Loving My Mother’s Wedding Memory Book

28 Jul

Spring and summer are usually wedding time. Although COVID-19 has altered many wedding plans, I believe we should still celebrate weddings.  About once a week I see photos on Facebook of an outdoor wedding in a backyard or a park, where a small group of people gather for a family wedding.  Other weddings, I know, have been put on hold.  But with all that going on, weddings are on my mind.

In June I wrote about finding my in-laws wedding album during our move.  Among the other items I discovered in my move, was a wedding memory book that my Mother filled out after she and Dad were engaged.  Funny how you grow up hearing family stories, but some important facts were left out. Those facts are chronicled in this memory book.

For example, I knew my parents met on a blind date set up by my Dad’s Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny.  They shopped at my grandparent’s bakery and liked my Mom.  So they arranged for their nephew, my Dad, to meet Mom.  I guess she liked him, because she loaned him the book, Animal Farm, and he had to come for a second date to return it.

What I now know is that first date was held on July 4, 1949.  Dad always said how difficult it was to go from the Bronx to West New York, New Jersey.  Now I truly believe him. It was a holiday. It must have been nuts using mass transit to go on a date.

But Mom must have liked the date. She remembered: “We went to the Roxy and then to Roth’s for supper.  I wore my black silk print and Don wore a tan sport jacket with dark brown pants.”  Can you imagine a blind date now on the Fourth of July with the man wearing a sport jacket and the woman wearing silk?  It would be perhaps a summer dress and the guy would wear nice slacks or shorts and a polo shirt. I think.

Mom was still in college.  They were both 20 years old on their first date.

They announced their engagement 19 months later on March 23, 1951, in Santa Barbara, California.  Amazingly they married just three months later.  I knew it was a quickly planned wedding. But I did not realize how quickly!

I never knew the exact date of their engagement. But it answers a question I always had.  I got married on March 22, a Saturday night. But my Mom pushed for a while for a Sunday afternoon wedding on March 23, which would have been the anniversary of their engagement! I am sorry I did not ask her why that date was so important.  I will just believe that March 22 still counts!

The story of their engagement I had heard many times. Mom and my Grandma Esther, my Dad’s mom, flew to California where my Dad was in basic training before going to Korea.  My Mom’s parents were extremely upset and worried that they would get married there. In fact, there is a photo of my parents by the courthouse in Santa Barbara that created a stir.  But no, they did not get married then.  They waited till Mom graduated college and Dad had a two-week furlough before going off to war.

They even got a few engagement gifts, mainly from close family.

My Mom even had a surprise shower on May 27, 1951.  I have photos and even a movie of the shower.  Dad was still in California.  I assume my uncle recorded the shower. My Dad’s sister, Leona, and sister-in-law, Mickey, hosted the shower at my paternal grandparent’s apartment, for 50 guests!  My Great Aunt Minnie, who was part of my childhood and even came to my wedding, gave my Mom the bridal book, I am looking at now.

My Mom, Aunt Leona, Grandma Esther and Great Grandma Ray at the surprise shower.

But the memory book had another surprise that was important in my genealogy research. I knew almost all the people at the shower.  A few I know basically who they are, but do not remember them.  And a few were a bit of a surprise, they are my grandmother’s first cousins and aunts for the Lew family. (See blog below.) These women have shown up in my genealogy research before.  It was actually these names in reference to my great grandmother that confirmed that my great grandmother was in fact from the same family in Russia as other members of the Tracing the Tribe Group I belong to.  And connected me with distant relatives here in Kansas.   This wedding memory book makes the relationship very clear.  It states, “Aunt Rose, Grandma’s sister”.  With this shower list, I am able to realize how closely in contact the family was in the 1950s.  

Of the 50 people at that shower, I only know of three still alive today. My Aunt Mickey, who hosted it; and my Mom’s two best friends Wini and Judy.

My parents married on June 17, 1951 at Talmud Torah in West New York.  My Dad’s sister was the maid of honor. My Mom’s brother was the best man. My Mom wore my Aunt’s wedding dress. As this was a quickly planned wedding, there was no time to order a wedding dress.  And my aunt, the maid of honor, wore the gown my Mom wore when she was in the bridal party of her brother’s wedding!  Sixty-seven years later, my niece married her husband on the same day.

I even have the list of everyone who attended the wedding.  Sadly, as was the time, everyone is listed as Mr. and Mrs., so I do not have many names of the women who were there, unless they were single and came by themselves.  But many of the names I know.  Many are family members. Many are people I knew throughout my life. 

The Lew/Wolf Family members who came to the wedding.

Those first cousins of my grandmother, who came to the shower, were also at the wedding with their spouses.  I met them a few times as a child and quickly forgot, as children will do. But I know I met them, as my grandmother’s family had a Cousins’ Club for many years. And I remember going and running around with lots of children in a big room. But like many children, my memory of the adults has slipped away.

