Savannah Sojourn Is for History Lovers

19 Apr

For our 38th anniversary we went to Savannah, Georgia.  I have been wanting to visit Savannah for our entire married life because my first job out of graduate school was for a local Girl Scout Council.  And all Girl Scouts know that the founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was from Savannah.

It exceeded my expectations.  I want to go back!

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Juliette Gordon Low house.

On our first day,  I did go to the Juliette Low Gordon house.  I saw the rooms she walked in.  I saw ceramics and paintings she had created.  I walked in the garden with my husband.  Yes, I did buy something at the gift shop.  I had to.   Later we went to the Andrew Low house, where she spent her adulthood and passed away.  Unfortunately, we were too late to get on a tour.  But we did walk over the first Girl Scout headquarters, which is just beyond the gardens.  While there, a purchase of Girl Scout cookies was made.

But Savannah is not only for Girl Scout fans.  There was so much else to see.  So many lovely old homes from the early 1800s. Due to a group of women who started saving these homes in the 1960s, Savannah was saved from being a faceless and bland city to one that kept its local charm and ambiance.

I loved those restored homes.  We went on an architecture walking tour of the historic area, seeing many houses from the outside.  The next day, we visited three homes that were designed by William Jay in the 1820s: Owens-Thomas House, a home museum;  the Telfair Academy Art Museum which was once the home of Mary Telfair; and Scarborough House, built for the owner of the Savannah steamship.  This home is now the setting for the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. This museum is packed with wonderful models of sailing ships.  But the history of the building is also unique, it was once a school during segregation.

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Inside the Owens-Thomas house.  There is actually a bridge on the second floor connecting the two sides.

At each home I learned a bit more about William Jay, the architect, and even more about the economic slump of the 1820s that led to most of the original homeowners losing all their money and their homes, soon after they moved in.  These homes passed to other families and some fell into disrepair. Thank goodness for the Historical Society and the ladies that saved them!

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We walked the paths in Colonial Park Cemetery, reading the markers that told of the famous and infamous people who were buried there.  The saddest were the number of children who perished.  So many died in the epidemics of Yellow Fever that swept through Savannah several times.

I loved walking through the historic district and visiting every one of the 22 squares that still exists.  Yes, we went to every single one.  Each square has its own personality, some with a statue and a historic marker telling about that area.  I loved it.  I took photos of almost every marker.

We also meandered along the river and walked in and out of candy stores and gift shops.   The many diverse restaurants served the most delicious foods. My favorite was Elizabeth’s on 37th Street.  We ate in two different restaurants each day, some fancy, others just fun. Some we enjoyed were: the Funky Brunch Café;  Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern, near the river; The Lady and Sons Restaurant, surprising delicious; and Lulu’s Chocolate Bar.  I was surprised that I did not gain an ounce. But then we did walk 4 to 6 miles most days.

We also learned how Prohibition impacted Savannah!  It seems that lots of booze smuggling and speakeasy joints were part of the riverfront during the 1920s. A visit to the American Prohibition Museum is a must.  And yes get a drink at the end in the speakeasy.  You do not have to have an alcoholic drink…but my husband loved his.  I went for an original lemon soda mixed from scratch!

 

I found the history of the city is intriguing.  But for me, the Jewish history was amazing. Who knew that just a few months after the first settlers arrived, a group of 42 Jewish settlers arrived in 1733 bringing a Torah and starting a Jewish community in Savannah that survives today! This group of Sephardic Jews had been forced to leave Spain and settled in England just a decade or so earlier.  They then traveled to the unknown on their search for religious freedom.  WOW!

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Built in the late 1870s, this building has always been a synagogue: Mikve Israel.

We went to visit the current synagogue building in the historic district:  Temple Mikve Israel.  Built in the late 1870s, the building is still used as by a congregation.  It contains a small museum and you can visit the chapel area.  But when we were there it was undergoing renovations, so we could not enter.

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The Torah brought to Savannah in 1733, written on parchment made from deer hide.

