I can’t remember playing with any special toys.  First of all, we didn’t have a lot of money so I knew better than asking for stuff my parents couldn’t afford, which was most things.  I didn’t care about dolls except for this one I got for Christmas one year that you fed water to from its own little bottle and then squeezed its stomach and the water squirted out of a hole in the doll’s behind.  It became my own special squirt gun. I know now that I was way too annoying, running around the house, filling the doll up with water and then having it pee on everything.  Parents do occasionally make mistakes with toy selections. 

I did like paint by number sets and would occasionally stoop to begging.  I was with my mother and my sister at a Woolworths and my mother was going to let me pick out a paint by number set.  She had this religious picture in mind and I had my heart set on a picture of Superman.  Unfortunately, Superman cost more than Jesus and I was told it was Jesus or a German shepherd.  I didn’t want the dog and I didn’t want Jesus.  I wanted Superman! I stood there holding Superman in my arms and started to wail.  Embarrassed, my sister paid the extra fifty or sixty cents and the four of us left the building. Up. Up and away!

Since there was a limit on the number of these sets available, I eventually gave in and painted the German shepherd and went on to the Last Supper.  Mom decided that I should give the completed Last Supper to our minister.  Even a little kid like me suspected that he had a closet full of the same picture, but he took it from me with a straight face and my mom was happy.  The German shepherd and a Cocker Spaniel hung on the wall in the dining room, next to two pictures portraying kimono-clad ladies on scenic bridges, horses, pink flamingos, parrots, sailing ships, a lighthouse, a Poodle on black velvet, etc.

Another young passion of mine was putting together plastic models.  I started assembling old-timey cars and planes, never really interested in those of the present which by now would be in that old-timey bracket.  The original Aurora plastic models of Frankenstein and his horror buddies adorned my dresser top and a large dinosaur skeleton which I later gave to my nephew.  That was a total mistake as he stepped on it and broke it beyond repair.  Bet you thought I had forgotten that, George!  I worked my way up to large models of sailing ships with intricate rigging and cannons.  Putting it mildly, our home always smelled of paint thinner and glue.

I was still into model making when Jerry and I became friends in high school and one time I bought him a simple car with just a few pieces to put together and paint.  A few days later, he brought it over to show me.  Most of the body was covered in fingerprints embedded in dried, excess glue and one of the axels had been replaced with a toothpick.  The car was painted all over in one color and he had drawn two heads on the windshield, smiling.  He told me that glue and paint were too dangerous and he would rather stick to scotch tape.  I agreed. 

When buying gifts, remember to stay within the skill-level of the recipient.




I’ve been wondering lately what the state of the world will be like in twenty years or fifty years if some things don’t change, such as our rhetoric and mannerisms. 

                Turning on the evening news, we have to remember that the programming is PG-13.  The major headlines so often are ones about bombings, shootings or other acts of violence with maybe two minutes at the end of the program slotted for some sort of “feel good” moment.  Years ago I felt that we had all become desensitized from viewing the atrocities and carnage taking place in far away Viet Nam.  We have gone light years beyond that today.  Now it’s become more personal. 

                 I shudder to think of the human race dragging knuckles through the rubble of civilization, unable to communicate in no way other than by showing force.

                 “You look different than me.”  Bam!  Pow! 

                “You have different religious beliefs.”  Crack!  Slam!

                “You’re in my face.”  Kapow!  Thump!  “I just want to hurt someone and hear them cry as I have                  cried.” 

                We want our children to have a good life.  We send them to school to learn how to read and write and become good citizens of the world.  We send them to houses of worship to learn that if they are good there will be a better place for them someday.  When they turn out less than perfect, we blame what they’ve learned from television or video games or gang influence. 

                But what have we taught them?  Have we taught them that anger rules?  A simple game of baseball or soccer among youngsters can turn ugly when parents lash out at the coaches or referees and a brawl ensues.  A vehicle getting in your way on a highway is reason for road rage, worth endangering the lives of many. Sports and entertainment figures feel that they are above the law and moral decency.  Politicians teach our children that saying untrue or nasty things about their opponents is acceptable if it sways votes.  Too often fear can turn to anger and hate, and for whatever reason, is rationale enough for killing.

