The Weekly Smile

School ended yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, I am an assistant teacher in a first grade class. While I was out of the room, the head teacher had the kids write down on a post it note something about me. Most wrote thank you for helping me, thank you for marking our papers, thank you for being the best assistant ever. The one that really made me smile the most was this one

Apparently I was not the only one who thought I had done a major amount of cutting this year. Funny the things that kids notice. What made you smile this week?

Song Lyric Sunday: Dance

This week the topic is Dance! I’ve chosen an old favorite of mine sung by Aztec Two Step. I started following them in 1972 and this song was on their third album released in 1976. They are still around and I saw them at a local venue a few years ago. Their upbeat folk sound and incredible guitar playing and harmonies still there. The following recording was made in 2007.

 

Father’s Day-My Father Myself

Father’s Day….. every few minutes a new post seems to pop up on Facebook or WordPress. Lovely reminiscences about fathers that are no longer here, fathers who played major roles in the lives of their children, fathers whose children are estranged from them.

My father was a complicated man; loving on one side, the other side a short fuse with a temper. Giving, but don’t cross him or his vindictive nature would come out. He could cut people off and out of his life. I share many of his traits, and often wonder if it is learned behavior or genetics, or a combination of both. He and I  became estranged for almost 14 years through my 30’s & 40’s. His doing, not mine. A new wife, a different life, his ego all contributing factors. I was glad I was old enough to understand the whys, and glad that while I was growing up he had always been there for me. I needed him less as an adult. We reconciled 4 years before he died when I found out he was sick. I thanked him before he died for playing such an instrumental part in my becoming who I was as an adult. The many good qualities I had that I knew came from his teaching.

He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and no education past high school, but succeeded in rising above it and away from it, following the lead of people willing to help him, observing people, paying attention to how they got to where they got to, and reaching those heights himself because of it. Did he have a darker side, yes, but I am happy to remember what was so wonderful about him, and understand where the darkness came from and why it was a part of him and accept it.

One of my earliest memories (I was 5) is of us going bird watching together. He was an avid bird watcher and part of a club. We would leave the house before daybreak, and meet his birding group. I remember spotting a Snowy Owl once- a major sighting! My love of nature and birds stems from those early morning trips.

He loved music and loved to sing. He had hoped to become a professional singer in his early 20’s, but real life came along and he needed to be able to make a living. His love for music was infused throughout our home-he always sang to us and for us, he played the banjo- old folk songs with verses we could all join in on.

My father recorded a few songs in a studio when he was thinking he could turn his singing into a career. The recordings were on 78 rpm records. Shortly before he died I was able to have the recordings converted to CD. I remembered hearing the recordings as a child, but had literally not heard them in 45 years. At the sound of the first note of him singing, what a rush of emotion- music or a song can always take you back to another place and time- but to hear his voice! What a gift to be able to hear that beautiful voice again.

His favorite poem was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

He read it to me many times, and always reminded me of the importance the following lines held for him.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I am thankful to have had a father that understood me, helped me to grow as a person, and who lives within in me. I feel my ability to be a good listener, to search for deeper meaning in things, comes from him. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to tell him those things before he died. I made the following photo montage with one of his recordings playing in the background, if you’d like to take a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny Gardens on a Rainy Monday

It is a dreary and cold Monday morning here. It is June but my heat has come on in the house a few times over the past week because the morning temps are so cold. Yesterday we caught the early sunshine of the day and visited a beautiful  garden on Long Island in New York. Here are some of the sights we saw that I will carry with me today as the rain is coming once again. Hope you have a sunny week!

Which Way

The Main Street Bridge in Clinton, NJ, raised in 1870, is of special significance because of its early date and unique construction. Very few of its type, made with a combination of cast and wrought iron, a method used for only about 20 years, now survive in America. Designed by Francis C. Lowthorp and fabricated by William and Charles Cowin of Lambertville, it is based on the pony truss web system patented by Caleb Pratt in 1844. It features diagonal members in tension and simple pin joints. Its long service is a testament to its soundness of design, quality construction, and care of maintenance.