We got to see one of the oldest Torah’s in the USA. The one that was brought here from England in the 1700s.  It is written on deer skin.  For me this was a thrill to see that a strong Jewish community still exists and has been a part of the Savannah community for 285 years.

I did not see all that I wanted to see in Savannah.   I loved staying in the Marshall House, with its evening wine and cheese, speakers and musicians, and wonderful staff.  But next time I want to stay in a bed and breakfast.  I have the spot picked out.   I could spend another five days in Savannah eating, walking and visiting museums.  I love learning about history and walking through Savannah is a living history lesson!

 

Grandma’s Depression Glass Dishes Brighten My Seder

2 Apr
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Depression Glass Dishes

Each year as I set my seder table, I cannot help but think about my Grandma Thelma, who died in 1981. Grandma had a collection of amber depression glass in the Patrician Spoke pattern.  It was not a complete set, but there were about 30 pieces: luncheon plates, serving dishes, a few cups and saucers and a creamer and bottom of a sugar bowl.The dishes were in our bungalow in the Catskills. After I married, in 1980, I claimed them.   I knew that they would be perfect for Passover.  Over the years I have purchased many pieces.  I now have a complete service for 18: dinner plates, soup bowls, small bowls, small dishes (bread and butter I think), luncheon plates, five serving pieces; two sets of creamer and sugar bowls; and the original cups and saucers from Grandma.

Depression glass was manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s.  It was often given away for free as part of a food promotion or to bring customers into a store.  I wonder if my Grandma had so much of it because my grandparents owned a bakery in West New York, New Jersey, that also sold some groceries.  This might have made it easy for her to collect the pieces she liked.

In fact, a cousin of my husband’s also has a collection of depression glass from her grandmother (my husband’s aunt).  Aunt Jean and Uncle Dave owned a grocery store in St. Joseph, Missouri. In my mind, I believe this clear glass set also came as giveaways that Aunt Jean was able to select and keep. Now her granddaughter is enjoying her dishes, as I enjoy my grandmother’s set.

Their patterns are very different. But that makes sense.  Over 100 different patterns were made in many colors, mainly clear, green, pale blue, amber and pink.  Although other colors like red and white were also manufactured.  Wikipedia states that most manufacturers were located in the Ohio River Valley. The website lists all of them and which patterns they produced.  My dishes were made by the Federal Glass Company

I have a few other pieces of depression glass.  In my years of searching for my patterns, I sometimes found a piece that just delighted me.  I have a cake plate in Madrid, pink, as well as a creamer.  It’s matching sugar bowl was destroyed years ago in a conflict with one of my cats.  That is the biggest problem with depression glass, it does break.  I do use them for my seder as well.

For my seder I use the dishes in my way.  The creamer and sugar bowls are filled with charoset.  The cereal bowls have become my soup bowls.  The bread and butter plates become small seder plates for each guest.  I use the small dessert bowls for an egg dish that starts my seder.

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My Rueven Glass pitcher, glasses and my parent’s seder plate.

But it is not only Depression glass that I place on my seder table.  I also have several pieces in the style of Rueven glass that were my parents. Some are originals, as he works in New Jersey, where my parents lived.   My art glass wine glasses, matzah plate and  water pitcher brighten my table.

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Miriam glass and Elijah’s glass

From my husband’s parents we have Murano glass kiddish cups that we use for Elijah’s glass and Miriam’s glass.  My in-laws purchased these when they were in Italy over 40 years ago.  I ended up with three in different sizes.

My Lenox seder plate was my parents.  They presented it to me over 30 years ago, as they came to me for Pesach, always arriving in time for the second seder.  They purchased an identical one for my sister, because they spent first seder with her.

Seeing these glass items on my table reminds me of our parents, my grandparents and the many wonderful seder memories from years ago.

Adorning my table with items from my grandparents, parents and in-laws brings me joy.  It promises me that traditions can continue.

