Life Is An Adventure; How Key People Changed My Life

21 Nov

I think everyone has at least one person in their life that makes a comment or a suggestion that changes the course of life.  I know I do. Below are three of my important people.  Two were educators, to which I am sure many can relate.

I grew up in New Jersey, but now live in Kansas.  I did not get here by happenstance.  Rather, it was a series of people who made the right comment at the right time, that changed the direction of my life.

First comment came from Professor Jacqueline Berke at Drew University.  I was taking one of her classes when she told me that I should become a writer.  She loved how I wrote and told me that I had talent.  Up to that time, I never thought of being a journalist.  I did work on the school’s newspaper, “The Acorn,” and I had been an editor of my high school newspaper, “PawPrints.”  But I had not thought of journalism as a career.  Professor Berke’s comments set me on to a path that has guided me for over 40 years.

I applied for graduate school in journalism. I was only going to apply to Columbia University in New York City.  A visit to my high school changed that opinion. I visited with Celia Whitehouse, my English teacher and the advisor for both yearbook and newspaper at North Bergen High School.  I was one of the editors for both these publications.   I told her I was thinking about journalism.  She thought that was a great choice and suggested I apply to the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Journalism as well as Columbia university.  She had been a mentor throughout high school and college, so I listened and applied to both schools.

I got accepted to both schools!  Now I had to decide.   My Mom’s comment sealed the deal.  My parents made it clear that they expected me to live at home if I went to graduate school in New York City.  Then my Mom commented, “How will I sleep at night knowing that you will be going to Harlem every day.”  My answer was sincere and to the point.  “I am going to Columbia, Missouri, that way you will not have to worry about me, as you will have no idea what I am doing at night.”

Which is why I attended graduate school in Missouri.  I will admit, it was a major change for me to move from New Jersey/New York to Missouri.   But I survived.

My second day in Missouri, I met the person who would become my husband a few years later.  Being a St. Louis boy, he wanted to remain in the Midwest.  My fate was just about sealed. But one more person had to make an important comment.

We married while he was in medical school.  Then moved to Kansas City where he was a intern then a medical resident. I got a job at a Girl Scout Council working half time as their public relations director and half time as a field advisor.  In this role I would go to different areas within the Council to train Girl Scout leaders, meet with leaders and give advice.  But in reality, I learned as much from the leaders as they learned from me.

One of the areas I was in charge of was Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  I went monthly to the military base to meet with all the Girl Scout leaders providing information about what was going on in the Council, camping and other activities.  The woman in charge of Girl Scouts at the base was Jane Stilwell, the wife of the base commander.  I can still see her when I close my eyes.

In any case, after three years working for the Girl Scouts, I was going to have to quit my job, which I LOVED, and move to Michigan, where my husband was to begin a fellowship.  I was unhappy.  I wanted him to accept an offer as a general pediatrician and stay in Kansas City. I was miserable and I let everyone know how unhappy I was about moving.

Jane was not happy with me.   At the end of each year on the base, we had a luncheon at Jane’s home, a lovely Victorian home right on the river.  As everyone was leaving, she told me to stay.  Jane then gave me the most important lecture of my life.

She explained that being a military wife, meant you packed up and moved on a moment’s notice.  That not moving could destroy a career.  That I needed to think about what my husband wanted to do in learning more; how my decision, to be unhappy, could change the course of his life and mine.

She then told me that I had a choice in life.  I could look at this move as a prison or as an adventure.  If I chose to look at it as a prison, it would become a prison. But if I looked at it as an adventure, I could have a wonderful time and marvelous life.

She was RIGHT.  From that point on, I decided that Life was an adventure to be lived.  Her words touched my soul. I loved my two years in Michigan.  We traveled to Canada, Chicago and around Michigan. We made new friends. My husband completed his fellowship and we moved back to Kansas.  Jane Stillwell was gone. But her words continued in my mind and heart.

I still live in Kansas.  My husband has had a wonderful career that gave us the opportunity to travel as he gives lectures.  I have had so many adventures!

I still think of Jane’s most wonderful advice.  I tell that to people all the time.  You chose!  You decide if your life will be happy.  You cannot change other people, but you can change your reaction to what happens.  And if you chose to be happy and go on adventures, then you will enjoy the ride.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/11/end-of-the-school-year-has-me-bringing-out-my-old-yearbooks/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

Amazing Connections Once Again Thanks To Tracing The Tribe

18 Nov

Amazing! That is the word my cousin in Israel and all her first cousins from her father’s side keep posting.  This has been an amazing week for them. I am glad that I played a part making a connection possible.

