Monday, November 30, 2009

It had been a “so-so” day and then…

…I looked out the window and saw this spectacular sight. I almost forgot where I was as I basked in the glow. My mind knew that it was one of the glorious winter sunsets that we enjoy in our part of the world…but my heart went elsewhere

It brought to mind my dear friend Louie who passed away a few years back. He was a little guy in his mid 70’s and not in very good health but he loved going to AA meetings. We got to be friends and he would laugh about the fact that he had been the “town drunk” when I first moved to this little town in 1978.

I actually remember seeing him sitting on the steps of our Post Office. He would talk up a storm to anyone who gave him the chance. Then I didn’t see him anymore and I remember thinking that he’d probably moved away or become disabled.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into my first AA meeting in my home town in 1989. There sat Louie as sober as a judge but still talking up a storm. He and 4 other men had founded the meeting in 1983 and he had 24 years of sobriety when he died. This became my Home Group and I was the only female there for quite a few years. (Now we have a large group and there are more women than men!!)

But back to the lovely sunset and why it reminded me of Louie. As I said, he loved going to AA meetings and especially to one that was about 40 minutes from our town. It was held on Sunday night and I would pick Louie up at 6 in order to get there on time.

In November and December, unless it was raining, we could always count on a memorable sunset and we got to look forward to them every week. And it never failed that Louie would sigh and say, “The Big Guy in the sky has his paint brush out again”.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I remember so clearly the day in July when I was driving South on Rt 501 into S. Carolina and I suddenly thought it was snowing!

This was in 1980 and it was the first time that I’d seen a field of cotton growing. I’ve since found out that there is a time when bits of the cotton plant are carried by the wind and it does, indeed, seem like a July snowstorm!

I was fascinated enough to stop the car and gather some of the Cotton bolls…hoping that the owner wouldn’t come along and have me arrested for trespassing. The arrangement in the picture is my small attempt at artfully displaying the cotton and, believe it or not, this is the same batch that I collected 19 years ago. It’s been dusted and rearranged a few times but it’s held up amazingly well.

These cotton fields are absolutely gorgeous and I was very sad recently to learn that the Georgia and Alabama cotton growers this year faced a problem that could put them out of business.

The culprit is a plant called Pigweed that, for decades, the farmers have kept under control by spraying their fields with herbicides. Now this no longer works. The weeds seem to have adapted and they are choking more than a million acres of cotton and soybeans.

The plants grow very rapidly and literally choke out the cotton. It seems that the only way to combat this foe is by hand because it’s necessary to dig down and get the roots or else they crop up again… practically overnight.

Once again we see the power of Mother Nature. She fights back against man-made intrusions time and time again. I wonder when we will learn to let her have her way?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Dick and I were married in Manhattan, NY on August 23rd, 1958. This picture was taken shortly thereafter in Central Park. We didn’t have the time nor money for a Honeymoon but the city of New York was our playground.

We loved Central Park. We would sit for hours overlooking the lake, reading, talking about the future and just plain people-watching. If we waited long enough the entire world would pass before us.

Planned concerts were staged weekly and we would enjoy big name bands and personalities for free ! I remember seeing Peter, Paul & Mary, The Mills Brothers and Johnny Mathis, to name just a few. And then there were all the musicians who just practiced for fun. We would often join in when they teamed up for an impromptu songfest.

The Children’s Zoo was one of our favorite spots at Central Park and we would meet there often after our work was over for the day. Watching the children at the Zoo was almost as much fun as watching the animals.

Our favorite animal thing was watching the Penguins and the Sea Lions being fed. They put on a production that was as good as a Broadway show.

I have so many fond memories of that time in my life and to think that most of it didn‘t cost a dime. I honestly can’t remember that we paid for anything except for food. It seems like a dream to me now.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A BLAST from the PAST …

This looks like an old, broken-down real estate sign … and it is; but, it’s a whole lot more than that. It’s actually a trip down memory lane.

On my last trip North to visit my daughter and her husband I was shocked to see this sign in their home. It immediately took me back to the late 1960’s and to the small “Mom and Pop Real Estate Agency” that my husband and I owned then.

When I asked where they had found the sign my daughter said that it was a big shock to her too. She’d found it at a sale where the owner had it high up on an inside shelf of his barn. I believe it was the farm that we’d sold back in the 60’s.

I do know that I was the one who had hand-painted that sign on a white piece of tin all those many years back. (and proudly adhered the “SOLD” portion to it, too !)

Those were the years when it was still possible to have a small, home run Real Estate Agency. We did do some co-brokering but Multiple Listing and the takeover by large, mega financed Agencies was still in the future.

