Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I Am From (take two)

By Karen Zaun Kennedy who blogs at Sweetwater Lane

I am from hand me downs,
wallpapered ceilings, and gallon jars of mice.
I am from secret passages, spiral staircases and bogeymen in the closets.
Invisible, silent, bitter fear.
I am from hydrangeas,
and the majestic maple whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from grilled cheese sandwiches and popcorn on Sunday nights,
and tenacity.
From Jean Phyllis and William Knighton.
I am from stony silences, arguments,
and family birthdays.

I am from Stop running in the house! and Say you’re sorry!
and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name, too.
Whenever I go out, the people always shout, "There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!"
na na na na na na!

I am from Thanksgivings at Aunt Norma’s, Brightlook Hospital and Germany,
from baked beans and brown bread.
From a grandmother who called all Chinese Chinks before the need for politically correct,
and never said a bad word about anyone.

In my grandmother’s closet were dresses from another time,
lacy, light and soft,
faded with age and remembrance
to dress in and to dream.
I am from hand me downs from the hands of time.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (6) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 20 October 2014

Love by Gefilte Fish

By Trudi Kappel

Gefilte fish and matzo balls are the quintessential Jewish ceremonial foods. I’ve met few people who actually crave them but a Passover seder would be incomplete without them.

Making gefilte fish is a time consuming endeavor and I don’t know anyone who still makes her (always “her”) own.

It involves filleting three different kinds of fish, chopping them finely, chopping onions and carrots, forming patties, wrapping the patties in fish skin and then simmering for hours in a fish broth.

It is easier to buy from Manischewitz. Unfortunately, the commercial product is bland, almost tasteless unlike those made by my grandmother.

My grandmother, Scheina, grew up in a small village in Poland. Since secondary education for Jewish girls was not available in her shtetl, she boarded with relatives in a larger town where it was. Her assigned household chore was to make gefilte fish each week for the Sabbath meal.

After completing high school, she traveled to Berne, Switzerland for additional education. While it was unusual at the turn of the 20th century, her parents provided advanced education not only for their son but also for their four daughters.

Scheina enrolled in medical school at the University of Berne. My charismatic grandfather, Zander, was a student leader and always an event organizer. He was born near Minsk in Belorussia and was enrolled as a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Berne.

One spring, he organized a seder for Jewish students. Scheina volunteered to make gefilte fish for the feast.

Zander was enchanted with the cute medical student who knew how to make this traditional food. She was smart and she could cook!

Love blossomed. They eloped. Only then did Zander learn that gefilte fish was the only thing that his bride knew how to cook.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 17 October 2014

Plunging my Poundage (Summer Camp Was Never Like This!)

By Janet Thompson

Having ridden a scooter to the top of the hill with others on crutches and in wheelchairs, surprised, I saw a hospital bed. What was the relation between the zip-line and a hospital bed? Shouldn't the hospital bed be at the end of the ride?

I recently attended a Body Mind and Spirit Retreat sponsored by Colorado Post-Polio at the Easter Seals Rocky Mountain Village in Empire, Colorado.

Since 1999, disabled campers were rigged up for the zip line on a pad laid on the ground. Just this year, the camp received the donated hospital bed, making rigging up easier.

Heavy-duty mesh formed an angular-shaped pad with a round, semi-solid piece at the area of my derriere.

A sturdy strap crossed my chest, two corners wrapping my sides joined with a heavy-duty, o-shaped carabiner clamp. A longer v-shaped side drawn between my legs attached to another clamp and the two were joined.

A rectangular-shaped portion and a u-shaped pillow supported my helmeted head at the top of the rigging. (It seems these days that a helmet is essential for any physical exploits except sex).

Four red ropes hung from the tower top. My package was ready for lift-off. A husky, handsome young fellow tugged on a black rope hoisting me to the top while a chic young woman guided a separate red rope, making sure I didn't hit the tower supports.

