Could ‘elderly’ hearing problems be caused by any of the following?

A friend just sent me an article about how many vaccinated elderly patients have developed progressive hearing loss.

I don’t want to accept either of those labels (elderly OR going deaf), so I have come up with fifteen additional reasons. Can you think of others?

  1. Bad cell phone reception (I HATE them)
  2. TV personalities speaking too fast (Do they speed up the tape to fit the time constraint?)
  3. Accents, which are lovely, but are sometimes difficult to understand (multinational stations)
  4. Musical interruptions (Why DO they have to be so loud?)
  5. Words that have recently entered into the language (I don’t understand a lot of current terms and acronyms)
  6. Ambient noise you don’t usually notice until someone starts talking to you
  7. Speaker in room not enunciating properly (I think people have gotten lazy…as they have become slovenly with their manners)
  8. People talking around corners or from a distant room – even facing away can disturb reception
  9. Speaker ‘circling the field’ with their conversation… hard to follow the chain of thought
  10. Bad sound mixes on movies, old and new ones
  11. Talking over one another
  12. Daydreaming or ‘zoning out’
  13. Attending loud concerts when younger
  14. Listening to loud music with earbuds/headphones (Mom warned us!)
  15. Just plain getting older. Gulp.

Frankly, I usually put the Closed Captions on, especially when I’m watching BBC and similar shows. I often wish I could do that in real life when people speak to me (What WAS your name again?), or when I hear something on the car radio that didn’t quite register the first time.

Another great fix would be a sound device that would locate keys, wallet, etc. They probably do have gizmos for that, but sorry, I wasn’t paying attention when I was told where I can get one.

Thank goodness I have another phone (tethered to the wall) which I can use to ring my cell phone when I lose it. It’s often deep in my purse, but without my glasses, I’m not able to see it.

Now, what DID I do with those glasses????

I’ll always be a tree-hugger.

Grounding (or ‘earthing’) has been around for a long time. Shaman’s, Celts, Native Americans, yogi’s and others have believed that it is important to connect with the Earth. For years it’s had a kind of ‘airy-fairy’ aura about it, but more recently, holistic health practitioners, meditators, and even some medical professionals have begun to advocate the practice claiming that it can absorb natural electrical charges, balance our physical energy, assist with healing and possibly fix everything short of eliminating world hunger.

This morning, I read Dr. Eifrig’s Health & Wealth Bulletin article, ‘Grounding’ and Our Search for Good Science. In it, Dr. Eifrig explores both sides of whether it has validity or if those who promote it are merely trying to sell services and paraphernalia to the uninitiated. At the end, he invited his readers to respond- and I couldn’t resist.

I heard about it back in my early hippie days, when I first (and covertly) hugged a tree.

The tree I chose was a stately Maple that grew in my front yard, so I went out one early summer night and put my arms around it.  Honestly, I felt a little silly and figured I’d hug it and leave before anyone looked out their window and witnessed my strange behavior.

MY Maple Tree

I kicked off my sandals and my bare feet connected with the cool evening earth. The circumference of the fifty-year-old maple was larger than that of a very heavy man, and I had to turn my head to the side in order to be able to stretch out and half encircle it. I laid my face against its rough bark and closed my eyes.

My fingers naturally splayed out and fit perfectly into the little grooves of the trunk. As my chest, belly, hands, arms and face made contact with the old arbor, I pressed my ear to the tree and strained to hear something-perhaps a low humming or a rushing sound like when you listen to a conch shell. Did Native American Indians connect with the earth in this way when hunting their prey? Was this something my ancient ancestors had known about and done with the same regularity as I brush my teeth?

But instead of being actually audible, sound was transmitted to me as a ‘filling up,’ like when you are held captive for a moment in that split-second in the aftermath of a beautiful symphony or when you see a gorgeous sunset.

Although I heard nothing, a force of some sort compelled me to inhale deeply and fill my lungs with the sweet night air. I took in the deep velvety essence of the wood. It was not perfumed like an incense or pungent like a pine forest floor. I somehow ‘felt’ the scent in my nostrils rather than smelled its pheromones, and when I exhaled, what was transferred was an incredible infusion of peace. 

