife Stephanie chose the book but didn’t share her thoughts), Joan Froelich, Coleen Schumm (and Michael) who knew the book as a book read by their children as students, and me (Irvana).  I used Audible to listen to the book, because I had not read “The Alchemist”.  It was a story of a young man on a trek to find himself, his treasures and loves.

March 2020 book
American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

March Book was “American Dirt,” by Jeanine Cummins.  Due to the contagious nature of the Coronavirus, Christian Church of Arlington Heights is holding all meetings virtually, using a “Zoom” appointment app.  This includes Book Club.  Those attending included Kay Belt, our fearless leader, Sue Minarik, who suggested the book, John Herron, Peg Zimmerman, Colleen and Mike Schumm, and Allie Lundblad who got us looking at the correct Zoom link. Readers thought is a good book.

Book for February 2020
Picking Cotton

February book was “Picking Cotton”, a memoir by three contributors. The book begins with a rape and how a wrong man is accused. Man’s name is Cotton.  It accounts the horrible consequences of “bias” as fallible human brains wrongly accuse individuals.  Our jails are filled with such wrongly accused.  In cases of trauma for rape or murder, our human brains can identify innocent people.

January book about escaping from North Korea
A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Ensum Kim

January 2020 Book — “A Thousand Miles to Freedom” by Ensun Kim. It is a story about a young woman’s escape from North Korea.  The author uses fake names to hide the identity of those in her memoir.  Discussion was that it identified the horrors of living in Communist North Korea with its dictators, famines and cruelty.

No meeting in December 2019.  Kay Belt and family hosted the Church Christmas Open House.  THANK YOU Kay, Ed and Molly Belt!!!

November’s 2019 book was “The Glass Castle”, a memoir by Jeannette Walls.  People who attended had a great discussion.  At the meeting it was decided not to have a December meeting. Church folks are busy during Advent.

Also an all-church-read is tackling “Silence can Kill”.  If interested in participating in the discussions which are determined by the participants, please contact the church office or Rev. Allison Lundblad.

A Gentleman In Moscow, by Armor Towles

Book Club for October 2019 was “A Gentleman In Moscow,” by Amor Towles, a novel chosen by Kay Belt.  The book weaves a story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov who was under house arrest at a Moscow Hotel.  He was accused in the 1920’s by the Russian Revolutionary Court and sent to live in the hotel.  If the Count left the hotel, he would be shot.  He observes the revolution from his hotel balcony’s view of life.  He is tortured by his imprisonment for being an aristocrat and being a son of Royalty.  His sister was murdered as well as many in this family.  Family properties were taken by the Russian Revolutionaries.  He had only a few possessions to take with him.  He can read.  He became a fixture at the hotel’s restaurants, but the revolution removed flowers, labels from wine bottles and things not needed for everyday comforts.

This author also wrote “Rules of Civility,” a novel about New York society in the 1920s.

The Source, a historical novel by James Mitchner

Book Club for September 2019 read “The Source” by James Michener.  The novel parallels an archeological dig in Israel to the history of humans on earth and belief in God.  I suggested the novel.  It is one of the first historical novels made successful by Michener.  It tracks the origins of cave men, how humans moved out of the caves, their religious sacrifices, Judaism and Christianity.  It was first written decades ago.  Because of it relevance for today’s reader, it has been reprinted into paperback with a forward by Dave Barry.


Water for Elephants

Book Club for August 2019 read “Water for Elephants,” a best-selling novel by Sara Gruen. I was not able to attend, but I understand the discussion was great.

Book Club Rules — Club will meet at 12:30 p.m. on the third Friday of the month at the Christian Church of Arlington Heights. Kay Belt serves as discussion leader. All are welcome whether we’ve read the book or not. We take lunches to the discussions in the Conference Room at the Christian Church of Arlington Heights, 333 W. Thomas, Arlington Heights, IL – 847-259-0059. Each person attending writes book suggestions on slips of paper, which are drawn from a basket at the end of each meeting.

July’s 2019 Book Club was “this is how it always is,” a novel by Laurie Frankel.  The book chronicled a family with five sons, one of whom loved pink and wearing dresses and playing with dolls.  The mother is a doctor and the father a stay-at-home writer.  They move across the United States and to other countries to find a home with acceptance for their son.



For June, Book Club read “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George. The book was chosen by John Herron who drew the selection placed on “suggestion slips”. The book generated much discussion about the many kinds of love.  It is a beautiful and complicated novel set in present day France.  The Bookshop is on a floating barge and is operated by an eccentric book seller and taken from Paris to the Loire Valley.



