When I Was A Kid…

When I Was A Kid...

At the tender age of 23, my husband and I had a couple over for dinner—new friends. When I started to say something about my mother, the woman interrupted me: “I don’t want to hear anything else about your mother. Don’t you know that not everyone in this world loves their mother?”

I was awestruck. No, I actually did not know that. Was I fortunate or just naïve? Actually both. Somehow we got through that dinner, but from then on, I appreciated even more how awesome my mother truly was. When I was a kid, I knew that every moment of my life.

WHAT MOM GAVE ME AND I HOPE WE GAVE OUR CHILDREN

We bring with us to adulthood so many small experiences that build and make us who we are. And now as a mother of adult children and a grandmother, I want to believe that when we raised our children, we gave them a foundation to help them love life, seek knowledge, succeed with struggle, use their brains and creativity to bring joy to their lives and others’ lives—and to always know that being kind and helping people supports both the body and the soul.

And it all starts at the very beginning, it all starts with one’s early life.

SNIPPETS OF EXPERIENCE 

Below are a few snippets from mine, things that I know without question, formed who I am. I could have written pages and pages, but then none would stand out. And I tried to choose from different phases of my early life and to represent family, friends, neighborhood, church, school, social development, exposure to a world that wasn’t perfect.

Some of what I experienced was normal for the time–but should not have been. And of course my early life experience is strongly connected to time and place—in the past.

For from generation to generation we have to and learn to adapt and change. Change is not always positive—it can sometimes morph into new challenges, and the question arises—did those very early experiences prepare us for such a challenge? Yes and no.

Yet change is often totally positive and  awesome, and in the process, we learn a major lesson that we then pass on to our children. As a result, they become better people than we were.

The events below are part of who I am. They formed my initial reactions to life around me. Then I grew. Like all humans, I was a seed that sprouted and changed. But what fed me in the beginning—what awakened questions, thoughts and fears will always be a part of me. It’s in there–somewhere.

WHEN I WAS A KID

When I was a kid, I had no father. He died when I was 3; I barely remembered him.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of all dogs, didn’t know any cats and once had a turtle for a pet.

When I was a kid growing up on the southside of Chicago, the milkman and the eggman came to our back door with deliveries on a regular basis. We had a telephone and radios. We got our first television when I was in grade school.

When I was a kid, we had indoor plumbing, everyone we knew did. But one family across the street let their little boys urinate under their front porch.

When I was a kid, the lonely wail of the Rock Island train sang me to sleep on many nights.

When I was a kid, my mother typed in our dining room to pay the bills.

When I was a kid, we had borders who lived with us and paid rent—a Sioux Indian from South Dakota, two Irish nurses from County Cork and a teacher from Wisconsin—not all at the same time!

When I was a kid, I was afraid of men; I was afraid of new things. When I started Kindergarten, Mom had my friend Greg walk me every day. He was my age!

When I was a kid, I had surgery on my left eye. I was five. After that I wore glasses and I had clunky shoes, pale eyebrows and thin hair!

When I was a kid, confession on Saturdays, Latin words and hymns, the smell of incense, and booming organ music were a normal part of my life.

When I was a kid, our cleaning lady walked to our house from the bus; she changed her clothes in the basement and sat by herself at lunch. I did ask questions about this.

When I was a kid, an infrequent treat was a chocolate bakery cake that sat on a hard cardboard circle and was decorated with one hard red cherry.

When I was a kid, I had to ask my teacher how to complete a form, what to put in the blank space that read FATHER. She said curtly: put deceased. What did that mean? She didn’t even tell me how to spell it.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like Daddy-Daughter breakfasts or dances, cause I didn’t have a daddy.

When I was a kid, I was afraid to answer the telephone and even in the 3rd grade I did not know the difference between a quarter, dime and nickel. My mother taught me about coinage and made me answer the phone.

When I was a kid, our backyard felt so big my brothers and I could get lost in it. A lean-to shed, a jumble of bushes, or the space behind the garage—all made great forts.

When I was a kid, my friend Jean and I pretended her mother’s rock garden was a vat of boiling oil and we would push imaginary witches and bad people into it. Or pretend we were pushing kids we didn’t like.

When I was a kid, there was a box of pennies in a cabinet in our dining room. My mother said my dad left it for us. It never ran out of pennies.

When I was a kid, my mother let me and my brothers walk a few blocks to the candy store for penny candy. Our known world was actually small, but we felt it to be big and bright and safe.

When I was a kid, we played hopscotch, Mother May I, Freeze Tag, and Hide ‘n Seek. When adding together the children that lived in the two houses across the street from us, we had 10 children of various ages to play with.

When I was a kid, I had a green JC Higgins two-wheeler bike that I pretended was a horse. Jean and I rode around the block numerous times a day. I wore handed-down clothing, except for the dresses my aunts bought me for birthdays and Christmas.

When I was a kid, I wrote a few paragraphs about a tornado. I was in 4th grade and decided that I would become a writer. I still have that piece of paper.

When I was a kid, Bing broke his arm on our back porch, Vinnie had to go to a special Children’s Hospital, and Charlene’s parents had her taken to the local hospital’s psych ward only because she was a teenager and acting like one. True story.

When I was twelve, my mother, in a very motherly fashion, told me about sex.

When I was twelve, I took over the task of cleaning our house. Mom helped. I also planted a garden.

When I was twelve, my mother went to work downtown and my younger brother and I became latch-key kids. We walked home from school for a lunch that I made. We did fine.