The feeling grew and grew so that after a few moments, I found my cheeks wet with tears. It was as though the branches of that tree enfolded me in its warmth and safety and made me feel like a little girl enveloped in my grandfather’s love. I will never in my life forget that night and those feelings. I have repeated it every now and again, not only with ‘my maple,’ but with younger trees.

I asked my adult son if he ever hugged a tree, and he said he’d climbed many, and felt “sort of the same thing.” And yes, though he didn’t analyze it as I have, he sensed something. Picking up a dresser just doesn’t evoke the same feeling.

So let the scientists, researchers and nay-sayers keep looking for those nail holes. Let them say that I (or people like me) have an overactive imagination, or even that I’m quite mad.  I care not whether what I feel when I hug a tree, or walk on the beach, or tend my vegetable garden in my bare feet is a ‘placebo’ effect or the result of reading or listening to some esoteric snake charmer in my youth.  

Because in my heart, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all our frequencies ebb and flow, and that like the hearts of two nurse sharks that beat in tandem when together, and resume their individual beats when apart, we are intimately connected to the earth’s energy and all that is in it!

I’ve included below a poem that I wrote in 2003 for a friend after reading “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe” by Lynne McTaggart.  It could well apply to my experience as a tree-hugger. 

I feel the vibration of your body:
A pulling, tugging, surrounding kind of touch
That resonates within my being.
I see your light with my hands.
I taste you and you are warm.
My receptors are turned toward you
Like a sunflower facing the sun.
We suck up the photons of each other
As we collide and merge
And cascade through the spectrum of time
With the speed of light,
Knowing all things together
That we could not know as one.
–Hillary Volk
, 2003

The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding
(full documentary FREE) 1 hour 15 minutes

A kick in the pants

Wow, seeing this in my WordPress account sure made my day.

I started this blog back in October 2020 and have admittedly been jealous of people who have thousands of followers. (My other blog started in 2015 – The Caregiver’s Corner – has 18 followers with a total of 857 views. I should get a similar announcement on that site in….. about two years!)

Of course, I am not a very regular poster, and have not purposefully marketed myself; I have nothing to sell (yet), and I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking.

In truth, I only publish maybe one out of every ten WP posts that I start. I do write every day, and many times more often than that, but blogging has to bubble up and smack me in the face.

I begin almost every day with Morning Pages (MP), a process coined by Julia Cameron from her book The Artist’s Way that helps me to clear out all the cobwebs of my mind and set down top issues that need addressing. I’ve done this now in one form or another (paper or electronic) for over 40 years.

Similarly, at the end of the day I do Evening Pages (EP). Recently I have used a 5×7 calendar for this purpose to bullet point everything I’ve done: phone calls, shopping, accomplishments and a ‘rating’ word. I also use it to schedule tasks in advance as I’ve given up on to-do lists, except what is revealed in my MPs.

In between, I read and write about everything. I have boxes and cabinets filled to the gills with my ‘stuff.’ All waiting to be finished.

Only one of many boxes and books

I admittedly have ADHD although I have never been diagnosed. (If I eat bread, it makes me want to sleep, and at those times I only have ADD.) Unfortunately, this ‘condition,’ which may only be the belief that I have a monkey-mind, makes me jump around from project to project, and it is only with intense self-discipline that I accomplish anything at all.

Timers and stopwatches have become my best friends. CDs of conferences or hour-long YouTube music videos and 19-minute TedX Talks also serve as a sort of ‘policeman’ as I tell myself I must stick with one task until the end of the lecture or until the bell rings.

When my sister and I were young, Mom called it ‘Beat the Clock’ and we’d run around trying to make our bed, get dressed and tidy our room before that all-too-familiar sound of the Lux Minute Minder would start. If you could get to the timer before that, you could turn the dial gently, cover it with your hand to smother the sound, and get it to stop before it broke your eardrums.

