Serious Pandemic Estate Planning

25 Nov

My husband and I recently updated our estate plan.  We have done this several times to keep things updated to the age of our children and our situation.  The last time we did it was when our youngest child turned 21.  He is 30 now, and our daughter is married.  It was definitely time.

Because we are now in our mid 60s and there is a COVID pandemic, it made sense to make sure we had all our financial arrangements organized, and our living wills and power of attorneys updated. Several people I know did not have plans, and upon their death, complications occurred. I like to be organized!

Our attorney told us that we were not the only ones thinking about estate planning.  Actually, many people are worried and so are doing what we did, updating or starting a new will or trust. (See article below.)

I did not want to leave my children with a mess.  My father and mother were in the process of updating their wills, when my Mom died suddenly.   My father never completed the changes he had planned because then he became ill and died.  I did not want my children to have the long-term situation we had as we navigated through some issues. 

Our biggest crisis came because of a donation to charity.  My parents were not specific.  And this caused a battle between the charity and the State of New Jersey.  The charity wanted the money used as they wanted it to be used.  The State of New Jersey wanted the money to be used only in New Jersey.  We really had no control over this mess as the state and the non- profit battled it out.  Just to let you know, New Jersey won.

Thus, we will not be leaving any money to a non-profit in our estate planning. We set up a separate Donor Advised Fund years ago, our donations will continue to go through that fund, we will make decisions while we live.  I do not want to leave it to lawyers to determine what we wanted. Everything we put in our estate plans is specific!

Almost all of the planning was done through email and phone calls.  This actually was not unusual nor due to COVID. Each time we updated our documents, we used phone calls and email! It took several months to get all the documents completed. Then we had to sign and date all the documents: trust, power of attorneys for health and finance, and the very important living wills that outlined how we wanted our health care to be completed as we neared death.  We are strong proponents of no feeding tubes and to have a DNR order, Do not resuscitate, as we near death.  For this we had to go to the lawyer’s office for the witnesses and notary to do their jobs. 

Last week we completed this final task to get our estates updated and ready.  Not that I am planning to get sick and die, but I am a bit OCD, and I want everything in order.

However, I was not prepared for what our lawyer told us after everything was signed and the notary and witnesses left the room.

To be honest, we have been using the same estate attorney for 25 years.  When we started working with her, she was the newest attorney in this company’s estate department, she now chairs it.  I can honestly say, she has NEVER said this to us before.  We were in our mid 50s last time.

What did she say that startled me? That caused this emotional outburst?

She basically said the following:  When the event of first death occurs, the surviving spouse needs to contact us and provide us with the original signed copies of the will and estate plans of the deceased spouse.  We will then need to re-evaluate the estate of the surviving spouse. 

These are not her exact words, but they are her meaning. One of us would die, and we needed to be prepared.  WOW!

There were a few other instructions, like taking a picture of our living wills and keeping them on our phones in case we ever had to go to an emergency room!  It is actually a good idea.  I already have photos of our medicines on my phone.  But now I will have our living wills on my phone as well.

After we left the office, I turned to my husband and commented on all these instructions. He, of course, was pragmatic.  We had to know.  And I guess we do. 

I turned 65 at the start of this year and did not feel old. But in March I found out that the pandemic is worse for older people of my age. And now I am aware that I could die. And I need to have everything ready for an emergency room visit and for the death of the first spouse.  Sigh.  Being organized is a good thing, however sometimes it is a bit depressing.

No matter the tiny bit of ambivalent feelings, I am glad that we did some serious pandemic estate planning.

https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/07/26/covid-19-has-increased-demand-for-estate-planning-heres-how-to-do-it-right/?slreturn=20201024104622

An Elegant Evening At An Embroidery Convention

15 Nov

Dressed for an elegant evening out, my parents are 28 years old in this photo.  My Dad was the co-owner of an embroidery shop in New Jersey. (See blog below.). In this photo they are at an embroidery convention.  When I look at them, I am amazed at how young they are here!

My mother’s lovely handwriting on the back says, May 1957, Laurel’s Embroidery Convention.  The dress my Mom is wearing is totally embroidered.  It is a fabric made in my Dad’s shop.  I have vivid memories of this dress, as it hung in the basement closet forever.  It was either a pale beige or rose color in my memory. The skirt was perfect for twirling.  How do I know?  Because my sister and I loved to play dress-up with this dress!

