My Grandfather’s Mysterious Family is Slowly Unveiling

3 Nov

I recently wrote a blog about my Grandfather’s sister Celia.  In it I call her my grandfather’s younger sister.  That might or might not be true.  Her date of birth ranges from 1890 to 1895.  She could be a year older or perhaps four years younger.  But then my Grandfather’s birth dates range as well from 1890 to 1892.  Who knows?  What I do know is that keeping records was not that easy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

That blog brought a response from Amy, one of my friends, who I met through Tracing the Tribe.  She recommended that I go to Family Search, part of the Mormon genealogy sites to try to find my great aunt Celia’s death certificate. 

Although I have used JewishGen and Ancestory, I never used Family Search on my own before. It was wonderful. Although I already had my Great Aunt’s, death certificate, someone had found it for me, I did not have a photo of her head stone. Family Search had it! Celia’s Hebrew name is Tzipa Gittal. (Thank you to Robin of Tracing the Tribe for figuring out the first name for me.) Like those of many who die young, the stone is in the shape of a tree cut down. There are palm leaves engrave on it along with the words, Beloved Daughter and in big letters SISTER. (I plan to put this photo on the other post as well!)

I found my grandfather’s family on the 1910, 1915, 1920 and 1925 Census.  In the 1915 Census, the last name was misspelt as Rosenbery.  In the 1920 Census, I found out that my great grandparents had divorce before then.  I knew that they were divorced, but somehow knowing they divorced before Celia died made me a little sad.   In the 1925 Census only five of her children were still living with Sarah.  Samuel disappeared after the 1915 Census, Celia died before the 1920 one, and my Grandfather married before the 1925 Census.  All four daughters: Bertha, Edith, Hattie and Minnie, who in this Census was renamed Muriel, were stenographers.  Jacob was already a lawyer.  (See blog below.)

Finding success with Celia, I decided to look for more information on my grandfather’s other missing sister, Minnie/Muriel. I found her as well. She also has a number of birth years ranging from 1904 to 1910. On the census from 1910, 1915, 1920 and 1925, it was either 1904 or 1906. But then I found her marriage license, there she is listed as being born in 1910. It makes sense, even with using 1910 as her birth year, she was still two years older than her husband. In reality, she was about 5 or 6 years older.

Muriel got married May 26, 1934, to a man named Harry Moskowitz in Kings, New York.   She and her husband had four children, three boys and one girl.  Since some of them are still alive, I will not name them.  Muriel died in the New York City area in January 1991.  That actually made me sad.  It means that my Grandfather did not live far from his sister, but he had no contact with her.  Why?  I honestly wish I know the answer!

He did have one sister who he did stay in contact with and whom I knew, Aunt Hattie and Uncle Lenny.  I wrote about them in the blog below.  I also found their marriage license. Besides seeing several birth years for her, 1901 to 1903, I found out that her legal name was not Hattie, even though that is what everyone called her.  On. December 16, 1934, Ethel H. Rosenberg marred Levert Greenberg, the son of Joseph and Rebecca (Schneider).  Uncle Lenny served in WW 2.  They never had any children.  But I remember them fondly.  Although over the years, Aunt Hattie made my Dad crazy at times.

Using Family Search was easy and helpful.  I am glad Amy suggested that I use it.  I do not know why I have never used it before now.  However, I know that I will continue to use it as I double my efforts to find Samuel, as he is the only sibling I have been unable to find.

Did Great Aunt Celia Die From the Spanish Flu?

31 Oct

With the Covid pandemic in its second year, I decided to write about my Grandfather’s younger sister who died over 101 years ago.

As I have written in other blogs, much about my paternal grandfather’s family was a mystery.  My Grandmother told me that my Grandfather was the oldest of 6 children, I now know that his mother actually gave birth to 11 children. I now also know that eight siblings that survived to adulthood and that my Grandfather was the second oldest of these eight.  

I know a bit about his one brother (See blog below) and I actually knew one of his five sisters.  (see blog below.) Three sisters and brother I know their names and perhaps some information, but it nothing definite.  I know Muriel married and had two children.  And I know there were two ‘maiden’ aunts.   I know Samuel supposedly went west in the early 1900’s.  But there was one sister that I had absolutely no information about his younger sister Celia.  I did not even have her name, as Celia died before my grandparents became engaged and married.