This past Christmas, my dear Uncle Julian sent me a Beethoven timer out of one of the dozens of catalogs that he loves for their unique gifts. It’s chime is Fur Elise, the piano piece that I learned to play umpty-ump years ago. After I memorized it and had my recital, I quit. I never wanted to play another musical instrument as long as I lived. And until I was about 40, I hated classical music!

My sister, on the other hand, took lessons for many years and eventually taught students. I don’t think she ever played Fur Elise though. (Our uncle sent her a Mozart timer that plays Rondo Alla Turca; she was much more advanced.) And for some reason, she is able to finish everything she starts!

So what I now try to do is get to Beethoven before he starts playing that tune over and over and over again. It’s like a broken record! I hear my mother in Heaven laughing. I can still feel as well as hear that metronome going ‘tick-tock-tick-tock’ as I practiced my scales, all the while crying to her that I didn’t want to play the piano! I see myself moving that demon Lux a minute here, a minute there until it finally signaled to my ‘jailer’ that my sentence was over.

“Did you move that clock?” She’d frown as she looked into my face, clearly trying to remember what time I had started practicing.

And I looked right back at her in complete innocence and lied through my teeth.

She’s not here now so I can’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. If I don’t do something, or quit in the middle, or jump to something else, there’s no one here to set me straight again.

Recently, I’ve bought myself an hourglass. It’s a gentler, kinder prod.

So far, it’s working.

Here, There and Everywhere

When someone you love becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure!

My Father is in the Hereafter. But it’s Father’s Day and a day to think about him and all the kindnesses he did over the course of his lifetime. Dad’s my Daddy no matter where he is!

My earliest memories of him are somewhat foggy. They’re a combination of photographs I’ve seen, stories I’ve heard, and the actual happening of things. I recall being held by him, being encouraged to eat while in a high chair, sitting in a little (flimsy) car seat between he and my mother, and being carried upstairs to bed.

Now, whether my recollection is that of a five-year-old watching him lovingly care for my little sister doesn’t negate the fact that he did the same for me.

When I saw Mary Martin fly in the air on NBC’s 1954/55 TV production of Peter Pan, Dad began ‘flying me’ into bed. Soon after, he brought home the 33 RPM record, and my love of musicals began. Our entire family enjoyed them, and I think my aunt and cousins did as well because I’ve heard them recite, “Major-General” from Penzance, too. We’d spend hours learning the lyrics that Dad would find and print out for us.

Dad’s Sleeping Beauties

After I got too big for such shenanigans, it was fun to see him fly Andrea, five years my junior and a little lighter, down the hallway. He helped me to understand that it was important to be the big sister, and that new adventures awaited me. I didn’t appreciate his patience when it was shown toward me as a child, but as the years went by and I had sons of my own, I realized what an exceptional man he really was.

Mom and Dad took us everywhere – and made anything an ‘event.’ We brought easels to Washington’s Crossing, made up songs on long car rides, brought picnic baskets to museum grounds where we ‘climbed the rocks,’ sat on the lap of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park, pretended to lift huge anchors in Mystic Seaport, brought identification books to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Tuxedo Park, and little Kodak box cameras to the Bronx Zoo.

The Dr. Bronson Rose
My Dad’s name was Bron and his mother’s name was Rose

He was always there to record the times of our lives with his own Argus 35mm camera: ballet recitals, school concerts and plays, and of course holidays and birthdays. Dad taught us about perspective as he posed us to ‘hold’ one another or a building in the palm of our hand, and composition as we framed photos in the viewfinder without pressing the button (in the days of pricey rolls of film and before digital cameras).

Argus Rangefinder 35mm Camera
“The Brick”

I searched the Internet for the camera Dad owned in the 1950s. I picked it out immediately; I remember it so well. All the little gears, the self-timer lever there on the left side, the heavy substantial feel of it, and the range finder dial.

As I looked at the picture on-line, I could almost see it both in my Dad’s big hands, as well as in my own little ones. I see it on a tripod with the single flashbulb attachment and the little light meter hanging off the case. I hear the sound of the timer and the pop of the bulb which he sometimes had to rub on his sleeve to warm it up first.

