An Award Winning Post

Thank you Bryan, of Can Bryan Write? for nominating me for this Most Influential Blogger award and for giving me the opportunity to pass it on to some whose words or whose talents have impacted me — my moods, my thoughts, my opinions and/or my writing and presentation.

Our dogs brought us together, and I am so glad they did.  I had a wonderful time in his thoughts, poetry, and images.

I try to write for myself, not thinking about visits, likes, and comments, but I have to admit, your acknowledgement, my first award, means a lot to me.

Visit Bryan at http://bryangoffe.com. My journey through his blog and the wordpress world that his nomination has led me to has been illuminating.

most-influential-blogger

Here is how the award works

1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment.
5. Answer each of the 10 questions that your awarder asked, and then write 10 for your awardees or use the same ones up to you. OR
6.  As stolen from memyselfandela, make it simple, just nominate 10 people who have influenced you with their blog, OR
7. Accept the nomination with grace, and go on with your writing.

Requirements for the award include the listing of favorites in specific catalgories

Today’s favorites are:

Season – fall, because that’s where we are now
Singer – Joni Mitchell
Music — jazz
Author – Byrd Baylor
Charity – BMTInfonet
Television show – no TV, I’m a Netflix junkie
Drink – Water, sparkling and from the well

Other questions on the requirements

What room in your house would you renovate?
Just finished an addition, but I’d love to make my basement more friendly
Would you rather watch TV or read for relaxation?
Read
Do you own a laptop, PC, etc?
Laptop, tablet, old fashioned flip phone

My choices for Most Influential Blogger are

seaandskyny.comhe presents his work so that all can understand it, and because he showed me that there is well-researched information on the internet.
myvoyagethroughtime.wordpress.comshe keeps me in the loop on archival affairs
mselenalevontraveling.comher blog pushed me to try adding photographs
persephonesstepsisters.wordpress.comshe validated my bluestocking past
vienaqui.com, and
shawnbird.comthey are Award Free Blogs and I’ve got to consider this
diplomaticdog.wordpress.com, and
wendyquinn.wordpress.com one and the same person, who has validated the energy and time that I have put into my writing, and introduced me to great humorists womenshockeyjournal.wordpress.comshe has this very specific passion she writes about and gives us no inkling of who she is. I’d like to be able to write without using the word “I”.
bryangoffe.com — his nomination initiated this entire exploration

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Thanks again Bryan. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated. Best to you with your mid-life exploration.

Christmas 2012

One night mid-December dinner was meatballs and spaghetti a la Otto’s. My noodle man Lee had been looking for meatballs to satisfy my craving at our favorite grocers. I can’t remember where the craving came from.  We have been watching a lot of Fellini.  Does Marcello’s father eat spaghetti and meatballs in La Dolce Vita?  Lee’s noodles are so good that I often tell him he should open Lo Fan’s Noodle House and finally bring a great Chinese restaurant to the Hudson Valley.  But “meatballs and spaghetti” is not really his thing.  He was also a little turned off because he had just read an article on the unsanitary – disgusting is a better word — conditions surrounding our meatballs on their way to the grocer’s meat counter – any grocer’s meat counter, not Otto’s in particular.  We still ate the meatballs but he has given up his search for tasty ones.  Maybe the craving will come back and I’ll start trying to concoct that meatball of my dreams.

My office is so crammed with stuff we piled into it because of the construction going on at our house, that I moved gift wrapping downstairs to the living room.  After dinner I picked up where I had left off the evening before.

Lee was at the piano and he sounded good.  He was playing Maria – and I realized he had discovered how to separate his two hands and play a single note in the right and accompaniment in the left – something he has been trying to accomplish for a while.  Lee is a self-taught piano player – he needs to reinvent piano theory on his own in order to understand it.  It takes time, but he does it.  While at first it frustrated me, I now admire him for his persistence and success.

The boys and I were celebrating Christmas/Chanukah on the ninth night of Chanukah.  The date is never as important to us as is the occasion.