The Art of Kintsugi is Changing How I View The River of My Life

12 Mar

I recently learned about the Japanese way of repairing broken ceramics through a process called kintsugi.  When a beloved pot or plate or mug or bowl or vase breaks, we usually throw it away.  There is not good repair for these items. But the Japanese developed a way to bond them together and make them more beautiful.   After a resin used to bond the broken pieces together and the edges are smoothed, the repair is completed with gold (kintsugi) or silver (gintsugi) painted into the mended areas.  They form golden veins.  This ‘Golden repair” makes the object more beautiful than before.

When I first read about kintsugi, I had one of those moments of epiphany that occurs when two totally different areas of my life combine.   I was going to be facilitating an evening class with my friend.  We had 19 women signed up to do a project called “the River of Life,’ which is part of the Wise Aging program designed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

My friend and I participated in a two-day workshop to become instructors several years ago.  We had taught a full class on the topic of Wise Aging, but this was our first class in a while.  We were only going to touch on this one area where participants look back through their life, remembering the stories that were important to them, while seeing the threads and trends that impacted how they journeyed through life.

Sometimes people have a difficult time looking back on their lives. Events occurred that bring them distress because they have been unable to overcome the emotions that those memories bring to them.  They cannot get past and cannot move forward.  They see this as a broken thread; an unresolved flaw in their river.

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Although not Kintsugi, the turquoise embedded in the bowl’s cracks and flaws makes it more beautiful

It was while I was preparing for this class that I was reading a book for my job called, “The Growth Mindset Playbook, A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success.”  In Chapter 5, subtitled as “Failure As A path to Success,” the authors ended the chapter with information about kintsugi. In the book the authors wrote, “These restorations are not seen as a flaw in the piece, but as part of its history and something that makes it uniquely beautiful, and more interesting and valuable than before.”

YES!  The journeys we take in our lives are like the rivers with bends and falls and excitement, thrilling moments followed by peaceful floats.  Events occur that we cannot control.  We can only control our reactions to these events.  We have some control of the boat and the steering, but oftentimes events shatter our world.  We feel broken.  But we, like items repaired through kintsugi, are actually more beautiful and interesting because of our experiences.  We learn through each event we see and experience.  We become wiser and we can provide so much guidance.

Through failure we learn.   But is it really failure?  I think not.  Each episode or event in our life enriches our understanding of ourselves and of others. Empathy and compassion for others is increased when we can see the world in their place.

I am feel emotional attachment to those who suffer from infertility, because I too suffered though this.  I also underwent procedures and surgeries in an effort to have a family.  I feel what they feel.  But the golden veins of repair have helped me be a compassionate friend.

I saw kintsugi as the perfect way to explain this philosophy to the class.

The important aim, for me, is to always keep positive.  I want to see my life’s journey completed by golden and silver streams of repairs. Each one making me stronger and more lovely.  My outlook on the world might be different then before I needed the repair. When I look back at my life I want no regrets.  I want to believe that all that happened made me stronger, just as the repairs increase the strength of the broken ceramics

I believe, like kintsugi, each of our journeys through the river of our lives is uniquely beautiful.  It just takes us opening our eyes and seeing the best and not focusing on the hardships that will get us through.

In Honor of Our Children: Working For Safer Gun Laws Is My Personal Plan For Respecting Life

24 Feb

February 27 would have been my Mom’s birthday.  I have thinking about her so much since the latest school shooting. My Mom taught school for 30 years. Most of the time she taught fourth grade. There are some families for whom she taught multiple generations of children.

I also work in a school. It focuses on helping students who do not learn well in a traditional school setting. We have children who have anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, extremely brilliant children, bullied children, those on the autism spectrum, gay children, transgender children, depressed children, all special, all worthy and all needing an extra boost.  And I wonder how we will continue to keep all children safe from the outrageous behavior coming from the adults in our country.

I have been wondering what my Mom would think of all this gun violence and what she would do if she was still alive. Our family nickname for my Mom was ‘Norma Rae.’ This was based on the Sally Field character in the movie of the same name. Norma Rae had enough at her job and becomes a labor activist. She makes a difference.