After the wedding, my parents went on their honeymoon to New York City, spending two nights at the Waldorf Astoria!  They then went to the Catskills and spent five nights at Grossingers!  A true destination spot for honeymoons.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in the Catskills. My Dad always joked that his in laws came to be with him on his honeymoon.  And they did. They had dinner with them one night.  And with that dinner, my Dad had a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

This tradition continued when my daughter and her husband got married. She wanted to show her husband our Catskills’ home. So they spent three nights of their honeymoon at our home in Kauneonga Lake. My sister went with them, as my daughter had never been there alone as an adult and did not really know her way around. But I like to tease my sister that she was continuing a family tradition.  (My daughter also got married on the anniversary of my husband and my first date.)

I am so glad my Mom kept records of everything in her beautiful and precise handwriting.  Reading through this book brought back stories and memories.  And brought back the joy of the wedding season that we are all missing.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/09/10/a-kansas-wedding-with-a-catskills-honeymoon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

Check Your Posts, Don’t Spread MisInformation!

26 Jul

When my daughter started high school in the year 2000, just 20 years ago. The internet was still new enough that some teachers were concerned about information that the students would get online using websites and not just books and magazines.  Would it be real? Would it be fake?  The librarian put together a group of parents who volunteered to check websites to make sure the information the students would find was accurate.

 I volunteered to be one of these parents.  I did this for two years. Every week or so, I would be sent a list of websites to check out. Which I did immediately.  To be honest, after being a research assistant for a professor in college, then getting a master’s degree in journalism, searching for the truth was something that I loved doing. This was the perfect volunteer position.

My search or need for truth reverberated in my family as well.  When my children got in trouble, they knew the rule. Tell me truthfully what happened. You will face consequences, but it will not be too bad as long as you tell the truth.  Tell a lie and the consequences doubled.  I hate lies.

That is my biggest problem with social media: the lies; the misinformation; the harmful memes that express false information.  I especially hate when a photo from 2, or 3, or7 years ago is used to say this happened now.  Like a photo of a vandalized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial which inferred that Black Life Matters protestors vandalized the memorial in Washington DC.  Sorry that photo was four years old; Had nothing to do with Black Life Matters; and was a replica of the wall, not the real.  So, of course, I had to post the truth in the comments.

The number of misinformed posts disheartens me.  I have to do something!!

I decided that my new calling was to rout out these lies and the false information on Facebook.  It offends me that the powers that be allow these lies to rotate through again and again. It horrifies me that sometimes people leave the false post up even when multitude of people tell them it is fake or false.  I feel much better when people take the fake meme or photo or article down!  It is a disservice to humanity.

There are people out there whose main purpose in life seems to be to sow discord and distrust among us.  But I also know there are governments who do that as well.  On Fareed Zackaria GPS today, he had two experts on who spoke about the misinformation campaigns currently being waged by China, Russia and Iran against the US and the 2020 election.  They play on people’s emotions to polarize us. And people keep falling for the lies.

Look we are polarized enough. We need to find compromise and learn to speak to each other again.  STOP believing all you see on Facebook. Many of the memes are made by people telling lies.  I have seen this coming from both sides of the political world as well as outside sources.

If you post something that is not true and I see it.  I will find the articles that refute.  Please take the fake post down and report it. 

Do not let social media be your only news source.  Try the Flip Side. This daily news email takes one topic a day and provides content from the conservative and liberal sides.  You see all the comments.  And you see what people are really say.   Here is a link to sign up for it:  https://theflipside.io?rh_ref=4a061f4d 

Do not just mindlessly repost something without first reading it or checking it or making sure it is the truth.  I don’t care if you are way right or way left, both sides are driving me crazy with ridiculous memes and posts.

Some of my friends might begin to get annoyed with me.  I am not sorry.  If you are posting misinformation, I am going to comment with the truth and with another article to support my claim.  If we all started doing this. If we all checked what we posted before we posted it, maybe the world can be a bit happier.   It is obvious to me that there are people who want to spread strife and discord.

Please do not become part of the problem.  Check your sources.  I do not care what political side you are on. Just post articles and memes that are true!

My Personal Rules for Dealing with the Storm

18 Jul

For the past four months I have found it difficult to get back to my genealogy research.  I just was overwhelmed by moving and the pandemic and working from home and watching the craziness of the politicalizing health care and wearing masks. 

I touched a bit of my passion when I discovered my husband’s parent’s wedding album and was able to write about it and put a photo up for his family.  We were supposed to have a family reunion of all the first cousins in June, but that was called off due to the pandemic.  The blog about the wedding album was a way to remember.

But as for my research on my family, I hit a mental block.  I am beginning to think that the worldwide rise in antisemitism part of the problem.  When I research my family, I often end up back in concentration camps, ghettos, death and destruction due to the Shoah.

 I just cannot bear to deal with that now.  I see history repeating as horrible political cartoons and national figures make horrendous statements about Jewish people.   It disgusts me.  And even people who I consider friends, sometimes do not see the antisemitism in the comments or cartoons.  And that frightens and sickens me.

I have a high level of anxiety about baseless hatred.  The same hatred I see rising in the USA.  But not only the hatred, the use of the military to attack US citizens.  The use of unidentified soldiers in Portland illegally arresting people in a militia like the SS. It is against the law in the USA to arrest someone without identifying yourself and with no due cause.

