Tag Archives: friends

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.

Oy, An Egg Kichel! Delicious!

9 Jan

Amazing how the taste of a freshly baked egg kichel can bring back so many joyful memories!

It started with a Facebook post by a friend.  She posted something from My JewishLearning.com, entitled “Kichels Recipe: Jewish Bow Tie Cookies.    (See link below, it includes the recipe.)

A few of my friends started commenting on the post about how much they loved these cookies, including me.  I commented: “My grandpa made these in his bakery and continued making them for us.  I loved them.  I would glad to be a tester for you!”

Next thing I knew I had committed to meeting a different friend and making them.  What a delight! She had posted that her Bubbie made these treats.  And she wanted to make them again.  I was all in!  (I do feel a bit of guilt that we did not have the person who posted the article with us!)

You do not bake egg kichel, you fry them.  You do not need much, just flour, salt, vinegar, eggs, oil and powdered sugar.    Mixing bowls, a mixer and a frying pan, along with lots of paper towels are required.  I promise you an hour or so of fun, and then a delicious reward.

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One of our early batches.  A bit too thick!

We learned something from our foray into making them.  The dough does have to be paper thin!  It is best to have all the dough rolled out and cut into strips before heating up the oil.  And really, you must make sure the oil is hot, hot, hot before you start putting the dough strips into the frying pan.

My friend was in charge of mixing, then rolling out the dough, and making the paper-thin morsels for us to fry.  The learning experience commence with our first frying. The strips were too thick.  So for the next batch, she started cutting the strips and rolling them out again. SUCCESS!

The excitement once we did it correctly was encompassing.  Each rectangle of dough would almost instantly turn white, bubble up and float to the top of the oil.  In a few moments one side would be golden brown, and I would flip them over.  Watch them a few moments more and then out into the towel to soak up extra oil.  Then I sifted the powdered sugar over them.

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I combined some batches.  But here they are letting the oil soak out!

We had to try one from each batch to taste the difference.  The thinner the dough, the hotter the oil, the crispier the fried kichel, the better it tasted.  We had six batches, so we had to try six. YES!  We really did!

I am so happy my friend not only said that we need to make them one afternoon, she set a date! It was not only the fun of tasting and frying, it brought back the memories of cooking with our grandparents.  We cannot bring them back, but we can in our minds relive happy moments like this!

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 Mine are on the right!

Even after tasting, we had so much left over.  We divided them up relatively evenly.  I suggested she keep extra as she has a grandson living close by to help in the eating.  But I was happy to bring a plate home for my husband and me.

My husband doesn’t have the same memories.  He never tasted egg kichel.  A Shanda!  Can you imagine never eating them?  I cannot.  But then he did not have anyone to bake traditional cookies and treats when he was growing up.  Both of his grandmother’s died very young.

For me, however, each snap of a kichel in my mouth along with the melting of the powder sugar gives me joy.  Oy!  Egg Kichel!  It is so delicious

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/kichels-recipe-jewish-bow-tie-cookies/?utm_content=buffer717d6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=thenosher&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Watermelon Helps Make Summers Wonderful

28 Jul

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I love watermelon.

In the summer, on a hot day, it is the MOST refreshing of all fruits.

I love eating it cut up in chunks. I love eating it in wedges.

I love it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I eat watermelon for snacks.

Buying me a watermelon is buying me joy.

This week, with the temperatures and heat index going above 100, I knew I had to get one.   So I went to Costco, walked to the giant bins of bright green watermelons and searched for the best. I picked a few up and thumped. And finally I heard the noise I liked the best. I had found my perfect watermelon. Total Joy!

When I was little my brother and sister taunted me by singing, “Ellen, Ellen Watermelon.” I actually remember all the cousins and other children at the bungalows singing it as well. It was my Catskills nickname as a child. In fact, there are a couple of adult friends of mine who still call me Ellen Ellen Watermelon. It might have bothered me a little bit when I was younger. But truth be told, I love watermelon. So now I do not care at all.

I always got a thrill when I saw my Dad bring a watermelon into the bungalow. He would be the one to cut it up, not my Mom. He would usually cut it into quarters and then make triangular strips. That meant it was really just for us.

If he cut it out of the rind and made chunks, that usually meant he was making it for lots of people and it might be part of a fruit salad. My Dad would make one side of the watermelon into a giant bowl and put the fruit salad back into it. I never do that. But I always helped him by making the cantaloupe and honeydew balls with a special scoop.

I learned to make fruit salad from my Dad. Now, I love to make fruit salad. I like chopping up fruit to make the best combination of fruit flavors. It brings me memories of Dad, and for some reason chopping fruit relaxes me. Whenever I go to a pot-luck dinner, I bring the fruit salad.

