Standout Story

Keynote Speaker
Danny Szeremet

1. Mirror - If you... are

2. Grandma's Kitchen - My first INTERRUPTION

3. Front Seat - Every other Saturday

5. Holton Bridge - Occassionally Dad would send

4. Kagel - We were "Free Range"

5. 28th Street Kitchen - My brother and I, plus...

6. 44th Street Kitchen - When Mom would pick...

7. Adam's Hall - Thirteen must have been...

8. Front Door - As I approached my 14th...

9. Mom Diner - Grandma encouraged me to...

10. Face - You see in the face of difficult...

11. Heart - Your Love can only be Interrupted...

12. North Star - Now it's up to me.

Daniel Szeremet

Grandma Story Outline



Hi Everyone

- I am Happy to be here today

- Hope you are all doing well

- And Progressing  with your projects


- Thank you for hosting this event

- Providing guidance and advice

I applaud you all for being here and for your commitment to…

- Self improvement and personal growth

- For sharing YOUR story

- Supporting others as they share THEIR story


If you are… like me

You may have noticed... life has disruptions.

- It's crazy how disruptive disruptions can be!

- There's a lot going on right now.

- “Disruption” doesn’t sound good.

- So as I share my story, I will use the word “Interruption” instead.


My first “interruption” occurred when I was born.

-  My mother was in a mental institution

-  My father was not capable of taking care of a newborn.

-  Dad was already raising my 3 year old brother 

-  My 2 years old sister was with another family

So Dad brought me straight from the hospital.

- 4 days old,

- To Grandma and Grandpa

They were not my biological grandparents

- They knew my Dad when he was growing up

- They took me into their home on North Avenue

They were already caring for their own Grandson. 
So I had a ready made family.

-        A brother, 4 years older

-        Hand-me-downs

-        And “Grandma”, my first star

Grandma was Scotch-Irish

-        About 5 feet 4 inches tall

-        A Simple, humble woman

-        Raised on a Wisconsin farm.

She married Grandpa, they moved to Milwaukee.

-        Grandpa worked at Schlitz brewery

-        During World War II, Grandma did too.

-        She also raised her children

-        Then her grandson

-        Then me

- I like to think Grandma was so happy with me, she took in foster children afterwards

- She said I was smart, 
   according to my 1st Grade Teacher

- She said I was good. 
  And I agreed!

- She said I was special
  I was grateful for her belief in me.

Every other Saturday, we would go “Up North”

- To get eggs from the farm.

- And to visit Grandma and Grandpa's family and relatives living in the farmland and villages North of Milwaukee.

On our way up, I often sat in the front bench seat of the car, between Grandma and Grandpa.

- Inevitably Grandma would reach into her purse and pull out a handkerchief.

- Then she'd wet that handkerchief with her tongue

- Then she would use that wet handkerchief to clean out my ears.

- Grandma said my ears were so dirty that I could grow potatoes in there.

- As a 6 year old, I pictured potatoes growing in my ears.

This was one of many memories of a special person who raised me and cared for me.

Maybe YOUR fondest memories are with YOUR Grandma, or YOUR Grandpa, or YOUR Mom, or YOUR Dad, maybe another relative, or non-relative. 

Perhaps... like me, they were legal guardians, who for me, will always be Grandpa and Grandma.

And Grandma kept the potatoes out my ears!


For two weeks in Summer, Grandma and Grandpa would take their Grandson to Florida

- To visit HIS mother, THEIR daughter.

- I did not go with them, because they did not have parental permission to take me out of the state.

So whenever they traveled to Florida, I stayed up North, with Grandma's sister Aunt Catherine and her husband Uncle Al.

- Grandma told me, that my FATHER could take me out of state, because he WAS my PARENT.

Occasionally Dad WOULD send my brother to pick me up on a Saturday, after brother watched movies at the Boys' Club theater.

- The Boys' Club sounded like fun.

- But you had to be at least 7½ years old to join.

- I couldn’t wait to be 7½ years old.

When I turned 7½ years old, my life was INTERRUPTED.

- The next summer, instead of staying with Aunt Catherine and Uncle Al, I stayed with Dad.

- At the end of that extended visit, I learned I would be living with Dad and brother from then on.

- Because this was my actual family.

- I did wonder: How long before I would see Grandma again?

- I got to join the Boys' Club!

- Dad got to enjoy the child care benefits provided by the Club's activities.

- Dad drove cab 6 days a week.

