True stories with a twist!



Our backyard is the perfect snowscape. The delicate tree branches are coated with ice, making them look as shiny and delicate as a backyard of silver chandeliers.

The snow covered hill is our miniature Swiss Alp.

Thriving in this winter scene is a family of three squirrels. They’re either a family or a kinky group of very close friends. They romp around, chase each other up and down trees, dig snow tunnels and search for food. The main source of their food foraging is our set of dual bird feeders. Each feeder hangs from a single hook on a double pole. The squirrels have no problems shimmying up the pole, reaching over to the feeder, and helping themselves to squirrelly-stomach-warming meals of birdseed.Unknown

But technology has caught up to their never-ending nefarious nips nabbed from the birds. The new feeder is equipped with a battery controlled balance bar. The circular bar spins around if a weight heavier than a blue jay alights. Like the weight of a squirrel.
Is there a funnier sight than a squirrel sailing through the air as if shot from a circus cannon? He is not hurt, just a bit puzzled. And he is just as hungry as he was before his aerial catapult.

Now the squirrel brain springs into action. At this point it is man vs. rodent in an unending battle of wills.To stop him from shimmying up the pole we install a cone-shaped baffle, putting an end to his attempt to scale the pole and reach the feeder.

Unknown-1Squirrel is befuddled. He comes up with Plan B: the Big Jump. He steadies himself on a snow bank and leaps onto the top of the baffle. He has won! Or so he thinks: now he places one paw on the balance bar to steady himself while he reaches for his tasty reward, when “Whirr”: he is flying through the air. He experiences instant squirrel shock. This has never happened to him or his ancestors before.

Time for Plan C.

Squirrel, still determined, jumps onto the baffle top again. This time, instead of placing a paw on the bar he continues to climb to the top of the pole. Now above the feeders, he stretches his body down to meet the mouth of the feeder, and manages a few seeds before we see him, open the kitchen door and emit bloodthirsty screams. The startled squirrel jumps off the baffle.

Man’s turn: we now coat the baffle with a heavy coat of gooey, greasy engine oil. Now when the marauder prepares for his leap he lands, skids and slides right off, executing an Olympic caliber somersault.
Squirrel sits on the ground, looking longingly at the bird feeders above. “My kingdom for a few sunflower seeds. Husked, of course.”

The sad sight of the hungry squirrel looking so defeated and unhappy moves me. The snow on the ground has become solid ice, making it look like a vanilla Carvel ice cream cake. How can any animal find food in a frozen tundra?

Anyway what harm do squirrels do? They don’t destroy plants by eating roots, they don’t kill plants by nipping at new growth, they don’t tunnel underground, making the lawn collapse. Are they so bad?

All he longs for, in his dearest squirrel fantasies, are a few little handfuls of sunflower seeds. My conscience asks me “Must you deprive the little fellow of a life sustaining meal?”

So I get to work. Off comes the baffle on the feeder. Out comes the battery that rotates the balance bar.

I stop short of installing a ladder to the feeder to help squirrel realize his quest.

“Enjoy, little friend,” I say. “It’s been a tough winter for everybody.”

This is a sad bit of news to share with you, but my inside sources reveal to me the possibility that Spring 2018 has been banned.

The Northeast has experienced three Northeasters this month. Unknown-1A fourth one may possibly be peeking behind the clouds to surprise us next week. There are several possible answers for this report: Unknown

  1. Weathermen’s attempts to take more camera time in the spotlight of television news.
  2. Mental health workers’ efforts to increase patient loads by treating those with SAD: Seasonal Affective Deficiency.
  3. Amazon’s drive to force retail stores out of business by destroying sales of spring clothing. They’ve even come up with the slogan “Keep wearing winter. It’s cozy, comfy and cuddly.”

There might be other possible explanations of why the northeast is suffering from our Worst Winter Weather.

Will you writers help us understand: please give us some reasons for our endless winter weather.

When we went down for breakfast we faced the following gadget wrapped around the tea pot:IMG_0687What a charming and quaint addition to every day life: the tea cozy  It struck me as unusual from the way we use or see back home. I love the warm, protective, wrapped up tea pot cover that appeared on our table every morning.




The minute I turned eight years old I told people I was eight and a half: it sounded so much older, and everyone knows that anyone who was eight wanted more than anything to appear older. Older was more important. Older meant more freedom. Older was smarter.

