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Summer Nights

Sitting on the deck tonight enjoying the cooling down of the day with Zowie and Kitty, I realized how quiet it was in the neighborhood.  I know when I take my after dinner walk, I very seldom see anyone out…oh there will be someone else walking perhaps or walking their dog…but no one sitting outside on their porches enjoying the summer.  Our neighborhood has only one household with children anymore and they aren’t even out.

Back when I was growing up, I can remember everyone would be outside after dinner.  The children would be playing and the adults would be sitting outside. Many people would go for a walk and socialize along the way chatting with their neighbors.  During the  summer there would be neighborhood block parties as well…the chance for all of the neighbors to get together.

There were no air conditioners back then nor were the tvs very interesting.  A radio could  be brought outside if a game or program to be listened to.  We kids weren’t sophisticated…we played with balls, bicycles, roller skates, jacks, jump ropes, and hopscotch.  A high point of the evening would be when the ice cream truck would pass and jingle its’ bell…if you were lucky, you had 5 cents for a popsicle that could be shared with your best friend or your sibling.   If not, well then that was ok too…you ran after it anyway.

We would have a jar to catch lightening bugs(fireflies)  and see how many you could catch before your mother called you in…and then you left them go.

When my daughter was small, there were a lot of children in the neighborhood and they were all out until dark.  We would take turns for where the children would be and have popsicles as a treat when they got overheated.

Yes, it’s quiet in my neighborhood.  The neighbors are inside with their air-conditioners on, tv, computers, etc.  Every once in a while you hear their dogs are out barking and then it gets quiet again.  I relish the quiet time…my thinking time, my remembering time.

til next time…Eva

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Memorial Day

Mr. B  is my Monday client every other week.  When I arrive at 9, he is waiting with a cup of coffee for both of us and we have a chinwag for at least 1/2 hour…most times it’s close to an hour.  I always know when he hasn’t had any company over the weekend cause then he really needs to talk.

On Friday I called him to find out about Monday…it being Memorial day.  The response, “Are you coming?  Good.  I’ll have the coffee ready!  The parade starts at 9, so try to get here a little earlier.”

There was no traffic whatsoever this morning…I have never gotten there in so short a period of time.  He and Fred(his daughter’s black cocker spaniel) were sitting outside on the porch when I arrived.  “It’s almost ready to start…have a seat.”  First was a car with veterans from several wars, then the local High School majorettes, the baton twirlers, and the cheerleaders.  The High School band followed(and were quite good, I might add).  A car with the mayor was followed by several groups of Little League.  A local brass band(about 10 in that).  Two fire trucks.  And anyone who felt like carrying flags and walking in the parade.  Done.  All of five minutes.  “That was a nice one this year,” Mr. B remarked.  “Let’s now go in for our coffee.”

I remember when I was in Elementary School.  It was mandatory that we would meet at the school(preferably with a bouquet of flowers of some sort).  All of the classes would walk in line, two by two, behind their teacher up to the local cemetery.  There we would listen to the taps, listen to a small speech, say the pledge of allegiance, sing the national anthem and proceed to put flags and flowers down on the graves.  Get in line again, walk behind our teachers two by two back to the school.  There we would have a recess and then dismissed to go home.

Back then, we still had school in June.  Now, in my area, the kids are already finished school and on vacation.  Graduation is over.  For us, it was a meaningful holiday.  It was still close to World War II.  Our parents and grandparents had lived through it(and some of our siblings). Heroic acts that they  didn’t talk about and we didn’t find out about until after they had passed.  They were quiet because during the war they had to be…opening their mouths could mean someone might die.

I lived in a  neighborhood where many Jewish people lived  and went to basically a Jewish school…we knew people who had been in concentration camps and who had tattoos of numbers on their arms.   We were not allowed to forget the sacrifices that were made and the pain that was suffered.

Memorial Day was a holy holiday.  Not just a day off.  A day of remembrance, of bestowing honor to everyone responsible for our freedom.  Remembering what did happen and making a promise that it won’t happen again.

til next time…Eva

 

 

 

The Times of Your Life

March 8, 2016 012photo by Eva 2016

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) US president, lawyer

Another saying we’ve all seen is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths your take but by the moments that take your breath away.”  I know that for most people, they automatically think of the “BIG” moments in their lives…the moments that we generally have photographs of(well, I must say that with today’s technology, people are taking pictures of a lot more moments…).