Another cute woman (also about my great-granddaughter’s age) met me at the top where she quickly and safely connected me to another line and disconnected me from the first. On her walkie-talkie, she announced, “Brake-check 1.”

I heard the same answer coming from the other end of the line.

After brake-check 2 and its response, I found myself flying. Heading downhill, gravity took me about half the distance up an opposite hill then back to the lowest point between the two. There, I found my package snagged and dragged and deposited into a scooter. (Some more-able others were pulled to a scissor-lift).

WHAT A KICK FOR AN 85TH BIRTHDAY!

One side of the tower is built ladder-like and another is studded with rocks. There’s also a pole. Equally, but differently rigged, some of the other campers climbed the tower to take off on the zip line. A cheerful staff-companion climbed alongside them if they wanted. Seeing these folks’ feats, I realized I had taken the coward’s way out.

Of 53 Campers, 40 percent came from out of state. Nine had been born outside the U.S. Other sessions and events at the retreat gifted me with much vital post-polio knowledge. Being with others and sharing their care and understanding was a rare treat.

I wasn't the only one who cherishes new experiences I thought I'd never be able to have!

Googling “zip lines for the disabled,” I found only a few in this country. Leahy and Associates (a special camp friend) designed and built the tower in 2002. Tom Picton, a talented camp staffer, figured out how to add the angled climbing walls.

ElderzipJThompson


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (7) | Permalink | Email this post

Thursday, 16 October 2014

I Remember...

By Marcy Sheiner of Dirty Laundry

Many years ago I was in a feminist theater group in which one of our exercises was to riff on the phrase "I remember..." The phrase is highly evocative and is frequently used as a writing prompt these days. This morning I found myself using it.

I remember conversations with a friend about how lucky we were that, unlike our mothers, we each had rich inner resources we'd fall back on in our old age.

I remember thinking I wouldn't be like my older relatives when I was older since I wasn't like they'd been when they were younger.

I remember when my father died and I saw my mother's utter devastation, telling my therapist, "That will never happen to me."

He replied, "How do you know? You might remarry."

In retrospect, what he should've said was, "Are you hell-bent on avoiding that?" Which is what I did.

I remember being a teenager and feeling sorry for my parents - who must've been all of 45 then - because I thought their lives were at a dead-end and going nowhere.

I remember thinking 30, 40, and 50 were old.

I remember saying, "Don't trust anyone over 30."

I remember suicide fantasies.

I remember when my life seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

I remember telling my mother and my aunt, when I was in my fifties, that I understood them better because I understood aging. They laughed and told me I was still young.

I remember my contempt for my elders who saw all these things differently.

Try the exercise no matter what your age.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (1) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Who, What, When and Why?

By Clifford Rothband

I saw this vanity tag on a car, YYY ME. It got me thinking, why me? If not me then who?

I've read somewhere that a person's value is not really measured in years but in achievements. Things tried. Like Thomas Edison wrote about invention: "I haven't failed, I just found ten thousand ways that won't work." Or a quote from someone that the biggest sin is never to have tried something, for we forever regret or remember those times.

No not me since I have tried so many times and things, a man has to know his limits and I certainly will not jump out of a helicopter again. Been there, done that, period.

I remember another old saying: "Never end a name with an I, always with a Y." Maybe it means not to be so vain. In my circle of folks growing up, it was a way to end a name with a term of endearment or familiarity like Mommy, Daddy or Harry or Cliffy.

Where did this rule come from? I'd give due credit if I could but since I do not stand to gain anything financially from these words, let's assume that I am not plagiarizing someone.

And oh, that silly word, "assume” - to make an ass of u and me. I have been taught so much by not assuming anything anymore. So a doctor has told me that I wouldn't make it to 40, can you imagine me at 69? Uh oh.

Getting back to why, why not? I read some where that with age comes wisdom. Then why are so many aged people so foolish?