When I was twelve, I noticed that my future husband lived in our neighborhood. I also was allowed to ride my bike a mile and a half to my future high school to take piano lessons. The high school girls made fun of my bike.

When I was thirteen, a girlfriend told me a joke with the f-word and I laughed but had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

And when I was teenager, life changed, opened up. I embraced high school, walking a long distance to school with friends, being exposed to new ideas, boys. I learned how to draw on my eyebrows! But everything above was still part of me. And still is.

Thanks for reading. Please share a snippet of when you were a kid. You might have a list of supportive, joyful memories and you might have a very negative one that caused you to go in a totally different direction when you were old enough to make your own choices. Joyous, sorrowful. Confusing, simple and embraceable–it is all still part of you, it’s still in there. We move on, we change, we grow. It’s life. It’s way beyond WHEN I WAS A KID.

When I Was A Kid...

Thanks, Mom.

When I Was A Kid...

Crinolines under our dresses was all the rage. That’s me, center right, in the dark dress and glasses, of course.

 

When I Was A Kid...

The 99th Street Station for the Rock Island was just a few blocks from my house.

 

 

My Once and Future Favorite Reads

My Once and Future Favorite Reads

Bookshelves with books! That’s my idea of comfort in one’s home. And on those shelves beloved oldies with worn pages, marked paragraphs, and fly-leaf notes. I don’t ever want to lose such friends, because sometimes it’s a joy to go back and read a paragraph and let the feeling of the work flow again. Also on the shelves are future reads by favorite authors who feel like close friends. And even better, sometimes future reads are authored by someone I have never read, someone who will speak to my heart, my thoughts–staying with me for days afterwards.

One Hundred Books

Just before I entered college, all the freshmen were given a list of books to read. There were 100. And though this was not required, the suggestion that we familiarize ourselves with these works was certainly there. Since then, I have enjoyed looking at similar lists and reading from them. Time Magazine has such a list entitled Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Novels. Interested? Take a look here. From that last I have pulled some of my favorites which line my bookshelves:

My all time favorite novel: THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald (I own a Scribner Library Paperback Copyright, 1953) Remember this one? Its cover is grey and green. For crazy Gatsby fans, and a future favorite, there’s something else to own: So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby  Came To Be And Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan. My Once and Future Favorite Reads

Others from Time’s List: Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird,  Toni Morrison Beloved, William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury, Robert Penn Warren All the King’s Men, Philip Roth Portnoy’s Complaint, John Updike Rabbit Run, Joan Didion Play It As It Lays, Marilynne Robinson Housekeeping, Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Don’t Know What to Read? Book Lust 

Sometimes I’ve found myself at the library, standing in the fiction aisles and just being overwhelmed. If someone has not recommended a book or you haven’t recently read a book review, or you can’t remember a title it helps to have something like Book Lust in your back pocket. Book Lust by Nancy Pearl shouts out: Recommended reading for every mood, moment and reason. It is truly a book of fiction lists, but compartmentalized to suit your needs. So you will find lists of books under headings like: I love a mystery; World War II fiction; Russian Heavies; Mothers and Daughters.  Etc etc.

With the thousands and thousands of books now available as ebooks, it helps to read reviews and recommendations. You can always:

  • browse Amazon and read reviews of titles you are considering;
  • join Goodreads. After reading and rating at least 20 books, the site will begin to recommend books to you based on your likes and dislikes. Though the site can be confusing to use, you can list books you have read or want to read. And you can join book club discussion groups.
  • find an online book club like this one I belong to: http://fridayfictionfriend.blogspot.com Every Friday you receive an email recommending a new book. And each week a different reader or author makes the choice. This week SILVER SPARROW written by Tayari Jones;
  • browse the shelves for new fiction at the library–this is a great way to support authors who don’t get a lot of press and you never know what jewels you might find;
  • make what I’m reading or what I want to read a favorite discussion topic; In a world of You Tube and unstoppable global news it is sometimes hard to sit down and talk about books. But when you make the effort it is so worthwhile. Last night at a party I did just that with a couple and it was stimulating and fun;
  • check out Boomer Highway!! you can search my blog for book recommendations by typing books into the search bar or checking out the following links: Armor for the Journey: Inspirational Book for Aging Boomers; Armor for the Journey: Books for Boomers Part 2; Boomer Highway’s Summer Fiction Picks; Boomer Highway’s Holiday Gift Ideas Nonfiction Books; 

Here are the titles currently on my future favorite list:

ASTONISH ME by Maggie Shipstead; THE ART OF FALLING by Kathryn Craft; A PARIS APARTMENT by Michelle Gable, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler; LILA by Marilynne Robinson, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. And I highly recommend: REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS by Bret Anthony Johnson.

Reading can keep us informed, help us experience other lives, joys and sorrows. Reading can carry us away to better places if we need to escape. Reading can sharpen our vocabulary and our empathy. Reading is the one habit that has absolutely nothing bad to say about it.

Finally, in the world of social media, opinions are sometimes used to hinder or negate the work of an author. Freedom of expression isn’t always polite or considerate. So another way to praise a book you have read and to say something positive about it is to use the following TELL A FRIEND POSTER from B. Morgenroth on whatever social media platforms you use. Just list the title and author of the book you enjoyed and let your friends know about it. Happy Reading.

     My Once and Future Favorite Reads

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

Obviously, I liked this ad, as I didn’t forget it.

Subtle. A word meaning: not immediately obvious or comprehensible. Delicate or precise; in more modern terms I might add not in your face. And when it comes to advertisements, I think that’s a great thing. And such an opinion immediately lands me in the column old-fashioned or immediately accentuates my boomer status. But I’m at the point where I really don’t care.