If you have read any of the Law of Attraction materials or positive thinking, one of the techniques used to raise your vibrational levels is thinking of something that makes you happy for at least  17 seconds or longer and it should most times lift you from it. Think of those times of reading/listening to the news(and incidentally, bad news is what sells), being around negative or toxic people(co-workers, clients, family members, etc.), receiving an unexpected bill or expense…all can start your negative thoughts…and it’s unfortunate, but one bad thought usually leads to another one until gradually you are unable to focus on any joy at all.

“That’s what one small negative thought can turn into: a huge, speeding ball of ugliness.  On the contrary, a small positive thought can have the same effect blooming into a beautiful outcome.”  Michelle Uy

“”See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” Dala Lama

I challenge you to turn that negativity around.  How?  Simply by sitting somewhere where you can be undisturbed for a while, have a cup of coffee/tea/or whatever you enjoy, maybe some soft music playing in the background… and then have a notebook and pen.  Start remembering all of the times in your life that have given you joy.  Those moments that “took your breath away”.  Some of them will probably be very private and others are the type you have photographs of.

I did this a while ago and just came across my list today…as I read over them, that precious memory flooded my senses and I found myself smiling.  I’m thinking about getting myself a small book and writing down one precious memory per page…so on times I need to be lifted up, I can just read them…my “Happy Book”.

If you are having trouble with this, start with the BIG times…the weddings/births/vacations/, etc.  Keep this notebook handy and over time you will start to remember the small times…those small joys you had in your childhood(what did you enjoy doing?  Who were your favorite people?  Favorite pets?  Times in school?  Summer?  Winter?  Holidays?  Birthdays?  Hobbies?  Trips?  Foods?)

As you progress to adulthood joys, many of the same hold true…family, friends, pets, work, leisure, interests, romance, spirituality, etc.

When I was doing my childhood years, these are a few I came up with:

a. Coming downstairs in the dark towards the bakery…filled with warmth, lights, the      sound of country music from the radio, the smell of bread, and my Dad always so happy to see me.

b. Sitting on the steps, halfway up and halfway down, in the dark, with the light below me of the store…waiting for closing time so that my parents would come up and we would have dinner.

c. Eating a juicy peach…with the juice running down my chin.

d. Watching my mother at breakfast time, getting a fresh baked hard roll, smelling it appreciatively and giving it a kiss…before slicing it and putting butter and jelly on it.

e. When my aunt’s cat Spotty would have another litter of kittens…and I could go over and play with them(one time my aunt sent me home with a basket filled with these adorable kittens…and I was sent right back with them, ha ha!)

f. Riding my bicycle down at the shore along the bay side every morning…to get milk, the newspaper and some breakfast food. (We were down in Strathmere, NJ for three fabulous months in our small Shasta travel trailer because the street we lived in was being totally repaired and the bakery had to be closed.  Visualize 6 people in a small travel trailer for 3 months!)

I sincerely hope you will give yourself this gift…a gift of remembering the happy/good times of your life and that you will let me know how it worked for you.  Please share one of yours!

til next time…Eva

 

 

The Sticky Bun and Shoo Fly Game

I had been working with a new client for the past two months on a temporary basis until her person came back from a back operation.  Thinking I had longer than two months, I received notification two days ago that yesterday was going to be my last day.  As a treat, she gave me sticky buns to take home.

If you are from Pennsylvania Dutch Country, you definitely know two items…Sticky Buns and Shoo Fly Pie.  Both are deathly sweet confections and made from syrup.  Being baker’s kids, my brother and I both were literally raised on sticky buns and shoo fly pies.  After school, my brother and I were allowed to have an after school snack of something in the store…my brother’s all time favorite were the sticky buns with pecans on top.  The sticky buns my dad made were in a pan of 12…three in a row…and they were sold in sections of 3, 6, 9 or the whole pan.  My brother would get three as his snack.

If you aren’t familiar with sticky buns, here is a crash course.  A sweet dough was rolled thin and a mixture of butter, brown sugar and spices(cinnamon) was mixed together and spread on the dough.  If there were to be raisins, then they were added as well.  This was then rolled up like a jelly roll and then sliced, placed in a baking pan(Dad’s sticky bun pans were three pans connected to each other) and twelve pieces were set into four rows. If you think of the sticky buns almost set up like an upside down cake, you will have the right idea.  The bottom of the pan had a mixture of butter, brown sugar, syrup and cinnamon along with any pecans/walnuts, etc.  There are many recipes online…here is one of them from Lancaster, PA.

http://lancasteronline.com/features/food/sticky-bun-recipes/article_24cbbfe5-ee51-5223-824b-6483e6f323ef.html

Well, anyway, I brought the sticky buns home and straightaway had to play the “sticky bun game”…it’s a game my brother and I have played for years…to see if anyone can come close to making sticky buns or shoo fly the way our dad could.

