Thursday, November 29, 2012


This picture was taken in 1933. That’s me on the right, age 1 yr, and to my left is my sister Peg … born just 14 months earlier. It’s interesting to realize that our facial expressions never changed much over the years. Peg was always a little dubious and cautious and I was the one who charged ahead and wondered why things weren’t going my way !

When it was time to go to school Peg went to Kindergarten and then to a sort of “trial” class called “transition” before 1st grade. It was cancelled before I started school and, of course, that meant that Peg and I ended up in the same grade … and that’s how it was for the rest of our lives … like twins we were side by side in everything. To say that Peg and I were close is an understatement.

I actually introduced her to the wonderful man who has been her husband for more than 50 years and it‘s been a joy to watch their family grow. Peg was extremely generous and loving but she never took credit for any of it. Even during these past difficult years she kept her humility and her low-key sense of humor.

Peg will always be the big sister that taught me what it means to love. I will miss her more than words can convey.

PEG……December 28, 1931 ……November 28, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

No “Twinkies” for Lizette … 1965

In 1965 I was living in Dutchess County, New York, approx. 85 miles north of NY City. My husband and I ran a “Mom and Pop” real estate agency out of our house … the type that couldn’t exist in today’s high tech and competitive world.

One of our customers was a very attractive lady named Lizette. She and her husband were determined to leave city life behind them and they bought a secluded farmhouse with many acres set far back off a dirt road. This by no means meant they were monastic and their “hideaway” soon became known at the IN spot for social events.

My husband and I were frequent visitors, as were our children. Lizette was an excellent cook and took pride in the quality and freshness of her food … greens and veggies picked daily from her garden, eggs from her chickens and beef & pork from neighboring farms. So it was a bit of a shock when we entered the kitchen one day to find a small bag of “Twinkies” thumb-tacked to the bulletin board.

My immediate thought was that it might be displayed there as a sort of prize for one of the children; but, when I questioned Lizette she declared, in no uncertain terms, that she would never feed a “Twinkie” to her family.

“I did this to prove a point,” she said. “Look at how soft and appealing these little goodies are, but what about all the preservatives that have been added to make them that way. I bet I could leave this package up here for a year or more and they’d still be the same” … and that’s exactly what she did.

The last time I was in that kitchen was 4 years later in 1969 and the same “Twinkie” was still on display … still soft and appealing ! Here are the 37 ingredients that make it that way …

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

…and here is a copy of a vintage ad assuring us of “Twinkies” freshness ...

 … kind of tugs at your heart strings, doesn’t it???

Thursday, November 22, 2012



The best $25 I ever invested !

KIVA is the ultimate in micro-financing and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. In 2009 I chose my first entrepreneur…
… A loan of $300 helped Saroeun and her husband from Cambodia purchase materials for weaving and growing rice. Twelve of us loaned $25 each and their request was met ! As simple as that transaction was for me it was far from simple for them. It was the helping hand that the regular banking institutions would not consider. But KIVA did and it completely changed their life

As soon as they re-paid the loan I had the option of getting my money back or reinvesting. Of course I chose the latter and I’m thrilled to say that, as of last night, I now have a total of 40 successful loan transactions… forty individuals who have been given a hand up ... not a handout !

I’ve written about KIVA before but I thought I would bring it up again during this holiday season as a reminder that it makes a great gift !!

To show how far reaching it can be, here is a list of the countries where I’ve made loans:

                 Sierra Leone…Iraq…Vietnam…Kenya…Ecuador…Lebanon…Tanzania
                 Phillipines…Honduras…El Salvador…Colombia…Guatemala…Uganda

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Who needs a trip to New England …

…to view the Fall scenery? All I had to do was open my front door!

Our Fall has not been particularly outstanding this year and I was wondering where all the color was. A few of my friends went to the Western part of our State and they reported that it was as glorious as ever there, but not here.

It never fails to amaze me how I can get so accustomed to my surroundings that I hardly see them and that’s exactly what happened to me a week ago Tuesday. As I drove into my driveway I noticed how many leaves were on my front porch and I figured I’d use the leaf blower to clean it up after I put up the groceries

About 15 minutes later I opened my front door to do just that and was almost bowled over by the glorious sight that you see in the picture. It is the tree in my neighbors yard directly across the street from me. The light of the sun seemed to touch every leaf and the tree was aglow with color.

I must have caught it at just the right time because by the next day it had already lost its luster. It was becoming, once again, the “ordinary” tree that’s been there for years and that I‘ve hardly ever noticed.

It makes me wonder how many other “miracles” I’ve missed !

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Friggatriskaidekaphobic …… NOT ME !!