But it was Christmas that was on my mind as I wrapped presents.  Our Ch/Ch (pronounced chichi) gathering, was also the negative tenth day of Christmas.  Usually wrapping presents brings on conflict of a sort.  I enjoy wrapping presents, although, as my father used to say, not too much: it goes on too long, or there’s not enough scotch tape, or I worry if I’ve overdone, favored one son, or . . .

This year though something was different.  I was having fun wrapping; there was a little scenario unfolding.   I always use posters saved from our children’s bookstore for wrapping paper.  It is getting harder and hard to cut up these posters as I am getting further and further into the collection and pretty soon only my very, very favorites and the signed ones will be left.  I selected the posters so that each package had a full picture on the front – that was something new.

IMG_0704The leftover gift-wrap paper from the store which reads “the most important twenty minutes of your day” is always my choice for wrapping books.   We read together every morning from when my children were babies until they went to school, and then every evening before going to bed.  This year I actually stretched and chose books and other gifts for them on my own, not from their wish list.  This made me feel good about myself as I must be feeling more confident.  I think they liked them, although they are much too kind to their mother to ever say “What were you ever thinking, mom?”  They always choose books for me in return.

I used red rosin paper left over from laying the floors in the addition.  The paper folds so beautifully.  It was a delight to work with, so my pleasure was not only emotional and intellectual, it was also physical

IMG_0701All the gifts to girls had angel tags, and all those to the boys had stars. (Oh my goodness.  Did I really say girls and boys and not women and men?!)   The tags were also left over from the “Giving Tree” that we used to have in the store.  In the past I chose my tags according to color, or if the presents were from Santa, or Mrs. Claus (she always gave the clothes — a tradition carried on from Nanny), or from Mom and Dad, or just one of us, or by how many words I could fit on them, or – you really don’t want to hear any more.  But I’d love to tell you the story about the snowman bags.

I had already been wrapping presents for three nights.  No rushing, everything was well paced.

Being at ease in the living room was a new sensation.  The room had never worked for me.  At Thanksgiving Morgan and I repositioned some of the furniture and that helped. The fireplace always smelled, and above the fireplace is an empty cabinet built for a large flat-screen TV.  That’s another story, which I will spare you, at least for now.  It’s no matter because once television became hi-tech and the news became gossip, TV failed to interest me any more.  And TV is something I always watched in bed, not with guests in the living room.

The fireplace is gas and an ugly one at that.  It was necessary to turn the gas and the fans on full blast to avoid the stench, which meant that it was only on during power outages.  The man where we bought our little gas stove for the tower suggested I take the whole fireplace apart and clean it well.  That helped too.  He also wanted me to remove the firebox completely and get the dust out from behind, but enough is enough.

The living room is starting to be a good space.

IMG_0695Our Ch/Ch gathering was very warm and we didn’t leave until much too late.  Alex and Morgan’s new girlfriends were there and I hoped we did not overwhelm them, or even worse, frighten them away.  When Morgan wrote and told me that he thought “the Ch/Ch that Alex and Sam hosted was wonderful,” I decided we had all done good.

Lee and I went out to a romantic early dinner at Ship to Shore in Kingston two nights before Christmas.  When the food is good (it doesn’t have to even be great) and I can use my fingers to eat, the restaurant is quiet, it has a bit of elegance without pomp, the waiters are polished, personal and yet keep their distance, and we are happy, I consider the dinner romantic.  The waiter asked us if we were all done with our Christmas shopping.  (Perhaps we looked as relaxed as we were.)  There are gifts that the elves didn’t finish on time and there are two in the freezer that I forgot when loading up our sleigh to Brooklyn.  But we were not only done with our shopping, we were done with Christmas and all I had were happy memories.

Perhaps I had none of my usual Christmas angst because there are now so many people speaking out:  we are not a Christian country; there should be real separation between church and state; God does not belong in school, on the dollar bill, or in party platforms.  It was such a breath of fresh air to learn that the Democrats left God out, and such a disappointment to see God put in.  There is even a growing movement ridiculing the so-called War On Christmas.

