Monday, October 25, 2010

More Thoughts on Games, by Margaret (Peggy) Knorr

From Bonnie -- This started out as a comment on my "games" story, but, as you can see, Peggy had a story of her own to share. We agreed that this deserves a post of its own.

Dear Bonnie,

I love your description of games providing "the setting for many of those ordinary moments that shimmer in the fabric of our memories." To me, games and play and child-likeness are the very attitudes which we need so we can experience the sparkling shimmerings which our memories have for us; and not only for our recollections but also for the enjoyment of the present moments in our living. Carolyn, this frail woman, so close to death, must have had a child like heart which allowed her to revel in the enjoyment of those game players whom she was watching. 

It brings to mind a recent observance I had regarding my 94 year old demented husband, Joe.  His normal bearing is one of dissatisfaction with his physical, mental and emotional state.... a grumpy old man!  For the most part his face and body have a dejected, depressed and often angry look, but one day I was incredulously surprised and absolutely fascinated to see his boyish glee and excitement return for a little while when three of our male friends sat down at our table and joined me in a game of dominoes.

Joe sat with us but could not participate because of degenerated eyesight and his faulty cognition did not allow him understanding of the game, but his actions and the obvious delight he was getting from watching us and hearing our bantering and loud explosive laughter, must have touched a playful shimmering spark from his memories. Not only was his face transformed into enjoyment but his whole bearing was rejuvenated.

The treat he gave us with his verbalizations of his reactions was to me, astounding. Joe was loving listening and observing and was allowing himself to enjoy an "ordinary" moment in the little reprieve he had been given that day and it was indeed a joyful spiritual moment for all of us.

Yes Bonnie, as with your homey and comforting feelings while listening to your family playing, which you describe so well, we do not have to look far to be drawn into the depths of the spiritual life.  Like the laughing Buddha's reverence, it is all importantly spiritual...   

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Life is an Elevator, By Yolanda Adele

My life is an elevator
It is often crowded with people,
And their psychological baggage.
Some play with my down button,
And the jerks descend me into despair.
The doors slide open;
People get off and others come in.
Some know to push my up button,
Which lifts my moods to a joyful level.
That’s how life is …Full of ups and downs.
Might as well learn to enjoy the ride.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Games -- for Carolyn, by Bonnie J. Mansell

Just a few hours before Carolyn passed away on Wednesday evening, I learned that she had gone to a Bunko game on Tuesday. It was hard to imagine that only 24 hours ago this precious woman, so frail and worn, had been helped into a wheelchair and taken by car from La Habra to Chino Hills to be at a Bunko game, where she couldn’t even play. Tim assured me that Carolyn had been well enough to go, though she had very little energy.

After I got past the shock, I started thinking about it. If I knew that I was dying, would I want to spend my last evening watching friends play a card game? Of course, Carolyn did not know that her death was only a day away, but she was well-aware that it was imminent.

Honestly, my first reaction was, “Are you kidding?” It seemed, I don’t know, frivolous or something. It’s just that -- if I knew that I was dying, wouldn’t I want to be at home, savoring every minute left with my family? Wouldn’t I want to do something, ahem, spiritual?

Then, as I thought more about this on the way home, I realized something. Yes, I would want to spend every minute with my family and those who mean the most to me; and yes, of course, games are a bit frivolous. But, truthfully, game playing has created some of the best memories I have.

I love playing peanuts or scrabble with Steve and the kids. And I’ve laughed so hard while playing Celebrities, Telephone Pictionary, and SCUM that I’m sure I’ve worked off some holiday calories (or “played” them off, I guess).

Games are certainly not the context in which you would expect to have a deeply spiritual epiphany, yet games provide the setting for many of those ordinary moments that shimmer in the fabric of our memories. And isn’t it, after all, the ordinary moments that add width and depth to our lives? Wouldn't we choose to savor those moments if we remembered how short our time really is?

As I reflected on all this, I began to appreciate Carolyn’s decision. Even now, while I am in good health and death is not often in my thoughts, I love to listen to my family sitting around the table playing games. I like to sit on my bed working a crossword puzzle as I hear them in the kitchen: playing, laughing, staying up later than I have any desire to do.