My husband had been a free lance photographer when we met and married in NY City in 1958. He had to give this up due to his Type 1 Diabetes and we’d moved to the country. He still retained his logo though …

The Art Director of Swissair was a good friend of ours and he had designed it. You may notice that it’s actually my husband’s initials in lower case…rd. It had worked especially well for him in the city because it seemed to resemble a camera, but we always liked it and we retained it when he got his Broker’s license.

Now it’s over 40 years later but, thanks to a beat-up old sign, the memories are as fresh as ever.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Recently a friend told me this story and I thought it was worthy of being passed on to all my friends in bloggerland.

She had decided to do a little volunteer work so she signed up to work with the local food bank organization. It was there that she met an old man who appeared to be almost destitute. He’d arrived in a beat up jalopy that must have been 20 years old and his clothes were outdated and worn also.

However this man seemed extremely happy and she overheard him telling some of the others how excited he was to be taking off on an overseas trip in the near future. “How in the world could he afford that?”, wondered my friend.

It wasn’t long before she found herself next to the man and they started a conversation. Kiddingly, my friend asked the man if he’d hit the jackpot or won the lottery. “Oh, no”, said her new friend “I worked hard for everything I have.”

Then he went on to tell her this ... about 5 years ago he had started to volunteer at the Food Bank and it became his job to open up early in the morning. He decided that he would make use of his early rising and he set himself a goal. He mapped out all the drive-through food and beverage places and every morning he drove through them before they opened and COLLECTED THE CHANGE THAT THE CUSTOMERS HAD DROPPED !!

It took him 5 years but the nickels, dimes and quarters piled up and every time that he had a total of $100 he would put it into a special savings account. Then that too started to accumulate and by the time that he spoke to my friend he had over $1,600 saved ... enough to provide him with airfare to visit an old friend who lived in Norway.

Don’t you just love it?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Reunion with AMY …

In the late ‘60’s my husband and I and our three children were living in Dutchess County, NY. We had a small real estate agency and it was through an ad in the NY Times that we had the privilege to meet Amy and her husband Herbert.

Over the years, as we got to know them better, we learned that they had met in a concentration camp during WW II. They were a fascinating couple and we became close friends. My husband came to think of Herbert as his surrogate father.

Now it is over 40 years later and Herbert and my husband have both passed on. Amy is almost 90 but she still remains as bright and vigorous as ever. She speaks many languages, reads better in French than in English and often travels to Holland and Israel.

My daughter, who still lives in the area with her husband, has kept our friendship with Amy on-going. Just last month our oldest son also rekindled the relationship when he helped to remodel her deck.

Amy has an apartment in NY City where she spends most of her weekdays but her country home is her true love. (You can see the lovely view that she has.) Two Sundays ago, while visiting with my children up there, I surprised her with a phone call and a short visit. Both of us were thrilled to get caught up over a cup of coffee and some cookies.

I did notice, however, that there were two very lovely wine glasses on the table and Amy said she wanted to open a special bottle of champagne to toast to our long friendship. I really felt bad when I had to say, “Amy, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve had anything alcoholic and I don’t want to jeopardize that.” To say that she was surprised is an understatement but she took it well and we clinked our coffee cups instead !

I treasure the times that we have together and wouldn’t be surprised if she’s still around when I near 90!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The gift (or I should say LOAN) that keeps on giving …

Here is an update on my KIVA venture.

You may remember that I wrote about this awhile back. KIVA is a service that specializes in micro-financing to deserving entrepreneurs the world over. For a mere $25 I can join with others and make it possible for a person, or a group of persons, to start a small business.

The people represented by KIVA are usually from the poorer countries and the women, in particular, would have a very hard time starting a business in the conventional way. It is interesting to note that the rate of pay-back for these loans is almost 100% ... much higher than that realized by bankers who loan the standard way.

Initially I invested $50. That was the amount that it cost me to loan to a couple in Cambodia and a woman in Peru. Then my children gave me $100 for my birthday with the hope that I would loan to 4 others. I did that and it brought my total to 6 entrepreneurs.

Now, in less than a year, I have loaned to 15 individuals in all and I have been able to do that without investing another dime of my own money! Here’s soon as the people pay back a portion of their loans KIVA credits me with a percentage of it. Every time that it comes to $25 or more I add another name to my list.

I have the option to withdraw the money which means that I could have had my $150 initial investment back if that were my choice ... but I’ve opted to leave it where it is and to watch my list grow. I also have a blank map of the world and I write in the countries where my people live. So far I have two in Tanzania and Lebanon and one in each of these countries...Peru, Paraguay, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Rwanda, Axerbaijan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

I find this to be a very fulfilling venture and hope that a lot of you will check out the KIVA website. I’ll bet you’ll be hooked too !