- So on Saturdays, brother and I rode city buses across town to watch black and white movies on the Big Screen. We watch movie classics like:

Earth Versus Flying Saucers


Abbott and Costello MEET Frankenstein.

- Dad had an uncanny resemblance to Costello.

Dad also had the only key to the house.

- Which meant, after school we had to wait anywhere between 1 and 2 hours for Dad to let us in.

- Meanwhile, we kicked around the neighborhood. 

- I searched for playground equipment, park swings, and climbable trees.

- We were "Free Range"

- And that "Range" got mighty cold during Wisconsin Winters.

- I am not saying we walked to school through 4 feet  of snow, uphill both ways. 

(Those of us raised in the Midwest, and regions North, have probably heard that story as a child.)

- Our snow fall was about 2 feet deep.
- I was about 4 feet tall in 3rd Grade.

In subfreezing temperatures, we trudged against blustery winds that froze our exposed faces and every extremity.

- All the while, our faces were being blasted with the kind of snow that is heavily saturated with water, the kind that hits harder, feels colder, and stings more, very close to becoming hale.

- In any instant, a strong sudden wind gusts would abruptly steal the breath from my 8 year old lungs.

- We walked beyond the school, 
- beyond the city park,
- all the way to the public library 
- to seek shelter during inclement weather

Typically we would have more than an HOUR to browse the library.

- But that trek was so difficult and so slow, we had only 7 minutes to slightly warm, before we needed to head back.

- We still got home late and Dad was not happy.

- In the next blizzard, we planned to hang inside stores on 16th Street.

- The "No Loitering" signs were not going to stop us from warming up... until we get chased out. Then on to the next store.

- However, a new store sign appeared. THAT SIGN stopped us cold in our tracks.

- The sign said: "Closed Due to Blizzard"

Living with Dad was difficult compared to living with Grandma.

- Grandma provided a home, warm and open.

- Dad left us shivering in the cold, literally.

- Life was easier with Grandma. I yearned to return.

When I complained to Dad about being stuck in the cold, he put me to work selling door-to-door. 

- "That should keep you busy." Dad told me.

- We were freezing out there, and Dad's solution    was to add work.

- Selling door-to-door in Wisconsin Winters, did NOT make me any warmer, but it DID keep me busy.

I sold greeting cards, various candies, flower seeds, garden seeds from Winter to early Summer.

My efforts paid off. 

- I earned 2 weeks of summer camp

- And learned that work yields rewards

I also learned life is an adventure.

- Since Dad COULD take us out of state, we rode the Greyhound Bus to Illinois, to visit the horse tracks, when Dad got a tip.

- In our neighborhood, there were four taverns within a half block of our home. We knew every one, inside and out.

- With Dad, we planned and accomplished a 3 mile hike to Jackson Park, to see Swans swimming in the park's lagoon. We even enjoyed BBQing on the park grill.
One morning, we discovered Dad lying on the couch, His were eyes glazed, he was not speaking.

- We called for help

- An ambulance took Dad away.

- I asked if Dad would be home by night time. No one had an answer.

- Maybe tomorrow? 

- Maybe the next day? 

- Days later, Dad died.

At Dad's funeral, I felt numb. 

- I wished I could bring him back.

- Grandma showed up all 4 days of Dad's wake and burial. This meant everything to me.

- I wanted to go home with Grandma. 

- But other plans were being made. 

Life was being INTERRUPTED again.


My brother, and I, plus sister, moved in with an aunt and uncle, half brother to Dad.

In this household:

 - I felt uncomfortable

- Walking on eggshells became the norm

At first, our aunt said she would be giving us an allowance and would expect us to do chores. 

This was fine. I was familiar with chores by then.

However, when the scheduled dates for our allowances came and passed, and nothing was forthcoming, we felt a need to ask.

As the youngest of 3 siblings, I was elected to ask for our promised allowance. 

When I asked, I was pummeled with guilt ridden statements regarding my gratitude, worthiness and value.

My aunt's reply:

 - "You should be grateful to have a roof over your head."

"You could be living in a orphanage, where you HAVE no family and you have to fight for everything."

- "The County isn't giving us enough money for you anyway."

Weeks later, I was again chosen to ask about the allowance.

Her lectures got harsher, more brutal and more personal.

"How dare you ask."

"You should be grateful to have food on the table."

My aunt would insinuate ingratitude on my part. 

At age 9, it would seem, that requesting fulfillment of an agreement was MY flaw.

Allowance never started.

But brow beating lectures like these continued over the slightest provocation.

I was beginning to learn about unfairness, indignation, unworthiness, self doubt.