My Mom is also wearing my Grandmothers mink jacket!  In May!  But wearing a mink jacket is the height of elegance in those days.  However, I have to laugh because above her head is a basketball hoop.  So although the party was elegant, they had to walk through a sports area to get to the dinner event.

I remember hearing of the Laurel’s. It must have been a convention center/meeting place in New Jersey, probably in Secaucus, New Jersey, near Laurel Hill, also known as Snake Hill.(See info below.)  Over the years, the hill has been decimated as the highways were built and some of the rock was taken out when quarries were allowed there. But a little bit of the hill still remains!  It can be seen at Laurel Hill County Park and from the New Jersey Turnpike.

My Dad is dressed up as well in a really nice suit.  Dad was an elegant dresser.  He purchased shoes in Europe when he traveled.   He always worked in the fashion industry and looked the part.  He had so many suits and shirts and ties.  When he passed away, many of his grandchidren and I took a few of his ties to keep as a memory.  He had ties of every hue and color. His closet was a rainbow of shirts and ties. Everything organized and ready for the next fashion statement.

The one element of this photo that does offend me is the cigarette in my Dad’s hand.   My siblings and I hated his smoking.  We often had major battles over this.  Like the time I flushed his cigarettes down the toilet.  Or when my brother hid all his extravagant cigars behind the books on the top shelf of the bookcases. Dad never found them!  But cigarettes were a part of life in the 1950s.

My sister was not alive when my parents went to this convention. I was 2 and my brother was 3. Which means, I am sure, my grandparents were babysitting for us, as we were still living in an apartment above their bakery in West New York, New Jersey. (See blog below.)

I have to add an update! Thanks to a reader, I now know that the Laurels was a big hotel in the Catskills. A competitor to Grossingers, it was one of the largest hotels. So I am sure my grandparents were taking care of us, but we might all have been in the Catskills staying at our home in Kauneonga Lake while my parents went to this convention. The Laurels were located near Monticello in Sullivan County!

Photos really bring back memories. It brings back memories of my father’s embroidery shop in West New York, NJ.  Embroidery was a big business in the USA in the early and mid 1900s.  Now there is nothing left of these many shops!  Though I do not remember this event per se, I do remember my parents dressing up for other events.  I do remember the dress and the mink jacket.  Those memories bring me happiness in this time of staying home during the pandemic.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

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

Ginger Rogers and My Dad

4 Nov

I recently noticed that in April, the Ginger Rogers Museum in Independence, Missouri, closed.  Based in the home where Ginger was born in 1911, the museum only opened in 2018.  But due to the pandemic and lack of interest of the public, the owners decided to close and put the house on the market. That news saddened me.  I really wanted to see her home and memorabilia.

Why?  Because I met Ginger Rogers once in New York City at my father’s office. 

She was involved in the fashion industry in NYC, doing some designing for J.C. Penney. My Dad knew her and worked with her on a project.  He owned a company that sold prints to designers. These prints were then turned into fabric and sold to make bathing suits and lingerie.   That was my Dad’s niche.  (See blog below.). I worked for my Dad one summer.  And that is when I met Ginger Rogers.

I had grown up watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. I loved them.  I loved the dancing and the songs and the fashion!  I always remembered the saying that Ginger danced better than Fred because she did everything backwards and in high heels!  And it is true.

When I met Ginger Rogers, I had that young and lithe image in my mind.  However, when I met her in the 1970s, she was in her 60s and I was in my early 20s.  And though still an attractive person, she was not the same person I had seen in the movies.  But even though she did not look like the Ginger Rogers in the movies, she did have basically the same voice.  I appreciated that she took time to visit with me before meeting with my Dad. 

After she left, Dad told me that Ginger Rogers was a smart business woman, and that he really enjoyed working with her.

Three of my scarves from Dad.

As part of his job, my dad traveled to Europe several times a year to search for designs and inspiration for new patterns that his artist then modified into patterns for prints that could easily be made into clothing.  As samples, my father would buy silk scarves and bring them back to the USA. 

He also purchased other scarves as gifts! My sister, mother and I had scarves from all over Europe, but Mom had the best collection.  We wore our scarves over our coats and to enhance a sweater. People ask me all the time how I learned so many ways to wear a scarf.  I had years of practice! I still have several scarves my Dad purchased, even though my Dad’s business has been gone for over 30 years.

Note from Ginger Rogers!