But now I know Celia.  Born on the Fourth of July in 1895, Celia was five years younger than my grandfather.   But whereas my grandfather lived until he was 95, Celia died when she was just 24 years old on February 6, 1920, from pulmonary edema and pneumonia, which was a major cause of death from the Spanish Flu.

According to Wikipedia, the Spanish Flu continued from February 1918 to April of 1920.  And the CDC website that discusses the Spanish flu has this information: 

“The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic.”  (The bold high lights are mine.)

By the winter of 1920, the Spanish flu had begun to ebb.  But people were still dying.  One of the symptoms was lungs filling with fluid, pulmonary edema, which killed them.   Was Celia one of the victims of this pandemic?  I might never know, but with the Covid pandemic on my mind, I cannot help but think it was the Spanish Flu that killed my great aunt Celia.  Sadly, a few months after she died the pandemic was officially over. 

Celia is buried in the old Montefiore Cemetery in New York.  She is in the Adath Israel of B’ville section.  I do not think any other members of our family are buried there, or at least any that I have found so far.   Most are buried in Washington Cemetery.  The fact that she is there alone saddens me.

I have not been able to find a picture of her grave online. But I do have the information needed to find it.  I hope one day that I will.  In the meantime, I wonder if my Great Aunt Celia was one of the millions of people who died during the Spanish Flu.  In my heart the answer is yes.

Update: I now have Celia’s Headstone. See the additional Blog for more information.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm

Wonderful Wisconsin Weekend

27 Oct

In May friends of ours drove from Wisconsin to Kansas for a long weekend visit.  While they were here, we promised to return the favor and spend a weekend with them in October.  We try to keep our promises, so we got into our car and drove the 8 hours to see them. A wonderful weekend in Wisconsin ensued.

We packed a lot into our short time there.  First stop was the International Crane Foundation and its Cranes of the World exhibit in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I had no idea that most types of cranes are found in Asia.  But now I know. We saw 15 varieties of cranes in areas designed to match their natural habitat.  Each setting had a small pond and marsh area. 

The cranes range in size from majestic to small.  A pair of cranes were housed in each site that were accessible on a lovely pathway.  Besides the area devoted to the cranes, there were also walking nature paths through a meadow planted with native plants and grasses that attracts butterflies and birds.

We spent two hours enjoying the nice weather, the lovely cranes and the other sites like the Zen Garden and the Prayer Wheels.  My favorite was the Senbazuru sculpture of 1000 colorful cranes made to look like origami cranes.  I am glad we went when we did, as the Center is open only from May 1 through October 31.  I encourage anyone who can to visit it next year!

After a stop for lunch, we continued our journey of discovery by visiting artists who were part of the Fall Art Tour.  We visited four artists who were located in either Baraboo or Spring Green, Wisconsin.  I wish we could have visited every one of the two dozen artists, but that was impossible.  However, I will say that my friend and I did as much as we could to support the artists we did visit.

We love botanical gardens and try to visit one wherever we go.   Thus, next on our list of places to go was the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin.  LOVELY.  I was impressed by the Thai Pavilion and garden.  As we walked throughout the gardens, there was beautiful greenery and flowers everywhere and having a river run through it added to the serene scenery and wonderful atmosphere. 

A walk through the giant green house, known as the Bolz Conservatiory, provided us with a view of wonderful tropical plants including a large variety of orchids, and an not-yet blooming corpse plant, was exciting.  When we entered the greenhouse, there were volunteers offering us a free plant, that we could put into a pot to take away.  Of course my friend and I each needed a plant.

When I say large, I mean large.  The Bolz Conservatory is 100 feet by 100 feet by 50 feet high.  Photos do not do it justice.  It holds almost 500 plants!

Another favorite for us when we join our friends is to taste wine. In fact, when they visited us in May we took them to a wine tasting at our arboretum, combining two enjoyable events in one.  They took us to a winery on the same day as the botanical gardens, so that counts!

We went to Drumlin Ridge Winery in Waunakee, Wisconsin.  There each of us could order a flight of 3 or 6 wines to taste along with a small plate of food.  We each chose three wines.  I like whites and rose, so I tasted the Edelweiss 2019, Drumlin Sunset and Marechal Foch Rose.  The Edelwiess was my favorite and second was the Marechal Foch Rose.  We ordered mixed nuts and pizza and a cheese board for them, while I had a soft Bavarian Pretzel.   Yes, I know pretzels really go with beer, but for me a soft pretzel goes with everything.  And I did snack on some nuts….especially the cashews.