Last night, Christmas Eve, I worried a little.  Were Morgan and Alex enjoying Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?  Did they and I over-react to my last year’s rant by hardly mentioning the word?  I hope they are enjoying themselves with friends and that we can look forward to many more Merry Christmases together in the future.

My Mast Hoop

There is always something new to learn.

Yesterday I attended half of a workshop on making mast hoops at the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society in Hudson, New York.  We built a steam box, cut the jigs, sliced and planed the strips for the hoops, placed them in the box and broke for lunch.

Is this called a J spike?

Is this called a J spike?

I stayed to help sweep up the sawdust and listen to the director of the group speak with the press, and then left.  As we crossed paths at the door Casson Kennedy, the workshop leader and chief builder on the Eleanor restoration project said:  “Oh, the best is yet to come,” and I’m sure he was right.  It would have been a hoot to actually curl one of the strips round the jib, clamp it, and take it home to dry. The hoop would settle into its proper place among my other prized possessions, maybe next to my J spike.   Perhaps I should keep my J spike a secret. Two men in Natick, MA were arrested for gathering railroad debris.

But I had tons of things to do yesterday, one of which was to write about my mast hoop experience while I was still excited about it and before it melted into the blur of all the other stories I compose in my head on the spot but never make it to paper.

The original mast hoops

There was a group of volunteers helping to make the hoops, most of them regulars who work on restoring the Eleanor — woodworkers, carpenters, sailors, and some of them, like me, the curious.  There was one school age boy getting great hands-on experience with power tools and the power of collaboration.

I mentioned the workshop to Don, one of my neighbors who is always building something – bookshelves, shoji screens, stone walks, steps and walls, other interesting projects that Adrienne conceptualizes.  He was at the table saw when I arrived.  We spoke during a down time and he told me has fantasized about building a small motored boat that would fit under the railroad trestle that separates a tidal cove from the Hudson behind his house.  This may have been the little push he needed to do just that.  And Louise may have a new member and volunteer to help rebuild the Eleanor.   I hope so.

Louise Bliss is the head of this group.  She is a competent and energetic dynamo.  She has the necessary ingredients to get people enthused to donate time or money.  She makes everyone vital to the project.  Some of us do not suffer fools.  Louise knows no fools.  She discovers talents in the people around her and encourages them to make use of them.  Everyone benefits.  Everyone is happy.

Louise’s new initiative is to try to organize a wine and cheese of all the organizations that rent space at Grossinger Management Building 1, where the restoration work is taking place.  It’s a large drab warehouse – a former furniture factory.  There is a lot going on inside though.  The boat that takes passengers from Hudson to the Athens Lighthouse spends the winter next to Eleanor.  Nearby is the shop of a reclaimed wood furniture maker.  Louise thinks other tenants include a welder and a gym. Whenever I’ve been to the cavernous space, it is dark and and does not invite exploring.

The night before the workshop I eavesdropped on a business meeting of 12526.com, which functions as Germantown’s unofficial chamber of commerce.  It was nice to learn what’s going on in my town and what is available locally.  It would also be nice to know who shares Eleanor’s home and hear their stories.

When I lived in New Hampshire I used to run out to the barn to use the table saw to cut up scrap wood for kindling in order to get the stove going before the sun went down.  Occasionally I would cut a piece for some emergency repair.  I missed my saw terribly when I moved to my small house in the Hudson Valley and had to leave most of the barn treasures behind.  The saw and the tractor made me feel very independent.  Now, with my addition going up there are saws and power tools of all kinds lying around but I have been hesitant to use them.  I Eleanorhave no real need first of all, but also there are too many projects in progress that I could mess up, and there are too many people around to watch me do things in my own clumsy way.

Before the workshop I fretted about about my lack of carpentry skills. In spite of my lack of confidence  people at the workshop encouraged me to lend a hand.  I am so thankful.  Because of them, in the future when the Eleanor sails past, I will be able to claim some ownership.  Louise said she would try to make an extra hoop for me, but this morning’s article in the Register-Star doesn’t give me faith that she could do that.   I’ll have to get the full story.