Fortunately, I remembered Grandma saying, that I was good, that I was smart, and that I was special.

My aunt said I could never return to Grandma.

- Because Grandma was not actual family

- Because Grandma was too old to have foster children.

- Because I had no choice

- I had to be a "certain age" before a judge would even listen to me.

- Not long after, she barred me from seeing Grandma.

My aunt said she could NOT imagine how someone could love a child who was NOT related by blood.

- My aunt was NOT related to us by blood.

  But I knew... Grandma loved me. 


Occasionally, when our Mom would pick us up, our aunt would lecture us on why we should NOT see our Mom.

- “Where was SHE when YOU needed her?” My aunt would press US for a reaction.

Seemed Mom was struggling to see her children with minimal cooperation from our aunt.

Seemed Mom had lost everything. And was herself struggling with life, and coping with alcohol.

I coped by staying away from home.

- Once chores were done, I would disappear until it was time to eat or... time for another chore.

- From this family, I had already absorbed too many fears, uncertainties, prejudices and opinions.

- So I accumulated friends, had a girlfriend, even “adopted” a surrogate family in another neighborhood.

- These were my sources of sanity, acceptance and living better.

At the age of 13, I found myself at greater odds with my aunt.

- She was threatening to INTERRUPT my time with my friends and girlfriend.

- When I objected, I was physically assaulted.

- No worries, I blocked the attempted blows to my head.

- Then I remembered, from all those lectures, I had no choice... until I reached "a certain age".


Thirteen must have been “a certain age”.

I contacted my social worker and requested removal from the household.

- After insistence, and persistence, I landed in the county orphanage.

- Where I felt isolated, abandoned, and lonely.

- I was separated from my brother, my sister, my friends, my girlfriend, family.

- Except this time it was MY choice, MY doing.

- NOW I had NO family.

- This time, “I” INTERRUPTED my life.

But I had NOT interrupted my faith.

- My hope continued

- My prayers continued

- And I had Grandma’s phone number memorized since First Grade.

Once I was able to get a message to Grandma, she placed a request with the County to bring me home.

It felt good to actually be wanted. 


As I approached my 14th Birthday,

-       I returned to North Avenue where Grandma, Grandpa and my original brother lived. I now had younger foster brothers as well.

-        resumed those trips up North and was reacquainted with aunts and uncles and cousins near and far.

    - I caught up with my friends, and girlfriend. And happy to introduce them to Grandma.

    I cherished Grandma. 
I listened to her advice.

- Grandma encouraged me to forgive.

I made peace with my aunt and uncle, and keep in touch with their children, my cousins. 
Sometimes we vacation together.

- Grandma repeatedly encouraged me to visit my mother.

Which I did.

-      Despite her many challenges, Mom DID make it a point to reach out when she could.

    I was there for her sake.

    Over time, I realized this was for both our sakes. 

    Mom was warm, articulate, and giving. 

    Mom shared good advice. I could tell that she cared. I could tell that she loved me.

-       Occasionally, not often she would vent about Dad.

-         I listened to HER side.

-         I asked questions too.

-         I didn't judge.

 Mom's life improved.

-         She stopped drinking.

-        Mom went from a transient homeless/boarding house, status to her own apartment, with a phone.

    After that, we talked 3-4 times a week, at least.

-      I got to know and Love my Mom! 

   What an amazing gift!

-      I even got to know relatives I didn't even know I had, aunts and uncles, and cousins on Mom's side.

All this by following Grandma’s lesson of Love and forgiveness. 

What an amazing gift!

-       There was a time, when it seemed, I had NO family.

Now when I visit home, I am welcomed by 3 families plus relations.


You see, in the face of difficult times and INTERRUPTIONS, there IS ALWAYS HOPE. 


We also have POWER, each one of us.

-         Some people think of power as Physical Strength

-         Some people think of power as Position or Authority.

-         Some people think of power as Money.

-         I think of Power as LOVE.

    Strength, Position, Authority, Money can be INTERRUPTED at any time.

Your Love can ONLY be INTERRUPTED if you allow it. It's YOUR choice.


LOVE is ALWAYS beneficial. It can be applied anytime, anywhere.

- It can be shared as a kind word, a helping hand, a smile.

- It can be felt as goodwill toward your neighbors, friends, co-workers, 

- Even those you don't know, or understand, yet.

Love can even be as BIG as a BIG OLD HUG from Grandma.

(Feel free to give yourself a BIG OLD HUG.)
(It's your decision.)

Love heals.

