Five Question Friday: November 11, 2011

Good Friday everyone! First of all, I would like to salute all United States veterans. I think that most of us in the US have had at least one family member serve in the armed forces. so on this day, I salute US veterans everywhere.

Today this will be short. I have THREE papers due before the end of the day, plus an appointment with my academic adviser. To be honest, I shouldn’t even be here, but I just couldn’t resist. 😉 So, join me if you wish, but let’s get to the questions for today. Enjoy! 🙂

1. What’s the last thing you spent too much money on?

I spent $100 on a pair of shoes that were not even attractive! but they purported to be good for exercising one’s legs. Weeks later, I found that I could have gotten the same pair at a discount store for less than half the price. 😦  Next time, I’ll shop around first!



2. What celeb chef would you want to make you dinner?

To be honest, I don’t know any celeb chefs; we don’t have a tv. But if I could have any chef cook for me, it would be Susie Fishbein, author of the Kosher by Design recipe book series. Her recipes are phenomenal! I have three of her many books and frequently refer to them. I can’t say enough good things about her dishes. If ever you get the chance, check out her blog at Kosher by Design Blog.


3. Where do you hide things when visitors pop over or do you let them see the real deal?

I don’t usually hide things when people pop over. They have to take me as they find me, however the Sabbath or festivals, I scoop up everything that hasn’t found a “home” yet and toss into the “catch-all” room (we’ve had one in every place we have lived) to be dealt with after the Sabbath or holidays are over.  No pictures for this one. Not much to see really, just a junked-up room.

4. Who is your oldest living family member?

Uncle David, Mom's brother

In my immediate family, Mom is the oldest at 82 years. But she has a surviving older brother who is 85 or 86. He looks good for being 86 years old, don’t you think?  I don’t know Dad’s extended family, so I can’t say if there are older folks or not on his side. His family has the genes for the age though! Many live into their 90’s. The photo to the left is Uncle David, Mom’s brother, who has lived in Louisiana as long as I have been alive. He and his wife have been married for over 60 years.



5. What is your favorite DQ treat and/or Sonic drink combo (ie: cherry vanilla dr. pepper)?

Oy . . . don’t do those either. We buy ice cream from the super market and bring it home to enjoy when we want. When the kids were growing up we often made homemade ice cream which was a treat. When I was growing up, coke floats, or Dr. Pepper floats were popular. Mmmm. . . maybe I’ll make one of those today. Sounds good!

There you have it. Have a great weekend, and we’ll do this again next week.


L.J. & Pat; “He” and “She”; “They”

Pat and L. J. ~ November 2, 1951

L. J. and Pat

“He” and “She”



He was born in Louisiana and grew up on his parents’ cotton farm. She was born in Chicago and moved frequently from urban area to urban area, depending on where her dad found work. He was the younger of two boys with eight years separating them. She was the third of six children, each born two or three years apart. He wore a leather jacket with slicked back wavy hair and drove a Harley Davidson, the epitome of “cool.” She dressed demurely in modest dresses and sang in the church choir. Their paths converged at Louisiana Tech when he saw her across a room and was smitten. He asked her for a date, which she accepted on one condition: he had to attend church with her. He didn’t have to think long or hard for that was a small price to pay for a date with this gal. Yes, he was smitten. The rest is history.

They married on Nov. 2, 1951 in a small church wedding. He was heading to seminary in North Carolina, and they had stars in their eyes about what the future might hold for them. But whatever it was, together they would forge their path through life.

He became a minister for a while, and church remains a vital part of his life. Even after leaving the ministry, he ponders the deeper meaning of life, its joys and its vicissitudes as any true existentialist would. He wrote the stories of his imaginings, being the creative thinker and writer that he was and is. Eventually he became a bookkeeper at a nearby mission, followed by providing the same services at their church home, the place where they have worshiped for over 40 years. He finally retired during his 80th year.

