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Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy: Or Why I Want to be a Spiritual Care Volunteer

16 Jan

For the past two years I have been trying to find a different kind of volunteer role.  I have served on boards and planned events; I have shopped for gifts and supplies; I have written and stuffed letters; I have organized and directed. But I wanted something that was more one-on-one, where I could actually help someone. Something that would give me an important obligation and destination once I totally retired. Something that had meaning.  It is important to me to give back, to do tzedekah, to make a conscious, ethical commitment to do good.

Then I listened to a radio podcast that featured my sister-in-law.  In it she said something that resonated with me:  Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy!

I realized that something that makes me feel happy is making others feel happy.  Many times, when I am with someone not feeling well, or feeling blue, I just want to help them laugh before we leave each other.  I learned years ago that laughter really makes people feel better. The saying, “Turn that frown upside down and smile,” sticks in my mind.  I decided I needed to find a volunteer role that would help people feel emotionally better.

Several years ago, I participated in a two-day training program put on by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and our local Jewish Federation called, Wise Aging. We were taught how to facilitate a program for people who were in a transitional stage of life, from 50s to late 70s. We learned the skill of mindful listening. We learned about mindfulness and meditation along with dealing with transitions.

I really enjoyed teaching classes with my co-leader on the transition from thinking about the aging process to living in the aging process and how to make it a most positive experience.  But we are not doing as many workshops. I needed something else that might use the skills I learned from this workshop.

Then life happened.  Someone I know for years was in a rehab facility.  I went to visit her and saw what my visit meant, even though we were not close friends.  Then a good friend of mine was in the hospital and then rehab for months.  I started visiting her once a week when I was in town.  She loved the visits.  Even when her husband came, they wanted me to stay. Having outside company was comforting and helped them passed the time.  Besides making them happier for the company, it made me happier because I know my presence helped them.

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The booklet the volunteer dropped off.

One day when I was there, a man stopped by and gave her a booklet.  He was a spiritual care volunteer.  Since she had company he dropped off the booklet and said he would be back later.  Hummm the wheels in my brain already started to turn.

I remembered back to when my parents were sick.   I would fly to NJ every five weeks and spend a week there.  Many times, I was just going to the hospital every day.  My siblings wondered how I could sit in the hospital or nursing home all day long. They could not do it.  But it did not bother me.  I also remember the volunteers who came from the local synagogue to visit the hospitalized.  I had several nice conversations with them.  I remember thinking what a great way to do a mitzvah.

I remembered back to when I was a teenager and worked as a candy striper in a local hospital.  I had one incident that changed my desire to be a nurse, but I always liked helping others.  (See blog link below.)

Recently I was in Israel when my daughter had surgery. I spent several days in the hospital. Many times, my daughter’s roommate did not have someone there when I was there, so I helped her as well.  It made sense to me.  It is ‘gemulat hasidim,’a deed of loving kindness to help the sick.

My mind started ruminating over a specific volunteer opportunity: visiting the sick, or in our community Spiritual Care Volunteer.

I realized that this might be the best fit for me.  I like people.  I like to talk to people.  Sick people do not scare me.  I think some people are afraid to be around someone either old, or just someone who is sick.  It does not upset me.  The more I thought about it, the more considering volunteering as a spiritual care volunteer seemed right for me.

And then there were the ‘signs’!

One day while visiting my friend, the local rabbi in charge of Jewish Family Services’ Chaplaincy Program appeared to visit her as well.  I saw this as a sign.  The spiritual care volunteers are part of his program. I do not see him that often, and here I was thinking about calling him to volunteer when he showed up.  So right then, I told him, I want to do this.  It has been on my mind ever since. But. I did not follow up, I had much going on.

I went to Israel to be with my daughter.  When I come back from Israel. Rabbi Rudnick emailed me to comment on a blog I wrote about being in a hospital in Israel.  I took this as my second sign that I am really meant to be a spiritual care volunteer. I, in turn, emailed him and I reminded him that I wanted to participate in this program.  He put me in touch with another person at his agency to get more information.

