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Settling In: At Home and In Reality

28 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

Our lower level is empty as well.

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

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

The Japanese maple moved with us.

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

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

Roman shades moved from old house to new!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyful Moments As I Give Away Our Books!

23 Mar

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

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

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

Bundles of books in my house

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

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

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

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

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

“Dear Reader.

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

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

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

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

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

    I hope you enjoy the books. Stay healthy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks and prayers for your safety and health!”

“Omg thank you so much!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you!  Got them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Pandemic Mitzvot Keep Me Optimistic

18 Mar

I already wrote about the libraries closing and my decision to giveaway some of the thousands of books I am not taking to our new, downsized home. But in the few days since I wrote that blog so much more has happened. Yesterday all schools were asked to stay closed until April 6. Then today, the governor ordered that schools shut their doors for the rest of the school year.

That is unbelievable and truly an unexpected event.

I work at a school. A small, private school for students who do not do well in a traditional setting. This order to close school leaves us all gobstruck and flabbergasted. But with all the schools and libraries closed, books are not only an important release from stress, but also an important learning tool. Where will the children get books to read if the libraries, schools and stores are closed? So I believe my decision to share books is more important than ever.

The requests are coming in. Mystery, romance, funny novels, memoirs, thrillers, fantasy, children’s books for all ages. But I find myself not just saying yes and just handing them a book, I find myself searching through my books to find something that fits the person who requested a book.

Books to give away on my front porch.

I give each person between two and five books. If I have a series, I give them all the books I own in that series. I also offer options to some people, as I have several books I think they might like. I let each person make the final decision. No feelings hurt. But so far, everyone seems to like the books they took from my front porch.

My pandemic mitzvah (good deed) decision is bringing me joy! I think I am, or should have been, a librarian. Trying to match books to people elicits a smile in my brain. A little click occurs and I think, ‘Eureka, perfect fit!’

Eight people have requested books so far. I hope that many more do so. I would be glad to give everyone I know a bit of joy through the gift of a book. But I can only help out those who live within my community.

I think getting the books make them happy as well. I leave them in bags on my front porch. People come by and take the bag labeled for them. Since we are keeping socially distant, I don’t go outside to greet them. But a couple have knocked on the door and given me a smile and a wave and a thank you through the glass.

Some friends who have not requested books have noted what a great idea this is. And a kindness. Kindness goes two ways. People need books. It brings them relief from stress and escape from situations. I get joy by finding good homes for my books. It is so nice to know that another reader will open the pages and be transferred from the somewhat harsh reality of a Coronavirus pandemic, into someone’s words and imagination.

But books are not my only pandemic mitzvot. I am calling house bound people. I am sending notes to the people I usually visit in an elder care facility. I am trying to be upbeat and positive. Sometimes I fail at that, but I am trying. And most of all, I am trying to take care of my husband and myself. We are continuing our exercise, we are eating healthy and I hope we are maintaining our spirits.

I think that by doing something positive I can take a bit of stress out of my life and the lives of those around me. So remember, even if you cannot see your friends, you can call. Even if you cannot go to movies or libraries or concerts, there are many ways to listen to music or read. Take a walk outside. Call someone at home to brighten their day. Doing a mitzvah during the pandemic is my choice to keep optimistic.

Libraries Closed? Well I Have Books to Share!!

15 Mar

Along with the move is the need to downsize.  Which for us means getting rid of books!  We have hundreds, no thousands of books that we are not taking to the new home. Over our almost 40 years of marriage, my husband and I have collected an extensive library on many topics! I plan to sell some and donate others.  But now another plan has come to mind.  I can be a giveaway library!

Yesterday the libraries closed in my community due to the coronavirus.  They will be closed for two weeks.  What can a book girl do, but offer her friends and neighbors books to read.  The idea came to me when I read another friend’s post about the library.  I wrote on her wall:  I have a ton of books I am giving away in the move. If anyone needs something to read. Tell me what you like. I am sure I have something you can read!