A Sea Worthy Cause

The next best thing to owning your own sailboat is having friends who do.  On second thought, I think I have that backwards.

If you dream of sailing along the Hudson on a handsomely restored wooden sailing vessel of the early 1900’s, here’s a chance to make that dream come true.

The Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration and Sailing Society is restoring Eleanor, the last surviving example of a “raceabout” that sailed on the Hudson during the early 1900’s.  She was the inspiration of naval architect Clinton Crane, and now is the inspiration of a corps of sailors, craftsmen, preservationists, and dreamers like you and me, who will bring her back from bare bones and have her once again on the water.

Why do I care?

Sailboats are special.

Old sailboats are very special.

The craftsmanship that goes into restoring an old wooden sailboat is even more special.

There are treasures from the past – both tangible and intangible – that should be preserved for the future.

Please take the time to watch the video about this American historical watermark and help hoist a sail.

Dad on Mother’s Day

We did good —
he whispers to me,
out of sight and hearing from the others
at our Mothers Day dinner —
but who is that sitting next to you?

Oh honey, I’m so glad you’re here –
I smile back.

They are young men with lives —
he continues —
and they love you.

Stay, will you, so we can talk later?
And can you talk to them too?

I don’t know how —
he answers after a while —
Did I ever know how?

And I try to remember
what we spoke of back then.
The four of us at the table.
The two of us in bed.

My Teeth and Me

Recently I had a small space at the gumline of a tooth filled.  My dentist called it a cavity.  I always have thought cavity = decay.  But really cavity = hole.  He’s a very intense dentist and very likable. I go for two check-ups a year and he put on a crown so that was a few more visits.  At most we’ve been in each others faces ten times..

During one of the crown work visits Dr. Dentico (and I am not making that up) had a conversation with his assistant.  They spoke about a new machine he had ordered.  It would allow him to make his own crowns.  I had never heard a dentist talk about his work before, and was tickled by his effervescent enthusiasm.   He couldn’t wait to get this new machine.  I left disappointed that I wouldn’t have one of his first home-made crowns, and glad that I had discovered a very dedicated dentist who enjoyed his work.

Most dentists are pretty adamant about Novacaine shots before they do work.   I prefer to wince, and from the first of my visits made the point known.  He doesn’t like the idea. This visit tho, when he was telling his assistant to get the needle ready, he readily agreed to my request.  I was more fearful of wincing and upsetting him than of the pain.  There was no pain.  There hardly ever is.  Why do dentists give Novocain, or perhaps it is a different drug now?   Please don’t tell me it is corporate greed.

I’ve had two sets of braces, the second just 10 – 15 years ago.  My poor husband had to kiss me with braces (ick) for two and a half years.  It was a hard decision to make.  My teeth were very jumbly and I was very self-conscious and wouldn’t give a toothy smile for the camera.  Still I pride myself on taking things as they come, and wouldn’t consider going through the discomfort and display of braces again just for cosmetic purposes.

One day I realized I did not know how to close my jaw.  Studying my teeth I saw that they did not line up, they were crushed forward.  I had known that for a long time, but now realized that my entire jaw had to twist in order to bite, and no bite was comfortable.  I had been complaining of shoulder, back, neck, and jaw pain for years.  My bite was the problem and now there was a solution.

I went to an orthodontist.  He insisted I got to a periodontist, a sadist with witches for technicians.  Periodontal surgery is terrible — don’t ever go voluntarily.  Then months of  being wired.  Going to the orthodontist’s office made me feel very young — a little out of place, but young.

After my first obligatory set at age 13, my orthodontist talked about retainers, but I didn’t get them. My mom said enough with the braces, but I could be making that up.

At the end of my adult “orthodontury” I received a set of retainers.  Ten years later, I still wear them, no longer every night since I have a new love life, but pretty regularly  My orthodontist thinks I’m nutsy. .  (I’ve had to go back to Massachusetts to have him fix the lower retainer twice.)