Our final stop was the University of Wisconsin Campus for a snack while we sat along the lake front.  It was a quick and exciting three-night visit.  But I think we saw some of the wonderful highlights to be seen in the Madison/Middleton area of Wisconsin during our wonderful Wisconsin weekend.

https://savingcranes.org/

http://www.olbrich.org/visit/

https://www.drumlinridgewinery.com/

Tsundoku, My New Favorite Word

14 Sep

A teacher at my school sent me an email today using the word tsundoku to describe his reading habits.   It was a Japanese word I did not know nor heard before.  Which for me is unusual as I have had an affinity for Japanese words since my days in graduate school as the roommate to a Japanese exchange student.  (See blogs below.)

Of course, I had to look it up.  According to the Cambridge Dictionary tsundoku is “the practice of buying alot of books and keeping them in a pile because you intend to read them but have not done so yet; also used to refer to the pile itself.”

WOW.  How did the dictionary editors know about my secret?  Wait how do the Japanese know what I am doing?  I thought it was well hidden.  However, although I have those piles, I do eventually get around to reading all of the books piled on shelves and in a queue in my I Pad library.   I promise!!!

I will also admit that after getting onto BookBub, my online Tsundoku has increased.  Many days I just delete the email from BookBub to avoid adding more books to my online tsundoku collection.   I will also admit that sometimes I forget which books I have purchased, till I try to buy them again. Luckily Amazon sends me a note saying, you already own this book.  Thankfully they keep track.  When I cleaned out my house, I found several books I owned in duplicate and triplicate!

I have a book issue.   I thought I had released this when we moved 18 months ago.  I gave away thousands of books.  Not an exaggeration.   I really did.  (See blogs below.) I only moved about 1500 books to the new house.  I ended up purchasing four new bookcases, because the new house does not have built in bookcases.  So I took a deep breathe and told myself that my book buying days needed to end.  I made a promise to myself to go more frequently to the library and to stop buying as many books.  I could do this!!

But you all know, the libraries were closed for a long time.  And my so-called friend told me about BookBub.  She actually sent me an email telling me about it.  Putting in my face. That sometimes you could even get books for FREE!  Yes, you can!  And books for $1.99, $2.99, $4.99, and so on.  And if you like one of the free books, you can be drawn into a series and then need to pay to find out what happened.  Thanks friend!!!  You know who you are.

I do need to go to the library and not to Costco, where, when I am grocery shopping, I need to go past the tables filled with books. I inch around snooping at what is there.  Sometimes, I take a picture of the book.  I don’t buy it then.  I think if I come back next week and it is still there, I will get it.  But sometimes that does not work, I slowly walk around the store and return to the book table.  The book jumps into my cart by itself. I don’t notice till I go to checkout. And there it is still calling my name to join my tsundoku pile.

I have to be honest, now knowing the name of my syndrome, I feel much better.  But most of all, I can relate to the many others who share this same compulsion.  I always knew I was a bibliophile.  My love of books is well known.  For goodness sake, I was an English literature major in college. How much more booky can you be, unless of course a librarian.  I know them as well.  Some of my good friends and even relatives are librarians.  I just realized that they live a life surrounded by tsundoku piles. All those books to read piled up around them, calling them.  How do they get anything done?  I guess I need to ponder that as well.

Tsundoku is definitely my new favorite word.

How a Shoe Store became a Jewlery Store

8 Sep

Growing up in the New York City metro area, one thing I will say, we had connections.  The majority of my extended family lived in New York and New Jersey.  Family get togethers were important.  Besides that, our summers in the Catskills with my cousins made us extremely close.

So of course engagements, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and the arrival of babies were always celebrated.   This continues today as well into the next generations.  But when I was a teen and young adult growing up, everyone lived within a short distance of each other.

When we needed new shoes, we did not go to just any shoe store.  No, we drove from North Bergen or West New York, New Jersey, to Yonkers, New York, to get our shoes.  Why?  There were lots of shoe stores near by.  But my Uncle Jack was the manager of a shoe store in Yonkers.  So, of course, that is where we went for our new school shoes each year.   If ever we had a shoe problem, or issue, we knew to stand up and see where our toes ended in relationship to the edge of the shoe.  I have written about my Dad’s fixation on healthy feet. And wearing good shoes was part of this. (See blog below.)