But then I thought I really need to put something on my Facebook wall so that all my friends could see. Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook: 

“So with the Library closed, I have an offer. I have hundreds of books I am not taking to my new home. Tell me a topic or a genre you like. I am sure I have a book to give you to get through this enforced peaceful existence. 🙂 PM me. Of course only KC area people. Sorry.  I have children’s books as well!”

The pictures below show my still filled bookcases in my family room and bedroom. At one time most of these shelves were double stacked. We also have more books on a downstairs bookshelf. OF course this does not include the almost 50 boxes of books that have been packed and taken to our new home. Those are the ones we are keeping. But every decision to discard a book came with an emotional quiver. It is difficult to say goodbye to books. Perhaps giving them to someone on edge due to the virus, will make the parting easier and more carthodic.

Books to give away in my family room.
Books to give away in my bedroom.

My husband and I are doing our best to make sure our now unneeded items find good homes and help others.  So sharing books seems to be ideal!  But other items are making their way into the reuse, recycle life!

I packed up five boxes of Lego to donate to the Giving Brick, which recycles Lego back into building sets.  The fixtures and fans we had removed from our new home are now at ReStore which is run by Habitat for Humanity. We have more items to go to them. We are waiting to combine as much as we can in one trip over to the store.  Right now, we have a shoe holder, five air vent covers and am waiting for the old towel racks to come down in the bathroom.

We have bags upon bags of clothes and linens to give to National Council of Jewish Women for a fund raiser. They collect these used items and give them to a store called Savors, who then pays them by the pound for the items. An easy way to earn money.  I think I have seven bags already with more to go.

I have already donated 300 books to my synagogue’s library.  And about 10 more to the Jewish Federation to take on a mission to Bulgaria and Romania that I was supposed to be on.  That trip was cancelled for now, but I hope they can bring the books later, even though I probably will not be able to go.

My offer got immediate responses!  Some of my Facebook buddies took me up on my offer.   My first taker came about 15 minutes after I posted. She wanted a funny novel. 

Another came back with telling me I made a kind offer, and she knew of an organization that takes books for seniors.  Well that is good for me as well.  She had put me in contact with Phoenix Family.  Not sure if it will work out as most senior centers are closed to visitors and probably don’t want books. But there is the future.

A third person with two young boys wanted a puzzle. She knows us. We have tons of jigsaw puzzles.  But most were packed up.  I did have Springbok 2000 piece that needed a new home. It was picked up early this morning from my front door.  

One of our puzzles finds a new home.

Two others requested novels of different genres.  Those I had as well. So two other  books sit on my on my front stoop for pick up. 

It might not be much, but perhaps my books can bring a bit of joy to those feeling isolated and alone. I have many more to share. In fact the photos I put up do not show the bookcase filled with children’s books. Oy being a bookaholic is exhausting when you have to move.

Let me know if you  live in the KC Metro and are interested!

http://thegivingbrick.org/index.html

https://www.phoenixfamily.org/

Downsizing After 35 Years

5 Mar

It has been a wacky five weeks in my life, which has left me without the energy to write. But finally, I think I can articulate my mixed-up emotions. We are moving. Leaving the only house we ever owned. Leaving the house that we brought both our children home to. Leaving the neighborhood we have lived in for 35 years.

And it is my fault!

I told my husband several years ago that we needed a smaller home. We needed to be living on one level. That he needed to stop mowing the lawn, raking leaves and shoveling snow. It was part of my wise aging plan, we would chose! Last summer he acquiesced. In August I started the search for a reverse 1 1/2 story that had some maintenance free accommodations. At the end of a January I found the house.

Bringing my husband to see it when he was not feeling well might not have been fair as he lay on the floor of the empty great room and told me if I love it get it. But I took him at his word. Also he knew I had seen a multitude of homes before getting that feeling of home I felt in this one.

The house became ours on March 2. Before that was inspections, arrangements for buying, and me coming down with the flu even though I had the flu shot this year as always. The flu for me is always horrific! And this was the same. Five days of fever was followed by an unhappy asthma attack. I have basically been feeling ill for over three weeks. But a second round of steroids seems to have finally moved me forward from my malaise.