Among the people Dad purchased and presented a scarf to was Ginger Rogers.  I know this, because I have her thank you note written on stationary from The Carlyle on Madison Avenue in NYC.  The Carlyle is one of the most exclusive hotels in NYC.

“April 11, 1974

Dear Don –

What a super surprise upon my return from Springfield, Mass. To find your very lovely present of that scarf. Just love it and I adore hand-rolled scarves – and especially one that represents thanks in return for naming a fabric. Hope you kept the name Treadaro? I’ll be interested in its name acceptance!”

(The letter goes on to discuss their business with choosing a print to use in a J.C. Penney’s product. The ending made me happy, because my Dad was a kind soul.)

“Thanks again for this lovely scarf and for your genuine kindness too.

Ginger Rogers”

I love the letter.  When we were cleaning out my parent’s home, I had to keep it.  It is a memory of working for my Dad and meeting Ginger Rogers. 

Even to this day, whenever I watch an older Rogers and Astaire movie, I see her in my mind’s eye.  And during my many years of taking ballroom dancing lessons with my husband, it is Ginger Rogers talent that inspired to keep trying. Whenever we danced a foxtrot, it was Ginger Rogers I was envisioning and trying to emulate. And whenever a song from the that era plays, it is Rogers and Astaire and my parents I see dancing in my mind. (See blog below.)

It is also a memory of the many scarves that arrived in our home.  There were others who received gifts of scarves over the years. But this is the only thank you letter that my Dad saved.

So the closing of the museum touched my soul. I lost my chance to connect one more time with Ginger Rogers.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/01/15/working-for-my-dads-firm-in-nyc-lead-to-my-love-of-lingerie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/03/ballroom-dancing-relaxation-reflection-and-exercise/

Just Getting Out My Frustration

27 Oct

I wish I was the editor of a newspaper so that I could put my views out to the public more efficiently. I have written letters to the editor of the Star, but I think I have sent in too many. One got published, but three others did not. Here is my last one that was not accepted for publication. However, due to the vote in the Senate yesterday, and the despair I am seeing, I will publish it here with a few additions.

In last Sunday’s KC Star a letter writer said he was voting for Trump because he was pro-life based on his Supreme Court nominees, specifically Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and now Barrett.  The writer is wrong. The president is not pro-life, he is anti-life.

If he was pro-life, he would insist that everyone wear a mask.  That would save over 100,000 lives according to all scientific estimates.

If he was pro-life, he would leave the Affordable Care Act (ACA) alone, as it provides health care for young adults up to 26 under their parent’s insurance, no lifetime cap on health care payments, no pre-existing conditions clause, and better medical care for our seniors.

 If he was pro-life, he would make sure that all children in our country had access to food, not trying to cut SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food assistance funds to families.

If he was pro-life he would be working toward a safer environment instead of loosening rules about the air, the water and the environment and work for renewable energy.

If he was pro-life he would reject the behavior of the alt-right and the militias who are attacking minorities, but he does not, instead he encourages them.

If he was pro-life he would work to keep guns away from the mentally ill and ban semi-automatic weapons instead of kowtowing to the NRA.

This administration is not pro-life, it is pro getting votes by playing to a one-topic audience who sees abortion as the only evil in the world. 

This country has passed HIPAA laws to keep the medical records private, including the private discussions between a woman and her physician. That is the law that should be followed!

The Senate should have stayed out of women’s medical health, instead focus on helping the many suffering due to the President’s horrendous response to COVID-19.

Barrett appears to be anti-choice and anti-gay rights. This is discouraging and flashes back to the 1950s. However, we do have laws and precedent for the good. What we really need is a President and Congress who believe in all rights. Who like Pope Francis has endorsed Same-sex civil unions.

We need a truly good person who follows the moral and ethical rules that we should care for the needy, help to heal the sick, welcome the stranger.Unlike these Philistines who mouth words but do not walk the walk and do good deeds.

I am tired of hearing that this President and his evil cohort in the Senate save innocent lives all because they seem to support anti-abortion decisions. But stopping abortion is not really about saving lives, instead it is about controlling women.

They have sinned by trying to cut SNAP. They have sinned by separating children from their parents at the borders, leaving over 500 children without their parents. They have sinned by ignoring the universal laws of dealing with refugees. They have sinned by not helping the sick and dealing nationally with the COVID-19 Pandemic. They have sinned by rejecting science on health care and the environment.

While they need to seek forgiveness, atonement and redemption for the evil deeds they have brought to our country, we need to keep working toward a healthier, safer and better world.

