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Wordle, Quordle and Jury Duty

12 Apr

I recently finished four days with 12 total strangers.  We were chosen to serve on a jury panel for a civil case involving wrongful death in a nursing home.  We, the twelve jurors and one alternative, were instructed that when we were in the room together, or outside, or anywhere, we could not speak about the case at all until deliberations.  We were not to go online to look up any information about the case.  We could only rely on our own knowledge and background.  We could not speak to anyone involved on the other side even to say hello.  These were the rules we had to follow.

To be honest, I could not believe that I would be selected. I answered everything honestly. Yes I volunteered in an elder care facility. Yes I was a spiritual care volunteer. Yes, I have helped someone in hospice. Yes I had a medical professional in my family, my husband is a physician. Each time I was sure that was it. I would be struck from the jury. Another man, who actually worked as a social worker in nursing homes and knew this particular facility, was also seated on the jury. Before it started, I turned to him, as we were seated next to each other, and said, I cannot believe that they kept you. But they kept both of us.

The first day in the jury room, we each found a seat around a table with just 13 chairs.  That became our seat for the duration of the trial.  We had to line up in numerical order each time we left the jury room and went into the courtroom. It was just like on television.  Everyone in the court would be standing and waiting for us to reach our seats.  Then the announcement that we could now be seated.

Next to me in the jury room sat Juror 9.  She and I discovered that we both enjoyed playing Wordle and Quordle.  It gave us something we could talk about, our conversation each day was about how we were doing with these and other word games.  It helped.  

Two men, Juror 2 and the one eventually elected our Foreman, also played Wordle.  Our conversation grew to include them each morning.  They had never played Quordle.  To help them out, I told them where to find Quordle and little about how it was played.  Juror 9 chimed in that you can solve them in any order.  Which I had not known…. But now I do.

The four of us spent our morning breaks finishing our Wordles and Quordles.  It was a great way to spend time and to talk about something that was allowed. Others stayed silent, snacked, read, and just waited.

On the third day, when the Foreman turned to me and said,  “The Best part of doing jury duty was finding out about Quordle,” I felt a feeling of satisfaction.  We were bonding over the game.

But to be honest, we did not bond enough.  The three of them voted differently than I did.  We only needed 10 votes to decide.  Ten voted for the defense, two of us for the plaintiff. 

In my mind, I believe they were wrong.  But then they did not have my particular knowledge about elder care facilities and doctors.  It was sad for me because I believe every person has the right to die with dignity.  No one, even someone with dementia who is going to die, should die soon after several falls leading to a broken arm, a concussion, and stitches while in the care of a nursing home. The images we saw and the information I learned truly haunts me.

After the trial, the judge came back to speak to us. He told us that the family was gone, but the lawyers wanted to know why we voted as we did. He said it was important learning experience. Nine of us went. The other yes vote and I sat together.

First they allowed us to ask them questions. As the information came forth, I could see that others who voted No, were beginning to see what the other juror and I saw. For example, one juror voted No because the plaintiffs attorney did not show that the nursing home had a history of negligence. I had said they can’t do that. He asked the plaintiff’s attorney if there was other negligence and if yes, why hadn’t he told us.. The lawyer’s answer, there were 59 pages of citations, but he was not allowed to enter them. That juror’s face fell.

Then the lawyers could ask us questions. The defense attorney turned to me and said, “YOU, YOU voted yes. I knew I should have struck you from the jury.” I agreed with him, yes he should have struck me. Then I gave him my five reasons for believing that it was wrongful death and malpractice. I said, this is how I saw it, the majority did not. But I did what I could.

However, no matter how disappointed I was with the outcome, I did my duty as a juror, and it is time to move on.  For me it was four days that I will not easily forget.  I can at least feel good about the word games.

I Wish We Could Be Using Solar Panels

21 Jan

Twenty years ago my husband became obsessed with climate change and over population.  He was concerned that the world would not be able to survive as water resources would be depleted and the world suffered through the impact caused by the changing climate.  He started talking about the need to use the sun for energy and stop the use of fossil fuels.  His focus was on solar panels and electric cars.