But all this has been happening as I started packing for the move while I, along with my husband and children began sorting through the shrines of this home and discarding pieces of the past. My son comes when he is not working to clean out his room and his stored items in the basement. He and his girlfriend are also searching to buy a home. They will take some of the furniture and items that are not moving to our new home.

What my current house looks like

My daughter, who lives overseas with her husband, surprised us on her birthday showing us her ticket home. She arrived two days later for 8 days of intensive sorting. She and I went through our immense library of books, taking just 40-45 boxes and leaving the rest behind.

My children and I went through the house with different color tape as we chose art work. I had first choice, but then they chose what they liked. My heart swelled as the amicably made their selections. I thought how happy I was to do this with them while I was alive and could see what they liked and how well they got along. That is a parents joy. And after cleaning out my parents’ homes after they died, I was determined to make it easier for my children!

At the same time, we were finding paint samples, running to plumbing stores and remodeling companies as we planned the updates in the new home. And I was still dealing with my asthma. I think I was in a state of suspended reality the entire time. She also packed up her entire room, while also ridding it of the residue of her 34 years. She came with three empty suitcases that flew back across the Atlantic and Mediterranean filled with pieces of her life. When she left, I felt a bit bereft, but thankful she came.

But finally this morning I woke up after sleeping an entire seven hours feeling like I could really breathe! Our new house has a swarm of workers busily updating. Yesterday nine people were painting, hammering, removing, and updating. And with the painters painting away, new hardwood floors are being installed, the electrician fixing all the issues, the plumber ready to come, the alarm company updating, the tree service and roofer and gardener all set up, I can relax. All I have left to do is to keep packing and sorting. I honestly cannot have an outside company pack. Downsizing means things have got to GO!

Pre work great room
Carpeting gone.
Floor going in.
You can see the new color off to the left!

However, I have to admit one more event probably eased my anxiety. I was supposed to go on a mission to Europe with a group. I did not fear getting ill, but the timing was so bad with the move less than a month away. And I would be gone a week as the remodeling continues. I woke up at 4 am each morning uneasy. Going through all that still needed to be done at home, while at the same time trying to get my work completed at my job. High anxiety on top of excitement. On top of trying to breathe. But yesterday the trip was postponed due to the Corona virus. It actually is a relief!

I am thankful for my friends and family who have pitched in to help! Our realtor, who has been in our lives for over 25 years, has gone beyond her role to help me in the remodeling. My walking artist buddy has Helped me chose colors. My son’s girlfriend, with her great mind for detail, was with me during the inspections. Offers of help to pack. Allowing me to put some of our extra trash in their garbage cans for pickup. Looking through things as I try to decide what to keep. And being there. My husband and I are blessed with family and friends.

Some give away stories. My daughter and I found a box of remnants from my son’s bar mitzvah. Kelly green visors with the word celebrate imprinted. We first thought trash. But then I thought friend. My walking buddy teaches catechism at her granddaughters’ school. Would they like 100 Kelly green visors for St Patrick’s Day. They are donated and at the school ready. And our 100 extra Kippur from our children’s b’nai mitzvot and friends’ life cycle events are at our synagogue in the kippa box where they are being used for services. Other items are also finding new homes. Sleeping bags we no longer use are going to the homeless through a friend’s church ministry. A Halloween ceramic plate is going to a friend who loves that holiday. And my daughter’s 25 year old Barbie camper is going to a friend so her two granddaughters can play with it. I love seeing our cherished items get a second life!

But most of all, for me, I am happy that I finally had the energy to write.

My Crazy Henna Birthday Celebration

9 Feb

I love parties.  But I honestly was not planning on doing anything to commemorate my 65th birthday.  It was enough that I made it to Medicare age.  The emotion of realizing I was now officially a senior bothered me a bit.   Although I am not afraid of getting old.  It is more of a disbelief that I am older than I feel I am in my heart.

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Nomi Eve and me.

The idea for my party started with a book, Henna House, written by Nomi Eve.  I loved the book.  Although people seem to know the stories of the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora and the horrific times in Europe with the Shoah, many do not realize that there is a large population of Mizrachi (Jews from Arab countries) Jewish residents in Israel now.  They were cast out of their countries when Israel was created, but even before suffered from anti-Semitic laws.