                We need to tone down the rhetoric and try to engage brain before action is taken.  Otherwise, I’m afraid civilization will break down into warring tribes that will sooner or later annihilate each other. By then, it will be too late to tell our children; no one will be there to listen.


                I recently read a memoir of a woman who survived the Holocaust in Budapest.  Her mother, who deserves to be on the lists of super moms, was able to keep the author, a teenage girl, and her younger sister and brother alive through the horrors of Nazi occupation.  They survived twelve-hour marches across Hungary in the cold and snow, sleeping on the hard ground or in the mud, with little or nothing to eat or drink.  Those who couldn’t keep up were rewarded with a bullet. They suffered in the death camps but survived there as well until liberated by American forces.  What seemed to be the worst atrocity in the author’s recollection was the sight of their non-Jewish neighbors standing on both sides of the road jeering, calling them names or just doing nothing as she and her fellow Jews were marched away from their homes.  TO SEE YOU AGAIN by Betty Schimmel is a story of courage and love set against the horrors of war. 




             Sunday mornings at my place usually consist of staying out of the office for a while and picking up stuff and straightening up of the house.   The couch cushions are checked for hidden treasures such as tennis balls.  Shelby’s bones and toys go into her basket and the rug gets vacuumed.  As I leave the room I can hear her emptying the basket and throwing everything back where it belongs.  Wash get done and put away and the sink emptied. 

                I’ve mentioned before that Sunday mornings always include music.  There’s no real rhyme or reason as to what goes into the mix.  Sometimes the list may go from Andrea Bocelli to Rod Stewart to Rod McKuen to Sarah Brightman.  Queen makes the list frequently as does Charles Aznavour and the Bee Gees.  Another favorite is Neil Diamond who takes up a lot of shelf space in my record collection. Seeing as how this is being written on September 30, Neil’s “September Morn” album is on the turntable.

                I have been a Neil Diamond fan since the late 1960s and Jerry always made sure to keep me supplied with any new album that came out.  He appreciated the fact that I had a few favorite singers, such as Neil, that he thought that could actually carry a tune.  It also helped that his slow songs were perfect for dancing to in our living room. 

                We moved from the Chicago area to Northeast Georgia late in the 70s and soon afterward were able to bring down my parents, thus forming our own mob-like enclosure.  Small town life suited us just fine and we busied ourselves with family and writing.  Then came August of 1984!  Neil Diamond was coming to Atlanta!!!

                Jerry not only got tickets for us but for our two kids and for my mother.  The kids had listened to his songs since they were babies. I’m sure my mother didn’t have a clue as to who he was or where we were going but it sounded like an adventure, for sure.  Boy, was she right.

                Having avoided actually going into the downtown Atlanta area up to this point, we suffered the consequences.  We had planned on leaving in plenty of time to get to the Omni, find our seats and settle in before the concert but… The interstate was a mess and there was nothing we could do except inch forward along with the rest of the traffic.  We were finally able to get off at what we thought was the correct downtown exit only to find out that we were wrong.

                 By this time Jerry was losing that thin veneer of adult confidence and cool we try to maintain in front of our children, right before we blow up and become the primal savages we really are.  Mapquest directions are not easy to follow when the vehicle is going really fast on unfamiliar streets while looking for a large building you’ve never seen before.  The kids were loving the roller coaster ride and my mother sat quietly with her eyes tightly shut, probably thinking that this was a big mistake.  I was already in the “It’s ok if we get there a little late mode,” and Jerry wasn’t buying it.  He knew this concert was important to me and he wasn’t going to let me down. 