.

Civility would make me happy

24 Oct

I recently watched TV commercial made by the candidates running for Governor of Utah:  Spencer Cox and Chris Peterson. The candidates worked together to produce an ad saying that although they had different opinions, they did not hate each other and would work together after the election to do what’s best for Utah.

Wow.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful if our president would say the same thing.  Wouldn’t it be uplifting if he said he is the President of all Americans; that he would treat Republicans and Democrats alike; that he cares about everyone in the United States? Wouldn’t it be great if no matter if who win, he would form a team with the other side to work for our county?

Instead he continues to spew divisive words and hate filled speech. He continues to make threats to treat states with Democratic governors differently than ones with Republican governors. He continues to claim if he does not win, it will be due to fraud. He continues to empower the alt right and militias to do violence. He refused to condemn the Michigan Wolverine Watchmen Militia that attempted to kidnap the duly elected governor. Instead he responded with his familiar rant, “Lock her up!” Are these truly the actions we want from the President of the United States?

He has lied about the pandemic.  While he benefited from state-of-the-art medical care and received experimental drugs before he became deathly ill, he later said contracting the disease was nothing. The first thing he did at the White House was to remove his mask.  Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was contrite after getting COVID-19 and admitted, after spending a week in an ICU, he made a mistake and that everyone should wear masks.

The President has politicized mask wearing, one of the most valuable ways to inhibit the virus’ spread.  He has demeaned highly-respected immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci calling him a disaster and an idiot because the doctor continues to tell the truth about COVID-19 and tries to repair the damage the President has done through his dismissive behavior.  Now the pandemic is moving into the rural areas of Kansas and Missouri and throughout the Midwest, where medical care is limited.  It is a disaster growing daily.

In Kansas and Missouri we are seeing similar hate-filled ads spewing similar lies. When Kansas candidates were supposed to show up at a Shawnee Mission Post forum, those from the Republican Party failed to attend. They did not try to engage with the citizens, perhaps because spreading false information in ads is so much easier than having to answer to a moderator and other candidates.

I want elected officers who will stop the hate speech.  In the first debate, I liked when Former Vice President Biden turned to the audience, saying “Just VOTE.”  I admit he said shut up to the president, but to be honest that was going through my head with all the nasty interruptions.  I like Congresswomen Sharice Davids who does not use scare tactics.  I like Kansas State Senator Barbara Bollier, a doctor who cares and doesn’t turn her back on the poor in Kansas like her opponent has done.  I like former Kansas House Representative Joy Koesten who understands the heartbreak of dealing with a child battling with mental illness and has a record of helping Kansans in need.

I have already turned in my ballot.  Even so, I wish those running for office here and around the country would do what the candidates for Utah governor have done: promise civility.  Perhaps then we can return to the United States of America that I’m so proud to call my home.

Reupholstery Keeps the Spirit of My Furniture, I Hope

20 Oct

Over 30 years ago a truck arrived at my home delivering my grandparent’s bedroom furniture to my home.  Made in the early 1930s, the cherry mahogany furniture was hand carved. The two chairs were covered in yellow silk and stuffed with horsehair, I knew that because the fabric was beginning to fray and the stuffing was coming out. 

The mirrors and furniture were beautiful to see and to touch.  I had so many memories of my grandparents entwined in the furniture.  From my early childhood in New Jersey, when the furniture was in their apartment above the bakery.  When I spent the night, as a small child, I slept in bed with Grandma.  Grandpa was usually up and baking throughout the night. His bedtime began about 8 am.  In the early morning grandma would leave to go work in the bakery.  I knew that when I woke up. I was to get dressed and go downstairs, where Grandma would make me breakfast.  I was never afraid. I was in a safe place, near the chair where Grandma sang Yiddish songs to put me to sleep and under the feather quilt in the winter.  So cozy.

Later the furniture moved to their home in the Catskills where they lived after they closed the bakery.    They would spend most of the winter in the Catskills, but would return to their home in West New York for a few weeks when it got too cold.   The bedroom furniture, along with their other lovly 1930s furniture, stayed there after Grandma died in 1981 and until Grandpa died in 1989. The only piece that did not make the move, was the baby grand piano. (See blog below.)

The bedroom furniture was promised to me, the oldest granddaughter.  And when my grandfather passed away, about 9 years after my grandmother, my parents packed up the furniture, found a mover, and sent it to me along with a few other pieces.  (See blog below.)

