Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Winter Weather

By Henry Lowenstern

Last night we had a real hard freeze
that drove the surviving birds an bees
into hiding
after deciding
it's not worth catching a disease.


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Monday, 24 November 2014

Sprechen Sie Estonian?

By Trudi Kappel

I was in the frenzy of the final weeks leading to the award of my Master’s degree when my college friend Rita called. Her grad school was offering its students and their families a five week, round trip charter flight from Boston to London at an incredibly low price. Would I like to go as her “sister?”

YES! I didn’t have a job lined up. Five weeks exploring Europe would be a welcome break between the stress of school and the stress of a job search.

My parents gave me the charter flight, a London to Rome round trip air ticket with stop-off privileges and a copy of Arthur Frommer’s Guide “Europe on $5 a Day as a graduation gift. This was not going to be a luxury expedition.

I drained my savings; got my first passport and a few days after graduation we were airborne.

We had been warned about aggressive European men especially Italians. The stories were of shady characters preying on young American female tourists at least pinching their bottoms and at worst making off with their money and their virtue. We were wary.

After overnight in London, our first stop was Switzerland. The Swiss economy depends on tourists. Citizens go out of their way to make sure visitors want to return. There were no incidents. They even seemed to understand my high school French! Next on to Italy.

The advance information was correct. We attracted lots of attention. Too much attention. We were having trouble getting to some sights because of the interference. It was a nuisance and it was scary. The men spoke some English, but the word “NO!” was always absent from their vocabulary.

One day we were resting our feet, sitting on the base of a column in the Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City, when we saw two young men approaching. Oh no. Here we go again.

“Buongiorno!”

We shook our head. “Non parlo italiano.”

They tried “Bon jour.”

Again a shake.

“Hello?”

Nope. We didn’t understand that one either. Italian men know a few words in many languages and that day we couldn’t understand any of them. Finally they indicated that we should speak so they could hear our language.

Rita opened her mouth and what emerged was an incredible mélange of Yiddish and jabberwocky. I caught on and babbled back at her. We smiled and laughed. Our would-be friends looked puzzled. They didn’t know this language.

One of them found a scrap of paper and drew an outline of Europe indicating that we should point to our country.

With a nod of understanding, Rita pointed to an area south of the Gulf of Finland and very carefully pronounced ES-TON-IA.

The men looked deflated. This was a language they did not know. Estonia at that time was part of the USSR. Perhaps they thought we were spies! With a hasty “ciao” they ran off.

We used this ploy several more times during our trip to deflect unwanted attention. Nobody ever blew our cover with a cheery “Tere iludus.”

*Hey Cutie” in Estonian.*


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Friday, 21 November 2014

Episode at Michael's

By Chlele Gummer

As I saw shards of broken glass in the garbage can, the doctor's wife explained, "Michael was having a bad day. I got so mad I threw three glasses at him. He can try my nerves, he can!"

She marched out of the room. I continued to clean up the lunch dishes left in the sink.

It was my first job as a freshman in high school. I was hired to baby-sit the two sons of the doctor in town, after school until about 8 o'clock in the evening. The mother wanted to help her husband in the clinic during those hours.

The boys were blond, blue eyed and cute. Michael was 10 and Timmy was six. It was an opportunity for me to earn my own money.

Mrs. G came back into the kitchen with the day's instructions. "We will be eating later, so it's just you and the boys. Just heat up the canned beans, the hotdogs and use the applesauce open in the refrigerator and," she ordered, "that ought to do it."

"Okay," I said as I nodded. I could handle that.

After dinner the boys went to play in their rooms. I had started running the water into the sink to wash the dishes when I heard a crash in Michael's room.

I ran and as I reached his door he came out holding his Boy Scout hand ax in a menacing way. "Don't you come into my room!" he shouted. I stopped in my tracks. "You stay right there, don't come any closer!"

What do I do, I thought. He wouldn't really hit me, would he? "Michael, what is the problem?" I asked with my heart in my mouth.

"There is no problem. You just stay there!" We both stood frozen on the spot. I was afraid to step forward, but I knew we couldn't stay this way forever.

"Michael, put the ax down and tell me what is wrong," I pleaded.