My Uncle Jack had other connections.  One of his best friends, also named Jack, was a jeweler.  I asked my cousin if he was related to them.  But No, Uncle Jack and Jack A. met at the Sephardic synagogue they went to in NYC.   Uncle Jack lived in Israel as a child and teen.  ( I wrote about his mother, my grandma Rose, and her experiences during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948, see the blog below.)  

So why a shoe store and a jeweler and family gatherings all in one story?  Because in 1979 I got engaged to a nice Midwest boy who wanted to buy me a diamond engagement ring. I was shocked.  He wanted to go to a store and buy it retail?  Who heard of such a thing?  Not when my family was involved.

To be honest, I do not remember exactly what happened.  All I know is that we were in town for my brother’s wedding.  It was nine months after we got engaged, but I still did not have my engagement ring.  We were waiting until we went to see my family.  Finally, a meeting was set up.  My husband, then fiancé, thought we were going to go to a wholesale jewelry store in Manhattan.  But that is not what happened.  He was a bit shocked.

My parents drove my husband and I to the shoe store in Yonkers. My then 24-year-old fiancé asked, “We are getting your ring in a shoe store?” I just nodded my head yes. My father said something like, “Don’t worry, it’s fine.”

When we got to the store, my Uncle was waiting for us, and led us to the back of the store.  Mom stayed in front to shop!  Next thing I know is that Dad, my fiancé and I are in the shoe storage racks in the back of the store.  Jay was a bit shy about entering the back stacks, but as we were all going, he went along. It was here that we met with Jack, the jeweler!

When we were situated where no one was coming, way in the back, Jack, the jeweler, opens the shoe box he was carrying.  Inside were five or six diamond rings, all about one karat, all different shape diamonds.  I tried several on and finally decided on the ring I wanted.  A check was written.  We were given an appraisal, but Jack was firm about us getting an appraisal from another jeweler as well.     If there was any problem, we were to let him know.

We left the stacks.  I was now wearing my engagement ring.    Jack the jeweler stayed behind.  My Uncle went in to say goodbye to his friend, who left through the back entrance.  Quite the covert mission.  You did not want anyone to know you were carrying a shoe box filled with diamonds!

I wore my engagement ring for years.  But about five years ago, I had a ring I inherited from my grandmother that I used to make a new ring.   I put my engagement ring away with the idea that one day my son would use it.  That time is now.  He and his girlfriend got engaged.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/01/20/beautiful-feet-a-shoe-store-and-my-dads-sage-advice/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/24/movie-night-in-the-catskills-was-a-wonderful-magical-night/

Ralph, Pete and Bambi, Turkeys And A Flock of Birds

29 Aug

My husband loves to feed birds.  We have always had bird feeders and books identifying birds outside our kitchen window so we could not only watch the birds but identify who was visiting our feeders.

When we moved 17 months ago, my husband was extremely concerned that the birds would not find us!  He even put a sign up on our deck beneath the bird feeders telling the birds our new address.  Yes, he is a bit crazy.  But then he is a pediatrician, so he has never grown up.

Happily, the day we moved in, a cardinal perched on his bird feeder.  I was able to say, “Look the cardinal read your sign.  I am sure the other birds would follow.”  Follow they did!   We now have a flock of birds of all sorts lounging near our yard.

Our new, small subdivision backs up to a park and a golf course.  Acres and acres of natural beauty along with several small lakes and a stream.  The animals love it.  And our home has become a gathering place for all sorts of nighttime and daytime visitors.  All due to my husband’s bird feeders.  You see, he does not just buy any old bird food.  No, he buys what I call the Mercedes Benz of bird food, hearts of sunflowers.

We have had turkeys and mourning doves and chipmunks happily munching on the seeds that fall to the ground.   We see chickadees, finches of all colors, Blue Jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, robins, swallows, and a multitude of other birds gathering on the feeders, many times waiting their turn to eat.   We buy bird food in 30-pound bags, several at a time.  And yes, we do have a hummingbird feeder as well, which we recently moved. 

Our garden is surround on two sides by a limestone wall, one side by our house, and the other by a wrought iron fence.  It is lovely and peaceful during the day.  But we have found out that at night, it is a place of high demand and drama.  We recently put in a security camera in the back of the house.  Included in its scope are the birdfeeders. 

We have found it quite exciting to watch and the videos explain much.  We were going through so much bird food, we really could not understand how the birds were eating so much especially at night.  We found out that our bird feeders were being raided by a raccoon, who my husband promptly named Ralph.

Ralph draining the bird feeder!