My Mom might not have been a labor activist, but she never stayed quiet if she saw a wrong. She also made a difference. She taught me to speak up and speak out!  Maybe it is because she knew the tragedy of mass murder, since two of her grandparents and many family members were murdered in the Shoah. Or maybe it was because she learned from example. Her parents were strong willed people who came to the USA on their own in the 1920s with nothing, and built a business, a life and a family.

I believe my Mom would not have remained silent right now. So to those who have asked me who I am working for politically. I am not working for anyone. Rather I am working for every child who goes to school. I will keep calling my legislators. I will keep supporting organizations that combat gun violence. I will keep posting about topics that upset me, that I think are wrong. And I will not remain silent.

Dante wrote in his famous poem, “The Infernal,” that the hottest place in hell is for those who remain silent in times of moral crisis.  I will not remain silent. I feel my Mom with me and I feel her fire and passion for her students.

We really need to keep our children safe and let them know they are loved, special, unique and worthy.  How do we do that?

First there are about 5,000,000 members of the NRA. But there are over 325,000,000 citizens of the USA! Easy to see that 320,000,000 Do Not belong to the NRA. The NRA uses its money to buy our legislators by lobbying and giving them so much money for their campaigns.

We, the people, need to STOP this NOW!

1. Do not buy from companies that support the NRA. A boycott has started, and I will support it.

2. Give money to legislators who promise to fight for safe gun laws and the banning of assault weapons and items that boost these weapons to more dangerous levels.  I plan to continue to do this.

3. Let us work to get a ban on ammunition used in these killing guns.

4. Do Not vote for elected officials on any level of government who is financially indebted to the NRA.

5. Reject the NRA’s messages of hatred and divisiveness. I do not dislike people who own guns. I just dislike certain types of guns.

6. We have to put our money where our heart is and use it effectively. I am for a buy back of all assault weapons. I understand they cost about $600. I will give $1800 to buy back three. This amount calls out to me because 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai, life. I would give a hundred times life to save one life.

7. Let us insist they tighten the laws surrounding gun sales and the raffling off of guns as fundraisers. People should not be allowed to buy guns at gun shows and privately without background checks.

8. Tighten the laws surrounding background checks. We see they are failing us right now.

9. Increase funding for mental health care. Our government is supporting a cut to health care for all. The only industrialized nation that dies not provide health care for its citizens!  Let us work to change this.

10.  Keep calling and writing my elected officials to express my views on gun control laws and health care laws.

11. Support an organization that works to counter gun violence, like Grandparents Against Gun Violence, https://moksgagv.org, Gabby Giffords group Americans For Responsible Solutions https://giffords.org, Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence http://www.bradycampaign.org.

12. Be KIND!  There is too much divisiveness and hateful speech right now.  Use your words for good.

I will be wearing this pin that says Chai to remind myself to work for life.

Working for safer gun laws is my personal plan to respect life.

My Dad Created My Snapple Addiction

13 Feb

I realized on a recent trip to Mexico how deeply I am addicted to Diet Peach Snapple.  I had accepted the fact that I would be without it for eight days and was in day five when I made a discovery: the resort’s small grocery store carried Snapple; however there was no peach!

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My Mexican Snapple!

When I went back the next day to check, there it was: Diet Peach Snapple. I purchased a bottle. I was so happy I even took a photo of it, and it’s Spanish label. My last few days in Mexico were a bit more joyful with my favorite drink.

My Snapple addiction comes from my Dad.  I think he started drinking Diet Snapple Peach Ice Tea from its beginning.  The company that concocted Snapple teas was founded in 1972 in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York as a juice company.  It was not until 1987 that they started producing tea, starting with lemon (Wikipedia).

I do not know when exactly they started making peach ice tea, but I do know that around 1993 my Dad was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  At that point he needed to find a new drink, and he found it in Diet Snapple Peach Ice Tea.  He drank it constantly.  Whenever I went back East to visit, it became my drink of choice as well.  A cold ice tea in the summer was wonderful.  In fact, a cold ice tea anytime of the year is great for me.

