Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I couldn’t believe it when I read recently that very few teenagers today have any idea of what the Holocaust was, much less the significance of it. I immediately thought of my friend Amy, a 93 year old survivor of that horrendous time during World War II. 

My husband and I met Amy and her husband Herbert in the late 1960’s and we became fast friends. She was from France and I believe he was from Germany. Herbert became a father figure to my husband who had lost his dad when he was just a child.

Amy and I are both widows now but we still have a very close relationship. It was back in 2006 when Amy opened up and confided that a woman editor had approached her to write down her remembrances of the war years.  She was very agitated as she told me this and the only thing I could think to ask was if it was cathartic. She answered with a very strong “NO, and it is tearing me up inside...but it must be done. Pretty soon there will be no one left to record the facts and it’s critical that we don’t forget.”

One of the memories that she shared with me that day was seeing a busload of Jewish women packed in like sardines with Nazi Guards.  It was obvious that they were being deported to a camp.  The bus was stopped behind heavy traffic and evidently one of the guards allowed them to open the windows to let in some air. As Amy and a group of nuns looked on a girl suddenly flung her small infant out the window.  One of the nuns caught the child and  before the Nazi could see what had happened the baby was gone from sight.

Of course she was crying by the time she’d finished her tale and the only response I had was to cry with her. Can thing’s like this happen again? You bet they can and I think it’s critical that our young people are made aware of this.




Friday, October 25, 2013

“Maya’s Notebook”

Maya’s Notebook” is Isabel Allende’s latest book, published in 2013, and I found it to be a great read. It has her trademark convoluted plot but this novel is placed in the present day which was not the case with the other two books that I’ve read by her….namely “Daughter of Fortune” set in 1840, and “Zorro” 1790 to 1840.

Maya is a 19 year old American girl who has been raised in Berkeley, Calif. by her grandparents who she adores. They are Nini, her grandmother, who emigrated from Chile in 1973 and Popo, her grandfather. He is an African-American astronomer and professor and is the gentle and loving man who guides and sets the tone for the family until his death by cancer when Maya is in her teens.

Popo’s death completely devastates Maya and she turns to drugs and alcohol to try to block out her pain. Of course this does just the opposite and we follow Maya on her downward spiral. Her ventures land her finally in the underworld of Las Vegas where she gets mixed up with assassins, the police and even the FBI and Interpol.

Maya is on death’s doorstep until she is saved by Nini, her formidable grandmother who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. It is there that Maya records her story in real time and in flashbacks.

I found it difficult to put “Maya’s Notebook” down and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the journey as Maya went in search of that age-old quest … the meaning of life.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Meet my friend Lisa…

No, this isn’t Lisa … but she did take this sweet picture. She and her husband Glen are residing for the next year in the town of Pinghu, China. They are teaching at St. Mary’s, an international school that is housed within the grounds of the Pinghu high school. Their living accommodations are on the campus and they were happy to find them quite adequate…a modern bathroom and a washing machine making up for the lack of a stove or oven !

Lisa and I became friends about 7 years ago. She is a nurse (as well as a teacher) and was working at the Free Care Clinic where I volunteer. We found that we had many things in common… from our taste in books to politics and, despite the fact that she no longer lives near me, we have kept our friendship alive.

She recently sent me some pictures that I thought I would share with you…starting with these silly painted faces on display at the Mid-Autumn Watermelon Festival…

Somehow I never imagined watermelons in China, much less holding a festival for them. I would have expected something more exotic, such as elaborately decorated gourds.

However, the following pictures that Lisa sent seem to portray the China that I envision…

Lisa’s letters are full of fascinating observations of her ventures in China. I’ll share them with you in later blog entries but I thought her pictures would serve as an introduction for now.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Amazing? … I’d say INCREDIBLE

It is said that the hymn “Amazing Grace” has been rendered in more musical variations than any other song. You might hear the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin belt it out as true gospel and then turn the station only to hear the same melody being plucked on a guitar.

I have a friend who plays a lovely rendition of the tune on his home made American Indian flute and he is often asked to play at funerals. I even read where one person actually searched iTunes and said he’d found nearly 10,000 versions of the song. Talk about amazing …

But, (as in “fact is stranger than fiction”), the following has to take the cake !   I recently read that Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla), whose turn it was to choose a prayer at this past Tuesday’s Republican caucus meeting, chose instead to have them all sing “Amazing Grace”.

I kid you not .

The House Republicans who were interviewed after the meeting seemed quite pleased with their singing abilities and especially that they were able to sing all three verses without having the words to follow. “Isn’t that impressive?” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) was quoted as saying.

Impressive ???   I’d say the better word is INCREDIBLE !

Sunday, October 13, 2013

“Only grownup in the room ….”

I saw this woman interviewed a few nights ago and I loved what she had to say. She is the oldest full-time ranger in the National Park Service. She is 92 year old Betty Reid Soskin and she’s been furloughed due to the government shutdown.

Sitting at home is not something that she enjoys. She’d much rather be at her 5 day a week job. She is a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park in Richmond, California, giving tours for 3 days and working in the Administrative Office for the other two. She told the interviewer that she is confused and angered at all the silliness going on in Washington, DC. It makes her feel like she’s “the only grownup in the room.”

Rosie the Riveter was the name attached to the women who took on factory jobs that had originally been handled by the men who were off fighting World War II . Ms. Soskin was not a “Rosie”, per se, but she is from that era and she remembers first-hand what it was like back in the 40’s. Her tour guide talks are enhanced with her historic memories.

