Wednesday, October 28, 2015


In 1950 the Jergens Co. chose neighbors of my grandparents in Brattleboro, Vt. to be the poster family for one of their magazine advertising series. Unfortunately I don’t have the actual ad (the one I show here is similar) but I do have the script.  It was entitled "Four Youngsters to Feed, Daily Housework & Chores on her Vermont Farm", and depicted the faithful and ever dutiful-wife Bertha, husband Herman and four children.

It’s pretty incredible to think that life was actually like this in the ‘50’s … read on and I think you will agree !

Ad #1. (Bertha gazing dreamily into camera). "My secret for pleasing Herman is always to be cheerful and prettied-up when the day is done. I take a shower, put on an attractive dress, fresh makeup and, of course, Jergens lotion in case we might hold hands across the table."

Ad #2. (Bertha with daughter) "Mary and I love to wax & polish and it doesn't bother my hands at all because Jergens lotion keeps them so smooth & soft. Herman says they look as if I were a lady of leisure".

Ad #3. (Bertha washing dishes) "Those hungry wolves of mine make every meal a production, but I don't mind the dishes. Jergens lotion gives my hands a 'never put them in water' look. I keep a bottle in the kitchen".

Ad #4. (Whole family seated for dinner. Bertha & Herman holding hands across the table and gazing into each other's eyes.) Herman beams at Bertha and gives her Jergens-soft hand an extra squeeze that seems to say, "We're just about the happiest couple in the world, aren't we?"

WHEW … The 1950's....a wondrous time...when a bottle of Jergens' lotion, and lots of hard work and blind devotion on the wife's part, could solve all their problems !     And guess what?   I bought into it...lock, stock & LOTION.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Equestrian Special Olympics …

I’ve introduced you to this pretty girl before.  She is my 13 year old granddaughter Faye who participated in a full day Special Olympics horse event two weekends ago.  She was thrilled to have come in First Place in her division and here she is with the two other winners­­ accepting their medals and ribbons.

Actually this was my first time visiting a Special Olympics and I was surprised, and pleased, to see that the participants were of all ages.  For some reason I had envisioned them being just children.  In the equestrian competition each division consisted of 6 or 8 persons with like intellectual disabilities.  Faye has asperger’s syndrome so her group included high functioning autistic boys and girls approximately her age.

Faye loves the many hours of preparation it takes to get to these events.  It is not just good physical activity for her, she also gains emotional and psychological benefits.  I have watched as her self-confidence has grown and it is a joy to see that and how it has affected her relationships in general.

The other thing that greatly impressed me was seeing how everyone… (the audience, the participants, the volunteers and judges)… pulled for each other.  There wasn’t that sense of deadly competition that you get with most sports events.  The whole bottom line here was:  “do your best and enjoy yourself while doing it”.   What a novel idea in this day and age. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

After the storm …

I often pick up books at yard sales, etc. and my latest find is a Bill Bryson novel entitled, “At Home, a short history of private life”, published in 2010.

This is Bryson at his best in my opinion but it is definitely not a “short history” as the title states.  He invites us to join him as he goes back to the home and vicinity where he once lived in Scotland and, in true Bryson style, each page is fraught with historical facts.  Many of these were new to me (as was the area that he writes about) so, instead of writing a book review per se, I would like to relate this one instance that I found fascinating and is representative of the book as a whole.
On the west coast of Mainland, the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland there was a large grassy knoll that the natives had named Skerrabra.  In 1850 a severe storm hit all of Scotland and when it abated everyone was shocked to find that the top soil had been stripped away from the knoll leaving what appeared to be a small village of stone houses without roofs.  An amateur excavation unearthed more but it wasn’t until 1927 that it was decided to preserve the area and the true excavation began.
Skara Brae, as it is now known, was determined to be a stone-age settlement consisting of eight clustered houses.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is thought to be older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids.  

This is just a snippet of the hundreds of amazing facts that Bryson writes about in his entertaining novel.  Isn’t it fascinating and doesn’t it make you wonder what else there is in this amazing world of ours just waiting to be unearthed …
after the storm.   


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Well, here we have Renee Ellmers, a Republican who (despite my not voting for her) has been the U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s second congressional district since 2011.  She has come under scrutiny lately amid rumors of an affair with Rep. Kevin McCarthy who, unexpectedly, backed out of his almost certain Chairmanship for the House.