The use of the military to attack peaceful protesters at a church so the administration could have a photo op.  The use of the military in non-identified uniforms at the Lincoln Memorial.


These soldiers and members of the military need to say a resounding NO!  They should not be brainless lambs like the Nazi/German soldiers whose response after the war was, “I just did what I was ordered to do.”

I am beginning to see some light.  The pentagon said No to the Confederate Flag.  The general who was at the church apologized for being at the church in uniform and giving what seemed to be military approval of this behavior.  The mayor of Portland saying get these federal agents out.

Sane people have to behave in a sane way.  Right now fear and lies are ruling our country. So my rules:

  1.  Do not be a lie spreader.  Please check your sources before you post anything.  Misinformation on either side increases the divisiveness. 
  2. Don’t stop talking to others who do not believe what you believe. If we stop talking to each other, we add to the polarization of this country.   We can agree to disagree, but we should not end conversation.
  3. Believe the science of disease.  Wearing a mask will not hurt you. You will not get sick from carbon dioxide. This is a cruel lie.  Wearing a mask does stop the spread of the disease. This is the truth.  And honestly, doctors and nurses have been wearing masks for a long time. And they are alive.  Except those who have recently died because of their constant exposure to the Covid virus.  Even masks and PPE cannot always save you from infection. But it does help.
  4. So wear a mask out of kindness for others.  Keep physical distance inside out of kindness to others.  This will eventually pass, but to save the most people as possible we need to be responsible.
  5. United we stand, divided we fall.  We are one country which includes people of all races, religions and creeds.  When one group is made the scapegoat or the outcast, we all suffer.  It is time for racism to stop.  It is time for anti-Semitism to stop.  It is time for rants against the other to just stop.  We have to learn to live together again.
  6. Finally, just be kind. The administration has taken kindness out of the vocabulary.  Follow the words that we are supposed to follow:  Isaiah 58:7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Ezekiel 18:7  Does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, Matthew 25:34-46: Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? “Feed the hungry, visit the sick and set free the captives.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, volume 7, Hadith 552) “(The righteous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God, saying: ‘We feed you for the sake of God Alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks.” –  Quran, 76:8-9. “One should not behave towards other in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish nature.” Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8. My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” The Dalai Lama

Do NOT remain silent when you see evil taking place. The silent bystander, who does nothing, is just as bad as the ones who commit the evil. We have learned this from history. We all need to say a resounding NO to the cruelty that that is being spread.

Rediscovering My Master’s Thesis On The Jewish Press

22 Jun

As journalists and media outlets are facing some of their most difficult times with the loss of large newspapers and 24 hour entertainment/news, and the attack on the journalists in the USA, I found my latest move-related discovery: a box filled with papers included a red folder containing the survey responses from a 78 Jewish publications in the late 1970s, who responded to my master’s thesis request.

I worked on and wrote, “The Jewish Press: Journalism Versus Religion,” in 1979. Starting in the fall semester of 1978, I f finished with my defense and publication in December 1979.   I remember my advisor being happily surprised that so many responded to my survey.  I took the information and diligently typed this information on to computer punch cards.  Then reserved my time on the University of Missouri’s mainframe computer where, my cards zapped through the machine and presented me with the results. 

I have to laugh.  It took three tries. The first I dropped the cards, and I did not have them all numbered. This was a disaster in those days, because certain cards told the computer what to do.  You do that once, and never again!  The second time, a one card had a typo.  Finally, on the third try, it went perfectly.  Of course, four responses came after the computer work, so I had to mentally add them to the statistics.  The computer took up an entire room. You do have to laugh when you think about computers today and then 41 years ago. Sigh.

Back to my surveys. I sent my survey to magazines, newspapers, English and Yiddish publications. Any publications that identified as part of the Jewish press. Some of the editors/publishers just answered the questions with as few words as possible, others sent me paragraph upon paragraph of information about their publications and their thoughts. 

One person’s help stood out.  He wrote me a letter along with returning the survey.  In his letter, Bernard Postal offered as much help as possible in my project. My most vivid memory of working on my thesis was his wonderful help and advice! 

Mr. Postal had been an associate editor of The Jewish Week from 1971 until his death in 1981.  In the 1920s and 30s he worked at many publications including the New York Globe, the New York Times, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jersey City Jewish Standard.  He was the editor of the monthly magazine, The Jewish Digest from 1955 till he passed away. He wrote books and he was honored by the JWB’s Jewish Book Council for his contributions to American Jewish History.

For me he was a godsend.  He had written an unpublished article in 1976 entitled, The American Jewish Press after 150 Years. He was interested in my master’s thesis and wanted to help. He wrote to me about my research. He spoke to me on the phone.  Finally, when I was in New Jersey during a break, I took the train to Long Island, where he met me at the train station and took me back to his home. We spent hours going through his personal archives.  He sent me away with a load of articles, information and a wonderful interview which took place on March 29, 1979. This interview is footnoted in my thesis.

We kept in touch.  I even invited him to my wedding, which took place a year after our day together.  He did not come.  And then, less than two years after my thesis was published by the university, he died.  I was devastated.   He was my mentor.  I was 26 and he was 75. I felt terrible that I had not gone to see him with the bound copy of my thesis.  However, his name and  memory has stayed with me throughout the years. 