The bridge is also significant for its important role in carrying the former New Jersey Turnpike across the river, allowing commerce and trade to flow in and out of town to great advantage.

Which Way

Share Your World

What is the most famous landmark or building you have ever seen?

Most famous I am not sure, but I have seen the Eiffel Tower in Paris the Colosseum in Rome, the Statue of Liberty in NY and the Empire State Building, the CN Tower in Toronto, the major Landmarks of London, Venice & Florence. I think I have seen less landmarks in the United States as I have not traveled that much here.

Do you like long vacation or lots of mini-vacations?

Mini vacations for sure. 2 days is fine with me. I consider the Sunday day trips we take mini vacations, or even 1 day at the beach. Just getting away for the day feels like a vacation to me!

What is your favorite National or State Park?

I can’t say I have a favorite, but last summer we visited Minnewaska State Park in Ulster County NY and it was beautiful. 

What is your fantasy vacation?

I don’t really have a fantasy vacation, I would love to have a house near the beach or on the beach to be able to go to for vacation time!

Share Your World

Sunday Funday

My husband and I are always looking for new places to visit on Sundays, and this week we headed out about an hour West of where we live to an art museum. The museum turned out to be very small, with a few very small exhibits. The exhibit we enjoyed most were the artworks created by local students. Some were really impressive showing a great deal of talent. Fortunately the town itself was charming and picturesque allowing us to walk the main street and browse in the shops giving us something to do as we were done in the museum in about 10 minutes. I share with you here the beautiful views we took in.

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

The Kips mansion replicates a medieval Norman castle, and was constructed over a three-year period in the early 1900’s by Frederic Ellsworth Kip. Frederic was a wealthy textile inventor and industrialist who also published several books related to United States tariff laws. The exterior of the castle is constructed of local trap rock trimmed with sandstone. The interior of the castle consists of thirty rooms of varying shapes which include vaulted ceilings and six ornate fireplaces.The building and grounds fell into a state of dilapidation until a law firm  purchased the property in 1985, attempting to restore it. The property is now part of the Park System.

Traces of the Past

 

 

The Weekly Smile

My weekly smile came yesterday as I walked through one of my favorite local places not far from my home. There were Barn Swallows swooping and darting around me, landing to pick up sticks and mud to build nests. Two Geese meandered by with their one little gosling between them. I spotted a duck I had never seen before, later looking him up and finding out he was a Common Goldeneye. Two Cormorants sat sunning themselves on a log in the river. So many smiles all at 8:30 on a warm, blue skied, Sunday morning.

What made you smile this week?

Black & White Sunday: Music

Paula has chosen Music as the theme for Black & White Sunday this week. My husband started taking piano lessons about eight years ago- he had never learned as a child. I am fortunate to listen to him practice every night, filling the house with music. Our piano technician,as they are called these days, as opposed to tuners, has become a good friend and always plays for us before he leaves. Here is a small sample of Loren’s playing along with images of him and my husband.

Music

Share Your World

How many languages do you you speak?

I only speak English. I took French in school for a few years and can still put together sentences and remember basic words. My husband and I  took Yiddish classes at the Yiddish Institute in New York City many years ago. He grew up speaking it at home, I did not. He had never learned proper grammar and sentence structure so for him it was also a learning experience. I am still able to speak a little, and understand, but not using it, you lose it. I also learned American Sign Language years ago and volunteered in a local school for the Deaf in order to use it.

I Love You in ASL

What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating?

Reading: Mostly blogs and I save up my newspapers and read them over the weekend. Watching: Just finished up the season of Billionaire on Showtime, a great series. Also watch the Real Housewives of NYC- I love to see the vacations they take and the places they live- not to mention the cat fights.

Listening to: Austin Plaine is my new favorite to listen to.

What was the last photo you took with your phone?

An Iris that I passed while on a walk-they were planted at the corner of someone’s property next to the sidewalk. Too beautiful to pass by without snapping a photo.