And even though I’m an RN, I still wouldn’t want to be in a room with my grandchildren when Cialis is warning about an erection that could last over four hours. Cause can’t you hear the grandchildren asking: “What’s an erection?” And perfume: some of the commercials that come out around Christmas are so over-the-top, not to mention Victoria Secret who has no secrets. But more on that later.

CHARLIE by REVLON

So I took a walk down memory lane and found some more subtle examples of selling a product when it’s not in your face—but the message is clear. I have a fond memory of this Revlon commercial: a couple walking through the city and because she wears Charlie, she is confident to casually caress her partner’s derriere. The Charlie campaign used lots of similar images to convey a sexuality that was confident and chic, but no clothing was removed. The TV add featuring Shelley Hack and Bobby Short had a catchy tune–a winner, it sold lots of perfume.

 

AH, THE KOTEX MYSTERY

In my preteen years, I was curious about an ad campaign that usually found its way into a side column in LIFE MAGAZINE. The drawings were colorful and I would study them and then read the text, at first unable to discover what the advertisement was selling. When my mother did convey this womanly secret, a lightbulb went on. Today, with images of tampons and pads, it feels like a video demonstration of how to use feminine hygiene products is just around the corner.

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

I kept reading the fine print.

BRAS: HOW TO HANDLE?

And what about the bra commercials? They worked, but only on a mannequin. As Emily Singer wrote on Huff Post: Promoting long-lasting comfort, the bra commercials of yore sold a product that was meant to stay on, as opposed to be taken off.  

So it was this: Jane Russell and THE BRA:

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

Jane Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now advancing to this, which is actually a much calmer image than some.

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

Yes, we women all think about this when we put on a bra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I wrote in my piece How Shopping For Lingerie Helped Me Accept My Mid-life BodyDon’t even try being innocent in these bras—immediately you’re a tigress. To push the fantasy, the models’ photos were air-brushed into perfection revealing completely bared buttocks in thongs and facial expressions that looked pre-, post- or in medias res orgasm. Now that’s some lingerie! The time-line had crashed over the edge of the flow chart. 

KISSING and OTHER ACTS OF LOVE 

I remember in the early sixties, opening up a two-page spread that was also advertising perfume or maybe men’s cologne. The woman’s head and the man’s head filled the pages and they were kissing, but their mouths were slightly open. This was a first for me. But it was lovely, very well done. I can’t find that photo, but the one below is in that sixties vein.  English Leather was the scent. If updated, the ad might have shown the man without the turtle neck, or both of them naked. In a 1988 ad for the Musk English leather, the man is naked and the woman wearing a teddy. The slogan: the unfair advantage.

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

I think ad men like the character, Don Draper, began to decide that everything and anything was fair in love and advertising. Though now and again we do see a return to more subtle forms. But then it depends on the publication or venue–the magazine, newspaper, television or cable station–and the audience, the age group. So there are lots of variations.

 

NEWS AT FIVE? AND GERITOL 

In the seventies the five o’clock news always had a Geritol commercial–a multi-vitamin preparation which was advertised in liquid form–easier for those in their Barcaloungers to get the stuff down. Now it’s Cialis. But maybe that’s progress! What do you think?

Thanks for taking this partial walk down the memory lane of advertising. And if you have any old favorites that are subtle or sunny or you can’t forget them–please share. Through the years, Hallmark commercials were never subtle about what they wanted to convey–friendship, family, love. As my husband always says, I cry easily when seeing Hallmark commercials, so that makes me ????  a boomer, a mother, a grandmother. Yes! something I confess proudly.

Images: Thanks to Revlon; Buzz Feed: 9 Glamorous Kotex Ads from the 1950s. Victoria Secret. Flicker: English Leather Image. Thanks to You Tube.

 

Which Works for You: Subtle or Blatant Advertising?

For some reason–this doesn’t seem to change much.

Happy New Year from Boomer Highway

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Happy New Year from Boomer Highway

Happy New Year. As we welcome 2015, I want to thank you for hanging out with me on the Boomer Highway. I hope my posts have been helpful, interesting and often got you on a pathway that made life less stressful. I look forward to a new year of posts. I welcome your comments and ideas. Let’s continue on this road to mind-body wellness for a longer, fuller life.

Popular Posts of The Past Year, in case you missed them:

We Kept Up the Beat with the Beatles 

The Grimke Sisters: Freedom and Wings for Everyone

Is the U.S. Having a Panic Attack? 

Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful Not Depressing 

The Grandmother Hypothesis and the Importance of Grandparenting 

What’s Time Got to Do With It? 

Money, Debt–Do Those Words Affect Children? 

Is Tom Sawyer’s Lesson Still Meaningful?

Thanks to Jetpack for Image

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Oysters Rockefeller

Dear Reader,

Before you start a new diet that eliminates most calories and includes a five mile run every day, let’s start the New Year with a classic bang. Or you might even call it a binge. What do you think? Well, regardless, let’s just decide to celebrate the New Year with great recipes and then when the celebration is over, we can work to keep all the resolutions we’ve made.

Appetizer:  Oysters Rockefeller 

24 fresh oysters on the half shell

1 cup butter

1/3 cup minced parsley

¼ cup minced shallots

½ clove garlic, minced

2 cups chopped watercress

1/3 cup chopped fennel

1/3 cup fine, soft bread crumbs

¼ cup Pernod (anise-flavored liquor), Salt, pepper

Place opened oysters on a bed of rock salt in pie plate or a baking pan (the rock salt holds the oysters level. See photo). Heat butter in a skillet. Sauté parsley, shallots and garlic for 8 minutes. Add watercress and fennel and cook 1 minute longer, until watercress wilts.