Last week while browsing through the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group I saw a post that caught my eye.  Many times people post passports, photos and letters to get them translated.  I have done that and have had wonderful help from the members of this group, as we all search for our family and our roots.

But this post was a bit different.  Someone was posting the photos of a passport her husband had purchased on EBay.  (It is also amazing what is for sale on EBay.)  The passport of a young man from Poland who made Aliyah to Israel in 1937.  This time my eyes stopped moving and my heart stopped, because I knew that name.  I knew that face.  I also recognized the town he was from in Poland.  I knew who she was searching for, as my cousin had married one of this man’s four sons over 45 years ago.

Hillel Kalmarski/Kalmarsky!  I knew him!  I met him when I was 19 years old and spending my sophomore year of college in Israel.  My cousin, Sara, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, had married his son when she was 18.  We were the same age.  On many of my weekends and holidays from school, I would spend time with Sara and her husband, Moshe.  And sometimes we would go to see her in-laws.

Hillel was a scribe, a sofer.  He usually made the kosher scrolls that go into mezzuzot.  But for me, he made something special.  He made my ketubah.  He thought I was crazy to have him write out my ketubah in his perfect Hebrew print.  But in the USA it was the style to have a special ketubah made.  I did not want one from an artist.  I wanted one made by Hillel.

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My ketubah written by Hillel.

It still hangs in my dining room for all to see. Which is a good place to remember Hillel.

I had dinner in his house.  I ate at the dining table belonging to him and his wife. I went to the wedding of his youngest son, Avram, to the lovely Leah.  I was always welcomed.

But the Hillel I knew was an older man, in his 60s.  The photo of the young man did not look like the Hillel I knew. But it did look like was my cousin’s husband and his brother.

I commented on the post that I thought this was the father-in-law of my cousin.  Someone had already found Hillel’s grave in Israel and had reached out to the son.  But I knew that my connection would get results.

Since I knew that they would not see the post on Tracing the Tribe, I shared the post on my Facebook and tagged Hillel’s two granddaughters who were also related to me.  I also wrote to them on our family What’s Ap.  It started an avalanche of comments.  Yes, it was their grandfather.  Their first cousins from their Dad’s side started commenting.  My post was filled with comments from their cousins.  They were stunned, amazed and in disbelief.  Comments focused on how crazy and amazing this was to them!

One of the granddaughters, my cousin, joined Tracing the Tribe, so she could comment directly onto the original post.  She posted additional pictures of her grandparents and her parents.

I am glad that I was able to facilitate some of the contact.  I am glad that the passport will be returned to Avram, the only surviving son.

I was so shocked and amazed that someone I knew was the object of a quest in Tracing the Tribe.  But amazing things have occurred before. Through this group I have met distant cousins who have helped me in my genealogy search.  I have had so many people help translate Polish, Yiddish, German for me.   I connected with Schelly, whose grandparents were best friends with my grandparents, and so we share stories as well.

For the past two days I have been rereading the post and the comments people have made.  I thank Esther for reaching out to find Hillel’s family.  And I thank all the members of Tracing the Tribe who have helped so many people connect, understand, discover and learn.

 

 

(I know that someone is wanting to write an article about this, so I am not posting any photos other than my ketubah.  I just wanted to write about how I felt throughout this experience and how I appreciate Tracing the Tribe.)

Completing My Personal NASA Mission

10 Nov

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, I decided I needed to revisit the space centers. In June I went to Kennedy Space Center, which you can read about below. Yesterday I completed my mission with a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Space City … Houston Texas.

I had visited this Center 30 years ago with my husband and then three-year-old daughter. I found it much changed with an excellent museum area that caters to children and families with many hands-on exhibits.

Luckily for me the hotel I was out could sign me up for a tour of sorts. If two people wanted to go, the Houston Tour Company would provide a van for the round trip and the entrance tickets for the Space Center. When I first went to the concierge desk, I was the only one who had signed up. But I left my name and room number in case someone else was interested. My plan succeeded. Within a few hours I got a call that my trip was on. And then a friend of mine decided she would go as well.

The next morning we met our new friend and traveling partner along with our van driver, Ruby, for our adventure.

I first need to say that years ago when I went to the Johnson Space Center, we just wandered the lovely campus of the Space Center, walking to the different buildings on our own. Now it is much more controlled. The entrance ticket included everything. But to see the actual Johnson Space Center you now have to take a tram. There are two to chose from. The blue line, which we took, goes to Mission Control and to see the Saturn V rocket.