Well, why does wisdom come with age? Is wisdom only an achievement that requires control of one's emotional passions or judgment or common sense so as to predict an outcome? No, that's anxiety!

I truly believe that wisdom is a product of experience, mostly bad experience. So I will try again in a different manner. Why? I have this passion to be happy, for humor, to laugh, to enjoy pleasure.

I certainly am not that wise as to have written this stuff. For who, what, when and why did I write this Babble?


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (4) | Permalink | Email this post

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Big Spender

By Henry Lowenstern

On mornings when the sky is sunny
I sometimes bundle up my honey
to treat her to a pricey place,
with table clothes of Belgian lace.
Never mind the cost. It's only money.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 13 October 2014

Surprise! Surprise!

By Anita McCune

One day when I was about seven years old, my dad called me from work to tell me he had a surprise for me when he came home after work. I was on pins and needles watching for him out the window. Mom asked what was going on, and I said "nothing, just waiting for dad."

Finally she and my prissy little sister went to bed. "All I can say is that you had better be able to get up for school in the morning," she said as she departed.

My brother had died a few years before and I had a hole with nothing to fill it. My little sister screamed at bugs and frogs so we were not close. I definitely needed something furry to love.

Finally dad walking in with something wrapped under his coat. My mind was overflowing with guesses: a puppy or kitten? And then he opened his coat and - there was a baby groundhog!

I was just over the moon looking at that little bundle of fur. I wanted to take him in my arms because it was love at first sight!

Dad put him down and all thoughts of other pets just slipped away. I knew in that minute I had met my best friend. But suddenly things got crazy, with little "Woody" running all over.

It was funny to watch him explore the room, until he took off and ran into my mom's bedroom. Then Dad and I both panicked. In the middle of the night, while she was asleep was not the best time for my mom to meet this new addition.

We sprung after him and watched in absolute horror as he climbed up the bed and under the covers. Even now my heart stops at the memory of my mom screaming and falling out of bed.

She came up to her feet like a track star and pulled back the covers and there laid Woody, finally calmed down and taking a little nap.

Of course no one spoke or dared to laugh at the look that mom had on her face at that moment. Even today I still can't smile or laugh because she was so furious!

She said words that I had not yet heard, in a tone that I was sure could be heard in the next state. Everything from wild beasts, rabies, every disease known to man came to her tongue.

Then my little sister woke up, put in her two cents worth and asked if she too could be killed.

I still do not know what my dad did to get her to let Woody stay because for a long time it was a very shaky subject.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (7) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 10 October 2014

How I Learned to Not Love Jogging

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

I’ve never seen a happy jogger.

Looking in my rear-view mirror, I always felt a pang of sympathy as I passed a jogger. Red-faced, mouth contorted in a rictus of discomfort, they gamely jog on, streams of perspiration cascading down their cheeks below sodden sweatbands, arms pumping bravely as they gasp for air.

I always disdained running of any sort, except the adrenaline-induced kind provided by a chance encounter with an irate bear. Jogging always struck me as self-imposed torture. No masochist I, sitting under an umbrella by the pool with a good detective novel always seemed a preferable pursuit.

Despite my aversion, colleagues assaulted me almost daily about the virtues of jogging, intoning occasional jeremiads about the costs of sloth.

Finally, I decided to experiment. I would buy good running shoes and jog every other day for a month. At the end of that time, I would decide whether jogging was for me.

With scientific precision, I set the trip counter on my speedometer to zero, and paced out a mile for my test.

The sun was just rising the next morning as I set off from my apartment for my first run.

Thirty days later, I sat on the patio and reviewed my impressions. I’d lost several pounds and my muscles had tightened but otherwise, I found no improvements for my body or mind.

However, I did find a negative change; over the course of the month, I developed an unpleasant case of shin splints.