She was the pragmatic one. In the early years she worked as a lab technician in local hospitals. Eventually she would leave that work to become a middle school life science teacher where she earned accolades for her creativity and enthusiasm in the classroom. When she retired from teaching, she became a naturalist at a state park until her retirement from that position when she was approaching her 80th birthday. Through the years she sewed her own clothes, reupholstered furniture to make others’ discarded junk a piece of art in her home, grew her own vegetables to preserve, and fed the family throughout the year. She sang in the church choir into her 80’s, teaches Sunday school, chairs the mission committee, and continues visiting friends and friendless alike. Today she makes doll clothes for dolls that are given to hospitalized children, hoping to alleviate each child’s fear . . . at least a little bit.

Through the years they relocated many times, reinvented themselves almost as often, raised four motley children, enjoyed the blessings of nine grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren with two more on the way. They traveled extensively and embraced life in all of its beauty and complexity—good and bad.

Camping was a salve for their souls as they hiked through woods, forged mountain streams, spelunked through caverns and repelled down cliffs.  As a young family, they began their camping “career” in an old, smelly baker tent (that was often sworn at . . . poor tent.) From that humble beginning, they quickly graduated to a full-scale teepee modeled after the Oglala abodes. They made the teepee themselves. She sewed, wearing out at least one sewing machine. He cut down tall Louisiana pines, then stripped the bark and dried the poles. They hauled the teepee throughout the country, east and west, north and south, on annual family camping trips. When they retired the teepee, back packing became their mode of camping and seeing the country. For years the two traveled when they got the chance, hiking with their packs to places most of the rest of us have only seen in photographs. When the two adventurers and life-long lovers finally hung up their packs, they converted their van into a makeshift camper so that they could continue their travels. The two did not slow down. But even the van eventually became too difficult to “camp” in. Not thwarted however, they bought a small camper trailer to pull behind their van and they continue their journeys, albeit a little slower and closer to home than in past years.

In addition to the adventures of travel and camping, the two spent their lives supporting the downtrodden, visiting the sick, grappling with issues of social justice, poverty, inequality, racism and more. They stood by their beliefs and their love of the human race when others wanted to silence them. They appreciated the simple things in life, were thankful that their needs were met, made do with what they had, and as a result their lives are far richer today than if filled with tawdry material things that eventually wither away and become burdensome objects for their children to dispense of.

You see, L.J. and Pat have spent over 60 glorious years building a life together and inspiring all who know them to be better people, to do better work, and to think better thoughts.

L. J. and Pat, the “he” and the “she”, his motorcycle “Fonzie” to her modest “Pollyana” created a masterpiece with their lives that we, the privileged observers, now celebrate.

 November 2, 1951 – November 2, 2011

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.



Preparing for yet another move, I am reminded of a move we made when I was a little girl.   Dad was the minister at a two church charge, the main church being in Marion.  I can’t remember the name or location of the second church, only that it was small and close by.  Every June, Dad would have to attend annual conference held at a different place each year.  In June of our third year at Marion, as usual Dad left for Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. Quite unexpectedly, we received a call from Dad sometime during the week informing us that we were “being moved” to a town a couple of hours away, Greenwood, Louisiana.  The way things worked in those days was that the Bishop of the conference, along with the District Superintendents, would meet and discuss and juggle things around and make decisions, one of which was relocating local pastors.  Conference would be one week, then the following week moves would take place on a Thursday.  The relocating minister would move out of the “parsonage” on Thursday morning, and into his new parsonage and “charge” on Thursday afternoon.  That way they would have a few days to get unpacked and settled before they had to preach their first sermon at their new church on the following Sunday.  (Yup, all it took was a few days to get settled in to the new place!)