And then I remember the magic. Dad turned the bathroom into a dark room and let me watch as he developed the film, enlarged the image and printed the picture. I watched with fascination as moments, frozen in time, appeared before my eyes when he sloshed the paper in the pan. Photos hung to dry on my mother’s clothesline that was stretched across the tub, and an eerie red light bulb made it all seem ‘otherworldly.’ I can still smell the chemicals when I think of it, and have never lost my love of black and white photography because of those days with Dad.

I took this one of Dad and Andrea, My Aunt Helen with Grandma and Grandpa

He enjoyed inventing and building things – stereos and models and cabinets and furniture and items to make my mother’s life easier. He built the most amazing headboard for me that was like a dollhouse, which kept me quiet while my baby sister slept and gave my mother a little break.

Andrea can attest to the fact that our Dad was the ultimate father (perhaps a penultimate) – one of the last of a generation that truly taught by example. He didn’t rely on teachers or television to instruct his girls; he took the time to explain, or show, or explore with us. He may have shown my sister how to use hand tools, but he taught me how to do paste-ups and mechanical art which helped to land my first real job as a desktop publisher.


Today, June 2oth, is also my mother’s birthday, and so I must make mention of her amazing influence on my life as well. Mom and Dad were a team. Growing up with them was an adventure. Lest I paint an unrealistically rosy picture of my life, I will add that it had it’s ups and downs. But one thing I know with every fiber of my being is that my parents loved me just as much – if not more – than I loved them.

Oh, the memories are surfacing fast and furiously this morning, bringing a little tear of joy that, although Dad passed in 1986, I can still conjure up his voice, his image, and his love by spending a quiet moment and asking to be with him…

Peter where do you live?
PETER PAN: It’s a secret place.
Please, tell me!
PETER PAN: Would you believe me if I told you?
I promise.
PETER PAN: For sure?
For sure!
PETER PAN: Then I’ll tell you.
I have a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
It’s not on any chart,
You must find it with your heart.
Never Never Land.

It might be miles beyond the moon,
Or right there where you stand.
Just keep an open mind,
And then suddenly you’ll find
Never Never Land.

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that’s my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that’s my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.

There are no accidents.

The photo above has nothing to do with this post. (Or does it?)

I came across the Holstee Manifesto while reading a book entitled, “There are no accidents.” (Coincidence?)

I’ll let you know after I finish the book, but for now, I’m gonna print the poster and hang it on my wall.

Getting back on the horse.

Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!
— Ethel Thayer, “On Golden Pond” (1981)

As some of you may already know, I lost my dear younger son, Christopher, a few weeks ago. Since then I have been unable to write more than a grocery or task list. I wanted nothing to do with reading, talking, or putting down on paper my innermost thoughts. I even got to the point where I didn’t care if I ever published another thing.

Something similar happened when I lost my mother in 2016: I couldn’t sing.

Like writing, music and singing have always been a huge part of my world. But for a whole year, I couldn’t get past the first few notes of a song without tears welling up behind my eyes and a burning feeling in my mouth as if I’d eaten a lemon! I despaired that I would ever be able to sing again without crying-especially the arias that my mother and I had enjoyed together.

Then one day, the spell was broken! Poof! It was as though my time for mourning was over and I had to get on with my life.

This loss has been different perhaps because, unlike my mother’s passing at age 89, it was not expected. I was able to function fairly well unless I said Chris’ name–at which point I’d unsuccessfully attempt to stifle a loud sob that would burst from the depth of me. I’d explain to my listener that I did that every time I said his name and then go on speaking as if nothing had happened. This occurred so many times that I stopped saying ‘Chris’ and started referring to him only as ‘my son.’

I soon realized that I was in no condition to go out into polite society or run into neighbors. So I bought a copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s little book, “Gift from the Sea,” which was recommended to me as a wonderfully inspirational short read. I grabbed one other book and packed my bags for a bit of time away at the New Jersey shore. Never mind that it was February, and there was snow on the ground. I was wounded worse than I had ever been in my entire life, and I needed to heal away from prying, even if sympathetic, eyes.