Just for the fun of it I looked up the actual day of my birth, February 15, 1933 and it turned out to be a Wednesday. So, according to the old nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child” that means I came into this world “full of woe”. Now, I ask you, does this look like a woeful child to you?

So there goes that theory ! Superstitions are just a bunch of hooey… including that most famous one of all, fear of Friday the 13th , also known as Friggatriskaidekaphobia. (Wow, the name alone is enough to scare a person!)

But, wait a minute … what about my fear of the 22nd day of any month? For years and years I have refused to travel on that date and will actually plan trips to make sure I will be off the road then. It started when my father died on Feb. 22, 1960. I didn’t realize it then but over the years the amount of unfortunate happenings on that date started to add up …some of them actually traumatic. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on Nov. 22nd, 1963, a few years later a young friend was killed in an auto accident on May 22 and it was no surprise to me at all when my husband died on September 22nd 1990.

I guess what it boils down to is that no matter how much I’d like to be above the fray I have to admit that I’m just as superstitious as the next guy. Whether good or bad superstitions seem to have a significant power over us and I guess it’s better to give in to that than to fight it.

A few days ago a “black cat crossed my path” just before I “walked under a ladder” but I wasn’t worried. I‘d “crossed my fingers” AND “knocked on wood” before I left the house …

…it never hurts to take a few precautions !

Saturday, November 10, 2012

“The times … they are a-changin”

It’s been almost 50 years since Bob Dylan wrote that song. I hope he was watching TV on Tues. night and wonder if he was singing along …

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin. “

Yes, there is no doubt that America is changing and I, for one, find it very exciting. I love the diversity and, rather than fear the changes, I welcome them.

I was surprised to have tears well up in my eyes on election night as I watched the amazing mass of humanity that had gathered to honor the man who they (and I) had elected.   It was like watching a living embodiment of the NEW AMERICA and I found it incredibly touching.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


In 1951 I was in my freshman year at Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey. I was lucky enough to have received a scholarship so tuition was paid but I still needed “spending” money.

I secured a part-time waitress job in the local “greasy spoon”. It was mainly frequented by students so you can imagine how sparse the tips were...but, I loved the ambience. It was a great place to meet the athletes and the upper-class guys and the music played non-stop from the Juke Box.

I was pretty frugal and I did save what little money I could, but it was becoming apparent that I’d need another job if I ever wanted to get ahead. It was at this point that I met a wonderful “older” student named Larry who was in college with the aid of the GI Bill. He ate most of his meals where I worked and he and I became friends.

He was a fairly sloppy dresser, as most of the returning GI’s were, but he took great pride in his colorful Argyle socks. We used to kid him about them, especially when he told us that they were hand-made by his mother. But, he didn’t care. He loved them and showed them off whenever he had the chance.

Now, Larry was very popular and I noticed that a bunch of the guys were eyeing those socks and one even had the nerve to ask him if his mother would knit a pair for him. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head. I could knit those socks ! I had done a lot of knitting in High School and all I needed was the wool and the needles. I talked it over with Larry and he was happy to be my agent. We decided on a price ($6 a pair being my portion) and before I knew it I had orders for over 10 pairs of socks. I used my meager savings to buy the materials and I was off and running.

This really turned into a very lucrative little business for me and I had Larry to thank for that. We never actually dated but he did tell his mother about me and when she came to visit we all went out for dinner. She wanted to meet and exchange patterns with the girl of the “Argyle Socks Caper”, as her son had so aptly named it.

Two years later I transferred to Boston University and had to give up my business. No one was the least bit interested in argyle socks … I should have persuaded Larry to transfer with me !!

Friday, November 02, 2012

No artificial flowers allowed …

Driving home today I noticed a new sign on a local cemetery that states “no artificial flowers”. It struck a sour note with me and I couldn‘t help but ponder on it.

Look at the two floral pictures above. Which would you like to have flanking your loved ones grave ? The beautiful white rose is made of silk whereas the dead and drooping arrangement is the real thing. It sounds like they are implying that the artificial flowers are less than classy (and, by implication, so are the people who put them there), but is that always the case?

In 2001 I was fortunate to have spent a day in the seacoast town of Portovenere, Italy. It was there that I saw this amazing columbarium and I spent a long time studying the tributes and photos left there by family members. Artificial flowers were part and parcel of the picture and it was enchanting.


I am probably making too much of this little sign but it seems to me to be a perfect example of how our society tries to mold us to their own way of thinking and it’s a not-so-subtle attempt to cut us off from those who differ from us. It’s also a great way to stamp out creativity.

Of course the cemetery owners have every right to make their own rules . I just think, rather than posting a sign that reads “no artificial flowers”, it would be much less offensive to merely tell their customers that all flowers will fade at some point and, artificial or real, when they become unsightly they will be removed.