Scrape sautéed mixture into a blender or food processor. Add bread crumbs, Pernod, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Spread sauce over oysters. Bake at 450 degrees for 4-5 minutes, until sauce begins to bubble. Remove oysters to serving plate and discard rock salt.

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Vegetables with: Hollandaise Sauce 

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cold butter

6 to 8 ounces (1 ½ to 2 sticks) butter, melted

White pepper

In a medium saucepan, beat the egg yolks with a whisk for about 1 minute, until they become thick and sticky. Add water, lemon juice and salt; beat 30 seconds longer.

Add cold butter but do not beat. Place pan over very low heat and stir with the whisk until mixture slowly thickens to a cream-like consistency (l to 2 minutes). You will begin to see the bottom of the pan between strokes.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in the cold butter. Dribble in melted butter a few droplets at a time, whisking constantly. When all butter has been incorporated (do not whisk in the milky butter residue), season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if desired. (Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child etal)

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Chicken Tarragon

Main Course: Chicken Tarragon for Six

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Salt, pepper

¼ cup flour

¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter, divided use

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

¼ cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or ½ teaspoon dried

¼ cup chicken broth

¼ cup whipping cream

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, reserving remaining flour.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Brown chicken on both sides. Transfer to a heated platter. Add shallots to skillet and sauté briefly. Add wine and boil over high heat until nearly evaporated, scarping loose brown bits on bottom of pan.

Add reserved flour, stirring to make a thick paste. Sprinkle with tarragon. Stir in the chicken broth. Return chicken to skillet, cover and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a heated platter and keep hot.

Add remaining butter and cream to skillet; heat, stirring and pour sauce over chicken. (The New York Times Cook Book, Craig Claiborne)

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad for Six

Salt, 1 clove peeled garlic

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Dash Tabasco sauce

½ can anchovies, drained

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 bunches romaine

¼ cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup pasteurized eggs

1 cup homemade croutons

Sprinkle bottom of a large salad bowl (preferably wooden) with salt and rub with the garlic. Add mustard, lemon juice and Tabasco. Stir with a wooden spoon until salt dissolves. Add anchovies and mash very fine with a fork. Add oil and stir rapidly to blend. Remove garlic hull.

Wash and dry romaine. Tear off and discard the top 2 inches (the tougher, dark-green part). Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl. Add cheese and pasteurized eggs and toss well. Sprinkle croutons over salad and toss.

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

Vanilla-Sparkling Wine Pound Cake

Dessert: Vanilla-Sparkling Wine Pound Cake

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup sparkling wine (you can use milk)

3 tablespoons sour cream

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup safflower or canola oil

5 cold eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Sift mixture and set aside. Stir together sparkling wine and sour cream; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat sugar, melted butter and oil with electric mixer until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla paste. Beat on medium to high 3-5 minutes or until thicker and lighter in color. Add 1/3 the flour mixture; beat on low just until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add half the wine mixture; beat just until combined. Repeat with 1/3 the flour mixture, the remaining wine mixture and remaining flour mixture. With rubber spatula scrap batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted at center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Turn out on rack; cool completely, drizzle with Sparkling Wine Glaze (Better Homes and Gardens Feb. 2010)

Sparkling Wine Glaze

In a small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon sparking wine. Stir additional wine, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach drizzling consistency.

Finally, Dear Reader, whether you try any of the above or just welcome the NEW YEAR with your favorite pasta, I wish for you a peaceful 2015 with good health and prosperity, wonderful books to read, music and art to enjoy and the love of family always surrounding and supporting you. Thank you for sharing another year with me on Boomer Highway. And thanks to a 1998 copy of the Des Moines Register and a 2010 copy of Better Homes and Gardens for these amazing recipes. See you in 2015.

Thanks to Google Images

Classic Tastes to Welcome the New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Christmas—It’s How We Remember

The Art of Christmas—It’s How We Remember

Christmas time is creative time. For centuries the birth of the Christ child was the main subject of art in all its forms. Not only were people eager to celebrate their religious beliefs, they also wanted to step away from the drudgery of work and the harshness of winter. Christmas might have been lighted by candles and fires centuries ago, but even today the art of Christmas breaks through the darkness and repetitiveness of life, filling us humans with wonder and giving us pleasure. The art of Christmas, no matter what your faith or spiritual life, is how we remember the light of the world, the lift in our hearts, the reason for love and goodness.

Who hasn’t written a Christmas verse or created a Christmas joke. At this time of year shops and stores are teeming with creative endeavors to remember the season: poetry books, novels and plays; ceramics adorned with the color and images of the season. Children make gingerbread houses or fold paper into decorative chains. Mothers and fathers bake fantasies–cookies and breads, cakes and bars. There’s the busy provider who even finds time to break away from work to hang sparkling lights everywhere and to bring home an evergreen tree or maybe a sled to make snow enjoyable. It’s all the art of Christmas.

Here are a few of my standouts–art that brings tears to my eyes, underlining not only the beauty of the season, but the love and creativity in the hearts and minds of the artists.

In 1978 English author Raymond Briggs wrote and illustrated THE SNOWMAN which became a favorite adventure story for the holiday season. In 1982 the book became an animated film. Millennials  and their parents all hold visions of James flying with the snowman as the music by Howard Blake makes your heart soar. See it here.