Time went on and we all age. People shift their desires. They all want to be younger. Younger is more desirable. Younger is cool. Younger is beautiful. Fortunes are made by companies promising to provide a younger “visual effect.”


But not this year. This year I can’t wait to be older. All I wish for is to get beyond this birthday. I will feel so much better, so much safer when I do.


When my mother was exactly the age that I am right now, she suffered a terrible stroke. This cursed stroke robbed her of the ability to ever speak or walk again.

This was Mom and Dad in 1937.

2018-03-10 21.26.02.jpg

And nobody knew how much she understood. Did she comprehend anything we said to her? What could that damaged brain still process?

She could sing the words to old songs, astonishing everyone. Her favorite was “Oh, Susanna.” The nurses and aides loved visiting with her, loved singing the song and hearing her join in.

But could she play her favorite game, “Checkers?” If she could follow the rules of a game it would indicate that her brain could still process and follow commands. I decided to try. I remember fondly how patient Mom was with me when I was a child and she taught me to play. We always had a special place in our hearts for checkers.

I hesitantly set up the checkers board, afraid to know what I would find out. Soon I would have the answer from the way she responded to the game.

Mom saw that board and broke into the broadest grin I’d seen since she became ill. She was anxious to play; there was no doubt. With great glee she took hold of a red checker and began the game. She was childlike in her excitement. I thought everything was going well at the beginning, as she moved the red checker to its next position. But she didn’t stop there. She didn’t even stop for me to have a turn to move my checker. She moved her “men” indiscriminately forward and backwards, without concern, jumping my men at every self-made opportunity.

What a forlorn image I presented to the world after that game. Mom had no idea how to play the game she once knew so well. She was unable to comprehend the rules of checkers.

I called her Clergyman to tell him about this tragic event, and he asked me,

“Does she understand what happened to her?”
“Yes, I think she does.”
“That’s too bad,” was his uncensored reaction.

His response surprised me. I always thought clergymen were supposed to comfort their congregants and find something soothing to say. His reaction showed his true feelings: he had nothing hopeful to say and didn’t want to pretend that there was a chance for improvement when he knew that my mother’s situation was desperate. There was no hope left.

When my mother was exactly my age I thought of her in a way that I don’t feel now. It’s not that I feel young: I understand that I am not young. But I feel vital, energetic and interested in so much in our world. I still enjoy exploring and learning, just as she did when she was my age. She drove everywhere. She went into the city, saw shows, and visited museums. She travelled a great deal, spending winters in Spain. She had dozens of friends. And she exercised at the gym: swam laps and walked regularly.

Yet she had that devastating stroke. After that, the life she knew could no longer exist.

Someone had to help her with every human need. This once freedom loving, independent
woman was now pathetically dependent on others to care for her.

And so, although I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, I will unquestionably feel safer when this birthday is behind me. This is the birthday that marked the end of my mother’s freedom, and her life as she chose to live it.

The thought of having life pulled out from under you by an unknown, powerful force is the most terrifying thought I can ever imagine.

The day before the east coast was attacked by a brutal snow storm, we had the fortune to visit the Pennsylvania Flower Show. Being unaware about what was about to happen at home, we strolled through the spring gardens just as winter was secretly planning its  attack. Our community suffered a twelve inch accumulation. But I prefer telling you about the Flower Show.

Many spring gardens showed cheerful bulbs of varying colors.

But my favorite exhibits were the miniature plants and miniature gardens. There were Edwardian Cases. This one is planted with a Venus fly trap surrounded by pitcher plants.IMG_1637

The display of miniature iris plants in full bloom was cheerful and charming.IMG_1615

There were containers set at unusual angles that made for interesting viewing. This one was set on its side, showing a variety of miniature plants. The different colors and shapes made this display especially appealing.

IMG_1640Besides plants, this year’s show featured an exhibit of butterflies. Butterfly food was  placed on a Q-tip. Butterflies taste with their feet, so if one were to hold the dry tip and offer the wet tip to a butterfly, it would step onto the Qtip and munch away. I found an especially talented gentleman demonstrating this feeding technique:


It was a lovely show; much more lovely than the cold and snowy reality we are facing now.