Ellmers is a right wing conservative with “principles that go right along with the Tea Party” and it comes as no surprise that she’s come out fighting against the rumors using the lofty phrase that she “will be praying for those who bear false witness”.

I could actually care less if the allegations are true but it reminded me of a like situation during my first college year in 1950.  I was attending Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey.  Most of the students were like me … just kids wanting to get an education … but there was also a strong Evangelical Lutheran Church influence and some of the students followed it to the extreme.  They made it known that they were living a life of piety and that we were below contempt.  In other words they were pure like the driven snow and we were the slush !

I was living in a dorm and one of the girls there was part of the “Bible group” (as we called them) and she was constantly berating us for our “evil ways”.  This was comical to us since we knew we were silly and loud at times but we weren’t promiscuous or otherwise “evil”.  

I will never forget the night that she went out with her boyfriend who was also a big Bible thumper.  She gave us that “smelling something bad” look as she passed us on her way out.  We noticed that she was dressed to the teeth … a matching sweater and skirt that made her look like the epitome of the pure college girl.  It was about 3 hours later that she came back and, just as she was about to give us that look again, we burst out laughing.  It threw her off and she said “what’s funny?”  “Oh, nothing” said my roommate “it’s just that your sweater is inside out and I don’t think it was like that when you went out!”  

BINGO.  How quickly the pure white snow can drift …..

Thursday, October 08, 2015

A night to swing to Gypsy flamenco …

Once again my daughter and son-in-law will be hosting an evening of music, fellowship and fun at their place of business in Stanfordville, NY.   I wish so much that I lived closer because these are times not to be missed.  You might remember when I posted this picture:

It’s the large room in the barn where, on music nights, the antiques are not the only thing on display.  The audience takes over … clapping and cheering the musicians on and even dancing when the spirit moves !  (Of course if one were to fall in love with one of the antiques I’m sure a “sold” sign could be arranged.)

And now for this event.  3 amazing musicians called AMERANOUCHE …
I’ve been lucky enough to hear them live and they are a delight.  They play a spirited type of music called Gypsy flamenco swing.  Their name is derived from two words …American and Manouche, (the Gypsy tribe of guitarist Django Reinhardt) and the combination results in a type of music that is both cool and mellow yet throbs with passion and strength…a throwback to the colorful Flamenco dancers of Andalusia. Their music is not just beautiful … it is extremely moving and not easily forgotten when the evening is over
AMERANOUCHE will be playing this Sunday, the 11th, at Bowen Barn in Stanfordville, NY.  If you can make it there you won’t be disappointed … and I’ll be jealous!  
As it says on their poster   Look for the Elephant

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A Memory jog …

Recently I ran into the son of one of my Hospice patients who died in 1982.  It really took me aback because he looked exactly like his dad, Ernest.  After the initial shock I realized that it made perfect sense because he was now about the age that his dad had been when he died.

Most of our patients had very short life spans so it was difficult to get a close relationship; but the exception in my case was Ernest.  He lived for over six months and we became fast friends. He was a 74 year old black man who lived 6 miles north of me so it was easy to stay in touch and we did so almost daily.

Ernest lived in a small cement block house that he had built years before. It was primitive but very snug with a simple front porch. The house was situated to the rear of the property and overlooked the land that had been in Ernest’s family for centuries. His many acres of open fields were rented by nearby farmers to plant tobacco and cotton.

The most unusual thing, however, was his “memorial garden”. It was an acre of lawn in front of his house that was carefully manicured and with 8 or 9 dead tree trunks that had been artistically placed. These were not random trees, but ones they had picked because of their interesting shapes. The final effect was, indeed, a “garden of memorial statuary”, somewhat resembling sentries on guard.

Ernest explained it to me one day as we sat rocking on his front porch. It seems that his grandfather had loved the gnarled and stark-looking dead trees on his farm. When he died and they couldn’t afford a memorial stone, they thought to cut down one of his beloved trees and to use that. It soon became a tradition. Ernest told me the story of each of the “statues” and who was commemorated there. He said they were re-sanded and oiled yearly and that was what gave them their lovely patinas. The two small trunks with intertwining branches were in memory of his twins who had died 48 years earlier.

That was 33 years ago but the memories flooded back as I greeted his son.  I was a little flustered by the resemblance to his dad and didn’t think to ask if the memorial garden is still intact but I pray it is.  I’ve seen many elaborate and costly memorials...but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that exuded such peace and serenity.