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly

I’m holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams

Children gaze open mouth
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes

We’re surffing in the air
We’re swimming in the frozen sky
We’re drifting over icy
Mountain floating by

Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep
Arousing of a mighty monster from its sleep

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly.

The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are all memorable stories for the season.

The Art of Christmas—It’s How We Remember

A favorite of mine is A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. You can watch a short film interpretation of the story here. The following is the last page of the story:

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

At this time of year, music is heard everywhere and for each of us, certain songs or carols are sweetly-sharp reminders of who we loved and maybe who we’ve lost. The Gian Carlo Menotti opera Amahl and the Night Visitors is a remembrance of my mother. And so is the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. There are tears when I hear:

Through the years we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Though we hold dear all these examples of the art of Christmas–it’s the hug from a grandchild, the kiss from a spouse, the kind phone call from an adult child who won’t be physically present and the thoughtful gifts, no matter what they are, that truly are the art of Christmas. So when snow flakes begin to fall in your hair or lights from a tree shine in your daughter’s eyes or you hear the carols or the bells or the quiet darkness seeks you out–hold them close, remember them–for they light up our world that needs love and care, that needs more than ever a merry little Christmas.

The Art of Christmas—It’s How We Remember

The artist has placed the stable scene under a starry night.

Thanks to Pinterest and Google Images

The Art of Christmas—It’s How We Remember

Charming and meaningful.

For My Father-in Law, the Quiet Hero: It’s A Wonderful Life

For My Father-in Law, the Quiet Hero: It’s A Wonderful Life

Some of the survivors of the USS BUSH. Ed Havey top row, second from right.

For My Father-in Law, the Quiet Hero: It’s A Wonderful Life

My father-in-law’s medals.

The word hero might instantly bring a name to mind as we all have people in our lives that are heroes to us. Many of these men and women live quiet lives, their brave acts known to few. Often they don’t discuss their heroism and in retrospect it could be related to post-traumatic stress disorder—the memories are so painful that daily life is altered by flashbacks and nightmares.

My father-in-law, Edward Thomas Havey, was a quiet hero who rarely spoke of that part of his history. But he has something in common with Louis Zamperini whose name was not a household word until SEABISCUIT author Laura Hillenbrand asked him if she could tell his story.

The result was the best-selling book UNBROKEN and now the coming film, directed by Angelina Jolie. That’s stardom. But Zamperini’s story of competing in the 1936 Olympic Games, enlisting in the Army Air Force in 1941 and surviving torture in Japanese prison camps is only part of his heroic story. The event that led to his imprisonment occurred when his plane went down in the South Pacific. He and two other men were left to drift in a life raft for 42 days. When I think of that part of Zamperini’s amazing story, I think of my father-in-law, a quiet hero—a man reluctant to tell his own.

A lawyer, married with one child, Edward Havey was sent to Harvard University for three months to prepare for his assignment as a communications officer on the USS BUSH. He was 31 years old. There’s a picture of my father-in-law with fellow officers taken on the BUSH in July 1944. In that photo there are many more men than you see in the one above. The 6th of April, 1945 had the power to change the trajectory of many lives, including my own.

His ship was operating off the coast of Okinawa and from April 4th through April 5th, crew members worked tirelessly to repel Japanese planes that continued to attack them. My father-in-law related that the men were exhausted from the barrage and probably had little reserves left for the trauma to come.

On the 6th of April at 3:15 in the afternoon the first of three Kamikaze planes hit, causing the bomb or torpedo it was carrying to explode in the forward engine room. Damage was incurred, yet the ship was not a loss and help was requested. A destroyer, the Colhoun, notified the BUSH that assistance was on the way, but she was hit by another suicide plane and was severely damaged. Then at 5:25 p.m. a second kamikaze crashed into the port side of the BUSH’s main deck almost severing the ship in two. Fires broke out everywhere. Then finally at 5:45 a third plane hit the port side above the main deck. Ammunition caught fire and began to explode. Though officers felt the BUSH would break amidships, they held on feeling that those halves were salvageable.

But at 6:30 p.m. heavy waves began to rock the ship from all sides and her midsections began to list and cave. Everyone had to abandon ship. Naval history records that at that time they had already lost 87 crew members and that 227 went into the water.

There were lifeboats and the history states they were filled with men wearing life jackets who though they were in a vessel had to fight the pounding of the waves, taking in salt water that made them vomit. The report reads: some men become hysterical and violent. Although they were wearing life jackets and in all cases appeared to be physically unhurt, they would give up, slip out of their life jackets and go down or swim out into the darkness to meet the same fate.. Thirty-three men were lost in this period.

My father-in-law? Though he was an officer, he ended up in the water—no lifeboat, just a lifejacket and his desire to live. The history states that the water temperature was 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but felt cold as they went in under cover of darkness—a cover that did shield them from airplane fire. The rising swells continued to beat at them until 10:00 p.m. when they calmed somewhat, but the men had already been in the water for 3 ½ hours. My father-in-law fought each wave, struggling to keep his head up and hearing the screams of other men who were possibly being attacked by sharks.

But he endured, clinging to his life. Those hours when he fought each oncoming wave and prayed to his God remain holy, startling moments. Those are the hours I sometimes dwell on, realizing that within my father-in-law was the potential to live a wonderful life, to climb from the vise of death by drowning or hypothermia or the ravages of a shark and live to bring ten more children into the world—yes ten—the second to be born, his first son, my husband. Because my children and my grandchildren would not be if something else had occurred during those solemn hours while my father-in-law fought for his life. Thanks, Dad. And the world would not have the story of courage that Louis Zamperini’s life will be remembered for if he too had lost it while his raft continued to float under the hot sun, provisions dwindled and one of the men with him died.

