Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

The Heavens Opened for RBG

19 Sep

I believe that the heavens opened on Friday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Quest Completed! Thanks to My Cousin!

19 Aug

In my quest to discover more about my ancestors and my family’s immigration to the USA, I have enlisted the help of my family.  My sister, an attorney, was given the job of research. When I could not find something, I often sent her an email and said ‘try to find this’.  And she did. Sometimes we argued about whether we really found who we thought we found. But in the end, we would determine the truth.  She is named for my paternal great grandmother, Raisha.

My cousin’s son, when he graduated college, and before he got a job, became interested in family as well, and created a marvelous family tree of my paternal side. I still send him updates when I get more information. He keeps it current as cousins marry and babies are born. Other cousins have sent me photos as they search through their parent’s albums. We have had great discoveries through these albums, including the only known photo of my other paternal great grandmother. (See blog below.)

For years I have wanted to find the graves of my paternal great grandparents.  I knew they were buried in New York somewhere. I actually remember my great grandmother.  Before COVID, I found what I thought was my great grandfather’s grave, and sent it out to my cousins, asking what they thought.  It was not the grave. Two of my cousins remember going to visit the grave with my grandmother, to see her parents.

My Great Grandfather Louis and Great Grandmother Rae in 1894 around the time of their wedding.
My Great Grandparent’s grave!

They said, it is in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.  OY, I really wanted to have pictures of the graves.  But I live in Kansas. I just needed this photo, to complete a desire in my quest to answer questions. Where were they?  Were they with other family?  No one wanted to make the journey out to the cemetery. They were all busy.

But, I have a fantastic cousin.  I call him the king of the cemeteries.  He does not like that title. But I give it to him out of love.  He is the one who makes sure the family plot where all my grandparents, my parents, his parents, my uncle and others rest, is always cared for by the cemetery.   When we have gone and seen something not right, we have emailed him. And he makes sure it is fixed. He is named after this great grandfather.  And they are both Baruch Lev, blessed hearts.

This week, when I got a call from him, I was worried.  He doesn’t call me that often.  And with me in Kansas, and most of my family in New Jersey and New York, I wondered did anything happen.  “Do you have Facetime?” he asked.  The next thing I know he was calling me back, and I was walking with him in Washington Cemetery seeing the graves of my great grandparents.  I have tears in my eyes now, but at that moment, I was elated.  “Take pictures.”    Of course, he was taking pictures.  He said, with nothing to do right now, he thought he would take a ride out and find the graves.

He could not find the grave of their child who died as an infant.  He did not see the graves of any of our great grandparents’ siblings.  And although my cousins thought that my grandparents were not buried together, the memory was wrong. They share a grave site.  

My cousin took pictures of the grave and the entrance to the section where they are buried, in the Bialystoker area.

Above the gate it says: Bialystoker. And under it UNT VEREIN SOMACH NOFLIM.  My grandfather was the president of the Bialystoker Free Loan Society, the Somach Noflim. This is the area where he was buried.  He was also a vice president of the once famed Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which he helped establish.  The blog below explains the goodness of my great grandfather

Above the Gate: Bialystoker Unt Verein Somach Noflim

Baruch Lev ben Yaacov Zev, died July 24, 1941, just a few months before my father’s bar mitzvah. He was 71 years old. And Rushka, or Raisha or Rae, or Rachel, she has all those names: Rushka the daughter of Avigdor, who died on November 29, 1956, on my brother’s third birthday. I was not quite two. I actually have a memory of her.

I once told my Dad, that my memory was Grandma Ray sitting in a chair in my grandparents’ Bronx apartment. She was not moving very much and she had lace on her head.  Later I told Dad it must have been a doily on her head.  And my Dad laughed. He said she had very little hair, and her scalp showed through, making it look like lace.

I consider myself so fortunate to have a family who appreciates my desire to have the history of our family written down for the next generations.   I appreciate my sister who does research; my cousins who send me photos, especially the ones with inscriptions on the back; my cousin’s son who does the family tree; and my cousin, Baruch Lev,  who took a day to go to the cemetery for me and give me this gift of our great grandparents’ graves.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/11/23/the-gift-of-a-photo-becomes-a-gift-of-genealogy/

Loving My Mother’s Wedding Memory Book

28 Jul

Spring and summer are usually wedding time. Although COVID-19 has altered many wedding plans, I believe we should still celebrate weddings.  About once a week I see photos on Facebook of an outdoor wedding in a backyard or a park, where a small group of people gather for a family wedding.  Other weddings, I know, have been put on hold.  But with all that going on, weddings are on my mind.

In June I wrote about finding my in-laws wedding album during our move.  Among the other items I discovered in my move, was a wedding memory book that my Mother filled out after she and Dad were engaged.  Funny how you grow up hearing family stories, but some important facts were left out. Those facts are chronicled in this memory book.