Seeing the control room where most of the space shuttle missions, and in a few short years, the Orion Missions, will be watched over by a flight director and his crew was interesting as was the presentation. We could see a live feed into an active control room where the space station was being watched.

Along the way to the next stop, our tram driver told us about the other buildings, including the Astronaut Training Center, which is the first destination of the red tram line. He also pointed out a grove of trees planted in memory of the astronauts who perished during a mission and others who had an important role in the space program. Both lines stop at the Saturn V building.

It is exciting to see the size of the Saturn V Rocket. It lies on its side so visitors can walk around it and see how it connected the different stages and fuel tanks. The Apollo capsules were just a tiny portion at the top of the rocket.

We took the tram back to the museum area, and went to a 15 minute movie about the history of the space program. When it is over you then tour an area that has the original Apollo 17 capsule and much more space memorabilia. But the highlight is the Discovery Space Shuttle perched on a 747. You can go up and enter both. In the place is an exhibit on how the space shuttle was attached for transfer. And you can enter the Space Shuttle and see how astronauts lived while on it.

Another highlight for me was seeing all the moon rocks and actually getting to touch one. The museum employee in the room said that this stone was once rough and thicker, but over the years has become as smooth as glass. I can attest to that as I ran my thumb over it along with all the children.

There is so much to do. We were there for five hours and could not see everything. There were two shows at the I-Max Theater, which we did not see. I wish we had checked the times of the shows when we entered. We might have arranged our visit a bit differently. However, it was fun and exciting to see all the artifacts from space.

I loved walking the exhibits and trying out some of the interactive activities. There are virtual rides to help you experience the actual feel of space. Many families stood on line for these activities.

I believe I have celebrated mankind’s space accomplishments with these two visits. I look forward to seeing the start of the Orion Missions.

For true space enthusiasts, I also recommended a visit to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I have visited both places when my daughter and son went to Space Camp. (See blog below.)

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/06/visiting-kennedy-space-center-my-celebration-of-the-walk-on-the-moon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

Sisters: Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie

19 Oct

Esther and Minnie 1

Today I found a photo gem.  I love this photo.  I see my Grandma Esther and her sister, Aunt Minnie.  I see the fence around our bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.

The photo looks out to what we called the “front lawn,” and in the background I see the lake.  You might not notice it, but if you look through the fence, you can see a bit of blue surrounded by trees.

There are several things that make this photo special.  First, I love how my grandmother is standing.   She had a habit of holding her foot up like that in photos.  I guess she liked to stand that way.

Second, she has her sunglasses off to the side, and I remember those sunglasses!!  Although I usually think of them on her face.  She wore them all the time.  Third, their hair!  Neither of them are totally white yet.  Later Grandma would put a rinse in her hair which gave it a blue tint!

Also, they are dressed up! All I can think of is that they were going to a show that day at one of the big hotels.  Otherwise they would have been in shorts and shirts and sitting in a chair either playing canasta or knitting.

This has to be in the late 1960s.  I might have taken this photo with my Brownie camera.  Once I got a camera I started my life long habit of taking photos of everything.  It might have been someone else, but for now I will claim it.

I have written before that we spent every summer in the Catskills.  I had all four of my grandparents and many other family members together all summer long.

Grandma Esther, Grandpa Harry and Aunt Minnie shared a bungalow!  How that worked, I never asked.  It was just the way it was every summer. I assume their love for each other overwhelmed their annoyances!

In the winter they lived in the same building in Co-op City, NYC,  but in different apartments.  Uncle Al, Aunt Minnie’s husband had passed away years before.  From that point on the three of them were always together.

I cannot imagine them apart. The sisters were always together in my mind, loving and fighting.  Many times, I think back to them when my sister and I squabble.  A vision of the two of them fighting over a canasta game, they were always partners, flashes and sometimes I just want to laugh.

We were so fortunate to have our summers in Kauneonga Lake surrounded by people who loved us.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/25/the-grandmas-forever-canasta-game/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

 

Winning A Law Day Essay Contest In 1972; The First of Many Times I State My Views

9 Oct

On May 1, 1972, I read an essay at the Crystal Room at Schuetzen Park, North Bergen, which I wrote for my English class taught by Mrs. Whitehouse at North Bergen High School.  In fact, three of us read our essays that evening.  We had swept the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s 1972 Law Day USA Law Day Essay Contest.  I presented my first-place essay; then came two boys in my class: Phil Templeton’s essay was second, Donald Kienz came in third.

I have to be honest, Mrs. Whitehouse gave me an A- for my paper, while the boys each got an A, I believe.  All I know is that after I won, I brought my paper back to Mrs. Whitehouse and she gave me an A+, which I believed was deserved.