In Henna House, Nomi Eve discusses the world of the Yemenite Jews focusing on one girl as she grows and her family.  I loved it so much, I offered to chair a committee to bring Nomi to Kansas City for a book event.  Since,  I have been helping with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City’s book events for well over 20 years, I hoped that they would agree to this event.

It was approved.  On a side note, Nomi Eve was supposed to be in Kansas City on a tour for her first book, The Family Orchard.  I was on that committee as well.  In the last minute, she was unable to make that book event.  She told me, when we met in December, that she felt she owed Kansas City and had to come.  I am glad she did!

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Nomi Eve had an henna art done while she was here.

For this event, we decided that having a henna demonstration for those who attended would be a great experience for all and enhance the book event. An henna artist, Jason from Henna Being, (See website below) came to provide a demonstration. He was fantastic.

A thought took seed in my mind!  Why not a henna party for my birthday. Henna is often put on for happy occasions like a wedding or an engagement.  Others put on henna when they are pregnant to bless their babies.  To me, a 65th birthday seemed to me to be an important celebration that deserved to be blessed by a henna artist.

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My henna hamsa.

The artist, Jason, was glad to come to my party.  I think he had as good as a time as my eight friends, my son and his girlfriend.  Over the course of three hours, we all had henna designs.  Each one different than the other, based on the desire of each of us.

For me, I needed a hamsa.  I collect them and wished one on my arm.  (See blog about Hamsa’s below.)

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Our henna art.

I thank Nomi Eve for her wonderful book.  I thank Jill and the  JCC for supporting this book event.  I thank Jason for coming to my henna party with his excellent talent. Finally I am glad that my friends and family got into the spirit of the henna event.  I feel as if I have started my 65 year with a wonderful celebration of blessing and luck with my Crazy Henna Birthday Celebration.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2016/01/26/mazel-and-good-luck-my-middle-eastern-hamsa-and-native-american-hand-symbol-collection/

http://www.hennabeing.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18775306-henna-house

 

Sentimental Musings: My Parents And “Animal Farm”

25 Dec

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I have to start this blog with a confession to my siblings, “I have Mom’s copy of Animal Farm.”

To be honest, this is a big deal.  When our parents died nine months apart, and we cleaned out their homes, we searched for certain important, sentimental items.  The 1946 edition of Animal Farm fell into this category.

In my family,  Animal Farm is not just an allegory about communism using farm animals.  Instead it is the basis for our parent’s relationship.  Dad lived in the Bronx.  Mom lived in New Jersey.  My Dad’s aunt lived near my Mom and shopped in the family bakery.   She decided that my Mom and Dad had to meet.

In order to appease his aunt, my Dad took the train, the subway, the ferry, who knows how many types of transit to travel to meet my Mom. (The timeline it took to get to meet her and the numerous transits increased over the years.)

It went well.  Mom loaned Dad her copy of Animal Farm to read.  Of course, after he read it, he had to make the return trip back to New Jersey to deliver the book back to her and discuss it.  This was the start of a great love story that lasted the 59 years they were married.

Obviously Animal Farm holds a place in all of our hearts.  And it was missing.  But maybe not so much.   I sort of remembered that Mom gave me the book when I was in college.  As an English major I had to read many books, so I often went home to see if we had any in our family library.  Animal Farm came back to college with me and has stayed with me for the next 40 something years.  However, I did not know exactly where it was in my house.  Actually, I just hoped it did not get lost in one of my moves before settling in my current home of 34 years.

So why am I writing about it now?  Two reasons. I have been thinking of this book a lot lately.  I have been focusing on how it starts off with the saying that all animals being equal, but ends with /the new dictate that some animals are better (or more equal) than other animals.  I have also been thinking about pigs running the government, not that I have any intention of making a political statement here.  I decided I wanted to reread it and wondered if I did still have it.

Reason two, I have been on a cleaning binge, which includes sorting through and giving away some of our thousands of books with the idea that we will downsize our home.  Since I am on winter vacation from work, I decided to continue my house cleansing and search specifically for this book.  Well I found it. There on a shelf, tucked between two larger books, was the green cover of slim book: Animal Farm. 