Never in my entire life have I allowed myself to do exactly what I pleased, when I pleased, and as much or little as I pleased. I intended to do a lot of things while I was away, and working on my manuscript was at the top of that list. But what I did was nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

At first, I slept very little, and ate almost nothing. My host thoughtfully provided a coffee maker and some delightful pods of a delicious brew – something I hadn’t enjoyed in a great while. I bought some apples and oranges. There was a television, which I didn’t want to watch, but I’d sometimes put it on without sound when it got dark. It wasn’t that I was lonely, but my room seemed so small when the draperies were closed without a ‘window’ to the outside.

When I’d wake in the small hours of the morning, I’d whisper through my tears all the prayers and Psalms I could recall from childhood. I sang hymns as they popped into my head. I pulled out my copy of Science & Health and read and read until I fell back asleep. Seeing familiar phrases that my mother used to quote was incredibly calming. My grandfather was known to say that, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” He was right.

Every day, I’d bundle up and go for a long walk. In the past, I’d had a hard time quieting the voice in my head that would either dart around aimlessly or delve deeply into a subject, depending on what was going on in my life. Now, there was only a strange, empty echo. Whereas I usually struggled when meditating to clear my mind, a hollow, vast silence was effortlessly achieved. I strolled along the boardwalk listening to, but not really hearing, the sound of the waves and the squawk of the seagulls.

Some evenings, I spoke to my dear sister, but I have no idea what I said. I only know that she was there for me, making me feel loved and safe, despite the three-thousand mile distance between us. I called a few other close relatives and a good friend, and they helped me more than I could ever say.

There were nights I’d sleep from early evening for twelve hours straight. I’d sometimes open my eyes to check the time on the LCD clock, and it was always some multiple of ninety minutes—a full cycle of REM and non-REM segments. I’d just figure out when the next three or four-and-a-half hours would be, wake up again, check the clock, and go back to dreaming.

And dream I did. Over the weeks, I was ‘visited’ by many people I had known over the course of my life, including my parents (together and one at a time), as well as other significant figures. My son–or the person I perceived to be my son–was often present. Once my ex-husband, who passed in 2009, suddenly appeared. I had been holding a little child’s hand, and he said to me as clear as day, “I’ll take care of him now.” I woke up crying, feeling the loss more acutely, but also a sense of responsibility melting away. Upon awakening, I felt refreshed and as though my subconscious had been working out a lot of things that I couldn’t deal with during the day.

I vacillated between grieving and reasoning with myself about the timing of my son’s death. He was forty-nine, not a little boy. Would it have been harder if he had not had time to enjoy his life? He was ill – and probably for a long while, but he got up each day with a smile on his face and went out and did his job. He could see the worried look on my face, but he’d grin and tell me, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” And every single time I’d see him, he’d wrap his big, strong arms around me and say, “I love you, Mom!”

Would it have been better if he’d spent the last part of his life shuttling between doctor appointments? He’d traveled back and forth to Memorial Sloan-Kettering with his father during his final illness, spent long nights with him at the end, and had seen how a body can be ravaged. After that experience, he never again told me that if I got sick, he’d drag me kicking and screaming to a doctor. His girlfriend became very ill years earlier, and he was there each time they “took out parts” as Chris would say, to prolong a life that held little joy for her at the end.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book lay half read on my nightstand. I just couldn’t identify with her. Published in 1955, her feminist manifesto was not what I had been led to believe it was. It was not a quiet time of reflection, but rather an escape from an overbearing, philandering husband, a parcel of children, and a three-year affair.

But that was not the point. The idea of her book-a personal ‘time out’-had given me the impetus to escape the ordinary, oppressing, obligatory rituals that might have been my lot. It prevented me from having to sift through papers and go through drawers and closets before I was emotionally ready to do so. It taught me once again the power of prayer. It shored me up and gave me the time to reflect upon and remember my past, and reassess my future.

I know from experience that sorrow and loss ebbs and flows. I know that this pain will lessen, but never really disappear. In truth, I wouldn’t want it to. In the last analysis, things happen as they should, and for a reason. We don’t understand this fact as we go through our challenges, but when we look back on them, the pieces all fit together…perfectly.