Personally, for me just watermelon would be fine.   I like it best cut up into inch to two-inch chunks. Then I fill up a bowl and just snack away. I usually like it on its own, not mixed into a salad. Why mess up the best fruit ever, well except for blueberries, by mixing it with other melons. Yes some like cantaloupe and honeydew. But for me, only the watermelon is enough to make me happy. Although I have been known to mix blueberries and watermelon together for a special treat.

Watermelon has other uses as well.   There have been many a watermelon seed spitting contests at our home in the Catskills. And it is not just for children. I have seen many a grown man and woman spit out their seeds to see whose goes the furthest.

What other fruit gives you the joy of eating and the ability to play with it without anyone yelling, “Stop playing with your food.” Even my Dad would spit watermelon seeds. I remember one contest in particular that included my husband, brother, brother-in-law, Dad and a first cousin.   We were all adults. And we cheer them on.

Best fruit ever, watermelon always helps to make summers wonderful.

Happily Playing Stickball In the Middle of the Street

21 May

Today’s Moms tell their children constantly, “Don’t play in the street.” But where I grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey, in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, we almost always played in the streets. It is not that our Moms said, “Go play in the street.” It was more, “Get outside and play!” And the street was the place to go.

It was a common event to see a group of children racing the bases in a heated game of stickball, running in the street. We often had ten or more involved in the game.

On our block, 78th Street between Boulevard East and Park Avenue, we had an upward battle to our game as we lived on a hill. So playing stickball was even more difficult. Hitting the ball and running uphill was a challenge. But we had fun.

I cannot tell you how many windows were broken over the years, but I remember at least two. When a window was smashed, we all went running. Eventually the truth came out.

But I can tell you that our mothers never told us to get out of the street. It was the cars that had to be careful, not the children. People expected the streets to be teeming with activity.

Stickball was played with a broomstick and a pink rubber ball (Spaulding High Flyer, my brother says), or whatever ball happened to be available. We had designated bases that changed each day we played depending on who parked where. A certain car, a telephone pole, a manhole cover, all of these could be named designated bases.

But besides stickball, the street was also the site of football, hide and seek, hopscotch, and any other game that needs a space to run.

I have to say that my favorite ‘street’ story of all concerns my brother. I know he was in high school, because he was already tall. He grew to about six feet. And that is what caused his problem. If he had been shorter, he probably would not have been hurt.

We were playing in the street My brother and his friend were playing football.  Tossing a ball back and forth across the street, in the street on the sidewalk.  But not just tossing, throwing it hard.   My brother caught the ball and turn to run, unbeknownst to him, a volkswagen had parked right where he turned to run.  Usually that car went into the garage, but this time it just was on the sidewalk.

My brother says, “So Jack throws me the ball and I spin to run, never expecting a car to be in the driveway and slam right into the car. Volkswagen’s at that time had a rain guard over the door that was steel. I hit my lip right into this and it split. Spilling lots of blood and needing two stitches.”

There was blood; lots of blood. I have since learned, as a parent, that the face bleeds much more that any part of the body. And my brother’s face was filled with blood, as was the street and the Volkswagen.

Luckily that day a parent was home. I do not say this sarcastically. We would come home from school by ourselves. Make a snack by ourselves and go out to play by ourselves. It was the same way for almost all the kids on the block.

Many other accidents occurred over the years.   I remember many of them, like when my brother’s friend got his hand caught in between a bunch of nails on a piece of wood.  Yes he did. It was a weird accident. My parents took him to the hospital, as his parents were not home.  He was holding the wood on his lap all the way and into the emergency room.

There was one grandma who lived on the block, and she was often the one to wipe away the blood and check to make sure the injured child would survive. She was there the day my sister’s front teeth were knocked out and took care of my sister till my Mom got home. We had some adult supervision. But with so many children on the block, any parent who was home took care of any issues that occurred…issues sometimes being arguments or sometimes being injuries! No one ever argued if a parent disciplined someone else’s children or took care of them.

But I digress. One this day, our parents were home. And my brother was taken to the emergency room at North Hudson Hospital. I was not there, but I have heard that the conversation went something like this:

“How did you get hurt?” The doctor asks.

“I ran into a car,” my brother responds.

“You mean a car ran into you. You got hit by a car,” the doctor says.

“NO, I mean I ran into a car playing stickball,” my brother was honest. “The car was parked. The car did not hit me. I hit the car.”

The doctor then had to laugh. I believe he even said something like, I have never had to stitch a kid who hit a car before.

My brother was fine. He had to get stitches in his face. But that was nothing new for him. He had had stitches before from when he played Superman off the front stoop when we lived on Third Avenue in North Bergen, and another time when a wooden train piece hit him in the head.

He came home with a great story to tell. We all heard about the doctor who thought he got hit by a car!