It is the Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946 edition.  Not sure if it is a first printing, because it does not note that on the page.  However, it was in 1946 that it was published in the USA.

Finding it also confirmed my belief that I used it in school, because tucked inside was a mimeographed sheet explaining who all the characters represented. It is a great cheat sheet that was presented to us by our teacher.

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My true confession is over.  I hope my siblings will be happy to know that the book is safe.  Its pages intact and its importance to our family will live with this retelling.

Personally, I will now reread Animal Farm and compare the fate of the world now with the way the world was moving in the years after World War Two.

 

Loving All Things Dr. Seuss

10 Jun

I am a bit obsessive compulsive.  For me that means when I like something, I want to know everything about it.  When I like an architect, I study his or her work.  When I like the books written by a certain author, I also want to learn about the author.  When I like art, I need to know about the artist.   I think it all started with Dr. Seuss.

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My collection of Dr. Seuss books.

I believe I remember the first time my Dad read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me.  I can see myself sitting on one leg with my brother on the other leg.  We are wearing footsie pajamas.  I loved that book.  I also loved Go Dog Go!   The pictures, the language, the rhymes all contributed to my anticipation of a new book by Dr. Seuss.  I loved all books Seussical.  I wanted my parents to read them to me again and again and again.  In fact, I learned to read by reading Dr. Seuss books.

And who can ever forget The Cat In The Hat?  I am always worried that the house will still be a mess when Mom gets home.  Even when I am the Mom!!

Of course, when I had children, I made sure that all the Dr. Seuss books were in my home for me to read to my children.  Which I did as much as possible.  Although my children are grown, I keep those books as I await the arrival of grandchildren.  I know that I will be excited to read these books to a new generation.

Among our favorites was The Lorax, as my husband and I are committed to keeping our world as green as possible.  Reading The Lorax is a wonderful way to explain what happens when people do not care for or protect the world and the environment.  We used to watch the 1972 animated movie about The Lorax when our children were little. Yes, we own a 1990s VHS of this movie!  I guess it is a collector’s item now.  We have seen the new 2012 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but for me the original is best.

My husband loves these books as well, especially And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  Why that one?  Because he grew up on Mulberry Street in St. Louis!

When our children were little we were excited when “Seussical the Musical” was presented by the local children’s theater. I especially loved the songs, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think and How Lucky You Are! (See link to songs below.)

When the book, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography was published in the 1990s, I had to have it.  Reading it was somewhat eye-opening.  Theodor Geisel was a much different man than his alter ego, Dr. Seuss.  I was a bit disappointed in what I read, but how could I not still love what he created?  So I did. I also learned from the book, that he lived just north of San Diego for the last part of his life.

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The Cat In The Cat at Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss

In 2015, while spending a few days in San Diego, I wondered about finding something related to Dr. Seuss while we were there.  I did not have to look too hard.  While we were visiting museums in Balboa Park, we came upon a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the History Museum: “Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss.”   Serendipity to be there at the right time! 

The artwork, the statues, the rooms set up like scenes from his books.  All of these gave me joy. The exhibit is closed now, but I can always remember it because I purchased the book that went with the exhibit.  I also purchased Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War 11 Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Geisel. They actually mailed the books home to me, as I had no room in my luggage. But I needed those books! I still enjoy them.

But my love of all things Seuss does not end with books, books and more books.  Four years ago, I discovered that there was an area at Universal Studios in Florida called Seuss Landing.  Is it possible to find a more delightful spot for a Seuss addict?  No.  We went to see the Harry Potter worlds of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, which were quite wonderful.  But when I found Seuss Landing on our way out of the park, I knew I had found my happy place.

I realized I loved Seuss Landing more than the World of Harry Potter.  Do not get me wrong.  I purchased a Luna inspired magic wand that I can use to work magic.  I loved the atmosphere, the shops, the rides and the food of Diagon Alley.  But the world of Dr. Seuss still has my heart.

A few weeks ago we went back to Universal.  Yes, we did visit Hogwarts again.  And yes, I did have my wand with me.  And yes, I had fun.  But the magic for me was returning to Seuss Landing.