For his midlife crisis, he acted! Fifteen years ago, we ordered solar panels for our home.  We became the first home in Johnson County, Kansas, to retrofit a private home to solar energy.  It was quite an experience.  We found a company to assess our home for the panels.  A friend of ours worked at Black and Veatch, an engineering firm.  She took the proposal to work, where several engineers reviewed it and made some suggestions.   In the end we decided to put up ten solar panels, as well as add eight back up batteries.

It took a while to get everything ready.  Permits were needed.  The panels and batteries had to be ordered. The roof needed to be reinforced.  The city inspector was at our home several times, climbing into the attic and checking the wiring through the house.  She was quite excited to be part of this retrofit. Eventually the new rafters in the roof were approved; the electrical wiring was approved; the panels were put on the roof; and after months of anticipation the solar panels came online!  It was exciting.  Our neighbors came out to see the panels as well.

Solar panels on our home November 2006!

We had some issues at first with the electric company, KCP&L.  Even though there had been some contact with them about the solar panels, it had not gone to the right people.  We kept having KCP&L service people come out to check our meter, as it was going backwards.  We were accused of turning it upside down!   Who does that?  People who do not want to pay, we were told.  I kept showing them the solar panels and trying to figure out who we needed to talk to at KCP&L.  Finally, a woman repair person arrived to once again accuse us of moving our meter.  I took her to the back yard where she could see the solar panels on the roof. She had the aha moment and understood the issue.  She promised to look into it.

Meanwhile, we wrote to our state senator, John Vratil, who was a great help.  Through him, we got in touch with Dave Wagner at KCP&L.  From there on the process got easier.  Finally in August 2007, resolution of the issue occurred. First KCP&L installed two different meters on our house.  One for incoming electricity and one for outgoing.  On the day these two meters were put in, we had about 11 KCP&L staff coming out to help and watch the installation.   They also put a special shut off level on the house and a commercial surge protector.  It was really exciting for my husband and I, and for KCP&L. 

Dave Wagner was one of the people who came out for the event, as well as a young woman from their media department.  She took lots of photos, as did I, to document the occasion. My husband took several of the KCP&L personnel into our basement so that they could see the backup batteries!   We explained that not only were our electric bills cheaper due to the solar energy, but also due to the panels capturing the ambient heat and keeping the house cooler.

We were actually highlighted in KCPL’s newsletter and were on the news…rather our house was in the newsletter and on the news.  Eventually KCPL developed one meter that could track both in and out electricity, known as net metering.

For 14 years we lived happily in our house.  When the power went out, we had electricity for eight important elements, including the refrigerator, the furnace fan, and lights in several rooms. During the spring, summer and fall, we saved at least $100 a month in electric bills.  And during the brutally hot months of summer, even more!

Two years ago, we decided to downsize from our home of 35 years and move into smaller reverse two story villa.  The one thing we did not count on was the HOA refusing to allow us to have solar panels, even with a rolling black out in the winter of 2021.   There was a HOA meeting where the topic came up.  Among the negative comments included that solar panels were ugly. Not so.  They also did not know anything about the new technology.  Supposedly there was to be a committee formed to discuss solar panels. Not…. The former president of our HOA, who has moved away, told us the only way we would get solar panels was to have the city or the county or the state removed that restriction from HOAs. 

When we first moved to Johnson County in 1985, many HOAs demanded that all homes had to have wood roofs! What a joke. Each Fourth of July, and whenever there was a thunderstorm, some homes had roof fires.  Around 1999 this clause eliminated from many homes associations due to Overland Park passing Ordinance No. BC-2167 which prohibited the enforcement on covenants which prevented homeowners from putting on composite shingle roofs!  The community, and I believe the insurance companies, help make this change.  Now very few homes still have wood roofs!

Johnson County’s ban on smoking in businesses and most public places were enacted on January 2, 2008. My husband, a pediatric allergist, was one of the people who testified at a commissioners’ meeting asking to enforce a ban on smoking.  In March 2010, then Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed a law forbidding smoking in Kansas restaurants.

When the community came together, action occurred once again. We now can eat smoke free in any restaurant!

If citizens could make a change with these two issues: public smoking and wood shingle roofs, I am hoping that we can do it again.  I encourage everyone who lives in Johnson County to write to the Johnson County Commissioners as well as their Kansas State Representatives and Senators to work for change. 