The next day my brother was back at playing stick ball and other games in the street. Games did not end because of one minor injury. We continued to happily play stickball in the middle of the street for years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stickball

The Turning 60 Blues! Or the Best and Brightest Blue Ever!

25 Jan

January 23 was not a date I was looking forward to reaching. I usually love to celebrate, and I love my birthday. But this year was different. This year I was turning 60. Somehow that age bothered me. I do not feel sixty. I do not act 60. To me being 60 meant I was not just an adult, I was old…a sage…a mentor, not a doer.

And I have been a doer my entire life. Was this going to change me?

I was having the turning 60 blues!

My angst really began to hit me in November. On the 23 of November I was getting ready to fly from India to Israel to visit my daughter. And it hit me that in two months I would be 60. What was I doing flying around the world by myself. I was almost old!! I had just spent 10 days in India with my husband. And now I was planning to spend another 8 days in Israel. Was I crazy?

No I was not. But I was really two months away from this terrible date.

When I got home to Kansas in early December, the dread continued. I started talking about my age at meetings. I was seeing things differently. At many meetings I was among the oldest women in the room, instead of one of the younger ones.

At one meeting of an executive committee I am on, I even said something about turning 60 and having a difficult time with it. The ladies were very nice. “You don’t look a day over 45!” One said politely. Another, who knows a bit better, said, “and you act like you are 12!” (Is that good? I wasn’t quite sure.) “A little older than 12!” I responded.

The president said, “Don’t worry, you are good at any age. “ And she is older than I am. So perhaps this would not be so bad.

A truly long-time good friend, one of best friends, asked if I was planning a party. Not really. I had thought about. But decided “No.” In January the weather is so iffy. No one would come. I was not in the mood. But she continued to bug me. She can be quite forceful at times.

When I told her I could not find a good place. She found a place. It was less than three weeks before my birthday. I went to the bakery/luncheonette and realized that it was a great place for a party.

But then I remember Miss Manners said that people should not throw a party for themselves. It was egotistical and unsightly, or some such words. And as for saying ‘no gifts,’ she considered that was rude as well.

Too bad! I decided to throw a party for myself, and say no gifts. But directed people who really wanted to do something to make a donation to a scholarship fund I had started in memory of my parents.

I started sending out email invitations, when my email was hacked. Which created an avalanche of aggravation. All my contacts were lost for two days till I learned how to recover. By then I had lost track of whom I had invited. So I had to send out groups of invites and individuals till I got everyone covered.

I sent out 50 invitations. The room only held 40. But 12 people lived out of town. So I was safe. To my delight two ‘out of towners’ were able to attend.  In all 36 people said they would come.  The only No’s came from people who would be out of town for the weekend.

The hearts I made for my friends.

The hearts I made for my friends.

I set myself some goals. I decided to make a crochet heart for every woman who came to my birthday tea. Each one of the people I invited had a place in my heart.   I decided we would all wear hats and just visit. No big plans. But I would introduce everyone from my different parts of life with a story.

And I had a moment of inspiration! I love the color blue. I love teal and turquoise, royal blue, navy blue. Any shade of blue makes me happy. So why was I thinking that turning 60 was giving me the blues in a bad way? Turning 60 should give me the blues in a good way.   Here I am! 60!

So I bought blue napkins and ribbons and decorations: None of this stupid over the hill stuff or tombstone stuff. I am bright and cheerful and happy to be alive.

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I decided that I would also have a cake for my family. I asked the woman at the bakery to make me a cake to share with my family that would have enough blue flowers so that everyone could have one with each piece. She made me the most extraordinary birthday cake covered with flowers and she made it look like a lovely spring hat. I love it!

I went back into celebration mode. I went out with my ‘mirthday’ (mirthday = middle of our birthdays) buddy. Her birthday is two days and one year before mine. We always celebrate with a lovely lunch and a shopping trip to Chico’s. The tradition continues.

I met another best friend and went to a local favorite, Andre’s. It was delicious and fun. She surprised with a lovely sculpture of a writer. It sits happily on my entrance desk.

And I went out with my husband and son for dinner and home for cake and gifts. As a family we accomplished a great success constructing the rebound trampoline I got for my birthday.

I might be 60. But last week I walked almost 70,000 steps.

I might be 60, but I still play a pretty sharp ‘Words with Friends.’

I might be 60, but I still work part time.

I might be 60, but I can still travel the world.

I remember when I was in my early 20s. I was visiting my aunt and grandma. My aunt said, “I went to bed a young woman and I woke up an old lady.” She handed me the newspaper. And there was a little article circled. It said, “Elderly man, 59, falls to his death.” My aunt had said she was 39 for years. So my response, “No Aunt Leona, what are you talking about ! You are only 39!” We all laughed. But that article has been haunting me.