 

It was our first stop beginning our day at Universal, and our last stop on the way out.

I enjoyed walking all over this area with all the children and their families.  My husband and brother-in-law were with me.  Luckily, they are both pediatricians, so being around many children does not frighten them.  My husband went on two of the rides with me, and the three of us rode together for the Cat in Hat ride.

Just walking around makes me happy!  Seeing all the places from his books come to life delights me.  I love the book store filled with the many children’s books he created.  Yes, I went to the gift stores. This time I did not buy very much, as I had stocked up the last time we were there.  However, I do not mind the rides that end in a store, which usually drives me crazy.   In a Seuss Landing store, I just browse with a smile on my face.

Harry Potter World is wonderful,  but crowded with the many Harry Potter fans.  Seuss Landing is delightful, and not as crowded.  It is a great place to bring your younger children and enjoy going into a great world of imagination. An imagination that is not frightening at all, just fun!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36b07-zZZ8A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOIh1uVb6as

 

 

Dragons Must Exist…Well for me

11 Jun

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When I was a teen I became entranced with the series of books by Anne McCaffrey, the Dragonriders of Pern.  I have every single Dragonrider book she wrote, and I have read them more than once.  They delighted me. They made me want to believe that dragons existed in this universe; that they were good; that we could fly on them; and with dragons we could save the world!

My dreams of dragons take me away from the everyday stress and evils.  When politics make me crazy, I think of flying away on a dragon from Pern, saving the world from the threads falling from the red planet.  Communicating solely with my dragon.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

My favorite of her books is “The Girl Who Heard Dragons.”  I so wished that was me!  She could speak and hear all the dragons.  Everyone else could only speak to their specific bonded dragon! The girl who heard dragons was special!  (When Anne McCaffrey passed away in November 2011, I was so sad that the world lost her imagination.)

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Computer Catsastrophies by R. Spangler

Because I love the idea of dragons, I am attracted to art with friendly dragons.  Two local Missouri artists’ works exemplify friendly dragon art.  And their works adorn my home.  Perhaps too much, but their art makes me happy.   The two-dimensional, lithograph works by Randal Spangler can be found on walls in almost every room of my home.  For years, I would buy my husband a Randal Spangler print for his birthday. I know I buy them for my husband, but I love them.  Kind of self-serving!  But he does not mind.

At first, I focused on the series with the astronomer and the libraries.  But over time, I just went for the dragons.  And if there were dragons and cats, even more delectable to me.

His art is fun, delightful and never upsetting.  I always find something new to see in his more intricate and larger works.   Some of my favorites have dragons and fireflies!  So joyful.

When I want to ‘feel’ a dragon, I switch to the clay three-dimensional work by Clay Images artists Melissa and Jim Hogenson.  They call their works, “whimisical designs in stoneware.” Which they are.  I purchased my first one in 1984 at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  And I have been buying at least one piece almost every year since then.  Even when I do not go to the festival, my children will take photos of pieces they think I would like. And then they buy them!  They know that we have to make a stop at their booth so that I can look at dragons!

I have also found it possible to contact Clay Images on line and order exactly what I want.  (Yes, I did Like their Facebook page.) It works for me.   In fact, I recently saw two pieces that I must have!

My sculptured dragons stay in the family room, kitchen and front hall of my home.  They stand guard against invaders.  And they cheer me up.  I loved the one I got last summer.  My children went to the Renaissance festival and brought home: Eclipse, a dragon wearing special eclipse sunglasses.  I saw the eclipse in Wyoming.  It would have been fantastic to have a dragon with me! Can you imagine flying over the tops of the Grand Tetons as the eclipse began to cover the world in darkness.  It would be like a scene out of a Dragonrider of Pern novel!  WOW!

Among my favorite pieces are a dragon cookie jar, two lamps and my wizards. Because I crochet and knit, my children also made sure I had dragon yarn holders.  I have two different ones that I keep together when I am not using them.  I have useful pieces like mugs and the cookie jar, but I also have ones that are just fun to look at!