Book for May 2019

Book Club for May 2019 read, “Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson.  Stevenson is an attorney trying to defend men sentenced to death row.  He identifies the wrongs done by authorities wanting a quick win, especially if the man has little or no money.  It is a powerful book.  We were joined by John Herron who added depth to the discussion.  There is an ability to financially support the work of the attorneys for mostly men on death row.

Book Club met on April 2019’s Good Friday — and discussed  “The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared,” a novel by Jonas Jonasson, a Swedish writer.  Kay Belt led the discussion; others attending included Coleen Schumm, Peg Zimmerman, Sue Minarik (who recommended the book) and me.

“the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” by Mark Haddon


March 2019’s Book Club read “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, a novel by Mark Haddon, suggested by me. Discussion was lively because it was written to better understand someone with autism. It tells of a British family and how each person in the novel relates to the autistic boy

This is one book I read twice because I didn’t get it the first time.



Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

February 2019 we read “Skeletons at the Feast,” a novel by Chris Bohjalain.  Book was suggested by Judi Frost, past member at our Christian Church of Arlington Heights.

Kay Belt, a friend and long-time member and elder of the Christian Church, began Book Club a few years ago. Kay’s mission — read good books, discuss them over lunch, and learn insights about literature and each other. Kay serves as discussion leader.



Educated by Tara Westover

January’s first book for 2019 was  “Educated”, a memoir by Tara Westover.  Over lunches we discussed how a woman raised in a survivalist family survived illnesses, car crashes and never going to a doctor to become a professor.

Book Club skipped December’s 2018 meeting —

in November 2018 we read “The Tea Girl from Humming Bird Lane,” by Lisa See, novel about a girl and her family growing up in China.  It tracks experiences in a closed Chinese society with spies and ruthless leaders.

Book Club skipped October 2018’s meeting —

The Kitchen House – Book Club for August

For September 2018 we read “Glory Over Everything,” a sequel to our August book, “The Kitchen House,” both novels are by Kathleen Grissom and show the lives of plantation slaves and owners.

Book Club for August 2018 read “The Kitchen House,” a novel by Kathleen Grissom.

Book Club for July 2018 read “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman.  We were joined by Carol Nelson who is on summer break from her job at school. This was a book recommended by our church’s administrative assistant, Sue Minarik.

About the murders of the Osage Indians and beginning of the FBI
Killers of the Flower Moon – by David Grann

We met in June 2018 to discuss “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann. It tells about the murders of the Osage Indians in Oklahoma and the birth of the FBI.   It was my choice for this month, and a real page turner. It cornicles how the Federal government with its treaties worked to rid fertile farm land of Indians. It brought in homesteaders and white settlers to replace tribes. The Osage tribe was given “worthless” land in Oklahoma, but deposits of oil were eventually discovered, making them wealthy. Then the Osage Indians living where oil was found began to be murdered. 

This book is important to my family because my Father’s first wife Beulah LaRue Earlywine was from a Plaines Indian tribe and a French trader father.  They had a daughter Betty and son Donald, my half-sister and half-brother who would have gone to Indian School, but my father objected and wouldn’t send them away. He insisted they attend white school.

The Maximum Security Book Club – by Mikita Brottman

May 2018’s book was “Maximum Security Book Club”, by Mikita Brottman. It tells about the time the author taught a literature class at a maximum security prison. The group felt some of the literary choices the author chose were advanced in terms of being too literary for the men she taught.  But it also told of the lives of men locked away for serious crimes and their knowledge they would not get released soon. 

April 2018’s Book Club read “Books for Living,” by Will Schwalbe.  This is a continuation of his previous work, “End of life Book Club,” which had given the group lots to discuss.

March 2018’s book club was skipped because of Lent – 

February 2018’s book was “Suffragette: My Own Story,” by Emmeline Pankhurst, an English suffragette who demonstrated to get laws passed allowing women the vote in England.  United Stated suffragettes were also ridiculed and imprisoned.  Voting rights for US women had to be an Amendment to the Constitution, which is approved by a majority of voters in each state in the union.  US suffragettes knew laws could be overturned, but not Amendments to the Constitution.  US is a representative democracy where laws of self governance differ from England.  England has a parliament, prime minister and king or queen.  The US is a true democracy where every office is elected, up and down the ballot.

Book Club met on January 19, 2018, having read “Grace Without God” by Katherine Ozment.  Joan Froelich recommended the book.  Ozment does not believe in God.  She names herself God and like Moses invents her own 10 Commandments.  She then gives herself and her children Grace.  She could just attend CCAH – we seek God with abundant love, but she only went to witch covens and alternative gatherings.