Johnson County Commissioners are:

First District: Becky Fast. Jocogov.org/beckyfast

Second District: Jeff Meyers. Jeff.meyers@jocogov.org

Third District: Charlotte O’Hara. Charlotte.ohara@jocogov.org

Fourth District: Janee Hanzlick. Janee.hanzlick@jocogov.org

Fifth District: Michael Ashcraft. Michael.ashcraft@jocogov.org

Sixth District: Shirley Allenbrand. Shirley.allenbrand@jocogov.org

Together, perhaps we can make solar power and renewable energy an option throughout Johnson County, Kansas.

A Day’s Escape to Ft. Scott

20 May
The hospital, now Visitors’ Center.

In 1988 I went on a road trip with my parents, husband, and then two -year-old daughter.  My Dad was a big Civil War and also Harry Truman fan.  Since we lived on the border of Missouri and Kansas, he had sites he wanted to see.

We drove down Hwy 69 to Ft. Scott first to see the old historic site. It was in the beginning of its renovations and restorations. I just remember one building. From there we went to Silver Dollar City, Mansfield where we visited Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house (for my Mom and me) and finally on our way home, we stopped in Lamar, Missouri, to see Truman’s birthplace. This four-day trip was a highlight for my parents.

For me, there was just one place I wanted to return to, Ft. Scott.  For the last 33 years, I have been commenting that I need to go back and see what they did with the fort.  It is not that I haven’t been to the city of Fort Scott.  I have driven through it at least once a year on my way to Arkansas or other spots in Kansas. 

I have even stopped in Ft. Scott to visit the Lowell Milken Center, Unsung Hero Museum. This museum focuses on taking action to improve the lives of others. I was interested in it through my volunteer work with the Kansas City Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. We were involved in the development of the play about Irena Sendler: Life In A Jar, which is highlighted at the museum.

But I never got over to the Fort!  Each time I went it was raining, not a gentle rain, but a good Kansas downpour.

When I went the first time, in 1988, the renovations and restorations had only been going on for a decade. The Fort Scott Historic Site became part of the National Park System only in 1978. For a long time, From the late 1800s to 1978, it was part of the town of Ft. Scott.  Some of the buildings, that were not torn down, were used by town’s people as homes or community buildings, like a home for girls.  

In the 1950s community members started working to restoring the fort.  Most buildings are not original, rather recreations. Since 1978, recreations of buildings have been built around the common area.

The Fort was important during the time of “bleeding Kansas,” as Kansas and Missouri fought over free and slave states. In fact, during that time, two of the buildings were used as hotels. Across the square common area from each other, one was for those who supported a free state, the other was for those who wanted a slave state. Sometimes, violence broke out!!

During the Civil War, the Fort was used as a supply depot and hospital for Union soldiers. In the Visitors’ Center they have a room set up as the hospital would have been like in the 1860s.

For the past 33 years, I have been wondering, did it get completed? What happened? I have been wanting to see the Fort! I tried to arrange field trips with friends to take our children there. It never happened. I tried to get my husband to go with me. He did not have time to take the drive.

Finally, I completed my quest.   In the time of Covid, my husband had 25 vacation days that have to be used before July 1. He is taking every Thursday and Friday off for three months.  Good friends of ours drove down from Wisconsin.  Our first overnight company in 15 months.  We are all vaccinated.  I suggested a field trip to Ft. Scott. Most of the time we would be outside.  They agreed.

I have to admit, it was better than I imagined.  When we were there 33 years ago, the place was ragtag and a mess of construction.  Now it is a lovely well-organized group of 20 buildings that you can enter and see cannons and carriages; the places where supplies were kept and bread was made.  The best was the officers’ quarters. The building we entered was an original 1845 building.  It is the same building we went into in 1988.  This building had been a private home and then a school for girls.

There is even a Tallgrass Prairie planted with a trail, so that you can imagine yourself walking the prairies of Kansas in the 1840s.

We spent about 90 minutes walking around the grounds and into the open buildings.  Several of the buildings were closed for various reasons.  The Visitors’ Center, which once was the hospital, has a small gift shop, and clean restroom. There is no entrance fee to visit the historic site. It is opened almost every day until 5 pm. But even when the buildings are closed, you are still allowed to walk around the park.