We have said many times that the story line in the film IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE aligns with lives like those of Edward Havey and Louise Zamperini. Clarence, the angel, makes the Jimmy Stewart character, George Bailey, realize that if he hadn’t saved his brother Harry’s life when the kid broke through ice, that many other lives would not have been saved.

Edward Havey not only made it possible for a future family to spring from his life, he also saved the life of a fellow officer. Ralph Moses fought the waves too, but hypothermia set in. When my father-in-law saw Moses pass out, he reached for him. After 3 days without sleep and 8 hours in the water, my heroic father-in-law found the strength to stay alive and save a fellow officer. He held up Moses for over an hour.

Finally the USS PAKANA arrived and saved 89 men from the grip of the ocean. History reports that some men became excited on seeing the ship and tried to swim to her. Being exhausted they lost strength and sunk or were pulled under by the ship. Everything occurred in complete darkness, since enemy planes were in the area. Twelve men died after being hauled aboard.

My father-in-law hit the deck and collapsed.

Days later in Chicago, my mother-in-law read in the Tribune that the USS BUSH and the COLHOUN had sunk. She waited over two weeks to learn that her husband was alive, this helped by a cousin with connections to another member of the Navy who was able to discover that my father-in-law was at a hospital at Pearl Harbor. Exhausted and suffering from his experience, it took him time to realize he could contact his family. When he finally landed at Midway Airport in Chicago, his 3-year-old daughter immediately recognized him, but my mother-in-law did not. He had lost a great deal of weight and was not the fresh-faced wise attorney that had left for the war.

Edward Thomas Havey was promoted to lieutenant (jg) and received the Philippine Liberation Ribbon and the Navy Medal for Heroism, the latter being the same medal JFK received. But eager to resume his life as a husband, father and attorney, he didn’t want these medals. Two years later when the war was finally over, he was working at his desk on La Salle Street when his secretary ushered in two Navy men. They presented him with the medals that we now proudly display in our home.

My father-in-law dedicated his life to family and did not like to speak of his experiences—the quiet hero. Ralph Moses’ family contacted my mother-in-law when they learned of my father-in-law’s death. They were grateful for their lives and knew that Edward Havey had much to do with them.

Louis Zamperini fought more battles once he was state-side. But he won those battles and when you read or see his story, he will give you hope that you can win yours too. Being a hero means strength, but it also means sacrifice and giving. My father-in-law had a wonderful life. He knew it and lived it every day with thanksgiving.

Thanks to John Havey and Google Images

For My Father-in Law, the Quiet Hero: It’s A Wonderful Life

A photo before leaving for the war. Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Havey

For My Father-in Law, the Quiet Hero: It’s A Wonderful Life

The USS BUSH

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part Two

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part Two

When food bloggers sit down to write, they usually have an incredible new recipe to post with mouth-watering photographs to enchant you. Their posts provide inventive creations for every meal of the day. But though I am again writing about food, this post is not a how-to. Because if you ate the way I used to eat, you also might injure your health. But–if you are tired of making lunches for someone, then read on about the one I made. I guarantee you’ll get fired from that sandwich-making job. And note: there won’t be a photo to illustrate, but the sandwich in question was creative and very inventive.

Scene: first year of marriage, both working. To help our budget, I prepare lunches. Things  go well, until one day there’s just not much in the fridge.

Scene: husband sits down in lunchroom with colleagues. He opens bag and takes out sandwich only to discover that this is liver sausage on cinnamon-raisin bread. And he has always claimed that this version had a frosted crust though I don’t remember that!

Climax: Everyone in lunchroom laughs, and though spouse eats sandwich, I am later informed that my duty as lunch-provider has ended. Oh well, he can still look forward to my chicken dinners (see Feeding My Family etc Part One.)

My adventures in the kitchen did gradually improve. But here is another confession: after moving to our first house we both had longer commutes to get to work, so often we snapped up Hostess Ho Ho’s or donuts for breakfast. That was the beginning of some problems for me. And again it goes back to understanding nutrition and that all foods are not equal. All foods fill the belly, but they do not guarantee good health and stamina. But we were adults who had decided we would just eat what we wanted to eat–even if one Ho Ho contained 42 grams of sugar! We certainly did not apply the same free-form of choice to the diet of our children as they came along.

So I still had much to learn about carbohydrates, protein and fats. And what happened to me because of my diet was subtle. I had my first child and did well, felt good. But as life continued and my daughter became a toddler more was demanded of me. Then after the birth of my second child, I was exhausted. And anyone with true knowledge of nutrition would have known right away what I was doing to myself to keep going. My diet: black coffee in the morning. Sweet cereals or coffee cake for breakfast. Colas with lunch. Sweet and sour sauces with some dinners. Always dessert. Even candy while I read before bed.

I was always tired, cranky and often ill-tempered. I had headaches and sometimes chest pain. I was even rushed to the local hospital in an ambulance because I thought I was having a heart attack. It was 1979 and at the hospital no one took a sample of my blood sugar. But that’s what was going on. I had hypoglycemia. I probably had a propensity for it most of my life, because though I was always active, I tired easily when attempting sports and was always thinking about my next meal. Being a stay-at-home mom afforded easy access to food which had been keeping me going–until I had a preschooler and a colicky baby and my diet contained too much caffeine and sugar.