Cut a piece, gave hubby half.  Now for the serious part…close my eyes and really taste…dough was ok, not enough spices though.  The sticky was pretty good…it wasn’t like a lot of them where they skimped on the sticky…or they over embellished the sticky…   I’d give them a 6.  Hubby decided at this point he wanted to play the game too…and I politely told him, there are only two people who can play this game…my brother and I…(my cousins could too cause they know the sticky buns well…)

I finished my piece and since I have not been eating much sugar the past year, I realized that I can’t eat sweet foods much anymore..  But that doesn’t mean I still won’t play the game…

Asked Hubby if he wanted anymore and receiving a negative answer, decided the rest were  going over to my neighbor…otherwise if I had to freeze them I would defrost and eat more at a later date…

My brother and I have still not found a close contender for the shoo fly pie…so the game continues…

til next time…Eva

The MS Gripsholm

My neighbor has been preparing for her upcoming cruise for months now.  Her son is graduating soon with his doctorate in Marine Biology and the entire family is going on this cruise as his graduation present.

Tonight she was showing me an online video about this particular cruise ship and as I sat there watching it, I felt overwhelmed with the sheer massiveness of it all!  I believe the number of guests numbered up to 3,600 people, many restaurants, a promenade of shops, casino, lounges and bars, children’s areas, teen areas, pool upon pool, gym, spas, etc.  She has been so excited about this for so long and as I watched this, I knew this was not the way I would want to spend my hard earned vacation…trapped in a ship with all of those people…

It brought my thoughts back to the year I was 15(I am not going to tell you what year that was. 🙂 )  Back then, there were still ships that would leave from New York and cross the Atlantic  to Europe.  We took the Swedish ship the MS Gripsholm from New York Harbor to Copenhagen…it went from Copenhagen to Stockholm, its’ home port.

My parents were exhausted that year and thought if we went by ship both ways, they would get a rest before getting together with the family in Denmark.  The journey was 10 days each way.

When I compare the Gripsholm with the cruise ship I watched today, so many differences jumped out at me.  The Gripsholm was greatly smaller.  I remember there was only one deck with no passengers living in it and that was where all of the activities were…dining room, library, movie theater, lounge, showroom.  There was a sauna and a gym downstairs.

The price of the trip depended on which deck you were on.  The lowest deck was the cheapest one and that was also where the boiler was and the machinery…it smelled of oil down there and I remember going down there to visit a friend I had met on board and getting sick of the smell.  We were on one of the middle decks and at least had a porthole to look out of.  The rooms for the most part were on the small side.

There were two seatings for each meal at the dining hall. 6 people per table and you were assigned a table.  Being 15, I had visions of a 17 year old boy(and handsome too, I might add) and his parents joining us and I would have the summer of my dreams…  What really happened was we were joined by Rudy, Frances and Viola.  They consisted of a middle aged newly married couple and his sister…coming from Illinois and traveling to Sweden to visit long lost relatives.  After I got over my intense disappointment, I enjoyed this trio immensely.  They owned a large farm and this was the first time they had ever been away for a vacation.   Rudy was very suspicious of much of the food and in order for him to at least try it, both his wife and sister would say, “Try it Rudy, It’s good for you!”     My parents and I were so amused by this that for many years afterwards, all we would have to say at the dinner table was “Try it Rudy, It’s good for you!” and start laughing.

Seeing all of the activities available on that cruise ship, it reminded me of what the Gripsholm had…if my memory serves me correctly, there was a movie theater, library, game room(there were tables there and they could play cards there…bridge basically), ping pong( I must remark here that I actually won a prize in the ping pong tournament…a small vase with the MS Gripsholm logo on it), shuffleboard, indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, and a playroom for the children filled with games and toys. No computers, no telephones.

Every morning you would receive a printed list of what was going on that day…menu, activities(exercises on deck, various instruction(I remember them doing shooting of clay plates), fashion shows of the clothing that was in the single shop on board, lectures the movies of the day, any shows that day, and all the times of the snacks…mid morning, mid afternoon, mid evening, and midnight.  Trust me, I hit them all!

I found other kids to hang around with but it was the summer I wished I were 17 in the worst way…most of the teens were 17 and on their way to Sweden for a year of school.  I just didn’t fit in.  I found a sweet little 4 year old who I spent a lot of time with(Annie) and by the end of the trip, little Annie didn’t want to let me go.  I know her parents were so grateful I spent time with her.