After we toured the site, we walked across the street to a nice little Mexican restaurant and then walked through the quaint town, entering a few stores. 

There is one other museum I want to see in Ft. Scott, the Gordon Parks Museum.  Located on the grounds of the Ft. Scout Community College, the museum highlights the work and life of well-known photographer Gordon Parks.  I will get there one day!

To be honest, I enjoyed my day in Ft. Scott so much, I have decided that this one-hour drive will be added to my activities whenever we have out of town company.  It is a great way to spend a day.

Center of the common area. Across the way are the soldiers quarters and the stable.
The officers’ quarters. The building on the right, known as the Wilson/Goodlander Home.This is the building I saw in 1988.
The back of the officers’ quarters. They had private gardens.
Inside the hospital.
The bakery.
The basement of the storehouse. The stone floor is the original floor.
The prison.
The Tallgrass Prairie

https://www.lowellmilkencenter.org/
https://www.nps.gov/fosc/index.htm

http://www.gordonparkscenter.org

Walking Through the COVID Pandemic

24 Dec

Walking as saved my sanity through the past nine ten months.  

I walked the Gezer Park trails with my real estate agent/friend.

I have been walking several times a week for over 20 years. When it has been nice, I walked outside with one of two friends.  When it was cold, my main walking buddy and I walked inside at our gym.   She and I have been walking for the past 20 years.

When the virus shut everything down, walking became my lifeline.  We were told going outside to walk was important.  And we were told as long as we stayed six feet apart, outside was okay.  With that advice, my walking dates increased.  Instead of walking three or four days a week, I upped it to six or seven days a week sharing these walks with two different friends. 

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with my neighbor: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday with my walking buddy and when in town, another friend would join us.   On these outside walks, we visited and talked.  We shared our feelings about what was going on in the world. We discussed our families and what we were going through.  We spoke about how important it was having each other to walk with during this time.

Occasionally I walked with other friends. My real estate agent/ friend and I walked Gezer Park once and around my new neighborhood another time. I loved walking at Gezer Park because my daughter and son in law got married there! A close friend and I eat outside on some Thursdays and then go for a walk when we can. There are other friends who have graced me with a walk as well! Thank you to all my walking buddies! Being with you outside has been wonderful!

My husband and I often take walks on the weekends. These are additions to my walks with my friends.

My main walking buddy and I have done charity 5 Ks together.  How would we do it this year. Well we figured it out and we did. We signed up for the “Run For Ruth We Dissent” virtual walk. We donated to one of the charities listed and then walked together the 3.2 miles needed.  Our other buddy could not sign up because the registration closed, but she walked with us.

The start of our walk in my old neighborhood.

Since I moved during the pandemic, my old neighbor and I have been alternating walking sites. One day in my old neighborhood trails, the next time at the new house. We realized that the tail system by my old house hooked up with the trails by my new house in a three-mile trek. We walked it! My husband dropped me off at her house, and we walked back to my house. Then I drove her home.

On our 3-mile walk through the Tomahawk Trails.

I used to make 10,000 steps about three or four days a week.  Now I have hit that goal almost every day.  I just ended a 56-day string of 10,000 or step days.  I finally took a day off hitting just 6700 steps.  I am back at six consecutive days of walking over 10,000 steps.  Before COVID, I averaged walking 22 – 26 miles per week. When I went over 26, I was ecstatic.  Now I average 29 – 38 miles per week!  A major increase.

Walking has become the silver lining of my pandemic experience. 

Now the weather is getting colder.  We have had several very warm days, even taking advantage of one and going to our local arboretum. Walking in the afternoons has taken over our morning walks. Too cold at 8 am, so we walk at 2 pm.  But some days we just cannot walk outside.  Because of the risks of indoor exercise at our gym, we have decided not to walk there.

Monet Gardens, Overland Park Arboretum

In the pre-pandemic days, I would have just taken these days off.  But now, I get on my treadmill and walk the 2 to 2.5 miles I would have walked with my friends. Some days, I walk slowly, 3.5 miles per hour while I watch my favorite HGTV shows.  Other days, I hustle and try to up my speed and incline to get my cardiac workout. 