What is your favorite time of day?

Early morning just as the sun is rising. I love the quiet, seeing the sky change colors as dawn is breaking. That first cup of coffee. Especially at the beach.

Grateful everyday. Always.

Share Your World

Craftsman Farm-The Home of Gustav Stickley

Yesterday we visited the home of Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker in the Craftsman style during the early 1900’s. Here is some background:

Gustav Stickley made popular the Craftsman style of  furniture in the early 1900’s, a departure from ornate Victorian style. This new furniture reflected his ideals of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth to materials. Unadorned, plain surfaces were enlivened by the careful application of colorants so as not to obscure the grain of the wood and mortise and tenon joinery was exposed to emphasize the structural qualities of the works. Hammered metal hardware, in armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper emphasized the handmade qualities of furniture which was fabricated using both handworking techniques and modern woodworking machinery . His firm’s work, both nostalgic in its evocation of handicraft and the pre-industrial era and proto-modern in its functional simplicity, was popularly referred to as being in the Mission style, though Stickley despised the term as misleading. In 1903 he changed the name of his company again, to the Craftsman Workshops, and began a concerted effort to market his works — by then including furniture as well as textiles, lighting, and metalwork — as Craftsman products. Ultimately, over 100 retailers across the United States represented the Craftsman Workshops.

Those ideals – simplicity, honesty, truth – were reflected in his trademark, which includes the Flemish phrase Als Ik Kan inside a joiner’s compass. The phrase is generally translated ‘to the best of my ability.’

Stickley began to acquire property in New Jersey between 1905 and 1907, purchasing 650 acres of farmland in Morris Plains. He wanted to establish a boarding school for boys. Craftsman Farms was designed to include vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy cows and chickens. The main house there is constructed from chestnut logs and stone found on the property.

As he wrote in The Craftsman:

There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture….The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.

Although the main house at Craftsman Farms was initially conceived of as a clubhouse for students, lack of interest in the school prompted Stickley to live there with his family instead. The planned school never became a reality. By 1913, changing tastes and the financial strain of his new twelve-story Craftsman Building in Manhattan, conceived as a department store, began to take their toll; in 1915 he filed for bankruptcy, stopping publication of The Craftsman in December 1916 and selling Craftsman Farms in 1917.

All that remains is 30 acres of the original farm, highways and homes have taken over where once stood a vineyard, a pasture and fruit groves. The house that was built using chestnut logs still remains, with many of the original furnishings.

Share Your World

When you’re alone at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

I usually take my shoes off at soon as I get home. Slippers are usually what I put on, or in the summer months a pair of flip flops.

What was your favorite food when you were a child?

Macaroni and Cheese. My mother used a big green or yellow Pyrex bowl- those of a certain age will know the kind I mean, they nested one in a other and came in 5 different colors. She used elbow macaroni and made a cheese sauce which was mixed with the noodles. The best part was the bread crumb crust on the top. I don’t know what she did to make it so thick and crusty, but it was delicious. There was nothing like walking in the house after school to find that bowl cooling on the counter.

Are you a listener or talker?

I would consider myself  a listener, though I am also a talker. Wh

Favorite thing to (pick one):  Photograph?  Write? Or Cook?

My favorite thing to photograph are birds. I love capturing their beauty, especially up close where I can see the beautiful details of their colors and feathers.

What is the easiest way for your to learn something new?  By reading, by seeing and doing, in a classroom?

Seeing and doing for sure. Just reading usually doesn’t work for me.

Share Your World

A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Lose

Our Uncle Henry is 92. Up until about a year ago he was doing pretty well, a pain here, a pain there, but overall things were pretty good. Recently things have become more challenging with his moods, and for our Aunt, who is 90 but you’d never know it, life has become difficult. Their sons felt an evaluation should be made to determine the cause of his anxiety and erratic moods, and it would have to be done within a hospital setting. A psychiatric hospital. I think in some ways Uncle Henry was relieved to know they would “get to the bottom of it” he just didn’t expect it to mean he would be there for a week already, and possibly many more.