Christopher used to sing Bon Jovi’s song and I can hear his voice now–a little off-key, but joyful nonetheless.

It’s my life
It’s now or never.
I ain’t gonna live forever.
I just wanna live while I’m alive.
My heart is like an open highway.
Like Frankie said,
“I did it my way.”
I just want to live while I’m alive
‘Cause it’s my life.

Bon Jovi

And he wouldn’t want me to stop writing.

Christopher Jon Volk
(November 3, 1971 – February 6, 2021)

Photo by Skyler Ewing on

America is not a baby anymore.

I originally planned to write a little something about the disturbing events that took place at the Capitol the other day. However, the more I tried, the more vitriolic I became, and that was not my intention.

As I put pen to paper, I thought about my childhood. How boundaries, rules and limits are integral to everything we do in life from scheduling a calendar, to managing a business, raising a child and the running of a government. An overgrown garden, like an indulged child, can destroy the most beautiful landscape, and an undisciplined government can ruin a country.

Many people of late have been behaving like bratty children running wild with with their foul mouths and unruly behavior. I was disgusted to see rioters the other day wearing shirts imprinted with Nazi slogans. I think the idea of Freedom has been bastardized. It reminds me of horrid little children who cried ‘child abuse’ back in the 1990s and stripped teachers of their livelihood for patting a child’s shoulder to express encouragement. (Yes, I know people that happened to!)

To allow someone to drag our flag upside down and across the floor, to speak the most horrible, defamatory words to our elected government officials, to desecrate our hallowed halls with excrement-this boggles my mind. I lived in a time when Playboy magazine had to be wrapped in brown paper, men didn’t curse in front of ladies, and I could not wear a skirt to school if the length was above my knee! We didn’t whine about it or take it to court. We just tucked in our chins and saved the ire for the things that really mattered.

We have been shocked for decades about school shootings, but what have we done about it? We lamented police brutality even as we looked away because it didn’t affect us directly. We allowed pharmaceutical companies to peddle their poisons and destroy millions of lives because our ‘markets’ were producing as a result of their profits. We allowed corporations to dictate policy as if they were people. I could go on and on. We say we’ve worked hard to erase prejudice, but one of the biggest dividers of our country is now embodied in a couple of primary colors.

We lie like a rug-to our country, to one another, and to ourselves. Some of our media outlets lie because of the sponsors that support them. The lies beget misinformation, confusion, and distrust.

Our Congress lies because they are beholden to large corporations and lobbyists. They’re not all like that, thank goodness. They try to get their bills passed and support their constituents, but they are forced to accept a patchwork quilt of compromises. The ones that tell the truth and fight for the American people are either newly elected, threatened with harm, unable to raise capital for their election, vilified for their courage, forced to flee like rats off a sinking ship or resign because they just can’t take it anymore.

Our elected officials debate the Constitution ad nauseum as if they are asking it permission to do their jobs and when they do not like the answer, they debate some more. Or write another report. Or create another committee. They are not acting like the leaders we need them to be but rather like the permissive parents of unruly children who wring their hands and lament that if they are the ones to dole out the punishment, no one will love (donate to/vote for) them.

And now they are afraid. The little lion cub has grown up. The rest of the world doesn’t look at us with the same tolerance because we are only 244 years old.

We are two-hundred and forty-four years old!

We are not babies anymore.

A little bit of Christmas Magic

One year, back in the 1970s when my sons were little, my parents got a huge washing machine appliance box, decorated it and brought it to our house on Christmas morning. They acted as if it was really, really heavy. They struggled to get it out of the car, and when the boys offered to help, they pointed to the caution stickers all over the package and said thank you, but it would be best if they stood back.

Finally, Mom and Dad made it up the driveway and the front steps, really hamming it up by breathing hard as they ‘rested.’ WHAT was in the box? Nothing had been said, so it was just as big a mystery to me as it was to my children.

They maneuvered the box out of the way and we proceeded to have our Christmas Dinner. All the while, the boys eyed the beautifully wrapped box with the big bow in the corner of the living room.