My third sign is that the 12-hour training, which is to begin soon, is actually on days that I can attend!  That is amazing to me.  It really must be a sign that this is the right role for me.

I have filled out the paperwork, had my interview, had my rabbi write a letter of recommendation.  I am all set.  Next week I begin my training.  I have made a one-year commitment to this program.

I hope that I can give comfort to those that need comfort; listen to those who need to be heard; pray with those who need prayer; and cheer up those who need cheering.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/16/my-time-as-a-candy-striper/

Cemetery Records Impacts Family Stories

11 Jan

Recently I received a cemetery record from a friend of mine, who grew up with my husband’s cousins.  Her grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were great friends.

In any case, she is researching her family history and did research on the Jewish Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas, where my husband’s grandparents and aunt are buried.  (Mount Zion Cemetery or Sons of Truth. )She found their funeral records as well, and sent them to me and other family members.  I sent it on to one more.  For me they were enlightening.  My husband’s mother had told me many stories about her family before she died.  And these records impacted these stories.

Story Number One:  Her mother, Esther, died in childbirth when she was in her 40s.   The cemetery records make this clear.  She died in the early 1930s and was buried with an infant.  This would have been child number 11, although her oldest daughter had died years before.  Born in 1889, she died in 1933, when she was just 43.  On another note,  her birthday was October 4; and many of her grandchildren are born October!

Story Number Two:  My mother in law was named for her older sister, Molly, who died in May.  I was told she died in the swine flu epidemic in 1918 or 1919.  Not true.  Molly died from the pneumonia in May 1924, when she was 19 years old.  What amazes me as well is that she was born and died on the same day in May just 19 years apart!Still a tragedy!  But what is true is that my mother in law was born almost exactly a year later.  And so was given her sister’s Hebrew name, along with another name.  This impacts me, as my daughter is named for her grandmother and so also for this great aunt.

A story we did not know, is that Malvina or Molly or Malcha, was first buried in Wichita, Kansas, where the family lived.   The family moved to Leavenworth some time after she died, leaving her grave behind.  But after her mother died, Molly’s remains were moved to Leavenworth in 1935, to be with her mother.

My mother in law told me that her father went every to visit the grave of his wife and daughter.  I have been at the cemetery and I know there is a bench there where he sat.

Story Number Three:  My husband’s grandfather died in the middle of World War 2 in Leavenworth, which impacted his three youngest children.  So true.  His date of death is listed as December 6, 1942.  Just one year after Pearl Harbor.  He had been a widow for nine years.  And was just 64 when he died.  The same age my husband is now!

At the time of his death, three children were minors, the others were married or serving in the military.  The oldest of these three was my mother in law.   She was a senior in high school.  We think she stayed with friends for the rest of the school year.  We know after high school, she moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University and live with an older sister and her family.

My mother in law told me that one day when she came home she saw her brother and sister sitting on the steps.  Some family friends were there. And she just knew something horrible had happened.  It had.  After losing her mother when she was only 8, she was now an orphan.

The two youngest, 12 and 15 at the time, were first taken to Wichita.  Remember the good friend?  She told me that her grandfather drove through a horrible storm to get the youngest children so they would not be alone.  He brought them back to Wichita.  From there they went to Arkansas to live with their oldest brother and his family.  Officially they were supposed to live in Kansas, according to my mother in law, but the state gave permission for them to leave the state to live with family during the war.

After the war was over, the youngest son was still a minor.  He went to live with another brother and his wife in Wichita.  The next youngest, a daughter, was in nursing school,  but would stay with this brother as well during vacations.

All three of these youngest children went to college, which I find amazing!  But I remember my husband’s aunt, the one who lived in St. Louis, telling me that although there was not a lot of money left after their dad died, there was enough for college, and the older siblings made sure the younger siblings went.