Instead of seeing walking as a chore and thinking I could be using my time more wisely.  I now know that walking is what has saved my sanity, my health and my feelings of isolation, as I have walked by way through the pandemic.

Serious Pandemic Estate Planning

25 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone needs to vote. 

Pademic Move: One Month Update

13 May

We made it to a month in the new home.  Finally, no more workers, all wearing masks, some wearing gloves and booties, are coming in to fix one of the many issues that we had to correct in the new hone.   Practically everything is completed.  

We actually can use our master bathroom, stovetop and trash compactor. Many pictures are hung on the walls.  And upstairs in the main living area, we only have only one box to unpack!! 

Runner by the kitchen sink.

I could not go shopping for some rugs we needed. But I did find a few things I needed on RugsUSA. So that helped. Now our hardwood kitchen floor is a bit more protected. I never had a hardwood floor in the kitchen. I am learning.

Downstairs is another story.  Each day I try to do one or more boxes.  We did one already this morning.  And I planned to do the others today as well.  But I am writing a blog instead.  Procrastination is okay during a pandemic.

I can honestly say that this house is beginning to feel like home.  Yes, there are some blips.  Like my husband asking me where something is, like shoelaces.  “Just tell me! You don’t have to get up and show me!  I guess you are getting up,” he says with a note of exasperation in his voice.

“I wish I could tell you!”  Is my response.  “But I am not exactly sure where it is.  I know the shoelaces are in a drawer in the kitchen, but I don’t know which drawer.  In our old house I would just tell you. But here I have to look.”  And even when I look, the item I am searching for is not exactly where I remember or thought I put it.

Now don’t think this conversation would not have happened in our home of 35 years.  It would have.  Even though the shoelaces were always kept in the same place, my husband never remembered where they were.  My brain carried an internal map of almost every item.  Now that map has been distorted and corrupted.  

When we open boxes now, I realize that I should have labeled things much better.  We finally, after a month, found my mouse pad, computer mouse and back up hard drive.  Finally.

But we put the wrong one on my computer.  There is another hard drive that I needed to find!  It took two days, but we found it!

The new house is feeling like home.  We both agree, it is a great place to spend the next stage of our lives.  With all of our everyday living on one level, it makes sense.  An added bonus is the maintenance provided for lawn mower, hedge trimming, leaf and snow removal.  No more weekly outdoor chores to get done.  Now we can just focus on weeding and planting.

There is the one glaring problem, however: our old home.   We had planned to move and then put it on the market, so that we could take our time.  Not disrupt the cats as much.  And do a peaceful move.  We did not plan for a pandemic financial crash.   We might not be selling our house.  The market is not going our way at all.

But then we realize, we actually put the house on the market 10 days earlier than planned. We had no plans to buy a house in March.  We were to be in Europe for two weeks celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  In fact, according to our schedule, we were only coming home in time for Mother’s Day.  But instead we spent those two weeks unpacking and having the house issues dealt with on almost a daily basis.

I guess for us the silver lining of the pandemic is the joy of being at home and getting settled, without having to worry about a trip out of town.  And for me, having to go between the two homes, packing at one and unpacking at another, gave me the opportunity to keep busy and not focus on the isolation!  Another silver lining.

I decided to focus on the good of the move and not dwell on the issues that arose because of when we moved.  We are not the only ones who had a move planned in the month of March, April or May.  We are all navigating this strange time.  I hope everyone can find a silver lining and adjust happily into a new environment.

Most of all, I hope those who are having financial struggles are able to keep their home and find employment and survive. My struggles as silly when I compare myself to others. Sending prayers for all who are going through changes during this unexpected time.

Rediscovering A Talk With My Husband’s Aunt (Part 1)

1 Apr

Cleaning out my house as we prepare to move has brought me several treasures.  One I have been looking for over the last few months, as my husband’s family had planned a family reunion in June, which has since been cancelled.  But what I was looking for finally turned up in a file cabinet drawer.

Over 30 years ago, I sat down with my husband’s Aunt Matt, who was his mother’s sister.  My husband’s Mom died of lung cancer when she was only 59.  After my daughter was born, I felt truly sad that she would never hear stories about her grandmother’s family.  So I asked Aunt Matt if she would be the substitute. She was delighted!