After watching the interview I did a little research on her and was surprised and pleased to see that she has a blog ( I can’t think of a better way to end this blog entry of mine than with these words of hers, posted Oct. 1st…just after she learned that she was furloughed.

“Guess this is the prelude to retirement, maybe?

But I want to have my career end on my own terms and not at the whim of others. Could that be what they're doing in Washington, just "whim-ming"? I know that isn't a word, but maybe in this case it might explain a situation that defies logic or even common sense.

What ever happened to common sense, anyway?”

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Can you Bank on this ?

I had an annoying thing happen recently. I was out of town and realized that I had left home with practically no money on me. Of course I had my credit card but I needed to park in a large lot where I had my business to attend to and I wasn’t sure they would accept plastic. Oh, well, I thought, I’ll just stop in to this friendly looking bank and ask if they will cash a check for $10.

I entered the bank and was impressed by the posh setting but surprised to see that they had only one young teller and not a single customer. I approached and told him about my dilemma. He was very sympathetic but “could do nothing since I did not have an account there”. I asked to speak to the manager and finally an elderly man, dressed to the “T’s”, ushered me into his office and patiently explained that my request couldn’t possibly be addressed since it would be against company policy. “It’s just $10”, I argued in a voice that was none too pleasant but this fell on deaf ears as he led me to the front door.

I eventually found a SECU, which is a credit union where I do all my banking, so I resolved the situation. However, it got me to thinking.

My County is glutted with banks. We have the usual ones, such as Bank of America, Fidelity, First Bank, etc. but we also have those that seem to have sprouted up on every available corner. Here are the names of the six that I passed today: Four Oaks, Community One, Crescent State, First Capital, Sun Trust and Woodforest. The thing that caught my attention was that there were virtually no cars in their lots and I’ve never seen any there…i.e., no customers.

How do these banks exist? Are they a front for something? Any other business would go bankrupt if they had no customers. I guess that whatever they do must be legal but it certainly seems to “smell wrong” to me. I get the feeling that this is just another example of big money running the show. I realize that I am a novice when it comes to banking and would love to hear if you have had any misgivings about the same thing and do you have any answers for me?




Saturday, October 05, 2013

Drive-in movies …

How many of you remember those days? I guess there are some outdoor theaters still in existence but I doubt if they have the same appeal that they used to.
My husband and our three children moved to a very rural area of New York state in 1962 and one of our favorite things was to take the whole family and head for the drive-in.

This may not have been the best way to watch a movie. The speakers that you placed in the window of your vehicle were anything but high tech. The driver could probably understand what was being said but that wasn’t always the case for the rest of the people in the car. It made little difference to our children, however, because their favorite way to watch the movie was lying on their tummies on the top of our old station wagon.

The movie couldn’t start until well after dark and in the summertime this could be as late as 9 o’clock. We wouldn’t want to get there too late because all the good spots would be taken so we’d take a picnic supper and, if the kids behaved, they could have a treat from the snack bar as dessert.

I’ll never forget the night that we all went to see the movie “Patton” starring George C. Scott. I think it was in the early 70‘s. As usual the kids were on top of the car and my husband and I were seated inside and thoroughly engrossed in the movie. We were at the point in the movie where General Patton reams out a soldier who is complaining of his nerves and how he can’t take the shelling anymore. Patton is calling him a “God-damned coward” and it’s just about then that we hear some moaning and crying overhead. The boys jump off the roof and tell us that our daughter is grabbing her stomach and “looking white as a sheet”.

One look at her and we knew that she was terribly sick and we turned on our lights and headed out …amid cat calls and boos from the cars that we had to maneuver around. To make a long story short we made it to the closest ER and she was diagnosed with acute appendicitis and rushed to surgery.

We never did see the end of the movie and I finally rented it on Netflix about two years ago. I enjoyed it immensely but watching it in the comfort of my living room couldn’t compare to the ambience and fun of the old drive-in !

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Still puzzled …

My last blog entry was about the missing puzzle piece and how pleased I was to find it. I thought it was a pretty lame story and was actually surprised that I got 8 comments. However, it was interesting to note that 7 of them were from females and how they totally related to my story.

My one male comment was from Philip in Canada and he told me how much he loved putting puzzles together and then he said …“I have a big one framed on my wall. My dear older friend Délima and I did it together. When she died her daughter brought it by and said she wanted me to have it. I enjoy having it on my computer room wall to remind me of my interesting friend who I shared many hours with doing a puzzle and talking about her life on a farm and working as a cook in a logging camp.”  (here is the picture...)


Isn’t that wonderful? It reminded me of when I was a child. I was the youngest of 5 girls and we lived in a big, old house that had lots of room for puzzles and we would often have two going at one time. I think now of all the conversations that ensued while working on those puzzles. They would range from dating advice to a choice of College. To this day I find it easier to have a heart to heart talk while sharing a puzzle than just plain sitting in front of someone.

And I can’t finalize this memory without telling on my middle sister Nancy who was always the trickster of the family. She didn’t care for puzzles like the rest of us did. However, one of her favorite capers was to take just one puzzle piece and hide it somewhere in the room. She knew it would drive us crazy and it did. Time and time again we would think we were about to finish the puzzle…only to find a piece missing. Of course we were sure there was one person who could solve that mystery and I can hear it like it was yesterday. “N AAAAAANCY, get in here or ….(a threat, whatever would get to her most that week)”