Finding these papers, brought me back to the memory of my day in his home. Because of my thesis and my time with Bernard Postal, I always had a positive imagine of the Jewish press. I have had articles published in three different national Jewish publications, of which only one is still published today.

For many years, I have freelanced for the local Kansas City Jewish newspaper.  I will admit, that one of the people who responded to my thesis survey was the then editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, Milton Firestone.   He was one that answered with just a few words. I never worked for Milton.   I started freelancing for the Chronicle in 1985, when I was pregnant with my daughter, 35 years ago.  He had died suddenly two years before, when he was quite young, 55.  I never had the chance to discuss my thesis with him.  However, I still write an occasional article or commentary for the paper. 

When Milton Firestoen responded to my survey, he mentioned concern to the question about “the possible demise of your publication.”  His answer: there is “little new talent interested in producing a publication. Also, young people may not want to read it.”  I think he would be happy to know that it just celebrated its 100th anniversary.  Although, I am sure there is still concern about the future of the publication, just as there is for all newspapers throughout the world.

Rereading some of the survey questionnaires has brought me back to a different time. So many of these publications are no longer published, or if they are, in a much smaller format.  I think everyone who responded is no longer alive.  I am actually feeling so glad that I held on to this tiny bit of Jewish history.

I am still looking to see if I saved the letters and the notes from my interview with Mr. Postal.  So far, I have not found them.  But what I did find has given me a bit of joy.

Rediscovering My Husband’s Parent’s Wedding Album

15 Jun

As we have been unpacking since our recent move, we found items we did not even know we had.   Among them was my husband’s parent’s wedding album.  It makes sense we had them.  At the time his mother died and their father moved, one brother was living in Europe and the other brother was busy with four little children.   That meant that my husband and I did a lot of the sorting and cleaning.   Especially since his father was moving to live with his new wife.  A wedding album with his deceased wife would not have been a good idea.

I should also say my husband’s mother died when she was just 59 years old from lung cancer.  It was a painful time for her and for her family.  She was way too young. Smoking three packs of cigarettes a day was not the best for her health.   (See blog below.)

I digress.  We found the wedding album as we were packing boxes in the old house. The album was in an old box of items important to my husband.  We were sorting through the box to see what we needed to move with us.  Of course, the photo album made the move! We did not have time to really look through it when we were getting ready for the move. But now that we are here and unpacking, we took a break to look through a bundle of old photos.

Lee, his mother, was one of ten children in the Matassarin family. I knew eight of them. One died before she was born. And one passed before I joined the family. In this photo, most of her siblings and their spouses are in the picture. I am assuming the one that is not in were still serving in the military. It was soon after WW2.

Her parents died long before she married.  Her mother died when she was only five or six years old; her father died when she was a senior in high school.  (See blogs belos.)

Her oldest brother walked her down the aisle.  Her youngest sister was her maid of honor.  In some of the photos, she looks pensive.  I wonder if she is missing her father?  Her mother?  Even though she had so many siblings with her, I have to think she missed not having either parent.

My husband’s first cousins planned to have a family reunion next week. They planned a trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, to see the family home and to visit the Jewish cemetery where their grandparents were buried. It has all been cancelled due to the virus. I had planned to share the wedding album then. Instead, I share it here. Not all the photos, but at least this one that shows all the family together on a very happy day.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/06/remembering-my-mother-in-law-with-a-manicure-and-pedicure/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

Pademic Move: One Month Update

13 May

We made it to a month in the new home.  Finally, no more workers, all wearing masks, some wearing gloves and booties, are coming in to fix one of the many issues that we had to correct in the new hone.   Practically everything is completed.  

We actually can use our master bathroom, stovetop and trash compactor. Many pictures are hung on the walls.  And upstairs in the main living area, we only have only one box to unpack!! 

Runner by the kitchen sink.

I could not go shopping for some rugs we needed. But I did find a few things I needed on RugsUSA. So that helped. Now our hardwood kitchen floor is a bit more protected. I never had a hardwood floor in the kitchen. I am learning.

Downstairs is another story.  Each day I try to do one or more boxes.  We did one already this morning.  And I planned to do the others today as well.  But I am writing a blog instead.  Procrastination is okay during a pandemic.

I can honestly say that this house is beginning to feel like home.  Yes, there are some blips.  Like my husband asking me where something is, like shoelaces.  “Just tell me! You don’t have to get up and show me!  I guess you are getting up,” he says with a note of exasperation in his voice.

“I wish I could tell you!”  Is my response.  “But I am not exactly sure where it is.  I know the shoelaces are in a drawer in the kitchen, but I don’t know which drawer.  In our old house I would just tell you. But here I have to look.”  And even when I look, the item I am searching for is not exactly where I remember or thought I put it.

Now don’t think this conversation would not have happened in our home of 35 years.  It would have.  Even though the shoelaces were always kept in the same place, my husband never remembered where they were.  My brain carried an internal map of almost every item.  Now that map has been distorted and corrupted.  