Ralph would stand on his tippy toes on the fence and reach up to tip the bird feeders right into his mouth and just drain the seed. So first my husband put bricks under the pole to raise the height of the feeders. Ralph won that battle. He climb up the fence, climb up the pole and shimmied down to the feeders. Then another raccoon joined him, I named him Rocky. They did not get along and often had loud fights with growling. I honestly did not like that.

Now the war was really on.  My husband started bringing the bird feeders in at night. Ralph and Rocky showed up, but there was no food. Friends started recommending solutions.  Put a slinky on the pole!  Get a dog!  (Cats don’t work.) Then the best advice came from a friend of mine, who got us into bird feeding and watching years ago. She recommended we get this raccoon baffle thing that is put on the pole. The first night it was on, we just put up two bird feeders to see what would happen.  Ralph could not get the food.

Birds waiting for a morning perch to eat!

With the raccoon baffler in place, we can leave our feeders out at night.

But in the meantime, my husband had been putting humming bird nectar out on a low pole.  And one evening when Ralph moved out of the vision of the camera, we noticed a deer, named Bambi of course.  Bambi had been draining our hummingbird feeder.  So now the humming bird feeder is inside the garden behind the gate, and the hummingbirds are happy. So the deer is back to eating all of our sedum plants! 

Ralph and Rocky can no longer climb the pole, so the birds are happy.  In fact, the raccoons have not even shown up for a week now.  But our yard is not empty.  Now that the raccoons are gone, an opossum, who my husband named Pete, has spent some time walking along our walls at night.   He joins the chipmunks and lizards who already inhabit the hedges.

As for the turkeys, Tom and his three lady friends, they come whenever the mood strikes them. It has been entertaining and fun to watch the wildlife, and I guess feed them. And no animal was injured in our battle to keep the birds happy.

An earlier battle: https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/18/man-versus-squirrel-devastation-disaster-depression-and-destruction-of-dreams/

The Catskills House Delivers A Father’s Day Surprise

21 Jun

I really thought we had found all the treasures there were to be found in our grandparent’s home.  But I guess not.  Our home in the Catskills keeps pushing out surprises.  This time it was my Dad’s high school diploma and his sixth-grade graduation photo. My brother found it on Saturday, June 18. What a great surprise for Father’s Day!

My brother, sister and I share this house which has been in our family since 1962. First belonging to our grandparents, then our parents and now the three of us.  Every once in a while, my brother, who is lead ‘administrator,’ decides we have to clean out some more of the decades of stuff squirreled away in the house.  Several years ago, we all went up and worked on the attic and the garage for several days.  We filled a dumpster and were physically and emotionally exhausted.  (See blogs below.)

Due to the pandemic, my nephew, my brother’s son, has been living in our house.  I guess my brother decided to take advantage of his son’s presence.  It was time, in his mind, to finally tackle the basement.  I was glad I did not have to be part of that cleaning as it is a dusty, damp mess down there. He ordered a ten-cubic-foot dumpster to be delivered to the house.  This past week, the two of them focused on filling it up. And they did!

I must say, my brother is not sentimental and is quite decisive in his cleaning and tossing of what he considers useless items.  I know because the two of us cleaned out our parent’s apartment over eight years ago.  While I had a hard time letting things go, my brother would say, “Do you really need that.  Just put it in the to go pile.”  We had piles for each of us, for trash and for donating.  I will admit that perhaps sometimes when he left the room, I moved things from trash to donate, and perhaps from donate to one of the to keep piles.

So I was really happy that when my brother and nephew did clean the basement, they did a little searching before just throwing.  As it was in a box of old broken picture frames that they found these two treasures.  The high school diploma is not that much of a surprise, as we knew when Dad graduated from DeWitt Clinton high. (See blog below.). But the class photo was the treasure!

The class photo is from PS 70 in the Bronx, June 1940, just over 81 years ago!  Behind the students is an American flag with only 48 stars. Hawaii and Alaska did not become states until 1959. The photo is not in great shape.  It looks like it has moisture damage.  But the part with my Dad is a bit better.

The boys are wearing white shirts and ties. The girls are in dresses with many of them wearing scarf like a tie.  The teacher is a man in a full suit.  Our Dad is the boy in the second row, standing behind a sitting girl at the far right of the photo.  His abundant hair is obvious.

