Storytelling with My Janina Nana

Narrated by me. Videography by Andrew Loewen.

This post is a long-time coming. A year in the making, technically. Much longer if you know who my Nana is to me. To say she is special is a grand understatement. I found I so badly wanted to do this justice – to provide you a proper glimpse. It held me back. So I finally gathered some thoughts and am releasing them here:

Nana is my mom's mother, and her name is Janina Waitzman. She's half Italian, half Polish. And when I think of "joie de vivre," I think of her. I've always known – even as a child – she's an amazing woman. I admire her and aspire to live intentionally and lovingly like she does. To live in wonder.

My Nana worked as an elementary school teacher. But she has always been a storyteller. And she's often reminded me, "Pursue your dreams, Rachel!" She actually drove me to Chicago for my first open-house at Columbia College Chicago in 2007. She wanted me to write and work on the art I loved. I remember taking the Red Line for the first time with her to the South Loop, and we wandered through Grant Park together, dizzingly smitten with Chicago. 

I can't recount the ways her nurturing, thoughtfulness, faith, generosity, deep joy and love of life have spurred me on, but I want to pay a small tribute to this wonderful woman. 

Andrew and I visited her in Cleveland, Ohio – where my mom, aunt, and uncle grew up – last May of 2016. It was a rare weekend where my immediate family could all be together. She cooked for us, recalled our family's history, played piano with my nephew Jonah. Deep gratitude overcomes me when I'm in her home. I'm reminded how blessed we are to know one another. How she knows my heart. She is the keeper of our Waitzman/Morris (maiden name) memories. 

Here's a glimpse into her home, her heart, and the treasures she keeps.