When we open boxes now, I realize that I should have labeled things much better.  We finally, after a month, found my mouse pad, computer mouse and back up hard drive.  Finally.

But we put the wrong one on my computer.  There is another hard drive that I needed to find!  It took two days, but we found it!

The new house is feeling like home.  We both agree, it is a great place to spend the next stage of our lives.  With all of our everyday living on one level, it makes sense.  An added bonus is the maintenance provided for lawn mower, hedge trimming, leaf and snow removal.  No more weekly outdoor chores to get done.  Now we can just focus on weeding and planting.

There is the one glaring problem, however: our old home.   We had planned to move and then put it on the market, so that we could take our time.  Not disrupt the cats as much.  And do a peaceful move.  We did not plan for a pandemic financial crash.   We might not be selling our house.  The market is not going our way at all.

But then we realize, we actually put the house on the market 10 days earlier than planned. We had no plans to buy a house in March.  We were to be in Europe for two weeks celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  In fact, according to our schedule, we were only coming home in time for Mother’s Day.  But instead we spent those two weeks unpacking and having the house issues dealt with on almost a daily basis.

I guess for us the silver lining of the pandemic is the joy of being at home and getting settled, without having to worry about a trip out of town.  And for me, having to go between the two homes, packing at one and unpacking at another, gave me the opportunity to keep busy and not focus on the isolation!  Another silver lining.

I decided to focus on the good of the move and not dwell on the issues that arose because of when we moved.  We are not the only ones who had a move planned in the month of March, April or May.  We are all navigating this strange time.  I hope everyone can find a silver lining and adjust happily into a new environment.

Most of all, I hope those who are having financial struggles are able to keep their home and find employment and survive. My struggles as silly when I compare myself to others. Sending prayers for all who are going through changes during this unexpected time.

Settling In: At Home and In Reality

28 Apr

As I continue my pandemic impacted move, I must admit I finally see a resolution and feel a sense of peace.

Last week my home of 35 years was emptied out.  Forget an estate sale: I had it set up with a non-profit that donates the money to a nursing scholarship fund at a local community college.  But due to the pandemic, we could not have it.  Forget donating the over 1000 books that I did not give away to the local library for its annual book sale.  (See blog below.) They were not taking any books at this time due to the pandemic.  Forget donating to anyone for anything.  I was disappointed and dismayed.

I wanted to have my good friend, who owns a thrift store, and gives some money to a charity we both support, take my stuff. But she was stuck at her second home in Florida.  So I could not even do that.  My realtor came through. She heard of a gentleman, a veteran, who has a thrift store about an hour from where I live. He takes everything and he donates to four charities.  Yes, some redeeming solution to my pile of no longer needed items, that were definitely not junk…along with some junk.  He actually took everything, including the trash!!!

I also felt good because three of the charities he gives items and donations to are ones that I also support.

Being there when everything was hauled away was more emotional than I thought it would be.  We had already put all that we did not want into two rooms and the garage. Most of the house was already empty.  But watching those piles diminish and parts of my life leave the house was at times awful.  I did rescue a few items in the last minutes.  A book!  My tennis rachet, I have not played in 20 years, but my Dad and I used to play together in the summers when I worked for him.  I had to keep that.

Our lower level is empty as well.

However, there is one wonderful bright spot: with everything gone from the house, there are no more boxes entering the new house.  We are done. Now when a box is emptied, it stays empty.  I find that liberating!!! 

I was worried about leaving all my wonderful plantings behind.   The Japanese maple my son and his girlfriend got my husband for Father’s Day.  Plants that reminded me of my Dad, who loved to garden, and all my special plants.  But my friend, and gardener, came through and moved many of my favorites to the new house, taking some similar plants from the new house and replanting them at the old.  Yes, it made a difference.

The Japanese maple moved with us.

Inside the house is beginning to feel more like home as the furniture I kept is rearranged to fit into the new space. At times I am frustrated as things do not fit quite right. My husband’s calm response is always, “We downsized.  So things are smaller.”  Things like closets and storage.  But I am getting the hang of it.  And as I put things away, I also find more things to give away.  Boxes of craft and school supplies go to the school I work at.  Bags of clothing are going to the one thrift store that has a dumpster outside for donations.  And lots of Star Trek items to a young couple I know who loves Star Trek.

I have also repurposed items from my old home into my new. My favorite Roman shades, that the realtor took out of my old home, are now hanging in the new one. Rugs I had thought I had no use for here, are now on the hardwood floors. Each little item actually gives me comfort.

Roman shades moved from old house to new!

Our biggest need is more bookshelves. The home we left had many built -in bookshelves. The new home has none. We did bring several with us, but not enough to hold all the books that survived the culling.  I still have some room and am still unpacking. But there will be books in boxes for a while.

Empty family room with almost empty bookcases. Some of my books we used to stage.

Due to the social distancing and closures, some of the remodeling that was supposed to be completed before we moved in, is still a work in progress.  But I think within a week or so, almost everything will be completed.

On Friday our home goes on the market.  I have no idea what will happen, as the pandemic and its economic strangle on the community will probably impact the sale.  But who knows? Our home is two blocks from an elementary school, a playground, a park that includes tennis courts, a hockey rink, a soccer field, two softball/baseball fields and a track.  It is really one of the best neighborhoods for children.  And more than that, every Fourth of July we can just walk to the school and watch the city’s fireworks display.  