Book Group choice for October 2017
Expecting Adam by Martha Beck

December 2017’s group was skipped due to members being busy during Advent –

November 2017’s Book was “Expecting Adam” by Martha Beck.  It is about a difficult pregnancy and the unique son who was born with Downs Syndrome.  She was a professor and debated having and abortion but decided to deliver her son, Adam, who became a blessing to people he met.

Book Club for October 2017 got a jump on Advent by reading “Wishin’ & Hopin’,” by Wally Lamb – a Christmas Best Seller.  During the discussion it was a trip down memory lane for us and the family Lamb wrote about.

September 2017’s book was “Small, Great Things” – by Jodi Picoult.  “Small, Great Things” tells the story of a hospital delivery nurse accused of murdering a newborn in her care.  She is African American and the father of the newborn is a member of a white-supremacist group.

Book Club for August 2017 meeting was skipped – 

Book Club for July 2017 read – “Trials of the Earth: The true Story of a Pioneer Woman” by Mary Hamilton.

Inside the O’Briens

Book for June 2017 was “Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova.   The novel was recommended by Lisa Edwards and Coleen Schumm.  It tells the story of a family of a police officer as they face the illness of the officer.   This is the second Genova book read this year. 

May 2017’s book was “The Book of Unknown Americans” by Christina Henriquez. This was an All-Arlington-Heights-reads-it book; and was recommended by Jack Sturgeon.

In April 2017 we read, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova about a woman with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  The book was suggested by me and Coleen Schumm for its portrayal of a college professor with early onset Alzheimer’s.

In March 2017 we read “The Paris Architect” by Charles Belfoure. It was recommended as a “can’t put it down” by Sue Minarik, Christian Church’s Administrative Assistant.

February 2017 book was “Run” by Ann Patchett, a novel about a Boston family, its members, both adopted and born to the Boston Royalty.

January 2017 – We welcomed new pastor, Rev. Allison Lundblad who chose “Dreamers of the Day”, by Mary Doria Russell for January 20, 2017, the first Book Club choice for the new year.  It was a fictional depiction of historical events in the Middle East.

Christian Church of Arlington Heights read Jim Wallis’ book, “America’s Original Sin”.   We joined other Disciple churches in the Region to use the Wallis book to discuss issues for unity in a beloved, but fractured country.  Book discussion was led by Rev. Allison Lundblad and Ken Nelson.  Beginning February 26 and every 2 weeks we met in the Church Conference Room after church.  All were welcome to attend this on-going discussion.

I post this blog to help us remember great books we’ve read and to get comments from any who also have read them.  The following is a list – from recent to older – of most of books read by the Christian Church Book Group.  The Club was started in 2010.

“The Invention of Wings” – by Sue Monk Kidd.  All the light We Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr   The Aviator’s Wife – by Melanie Benjamin The Nightingale – by Kristen Hannah The Piano Teacher – by Y. K. Lee

Orphan Train – by Christina Baker Kline  •  Behind the Beautiful Forevers – by Katherine Boo   • The Midwives – by Chris Bohjalian   •  Same Kind of Different as Me – by Ron Hall  •  Nine Parts of Desire – by Geraldine Brooks •  The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak  •  The Red Thread – by Ann Hood  •  An Invisible Thread – by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski  •   Now You See Her – by James Patterson  •  Of Gods and Men   •  The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow – by Joyce Magnin

All Other Nights – by Dara Horn  •  Little Bee – by Chris Cleave  •  The Descendants – by Kaui Hart Hemmings  •  The Nineteenth Wife  •  Complications •  Gilead – by Marilynne Robinson  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – by Tom Franklin  • Cutting for Stone – by Abraham Verhgese  •  The Light Between Ocean’s – by M.  L. Stedman  • Gone Girl – by Gillian Flynn

Bel Canto – by Ann Patchett  • The Stone Diaries – by Carol Shields •  The Language of Flowers– by Vanessa Diffenbaugh  • Loving Frank – by Nancy Horan  •  The Beginner’s Goodbye – by Anne Tyler  •  Zeitown  •  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles  • Infidel -by Ayaan Hirsi Ali •  Farewell My Queen by Chantal Thomas  •  The Fourth Turning – by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Interpreter of Maladies  •  The Year of Living Biblically  • A fine Balance – by Rohinton Mistry  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows • The Known World   •  Professor and the Mad Man  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – by Stieg Larsson 

Writing & Mystery of Faith Blog

Christian Church of Arlington Heights invited  us to share faith journeys during Worship using Zoom Tech.  Rev.  Allison Lundbladt and the Worship Team called them Wilderness Stories.  I volunteered to tell my Wilderness Story and how I came to join CCAH.