Since my parents came to visit me in Kansas twice each year,  and since I am a devoted daughter and hostess, I wanted to buy the tea my Dad loved when he came here. But it was impossible to find. None of the grocery stores carried it.  I went to the Snapple website to see if there was anywhere in Kansas City area where I could find it.

Nowhere! I sent them a message asking if they could sell it here.  The response, ask my grocery store to carry it.  I started a campaign.  First, I went to my two favorite grocery stores and asked them to carry it.  Then I started talking to other transplanted New York City area people about Snapple.  Since they also missed it, they started asking their grocery stores as well.

Soon I was able to find the two-liter bottles of Snapple.  But that was not enough!  We needed the individual serving that we could carry around. Back East I could find Snapple in many different size bottles. That is what I wanted in the Kansas City area.

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All sizes of Snapple are available.

And it worked.  There is Snapple Ice Tea everywhere now.  Of course, the small company was purchased by a much bigger company with nationwide and international distribution, which also probably helped as well.

Whenever my parents came, I could now provide a good supply of Dad’s favorite drink.

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Trivia I had not seen before!

Of course, it wasn’t just the drink my Dad loved.  He also loved the bits of trivial that were always under the lid of the drinks.  Some of them, I have seen them so many times, I think I have them memorized. Recently however, I had one that was new to me!  That was exciting.

Just over six years ago, my Dad passed away.  When my Dad was in the hospital before he passed, I purchased and brought him Snapple every time I visited.  Sometimes I could not find Diet Peach. It is often difficult to find.  It must be everyone’s favorite.  I wish I could say the Snapple nursed him back to health, but it was not to be.

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My love for Diet Peach Snapple lives on.  I cannot drink a Snapple without thinking of my Dad.  Every year on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, I go to the local Korean War Memorial.  I bring a Snapple and a few roses from my garden to place on the stone I had donated in honor of my Dad.  I leave the flowers, I take the bottle with me.

Do I love the drink, or do I love the memory of my Dad?  I am not sure.  All I know is that when I drink a Diet Peach Snapple, I am happy.

 

A Mexican Interlude

9 Feb

A week in Cabo San Lucas has been a joy. The weather is a dream. Seeing the humpback whales with their babies a delight. Listening to the Pacific Ocean pound the shore throughout the day is actually relaxing even in its furious attack against the land.

Granite rock formations honeycombed by the erosion are fascinating. We saw the famous Cabo arch.

Before we came, people told me to be careful. But there was never a problem. In Cabo itself, where the ocean liners dock daily, there is a strong police and military presence. I never felt insecure or unsafe. We walked around the marina several different days and experience the restaurants, the shops and the whale watching boat tour of the cove and watched the baby whales frolic (Cabo trek). Marine biologists went with us to give us interesting facts about the whales.

We walked into town several times both during the day and at night to experience the restaurants, with no issues. Just joined the trickle of others also walking along the well lighted paths. So many good restaurants! Guacamole, fajita, chimichangas, tacos, grilled fish, tamales and more specialities filled us each day.

The live music ranged from two or three men playing mariachi in restaurants throughout the city to classical violin and cello melodies floating through the air as we sat outside.

We drove to Todos Santos and explored the streets and sights. The Mission of Santa Rosa sits in the center of town, with its high vistas to the sea. Another great restaurant, Tequila Sunrise, had our taste buds smiling.

At both Tequila Sunrise and Las Guacamayas (in Cabo), the owners came to speak to us and tell us if we needed help in anyway they would help. And they did, even helping us find things outside of the food they served.

We walked through the Hotel California and examined the art in the many galleries in Todos Santos.

We visited beaches along the Sea of Cortez, and watched the pelicans dive into the waters to catch fish.