For example, I knew my parents met on a blind date set up by my Dad’s Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny.  They shopped at my grandparent’s bakery and liked my Mom.  So they arranged for their nephew, my Dad, to meet Mom.  I guess she liked him, because she loaned him the book, Animal Farm, and he had to come for a second date to return it.

What I now know is that first date was held on July 4, 1949.  Dad always said how difficult it was to go from the Bronx to West New York, New Jersey.  Now I truly believe him. It was a holiday. It must have been nuts using mass transit to go on a date.

But Mom must have liked the date. She remembered: “We went to the Roxy and then to Roth’s for supper.  I wore my black silk print and Don wore a tan sport jacket with dark brown pants.”  Can you imagine a blind date now on the Fourth of July with the man wearing a sport jacket and the woman wearing silk?  It would be perhaps a summer dress and the guy would wear nice slacks or shorts and a polo shirt. I think.

Mom was still in college.  They were both 20 years old on their first date.

They announced their engagement 19 months later on March 23, 1951, in Santa Barbara, California.  Amazingly they married just three months later.  I knew it was a quickly planned wedding. But I did not realize how quickly!

I never knew the exact date of their engagement. But it answers a question I always had.  I got married on March 22, a Saturday night. But my Mom pushed for a while for a Sunday afternoon wedding on March 23, which would have been the anniversary of their engagement! I am sorry I did not ask her why that date was so important.  I will just believe that March 22 still counts!

The story of their engagement I had heard many times. Mom and my Grandma Esther, my Dad’s mom, flew to California where my Dad was in basic training before going to Korea.  My Mom’s parents were extremely upset and worried that they would get married there. In fact, there is a photo of my parents by the courthouse in Santa Barbara that created a stir.  But no, they did not get married then.  They waited till Mom graduated college and Dad had a two-week furlough before going off to war.

They even got a few engagement gifts, mainly from close family.

My Mom even had a surprise shower on May 27, 1951.  I have photos and even a movie of the shower.  Dad was still in California.  I assume my uncle recorded the shower. My Dad’s sister, Leona, and sister-in-law, Mickey, hosted the shower at my paternal grandparent’s apartment, for 50 guests!  My Great Aunt Minnie, who was part of my childhood and even came to my wedding, gave my Mom the bridal book, I am looking at now.

My Mom, Aunt Leona, Grandma Esther and Great Grandma Ray at the surprise shower.

But the memory book had another surprise that was important in my genealogy research. I knew almost all the people at the shower.  A few I know basically who they are, but do not remember them.  And a few were a bit of a surprise, they are my grandmother’s first cousins and aunts for the Lew family. (See blog below.) These women have shown up in my genealogy research before.  It was actually these names in reference to my great grandmother that confirmed that my great grandmother was in fact from the same family in Russia as other members of the Tracing the Tribe Group I belong to.  And connected me with distant relatives here in Kansas.   This wedding memory book makes the relationship very clear.  It states, “Aunt Rose, Grandma’s sister”.  With this shower list, I am able to realize how closely in contact the family was in the 1950s.  

Of the 50 people at that shower, I only know of three still alive today. My Aunt Mickey, who hosted it; and my Mom’s two best friends Wini and Judy.

My parents married on June 17, 1951 at Talmud Torah in West New York.  My Dad’s sister was the maid of honor. My Mom’s brother was the best man. My Mom wore my Aunt’s wedding dress. As this was a quickly planned wedding, there was no time to order a wedding dress.  And my aunt, the maid of honor, wore the gown my Mom wore when she was in the bridal party of her brother’s wedding!  Sixty-seven years later, my niece married her husband on the same day.

I even have the list of everyone who attended the wedding.  Sadly, as was the time, everyone is listed as Mr. and Mrs., so I do not have many names of the women who were there, unless they were single and came by themselves.  But many of the names I know.  Many are family members. Many are people I knew throughout my life. 

The Lew/Wolf Family members who came to the wedding.

Those first cousins of my grandmother, who came to the shower, were also at the wedding with their spouses.  I met them a few times as a child and quickly forgot, as children will do. But I know I met them, as my grandmother’s family had a Cousins’ Club for many years. And I remember going and running around with lots of children in a big room. But like many children, my memory of the adults has slipped away.

After the wedding, my parents went on their honeymoon to New York City, spending two nights at the Waldorf Astoria!  They then went to the Catskills and spent five nights at Grossingers!  A true destination spot for honeymoons.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in the Catskills. My Dad always joked that his in laws came to be with him on his honeymoon.  And they did. They had dinner with them one night.  And with that dinner, my Dad had a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

This tradition continued when my daughter and her husband got married. She wanted to show her husband our Catskills’ home. So they spent three nights of their honeymoon at our home in Kauneonga Lake. My sister went with them, as my daughter had never been there alone as an adult and did not really know her way around. But I like to tease my sister that she was continuing a family tradition.  (My daughter also got married on the anniversary of my husband and my first date.)