I made some changes.  My grandparents slept in twin beds. I saved the headboards, but I had the foot boards and the side railings made into a lovely television stand that matches the rest of the suite.  We did not need these as we use a king mattress.  The headboards are in my basement.  Too lovely to get rid of, they sit waiting for some future date when they will be used.

I left the yellow silk on the chairs.  All these years.  It was the original upholstery, and I could not change it.  In my mind when I saw the fabric, I could see my grandparents. I could remember sitting in the vanity chair and hearing my grandmother singing to me.   I could see myself sitting at the vanity brushing my hair and trying out her hair adornments.  I could remember Grandma sitting behind me and brushing my hair 100 strokes, to make it shine.  The fabric stayed.

The chairs with the original fabric.

Over the 30 years I have had the furniture, the fabric faced the many challenges of two small children.  It continued to decay, fray and split.  Finally, after 86 years, I decided this fabric was done. I had to reupholster the furniture.

I did it tentatively.  It took me months to find a fabric that I liked. A fabric I thought would go with the furniture, but also recall the fabric that was part of it for almost nine decades.  My Grandmother liked yellow and flowers.  I love teals and blues and geometric shapes.  How could I compromise? 

But then, the perfect fabric appeared. Amazingly it was at Joann’s, the craft and fabric store. And Grandma was watching out for me. It was on sale, 40 percent off!. I also was given the name of a fantastic upholstery, Gearhart Upholstery in Buckner, Missouri.

The mainly blue and teal woven upholstery has a bit of yellowish gold swatches.  And the pattern is both geometric, but there are flowers.  Lovely blue and teal flowers. Even though the colors are different, in my mind I kept the spirit of grandparent’s furniture. 

Purchased by my grandparents in 1936.  Sent to me in 1990.  And finally recovered in 2020.  I hope the furniture is loved by my family for many more decades. I hope the memories I cherish will turn into new memories for another generation

https://zicharonot.com/2020/09/02/vintage-greeting-cards-stir-my-imagination/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

Having my Identity Stolen to File False Claims Invigorates My Political Drive

16 Oct

Having my social security number used for fraudulent activity really made me angry.  When I got the first letter on Monday, September 28, from the Kansas Department of Labor telling me that I had filed for unemployment benefits, I was shocked. I had not done that. I was still working. But it listed my employer and had my information.

I spent the next day dealing with the fallout.  Luckily for me, I had frozen my credit accounts five years ago, when someone filed a fraudulent tax return.  My credit was safe, but my sense of security was now stolen.  I contacted the Kansas Department of Labor (who filed a police report), the Social Security Administration through www.theft.gov., my bank, my credit card companies, the credit agencies just to add a one year fraud alert, my job, my accountant and my brother because I had a joint bank account with him.

I began to realize that I was not the only one, when my accountant admitted that he too had received such a letter, and his Social Security number was being used fraudulently!  Several other people I knew also had it happen.

I could not understand what a person would gain from this filing, the department of labor had all my information.  But then came the stunner. The next day I got a second letter showing a filing for (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) PUA, of $22,000.  There was a claim that I as a ‘gig’ working earning close to $100,000 a year.  WOW.    I filed and updated my stolen identity reports.

Later that evening I got a phone call from my boss, someone else at work had received a letter from the Kansas Department of Labor for an Unemployment claim. Could I help her? Yes. I could.  I had an email from my husband from his place of employment outlining exactly what to do if you had your identity stolen. It seems many at his place of employment also had also had employees with unemployment claims filed.   I passed the email on.  The next day I reviewed a revised edition of this email that my boss had edited for our staff.

I will say I began to feel better knowing I was not the only one!  It was not schadenfreude, it was relief. First the Department of Labor had a note on their website letting me know that this was not my fault, and that I was not in trouble.  In fact, over 45,000 fraudulent claims have been made by crooks during the pandemic just in Kansas alone.  I, at least, found out because I am still working.  Many don’t find out till they file a claim and find out someone has already received unemployment benefits in their name!

But it shook my world in a time when the world keeps shaking.   We have COVID.  We have false information about masks. We have rampant unemployment.  We have gun violence.  We have an increase in young adults and teens dying by suicide.  We have increasing racism and anti-Semitism. We have fires burning down communities resulting from climate change that is causing other issues as well.  We have politicians who seem to be more concerned about their own political careers than about the people they SERVE!