This photo makes me happy.  I love seeing my Dad with his classmates.  I sent it to my Dad’s best friend to see if he was also in the picture. But he was not.  However, it gave me a chance to be updated on what was happening in his life.  My Dad’s friend said: “I think of him almost every day. He was my best friend.”  To be honest I cannot imagine one of the them without the other. They met when they were 12 years old. And were best buddies till my Dad died in 2011.

Since the basement is not yet totally cleaned out, I have hope that a few more treasures might come to light.  In a way I will be sad when all the alcoves and crannies are clean because I know I will not have any more happy surprises. But in the meantime, I am happy for this Father’s Day surprise.

My Personal Pillars of Life

27 May

I recently was asked to write something about myself for our synagogue’s newsletter because I am a vice president of the congregation. I was unsure, did the president want my qualifications as to why I was a vice president? No, he wanted me to tell the congregation something about me. I decided to discuss my philosophy of life.

The first time I actually wrote down my philosophy was on a cruise ship in September 2019. It was our last big trip before the pandemic cancelled everything. We were in the Baltic Sea. During a sea day, I decided I would pamper myself and get a message. The young woman who was my massage therapist was on her first cruise. She was home sick. So we spent quite a bit of time talking. And among the topics we talked about was my philosophy of life. I am not sure why it came up. But she needed moral support and a way to deal with the daily onslaught of people to serve.

It was not my usual, I will fall asleep massage.  Instead, it was my, I am a mother and here is someone in need.  She also gave me a great massage.  So during the second week of the cruise I had another massage. We had another nice discussion.  When it was over, she handed me a notebook and said, “Please write it down.”  It was strange to put my personal philosphy into writing for someone else, but I did.  I hope it helped her in some way during her six-months on the ship, but more important perhaps during the pandemic. 

Below is the third time I wrote about my philosophy of life.

My philosophy of life is based on four pillars, Gemilut Chasidim (good deeds), Tzedakah (righteous charity), Kindness and Family.   Because I believe in creating a positive energy in the world, I volunteer quite a bit besides what I do at my synagogue.   Currently I am involved in Women’s Philanthropy as campaign chair; for NCJW I chair the scholarship committee providing funds for high school seniors going on to college; and I am a Spiritual Care Volunteer for Jewish Family Services. Every Wednesday I visit with seniors in an elder care facility. I also work at a small, private, non-profit school for children who do not do well in a traditional school setting.  I keep busy!

I believe in being positive!  I have learned that doing an act of kindness for someone brings so much more happiness than buying a gift for yourself.  That act of kindness is the gift!  I keep a happiness journal.  Each evening, I enter something that made me truly happy during the day.  I list at least one good deed I did that day.  And finally, I list five things that I am grateful for that day.  Almost every day that includes my family and my cats.

One way I keep happy is to crochet…mainly baby blankets for the multitude of young couples I know who are having babies.  I could just buy a gift.  But for me, making something filled with the positive love I feel when I make one, has more meaning.  I make other things as well.  My daughter often sends me a photo of something she likes and asks, “Can you make this for me.”  So I do.  I also make items for special people. A friend who donated a kidney loves ducks. So I crocheted her a duck doily. A friend whose son died way too young got a heart doily. A little girl with cancer received a long Anna wig to wear. When I make these items I feel like I am infusing them with love.

I love to I read, because books bring me to other worlds and entrance my imagination.   I usually travel, but for the past 15 months I have been home. Books have given me the opportunity to continue to visit new worlds, both real and imaginary.  My mind is filled with trivia thanks to these books. Reading brings me joy.  I enjoy discussing books with others.

My path to tzedakah comes from my family.  I knew from an early age that giving to others was important. My great grandfather Louis was one of the founders of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged in NYC.  He also was the president of the Free Loan Society for the Bialystokers.  My family supported this institution throughout my childhood.  My Dad, his grandson, was the president of his congregation for 11 years.  We were all taught to help others as we could.

My path to kindness comes from my family as well, especially my Mom. She taught elementary school for 30 years and had great experience in teaching kindness.  I learned from her, and from my experiences in the world, that you do not need to love everyone you meet. However, you do need to be Kind.  You never know what type of day someone is having. By being kind, you can brighten a day for someone else and in turn make the day better for yourself.

Yes, I also get sad sometimes and worry about the future.  No one is happy all the time. When I feel blue, I often go for a walk outside with a friend.  Just being outside helps cheer me up. But sometimes I go back to my foundation of Gemilut Chasidim, Tzedakah, Kindness and Family are my foundation, focusing on something good I can do to bring me out of the blues.