We used to spend a long weekend each March at the Lake of the Ozarks with Aunt Matt and her husband, Uncle Stan, in a time share they had.  This was the perfect opportunity.  My husband and his uncle took my daughter fishing, while Aunt Matt and I talked about her life in Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas, and I recorded her words.

Aunt Matt, whose real name was Marie, was filled with love for her parents and her nine siblings.  Her father, Leon, was from Romania.  He had both a law degree and a medical degree.  After college, at Sorbonne, he went to England where he met his wife, Esther. She was just 15 when they married.  (See blogs below about their marriage) Leon spoke 7 languages!

Esther and Leon

They first lived in London where the first three children were born: Molly, Joe and Jean.  They came to North America in 1912.   I understand that they came through Canada.   They first settled in New Orleans, where Leon taught at Tulane University.   (I had never heard this before!)

During the First World War, Leon entered the United States Army, where he became a colonel.  He stayed an extra year in Europe as he was put in charge of the exchange of prisoners.  (There is actually a photo of him with prisoners that one of my husband’s cousins owns.) 

Colonel Leon M.

While he was in Europe, his young family lived in Brooklyn with family. Aunt Matt said with their grandparents.  (I do know that Esther’s had family in NY. But I thought it was her brother.).  When he finally got back to the USA, the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Leon was in charge of a military hospital.  They lived in a home belonging to a family that gave it to the Army to use.  It was just 100 steps from the hospital.

Somewhere along the way, from Tulane, to Wichita for a bit, to Pennsylvania, four more children were born: Marie, Fred, Florence (Toots) and Ben (Bubsy).  When Leon was finally discharged and left active duty, he moved his family to Wichita, Kansas. Aunt Matt had no idea why they moved. (The names in parenthesis are family nicknames.)

The next baby, Leona ”Lee”  (Bubbles) was born in Wichita.  Her birth in 1925 was almost exactly one year after the oldest daughter, Molly, died while attending college in New York.  Bubble’s middle name, May, was for her sister.  This baby was important in my family, as she was my husband’s mother.  Aunt Matt said, “Lee was a born one year and two days after Molly died of pneumonia in 1924 while at Columbia University, where she was studying art.”

Lee was the only child born in Wichita.   While there, Leon had a private practice. But he was also part of a group that founded the first free clinic.  The St. Francis Free Dispensary was founding in 1922.

Aunt Matt did not know why the family moved once again to Leavenworth, Kansas. But they did sometime before 1927, because the last two children, Barbara and Richard were born when they lived in Leavenworth.  Leon had a private practice their specializing in OB/BYN and Surgery.  

Life changed for them after just a few years after moving to Leavenworth. When the youngest, Richard, was just two years old, their mother, Esther, died.  Aunt Matt was in college then.  She was told that her mother died of pneumonia.  But we know she died in childbirth.  (See blog below.)

This blog covers the first three pages of 17 pages of notes. The next ones will discuss the time in Leavenworth, Kansas.

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/09/more-on-esther-and-leons-london-wedding/

If you read these other blogs, you will find slightly different stories. We all have the stories our parent’s told us. With ten siblings ranging about 25 years apart in age, different grandchildren of Leon and Esther, were told slightly different stories. OR had slightly different memories. These are Aunt Matt’s memories.

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/

Buying a Home In The Midst of A Pandemic

14 Mar

For our aging days, I decided we needed one-level living.  I searched and searched and found the perfect home.  We put an offer in on February 1 and closed on March 2.

Wait, who said there would be a global pandemic now!!!  We are among the many who just purchased a new home and are saying, “Hey What is going on?”  Yes, my anxiety level is high.  Why? Because we actually own our old home as well.  We are real estate rich.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  It might go down for a bit, but real estate usually goes up eventually.

With the markets crashing a little…. Well a lot.  (Although I guess Friday, things were a bit better).  With the world’s countries shutting their doors to tourism to contain the spread of corona virus, and our country finally banning all flights from Europe, perhaps I can see a few good points.  I always try to do that when I am worried.  I try to put the upset away in a little box in my mind and focus on the good.  So here we go!

First, I was supposed to be on a plane to Europe right now.   I am obviously not there.  I am sitting in my own home writing a blog.  But with the move, I think I am happy to be home.  I wonder if I will get any of my money back.  Even with travel insurance, I am not sure if global pandemic is covered.  I guess we will wait and see.