That is why I am voting to return sanity to public service.  I am putting my voice behind candidates who still care about the people of the United States and Kansas. People who I know care about our children, our education system and our health care. Barbara Bollier, Sharice Davids, Ethan Corson, and Joy Koesten are all Kansas people I believe Kansans can trust in a time when we all have so many reasons to be distrustful! 

As for the United States, Biden and Harris have such a more positive outlook for our country.  I am tired of lies, misinformation, misdirection and conspiracy theories being supported.  I am tired of the lack of support for health issues and the wearing of masks to help our country and our people.  I am tired of an administration that does not care about all the peoples of the United States and only wants to help some of the population.   It is time that we were all united once again.

WE need cyber security.  WE need to help our environment.  WE need to put the racists back into a box and seal the lead.  WE need health care for all especially in a pandemic.  WE need women’s rights to be protected. 

Everyone needs to vote. 

The Heavens Opened for RBG

19 Sep

I believe that the heavens opened on Friday night.

As we entered the holiday of Rosh Hashannah, the start of the new year, the days of Awe; and entered the holy day of Shabbat, the Sabbath, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed into the cosmos.  She left this world a better place for all women.  She fought the battles of women’s rights at a time when most women were treated as second class citizens.  She was a warrior for women.

In Judaism there is the belief that someone who dies on the Sabbath is a Tzadik, a righteous person.  Another belief says that a person who dies just as Rosh Hashannah begins is also a Tzadik, because the Lord waits for the very last minute of the year to take this person.  They are so needed on Earth, that their very time is counted to the minute.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died erev Shabbat and Rosh Hashannah.  The moments before these two holidays connverged.  But more so, she died on the 18 of the month.  For those who are Jewish, the number 18 has its own significance, as the two letters, Het and Yod together spell the word, Chai, which means life. Her life had such meaning to so many women and men who she helped.

 Ruth Bader Ginsburg had such a life.  She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  She spent her life battling for women’s rights and gender equality.  She never backed down.  She was a warrior.  She dissented.  Her great legal intelligence helped her seal many decisions as she could interpret the laws, which make her interpretation valid. She did not back down.

Earlier this year I joined a group of women from the Kansas City area to go on a virtual tour of the Notorious RBG Exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.  It was a wonderful experience learning about what this extraordinary woman had accomplished. I had to have both a I dissent pin and a t-shirt.  A t-shirt that I am proudly wearing now.

Earlier today, I went to services for Rosh Hashannah. Our shul has been having services for a few months now.  There are rules in place to keep us safe. We all wore masks.  The service was shorterned.  The doors were opened for air circulation.   We sat phsycially distanced. We were not to sing, only the hazzan. No children under 12 were to be present.  But still the soul of prayer was there.

When the Unetanneh Tokef was chanted by the Hazzan, I thought of Justice Ginsburg, as these words were ingrained in my being:

“Let us now relate the power of this day’s holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it Your Kingship will be exalted; Your throne will be firmed with kindness and You will sit upon it in truth. It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness; Who writes and seals, Who counts and Who calculates. You will remember all that was forgotten. You will open the Book of Remembrances — it will read itself – and each person’s signature is there. And the great shofar will be sounded and a still, thin voice will be heard. Angels will be frenzied, a trembling and terror will seize them — and they will say, ‘Behold, it is the Day of Judgment, to muster the heavenly host for judgment!’ — for even they are not guiltless in Your eyes in judgment.”

The Holy One knows the goodness of Justice Ginsburg.  Her death comes at the end of a horrible year.  But the Jewish New Year started after her death.  A new year is here.  I have faith.

As I said the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, which I say every Rosh Hashannah for my family who perished in the Shoah, I also said Kaddish for Justice Ginsburg.

May her name and memory be for a blessing. May her soul be bound up in the bond of Eternal Life. May her family be comforted with the mourners of Zion. Her memory will not end. We will all remember and work to continue the example of the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Yes, I believe the heavens opened last night to claim the astounding, amazing soul– neshumah –of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Tzadik, a good and righteous woman, Yita Ruchel.

Now we among the living must continue her work. Vote for women, vote in memory of a women’s warrior. Vote in the name of Justice Ginsburg.

The Piano Behind the Fireplace

13 Sep

Our house in the Catskills has been in our family since 1962.  It has gone through many changes.

When my grandparents purchased it, the house had been divided into four apartments.  Slowly, slowly it was returned to a single-family home, with an attached apartment.  Rooms that were divided were opened up or reunited with the house.  Small additions were redone. New additions were created. (See blog below.)