Are you a gourmet? An oenophile? A coffee expert?

Gourmets describe food as, “Succulent,” ”Tender” or “Light.”

Oenophiles describe wine as, “Oaky,” “Fruity,” or Fragrant.images.jpeg

Coffee experts describe coffee as “Robust,” “Full Roasted, or “Bitter.”

But tea specialists don’t have a roster of adjectives for tea. Tea specialists don’t even have a name.

Lately, tea folks sound as if they are competing with wine experts.  images-2.jpeg

What there is to describe about tea? Tea is just tea. It’s what you drink with a teaspoon of honey when you have a sore throat! Are there really enough differences between brands that we need an entire new profession to describe them? As I look though the latest tea catalogue from a respected company, I am amazed to read the qualities regarding types of tea they offer.

Their new selection of teas from Columbia is unique because of “the rich volcanic soil in which they are grown,” states the company. It claims that the soil adds a special flavor to the tea. If volcanic soil could improve tea plants, I wonder if it would add a unique flavor to my Rutgers “Early Girl” tomatoes this summer? If so, where can I get some?

Would a new business importing volcanic ash from Columbia win support from any  “Shark Tank” investors?

Teas are often described as having “Good Mouth Feel.” My mouth feels fine, thank you, except for the canker sore I developed because of eating or drinking something too hot. Could have been the hot tea?

The catalogue goes on to discuss Bold tea. Is “Bold” a characteristic that leads to  “Aggressive?” Or “Powerful ?”

Or am I confusing tea tasting terminology with the “Me Too” movement?

After that possibility, it is clear that there is a need for comfort and calm. So the catalogue changes the pace and introduces a lovely fragrant tea with a toasty aroma. All I need is my slippers, a warm lap blanket and a fire in the fireplace and I’ll be ready to sip.

Don’t you love statements about flavors that “linger into the finish.” Are we discussing the Olympics again; which candidates finish, and who wins the gold?

All this talk about teas is very confusing and keeps mixing metaphors.

And I have never been able to detect characteristics such as “hints of spring flowers,” notes of pineapple and a hint of honey.” My taste buds are not sophisticated enough to appreciate these exotic qualities.

What is wrong with a good old fashioned cup of tea made from a Lipton teabag?

Mapuche Woman

It was a singular experience, unlike any I had ever had seen before. We were in Chile, and were invited to visit a Mapuche woman in her own home. Through an interpreter, she told us about the proud history of her people, and how they fared today.

At one time the tribe was isolated from other nearby cultures because of a wide river that separated them. Once a bridge was constructed the Mapuche were drawn into the educational system and wider cultural opportunities of the Chileans.

Our hostess, Sayen, (meaning “sweet woman”) welcomed us into her home. She was cheerful, friendly and warm, and, through a translator, spoke of her tribal history.2018-02-12 16.38.38Sayen, her husband and seven children lived in this one room structure, where they slept, cooked and ate their meals. Sayen spun cloth out of sheep’s wool, dyed it with berries and plant dyes, and wove the family’s clothes. Here you can see the dyed wool being stretched on the loom, the logs prepared to cook the next meal and the ponchos hanging on the wall. Children walked barefoot until they entered adolescence. The roof had to be replaced approximately once in twenty years. On top of the structure was an opening that drew smoke out of the dwelling.

Sayen invited group members to dress in Mapuche gear.2018-02-12 17.20.352018-02-12 17.25.17-1

Each Mapuche family was given its own piece of land for growing crops. As each child reached maturity he was also given a small plot of land for his family.

Medical care was administered by a local healer, who relied on herbal medicines and tales of healing techniques handed down from Mapuche history.

2018-02-12 17.30.25Here Sayen demonstrated the instrument used for tribal ceremonies. She blew through the ram’s horn attached to hosing covered with colorful woolen strands of thread, while drumming on a tautly pulled sheep skin secured to a basket.

The Mapuche fought the Spaniards for land. Mapuche fighters were renowned as brave and clever warriors, finding ways to ambush and defeat the enemy for many years.

Sayen invited us to a home prepared meal of herbal tea, fresh baked bread, a spread made of mashed beans, and a dessert of lemon pie. It was a feast!

We had a meaningful day, unlike any we had witnessed before. We all felt respect and affection for the Mapuche.

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