Today I cannot even imagine how we lived that way, but that is how we did it!  Of course, each church provided the house (parsonage) and furnishings for the house (congregants discards) so when a move was made, the only things to pack were clothing, dishes, and personal items.  There was no need to find a new place to live, or to give notice to landlords that we were leaving.  Even so, I don’t know how we did it.  I’ve had six weeks notice about this move which is the general “heads up” I get anymore.  Of course in this day and age, especially since I am no longer connected with the church, we have to give all sorts of people notice of our move at least a month in advance.  Utilities have to be notified so they can come in and take readings, and a new dwelling has to be secured whether it is an apartment (as is the case this time) or a house. That means a quick trip to the new place to “house/apartment hunt” and sign a new lease, or place a bid. Professional movers are given the opportunity to offer bids on moving us and then the movee (us) decides who to go with. (Sometimes it works well, other times it is a disaster!)

In the meantime the movees continue with their jobs and everyday living.  Only now along with life’s demands, the movee (me) has to start packing.  Today people (oy. . . us) have a lot more “stuff” to cart around than did people living in the ’50’s and ’60’s.  We no longer live in furnished places, so we cart around a houseful of furniture.  We have more clothes than ever before, at least three wardrobes: everyday summer, dress summer, everyday winter, dress winter, special occasion summer and winter, etc.–something that was unheard of when I was growing up.  We have appliances that were not even dreamed of when I was a child: bread making machine, Jack Lalaine Juicer, coffee makers of several kinds depending on our mood, food processors (large for meals, small for a dish or two, tiny manual for holidays–this one deserves another post).  Speaking of kitchen gadgets and appliances, we keep kosher so that means we have many sets of dishes: meat, milk, and pareve –yes, a complete set of dishes and cookware for each!  Then we also have to have separate sets for Passover (I use a lot of paper and disposables during Passover because I don’t have enough space or money for more sets of dishes!) and all of the dishes have to be packed according to set.  Professional movers are usually shocked when they see the number of kitchen boxes required for my kitchen

Now let’s talk about books.  Both my husband and I are bona-fide bibliophiles!  Between the two of us, we have thousands of books: religion, science, math, history, art, literature, poetry, children’s books, etc.  We have given away thousands of books through the years but our library multiplies anyway.  And lest you think we collect books just to put on a shelf and admire from afar, I assure you that almost every book we own was read at least in part if not entirely from cover to cover.  All this to tell you that I have a lot of books to pack. Professional movers also marvel at the number of book boxes we crate with us.  Oy. At times it is embarrassing.

With this move we are downsizing into a tiny apartment, so besides packing tons of boxes, I have to designate which boxes go to storage and what goes to our apartment.  We are giving away furniture, books, dishes, clothing–the frivolous stuff but not the items we use regularly.  Even so, I’m not sure how we’ll fit into our new digs.

There is another issue with boxes, too.  Fortunately I save boxes from move to move, so we have most of the boxes we need.  Since Richard has already left town and begun his new job in our new home, I’m left here to do all of the above.  I get an uneasy feeling when I think we may not have enough boxes because I have no car to gather and bring more empty boxes back to our home.  I’ve decided that if we have too few boxes, I’m discarding more stuff till what we have fits into the boxes that are already in our apartment waiting to be filled.

In the meantime while I’m doing all of this and plotting and planning and scheduling to get it done, I’m also in grad school.  I must keep up with my studies, too. Wow.  What can I say. Somebody needs to examine my head because this is a lot of stuff to juggle.

Looking back to my childhood, I simply don’t know how we packed and moved in just a few days time.  Life was simpler for sure, not as carefree as we oftentimes like to romanticize, but it was simpler. Today’s necessities were not even dreamed up a few decades ago.  When I was traipsing through Nicaragua many years ago, everything I needed fit into a backpack–everything.  I remember how freeing it was to be unencumbered with stuff.

Stuff, and the acquisition of stuff, creates too many headaches, heartburn, high blood pressure, stress, greed, and more.  I’ve begun paring down our lives, but as I pack, I am aware that a lot more needs to be done. Richard, if you are reading this wherever you are, do not worry that I am throwing your stuff away. I’m not. But I am getting rid of as much stuff as I can get rid of in good conscience.  It is time for a simpler lifestyle.  If not now, then when?

What are your thoughts?  What have you done to simplify your life, or get rid of stuff?  I’d really like to hear.