My faith journey involves my family, a church next to our farm and Alan, Jolin and my moving here.

No Family’s story is a straight line or has patterns making sense. As the Mom-Aunt-Grandmother with the family Bibles, when schools assign homework on filling in blanks on “family trees”, I get those calls. I tell them it is complicated.

We are six siblings – half’s and full. I am related to three half-brothers: Donald (Don)Joseph Keagy; Charles (Chuck) T. Bomar and Norman N. Bomar. I am related to one half-sister, Betty LaRue Keagy. I have one full sister, Jennefer Lynn Keagy Cochran.

Besides me, three of us are still living: my brother, Don, and sister, Jennefer. Unfortunately death has claimed Chuck, Betty and Norman. They remain alive in my memory. As I wrote this family history I ask forgiveness for not using proper tense.

My mother was Anna LaVerne Guthrie (Bomar) and my father was Irvin Bassler Keagy. My parents were married to others before they wed. Each came to the marriage with other children, some thing that was considered wrong those days.

My mother who preferred to be called LaVerne was born in 1903, an only child. Her mother Allie Guthrie died when my mother was eight years old. The trauma of losing her mother and what happened damaged her.

My mother married Nolan Bomar. After about eleven years of marriage, she was widowed with two sons. She had married a second man, Hawkins, to allow her sons to have a father. She divorced him when he was unfaithful. My father, Irvin B. Keagy, was her third husband.

My father was a farmer in Kansas, living on property homesteaded by his Swiss family who had immigrated to Pennsylvania. My father’s name was Irvin Bassler Keagy born in 1901. My father’s father was Raphael Keagy.

My father’s first wife Beulah LaRue Earlywine was from a family of the Plaines Indians. Born from the marriage of my father and his first wife, Beulah LaRue Earlywine, were my Half-Sister, Betty LaRue Keagy, and Half-Brother, Donald Joseph Keagy. Federal and State laws forced Indian children to be sent away to Indian School, but my father insisted they attend the local white schools in Valley Center, Kansas, where he paid taxes.

My Half-Sister Betty was beautiful and not discriminated against. My father was handsome, and his wife Beulah was beautiful too. My Half-Brother Don J. Keagy remembers being discriminated against. Laws considered Indians a percent of a person (similar to slaves) and required a government-paid supervisor.  None could purchase or own any property without permission from the government supervisor.

My father would not allow such interference in his family, running afoul of petty officials, school laws and town gossips.  A recently published book, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” tells of the Osage Tribe who like the other Plains Indians had their land stolen by the corrupt settlers in Oklahoma. The Osage Indians were murdered for their oil wells. It helps tell our family’s similar tortures, only the Keagy homestead did not have oil.

I researched, but could not to determine from which tribe the Earlywine family came.  Plaines Indians are grouped into a generic designation. Maps show Indian Tribes – including Wichita, Kiowa, Arapaho, Osage, Kansa, Kiewa, Comaneci given in Treaties to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and all states.

Two of Don’s daughters, my nieces, who were trying to answer health questions, especially about the Indian DNA. They recently visited Alan and me. Don and his wife Barbara had four daughters.  Two of my nieces have passed away from diseases associated with the Indian DNA. They had neurological diseases.

My father divorced Beulah, then married my mother Anna LaVerne Guthrie Bomar in 1944.  My mother came to the marriage with two sons, my half-brothers Charles T. Bomar and Nolan N. Bomar.

My mother had moved to Wichita to work for the WWII efforts, taking a job at Boing Aircraft. At that time, Boing Aircraft was in Wichita, Kansas and she was in charge of drafting designs of planes. She lived in an apartment in Wichita.  Her son, Norman, lived with her. Her son, Charles (Chuck) Bomar was enrolled in the Merchant Marine academy for officers.

I was born on May 27, 1945, on Sunday of Memorial weekend and a doctor would not come to the farmhouse. My half-sister Betty was at my birth. She joked that she could remember my birthday, because she was there, helping my mother deliver me.

I had no birth certificate.  When I turned five, my mother tried to enroll me in Kindergarten in Valley Center (Kansas) Schools. She was asked to bring my birth certificate and realized the doctor to whom my birth was reported, never filed the proper papers. My parents wrote to the Kansas Department of Commerce to register me five years following my birth. They are “Proof of Birth” papers.

My sister, Jennefer Lynn Keagy, is one year and nine months younger than I. She was born in a hospital and has a birth certificate.

The Keagy farmhouse was built on the 160 acres Homesteaded by my grandfather. The farm home was built, and lived in by my grandparents, my father and his wives, and children. My father had an older brother named Howard Keagy who disavowed him for his marriages.

