Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A visit to the home of poet Carl Sandburg …

A friend and I had the pleasure this past weekend of visiting Connemara Farms, the 246 acre home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where Carl Sandburg and his wife lived from 1945 to the time of his death 22 years later. It is a lovely spot, maintained as a National Historic site, and well worth the visit.

As you can see, the property is far from ornate and reflects the type of life that Sandburg loved… lots of seclusion and a house overflowing with books. It also provided his wife with 30 acres of pastureland that she needed to raise her champion dairy goats who are still in residence.

Carl Sandburg worked from the time that he was a young boy and never had much of a formal education but he had a powerful way with words. So many of his poems reflect his experiences and are first-hand experiences of the struggles between rich and poor, but; my favorites have always been his “handfuls”, as he called them. Here are two of my favorites:


The fog comes on little cat feet./
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches and then moves on.


The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
Choose:     For we meet by one or the other.



Thursday, September 11, 2014




Porky, the penguin and Penny, the porcupine
lived in Pittsburgh, Pa.
where Penny played in the park, picking posies ‘til dark
and Porky peddled the posies by day.

At a penny per posy the profits were cozy
and they put piles of pennies away.
But, the problem arose, and the question it posed, was
“How much?” and “Who?” should get paid?

Should Penny, the porcupine, palm all the profits?
She picked the posies, you see.
Or should Porky, the penguin, pocket the pennies,
for the selling was done by he.

Now Penny, the porc and Porky, the pen,

were a sensible pair, that’s a fact.
So they pondered the matter, amid much pitter patter,
and finally signed a pact,
whereby every last bit of the profits they split,
thus keeping their friendship intact.

(A silly little ditty that I wrote quite a few years ago. I had planned to turn it into an illustrated book for children but that never happened.)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Memories from the 1950‘s

A lot of memories seem to be coming to the fore lately and this is one of them. It will make more sense if I tell you that I was the youngest of 5 girls brought up in a loving but quite reserved household in Massachusetts. I can’t remember one instance of my parents arguing in front of us and when a situation did need to be faced we would approach it with those old New England traits … self restraint and common sense. We certainly never aired out grievances outside of the family unit, that’s for sure !

In 1952 a friend and I went to California on our College break. We got jobs as waitresses and one of our fellow workers was a very vivacious Italian girl named Gina. We became friends and one weekend when we both had a Saturday off she invited me to spend the day with her family.

I had no idea what to expect but it certainly wasn’t the elaborate Italian villa with an ocean view that was Gina‘s home. She introduced me to her family and her grandma insisted that I sit with her at the head of a very large table laden with food. There were maybe 8 of us there to begin with and then other visitors arrived …most of them bearing even more food and many bottles of homemade grappa.

What I thought would be an hour or two at lunch turned into a full day of festivities interspersed with heated arguments. It made me uneasy until Gina’s grandma informed me that it was a commonplace occurrence at Italian gatherings and would soon be over. She was right and the next 3 or 4 times that disagreements cropped up I just watched in amazement as they fizzled out with much laughter, back slapping and lots of loud Italian that I didn‘t understand.

It was 62 years ago that I spent that day with Gina and her family but it feels like it was yesterday. I will never forget the feeling of love and contentment that overshadowed the disagreements and, although I don’t think I changed much, it really made me take a second look at how we staid New Englanders would have handled those situations !

Monday, September 01, 2014

1949 … my one and only foray to the famous FILENE’S BASEMENT …

In 1908 Edward A. Filene came up with a great shopping idea. Instead of simply having a clothing sale every once in awhile (as his famous dad had been doing) why not sell the surplus and overstocked merchandise of the department store on a full time basis? A year later Filene’s “Automatic Bargain Basement” opened it’s doors and it was as overnight success.

I was 16 in 1949 when I made a visit to that famous discount store. I remember the long line of frenetic women waiting for the doors to open and then using all my strength to hold my own against the push of all those bodies. Once inside I elbowed my way to one of the tables and was thrilled to see a peach colored cashmere sweater in my size and at an incredibly good price. I held it high in front of me to inspect for flaws & before I knew it a hand reached out and snatched it from my grasp.