He thought about it, then turned back to his room and dropped the ax on the floor. "This is what is wrong," he explained as he kicked the drawer of his dresser on the floor.

The front was separated from the sides and the contents were scattered around. "I couldn't get the drawer open at first, then, it came too fast and broke."

"I can help you fix it. Just settle down. It won't take too long."

With a push and a pull, I had the drawer back together. We picked up the mess. He grabbed his baseball mitt and began punching his hand into it.

Inwardly, I sighed with relief. The crisis was over. I returned to the kitchen finding water and soap bubbles stretching the length of the kitchen, about 30 feet, because the floor sagged toward the laundry room in back.

The soapy water was just about to the door. I turned off the water and threw some kitchen towels to stop the flow. Then I spent a good 30 minutes mopping up.

To give the boys something to do while I was mopping, I directed them outside. Michael decided to ride his bike giving Timmy a ride on the handlebars. As I worked, I could hear him riding around the huge house. Timmy giggled and Michael made loud car noises as he raced faster and faster.

Just as I finished the dishes, I heard a crash. Timmy screamed at the top of his lungs. He hit his head when Michael failed to make a turn at the corner. A bump popped out of his forehead in minutes.

I put ice on it and held him until he stopped crying. I was worried about the bump, so I called the clinic.

"It sounds like he will be okay," Mrs. G suggested after I told her what happened. "You did the right thing. Keep him up a couple hours before putting him to bed. If he can't stay awake, call me. I will be home in an hour."

She sounded different on the phone. She seemed pleasant. In fact, when the doctor and she walked through the front door, they were smiling at each other.

"How are things going?" the doctor asked me as he took off his overcoat. "The boys give you any more trouble?"

"No," I answered. "No, things went fine."

I didn't tell anyone about that day. But I remember that Michael was the boy who, every summer, set the adjoining field on fire.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Master's Touch

By Joyce Benedict

All things, claim the poet,
linked to each other
by unseen holy threads
if we but touch of a flower
we trouble a star.

Awaiting inspiration to pen a poem
I gaze out on to little deck
pregnant with flowers who
share space with a lone tomato
clinging to it’s mother vine.
when all are plucked tomorrow will I
trouble a star from afar?

lost in thought
I trust, await, divine inspiration.

dusk descends.
white, billowing clouds
blanketing the setting sun’s rays
part revealing a brilliant glow
of transcendent beauty.
an extra breath is drawn
as this exquisite loveliness
bathes my deck to behold
a canvas of other worldliness.

it was as if an unseen artist from above
with water, palate, brush and,
the flourish of a master’s touch
had spread a voluptuous wash
of muted, iridescence gold over all.
Homer penned his
Aurora of the rosy fingered dawn,
the Hudson Valley painters
their own particular glow.
Even Tintoretto’s palate pales to this
Master’s touch.

I step on to deck to be bathed, blessed
by such Holy light.
I have my poem.
the stars now thrill; not troubled,
as I, to my own joy.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Love in Paris

By Antonia Albany of Antonia's Senior Moments

In 1962 my father was a historian for NATO in Paris. I was 14. Do you remember being 14? At that time, I was a young girl awakening to the opposite sexm. Mon dieu.

How fortunate I was to not be saddled by too many other American friends hanging around who might judge, be jealous or critical of how I was blossoming into this new part of life. I was free to roam the neighborhood and be cool mostly with kids my age from other countries.

Needless to say, "relationships" didn’t last long in those days in Paris. At 14 I doubt relationships last that long anywhere.

There were no expectations of my behavior and I could experiment with communication and flirting all the while using some form of nearly unrecognizable language to impress my European friends.

This was pretty dangerous as I wasn’t the greatest in putting together an interesting sentence in English, let alone French. And, in fact, I got in trouble more than once.

One day I was looking for my German boyfriend, Ollie. I came upon a group of my French friends who I thought might know where he was. As I approached Suzanne, Nicole and a cute guy, Rene, I pointed to the 10-story apartment building we were standing next to and said in a quizzical voice, “Ollie?” To which response Rene scooped me up and began carrying me into the building foyer.

The girls cracked up. I guess my question had sounded exactly like “au lit” which is pronounced exactly as the name I had said and means "to the bed" in French.