I recently rediscovered my essay, the newspaper articles and the letters from the mayor and the superintendent of the board of education in with papers I took after my parents died and we cleaned out the house.  My parents were quite proud of my award, and they saved everything.  The program, the letters, the speech and the newspaper articles were all together in a bundle.

The event itself was a big deal in our family!  My mother took me to Corduroy Village to get a new dress.  Usually my sister and I went to Little Marcy’s for our clothes.  Corduroy Village was for only special occasions.  My Mom and Mrs. Shore had me try on multiple dresses.  We ended up with a light pink suit.  My Mom loved pink and with my black hair, it looked good. But to be honest I hated the color pink. But I could not fight both Mom and Mrs. Shore.   I wore the pink suit!

Although I could not stand up to the combined efforts of my Mom and Mrs. Shore, I did learn something important from that event.  I learned to stick up for what I believe in and say what I mean.

What amazes me is that I feel the same way now about politics, as I felt then, when Richard Nixon was president.  I also have to say I lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, and there was quite a bit of avarice and issues with local politicians.  Hence my strong comments about stealing public money!  I also have to say, that if my memory serves me right, my essay was extremely different than all the others.  I was on a roll against bad government, while the other essays had more mellow topics. My parents were actually in fear for me to read this out loud. But it started me on my lifelong commitment to speaking out when I believe it is important.

Below I present a portion of my high school junior point of view which won the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s May 1, 1972, Law Day USA Essay Contest.

“In this age of discontent, pollution and governmental corruption, something must be done to recapture the American spirit.  If it is not, soon our country will decay.  Holders of public office should be screened before they are allowed even to be a candidate. Their background should be carefully checked…  One who holds a responsible office should be well-educated, intelligent and of good character. Once elected, if a person begins to cheat the public during his term in office, he should be impeached immediately and be forbidden to run for office again. There is too much crime in government; too many office holders have been known to steal public funds.  Too much of the funds intended for hospitals, old age homes, education and institutions for the mentally ill finds its way into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians.

In order that our government once again rise in the esteem of the population, a give-and-take relationship must be developed.  Actually, a country that is well-run can be compared to a well-adjusted marriage, with the population and the government representing the partners. To maintain a lasting relationship, they must demand mutual respect and understanding that comes from an appreciation of the others’ principles and ideals.”

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

Watching Tango, Flamenco and Arabic Dance Performances is Like Watching Ballet

6 Oct

After years of ballroom dance lessons, by husband and I still dance whenever we have the opportunity.  But besides dancing ourselves, we enjoy watching other, who are much better, dance as well.

My favorite dance is the tango.   We never danced a true Argentine tango, we danced more of American ballroom tango.  We did learn a few basic and important tango steps like the ochos (figure eight swivels), corte (a sort of forward lunge for the woman), and the gancho (hook a leg around your partner’s leg).

Although we never became proficient in our tango, we have enjoyed watching others dance it professionally.    I loved the tango scenes in the movies Zorro and True Lies.  But to be honest Antonio Bandaras dancing a tango is quite nice whether it is in Evita, Take the Lead or Zorro.

A favorite for me is the tango between Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in Shall We Dance.  MY husband and I both loved that movie.  It was so fun to watch an awkward man, uncomfortable with dance, become better throughout the movie. This tango is the start of his ability to actually dance.  The movie reflects my husband’s improvement.  He started out not knowing anything about dance. But now he loves to dance.

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Tango in Buenos Aires. You can see the band above the dancers.

We have been to Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, the two cities where researchers believe tango was created in the 19th century.  Of course, we had to go see a true tango, which we did while we were in Buenos Aires.  It was excellent.  The dance is so quick in Argentina, unlike the slow dance we do in American ballroom tango.

The group dances were invigorating, but I loved the performances best when it was just one couple on the stage dancing together. This is the moment that I thought I saw true tango.  This is the tango I wish I could dance!

I also love the music in tango!  At the tangos I have seen, musicians play the guitar and the bandoneon, which is a small accordion-like instrument.  But I have also seen when even more instruments are played, including violins, flutes and piano in addition to the guitar and bandoneon.

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The group we saw in Malaga, Spain.

Instruments also play a part in Flamenco.  The guitar and a drum to sound the beat are usually played. Flamenco, which is a much older dance from at least the 18th century, is another dance we enjoy watching.  No one knows exactly how it started, except that it was different groups of people who came together in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the Flamenco was born.  For me in was interesting that there might even be a Sephardi Jewish influence in the dance.

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The woman in the red scarf sang with such emotion.