This was not an auspicious beginning so I decided to step back and reconnoiter. I saw that the savvy shoppers had large Filene shopping bags. They would quickly scan a table and shove anything that seemed of interest into the bag. When they had their fill they would retire to the end of the room where large mirrors were hung. Then they would take their time inspecting their choices…keeping everything close and out of reach from the other shoppers.

Soon I had the maneuver down pat and, at the end of the day I’d spent very little and had quite a bit to show for it. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. Even at age 16 I was exhausted and I realized that both my dignity and my body were bruised. To this day, and unlike a lot of my female friends, I have never enjoyed shopping for clothes and I bet it has a lot to do with that first and only trip to Filene’s Basement !

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not Cheap … just thrifty !

As a lot of you know my daughter and her husband have an antique and used furniture business in New York state. I make at least one visit to them yearly and while there I often take some of the older items they have and hand paint them in hopes that it will make them more salable. This kitchen chair is an example…
…it is one of a set of six. The chairs, although solid and comfortable, were an ugly green and badly in need of refurbishing. So, to make a long story short I made up a design and you see the finished product here. I was pleased with the result and liked them enough that I talked my kids into taking them off the for-sale list and bringing them down to me on their next trip South …which happened to be last week.

They really fit well in my kitchen but were lacking cushions so I went on line to see what was available. When I totaled up what it would cost for 6 of them my old New England thriftiness kicked in and I decided I really didn’t want to spend that amount of money for something that I felt I could do myself.

I found an inexpensive piece of material on sale at our local fabric shop and that was all I needed to buy since I already had plenty of filling on hand.

After I finished the cushions I realized that they looked good but were very slippery and I didn’t want that to cause problems so I went in search of some chair grippers. Once again my thrifty side took over when I saw a 4x6 rug gripper and realized that it would make 6 2x2 foot squares and all I would have to do would be to cut off the 4 corners and they would be just the right size for my round cushions.

And it worked perfectly. I sewed them to the back of the cushions and they really do the job. There’s no slippage now and, best of all, with everything included it cost me less than $3 per cushion !!!

I told you I was thrifty…

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 23, 1958 …

56 years ago today I married the sweet man that you see here. We had a lovely wedding in NY City and looked forward to a long and exciting life together. As fate would have it things didn’t turn out quite like we envisioned. Sickness, (Type 1 diabetes) was the culprit and it took over Dick’s life.

In 1978 we moved from NY to North Carolina and in the mid 80’s Dick’s health deteriorated rapidly. He had a hard time sleeping and would often be up very late at night. I was working in the ER of our local hospital then and had to leave the house by 6:30 in the morning so, needless to say, it was hard to communicate.

It was during this time that he started leaving little notes for me, which I found in the morning. They were always accompanied by cartoon-like faces and I saved and framed a few of them in remembrance... along with my favorite picture of him on his horse Thunder.

Dick died at the young age of 59 but we had 32 years together and I will always treasure the words that he wrote: Bless this house for relaxation, recuperation and restoration

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I’m trying …

…or as a friend of mine at work used to say when I told him I was trying … “yes, you are very trying !”

But, all jokes aside, I am trying hard to accept these senior years gracefully but, at the age of 81, I’m finding this is not an easy task. Luckily I do not suffer from depression but I do get discouraged. I also get mad at myself for being caught in that trap so today I decided to do something about it.

I went back and reread what I had written in 2009 about a study on aging. It was conducted by two doctors who had made a five year study of 40 seniors who had arrived at the age of 100. These people were active, mentally alert, living on their own and able to care for themselves. They all came from the United States but were from widely varied economic backgrounds.

The doctors made an extensive documentation of : daily habits, lifestyles, ethnicity, weight, eating preferences, race and genetic backgrounds, as well as spiritual and religious leanings and, at the end of the five years, these two doctors did a comparative study of their findings and came up with some fascinating conclusions. They found that it mattered little what the people ate or if they were prone to exercise…although they did point out that all their participants were moderate in these areas.

The exciting thing about their study is that ALL of the 40 people had four things in common …

1. A sense of humor.
2. A positive outlook on life.
3. The ability to bear loss.
4. A total dedication to something outside of their daily life.

Isn’t that amazing? I can honestly say that I have all of those four attributes…but they do me no good if I don’t use them. This was a good reminder and I vow to get back to practicing them …starting today !