From that point on, the majority of my young "relationships" consisted of holding hands with some sign language thrown in when necessary.


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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Over the Hill

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

In the summer of 1992, I started to get restless at work.

I knew the signs; I’d been there before.

After three years as executive director of an educational foundation in New York City, I was bored.

I had just turned 52. Four years into my second marriage, with a newborn adopted son, I decided to move on. Although I was successful at my current job, I was a veteran reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines, and I missed the work; I wanted a new challenge and a better paycheck.

When my annual salary review came up in early November, my boss gave me a raise, a pat on the back, smiled and told me, “You’re doing a great job.”

Blind-sided.

Right before Christmas, I got an internal memo: “As of Jan. 1, 1993, your employment with _____, will be terminated. We wish you every success in your future endeavors.”

The last quarter of the recession of 1992 was highlighted by a lot of red ink; non-profits were luxuries the Lords of Commerce could do without and the staff took a 50 percent job cut from the top on down.

At first, I was largely unconcerned. I had fantastic contacts with the heads of companies as well as lots of decision-makers lower down the chain of command.

I had an excellent resume and I had been planning to leave anyway. I took the board of directors’ decision as a not-unwelcome nudge in the direction of new and better opportunities.

When reality tossed a bucket of ice water in my face, I began to network first with the CEOs in my direct sphere of influence and then made contact farther down the chain.

I redid my resume, cutting out the first 10 years of employment and began to send it out to targeted people and job offers culled from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a host of professional magazines and journals. And I networked with everybody I met, from the clerk at the convenience store to acquaintances at social events.

Over the weeks and months and years ahead, not waiting for the phone to ring, this is what I did:

I wrote freelance articles for trade magazines, expanded my network by joining professional societies and the Rotary Club, ran for and was elected to the township council.

I joined a real estate agency, a friend’s public relations firm, sold men’s clothing at Macy’s, telemarketed, sold cruise vacations and temped for United Way.

Finally, I got a low-level administrative job with the state. I stayed there until I turned 70.

During the job search, I went on fewer than a dozen face-to-face interviews in my field; none of them led to an offer. I had three strikes against me: I was too experienced, too expensive and too old.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 17 November 2014

He Did Not Look Like a King

By Carl Hansen

During the 1976 bi-centennial, the King of Sweden was one of several foreign dignitaries who visited the United States but the only one who came to our small town in Kansas.

The town was Lindsborg, founded by Swedish immigrants and well known for its “Swedishness.” It was also home to Bethany College where I was a member of the faculty, teaching religion and philosophy. And above all, it was home for our family of six.

As you can imagine, the idea of the King of Sweden coming to central Kansas was a big deal for our community and its population of circa 2000. Along with sprucing up the town and making plans for entertaining the King during his time among us, excitement really began to heat up when people in the community reported seeing men in suits, wearing reflective sun-glasses, walking the route the King’s motorcade would take in a few days.

Our town was accustomed to visitors but these were clearly “official” in their dress and demeanor, but that did not hinder locals from asking who they were and why they were in our little town.

The day of the king’s visit brought clear skies and sunshine and soon people began to gather along the main street through town and at the place where the king was scheduled to speak.

This was a park filled with historic buildings including the Swedish Pavilion brought to Lindsborg from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The pavilion once housed the art department at Bethany but was later moved to its current location on the south side of Lindsborg.

Our family, decked out in the Swedish costumes many of us wore on special occasions to celebrate our heritage, gathered near the pavilion. Our two youngest children decided the chairs we found were too far from where the king would appear, so they made their way to the very front of the crowd just under the ropes that separated where people were sitting from the pavilion itself.

As the time of the King’s arrival drew near, a buzz went through the crowd: he had been delayed. We later learned he had been skiing in Aspen and the drive to Denver’s airport took longer than expected.

And then, to make matters worse, shortly after leaving Denver headed for Salina, Kansas, the plane developed engine problems and had to turn back.

Finally, safely on a different plane, he was on his way and soon news was relayed that his entourage had left Salina and was headed for Lindsborg.

Those who had stood patiently waiting on Main Street got only a glimpse of the king as the police-escorted series of cars whizzed through the town and its sole blinking yellow traffic light in the center of Lindsborg.