A neighbor woman named Sybil Carey was a member of a Methodist church and wanted a church near us, using the Keagy homestead property. She came to our house wanting my parents to give an acre of our farm to the Methodists. My mother and father argued about it, but gave in, having a church built a stone’s throw from our farmhouse.

It was a childhood torture having the church so near meant gossips and spies. Sybil Carey would preach how awful my parents were – she seemed to hate us all. I had to attend Valley Center school with her son, Larry Carey. We were in the first class of a town boom following WWII.

I remember Christmas programs when we were required to go to the Methodist Church. Afterwards everyone left, leaving my sister Jennefer and I there alone with no ride home. We walked home in the dark, alone, along the dirt road. It was often snowing. The wind was bitter. I kept watching the lights in our farmhouse burning.

When I was in High School, we drove to Wichita and began attending the Unity Church, rather than the Methodist. It was a church where we were welcomed and valued. It was spiritual and sought God through meditation and prayer. Its fundamentals were that our bodies are temples of god and we should use healthy food choices. Many members were pacifists and vegetarians. Also members believe in reincarnation; a kind of rebirth that requires us to make peace or pray for our enemies. There are no real deaths, just passing to another, higher, richer life with god. We are measured by our own faiths.

I was baptized on a Palm Sunday, not with water, but with prayer after completing courses in the Unity beliefs. Alan and I were married in the Unity Church.

When we moved to Mount Prospect, we began attending the Christian Church of Arlington Heights. Alan’s faith history is strongly Disciple. The Rev. William Robertson was pastor and asked about my baptism. I told him it was not with water, but with prayers from the Unity congregation, he said that would satisfy requirements to join a Disciples church.

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September 11 Remembered – Written for the September 11, 2010 – Village of Mount Prospect Ceremony ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Ten Years — by Irvana K. Wilks —

Ten years of mourning the dead.  Ten years remembering the living.  Ten years yearning to understand.  Ten years of scars upon our land.

Ten years sifting bones from ash.  Ten years of reading names at the towers.  At the Pentagon.  In a Pennsylvania field.  Ten years of scars upon our hearts.

Ten years defining our enemies.  Ten years of camouflage and desert boots.  Ten years of sons and daughters fighting an amorphous, but necessary war.

Ten years returning heroes.  Ten years of caskets.  Ten years of winning.  Ten years of weeping.

Ten years of rabbis and ministers prayers.  Ten years of veterans who bring the flag.  Ten years of airline attendants and pilots grieving the loss of their innocence.

Ten years of white-gloved firemen ringing a bell for the brave who fell.  Ten years of policemen standing as a bagpiper plays “Amazing Grace”.

Ten years of Presidential proclamations.  Ten years of mayor’s meager words.  Ten years as writers and photographers record our progress of healing.

Ten years of rebuilding the towers.  Ten years of sifting through ashes of fear.  We seek that fragment of courage, forged in fire and left by God for us to find. 

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Mount Prospect Veterans bring flags to open 9/11 ceremony –

Since the 9/11 Terror Attack the Village of Mount Prospect has held a ceremony to remember the fallen.  Upon learning of the attack in 2001, Mount Prospect gathered for a candlelight prayer service at the Memorial Band Shell.  In subsequent years commemorations were held with Fire Fighters, Police, clergy, elected officials and citizens coming together for fire-fighter-bell ringing at the times the towers fell.

Some Ceremonies where held inside as those pictured below in the downtown Fire Station –

Downtown Fire Station hosted Bell Ringing service


As Mayor, I thanked those serving as firemen and police
Deputy Chief Robert Rzepecki speaks


Fire Chief Mike Figola made remarks

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August 2020 post — For worship we and many in our country use zoom tech to have church and check on each other.  Rev. Allison Lundblad juggles the technology to allow all of us to participate.  Go to CCAH.ORG where the worship services are posted.

We have been asked to tell our wilderness stories about our faith.  I was asked to share my faith journey which included my family and churches and how I joined Christian Church of Arlington Heights with Rev. William Robertson as pastor.  

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July Post – We are lucky not to have leaders like the French had for their revolution.  France celebrate Bastille Day – July 14 — Storming the Bastille prison signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.  The dates, July 14, 15, 16 of 1789 signify a turn away from the opulence of the Versailles, a Chateau built of gold and mirrors.  Marie-Antoinette was brought from Vienna to marry a man who would become King Louis XVI.  Marie-Antoinette’s extravagant dress and parties soured the French people against her.

Farewell My Queen – Chantal Thomas

“Farewell, My Queen” by Chantal Thomas tells the story of the last days of French royalty at Versailles. The narrator was a young woman named by Marie-Antoinette to be her “reader”.