The stewards were all Swedish and one I remember particularly was “Lars”.  All of the teenaged girls had a crush on him and he lapped it all up.  Tall, blond hair and handsome.  After one of the of the dinners, all of the stewards sang the Gripsholm Song…and after all of these years, I still remember it…

“Of all the ships that sail the sea, the one for me, is the Gripsholm

More than just an ocean liner, Not a ship is built that finer!

We play, we sing, we dance, we dine with a glass of wine and a girl.

So lets all skol with one more skol to the great Gripsholm!”

You know, my neighbor can have her fancy cruise ship with all of the bells and whistles…I feel privileged to have experienced the Gripsholm!

til next time…Eva

Valentines Day

003aPhotograph by Eva, 2015

Valentines Day in Elementary school in the 1950s and early 60s was always a day of great anticipation during the dreary days in early February.  Now, back then, we always celebrated Lincoln’s birthday on the 12th of February and Washington’s on the 22nd…now that has been mashed together into one “Presidents’ Day” holiday…seemingly honoring all presidents.

Early in February, one of the art projects was to decorate the Valentines Box.  The teacher would wrap a large box in white paper and give us the assignment to make and decorate hearts that would be plastered all over the box, the windows and the room.  There seemed to be cupids and hearts everywhere!

Once the box was completed and placed in a special part of the room, we could then bring our Valentines in.  There was a special time of the day when the teacher would ask if anyone had Valentines to put into the box…and if you did, you’d walk up proudly and stick them in as slowly as you could get away with to savor that moment.

On the home front, we selected our Valentines usually at the 5 and 10 cent store downtown and painstakingly write our name on them all, fold them up and choose who was getting which Valentine.

We were also responsible to bring along something for the party afterwards.  My Dad usually made me heart cookies or cupcakes to take along, another classmate’s Dad owned a potato chip company so we always had potato chips, and the other items varied…ice cream in small paper cups, pretzels and usually small treat bags to take home of the candy that the others had brought.

Then the anticipation of getting the Valentines!  Back then, it wasn’t mandatory that you gave a Valentine to everyone.  I always did because my mother knew how many kids and watched me write all their names down :).  My classmates and I were basically the same group from Kindergarten through 5th grade…so we knew each other very well.

You would sit there at your desk with your hands folded with high expectations  as the cards were being delivered.  And we would wait until all of the cards had been distributed and open them all together.  As happened every year, the popular kids had a huge pile and there was always one or two who got very few.(much like Charlie Brown).  The teacher always made it up to the kids who didn’t get many by giving them the coveted chores for a while.

Wishing you a Happy Valentines Day!

til next time…Eva

The Piano

The year my brother graduated from High School, he opted to go to Denmark for a year before going to college(he was four when he and my parents emigrated to the US) so that he could develop his sense of the Danish language as well as being with our remaining family members over there(grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins).

I was 8 at the time and I remember that year as being difficult for all of us left at home.  In a way, it was like being an only child that year…kind of the calm before the storm.(after he came home, went to college and got married and two children after that…)

It was decided that I was going to take piano lessons and I would have a half hour lesson every week at the Braun School of Music in town…an imposing white Southern Style Mansion with massive marble pillars out front.  My teacher was Miss Stephens…she was always dressed in  high necked black dresses, hair pulled back in a severe bun and cats’ eyes glasses.  Always equipped with a ruler.  Her voice was high pitched and her mood(and pitch of her voice)  depended on the student she’d had before me(I often felt sorry for the student after me!).

I must be honest, I was no musical prodigy.  To be really honest, I still don’t understand why my parents had this fixation that I needed to learn piano…I was severely hard of hearing.  What I would have really enjoyed to do was take dancing lessons or art lessons. ( I think about it now and wonder if my godmother was behind all of this because she was an accomplished pianist and singer…)

I could not read music very well…ok, I couldn’t read music to save my life back then….  I memorized all of the drills and my mother would go over all of the new music with me…what she didn’t know was that I’d memorize it.

I would go for my lesson and Miss Stephens would stand and watch if my fingers hit the wrong notes…she’d whack them with the ruler…being hit with a ruler became more and more painful during the lesson.

There would be a recital every year…I don’t remember having more than one recital…all I remember was how nervous I was…and I remember really messing up my piece, I can still remember looking over at my mother and seeing her pained expression while still trying to smile…

In later years, I tried again.  In High School I took lessons from a band leader and learned chords.  Later still, I decided I was going to practice the classics on my own and the metronome.  I still have the piano but haven’t played it in years.  Maybe its time to give it to someone who honestly has the talent and desire to put it to good use and I can finally bid these old ghosts farewell.

til next time…Eva