In the living room, a stone fireplace is the focal point.  At one time the back side was covered up and behind it a tiny kitchen and bathroom was put in.  My grandparents restored it to one room.  Behind the fireplace they put a trundle bed for grandchildren and, eventually, their old upright piano.

The fireplace in the center of the living room.

That piano was the bane of my summers.  Over 100 years old now, the piano was purchased second hand for my Mom to use when she was a child.  But Mom’s abilities outpaced this piano, and in the late 1930s, when Mom was about 10 years old, my grandparents purchased a baby grand piano for her use in their New Jersey home. (See blog below.).

Mom eventually became a special student at Julliard.  She studied music there all through high school and had hoped to go there for college. But my grandparents thought a music career was not a good choice.  So Mom went to Douglas University in New Jersey and studied education.

When the baby grand piano arrived, my grandparents had the old upright taken up to the Catskills to their bungalow in the small colony they had created.  Their bungalow was one of the bigger ones, with two bedrooms, a kitchen sitting area, and an enclosed porch.  The piano was put on the porch.

As little children, before my sister was born, my brother and I actually stayed in this bungalow with my parents and grandparents. But once my sister arrived, we started staying in our own bungalow.  The piano stayed with my grandparents.  Whenever Mom wanted to play, she just went over there.  

When I started piano lessons,  I was expected to practice….even during the summer when I had NO lessons. At first it was not a problem, I just showed up to my grandparents and went in and played.  I got treats and lots of positive reinforcement for practicing, even though I would rather be outside playing.

However, my feelings changed after the 1962 summer.  My grandparents moved up to the new “big house.”  We moved up there as well, to live in a bungalow behind the house.  That freed up two bungalows at the colony that now could be rented.  The piano stayed down at the bungalow for at least a year.

Here is where my angst began.   I was expected to go down to the colony, which I wanted to do to see my cousins and my friends. But instead of playing, I was expected to go and practice the piano.  It was no longer my grandparents’ bungalow.  It now was rented by my sort of aunt and uncle.  They were actually the brother and sister in law of my uncle by marriage.  My Grandma Rose and their son, who I considered a cousin, lived there as well.  (See blog about Grandma Rose below.)

The last thing I wanted to do was practice the piano.  Two reasons, first I felt like I was invading their territory.  I now had a set time when I had to be there to practice.  Also, I wanted to play!  Everyone else might be in the lake, but when my set time came, I had to go over to their bungalow.  There were many fights over this with my Mom.  But eventually she let me stop.  It was just not fun.

My angst ended then.  The next summer a space was made for the piano.  That little kitchen and bathroom behind the fireplace were gone, as was all the plumbing and fixtures.  The walls were cleaned and wood paneling was put in.  In the area that was once a bathroom, the upright piano now stood, back in my grandparents’ house.

So now, I could practice anytime of the day.  I left my music in the house.  On a rainy day, I could practice for as long as I liked.  While, on a beautiful day, I could just run in after a day at the lake. A low note chord broke when I was young, and we never replaced it.  I used the note so rarely, that at the times I did, I would be shocked when no noise came out.

Over time, I went to college, got married and moved away.  The piano was rarely touched and soon went out of tune.  When I started going up with my children for two weeks each summer, I wanted to get the piano tuned.  But the person we called said it was impossible, it had sat untuned for so long and it was too old.  That made me so sad.  But we left the piano there, and occasionally I would still play even with the discordant sounds that came out.

But in this time of COVID-19, the piano has been revitalized.  My nephew, who also plays the piano.  Needed a place to stay.  He had planned a long trip to Europe and had not renewed his big city apartment lease.  He asked to stay at the Catskills home.  We all agreed.  It was perfect for all of us, because we have used his time there to get some chores done and things fixed that were benignly neglected as we are usually there only on weekends.

Thanks to my nephew, we now have internet in the home and we have tasked him with meetings with an electrician, plumber and other workers.  He got a dock put in at our lake front section of Kauneonga Lake.. 

However, his greatest success, for me, is the piano.  My nephew plans to spend the winter there as well. As it is a four-season house, he can. It was my grandparents’ full-time home. So he decided to get the piano tuned!!! He found an old-time piano tuner, who has restored the sound!  This gentleman slowly got it back into shape, by doing it correctly. Over several months he came and tuned the piano just a bit until the sound board and strings could accept a full tune.