The Queen’s reader, Madme Agathe-Sidonic Laborde wrote the story years later from her apartment in Vienna. She lives with other French emigrants.  The account in Versailles takes place on July 14 & 15, 1789. Those days begin a violent, bloody French Revolution.

Both Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI were tried and then beheaded in 1793 in Paris.

To quell the bloodshed, the masses allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to wage wars, to pillage Europe and to name himself Emperor for life.

We in the United States had George Washington and early revolutionaries to set our destiny.  Ours is a Representative Democracy which allows anyone to run for any office.  France has a Parliamentary government which changes leaders with each election.

At Britannica is a history of Bastille Day —

Versailles – next to Sévres speaks to France’s rich history

With Sévres, a suburb of Paris as a Sister City, we toured Versailles each visit- 

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July 4, 2020 Post — Happy July 4th – Wilks flag is flying – July 4th events have been cancelled. We now must recall past Mount Prospect July 4th parades, Lion’s festivals, individual celebrations at homes.  Alan cooked for the Lions breakfast, then came home to get ready to be in the parade.  We ate and worked at the Festival at Melas Park. Photos remind us of fun we had. They help us be patriotic. Below are some.

Mayor Wilks and daughter, Jolin Wilks McElroy
Irvana rides in convertible with Niece Kirsten Cochran, Alan Wilks and driver Fred Steinmiller
Family came to join – Larry Wilks Omaha brother-in-law rides with Alan and me

Fireworks photos taken by Alan Wilks –

June 2020 Post — Constitutional Powers & Arresting People Who Assemble – The Bill of Rights gives those of us living in the United States ten basic freedoms.  Ten amendments were added to the Constitution before being ratified by all of the States in the Union.

Bill of RightsAmendment 1 pertains to several freedoms:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of press; or of the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  (See Britannica for other freedoms)

April 2020 Posts — Holy Week Post – We live in historic times.  Our nation has not stayed home from school or not gone to church during Holy Week. Christian Church of Arlington Heights wall gives hope. Mankind survived plagues, famines but now have stay at home pleas.

We joined millions of Christians worshiping on the Internet alone or as couples during this pandemic. We wish to hug but are discouraged. We did individual preparation for Lenten worship. Below is a prayer for Good Friday.

On Good Friday I wrote a prayer for the World – Dearest Lord – who sees into our hearts – be with those of us saddened and alone whether through depression or isolation.  Send your angels to protect us from mourning those missing from our lives.  Lead us away from anger or giving up.  Lord, send your angels to be with those facing surgery alone, mourning alone, or facing loss of jobs or loss of loved ones. We pray these things – Amen –

Christian Church of Arlington Heights - All Holy Week events by Zoom
You are NOT alone – Words on wall of Christian Church of Arlington Heights
Heading for the Art Institue of Chicago
Tiffany Stained Glass Window – 23 feet tall.

February 2020 Post –  Living in the Chicago area allows us to boast about the amenities we have.  The Art Institute of Chicago, our many museums and libraries encourage us to never stop learning.  The Art Institute announced it will acquire Tiffany’s Stained Glass Window.  Note its bottom quote from Psalm 121, “My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

Not sure of the date of its arrival.

January 2020 Post – As frigid weather descends from the north, we should remove ornaments and light strings and clear away the real tree we bought.  Bringing greenery indoors honors old traditions that celebrates the birth of Jesus and allows us to give gifts.  We will regret not getting the undressed tree to the curb for garbage days.  We will have a pile of snow to scale to get the tree for pick up from our  parkway.

Cards and Envelopes add festive touch –

December 2019 Post – We wait during Advent for the birth of a child.  Christians believe in a Child of Peace who comes to escort us through life.  During Advent the liturgical colors on pulpits and clergy stoles are royal purple.  At Christmas they are white, pure and unmarred.  We busy ourselves with decorating, sending cards and gifts.  We seek the magic of love to transform our lives.

Sugar Maple in the Wilks Back Yard. Sunlight beneath it feels like being trapped in amber. Photo by Mike Zarnek

October 2019 PostWelcome Autumn – I married a man who loves autumn. Because of Alan’s love of fall, I also see this season’s special beauty. Fall inspires stories and poems. The novel I’m writing also begins in the Fall of the year.