Electricity. . .or the lack thereof!

It is a cold January morning in northern Virginia.  Just a few days ago we were blessed with the first snow storm of the year.  And as we have come to expect, it also brought a power outage our way.  Last year, when we were still living in Maryland, we had several big outages, one lasting an entire week. . .but that is another story.  This year I have learned that enduring an outage in an apartment is easier than when we lived in a house.  I don’t know why that is except that apartment dwellers get friendly with each other when there is a mutual crisis.  At any rate, besides the inconvenience, “making do” triggered some fond childhood memories of how we managed in cold weather without modern gadgets and conveniences.

Images of winters in Louisiana come to mind.  Most people outside of the state assume that Louisiana, being that far south, doesn’t really have a winter.  Compared to the northern tier states of Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, all states that I have lived in, Louisiana winters are rather “wimpy.”  But don’t be fooled, it does get cold in the winter months, at least in the northern panhandle of the state.  When we heard reports of an impending freeze, Dad would crawl under the house and swaddle the water pipes, a preventative measure against freezing or bursting.  As an added precaution, Mom would make sure that there was a continuous “drip” from the house faucets because moving water is slower to freeze than standing water.  These precautions did not always work, and there were times we had frozen water pipes, and in fact there may have been a time or two when the pipes actually burst.  It really does get cold in Louisiana.

During our present outage, as I lit the gas stove (no electricity meant I had to dig out the matches and light the stove the “old fashioned way”) I remembered the open-faced radiant gas heaters in the houses “back in the day” (1950’s and ‘60’s).  We did not have central air, rather every room had it’s own gas heater.  That way, only the rooms in use would be heated.  Not a bad idea actually—heating only the rooms that are in use makes both ecological and economical sense.  Because the flames of the small heaters were “open” flames, Mom was fearful of sleeping with the heaters on at night.  It would have been too easy for one of us kids to inadvertently toss off the bed coverings onto the flames, thus igniting a fire, or for one of us to stumble in a hazy fog on the way to the bathroom late at night and fall into the heater.  So, when we finally headed off to sleep, we would crawl into beds piled high with quilts and blankets. (Quilts were strictly utilitarian, none of this “hanging on the wall as art work” stuff.  I could point out the different pieces of fabric and tell you what homemade garment it came from.)  Once we were snuggled in for the night, Mom would tiptoe around to each of our bedrooms and shut off the heat.  Of course, that made getting up in the mornings rather abrasive.  Twenty-degree temperatures were not unusual during a cold snap.  Did I mention that there was no wall-to-wall carpeting, either?  I don’t even remember throw rugs in the bedrooms.  Mom was always vigilant about fire hazards. Not only did we arise to a frigidly cold house, walking in our bare feet on cold, hard-wood floors was like walking on ice cubes.  I remember a lot of shivering and teeth chattering.  In order to alleviate some of the distress of getting out of bed in the early winter mornings, Mom would once again steel around to each room and light the heaters about ten minutes before we had to get up and start getting ready for school.  Once out of bed, each of us four kids would quickly gather our clothing for the day, race to a spare heater, and claim it as our’s before one of the others reached it.  (My favorite heater was in the dining room because not only did I get light from the kitchen, I could also talk to Mom while I was getting dressed.) We would hold our garments piece-by-piece, beginning with underwear, over the heater to warm it up before putting it on.  Stepping into toasty-warm clothes made up for our rude, cold-morning awakenings.  Meanwhile, Mom was preparing a hot breakfast (either Oatmeal,

Still a staple in my home.

Cream of Wheat, Ralston, or occasionally grits, buttered toast from the oven—no toaster—homemade jelly, tang and powdered milk [yes, powdered milk—ghastly stuff]) because she was a believer in having a good breakfast to start the day.  Then, dressed and fed, we would head out the door to school.