After I received the cemetery records, there was some serious texting back and forth between this friend and I, as well as an older first cousin who grew up in Wichita.  Her parents are the ones who took in the youngest sibling.

It is just amazing that different people know different parts of the same story.  But when you put it all together, a truer picture appears.   Most  amazing how finding the right records can answer so many questions!

 

Thank you to /www.findagrave.com/.  I was able to see grave stones.

Mass Transit: A Traveler’s Delight

22 Nov

Kansas City metro only has one really good accessible mass transit for tourists: the KC Street Car, a free light rail that circles 2.2 miles downtown, featuring Crown Center and the City Market.  Yes, Kansas City does have a bus system, but living in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, I recently realized how cut off we can be without a car.  Our daughter’s brother-in-law was traveling through the USA and wanted to use mass transit whenever possible.  My husband took him to work one day and dropped him off at the Street Car. That gave him an entire day of adventure.

However, it was the start of the Labor Day Weekend.  On Sunday he wanted to take the bus downtown to experience the Irish Festival.  We told him it was impossible. He said,
“No there is a bus a mile away.  I can walk there and take it.  We laughed. My husband showed him on the website that yes there was a bus to downtown, but it would not be running again until Tuesday.  No way to get to the Irish Festival.  (Don’t worry, we arranged for friends to take him.)

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Ferry from NJ to NYC.

It started me thinking about my experience with mass transit.  To begin with, I grew up in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  I spent many hours on busses, trains, subways and taxis.  It was a part of life if you wanted to go anywhere.  Many people who live in New York City do not even own a car.  Of course my mass transit of choice going from New Jersey to NYC is always the ferry!

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Mass Transit tickets

Since moving to the Midwest, I have experienced exciting weekends in Chicago, Illinois, using the mass transit system.  Chicago, like NYC, is another mass transit haven.   Using the Chicago subways is a no brainer.  Going from the airport into the city is so much faster, cheaper and easier than taking a taxi. And getting around to the different areas makes sense on the subways.

In major cities, I try to use the subways to avoid traffic. In Philadelphia we used the Philadelphia Transit Vehicles (PTV), and in Washington DC, using the METRO Transit System is a must to beat the traffic.  I will always remember the very long escalators down into the system when we traveled from a relative’s home in Maryland to downtown DC. Boston also has a mass transit system, the MBTA, that helps college students and travelers get around

I realized that my husband and I use Mass Transit whenever we can.  In Atlanta, the MARTA took us to and from the airport to the downtown hotels.  In California: we adore the Cable Cars in San Francisco. While staying in San Jose, we used the light rail to go the Winchester Mystery House in San and the Tech Museum from our hotel.

We used the light rail in Denver, Colorado, to explore the historic area and travel to and from our hotel. In one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, I used the street car with my children to get from our hotel to the French Quarter!

I have even used the mass transit in St. Louis!  Although I drive there all the time to see family, when I went to a graduation at Washington University, I was told parking was not available. I drove to the nearest MetroLink Station and traveled to the ceremony. What a delight to avoid all the traffic.

One of my favorite ‘mass transit’ rides was on the People Mover ride in Tomorrow Land at Disney World, and of course we love the mass transit success of the Monorail in Disney World.  Does that count?  I think so.  I thought of it recently when we were in Seattle.   I had the opportunity to use the one-mile monorail down to the Sky Needle and the Seattle Center, an area developed for the 1962 World’s Fair.

But it wasn’t only the monorail that had our patronage in Seattle, we also used the light rail system of SoundTransit.  The underground area was so clean!  Currently buses run through these tunnels in downtown Seattle, but I was told that would end in January 2019, as the city prepares for the expansion of its light rail.

I have also used mass transit in other countries.  Vienna, Hungary, we took our children on the subway.  I will admit there was one very loud and screechy turn.  We all held our ears.  In Israel, I have changed my allegiance from the busses to the trains. They are great and have free wi-fi.