But disappointment was in store for those of us waiting at the pavilion as well for although we were able to see him, impeccably dressed in a three-piece gray suit, we did not get to hear him speak. Apparently he had picked up a case of laryngitis while in Aspen, so after greetings from the Governor of Kansas and the Mayor of Lindsborg were completed, one of the king’s aides read the kings speech.

And then, as quickly as they had arrived, they were gone, headed to the Bethany Campus for a VIP lunch followed by excerpts from Handel’s Messiah by members of the Messiah Chorus who had been recruited for the day.

But if the crowds along Main Street and those wanting to hear the King speak were disappointed, none of that could compare to the disappointment on the face of our six-year old Amy when we were reunited as everyone headed for their homes.

It did not matter one bit that he was late and certainly not that he did not speak. Her disappointment came simply because “he did not look like a king.”

In all those books we had read to her over the years, kings wore opulent, ermine-trimmed robes and appeared with crown on their heads and a scepter in their hands. This King was far too ordinary to create excitement for her. A three-piece gray suit — even though it may have cost as much as I made in two or three months as a professor — simply did not fill the bill.

Sometimes dreams don’t come true. Sometimes what we look for arrives in packages we don’t expect. But maybe such disappointments are life lessons we need to learn, painful though they may be.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 14 November 2014

My Sweet Bird of Youth

By Wendl Kornfeld

During the summer I was about 10 years old, a baby robin fell from its nest in our backyard. Its mother fretfully hopped around it then fled when she saw my mother approach.

My mother, who was raised on a farm, talked to the nervous parent like one mom to another reassuring her that we’d do everything possible to protect this baby who couldn’t fly yet.

To keep wandering neighborhood cats away, at night we put the little bird in a huge wooden bird-breeding cage given to us by my aunt. As days went by, we were convinced that Mama Bird trusted us because each morning we returned the baby (now named Rollo) to the lawn and she’d swoop down to flutter and chatter alongside him.

Meanwhile, I dug up the garden every day to get worms and Rollo would open his gullet wide and greedy for each feeding which I announced by whistling the same two-note call so Rollo would know it was me.

I was delighted with his excited response and he grew comfortable being handled by me. When the garden failed to produce any more worms, we bought cans of very cheap dog food and found that Rollo was equally happy with this menu.

We gave Mama and Rollo plenty of opportunities to bond and communicate every day during daylight hours. After a couple weeks, it was with great joy Rollo was able to fly short distances with his mother.

He’d take off for a group of nearby trees and we wouldn’t see him for hours. Then I’d whistle that two-tone call a few times and – whoosh! - suddenly a young robin was on my shoulder!

I tried not to think about my parents’ warnings that soon Rollo would not return; he would be free and wild as he was always meant to be.

One twilight, I took my customary place under the trees and whistled over and over. Over and over, until my mouth was dry. I cried a little when I realized that my little friend wouldn’t come back anymore but knew in my heart that this was as it should be.

And every time I saw a robin in our yard over the next few years, I wondered - was that my Rollo?


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Taking a Chance

By Clifford Rothband

I write about my life's experiences, as truthfully as my memory allows.

It seems that I bought a race horse named Pompano Penny. As a yearling, she hadn't raced yet. We bought a couple of horse's at auction, including Pompano Sam, a most beautiful colt, black, stocky and tall with four white socks and a white blaze.

We thought Sam would be a natural trotter. Penny was a chestnut foal bred as a pacer. Sad to say both horses died before the year was over and never got to the races.

Sam got what was called strangles. Penny developed a cancer on her back. Both horses found there end at Lion Country Safari in South Florida. I'll leave the morbid details out but if a horse is insured, they might pay off, but insurance is expensive. If a horse does ever make it big, I have heard they bury only the horses head.

Now at the end of that year in the early 1970s, I took a tax loss of about $18,000 and got a notice from the IRS that one could not take a loss for three consecutive years in a five year period. And I was to bring any pertinent bills to the IRS office on North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach Florida.

My accountant said just take the loss, it wasn't worth his time and effort to fight the ruling.

I had to go alone to the IRS office and of course my demeanor was shot. I obviously felt sad inside and beat up but I dressed nice in a white shirt and long pants, nice leather brown boots and a string tie. I figured a horseman or trainer should at least show some dignity in front of a government agent. In spite of my own CPA who said I was a loser.