But I was fortunate and after one appointment with a physician who specialized in diabetes and decided I would feel great on an all-protein diet (and I discovered that you can’t function without some carbs) I found a doctor in Chicago who knew what low blood sugar was and how to treat it. Change your diet, of course. It took me about two years to feel totally good again and that required that I eliminate all sweets. I could have fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbs like whole grains. I had to eat protein every three hours and weigh my dinner meal. Dried dates from California were allowed in between meals to provide energy to a mother with two children. Dates are energy boosters as they contain natural sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose. My daughters thought that every mother had a bag of dates in her purse. But I got better and that’s all that mattered.

Actually developing low blood sugar was great for my entire family. I bought cookbooks like Nikki and David Goldbecks American Wholefoods Cuisine, Adelle Davis Let’s Get Well, The Low Blood Sugar Cookbook and The Silver Palate Cookbook. For a long time I made desserts from oatmeal flour or carob or I used fruit to sweeten things. Bringing such a contribution to the table, my children would often ask: “Can you eat it?” and if the answer was yes, they declined. But as my daughters have grown into adulthood, they too struggle with low blood sugar now and again. None of us can eat a donut and coffee for breakfast without getting a headache and feeling tired.

Today the talk of diet and nutrition is hotter than ever. But in the early 80s when I was struggling to find ingredients (I even made my own mayo to avoid adding sugar) health food stores were the first choice. Gradually you were able to find peanut butter without sugar or high fructose corn syrup, unsweetened cereals, and canned fruit without heavy sugared syrup in the local grocery. Aspartame allowed me to drink cola, though now I don’t even bother with that. Water please.

But it all took time. Now gluten-free is all the rage–though it was created for folks with celiac disease–a condition that can be very serious. And when you or a family member has dietary concerns like a peanut allergy, eating at other people’s homes or in restaurants can provide a real challenge. But today, awareness has broadened one’s choices. Even some fast-food places provide menus with a list of ingredients and calories. So very helpful.

Healthy and having lots of energy, I stock my kitchen today with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, cheese, and whole grain breads. When I crave sweets, I eat dark chocolate that is 70% cocoa. And now and then I do have a dessert, but I only eat it after a meal, when my belly is full and my body can tolerate the sugar. The Ho Ho’s were gone long, long ago.

So thanks for taking this journey with me. I have learned a great deal from my experience and am always eager to share that knowledge. For a while I taught Diabetes Education at the health department and that afforded me the opportunity to know others’ first hand struggle with nutrition. Please check out some of the links in this article on low blood sugar. And if you enjoy cooking, there are plenty of cookbooks out there to keep you healthy. I’m really fortunate–now my husband has taken up cooking, but you’ll never see liver sausage on his grocery list.

Thanks to Goggle Images and My Husband and Family

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part Two

PS. If you enjoy Boomer Highway and find it helpful, please nominate the blog for the Heathline.com contest here.  http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest

 

Owning and Loving a Pet Helps Your Health

Owning and Loving a Pet Helps Your Health

Having a pet is good for your health! For starters if you have a dog and you WALK your dog, you are getting outside, getting fresh air and walking too. But even if you are elderly or physically challenged in some way, owners of pets report consistently that they feel healthier. Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients have less anxiety attacks with a dog around and the very nature of pets who will cuddle and sit with you, provides companionship for the elderly and those living alone.

Such positive information about loving and caring for a pet makes Celebrate Shelter Pets Day even more important in our communities. On this day you can contact local shelters or rescue groups by clicking on the link www.theshelterpetproject.org. The site also contains adoption success stories and lots of information about the process of adoption. And you will be helping an animal as only 29% of those in American homes were adopted from a shelter or rescue. And though each year approximately 3-4 million pets are adopted, 2.7 million still lose their lives each year for lack of a home.

Animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell, writes in her book, For the Love of a Dog, that levels of oxytocin, a mood-affecting neurotransmitter or feel-good brain hormone, can increase when one just pets a dog. That’s great news for your personal health.  And Dr. Horst Becket of the Berlin Longevity Institute states that cats have a calming effect on people, lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rates. This can add an average of 10.3 years of life to people who have owned cats since childhood, Becket claims.

But what about children getting allergies from owning a pet? That’s changed, writes pediatrician James E. Gern MD in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Studies now show that children growing up with “furred animals” dog or cat, or on a farm with small or large animals, have less risk of asthma and allergies. Blood tests on infants at birth and then a year later who lived with animals were less likely to reveal evidence of pet allergies: 19% vs 33%. Dr. Gern concluded that the exposure to allergens strengthened the immune response.

Watch this video about Jules, and see if you don’t immediately fall in love.

Animals lovers and researchers have first-hand knowledge of how much pets help humans stay healthy and connected:

  • many studies point to the fact that regular contact with pets helps reduce or lower cholesterol levels and speed recovery after illness
  • a study in the UK showed pet owners dealt better with a loss in the family than those who did not have a pet; possibly they were able to share feelings with their pet in a time when it was difficult to talk to humans
  • caregivers report that being around dogs and cats is beneficial to seniors, helping to remind them of normal home life and making them feel more comfortable and at ease; seniors get a sense of purpose and a cure for loneliness when caring for a pet
  • children who grow up with a pet often have an easier time forming relationships with  family members and friends as well as gaining confidence; having an animal also provides a means for making new friends.

So on this Celebrate Shelter Pets Day think about what a wonderful difference a pet could make in your family. Or maybe you have already rescued a wonderful animal that has improved your life. If so, share you story. I am happy to help animals who need to be rescued and wrote this piece in partnership with Element Associates.