September 2019 Post — Waiting to be attacked by a turtle.  We just spent time in Bonita Springs, Florida, at our condo on the Gulf Coast.  Hurricane Dorian churned up the east coast and really hit the Bahamas.  Those with coastal properties were ordered to evacuate if in danger.  We delay our leaving if we think we might have trouble getting gas or lodging.  Once we were being chased by Hurricane Irma when the Governor declared an all-Florida evacuation.  The bazaar ordeal meant we were on one of two main highways traveling with other families in rental cars.  Every rest area had cars parked outside it waiting to pull in.  We travelled for 40 hours until we found hotel space in Tennessee.   Only things open were McDonald restaurants.  This time we got water and snacks to wait for the storm to pass.  A Florida Friend has a saying — waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.

August 2019 Post — Every time I sit still I feel I’ve missed doing something important.  Can we just write and read, believing the improvement of our minds is adequate?  If I just sit and think, is my body loitering?

May 2019 Post

Just Mercy is about defending the poor on death row -
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The Church Book Club read “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson. It is a movie that a group from the Christian Church of Arlington Heights attended. What an amazing work!  It is written by an attorney who graduated Harvard Law and became attorney for Legal Defense Fund, defending men, women and children on death row in Georgia and many other states.  Those he wrote about were condemned to death row and none had legal representation until he visited with them in prison.  This was one the best books written about those on Death Row.

A January 31, 2019 Polar Vortex Post — At 23 below zero, wind pounds the house breaking off icicles.  Frost around windows painfully reminds us not to go outside.  We wear silk underwear to survive the chill inside.  All of our windows are covered with blinds to cut down drafts.  We sip hot coffee, warm TV room by lighting gas logs in the fireplace, and  watch favorite movies from our DVD collection.  We record the news to tell us about closures, suspended services and deaths.  We are reminded to stay inside.

December 2018 Post – We Christians waited for the birth of a baby of peace, a lamb of god, to show us love.  I give thanks for all we have – gifts given and received.  We are blessed to live in a nation where we can pursue what makes us happy.

General Post about suicide and drug abuse –

Photo of Kate Spade’s Vase with Gardenia taken by Jolin Wilks McElroy.

I’m praying for the loved ones of those who cannot be saved from self-destruction. 

Suicide or drugs entice their vulnerable minds as solutions to pain.  This photo is of a vase designed by Kate Spade who could no longer create new things and committed suicide.  It is a mystery how some can cope while others cannot.  As a writer I can see how fragile creative minds might be lost if goals are or are not accomplished.  Also there is a dulling of life pain with drug abuse.  I pray for the lost souls and their loved ones.


Summer 2018 post:  What does “HOME” mean to a Christian?  Christian Church of Arlington Heights, with Rev Allison Lundblad asks this as a summer-series question.  We are invited to send pictures and stories of home.  Alan and I submitted this one with our home after a snow storm.

Alan and Irvana Wilks cleared the snow

As an elected official for many years, it was important for Alan and I to work on our own home chores, including clearing snow.  We hired others for tasks we couldn’t do.  In the Chicago area, with a reputation for corruption, the Wilks family prides itself on not having Village employees work for us.

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Spring 2018 posts: 

In Spring of 1968 we lived in Iowa City, Iowa. I was women’s editor for the newspaper there while Alan attended grad school. I was pregnant with our daughter Jolin when Dr. King was assignation on April 4, 1968. It is burned into my memory.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. 

On Sunday, April 8, 2018, in recognition of 50th anniversary of the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian Church of Arlington Heights (Disciples of Christ) held a special MLK Remembrance Worship. 

Worship included special music, a video of civil rights events leading up to Dr. King’s death and reflections by members of the congregation.  Included was a reading of excerpts from an unpublished King address delivered at the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), Dallas, TX, Sunday, September 25, 1966.  As worship ended, we recommitted ourselves to continue the hard but important work for racial equality and justice.

I had attended the University of Kansas, William Allen White School of Journalism, because White was a brave Kansas newspaper editor who worked to abolish slavery.  This year marks White’s 150th birthday with events at the University – KU honors William Allen White.

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As Christians we celebrate Holy Week, beginning Palm Sunday and return to Church on Sunday, wearing our Easter smiles.

La Pietà – Sculpture by Michelangelo in Saint Peter’s, Rome, Italy

When I saw Michelangelo’s La Pietà at the Vatican , I understood salvation.  Mary offers her dead son Jesus in her lap as a sacrifice for us.  Pietà means pity.   Michelangelo sculpted the Pietà from Carrara marble in 1499 for a French cardinal.

The sculpture glows with faith.  Faith of the artist and faith of all of us who see this unforgettably powerful work of art.   Our daughter Jolin and I visited Italy on a birthday trip.  La Pietà speaks to me of salvation across the centuries.

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A Lenten meditation I visit is “He was a Lamb,” by John and Anne Killinger — He was a lamb born in a world of wolves,  and the wolves began to snarl when he was born.  What makes us hate the innocent?  What makes us restless till its heart is torn? A little lamb, a gift from God.  And they hated him for even being born.