Here are two other blogs that touch on my world view.

A Day’s Escape to Ft. Scott

20 May
The hospital, now Visitors’ Center.

In 1988 I went on a road trip with my parents, husband, and then two -year-old daughter.  My Dad was a big Civil War and also Harry Truman fan.  Since we lived on the border of Missouri and Kansas, he had sites he wanted to see.

We drove down Hwy 69 to Ft. Scott first to see the old historic site. It was in the beginning of its renovations and restorations. I just remember one building. From there we went to Silver Dollar City, Mansfield where we visited Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house (for my Mom and me) and finally on our way home, we stopped in Lamar, Missouri, to see Truman’s birthplace. This four-day trip was a highlight for my parents.

For me, there was just one place I wanted to return to, Ft. Scott.  For the last 33 years, I have been commenting that I need to go back and see what they did with the fort.  It is not that I haven’t been to the city of Fort Scott.  I have driven through it at least once a year on my way to Arkansas or other spots in Kansas. 

I have even stopped in Ft. Scott to visit the Lowell Milken Center, Unsung Hero Museum. This museum focuses on taking action to improve the lives of others. I was interested in it through my volunteer work with the Kansas City Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. We were involved in the development of the play about Irena Sendler: Life In A Jar, which is highlighted at the museum.

But I never got over to the Fort!  Each time I went it was raining, not a gentle rain, but a good Kansas downpour.

When I went the first time, in 1988, the renovations and restorations had only been going on for a decade. The Fort Scott Historic Site became part of the National Park System only in 1978. For a long time, From the late 1800s to 1978, it was part of the town of Ft. Scott.  Some of the buildings, that were not torn down, were used by town’s people as homes or community buildings, like a home for girls.  

In the 1950s community members started working to restoring the fort.  Most buildings are not original, rather recreations. Since 1978, recreations of buildings have been built around the common area.

The Fort was important during the time of “bleeding Kansas,” as Kansas and Missouri fought over free and slave states. In fact, during that time, two of the buildings were used as hotels. Across the square common area from each other, one was for those who supported a free state, the other was for those who wanted a slave state. Sometimes, violence broke out!!

During the Civil War, the Fort was used as a supply depot and hospital for Union soldiers. In the Visitors’ Center they have a room set up as the hospital would have been like in the 1860s.

For the past 33 years, I have been wondering, did it get completed? What happened? I have been wanting to see the Fort! I tried to arrange field trips with friends to take our children there. It never happened. I tried to get my husband to go with me. He did not have time to take the drive.

Finally, I completed my quest.   In the time of Covid, my husband had 25 vacation days that have to be used before July 1. He is taking every Thursday and Friday off for three months.  Good friends of ours drove down from Wisconsin.  Our first overnight company in 15 months.  We are all vaccinated.  I suggested a field trip to Ft. Scott. Most of the time we would be outside.  They agreed.

I have to admit, it was better than I imagined.  When we were there 33 years ago, the place was ragtag and a mess of construction.  Now it is a lovely well-organized group of 20 buildings that you can enter and see cannons and carriages; the places where supplies were kept and bread was made.  The best was the officers’ quarters. The building we entered was an original 1845 building.  It is the same building we went into in 1988.  This building had been a private home and then a school for girls.

There is even a Tallgrass Prairie planted with a trail, so that you can imagine yourself walking the prairies of Kansas in the 1840s.

We spent about 90 minutes walking around the grounds and into the open buildings.  Several of the buildings were closed for various reasons.  The Visitors’ Center, which once was the hospital, has a small gift shop, and clean restroom. There is no entrance fee to visit the historic site. It is opened almost every day until 5 pm. But even when the buildings are closed, you are still allowed to walk around the park.

After we toured the site, we walked across the street to a nice little Mexican restaurant and then walked through the quaint town, entering a few stores. 

There is one other museum I want to see in Ft. Scott, the Gordon Parks Museum.  Located on the grounds of the Ft. Scout Community College, the museum highlights the work and life of well-known photographer Gordon Parks.  I will get there one day!

To be honest, I enjoyed my day in Ft. Scott so much, I have decided that this one-hour drive will be added to my activities whenever we have out of town company.  It is a great way to spend a day.