I had reported on time and was told to sit in the waiting area and would be called after a while. So here I am with a broken ego but a smile on my face.

There are a few other folks sitting around and talking and drinking coffee. This one guy sits down next to me, says his name is Larry and asks me why I am here today?

He is a thin man, looked like a typical professional, wearing a white shirt with thin, vertical, blue stripes, gray slacks and a red bow tie. My first thought that maybe he is another accountant looking to pick up some work.

So I show him my letter and after he reads it, he offers to take care of it for about $100 cash but, he says, if it ever goes to court he can not defend me.

Hey, what is another Ben Franklin compared to a 18K write off loss.

About 30 minutes later, I get called into the examiner's office. Low and behold, sitting behind a desk is the same Larry, the red bow tied accountant. He explains that he is a avid horse enthusiast and his family has been involved in the pari-mutual betting business his whole life.

You know what? He did my taxes for years at a nominal charge until he retired. I often met him at the race track where we discussed horses and betting.

Which only proves a smile and taking a chance can turn out well, and that no one can predict the future.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Worry Wart

By Johna Ferguson

Recently, the woman who lives across the hall from me in the retirement home had her room fumigated again for bed bugs. She couldn’t enter her room from early morning until 5PM.

I don’t know where she went; maybe shopping for new things she might have to replace. Whatever, I felt sorry for her but I didn’t think anymore about it. That is until the next night as I was going to start getting ready for bed.

Out of the corner of my eye on the air conditioner under my bedroom window, I spied what I thought was a bug. It was about a quarter of an inch long and brown colored. I went to get a Kleenex to kill it with but it scooted away so fast I couldn’t squash it.

I didn’t know what kind of bug it was but I wondered if it had come across the hall from the fumigated room and decided it had found a nice friendly home to invade.

I looked around for any others and then spied it again; it had just gone down the side of the air conditioner. Again I reached to smash it but again it was too quick for me. I guess as we get older our reflexes slow down like our minds.

I headed to the closet to get my nightie and there it was on the floor in front of my dresser. At first I thought it was a small twig but when I went to put my foot down on it, it fled away quick as lightening.

I decided I didn’t want to get into my bed with that thing around, so I went down to the main desk. Incidentally it was 9:30PM.

Young Chris was on duty and Lawrence was talking to him. I explained my problem and asked if I could sleep in a guest room but they said they didn’t have the right to grant that wish. Instead, Lawrence said he would come up and see what he could find.

He got a flashlight and up we went to my room. At that point, I was glad I hadn’t gotten into my nightie yet.

He asked about the size and color and told me it definitely wasn’t a bed bug as they were tiny, black bugs. He shone his light into every crack and crevice in my bedroom but found nothing.

Then he took my mattress off to examine under and on it, but he said no; I didn’t have bed bugs, thankfully. He told me to see if I found that one or any others to let management know.

I went to bed but slept fitfully, dreaming off and on about bugs around and crawling all over me. In the morning, I decided to check all around again but didn’t find that bug. I did however find some tiny small black dots on my marble windowsills.

I didn’t know what they were but knew I didn’t want any of them either. I put four in a paper cup with a tinfoil covering the top to take them down to the front desk to see if anyone knew what they were.

The clerk on duty looked at them and told me they were baby ants and she would notify maintenance and someone would come and look at them soon.

By then I had added a few more from the two other marble windowsills. I added them to the paper cup and only then did I discover that they had tiny wings and occasionally could fly around the cup. What could they be?

They only were on the windowsills or at least that was the only place I could find any. Whenever I saw one I kept shoving it gently into the same paper cup but always covering it with a glass coaster so none would get loose in the room.

I must admit my sleep didn’t get much better for now I have two kinds of bugs to worry about. I am hopeful now, after the weekend, someone will come look at my cup with many bugs and then do something about them. If not, I will have to ask to be moved to another room but I like mine so much, I hope that won’t happen.

Now a month later and two spray jobs, the room seems empty of those strange dwellers, whatever they were, and thankfully I am sleeping peacefully at night as I hope everyone else is on the 6th floor.

But I wonder now if I should worry about what the spray contained?


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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