During Lent, Rev. Allison Lundblad asked for others to give the Worship Benediction. I volunteered for last Sunday and recited a poem that has become meaningful for me.  It is in “An Inner Journey to Easter, A Lenten Devotional,” by Anne Kathryn Killinger, published by Chalice Press, a Disciple of Christ press.

December 2017 posts:  During Advent I meditateIt is a month of waiting for the Lord of Peace to come as a baby and remake our fractured lives, our worried  world.  I light candles, and ask art and Bible readings to center my thoughts. 

Dove of Peace by LoriAnne Nelson

Some artwork I love was created for Advent Church bulletins by LoriAnne Nelson, an artist and member of Arlington Heights Christian Church.

At a recent Elder’s Meeting, I was asked to provide a meditation.  I spoke about my meditating.  Then we shared a joint meditation which ended in prayer.  Meditating is more than a brief prayer hung out for God.  It is a way of guiding the inner spirit to listen to ourselves and to understand what God wants for us and the people in our lives.

Prepare to Meditate – I light candles and place in safe place.  I may read scripture, a poem, look out of a window.  My mind shifts gears. 

Get comfortable – Sit on a chair, floor, couch or at desk or table.  Sit with legs in comfortable positions.  Place hands in lap or table, or at sides.  It doesn’t matter.

Bow heads or find something to look at – Look at candles or out of the window.  Listen to your breathing, to your hearts, to your worries.  Thoughts and worries wash onto you in torrents.  Let them in – it is your mind assigning value to things you must deal with.  It might be someone from work or a family member who has problems.  Let the faces come.

Take deep breaths – Deep breathing allows us to listen to our bodies, to our lungs, our hearts, our arms, our legs and that act quiets our minds.  It is easy to forget to breathe, but is important.

Meditation is a spiritual practice of listening to our hearts and to God.  God wants the best for us.  To understand our place in the world, we meditate and listen. There are no judgements, just thoughts we speak silently to ourselves.

Practice of mediation –
Listen to your thoughts.  Invite images of God.  Invite the faces of those you care about.

Think of a person you care about.  God loves you.  God loves that person.  God wishes health for that person.  God wishes health for you.  Gods loves health.  God releases us from pain.  God releases that person from pain.  Repeat.  Repeat as many times as you need.

Prayer – Lord we pray for those in trouble and in pain.  We pray as elders of your church.  But God, do not let us neglect our own spiritual health as we serve your church and your people.  Give us a spiritual renewal and live with us as we go about your work. — Amen

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June 11, 2017 marked our 50-Year Wedding Anniversary.  All year we will be joining family to celebrate Alan’s continued work as a chemist and my life as a writer and as Mayor of Mount Prospect.    

Goodbye to Mayor Wilks
Irvana and Alan at party for Irvana Wilk’s retirement as Mayor of Mount Prospect

Alan and I met as students at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.  I got my BS in journalism. Alan graduated in chemistry and continued at the University of Iowa for his PhD.

I worked at newspapers and Alan was hired at a laboratory at UOP in Des Plaines, IL.  We moved to Mount Prospect, following a job, but finding life-long friends. 

We became active in the Christian Church, YMCA, and volunteered for Mount Prospect civic events.  I was first elected as a Village Trustee in 1991 and then as Mayor from 2005 to 2013. 

This Blog allows me to share, but also to ask you what you think.  Use the Comments feature at the end of the blog to tell about your faith and love stories. 

February 2017’s Post – Happy Valentines Day – This is a time before lent arrives to tell our special loves how much they mean to us.   This time 2 years ago, I needed Alan to be mine and he was a champ.

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At Christmas 2016 I wrote…Merry Christmas – Sisters and Brothers in Faith –   Winter is a favorite time of year for Christians.  We love the liturgical seasons in Spring, Summer and Fall.  But winter meets us bundled and ready for Advent and the birth of Jesus.

On September 1, 2016  – I wrote– Fall is for hot coffee and reading on rainy days.  From a poet friend, Toni Diol, I learned to keep a journal near for ideas.

Reading Lincoln Biograph

First blogged by Irvana in January 2016 —

As I enter my second half of life, I’m struck by the challenges God has waiting for me.  In my writing or reading, I’m amazed by God’s gifts to me of intellect and discernment. 

Mine are prayers requesting God to make it easier.   But God has his own mysterious plan.  Alan and I are blessed to be good friends, still in love, as we enter this dynamic, unpredictable older years together.  God is journeying with us. 

If you have thoughts on faith, the mystery of love or writing please let me know.