                We eventually found the Omni, memorized the location and then spent more time circling the area to find a parking lot that still had space.  After paying almost the cost of a concert ticket for a little piece of real estate, we trekked back to the venue, dragging the kids and grandma.  We presented our tickets and walked into this humongous auditorium. Our seats were in the nosebleed section and the lights were already dimmed.  We never saw Neil walk on stage or actually see him sing his opening selection because we spent that time trying to get to our seats without falling.  Jerry had to contend with a night blind wife who lost all sense of balance in the dark, two young children who were too busy looking around to keep up and a seventy-eight-year-old mother-in-law.

                Grandma was a trooper and didn’t have a heart attack that night, thank goodness.  She did live until just shy of one-hundred years old.  The concert was great and we all had a wonderful time.  The kids didn’t lean forward and fall out of their seats onto the heads of those tiny people way down below and, we almost forgot that we still had to get everyone back down to the main level when it was over.

I was gifted with a concert tee shirt, which I still have, and the memory that Jerry always tried to keep his promises, even if meant endangering our lives to do so.  We found our car parked where we left it and drove at a much more comfortable speed on the long drive home.

Although Neil Diamond continues to write songs and to record, he has had to retire from touring because of Parkinson’s Disease.  His music has spoken to us for over fifty years and I hope for many more to come.  Thank you for all you have done to sing the words we all have in our hearts and for all the fond memories you have given us.

I remain,

Forever in Blue Jeans




There’s a lot of talk today about survival, and how with the right combination of tools and gadgets, any obstacle can be overcome.  Some of us put up vast quantities of food and water and medical supplies in order to endure the coming catastrophe, whatever it may be.  Companies have grown by leaps and bounds, supplying us with all these necessities that will keep us safe and secure, no matter what the situation.             

 Most of us who try to plan ahead in case of power outages, floods, and other such disasters may feel confident that we can prevail over the bad and come out on top.  Living without electrical power for a day or two might bring the family closer together.  A night spent huddling in the basement telling stories or singing songs while waiting for the tornado to pass over sounds like fun.  Even the notions of breaking open your cache of survival supplies and actually using some of the items sound exciting!  Did someone remember to buy oil for the oil lamps?  Where did you stash the batteries? 

Eventually, reality will enter the picture and the fun of living “in the rough” will turn to, at the very least, an inconvenience and possibility something worse.  By now you’re having second thoughts about bringing your mother-in-law and her ancient, incontinent Chihuahua over to ride out the storm.   Next time remember to have a covered trash can in the basement to hold the dirty diapers your grandchild gifted you with.

Soon, the damage left behind from the storm has to be taken care of.  A lot of hard work needs to be done before normalcy returns but stories will be told for many generations about your survival readiness and skills. Other stories about you will be told when you’re out of earshot.

Some disasters just don’t share the same kind of charisma that’s associated with the “big” ones.  How does someone cope when their company suddenly goes belly up and they are out of a job?  A child needs medical treatment or medication and insurance doesn’t cover it?  The young man who is trying hard to keep his job can’t read very well?  Their only mode of transportation sighs its last breath and there’s nothing left in the till to replace it; how do they get to work?   A child has no one to look up to or talk to about their fears.  The old soldier looks out the window and sees nothing but his past, no future. She is feeling old and useless and nobody cares.  Does it get to that point when a person loses hope? How do they survive?

Stories like these are not on the evening news because these disasters affect only a few.  No organization is outside their home passing out doughnuts.  No pop stars are putting on a benefit concert.  Their neighbors probably don’t even know them or their problems.

We all get wrapped up in our own troubles.  Every day brings on more things to worry about, more drama to deal with.  Yes, be prepared for the “big” ones but take time to look for the smaller, more personal disasters that we might be able to help eliminate.  Sometimes it takes no more than a hug or a smile or perhaps sitting down and listening.  A promise of a ride, even to the bus stop could mean the difference to a person’s survival or a meeting at the local library, deciphering words necessary to excel at their job.

 While we wait for the next cataclysmic incident, hopefully, we can take the time to use our hearts and hands to share our resources with others who may need a boost. Remember that regardless of how many items we carry in our bug out bag, only a certain few will matter when we take that final walk up into the Retreat.