I look forward to the days of owning one home, and no longer worrying about what will happen next.  That has been the major stress of buying and selling a home during this unsettled Covid-19 time. Each day has been a new adventure. Each day a new challenge. 

On the other hand, I know I am fortunate. My husband and I are still employed.  We are among the lucky ones.  My problems pale to those facing eviction, lack of food and no income.

I am looking forward to settling into our new home.  But I am also looking forward to settling into a new reality where we no longer shake hands, stay six feet apart, and hope to an economy that bounces back.  Wishing everyone good health and economic security.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/23/joyful-moments-as-i-give-away-our-books/

Pandemic Packing And Moving

7 Apr

Pandemic moving is more than mildly stressful. As I wrote in two earlier blogs (see below), my husband and I purchased a new home on March 2. Although it was new to us, it is almost 30 years old. So it needed some love and attention.

I decided that we should get all the major changes completed before we moved. So I met with people, signed contracts and prepared for the closing, when everything would start. And it did…right on time.

Old carpeting was ripped out, hardwood floors went in. Three old alarm systems and intercom system were removed. Nails and holes in the walls were patched. And the faded gold, brown and green/brown walls became Misty grey, Atmospheric blue, and Rain teal.

Three unsteady ceiling fans were replaced with more modern versions. The one good one went into the guest bedroom with a new light attached. A dining room became a piano room, so the chandelier that was placed at table level came out, and a more suitable one for our plans went in.

Repairs from the list found during the mechanical inspection were made. Electrician, plumber, roofer, gardener, all came to fix more major issues. Since our new laundry was internally located and had a dryer vent that went for 12 feet under the kitchen, I decided to have it checked. Good thing. It had not been cleaned for years and had disconnected in the basement ceiling spreading inches of lint in the space. Luckily it was a drop ceiling below so it could all be fixed.

Some of the lint from the dryer vent

The master bathroom was getting an overhaul. The shower stall head was placed at 5’6”. Great for me, but not for my over six-foot husband. There were broken tiles and mold. So a remodeled was called for. It was supposed to be done before we moved in. As was the remodel of the island in the kitchen.

But about 12 days into the remodel life changed. We went to social distancing as the pandemic force of Covid 19 drove people indoors. In the Kansas City area, the mayors from cities in both states closed things down! Then our wonderful Kansas governor closed schools and put out new regulations for social distancing. So far they seem to be helping.

But what does that do for a move? Well the remodeling continues. Usually one person at a time. If more than one is here, they work in different rooms. I stay away while they are there, and go back in the late afternoon to check progress. I have a big container of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer throughout. I have a mask. Everyone is aware of the issues. I no longer have to touch an I pad to sign. Bills are emailed to me then I pay. If I do have to give a credit card I immediately clean it with a wipe.

Home buying, remodeling and moving are deemed essential jobs, so work can continue. The house is almost done. However some is at a slower pace. The master bath has a holdup as some of the tile is in lockdown at a store that is closed. The kitchen island will also be completed after we move.

Then there is the move itself. It is supposed to be this week. But with this virus surrounding us, my husband and I are more vigilant. We have moved hundreds of boxes by ourselves. Our personal items, books, dishes, linens have only been touched by us. I have packed everything for the last month, as we did not want to exposed ourselves to more risks than necessary.

Luckily our new abode is just two miles from our current home. So taking several trips a day has been somewhat easy. Ok I lie, we are exhausted. If it was any other time I would have had friends helping me. But instead I am often on my own, as my husband is busy at work. I am working from home as my school is closed. So I do have more time to pack.

This week is stressful for so many reasons but also because if the holidays. For us there will be no Seder. My friend, whose house we were going to, is dropping off food for us. Most of my dishes are at the new house. For the second night we are doing a Zoom Seder with my family. People will be joining us from Canada, Israel, New Jersey, New York and DC. I can’t wait. Easter will also be different as many churches are closed or having outdoor services. I will not comment about Those that are staying open.

After this week and the move, we have to then sell our home of 35 years. But who knows how long this isolation will continue? Homes are still selling in our area. But as people continue to lose their jobs and the economy slows, we just don’t know. It causes some anxiety! The main concern, however, is loss of life. Already the death toll is over 10,000. New York is being ravaged. Globally 75,000 have died. Here it is not as bad. We might have flatten the pandemic’s curve. I am praying that is so.


With all that is happening I have some advice, DO NOT purchase a new home on the precipice of a pandemic. The stress and anxiety as we see what is happening all around us makes celebrating this change in our lives almost impossible.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/14/buying-a-home-in-the-midst-of-a-pandemic/

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/05/downsizing-after-35-years/

Rediscovering A Talk With My Husband’s Aunt (Part 1)

1 Apr

Cleaning out my house as we prepare to move has brought me several treasures.  One I have been looking for over the last few months, as my husband’s family had planned a family reunion in June, which has since been cancelled.  But what I was looking for finally turned up in a file cabinet drawer.