But besides tuning it, the piano tuner has dusted it and oiled the wonderful old wood.  The piano looks better than it has in 20 years. It brings me joy that the piano behind the fireplace is now a working piano giving my nephew a chance to practice his hobby as he experiences the cold winter months in Sullivan County.

(Exact dates of when of when the piano moved to the house and when I practiced at the bungalow are somewhat unknown, as it was many many years ago.)

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/30/remodeling-my-bathroom-reminds-me-of-our-catskills-house-the-house-which-always-changed/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

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

Vintage Greeting Cards Stir My Imagination

2 Sep

When my grandfather died almost 31 years ago, my mother shipped some furniture to me.  My grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set, a lamp, an old radio cabinet and a few more pieces.  My grandfather had not removed my grandmother’s clothing from the dresser nor the items she had left behind in the radio cabinet that served as a closed bookcase.  My mother did not empty them out either.  She sent the furniture filled with my grandparents’ personal items because she just could not deal with them.

I emptied out the dresser drawers when I received it, donating most of the clothing to charity, the $10 bill I found hidden away, I still have for emergencies.  Although I used the radio cabinet, I left my grandparent’s items inside alongside the items I stored in it.  But recently, when I moved, I emptied out the cabinet and repurposed it as a curio cabinet.  I had looked at the items before this move.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog about my grandmother’s ledger books. (See blog below.). But the other piles I just ignored for 31 years.  Procrastination in dealing with sorrow is strong in my family.

But now I had no excuse.  I had to sort through the piles on the shelves.  My findings included letters that my sister, cousin, Mom and I all wrote to my grandparents. I must admit, most of the ones saved were from me. I think that I wrote the most because I moved to the Midwest.  There were also three letters in Yiddish.  I think they are from my Grandmother’s brother and sister in law.  I have to get them translated.

The antique radio cabinet.

Included in the piles were 116 unused vintage greeting cards from the 1940s, 50s and 60s:  sympathy cards; cards for birthdays, weddings, anniversary; get well cards; birthday cards for grandchildren; holiday cards. 

There was one sister birthday card.  My grandmother was able to save her sister from Poland in 1936 and bring her to the United States. They were extremely close. My great uncle was a baker with my grandfather.  But Grandma never sent this card to my Tante.  I thought, “why waste a good card.” I recently sent it to my sister, whose birthday is this month.  I think she will like it!

Card I sent my sister.

Among these vintage cards were two that really touched my heart. Created by American Greetings, these 25 cent cards were birthday cards for twins.  Why would Grandma buy birthday cards for twins? We knew no twins; we had no twin cousins; why?

I think I know.  I my theory with my sister.  We will never know, but it could be.  I honestly wish I could ask her.  But when I was a teenager, I learned her story.

The two twin cards.

We did not have living twins in our family.  But in 1930 my grandmother was pregnant with twins.  She already had two children. My uncle about 3 or 4 and my Mom was about 18 months when my grandmother was pregnant again.  At 24, she was not in good health.  Her childhood in Poland and surviving WWI had left its mark on her health.  Her kidneys were failing.  The doctor said she had to terminate the pregnancy or she and the baby would die (They did not know it was twins till after.).

And so the pregnancy was terminated.  Abortion was illegal in 1930.  However, Grandma was able to have the abortion by a physician.  Could it be that she was so sick, they had to do anything to save her life?  I assume so.  After the abortion they found out that she was carrying twins.

How do I know all of this?  My grandmother and my mother told me.  My sister knows as well. It was not a secret.  My grandmother was always open about how terminating the pregnancy saved her life.  She never got pregnant again.  I assume my grandparents were very careful.  

But after the abortion, my Grandmother was still quite ill. Her kidneys were still failing. She was so ill that she decided she had to go back to Europe and give her children to her in-laws as she was sure she was going to die.  She did not die and she returned to the USA with her children and then worked to get the family out of Europe.   (I wrote a blog about this as well, see below.). It was the abortion, the illness and this trip that led to my grandmother saving her sister’s life! 

When I saw the birthday cards for the twins.  My memory of my Grandmother telling me about this lost pregnancy came into my mind.  Did she ever think about all that happened because she ended the pregnancy? Did she buy these cards for the children who did not live?  Where they often on her mind? Did she celebrate their birthday privately?  

I will never know. 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/07/my-grandmas-ledger-books-remind-me-of-her-financial-lessons/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/