Over the years I have watched a few dragon related movies and read other dragon books.  Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is fun.  While Smaug, the dragon, in the Lord of the Rings is quite scary and mean.  I loved the somewhat helpful dragon, Mushu, in Mulan.  Of course, the lovesick Dragon in Shrek saved the day, as do my imaginary dragons. And I sort of smiled through the How to Train Your Dragon books. I was scared by the dragons in the Harry Potter series and petrified of the two-headed dragon in Willow (one of my favorite movies!).  I know I need to see the animated movie Spirited Away, to see Haku, the river spirit. My son is a great fan of the animation artist, Hayao Miyazaki.

In my work space, above my computer, is a Spangler print called “Computer Catastrophies.”  Although my desk does not look exactly like that, the print gives me inspiration and joy. As do all my dragons.  On the wall to the right of my desk is Spangler’s “Science Fiction Shelf,” which depicts dragons and science fiction books.  Some of my favorite books are listed, but unfortunately, he did not put any Dragonrider books on this imaginary shelf.  That would have made it perfect.

I believe you are only as old as you feel. And with my dragon art and books in my home, I still feel quite young!  Because with them here, I can believe that dragons must exist!

Clay Images

Randal Spangler

Donating My Holocaust Books to the Right Place

12 Jul

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My husband and I are members of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education (MCHE) in Kansas. There is an important reason for our support. I was named for my great grandmother who was hidden during the Shoah and then murdered by the people who stole her property. In her memory I feel it is important to keep contact with Holocaust organizations.

Since MCHE started, I have attended a few events and made financial donations. This year, we were among those honored for our 20 years of support. But two years ago, I became a bit more involved. I started serving as a preliminary judge for its White Rose Essay Contest. Open to students in eighth through twelfth grade, it is held each year in the Kansas City area. Preliminary judges help to weed the multitude of admissions down to ten in each category 8th and 9th grade/ 10th – 12th grade.

I enjoy reading the essays. It is amazing what some of these students do under the guidance of their teachers. The students have to research a specific topic, which changes each year, using both internet sources and books, many of which are held in the MCHE library.

I look forward to the essay contest each year and being a part of this process. I learn the stories of survivors as I read these essays, which has helped to encourage me on my path to discovering more about my family.

I have a collection of Holocaust books, both non-fiction and fiction. I have way too many books to be honest. Even with a Kindle, I still cannot let go of books very easily. But this weekend I had an urge to purge my bookshelf of books I no longer read.   And a thought occurred.   I had read all these Holocaust books, some several times. Perhaps the MCHE could use them for the White Rose contest, as well as for other researchers.

With that goal in mind, after two days of sorting through my books, I found 17 I was willing to part with and which I thought could be used for research. These 17 non-fiction books pertaining to the Shoah only touch the surface of my collection. But for me it is a positive start.

I contacted MCHE and offered my books.   There were six the historian definitely wanted for the library. The books were already in the car waiting to go. As soon as I got the email, I sorted the books into two groups and took all of the books over.

When I entered the Center, the director said, “Were you waiting in your car for my email?”

I smiled. “The books were in the car,” I admitted.

I did arrive within an hour of getting her email. To be honest, I really wanted a good home for these books where they would be used and appreciated. I think I found that home.

But on the other hand, I was worried that I would go through the books again and change my mind. It is difficult for me to relinquish a book. I even emailed my daughter with a list of the books and asked her opinion.

“I am planning to donate the following. If you have a feeling for any of these books speak now,” I wrote her.

She responded with one word: Donate.

The books they did not want for their library they will offer for sale to their members. That would be fine with me, as the income would still go to MCHE.

However, as I spoke to the Director I suggested they review my books. All were in excellent shape. Perhaps they should replace the books on their shelves with my almost pristine copies? She agreed this was a great idea. It made me feel even better. Perhaps even more of my books would remain on the shelves of the library.

Whatever MCHE and its historian do with my books, I am glad. I am letting go. When I get my letter acknowledging the donation, I will think about those who will continue to read and use my books and know that I donated my books to the right place.

 

 

http://mchekc.org/white-rose-student-essay-contest/