I picked up my latest detective novel, and gingerly walked to the pool.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post

Thursday, 09 October 2014

The Thermostat Contest

By Vicki E. Jones

The year was 1961. I was 14 years old then and my family lived in a nice ranch-style house with stucco exterior about a mile from the famous Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles.

Our home had three large bedrooms and I had the bedroom across the hallway from the dining room. My parents’ bedroom and my sister’s bedroom were next to each other at the far end of the hallway. On the hallway wall, just outside my bedroom was the thermostat for the heating and air conditioning systems for our house.

There were many things that my parents did not agree on and what temperature the house should be during the night was one of them. My father, with his low blood pressure, was always cold. My mother, then in her late forties, was always too warm.

And so the thermostat contest began. My parents were usually asleep before I was and I would peacefully prepare for bed and soon fall sound asleep. Within an hour or so I would be awakened by my father tromping down the hall and complaining to himself about the house being too cold, and he turned up the thermostat. I heard every word.

An hour or two later my mother would come down the hall muttering to herself about the house being two hot and she would turn the thermostat back down. An hour or so later my father would get up and come down the hall and turn the temperature up again.

Each time I was awakened by their contest for the perfect thermostat setting – for that particular person – and each time I would fall back asleep for an hour or two and the other parent would come back down the hall to adjust the thermostat to his or her liking.

This usually happened a total of at least four times a night and sometimes six times.

As I went through high school, I began to realize that if I applied to colleges far enough away that I could not commute, I might actually get a good night’s sleep or, at least, I was likely to get more sleep than I had at home.

And so it was that I applied only to California state colleges where I would have to live away from home in the dormitory and in the fall of 1964, I went away to college and lived on campus in the girls’ dormitory.

I had other reasons for going away to college too, but trying to get a good night’s sleep without four or six interruptions was certainly one of my reasons for going away to college.

And yes, I did finally get a better night’s sleep in the dormitory. Even with girls talking in the hallway or going down the hallway to use the bathroom, the girls were very quiet after a certain hour and I could finally get more sleep.

And my parents’ thermostat contest? Nothing changed after I left. It continued in my absence for 19 more years until my father passed away.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (5) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 08 October 2014

Let's Not be Friends

By Wendl Kornfeld

My women’s group's meeting topic this month was assertiveness. One person said she could be assertive with old friends but not new ones. This reminded me of a time when I had not been my usual assertive self with a new “friend.”

I met Janet, a vivacious 70 year old, at my friend’s lecture. Our chat on the bus going home held the promise of a stimulating new friendship. Over the next two months, however, it became evident that we saw the world very differently and had very different personalities.

Janet was quick to explain the folly of my opinions (as well as those of apparently everyone she ever knew.) She said unpleasant things about the man who’d given the lecture where we’d first met, even though she was aware that he was very dear to me.

Her emails were not of the “Hi, how are you?” type; they were political harangues. Her phone calls were of the “I need something from you” variety. But each time I felt resentful or uncomfortable, I cut her some slack and told myself I just needed to get used to her quirks.

Then came the “enlightenment” that resulted in the end to this blossoming relationship. It occurred during a walk around a scenic neighborhood on a beautiful day.

It seemed anything I said sparked a frenzy of opposition and dissent from Janet. So, after a while I just kept quiet and concentrated on enjoying the views.

Until Janet sneezed and I reflexively responded, “Bless you!”

Silly me, once again I was in the wrong. Why, she demanded, was I compelled to respond to her sneeze? Didn’t I realize that by doing so I was surrendering to ridiculous ancient superstition? “But why just a sneeze?” she persisted. “Why don’t people ever comment on other bodily functions?”

“Listen,” I laughed, “next time you break wind, I’d be more than happy to say something appropriate.”

Janet didn’t find this as amusing as I did and that’s when it hit me. What had been missing all along in this relationship was laughter. Although I have a fairly high tolerance - if not appetite - for quirky people, the one thing Janet lacked was a sense of humor. Bless her heart.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (7) | Permalink | Email this post