BTW  We're working on volume #4 or SURVIVE LIVE WELL AND LIVE WISELY and it should be available shortly as an Amazon Kindle.  While you are waiting, check out volumes 1,2 and 3.  Only $2.99 and loaded with articles aimed at making your life better.


Summer Memories

Somewhere, I’ve not seen them for a while, I have a shoebox filled with spoons, hundreds of them and not one has ever been used as an eating utensil although one in particular was destined for such a task until I received it.  The collection started with an 1893 Chicago World’s Fair souvenir spoon and a few others equally as old that were given to me for some reason I really don’t remember.  I purchased an inexpensive spoon holder and hung it on the wall, happy to display them but now needing to fill in the vacant notches with more spoons.  Then, whenever we traveled we picked up a spoon to add to the group. 

State spoons, museum and zoo spoons, everywhere we went there seemed to be a spoon we could buy inexpensively.  Soon the spoon rack was filled and another had to be obtained, then another.  Friends would be on the look-out whenever they traveled and bring back a spoon; business associates would send me spoons from around the world.  An elderly friend of ours after seeing the rather large collection I had by now, contacted friends of his in Russia and had a miniature hand painted spoon made especially to join the display. In what seemed no time at all, an entire wall was covered in spoons.  My memory wall…

A little boy, now a man, “stole” a plastic spoon from a fast food restaurant still in its plastic wrapper.  That spoon always was in a special place of honor.  Another little boy gifted me with a black spoon that was over a foot in length.   I have spoons with animals on them, some with United States presidents and others depicting famous buildings or landmarks.  Each spoon has a story, just like friends.


Swan came to visit her son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter, staying with them for almost a year.  He was a college professor specializing in seed biology and could identify a plant from its seed but couldn’t tell you what it was once grown up.  His wife was a lovely young woman who understood and spoke very little English but her million dollar smile was a great communicator.  Their daughter, who was just starting school when they moved in next door to us, usually did duty as translator.  Once over the summer, they took a vacation and for some reason, they gave us their garage door opener to look after.  Not having such a contraption, many moments were spent pointing the opener from our kitchen window toward their garage door, just to watch it in action.

From that same kitchen window, we first spotted this tiny oriental woman dressed in pajamas posing in their backyard.  She moved slowly and gracefully from one position to another, one knee bent forward, arms stretched out in front of her, hands arched as if pushing against a wall, then curling back and repeating the motion, bending her other knee forward.  Oblivious, so it seemed, to her surroundings, she would add more movements that required her hands to be above her head while looking skyward then, dropping them slowly toward the grass below her feet and ending with hands outreached, as though ready to deliver a supplication.  At the end of the routine, the woman would just sit quietly on a bench for a few minutes before retreating back inside.

One early summer afternoon she came close to the fence while I was working in my vegetable garden, giving me a big smile and a hello.  She pointed to some of the plants and inquired as to their names then repeating them after me with a slightly different pronunciation. She then motioned to me to come over into her yard, wanting to know what was growing there.  Through a lot of pantomime and silly faces, we found a way of communicating.

She was a widow; her husband had been a doctor with a very successful practice and left her well taken care of.  Her children, two living in the States and one in Europe, would welcome her into their homes for as long as she wished, then put her on a plane when she was ready to move on, carrying photographs and stories and gifts to her next child’s abode.  I guess you could say she was a family ambassador, keeping everyone up to date on the other’s activities.

Over the course of that summer, we learned a little about T`ai Chi and the names given to the various positions like “part the wild horse’s mane” and “grasp the bird’s tail.”  She taught us how to play ping pong although she was so fast we never had a chance to keep up; her six-year-old granddaughter was even too good for us. We retaliated by taking Swan to a local gun range and teaching her -- a seventy-something, non-English speaking lady -- how to shoot a handgun and, we kept her secret from the rest of her family that she thought her daughter- in- law’s Chinese cooking left a lot to be desired. Swan had become addicted to fried chicken and whenever the rest of the family went out of town, she’d hitch a ride to her favorite chicken take out joint. We tried to teach her how to drive but that got way too scary. That was a summer filled with happy times.