After dinner, Scott and Chris asked if they could open the mystery box first, but they were told it should be opened last. The minutes ticked by and of course their anticipation grew. Santa was pretty good to them that year, and they enjoyed watching the rest of the family open gifts that they had made. There was a pair of wooden lap trays my father helped them cut, stain and varnish that I have to this day. My eldest son wrote out a favorite recipe in calligraphy for my mother, and the younger one painted a picture for my dad.

“Okay, boys, you can open the box now.” Being mindful of the stickers pasted all over, they carefully peeled the paper which had an overabundance of tape on it. (My mother always did that. It drove me mad, but she loved suspense.) Finally, the two of them peered inside and smiled.

I was praying that they didn’t find a little puppy or kitten inside. The way they were acting made me suspicious. So my husband and I looked in and found a pretty sign my artistic father had suspended with thin wire to float within the box.

“Merry Christmas!” the sign read. “Contents are filled with love.”

I think that was the best gift ever!

But here’s the magical part: This morning, our Unchained Writers group was asked what the strangest gift we ever got for Christmas was, and I mentioned the story of this box. Instead of working on my manuscript during our writing time, something ‘led’ me to open one of a number of file drawers that I have not even touched for decades. Within THAT drawer was a collection of papers that included the two signs from that Christmas!

What are the odds? I wondered.

I sometimes believe people will think that I make this kind of stuff up. But it is true. What I am feeling at this moment is very hard to express, but it is the very best kind of gift I can imagine: to feel as though the people we have known are still with us in spirit, guiding us if we just listen.

A very Merry Christmas
to all my Readers!!

Happy 250th Birthday, Ludwig!

Mother and I always looked forward to two classical music celebrations: The W-QXR Radio New Year’s Eve Classical Countdown and Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday on December 16th.

I started my caregiver’s blog on this day so that I could remember the anniversary. I didn’t know that a mere five years later I would be listening alone, but she – and he, are as near and dear to me as always.

So today, I have the radio on and they are playing his Ninth Symphony (choral). I will vote for my favorites for the countdown (see link below). Later, I will put Immortal Beloved on the TV, just as Mom and I used to do. And I will cry. Again. As my sister says, she watches the classic movie King of Kings every year and each time hopes that it will end differently.

I wonder if he would have composed his beautiful music if his story had a happy ending. Perhaps he would have been a good husband and father. However, in order for the rest of us to have known his genius, “Es muss sein.”

Voting for the winner of the countdown ends December 18th.

Pick your battles

I wrote this blog a few years ago during the last election when my mother was still alive. I’m reblogging it from my other site because it fits in perfectly with the ‘Growing up in the 1950s’ series I’ve begun here, as well as what I feel about our current media and it’s effect on our society and our personal harmony.

The Caregiver’s Corner

I was talking to my sister Andrea yesterday about the election and what’s going on in the world. She’s been fortunate enough to live in a number of enviable places, including Europe, on a boat in the Caribbean, and now in an RV in the Pacific Northwest. Each of these locations limited her access to a lot of the TV shows and news reports (with the exception, perhaps, of the PBS News Hour), but she’s somehow always managed to keep on top of the important stuff.

Even though I’ve been firmly rooted in Central New Jersey, surrounded by hundreds of TV stations and unlimited access to the internet, I, too, have always tried to be really selective about what what I put into my head. I prefer not to hear about murders and mayhem, so I get my information from PBS, NPR, and W-QXR, our classical music radio station that broadcasts from New York (but with an app, can be heard from anywhere). I figure that if it’s important enough for them to report on a topic, it merits some attention. Then I go to other sources to educate myself further.

Neither of us can just passively swallow the news, no matter where it comes from.


Dad & Me

Perhaps it all stems from the fact that our Dad was in advertising, and was very aware of the subliminal messages that were coming across the airwaves in the 1950’s. He made this little box with a wire to the TV, and whenever a commercial came on, we’d push a button to mute the sound, or ‘blab-off,’ which was what we called the gizmo. I can’t remember many of the jingles from that time frame because I just never heard them.