But also, I am not stranded in Europe.  I am in my own home/s cleaning one and bringing stuff to the other.  Which is unreal enough without the pandemic.

Colleges are going into remote learning.  I worry.  I hope they don’t stay that way.  High school graduates need to get away from home and learn about living in a college dorm where it is somewhat safe and they socialize away from home.  I would hate for that to end forever.  Please let this last just for a short while.  But at least the students can still learn.  Think about time before computers and live streaming.  School and learning would just end!

But at the same time, I am glad that Friday was the last day of school where I work.  We now have a ten-day break.  Perhaps that will help stop the spread of the disease.  Our entire area is starting spring break.  No one is traveling anywhere, or almost no one.  Since all flights to Europe are ending tomorrow for a month.  I think it is safe to say this will be a stay at home vacation.  We have been informed that there is a possibility that Spring Break will be prolonged.  An extra week at home.  I brought my work computer with me, just in case. 

However, what about all the stores and shops and theatres?  We are supposed to avoid large crowds.  I can do that.  Already several concerts, programs and shows we were supposed to attend in March and early April have been cancelled or postponed.  I. told my husband I have to renew our Symphony tickets now, so that they know we are not giving up on them!  I also plan to get take out food from some of our favorite restaurants.  I do not want those to close for lack of income.

With entertainment shutting down, we will have lots of time to pack and clean!  But more important, I will still have time to read the  six kindle books I downloaded for my trip!

My husband is a hospital-based physician.   As a pediatrician he sees lots of sick children. And though they will get corona virus, most will be just fine as their immune systems are developing and learning about new disease.  It’s us older folks who are in trouble.  Even though I am not ill, I made the decision to stop my volunteer work at an elder care facility.  Just don’t want to hurt these people who I have come to love. 

I plan to practice safe social distancing with everyone I know.  I will go to stores at off hours.  I am carrying a baggie filled chlorox wipes to clean everything I touch. Hugging and kissing even my son and his girl friend is out for now.  Elbow bumps and words of love will be enough.

My husband was supposed to be gone this weekend as well, at a medical meeting.  It was cancelled. Most hospital have told their staff not to go to any meetings right now.  They need their staff to be healthy.  The impact on the corona virus could be devasting to our already stressed health care system.  So I am spending much of my quiet time sending out prayers.

We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this month. Our plans included a trip to Europe and a cruise in late April. Although it has yet to be cancelled, we are already thinking that our 40th anniversary will be spent quietly at home.  We already purchased a new home!  What else could we possibly need?

I guess we won’t be spending too much money overseas, which is good because I had signed contracts previously to remodel much of the new home using some savings.  My husband says don’t worry, he has a job and he will be needed for a while.  Which is true.  But I had not counted on a major market downturn.

Here is my rant.  If you do not want to read anything political, please skip the next two paragraphs:

I do worry.  I worry about everyone who might suffer.  I worry about our government who seems to have no idea what to do.  I worry that the CDC has been slashed by politicians who have no idea what they are doing.  I am angry that the elected officials seem to care more about their own power and glory then about the health and well-being residents of our USA.

Buying a home and having a pandemic at the same time has made me rethink even more what I believe about our government and what politician really care about.  In Kansas we have a Senate leader who cares more about banning abortion then about the people of the state and refuses to expand Medicare even though the people want it and the senate has come to bipartisan agreement.  Her ignorance and self-righteous attitude will kill many more people than any abortion bill.  I hope she is voted out of office or is forced to resign.  In my mind she is an evil lady, sort of a Cruella DeVille, who wanted the Dalmatian puppies for her own nefarious plans.  So this senate leader is holding Kansans medical care hostage for her nefarious plan.

End of rant.

I believe we will get through this pandemic.  I know we will persevere.  We lived through 9/11 and the stress and anxiety that seemed overwhelming.  Perhaps this virus is a sign from the Divine that we need to work together. The world was getting too hostile.  Groups were not working together. Lots of nasty behavior.  To survive the corona virus, countries need to help each other and the world.  I hope this adds to a world more dedicated to peace as the leaders realize even more deeply how we are really one world.  Just one.  And we have to act as one.