With the faith of a mustard seed, Love grows.

You can point yourself in the direction of Love anytime... or all the time. It's up to you.

By example, Grandma pointed me towards Love,

- A direction as steady as North.

- Which is the name of the street where we lived - North Ave.

- It was the direction we traveled together - Up North

I use this metaphor, 

- like a compass,

- to check my bearing.

In any situation, I might ask myself the question:

"Am I aligning with Love?"

This has given me a better world.

How does one align with Love? 

In my one hour keynote concert, I share an enlightening story of personal epiphany!

And literally my personal Old Testament and personal New Testament, shared in word and song.

Stay tuned.


As you've heard, Grandma made an INCREDIBLE DIFFERENCE in my life.

So I wrote a Song for Grandma.

What was so INCREDIBLE about Grandma?

I think my song will explain that.

Would you like to hear it? 


Before I sing, I invite you to take a moment to think about WHO that special person is for YOU.

Is it YOUR Grandma or YOUR Grandpa?

Is it YOUR Mom or YOUR Dad?

Maybe it's a relative or non-relative who is special to you.

That special person could even be YOU. You may never know to what extent YOU inspire others.

I feel, the most incredible and inspiring people lead from the heart. 

This song is for someone who led from the heart.

Are you ready to hear it? (Yes)

Ladies and Gentleman: A Song for Grandma - North!

I did NOT have a traditional childhood.

As a foster child, I grew up in 3 different households, 3 different families, with 3 different outlooks.

Depending on the family, I occupied a different position in the children's hierarchy:

I was the youngest in one family. A middle child in another family. And the oldest in a different family.

What I lacked in consistency and continuity in family life, I gained as 3 different perspective of family and life.

I lived in 3 diversely different neighborhoods, a predominantly Black neighborhood, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and a predominantly White neighborhood.

As an interactive child at school, and in my neighborhood, I had multiple perspectives, unique to the times.

Especially in the racially charged atmosphere of the 60's Civil Rights Movement. 

Having experienced 3 different upbringings, I could see by example, what worked and what didn't work.

So when I reached adulthood, I lived happily ever after.


Just kidding... who does that?

It could be said, that one's adulthood is a reflection of one's childhood. That could explain how I managed to screw up my life in multiple ways.

Ages 9 through 13, is referred to as the "Socialization Period", the period of a child's life when they develop socially.

From age 9 through 13, the family that was raising me had less than a positive outlook on people, society, and others of different characteristics or color.

I was associated with my 3rd church, another denomination claiming exclusive rights to salvation. 

So already, I had a 1 in 3 chance of going to Heaven. As a pre-teen, I could only hope to land on the correct path. 


Even though, I had already lived in the neighborhoods referred to as the ghetto, and had friends of color, I wonder, how much fear had crept into me?

And from what source?

With 3 different families, I was exposed to 3 different denominations of Christianity, each claiming the exclusive path to Salvation.

This meant, I had a 1 in 3 chance of Salvation, assuming I landed on the right denomination, and didn't befriend those from another denominations.

Name calling and mocking was prevalent  


Sundays were our days with Dad. 

- Sometimes we had a promise from Dad to take us to the public pool or someplace special, like Jackson Park, where swans swam in the the park's lagoon and they had BBQ grills.

- But we could only go to Jackson Park, if all our chores were done,

- And if we had enough time to walk the 3 miles each way to get to the park and back before supper, that's a Midwest word meaning "dinner".

- That Sunday morning, as usual, Dad sent us off to church, while he slept in.

- So to give ourselves more time, Brother and I opted for an earlier church service to provide more time for our trip to see the swans in Jackson Park.

- A bonus for going to that early morning service was getting the best balcony seat in that church. 

- Then from the best vantage point available, I watched and listened to the most amazing story from a man describing his own epiphany, before I even knew what that word epiphany really meant.

- That afternoon, I was bit by a swan in Jackson Park.

It took me about a second to realize that I should not have handed popcorn to a swan in a park. It took more than 3 seconds for the swan to release my fingers.

And it took more than 3 decades for me to experience an epiphany like that man in church described.

- In my hour long keynote concert, you will hear MY personal story of breakdown and breakthrough. 

- You will hear me describe my epiphany as best as my words can describe such an awakening.

- And you will hear two songs that describe that same story. One written BEFORE epiphany, the other written AFTER. 

- Essentially, these songs represent a personal Old Testament and a personal New Testament.

- It's WHY I am hear speaking to you right now. 

Listen for yourself.

Custom Songwriter
Danny Szeremet

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