Dad & Andrea 1956

Once in a while Andrea and I would sneak and listen to an advert, and it was as if we were doing something deliciously naughty. That’s the only reason I’m able to sing the Alka-Seltzer or Winston jingles, two products that were ‘verboten’ in our household. Doublemint, Chevrolet, and Brylcreem (‘a little dab’ll do ya’) were OK. We were safe with those products and wouldn’t be tempted buy them because we had a Mercury, Dad used Vitalis (no greasy kid-stuff for him!), and ladies didn’t chew gum in public.

Do people today realize that even if they are not actively listening to advertisements when the TV is only on ‘in the background,’ that the messages are invading their subconscious?  I am disgusted by all the pharmaceutical commercials that accompany evening television – advertisements that claim to ward off some of the ‘so-called’ unavoidable pitfalls of aging. My sister was lucky that she never really had to listen to all this!

We are bombarded with the promise of cures, tonics and creams for maladies ranging from wrinkles and osteoporosis to low-T and leaky bladder. We are exposed to topics that would never be discussed at the dinner table, and which are invited into our living rooms and given the best seat in the house! OB, ED, COPD, DM, AD, GAD, GERD, IBS, UTI – Do you understand these acronyms because I’m not going to spell them out for you. Depends won’t show, take the red pill, the little purple pill – but not together. And don’t call in the morning, unless the drug you took for anxiety makes you more anxious and maybe even suicidal, and one of the side effects might even be death and remember…we warned you about all this in that sweet-sounding voice when we showed you the couple watching the beautiful sunset with the lovely music in the background.  Sure, it sometimes made you laugh, but that was the whole purpose.

I can actually remember the day that we got our first television. It was delivered and promptly set up in the center of the living room, although there wasn’t much to watch in the afternoon. Turn the dial and almost every channel had a pattern with an awful sound accompanying it. I think I was mesmerized by Crusader Rabbit. The 17” portable Philco TV was a ‘freebie’ when you purchased a freezer. I recognized it from the ad on the Internet; it had that foldaway antennae. $599 seems a pretty steep price for 1956, especially when you consider that you can buy a comparable freezer today at Costco for about $179, and an even larger TV for less than the $159.95 shown here (and in color, too).

My grandparents probably had the very first TV in the neighborhood, and everyone came to their house on Friday nights to watch the wrestling matches from Madison Square Garden. The kids in the family (there were so many of us) got to munch on pretzels and drink orange or grape ‘pop,’ but the coke and ginger ale was for the grownups so they could add stuff to it. Funny how you don’t remember things, but then you see photos, and it all comes back to you. ‘Gorgeous George’ was the big thing (wrestler) back then, and I actually do remember seeing his blonde curly hair being shaved off on March 12, 1959 after he lost a match. I was about eight.

I digress. I was going to start talking about Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob and Clarabell and Shari Lewis – but I’ll save that for another time and another conversation. (Reminiscing about the past is such fun!)

The point that I’m trying to make is that we need to keep vigil over what we allow into our heads, our hearts, and our bodies.

Yes, we can get upset about terrorism and the Middle East, refugees and illegal aliens, the disparity between the rich and the poor, what’s in our water supply, how the food is tainted with chemicals and that the local Board of Education wants to spend almost $20 million to upgrade the air conditioning and heating systems in seven schools. (Is that even possible?) Or, we can realize that some issues will never be solved by us and are better left to people who are more equipped to handle them than we are.

We should use our energy and emotions to try to change things that legitimately bother us and personally touch us, rather than allow the ‘discord’ of the world to invade our personal peace (space), and possibly destroy our health. We can educate ourselves about candidates and vote our conscience. We can choose to buy local and organic produce and fight for GMO labeling laws. We can be charitable to those less fortunate than ourselves. We can sign petitions that we believe are worthwhile and call our senators to take action on our behalf. And we can use the mute button on the remote.

As Mandy Hale says, “Pick your battles. You don’t have to show up for every argument you’re invited to.”

(Yay!  When I read this to Mom, she remembered some of it!!!)

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