My husband and I went to visit him today. The hospital grounds were beautiful and the hallways eerily quiet and empty. We were buzzed into the unit and opposite the front desk sat about 12 people lined up in chairs, including Uncle Henry. I found it rather disconcerting, no one was doing anything, there was no TV in that area, there were no conversations going on. Everyone was just sitting. Uncle Henry saw us and called out hello, and the nurse wheeled us over to an area with tables and chairs looking out onto the grounds. He told us some of his aches and pains had improved, but then began to launch into how the place was like a prison and other complaints, some we determined to be real, some imagined. Upsetting to know that his reality was not reality- that what he was was saying was irrational and not real, but to him was very much so. We spent two hours with him during which we made an attempt to validate his feelings, and to try to steer him to a better place of understanding. He asked our Aunt when she arrived if he was allowed to tell the Doctors he wanted to leave – and would they let him, or would he be held against his will.  The truth is he could leave at anytime, but until the medication they are working to adjust to help him, begins to work, it is not a good idea. His frustration and unhappiness understandable at hearing that, but his inability to really grasp it upsetting.

My Aunt and Uncle have been married over 70 years, and it is heartbreaking for her to see him like this, to have him ask to leave but know she must go home alone. Hardest is seeing him lucid and understanding and then crossing into his own reality and not understanding. The quote attributed to Bette Davis  “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” came to mind today. It takes strength and will and sometimes giving in and going along with what is beyond our control to “fix,”  as we grow older.

Black & White Sunday: Imperfect

This week Paula says: You must have in your archives a photo that you consider imperfect, but you love it anyway, or the photo maybe perfect, but the subject is not? Whichever the case, how do you feel about sharing some imperfection for this challenge?

Tree Swallows are constantly in motion, occasionally landing long enough to capture. These 3 were still but by the time I attempted to focus, 2 had taken flight and the 3rd was about to. When I uploaded the photo I didn’t care that it was blurry, it reminded me of that moment and I still liked it. Imperfect, but okay.

Imperfect

Five Things-A Reblog from The Off Key Of Life

I am sharing the following post  written by my friend George, who writes a wonderful blog called The Off Key Of Life

In his words:

Five Things

He also speaks about a palliative care nurse by the name of Bonnie Ware who works with people every day who are usually three to twelve months from dying.

According to Dr. Bradberry, Bonnie has made a habit of asking her patients, during their conversations, if they had any real regrets in life. The following five responses made the list every time.

** They wish they hadn’t made decisions based on what other people think.
They realized when they lived life for others, they either made poor career choices or compromised  their own morals.

** They wished they hadn’t worked so hard.
We are programmed or taught that hard work leads to certain results or rewards in life; that we are providing for our families, their futures and well-being. But balance has always been the key when it comes to how much time we spend at our jobs. When work compromises a person’s ability to communicate and connect with those we love most, then our priorities need to be reassessed. As the old saying goes, no one on their death-bed ever said, I wish I would have stayed at the office longer. 

** They wish the had expressed their feelings.
We always think we have more time to say the things we need or should say to others. When time runs out, the regret of not having said those things is sometimes difficult to accept. In the words of John Mayer, Say What You Need To Say

** They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.
With our day-to-day routines pulling us in many different directions, it’s easy to lose track of friends. Then thirty years go by and you wonder how and why it happened. Reach out.

** They wish that had let themselves be happy.
This was an interesting one for me but as I thought about it I understood why it would be there. Michael J Fox was on a magazine cover not long ago; an individual who has battled Parkinson’s disease since he was thirty years old. On the cover he was quoted as saying, Happiness Is A Decision.
He’s absolutely right. We all encounter challenges in our lives. Some more so than others. How we face those challenges and live our lives is our choice. It may not always be easy to accept or live with those challenges but our lives would be much richer and rewarding if we can allow ourselves to be happy.

Happiness is our choice.

Five things that can make a difference in each of our lives. All we need to do is listen to the suggestions of those who truly understand.