Owning and Loving a Pet Helps Your Health Thanks to Flickr Images

 

 

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part One

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part One

I love coffee mugs, but it’s my husband who brews good coffee.

Food preparation in today’s world has broken out of the category of ordinary chore—rising to the heights of artisanal, fantasy and in some cases pure obsession. But being a person who enjoys balance, I’m still trying to get my head around it.

We all have to eat—I get that. And it’s really nice when someone else makes the meal. But in the 1960s when my mother took a job in downtown Chicago, I became the cook in our family. Previously, I was capable of opening a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, adding a can of liquid—always milk, please—and heating it up. But a dinner?

The night before, Mom and I would decide on the main course. When she got home at six o’clock and spaghetti sauce or a meat dish like chicken or a ham slice was ready, we could whip up a salad, prepare a vegetable and be ready to go. Often Mom had a sweet on hand because she baked on the weekends.

So how did this go? Not that great. Yes, all four members of our family were healthy and happy, but there was fallout. Everyone began to loathe the Friday choices, fish sticks or  cheese pizza. During the week, we sometimes actually ate a grilled sandwich that consisted of Spam mixed with grated onion and American cheese. Because this delectable had no title, my older brother named the sandwich The Igor, after the composer Stravinsky. You see, music was higher on our proverbial food chain, than, well, food!

But as my celebrity as a cool teenage girl with a boyfriend rose—my cooking skills, had there been any, plummeted. Still required to prepare the main course each night—I would race home from high school, grind up some corn flakes and whip an egg. These lovelies were applied to four pork tenderloins and then almost thrown into a pan and set at low oven heat. That allowed me to race to the local park to watch my boyfriend play baseball or just hang out. But the pork was always in the oven way too long, causing my younger brother to name it hockey pucks–a name that stuck, a meal I no longer prepare.

During my college years, I always ate in the cafeterias, having absolutely no desire to cook in my room. And this was before tiny refrigerators or microwaves. For lunch, I subsisted on hamburgers and fries, for dinner whatever Mr. Hewitt, our chef, had prepared. There was always mystery meat. We knew it was lamb only because he put out a bowl of mint jelly. Once in a great while I would go to Poppa’s for a warm and satisfying Saturday breakfast. But my budget urged me to eat the food I had already paid for. Thank God Starbucks didn’t exist, as I couldn’t have afforded it.

But once married—with a husband who also commuted to Chicago while I worked ten minutes from our home—I had to own up to the fact that those bright and shiny appliances, the stove and refrigerator, were truly mine.

“What are you making for dinner?” my mother-in-law always asked when we talked. This was because she liked to cook and she was damn good at it, often altering and changing a recipe. This was unheard of in my life—I mean would the thing turn out if you adjusted, changed or eliminated ingredients? My answer to her question as to the meal I was preparing was often chicken. It became a joke in my husband’s family—I made chicken. That was that. At least they had never had my hockey pucks, so I didn’t have to hang my head in complete shame.

But I got a grip on the married and working full time gig and began to look at recipes. My friend Jane actually explained protein, carbohydrates and fats to me. I had never taken home ec, but really liked the science aspect. I had a copy of The Joy of Cooking which my older brother had given me, probably hoping I would someday open it. The local newspaper had a cooking section with Jell-O recipes, how to use left-over roast beef and many examples of cakes, pies and cookies. Don’t laugh. This was the 70s.

Before children, my biggest gourmet fete was a Beef Wellington that I prepared for six of my college friends and their spouses. It took me forever, but I remember it was extremely palatable and very much appreciated. During the meal, I noticed a few too many little dark bits floating in the vinaigrette dressing on the salad. I had probably not washed the fancy lettuce well enough, being used to iceberg. I hoped that my diners just decided I went a little overboard with the freshly ground pepper.

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part One

My Beef Wellington looked just like this. Really!

 

Of course my house was sparking when my guests arrived. I have always enjoyed cleaning and organizing my home more than grocery shopping and cooking. But that night I hung a spider plant in its macrame hanger from the tension shower rod in the bathroom, and during the meal it came crashing down sending mud and pottery shards everywhere. No tidiness in that room.

With this Part One history, you can conclude that my future career was never meant to include meal preparation or any aspect of it. But there are probably many chefs who also had to help prepare family meals, but unlike me, the responsibility fired them up and they rocketed into fame leaving iceberg lettuce and tomato soup behind. If you have a tale of great cooking success or major failure, please share. See you next week for Part Two.

Here’s a Recipe to excite the palate, and replace your image of my hockey pucks. 

Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Servings: 4
“Try this for breaded pork tenderloin that is lightly crunchy on the outside, tender and juicy with a hint of Mediterranean spice on the inside.”
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs
1 pinch garlic salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
DIRECTIONS:
1. Slice tenderloin into 1/4 inch rounds. Place rounds between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until thin.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
3. Beat eggs and milk together and pour into a shallow dish or bowl. Set aside. In a separate dish or bowl combine breadcrumbs with garlic salt, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix all together. In a large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, dip tenderloins in egg mixture, then coat with bread crumb mixture. When oil is hot, add coated tenderloin to skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides (not cooked through)!
4. Place browned tenderloin in a 9×13 inch baking dish lined with aluminum foil. Fry any leftover eggs and bread crumbs together for ‘breadings’. Add ‘breadings’ to baking dish. Cover tightly and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until meat has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2014 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 11/30/2014
 

Feeding My Family or Why I’m Not a Gourmet Cook, Part One

Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Thanks to Google Images