Over 30 years ago, I sat down with my husband’s Aunt Matt, who was his mother’s sister.  My husband’s Mom died of lung cancer when she was only 59.  After my daughter was born, I felt truly sad that she would never hear stories about her grandmother’s family.  So I asked Aunt Matt if she would be the substitute. She was delighted!

We used to spend a long weekend each March at the Lake of the Ozarks with Aunt Matt and her husband, Uncle Stan, in a time share they had.  This was the perfect opportunity.  My husband and his uncle took my daughter fishing, while Aunt Matt and I talked about her life in Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas, and I recorded her words.

Aunt Matt, whose real name was Marie, was filled with love for her parents and her nine siblings.  Her father, Leon, was from Romania.  He had both a law degree and a medical degree.  After college, at Sorbonne, he went to England where he met his wife, Esther. She was just 15 when they married.  (See blogs below about their marriage) Leon spoke 7 languages!

Esther and Leon

They first lived in London where the first three children were born: Molly, Joe and Jean.  They came to North America in 1912.   I understand that they came through Canada.   They first settled in New Orleans, where Leon taught at Tulane University.   (I had never heard this before!)

During the First World War, Leon entered the United States Army, where he became a colonel.  He stayed an extra year in Europe as he was put in charge of the exchange of prisoners.  (There is actually a photo of him with prisoners that one of my husband’s cousins owns.) 

Colonel Leon M.

While he was in Europe, his young family lived in Brooklyn with family. Aunt Matt said with their grandparents.  (I do know that Esther’s had family in NY. But I thought it was her brother.).  When he finally got back to the USA, the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Leon was in charge of a military hospital.  They lived in a home belonging to a family that gave it to the Army to use.  It was just 100 steps from the hospital.

Somewhere along the way, from Tulane, to Wichita for a bit, to Pennsylvania, four more children were born: Marie, Fred, Florence (Toots) and Ben (Bubsy).  When Leon was finally discharged and left active duty, he moved his family to Wichita, Kansas. Aunt Matt had no idea why they moved. (The names in parenthesis are family nicknames.)

The next baby, Leona ”Lee”  (Bubbles) was born in Wichita.  Her birth in 1925 was almost exactly one year after the oldest daughter, Molly, died while attending college in New York.  Bubble’s middle name, May, was for her sister.  This baby was important in my family, as she was my husband’s mother.  Aunt Matt said, “Lee was a born one year and two days after Molly died of pneumonia in 1924 while at Columbia University, where she was studying art.”

Lee was the only child born in Wichita.   While there, Leon had a private practice. But he was also part of a group that founded the first free clinic.  The St. Francis Free Dispensary was founding in 1922.

Aunt Matt did not know why the family moved once again to Leavenworth, Kansas. But they did sometime before 1927, because the last two children, Barbara and Richard were born when they lived in Leavenworth.  Leon had a private practice their specializing in OB/BYN and Surgery.  

Life changed for them after just a few years after moving to Leavenworth. When the youngest, Richard, was just two years old, their mother, Esther, died.  Aunt Matt was in college then.  She was told that her mother died of pneumonia.  But we know she died in childbirth.  (See blog below.)

This blog covers the first three pages of 17 pages of notes. The next ones will discuss the time in Leavenworth, Kansas.

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/09/more-on-esther-and-leons-london-wedding/

If you read these other blogs, you will find slightly different stories. We all have the stories our parent’s told us. With ten siblings ranging about 25 years apart in age, different grandchildren of Leon and Esther, were told slightly different stories. OR had slightly different memories. These are Aunt Matt’s memories.

Joyful Moments As I Give Away Our Books!

23 Mar

I already wrote about my plan to help others when the libraries and schools closed.  I meant just to help those in my circle of friends find a book to read.  But it did not quite work that way. (See blogs below.)

A friend of mine, who has media contacts, told one of them about my plan to give away my books to help others survive the closing of the libraries.  A local television station is doing a series about people helping others, “We See You KSHB.”.  Next thing I know, I was called and asked to participate.

On Friday morning, March 20, I was interviewed. During the 5 o’clock news, MacKenzie Nelson featured my segment.  Within the next 48 hours I had almost 120 requests for books.  I was able to help 104 people.  Twelve I could not help, mainly because they asked for a specific book that I did not have, and that was all they wanted.  Or they wanted books for infants. I have no board books. Several never told me what type of books they wanted.

Bundles of books in my house

Four people wanted large quantities of children’s books. One for a preschool, one for a first grade class, one for the Johnson County Christmas Bureau, and finally for Reach Out and Read KC.  I could not help them.  But another woman I know, a retired teacher, wanted to give me all her books to give away.  I suggested since she had children’s books to be in contact with these four people.  And she agreed.  

Another woman, who worked at Scholastic, had tons of children’s books but no adult books. She also offered to give me children’s books.  Instead I gave her the email addresses for these four people.  I hope that these two people are able to help, magnifying the book giving I am doing. She wrote me this, after picking up her books: “Thank you so much for the books! I have to be honest. I have never read anything written by these authors, but they look very intriguing. I’m so excited. Also, thank you for the list of email addresses. I will go through my collection and see what I have to offer them. Stay safe! See you on the other side. Lots of love.”