I am so glad my Mom kept records of everything in her beautiful and precise handwriting.  Reading through this book brought back stories and memories.  And brought back the joy of the wedding season that we are all missing.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/09/10/a-kansas-wedding-with-a-catskills-honeymoon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

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.

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/

Pandemic Packing And Moving

7 Apr

Pandemic moving is more than mildly stressful. As I wrote in two earlier blogs (see below), my husband and I purchased a new home on March 2. Although it was new to us, it is almost 30 years old. So it needed some love and attention.

I decided that we should get all the major changes completed before we moved. So I met with people, signed contracts and prepared for the closing, when everything would start. And it did…right on time.

Old carpeting was ripped out, hardwood floors went in. Three old alarm systems and intercom system were removed. Nails and holes in the walls were patched. And the faded gold, brown and green/brown walls became Misty grey, Atmospheric blue, and Rain teal.

Three unsteady ceiling fans were replaced with more modern versions. The one good one went into the guest bedroom with a new light attached. A dining room became a piano room, so the chandelier that was placed at table level came out, and a more suitable one for our plans went in.

Repairs from the list found during the mechanical inspection were made. Electrician, plumber, roofer, gardener, all came to fix more major issues. Since our new laundry was internally located and had a dryer vent that went for 12 feet under the kitchen, I decided to have it checked. Good thing. It had not been cleaned for years and had disconnected in the basement ceiling spreading inches of lint in the space. Luckily it was a drop ceiling below so it could all be fixed.

Some of the lint from the dryer vent

The master bathroom was getting an overhaul. The shower stall head was placed at 5’6”. Great for me, but not for my over six-foot husband. There were broken tiles and mold. So a remodeled was called for. It was supposed to be done before we moved in. As was the remodel of the island in the kitchen.

But about 12 days into the remodel life changed. We went to social distancing as the pandemic force of Covid 19 drove people indoors. In the Kansas City area, the mayors from cities in both states closed things down! Then our wonderful Kansas governor closed schools and put out new regulations for social distancing. So far they seem to be helping.

But what does that do for a move? Well the remodeling continues. Usually one person at a time. If more than one is here, they work in different rooms. I stay away while they are there, and go back in the late afternoon to check progress. I have a big container of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer throughout. I have a mask. Everyone is aware of the issues. I no longer have to touch an I pad to sign. Bills are emailed to me then I pay. If I do have to give a credit card I immediately clean it with a wipe.

Home buying, remodeling and moving are deemed essential jobs, so work can continue. The house is almost done. However some is at a slower pace. The master bath has a holdup as some of the tile is in lockdown at a store that is closed. The kitchen island will also be completed after we move.

Then there is the move itself. It is supposed to be this week. But with this virus surrounding us, my husband and I are more vigilant. We have moved hundreds of boxes by ourselves. Our personal items, books, dishes, linens have only been touched by us. I have packed everything for the last month, as we did not want to exposed ourselves to more risks than necessary.

Luckily our new abode is just two miles from our current home. So taking several trips a day has been somewhat easy. Ok I lie, we are exhausted. If it was any other time I would have had friends helping me. But instead I am often on my own, as my husband is busy at work. I am working from home as my school is closed. So I do have more time to pack.

This week is stressful for so many reasons but also because if the holidays. For us there will be no Seder. My friend, whose house we were going to, is dropping off food for us. Most of my dishes are at the new house. For the second night we are doing a Zoom Seder with my family. People will be joining us from Canada, Israel, New Jersey, New York and DC. I can’t wait. Easter will also be different as many churches are closed or having outdoor services. I will not comment about Those that are staying open.

After this week and the move, we have to then sell our home of 35 years. But who knows how long this isolation will continue? Homes are still selling in our area. But as people continue to lose their jobs and the economy slows, we just don’t know. It causes some anxiety! The main concern, however, is loss of life. Already the death toll is over 10,000. New York is being ravaged. Globally 75,000 have died. Here it is not as bad. We might have flatten the pandemic’s curve. I am praying that is so.


With all that is happening I have some advice, DO NOT purchase a new home on the precipice of a pandemic. The stress and anxiety as we see what is happening all around us makes celebrating this change in our lives almost impossible.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/14/buying-a-home-in-the-midst-of-a-pandemic/

https://zicharonot.com/2020/03/05/downsizing-after-35-years/

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.

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.

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.

img_7138

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!

img_7153

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.

img_7801

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.)

img_7830

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