But Flamenco, unlike tango, has other important part besides the dancing.  There is the singer, who sings a story with unleashed pathos. Also, unlike Tango, one person can dance Flamenco, without a partner.

We have seen Flamenco danced in Barcelona, Spain; Malaga, Spain; and at a performance in Kansas!  That surprised me as well. But the group who came to a local college was wonderful and the performance was packed.

I admit that some of the Flamenco shows I have seen were touristy.  But even in these some of the performances were extraordinary. Flamenco is not a dance you can just learn for social dancing. This takes intense emotion, training and experience. However, you can still watch and appreciate the performance.

I will admit that to me the Flamenco reminds me of a belly dance or Arabic dance performance.  This is something I do know, as in my younger days I took years of Arabic dance lessons.  Like Flamenco, the older Arabic dance is a form of folk dancing, this one originating in Egypt.  I see in this dance and the Flamenco the movements of the torso and the hips and the intense emotion of the dancing and the artist.  It is also another dance, unlike ballroom dancing, where one person dances alone intent in his or her own emotions.

As I was doing research for my blog, I saw that there is a theory that this type of Arabic dance is one of the elements that combined together to create the Flamenco.

I love dancing.  But just like when I go to a ballet, and realize I cannot do what the wonderful dancers can do.  I realize I can enjoy the performance, which is exactly what I do when I see tango, Flamenco and Arabic dance programs.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_tango

https://www.tejastango.com/terminology.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b24a_2NPleg

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamenco

https://www.britannica.com/art/flamenco

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibaPTk0D5Xg

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belly_dance

 

Lovely Gardens and Amazing Fountains: Peterhof Palace

29 Sep

 

 

An afternoon at the Peterhof Palace is not quite enough.  When we visited this summer palace of the tzars, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, we only walked the gardens. But that is fine, we had already been at the Hermitage and the Summer Palace in Puskin.  I cannot imagine that the inside of the Peterhof Palace was any less grand than those. However, I do know that it seems a bit smaller.   What makes Peterhof unique are the unbelievable fountains and gardens.  Spending an afternoon walking the grounds was amazing.

I am quite used to seeing lovely fountains.  Living in the Kansas City area, we are used to seeing fountains along the boulevards, in historic areas and near and in the Country Club Plaza. In fact, Kansas City is referred to as the City of Fountains.  We so do love our fountains here.

Perhaps it is this affinity to fountains that made Peterhof so mesmerizing. But then I think anyone would be impressed.

Peterhof is like fountains on steroids!  The overwhelming size and number and variety of fountains is fantastic.  I use words like fantastic, amazing, overwhelming and awesome with a whole heart.

No one can come away without being amazed by the engineering that makes these fountains possible to run for hours every day without electricity.  Just water and gravity!  There are no pumps, just water from natural springs and one aqueduct fueling the incredible number of fountains. The gardens were designed by Alexandre Le Blond. I am not sure if he also did the engineering for the fountains.

Our tour guide promised us that we would see close to 200 fountains on our amble through the lower gardens.  I think we did.  Although I will admit that she counted all the water sprouts in each fountain separately. So what! They were still amazing.

 

There is the Grand Cascade and Samson fountain right behind the palace.  There is a children’s fountain with dancing waters. There is a secret fountain through a path of trees that sets a spray of water over anyone walking by. Personally, I especially loved the giant slide of a fountain, called the Dragon Hill Cascade. The statues of this fountain were buried before the Nazis got there and so survived the occupation.  You can see a display of photos explaining what happened.

Much of the Peterhof gardens, fountains and buildings were destroy by the Nazis in the Second World War. But almost immediately after the war, like with the other palaces, the country started work on renovating and repairing the grounds and buildings.  There are large photos that show what Peterhof looked like right after the war.  It is amazing what was accomplished!

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Peter’s private home.

Included on the grounds are other lovely buildings, including  a much smaller ‘palace’ that Peter the Great actually designed and stayed in.  It is lovely and quaint from the outside. We could peek into the open windows to see inside.  But it is the view from the rear of the building that catches the attention and you understand why the tzar wanted to stay in this quiet home.  The view of the Gulf of Finland, which leads to the Baltic Sea, is lovely.  It is so peaceful there, I can imagine him sitting by himself and just relaxing! Can a Tzar relax?  If yes, this is just the place.

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A lovely greenhouse. One of my favorite buildings.

If you enjoy walking outside admiring gardens and fountains, then Peterhof should be on your list to see.   To be honest, I went serendipitously as it was part of my tour.  It was a day well spent.

 

https://www.britannica.com/place/Peterhof

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterhof_Palace