The most interesting subway of all was in Athens, Greece. When they dug down to build the subway, the workers kept finding antique treasures. Now in the stations are displays of these lovely objects.  You get a history lesson, while waiting for the subway.

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Funicular in Quebec City.

Another favorite is using a funicular to get up and down a hill.  That was great fun in Quebec City, Canada.  I have used them in other places as well, like the Carmelit underground Funicular in Haifa, Israel, and the one at Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri (this was my first funicular.)  But the one in Quebec City stands out in my mind.  I have seen them in Valparaiso, Chile, but did not actually need to use one.

All my experiences with mass transit makes me wish that my home town would invest a bit more in helping people move around.  I will admit that recently citizens voted to expand the light rail a bit further south to the shopping areas of Westport and the Plaza, as well as the University of Missouri Kansas City campus.  But it still doesn’t help those who live in my area.  But my dream lives on that eventually the entire city will have an operating, useful light rail system.

A Community Vigil Heals My Heart

29 Oct

I feel better now than I did a day ago.

On Saturday a madman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 innocent souls.  I was so sad.  My sadness increased when a good friend called and say, “How are you?”  And added, “You will feel worse and then you will feel better.”  She then informed me that her nephew was one of the Rabbis there.  Her nephew who I have meet and had Thanksgiving dinner with years ago when he was young.  But he was physically fine.  He was not one of the many wounded or killed.   It did not matter, my eyes filled and my heart pounded.

“You are right,” I said.  “I feel so much worse and so much better simultaneously.”

Today I feel much better.  Today my congregation, Kehilath Israel,  was the host for The Kansas City Community Vigil organized by the Jewish Federation and JCRB. Another board member and I served as official greeters as thousands people came together to fight hatred and stand for goodness.

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The media worked to present what happened to our community.

We arrived early.  We were there when the police checked everything. We saw the work they put into keeping us safe.  Security was important.  But honestly the love and warmth of the people coming into our sanctuary removed the stress of needing police and security.  We saw the members of the media come with their cameras and note books.  We saw our synagogue’s staff preparing for the crowds.

Over and over we said: “Welcome.  Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for being here.”  And again and again, people responded with a hug, or a handshake, or a smile, or saying “thank you,” or “of course” or “We had to be here.” “We are here for you.”

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People from every Jewish congregation came. From many churches, who wore their church name tags.  People came with crosses and Jewish stars, turbans and the collars of minister and priests. There were Hindus, Budhists, every religion, every color, every community was there!  I saw members of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, of which I am a member. Members of Grandparents against Gun Violence came out in their orange sweatshirts.  The Muslim community was there.  An Indian couple I have not seen in a decade came, and both embraced me in a warm hug. Thank you!

People reached out with love and kindness.  So many times, my eyes filled with tears as I felt their love to me and the community.  And I knew that the world was really a better place than I imagined a few days ago.  We welcomed thousands of people.  The estimate is that 3000 people attended. Thank you Kansas City!

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Hundreds of notes were written.

Many wrote notes to go to the congregations in Pittsburgh where the horror occurred.  We in Kansas know of this as our world was shattered almost four years ago when the JCC and the Village Shalom were the sites of hate killings.  We returned the love that we felt when communities across the world reached out to us.  We know how important those notes can be.

When the speakers began their presentations, my heart soared.  I will not mention what the Rabbis said, although what they said was important, I will focus on the others. Because what the others said meant so much to our grieving hearts.

First was my old neighbor, Art, who spoke for the Muslim community.  His words touched because I knew him and I knew it was so.  ” I speak from my heart,” he said. “We are with you,” he said. “Hate is destined to fail.”  He spoke of how the Jewish and Muslim communities work together.

We had a representative of the Catholic Church speaking for Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who told us “God is Love. And there is NO room for hate. We, the Catholic community, stand with you.”