Setting up for the tea party!

Setting up for the tea party!

The room for my party looked wonderful with all the brightly colored napkins and flowers and hearts displayed on the tables.  I even asked the bakery to make all the sugar cookies iced in teal!  I had only my favorite flavors for the desserts: lemon, raspberry and chocolate.  Everything looked and tasted wonderfully!

Lovely turquoise cookies and other goodies.

Lovely turquoise cookies and other goodies.

So today, to prove I am not elderly I have planned an exotic and eccentric tea party outfit to wear to my 60th birthday party. I am, of course, wearing blue: Blue dress, blue shoes, blue hat, and a lovely blue, turquoise and green sparkling and lightly beaded caftan-ish long jacket.

I am ready to meet my sixties without feeling blue…but being the best and brightest blue ever!

My Jawbone Up Is A Healthy Obsession, I Hope

22 Jan

On the news I recently heard that people whose spouses exercises are more likely to exercise. And even more important is to have an exercise partner. I am blessed, not only do I have a husband who loves to run and encourages me to exercise, I also have three walking partners, three devoted friends who exercise with me to keep ourselves healthy!

Friend one, Lynn, has been walking with me for 18 years. But not only walking, we meet occasionally with a personal trainer to work on upper body strength and balance. It has been a great plan. We work out Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. We have decided that we will continue walking until we are 92!  I hope we really make it.

Then there is Friend two, Roseann. We walk outside with her dog whenever the weather is nice, usually on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays if possible. We have walked together for almost ten years or more. Friend three is, as she calls it, my Plan B. Marti walks with me when Lynn cannot. I text her at the last minute and she often comes with me.

I have many other walking buddies as well over the years and depending where we are.  Sue Ellen loves to walk the hills.  Vero is my great vacation walker.  Marcie walked with me when she lived here.  And of course my sister, daughter and sister in law have all spent many hours walking with me.

It has been great fun besides exercise, as we talk and walk. But my relaxed walking recently changed!

In October I was gifted a Jawbone Up from my husband. I got him one two years ago for his birthday, and he loved all the information he now had to help with his health. He knew how long he slept, how much exercise he did and with his My Fitness Pal, how many calories he was taking in.

I did not want one, as I had a bad history with pedometers. I think I broke or lost about ten over the years. I had switched to an app on my phone to register how many steps I took. But since I did not always carry my phone with me, it was never accurate. I had been using My Fitness Pal as well to keep track of my calories, but it did not interface with the step ap.

Finally, my husband said, “ Get a Jawbone Up. It is the best.”

But first we looked around. I checked out the Fit Bit, the Jawbone Up, and the Fitbit that clipped on instead of the wrist band. And finally I made my decision. A blue Jawbone Up. It is now my constant companion.

When I first started using it, I just wanted to walk between 4,000 and 6,000 steps each day. I had no idea how addictive walking and keeping track would become. I slowly worked myself up to the point where I work between 7000 and 10,000 steps a day. On the days I work and I know I will be sitting, I make an effort to walk around at home and use a treadmill to get some steps in.

The little messages reminding me how many steps I walked and how many more I need to make my average inspire to keep going.

But what really inspires me is my own obsessive needs. If I am at 7800 steps when I am ready to go to bed at night, I walk around my house to get 200 more steps! I hate being so close to another 1000. I just have to do it. It almost hurts to be so close.

I also love seeing how much I actually slept. And to be honest, since I started keeping track of my steps and my sleep, I am sleeping longer. I think the extra exercise is making my nights better as well!

I love my Jawbone so much that this holiday season I encouraged several people to get one. And three of them did. A small red, and two medium black Jawbones are now worn by people I know.

The small red one is worn by my neighbor and walking partner, Roseann. And If I thought I was obsessed, she is worse!

My Jawbone has to be plugged in to get my information, but hers is Bluetooth. And today when we were walking, she had her phone out and was checking her steps as we walked. I told her to STOP. We were walking. That was ridiculous.

She told me that her daughter informed her that she was obsessed about steps. I agreed to a point. I am obsessed, but she is crazed.

She has a rebounder in her basement. She informed me that using that gets her many steps. I use my treadmill, but perhaps something else would help as well. She has been averaging about 4000 more steps a day than I have been. But then I sit at an office when I work, and she moves.

However, with my birthday coming up, I decided that I needed a rebounder as well. These little trampolines help with balance and exercise, so I did not feel too bad about buying one for myself as one of my birthday gifts!

As for my other walking partner, Lynn, yesterday she informed me that she planned to get a Jawbone Up for herself as well! Another addict iniatiated!

As for me, yesterday was my all time high. I walked an astounding 7.1 miles, or 16,438 steps. I hope my Jawbone is happy now! Four times my original plan. I do hope this is truly a healthy obsession.