At the time, one doesn’t think that mundane activities such as waking to a cold house and getting ready for school is of any significance in the scheme of life.  We take daily living for granted. . .at least I often do.  But I have discovered that the glue of life and relationships and imbuing life values in the next generation happens in the ignoble activities of “putzing” through our ordinary days.  This week as I was figuring out how to manage without electricity, I felt blessed albeit inconvenienced.  Although we had no heat, we had plenty of blankets to snuggle under. There was no refrigeration, but all the food made it nicely through the night in boxes on our balcony. There were no lights, but candles added romance to an unexpected quiet evening with my husband. And finally, I’m a photography buff, and the beauty of new fallen snow was a delight to my eyes and food for my hobby!  So, all-in-all, we managed quite nicely.

A Fine Oily Mess

I’m heartbroken about the oily mess in the Gulf of Mexico.  I grew up in Louisiana.  That is my home state and even though it has been years since I’ve been there, Louisiana will always be my home state.  The state has some of the most fascinating wildlife in this country.  Cypress trees with roots that sink deep into the murky bayous, their branches draped with long, gray, curly tendrils of Spanish moss, exotic birds, varieties of snakes, colorful spiders, abundant fish, and more live in those waters.  Unique is the word that best describes the culture and life of the southern Louisiana lowlands and marshes.  I lived mainly in the northern panhandle, but what happened south of the capital Baton Rouge, affected the entire state.  I liked living in Louisiana.  I grew up thinking our state was special.  Moving north to Kentucky when I was a teenager was a traumatic experience, and it took a few years to adjust to living life in the “north.”  I never actually visited the Gulf when we lived in Louisiana.  I didn’t make it to those waters until I was in college and I went down to the Florida Keys during spring break.  Pelicans, the Louisiana state bird, were ubiquitous, and beautiful even if a bit strange looking.  The beaches were beautiful, the sun hot.  We did all the touristy things, not the Daytona stuff of movies.  Our small group camped near the beach, swam out on the reef, watched stingray and barracuda swim beneath us.  The Florida part of the Gulf is not like the Louisiana Gulf, but it was beautiful and fun, too.  It, too, will soon be “affected” by the oil gushing from a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, pictures of the Gulf filling up with oil break my heart.  I can’t bear to look at any more photographs.  The magnitude of what has happened is staggering.  President Obama, in his recent speech addressing the issue, made the statement that we do not presently have the technology to stem the flow of oil.  Do not have the technology????  As in we have nothing invented yet to stop the oil from gushing into the gulf?  As in there is nothing we can do about this at the present moment?  Are you kidding me????  We put men on the moon decades ago and we don’t have the technology to do anything about this?  Wildlife is being destroyed.  Destroyed!  Not only is the oil polluting the water, oxygen beneath the oil is being depleted.  Fish, birds, dolphins, sharks—All sea animals are rushing to shallow water attempting to escape suffocation.  They will die in the shallow waters.  BP…I have no words strong enough to tell them what I think of them.  They knowingly violated safety regulations.  Why?  Greed.  They bought up BP searches on Google and Yahoo, in order to replace the entries with their own spin of what is happening.  Why?  Greed.  They have worked to prohibit, inhibit, and squelch stories, journalists, photographers, reporters from seeing those waters and telling us what is going on.  Why?  Greed.  BP has been far more interested in making sure their stockholders get their money than in stopping the flow of oil, or cleaning up the mess they have made.  BP is so far out of touch with what they have done to the entire ecosystem and culture of the Gulf of Mexico, it is criminal, and their cavalier attitude is arrogant to the point of revulsion.  And, on top of all that, eleven people lost their lives.  Eleven families will never see their loved one again.  All people who live and work on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are watching their livelihood being drowned in oil.  We have all lost because BP thumbed its nose at safety regulations, and have been thumbing their noses, we have learned, for quite some time.  And now, now we don’t have the technology to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, or to clean up this gargantuan mess.

I’m heartbroken.  I grieve.  I’m mad as hell.  And I don’t know what to do to make it all better, to go back to its former rich and lush and beautiful self.  I pray.  But the oil is still gushing.  And we don’t have the technology to stop it.