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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver gave a rousing and heart_pounding speech, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. :  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And “Silence sounds like complicity.”   “In Ecclesiastics it says, ‘There is a time to be quiet,’ he announced, “But this is NOT it.”  “We are all Americans. This is America!” He added pointing to all of us in the room.”Besides Congressman Cleaver, Congressman Kevin Yoder attended as did candidate Sharice Davids. Kansas Governor Colyer was also in attendance. I am sure many others were there.

Rev. Adam Hamilton from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection was there with hundreds of his congregants. THANK YOU!  I felt the love from them as I welcomed them to our congregation.  He told us that there was silence during the Shoah, but that “We refuse to let that happen here.”  “We need to have the courage to speak up when you know something is not right.”  “We need to stand up!”

The Rev. Doctor Rodney Williams, told us that although America was currently living in a season of evil and hate, we will work together.  We will together fight against White supremacy. We will come together, as we fight back together in our unity.

And the crowd of thousands people were united in the message that hate will not win in Kansas City.  Hate and anti-Semitism, and anti any group was not going to win.  We would win because we will not remain silent.  And we remembered others who died because of hatred: The two who were killed October 24 in the Kroger’s supermarket, just for bing Black.

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Community Rabbis lit candles in memory of those who perished.

There was silence though as the community’s Rabbis lit a candle for each of the 11 murdered and then lead us in Kaddish.  The voices of the congregation came together to chant the pray for those who perish.

“May the One who makes peace on high, make peace for us, for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth. And Let us Say, Amen.”

May their names be a blessing:  Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving  Younger.    And Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones who died at Krogers.

(As an aside, many more people attempted to come to the vigil. Traffic was backed up, parking lots were filled all around, it was a true city wide response of love against hate.)

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/

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

Seeing Isaac Stern in Concert Touched My Heart

26 May

When I was 23 years old I was fortunate to see the violinist Isaac Stern in concert.  My husband, then my boyfriend, got us the tickets that were excellent, about six rows back from the stage.  I remember watching as he created the most beautiful music. But the moment that touched my heart was when he meandered over the stage to our side of the theater, all the while making music, and as he reached a crescendo he lifted on to his toes…. I was sure he would lift into the sky with his music, upward into heaven.  I thought, “this is what Marc Chagall was painting when he drew his musicians flying in the sky. This moment is a Chagall painting.”

I thought of Isaac Stern yesterday throughout a concert at the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern, Isaac’s son.  Although we have season tickets to the Pops Series of the Symphony, and we go to other concerts as well, we have never actually been to a concert that Michael Stern conducted.  As I watched him conducting, putting his entire body into the music, I flashed back to that moment about 40 years ago when I saw his father.

Since that time when I was in graduate school, I have been to many concerts.  I have attended concerts throughout the USA including the Aspen Music Festival, Boston Pops, Kansas City Symphony.  I have been to La Scala, in Milan, where our hosts arranged for my son, my husband, and I to go behind the scenes at the music school [Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo (Academy for the Performing Arts]and see the incredible instruments and tour the school.  I still cannot believe we got to do that!

Although I took piano lessons for many years, I was never the most talented musician.  (See link below.) Those years of lessons, however, taught me to love music.  I love to listen to the sounds of a symphony. I have sat in other venues and listened with my ears and my heart to other wonderful concerts and extremely talented musicians: including violinists Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Pinchas Zukerman; and cellist Yo Yo Ma.  I have seen Zubin Mehta conduct.

Not one of them have ever compared to Isaac Stern for me.  Perhaps it was because it was my first time to see such an extraordinary musician.  However, I think it was because of the way he lived and breathed his music.  I will never forget him on his tiptoes, playing his violin and reaching to heaven with his music.

For me it is true, as this quote attributed to Plato says,  “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  For me, it was Isaac Stern who first truly gave me this gift.  Seeing Isaac Stern in concert touched my heart.

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