Actually, I think I have found my calling. When I was in college, we all had to do a vocational test during our first few days.  Mine came back definite, become a librarian.  I did not do that. I became and English major and then got a master’s in journalism.  But I will admit, I have had great joy as I selected over 300 books for strangers. 

I was nervous about people coming to my front door to pick up the books.   But it worked wonderfully.   I bagged and labeled every bundle of books. Most people got between 2 and 6 books.  One person usually got 2 or 3, but if I was giving to a family, I usually gave 4-6 books.  I went through all the little plastic bags I had in my house. You can see the colors change below!

I sent everyone the following letter after I bundled the books:

“Dear Reader.

     I have received over 100 requests for books.  So obviously, I am not driving all over town to deliver them. And I am practicing Social distancing as I am over 60. So here is how this will work.

     I have selected books for you based on what you asked for. Your books are wrapped in a plastic bag with your name or identifying number on it; however, you identified yourself to me.  Please take your bag.

     You should come pick them up at my home. And I gave the address.

     I am putting them out on my porch now. I will not answer the door as I do not want to have any contact as requested by the doctors.

I do have a security system with a video doorbell.  If you want to wave at me, wave at the camera. 

    I hope you enjoy the books. Stay healthy!”

I was worried that some might take extra books or be upset that they had only a couple. But book lovers are the best people ever.   They came, they searched, they found their books and they waved to me on my video door bell.  Sometimes, a book lover came as I was putting out books. They waited till after I went back inside to approach my porch. 

A few spoke to me through my door.  Emily made me so happy.  She told me looking for her books through the bundles of books made it more fun.  She wanted Star Wars books.  I gave her four.  She left smiling and hugging her books.  I was smiling as well.

Some people left me gifts of cards and art work.  One person left me money.  I will donate it to disaster relief.  I got so many delightful emails.  Here are a few:

“I just got home and wanted to let you know first off that I got my books. I didn’t have Sassinak or Death of Sleep, so new additions to my McCaffrey library! … I hope you saw with your ring-cam how happy I was.”

“Thank you so very much.  It will probably be early evening when I get out that way.  You’re so kind to offer this to people!”

“Sounds like you are doing a good job getting books into the hands of those who need them.”

“It’s a wonderful gift you’re giving away. I wish you all the best, stay safe and healthy. “

“My son was excited about the American revolution book!”

“Thanks and prayers for your safety and health!”

“Omg thank you so much!”

“Thank you for your response and all that you are doing to help and bless others!”

“Wow! You are awesome. Stay safe and healthy. And thank you!”

“I think what you’re doing is so wonderfully generous. You’re right, doing things like this not only makes others feel good, it multiplies back to the giver. Even if you don’t have any books by my favorites, bless you for your kindness and thoughtfulness.”

One woman sent me photos of her husband picking up the books and her with the books along with this note: “I look forward to reading what you picked out for me. I am currently reading “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate”.  That put a smile on my face!

I got to watch them on my Ring videos.  To see the joy on their faces when they found their bundle of books made me happy.  It got my mind off of all the stress the world Is in right now.  I could just relax and enjoy their moment. In reality my giving them books was also a gift to me!

One offered to go to the grocery store for me or help me in any way I needed.  Which was so nice. But so far my husband and I have been doing fine. And we have stocked our house for this time to stay shut in. 

The most amazing request came from one woman.  On the news segment it mentioned that I was giving away the books because I am moving.  Which is true. We were supposed to move into our new, downsized home in early April.  Don’t know what is happening now.   I will say that my current home is a book lover’s dream house.  I have six giant, built-in bookcases, with deep shelves that can be double booked!  Any real book lover would tell you that is most important!

In any case, one woman emailed me after picking up her books:

“Thank you!  Got them.

Love your neighborhood.  Can you let me know when you want to sell!  We have been looking forever….We will hopefully begin our search again in May or June!”

I sent the information to my realtor.  But I have been laughing ever since.  Wouldn’t it be ironic and special  if I sold our house to someone who found it through my book giveaway!  That would be so apropos, as book lovers must stick together.

I should add that my husband finds this entire experience unreal.  Not the virus, rather  the people driving here to get books.  But with the libraries closed and the schools closed, and the stress level high, people need to read.  That is why I decided it was more important to give my books away than save them for a giant estate sale.

So far 323 books left my home to 106 different people. To be honest I probably have a thousand more. I spent 48 hours choosing, sorting, packing, labeling and emailing. It was worth every second because of the looks of joy on the people’s faces as they got their books.

One man came with his son.  He looked at the 30 bundles on my porch.  I could hear him say, “This is just amazing.”  And it was.  For three days, I had a constant flow of book lovers coming to my house.  It gave us all a moment of joy in a time of uncertainty, anxiety and a bit of fear.

I love book lovers! It was a joyful, delightful way to spend the weekend. 

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/15/libraries-closed-well-i-have-books-to-share/

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/18/my-pandemic-mitzvot-keep-me-optimistic/

PS: I have to admit to one downside. As I search books for others, I discovered 30 books that I just cannot part with. They are moving with us!