Dr. Dentico also thinks I am a bit odd to be wearing them.  What was so fascinating was that he asked me why I don’t wear them every night now.

I don’t know.

Do you miss them if you don’t wear them?

Yes, I wake up and toss and turn for a while, then realize I’m not wearing my retainers, put them in, and immediately fall asleep.

He was very interested in this, and thanked me for sharing.  I wonder if he had gone through a similar experience.  It was like he was doing research on the subject.

That evening the sunset was candy-striped pinks with white.  By the time I found my camera the pinks had faded away and I have no photo for this post. I could look for the before and after pictures of my orthodonture work but think I’ll let that pass.

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Afterword/ 5/28/2013

I know it is a far stretch to compare Dr. Dentico to Dr. Stephen Zeitels, the founder and director of MassGeneral’s Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation, but I can compare my enthusiasm for my dentist to Julie Andrews’ for her voice specialist.  She has been attributed with saying that his “compulsive enthusiasm for his field . . . lends him a Peter Pan quality.”

Thank you John Colapinto!  Giving Voice:  A surgeon pioneers methods to help singers singer again, The New Yorker, March 4, 2013

Brothers-in-Law

My dad David and Uncles Eddie and Elliot home on leave, 9/5/1943

Several years ago my basement flooded and many of the family treasures were lost or damaged.  The days of sifting through papers were bittersweet.  My twenty-something boys came up for a long weekend to go through the boxes I had marked as “Morgan’s Life” and “Alex’s Life.” They contained drawings, writings, school papers, letters, whatever I thought precious enough to save for them when they grew up.  It was a sad and joyful weekend of hard work — emotionally and physically. My sons were amazed at how clever they were as little boys!  They told me they would love to go through the papers again, but not until the next flood.

Here’s a gem I found among my father’s papers.  It’s an undated letter from my mother’s sister’s boyfriend to my father during the war.  My mom and dad are Mil and David.  Her sisters and their beaus are Thelma and Eddie and Shirley and Elliot.  The little girl is my older sister.

______________________________________________________

Hi ya fella,

I hope this finds you well.  I am alive.

Hey, don’t call me those names.  I’m lucky if I can write a note home now and then, beside the fact that we are now not allowed to say anything.  We are busy — to make a terrific understatement.

I guess you must have heard of my good fortune – the thirty day leave.   It was like water to an old desert cat in a sand storm or land to a sailor in any kind of storm.  In short and to put it mildly, it was great.

A picture for daddy, 1943

Now comes the flattery. Dave, you are the luckiest guy in the world, that kid of yours is just a dream, she’s beautiful.  She’s got more sense than I have (maybe an insult but considering her age).  She’s so sweet you could just eat her up.  I spent half my time with her.  I just can’t put into words what I thought of her.  For the first time in my life I can truthfully say that I love a child. She’s not like the run of the mill.  She doesn’t cry and pout all the time or make a pest of herself.  In a nutshell, she’s wonderful.

I came home fully intending marriage in a year of receiving 20% sea duty pay and all I only saved about $250.  As you can see, that is nothing to boast of.  In the past few mos. in the Pac. I have saved easily that much.  I got 2nd class giving me $96 base pay & 20% plus $10 for extra service (running motion picture equip).  I save about $86 per month, I could do worse.  So we got engaged.  All of which leaves me very unhappy, because I have been kicking myself ever since for not getting married when I was home or not saving dough when I could, well no use crying over spilled perfume.

Elliot, Thelma, David, Shirley, Eddie, Mildred

Getting back to an interesting subject, everything at home is as well as could be.  I saw your family a few times and Doris quite a few, all fine.

Getting home to serenity and peacefulness is quite a shock though pleasant. I hope you can experience it soon.  I know that whenever Mil or Shirl looked at me they saw you & El, but it was beyond my control, though I wish it weren’t.  I probably caused them more grief than happiness by my very presence.  If so I’m sorry, but I just hope you get home first this time just to square things.

If possible let me know where you are now.  Take care of yourself,

Ed

Elliot, Eddie and David with the parents of the sisters, their loves, 9/5/1943