Five Question Friday: November 2, 2012

Good afternoon! First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with the folks who were affected by Sandy. She was a fearsome storm that was felt even here in Cleveland, OH. For those who have lost loved ones, homes, prized possessions, please accept my condolences. If there is a bright spot to be found amidst the devastation, it is in how neighborhoods have rallied to help their residents, often stranger helping stranger. Support the American Red Cross because they are the ones who know what to do and how to help when natural disasters strike.

Following are the questions for this week. Have a go at it if you like.


1. What terrifies you the most?

The thing that terrifies me the most is the possibility of losing someone I love and being helpless to do anything about it.

2. Favorite fall/winter drink?

I am an avid coffee drinker. I have started my day every morning for decades with a cup of coffee. Sometimes I like to put a cinnamon stick in it to add just a hint of spice to the flavor. I drink it year around so I don’t really know if you could call it a fall/winter drink. In fall and winter I will occasionally have a cup of hot apple cider which is also very tasty!

3. Do you and your spouse have the same political views?

Yes, our views are similar. We both have a strong sense of social justice and concern. It pains me to see the vitriol in this country that is directed toward the young, the old, the minority, the unemployed, the sick, the ‘other’ whoever the other is, etc. I just don’t get it. Social conscience is not socialism, it is caring for those who fall on hard times, or who are sick or in need. I blogged about this a while back, Homeless in D.C. My husband and I are both concerned about the radicals who dominate the headlines anymore. When we stop caring about our neighbors, or lending a helping hand to those in need, we are headed for a fall.

4. What was the last book you read? Was it any good?

I’m not sure you want to know. Everything I read anymore is very academic. The last book I read was about Existential Therapy. It was excellent, I loved it and I learned a lot. But is it a book I would recommend? Only for others in the counseling profession. I can’t remember the last “fun” book I read. Hmmm…. not good.

5. Do you look forward to the snow each winter? Why or why not?

Not really. I grew up where the weather was sultry hot. I miss it. I hasten to add though, that when I lived in New Hampshire I loved the snow. Cross country skiing was a favorite activity. People there knew how to play in the cold and that makes a difference. Where we live now, we don’t play so much. And the cold temperatures seem to bother me more now than they use to. So, give me the hot lazy days of summer any time. 😉

That’s it for another week.


Cats . . . The Big Ones! (And a few other animals, too)


Course requirements dictated that I attend a week-long colloquial in Arlington, Virginia, USA, this week. Hundreds of us, all grad students working (or hoping to work) in the mental health field converged on the city just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, to spend six intense days of study, learning and experiencing in a classroom setting. The day before classes were scheduled to begin, a friend and I took part of a day to venture into the capital district to visit the National Zoo. As you will see in the following photos, I was captivated by the big cats! Enjoy.

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About Global Food Disparity!

I had not planned on posting today (except for River of Stones) but came across this link at Doris Nygrin’s blog, Truth With Doris, and felt compelled to share it. In a very simple, straightforward way, the viewer is shown the disparity in diets around the world with accompanying comments…brief statements about the weekly food costs for families in different parts of the world. I urge you to take a look.

Daily Kos: Global Food Disparity

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

I’m a little late this week but better late than never! I don’t know why I didn’t think of these photos before, but my trip to Chicago this fall provided lots of “between” photo ops! Here are a few!


Five Question Friday: Nov. 25, 2011

Well, I’m a day late, but that is a testament to the wonderful time I am having with my family. Seeing folks I haven’t seen in decades is mind-boggling, and fun! We’ve eaten good food, shared many laughs, cried a few tears, and have said over and over that we will not wait so long again to do this! Family gatherings in our home are cherished. I hope your family gatherings have been joyful, too.

Now, on to the five question Friday questions! (with a few minor changes to suit our traditions.)

1. Is there a special dish you prepare that you are famous for?

Not really. I can put together a really good meal on special occasions, but I am really not known for my cooking. I do bake a mean Amaretto Cake, and I make great salads. But special dish that I am famous for???? Nahhhh…. Not me.

2. Are you (did you) go Black Friday shopping ?

I am not now, nor have I ever been a big shopper. I have never participated in the Black Friday shopping event, nor do I ever plan to. I don’t get it, although I have friends and family who look forward to it and treat it almost as if it is a sporting event. I will just enjoy that distinctly American custom vicariously through them.

3. What are your strangest holiday traditions?

We observe the Jewish holidays, and by some folks standards we have some strange traditions and observances, too many to go through here. But Succot has some beautiful traditions that may appear strange, like eating in the Sukkah, or shaking the lulav.

4. Pecan or pumpkin pie? (She actually asked “Apple or pumpkin?” I just T-giving’ed it!)

I love both, but pecan has got to be a favorite of mine. I’ll leave it at that.