Center of the common area. Across the way are the soldiers quarters and the stable.
The officers’ quarters. The building on the right, known as the Wilson/Goodlander Home.This is the building I saw in 1988.
The back of the officers’ quarters. They had private gardens.
Inside the hospital.
The bakery.
The basement of the storehouse. The stone floor is the original floor.
The prison.
The Tallgrass Prairie

https://www.lowellmilkencenter.org/
https://www.nps.gov/fosc/index.htm

http://www.gordonparkscenter.org

Our First Foray ‘Post’ Pandemic

4 May

Since Late January, 2020, my husband and I have stayed close to home.  In our normal life we would have been all over the globe.  We had several international trips planned from March 2020 to March 2021.  It amazes me how much time we would have been traveling.  Our destinations included United Kingdom, Spain, France, Holland, Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania, in Europe; Israel in Asia; Australia and New Zealand.  These do not include the little trips we would have taken in the United States to meetings and to visit family.

When I look at this list, I tense up just thinking about all packing and arrangements I would have been doing to make these trips enjoyable and stress free.  We did so much traveling that we never worried about packing and making these arrangements because traveling was second nature.

In an instant everything changed.

Instead, like most everyone else, we stayed home.  Our March and April trips were immediately cancelled.  But before that, on March 2, we actually closed on a new home and moved in April.  I was going to do all of the packing and moving in between travels! Now, when I think back about having all these trips planned, I am stunned at my own arrogance.  I would have had a new home and all the issues that go with that while traveling!  I honestly just did not think about it.  I would have just done it… with much stress!

In a way, the pandemic did me a favor. 

I am glad all those trips got cancelled and I had a chance to stay home.  I enjoyed having time to get everything accomplished with less stress and just being in my own back yard, eating in my own kitchen and walking along the paths with friends in my community.

However, we did miss our family and friends.  Zoom and phone calls were nice. But to me they are not the same as seeing people in person.   With both of us being fully vaccinated, and with many of our friends vaccinated, it seemed like the time had come to plan a trip. The pandemic was not over, but with vaccines, it was definitely better in our area.

View of Beaver Lake From

We were both a bit nervous about leaving home and venturing out.  So we planned our first trip as a road trip to Arkansas where we have some really good friends, our long-term neighbors, who retired to the Eureka Springs area of Arkansas.  We loved the Beaver Lake area, and the great views from their home. We knew with them we would have a great time.  Feel safe.  And, most of all, be with friends we missed!

While there we could also meet up with other friends who lived in Bentonville and Fayetteville.  It was especially important for me to meet up with my Bentonville friend.  She and I had grown up together in New Jersey.  Her Mom and my Mom were good friends.  And during COVID, her 94-year-old mother passed away.  With all the restrictions, I could not go to see her.  This made me really sad.  Like so many others, she had to do her grieving alone.

Plans were made.  Arrangements to meet up in Bentonville were finalized.  We went on our first foray out of Kansas.  The drive down was uneventful. When we arrived, we had the best hugs with our friends.

Later we realized our packing techniques were a bit out of practice. My husband forgot socks.  Not a big problem.  But reminded us we had not done this for a long time.

Getting ice cream.

The next day was a trip to Bentonville.  Six of us enjoying a the lovely weather.  We Visited the C21 Museum Hotel and saw the exhibits. We got ice cream at the ice cream parlor by the original Wall Mart. We walked around the town square.

At lunch my childhood friend turned to me and said, “I am really glad you are here today.  It is the one-year anniversary of my Mom dying.”  I think we both had tears in our eyes at that moment!

I did not remember that it was on April 30 that her Mom passed away.  I knew it was early in COVID.  I thought how serendipitous that we arranged this trip.  But then I thought how sometimes events happen for a reason.  Arranging this trip, being there at this time, in a way made up for the time we lost, when I could not come.  Now, I was there when she needed me. It was a moment that felt had some divine intervention.

The one-lane Beaver Bridge in Arkansas, reflected how I felt…tentatively venturing out.

I am glad we went trip for so many reasons.  We needed to be able to travel again. To cross over the bridge of just staying home to going somewhere close, and with people we feel so comfortable with made a difference.  It felt strange to be away from home; to be eating at someone else’s kitchen table and speaking with people; to be watching my favorite reality show, “Escape to the Chateau,” with another person who also loved it!

But most of all, I am glad I was there to mark the anniversary of my friend’s mother.  So many lost people they loved in the past year and were unable to follow the usual path of grieving.  Marking the first-year anniversary helped.

It will take time for me to feel back to normal when I travel.  I am not sure when I will feel comfortable flying again.  But this trip gave me hope that there will be a post pandemic return to some sort of normal.