The people of Mexico were friendly and helpful. They enjoyed my meager efforts to speak Spanish. But truly appreciated my husband’s more fluent attempts. Smiles would like their eyes when he spoke to them. And several said to his comment that his Spanish was not that good, “but you are trying. You make the attempt!”

Were there times when I wish there were not as many people trying to have you buy something ? Of course. But in my many travels, I have seen this in all tourist sights. Cabo, with its cruise ships is ripe for this behavior. But in Todos Santos, there was no pressure from vendors. It was a delight.

Our last restaurant meal was at The Office, which sits right on the beach. The food was excellent. The margaritas strong. Luckily I don’t drink so I drive back to our resort, The Grand Sol Mar.

Our week exploring the Baja Peninsula is over. We fly home in the morning. It was well worth the trip to visit this lovely site in Mexico.

Lake Swimming is the Best!

1 Feb

I did not swim in a swimming pool till I was in college.  We always had the lake: Kauneonga Lake.  I learned to swim and spent many summer hours perfecting this skill in our lake.  As I spent many hours relaxing on our dock with my family and friends.

Kauneonga Lake

My family and friends in Kauneonga Lake.

I never swam laps, I just swam as fast as I could to get away from my brother and my boy cousins who tried to push me into the mushy gush…the yucky seaweeds that lined the bottom of the lake in the areas where we did not swim as much.

Sometimes we swam back and forth between our dock and the dock that the people in Cooper Drive used.  But that meant keeping our legs up.  The gush was thick between the two docks.  And it wasn’t just the gush, there were also fish and turtles that would snap and nibble at your toes if you got too close.

I could stay afloat for hours.  We did not have life jackets.  When we were little we had brightly colored tubes. But eventually I out grew those and just swam.  If we stayed within the area designated by the adults, then the water was not over our heads.  It was when we tried to swim too far that danger lurked.  But we knew how to tread water and make it back to the sandy area with no effort.

Lake water swimming was the best.  The water was cool and fresh.  There were very few boats on the water when I was a child, except for canoes and rowboats.  It was not until I was in my teens that speed boats in large numbers showed up on the lake.

The only negative about lake swimming?  We always knew when someone went to the bathroom in the lake!  If you hit a warm spot, you knew that was disgusting.  Warm spots were sure signs of accidental lake peeing.

There was a pool at the bungalow colony up the road from us, where my grandparents’ friends owned, Kauneonga Park.  But I never swam there.  I know my brother swam there when he worked at the colony’s camp during the summer. But I never went into the pool.  It seemed odd to get into a cement box filled with water and chlorine.  I did go and look at it.  But I never got in.

When I got to college, I had to go into a pool for the first time.  We had to pass a swimming test and show that we could swim four laps and jump into the pool.  I was not happy. But to get my college degree from Drew University, in New Jersey, that was a requirement.

Ugh.  I did not own water goggles.  In the lake, I just opened my eyes to look around.  In a pool, this is much more difficult.  Your eyes burn from the chlorine. Ouch.  So, during my test, I had to close my eyes.  Swimming laps with your eyes closed is very difficult.  I could not stay in my lane.  In any case, I never swam in a lane in my life.  Lake swimming is much more haphazard. Not being able to see made it worse.

I did go four laps, but they were not pretty.  The coach called me out several times for crossing into someone’s lane.  She told me to go buy a pair of goggles for my next pool experience.  But I never had one.  I passed the lap test.

I passed the jumping in test: arms across your chest, feet first into the pool.  “Why?” I asked.  In case you are ever in a cruise ship and need to abandon ship was the answer.  I never thought I would need that talent, but I will admit I have been on many a cruise and I have thought about learning to jump!

To this day, I do not love pool swimming.  I do not like the chlorine or the feel of concrete.  However, I have learned to enjoy the beauty of water aerobics in a pool and the ease of floating on noodles.

To be honest, I much rather go to the lake in the Catskills, and slowly walk in.  First testing the water with my toes to feel the temperature and finally sinking to my neck.  I do not do it very often, but when I do I feel great.  Lake swimming will always be the best!