5. When will you put up your Christmas tree?  Chanukah begin this year?

We light the first Chanukah candle on the evening of December 20 this year. We will light a candle each night for eight nights to commemorate the miracle of the oil centuries ago. I will write more about this as we near that beautiful holiday (it’s closing in on Midnight now, and to be honest, I just don’t have the energy.)

Well that is it for this week. I hope to be back up to par next week, and I will fill you in on some of our strange traditions in the weeks to come. But for now, I’m signing off. Hope you and yours (in the USA) had a wonderful Thanksgiving day. For those of you beyond our borders, may your lives be filled with gratitude. Thanks for stopping by.

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.


Brandywine Falls on an Autumn Day

The Jewish holidays are finally over and life returns to normal, whatever normal is. Sunday was a day of catching up paying the bills, washing clothes, putting our holiday “things” away for another year. But Richard and I are not so good at “all work and no play!” We are responsible adults, but the child in each of us has to come out and play at times. 🙂  Some weeks ago I read about the Cuyahoga National Forest and the Brandywine Falls. We had hoped to get down during the height of the colorful fall season, but with the holidays and our work schedules, we were unable to take that drive. Tis a pity because Brandywine Falls is only about thirty minutes from where we live. After hours of doing the responsible adult things however, Richard and I decided it was time for a day trip (or in this case, a three-hour trip.) We got a little lost on the way down, but as always, we found ourselves and made it to our destination. We were not disappointed.

At the top of the trail we got our first glimpse of the falls. The sun was shining and the rays sparkled off the water. A person can tell that the falls will be beautiful, but it is not until further on that the hiker see the full beauty of water cascading over jutting rocks into a pool at the base where the Brandywine River continues its course.

The trail leads hikers down the ravine, gradually at first, zig-zagging gently until
reaching the steps that rapidly accelerate the descent to the base of the falls. Many people may miss the beauty of the forest in their haste to reach the bottom which is a real shame. Although the height of the fall colors had passed, there was still quite a bit of colorful foliage. Furthermore, the sun streaming through the stand of trees created a beauty not to be ignored.

As we continued along the trail descending down to the falls, we also passed some interesting rock formations.

Now the full view of Brandywine Falls was coming into view!

There were two landings from which to view the falls, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

We lingered there for a while, chatting with other visitors and simply enjoying the view. On our way back out of the ravine, I saw the stream meandering through the forest, a sight I had not seen before because I was focused on the falls. The interesting thing is that I had no hope of getting a good shot because the sun was too far down in the sky and the shadows in the hollow were too deep. But, being the photographer that I am, I shot photos to my heart’s content anyway ~ one of the perks of the digital age in photography when there is no worry about the cost of film and processing! Any way, back to my story, when I uploaded these photos to my laptop, I was pleasantly surprised. What the photos showed but I had failed to see when shooting, is that the yellows still in the trees reflected on the stream giving it a golden look in parts. Lovely.

Coming back up the trail, the sun was low enough in the sky to create some beautiful silhouettes of the trees (sorta…at least a silhouette of Richard). Here is one sample.

We walked along another peaceful, bucolic trail for a little while.

And then returned along the path that led us into the park, and past the Bed & Breakfast, once a farmhouse, that provided more interesting photo opportunities.

There you have it! Our wonderful afternoon of playing hooky. 🙂 If you are ever interested in visiting, you can google Cuyahoga National Forest, or Brandywine Falls, or the Brandywine Bread & Breakfast, all found in northeastern Ohio, USA.  Hope you enjoyed the outing. We sure did 😉

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The Loss of Something Important

This has not been the best of weeks. Anniversaries are usually a time of celebration but this one, ten years since 9/11, brought up a lot of memories and feelings connected to that dreadful day. We as a nation lost so much: our naiveté and innocence, family and friends, fellow citizens, sense of safety and security and more. We knew in the moments the terror was unfolding that our lives would never be the same, we just didn’t know what that meant. Now we see the effects of 9/11 where ever we go: passing through detectors as we enter many buildings, especially government buildings; lengthy security checks at every airport; random bag searches on just about every metro-area transit system, etc. We are much more apt to report suspicious behavior or unidentified packages left anywhere out of the ordinary. Our fears are pricked when traveling with folks who “look different” from us. Sad, yes, but true.

I lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. September 11, 2001, was like any other day for me. The day was sunny and bright reflecting my mood. Richard, my then-fiance, was visiting from Dayton at the time and was planning to return home later in the day. We were planning a wedding in October. I went to work as usual. I was the director of the county women’s community corrections center and I enjoyed my work immensely. The first two hours or so were devoted to paperwork and administrative blablabla. Around 9:00am I heard a commotion in the hallway outside my door which did not subside even after a few minutes. I poked my head out to tell people to keep the noise down. Obviously agitated, the women (3 or 4 of them) began telling me at once that something terrible had happened in NY City; a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. My first reaction was that it was very sad and I hoped that not too many people got hurt. Most people were probably not even at work yet. My inner thoughts were that the women were in their “drama” mode, a state of being that is common in correctional facilities. In order to maintain my integrity, I had long ago consciously decided that I would not succumb to the daily drama in that building. I closed my door and went back to work.

Within minutes though, more women were pounding on my door. Now a plane had flown into the Pentagon. I casually asked if they had seen it, or was a reporter talking about the “what ifs?” Now the story was that both towers had been hit, and the Pentagon with passenger planes (far fetched) and another passenger plane was missing. By now I figured they were trying to dupe me about something ~ I had a reputation for being gullible. But, there was an urgency in their voices and fear in their eyes which raised my radar a bit. We all walked into the tv room together and there I was greeted with the images we are all now familiar with. I caught my breath and blurted out “We are under attack!” All of us, residents, staff and myself, sat glued to the tv for the following hours into days. I gave the women unlimited phone privileges for the rest of the week because many of them had family members in NYC. A new staff member was especially distraught. She had been offered a position in the World Trade Center the same time I offered her a position at the Correctional Center. She and her husband had chosen to accept my offer because they wanted to get their children out of the city and raise them in a more bucolic setting. 9/10 would have been her first day on the job if she had accepted their offer. Many of her family were still in NY. We were less than two hours from Wall Street. Some of my friends were the ones walking around, after the buildings collapsed, covered in white dust, choking on the air.

When I arrived back home fighting back tears, Richard was still there. He and I had been in communication by phone all day long. In fact I was the one who told him to turn on the tv. He stayed for days afterwards as we watched in disbelief at everything that transpired over and over and over again, and then some more. Our minds simply could not wrap around the tragedy of that day and the days to come. The world changed on 9/11, the day we lost our innocence. The first anniversary of that day was awful. Our grief was still palpable. The mood was somber, to say the least.

This tenth anniversary brought back a lot of those memories and feelings. This year there were other complications, too. What can I say. My son and his lovely wife were expecting their second child. As you can imagine we were all so excited for them, and the talk on everyone’s lips was about the upcoming birth. New life. The family grows. Maria just completed her first trimester and we all felt they were in the clear now. On Sept 9, 2011, Maria suffered a miscarriage. How does a mother comfort her son and daughter-in-law through the loss of their child? I don’t know.  We all hurt. We hurt for the life that was lost, and for the dreams and plans unfulfilled. We grieve the child we never knew, and the person he or she may have become. Yes, the loss is immense.

To add insult to injury, my children have had to watch from afar as their father and stepmother lost everything they own in the floods in the east this past week. While I do not have communication with my ex, I ache for the pain that my children are going through for their father’s loss. As a parent, I want to shield my children from the aches and pains of life. It never occurred to me, until now, that at times the roles are reversed as the children wish so fervently that they could protect their parents from the vicissitudes of life as well.

My children, all of them, are strong and powerful and insightful and faith-filled people. We will all get through these days and will go on to thrive. I’m sure of it. That is what we do. But we have lost important things. Life will be different than we imagined. Losses take a toll. We will in the end be stronger, but now we grieve.

Despite these immense losses, there is life to celebrate. Through these events we learn what is or is not important. We learn to live in the moment and to be thankful, always, for each breath of air we breathe. We learn the value of being present for each other, for expressing our love, for pursuing our dreams, for remaining hopeful in trying times. We learn that it is ok to rely on family and friends during rough times, and that we will get to return the favor in time. We learn to see, to hear, to feel.

This has turned into a more lengthy post than I had planned so I’ll stop here. Please feel free to share your thoughts if you wish. I’ll be “invisible” for the next few days as I finish up my final project of the quarter, and then I’ll have a break. So, I will be back! Thanks for indulging me as I rambled today.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up (2nd time around!)

We have finally made it to our new place in Ohio!  The apartment is much smaller even than I remember, but I think we can squeeze in and be comfortable till we find a more permanent place.  On the way here, we stopped at several rest areas.  One in particular nestled in among a magnificent stand of trees (possibly on the edge of a forest.)  While taking a walk with the cat, I thought of this photo challenge and shot a few frames that I thought turned out rather well.

As an addendum, the following are photos from every window in our apartment.  You will know why I chose this apartment over a much larger one (which looked out over a parking lot!)

Our bedroom window -- when the furniture arrives in about an hour, our bed will go right beneath this window so that we can look out on this each morning.
Small bedroom/our office -- sweet
Dining room window, 1st morning in apartment
Living room, taken when I first woke up our first morning in the apartment.