It gives me confidence that they are fine – that they enjoy being together, choosing, as adults, this healthy, interactive community, whether I’m a part of it or not. So, if I knew that I had only days to live, I can imagine that I would love to be in the room as my friends and family enjoyed games I could no longer play. Frivolous? Maybe. Spiritual? Absolutely.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

AUTUMN, by Mina Anne Chudilowsky

People say that we have no seasons in Southern California. Fall colors occur in the Sierras and along Highway 395. Up the coast, you see migrating birds, Monarch butterflies traveling south, apple orchards, and pumpkin fields. We also have migrating birds  especially the Canada Geese. We have migrating grey whales, and the Monarchs pass through.

Many people have planted liquid amber trees that turn bright red, orange or yellow, and they are beautiful. They are abundant around the Lakewood Mall and City Hall. There are also many deciduous trees around. Candlewood Street is lined with huge sycamore trees and giant leaves fill the lawns and streets.

In autumn, the days grow shorter and the air is crystal clear and sharp. You can see the mountains that surround us, and the breezes that blow through refresh everything.The nights start to get colder and the flannel sheets, blankets, comforters and quilts come out and go back on the beds. The smell of wood smoke wafts through the air as people start using their fireplaces and wood burning stoves. You smell dust when you finally turn the furnace on.

The nights sparkle with stars and the harvest moon returns, and Indian summer may make an appearance. Sweaters, jackets, sweats and hats make their appearance, but the people, being Californians, hesitate to put away their shorts.

Autumn is a time of smells and tastes. Spices come to mind: oatmeal cookies baking on a cool afternoon. Or gingerbread. Or pumpkin pie. Homemade soups, stews and chili are great meals on cool evenings. You trade in cool drinks for warm drinks. Cocoa, tea and spiced cider taste so good at this time of year. And cinnamon-spiced pine cones appear in the stores to scent your house.

As the days grow shorter, you tend to burrow into your nest and remain there until the sun comes out again, and the sun seems more brilliant.

It’s fun to drive to Julian or Oak Glen to visit the orchards and get juicy, crisp apples or cider. Pears, tangerines, pomegranates and tangelos appear in the stores as do Indian corn, pumpkins, candy corn and new crop nuts.

Spiders make their presence known by their large webs. You have to wave a stick in front of you (or walk behind someone else) to prevent walking into the webs and the spiders.

People who have lived where it snows and the trees bud out in the spring and turn into magnificent colors in the fall say that we have no autumn in Southern California. We have that season too. It’s just more subtle and you have to pay attention to see and enjoy it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Elementary School, by Nora Szechy

While I had an intense desire to learn, I hated school. I attended Goldenbridge Convent School in Dublin, Ireland. It was an all-girl school run by The Sisters of Mercy.  Some of the sisters were kind and others were mean to the point of cruelty.  We were caned if were late, if we talked, if we laughed or if we didn't know our lessons.  We were ruled by fear. 

There was no use complaining at home as my mother always sided with the nuns.  Classes were overcrowded and had an average of 50 students.  We walked to school in the rain and sat in wet clothes all day.  There was no place to hang wet coats.  The main source of heat was a small turf-burning fireplace.

The only classroom equipment was a blackboard and chalk and a holder for the chalk so that it could be used down to the very last scrap.  There were no overheads, slides or any of the modern teaching tools.  There was no cafeteria; we walked home for lunch.  There was no picture day - I have not one school picture.  There was no school nurse and there were no field trips. There was no P.E. - the walk back and forth to school four times a day gave us as much exercise as we needed.

Every class started with prayers and we had to know our catechism backwards and forwards.  We had to know The Ten Commandments, The Seven Sacraments, The Seven Deadly Sins etc. - all by heart.  Most subjects were taught through the medium of Irish. I still say my multiplication tables in Gaelic. History and geography were the worst.  How could I ever find cities and countries on the map or name events in History if I only knew the names in Gaelic? 

For handwriting we had headline copy books; nib pens and inkwells were built into our desks.  I would have enjoyed this exercise except for the fact my hands were always so cold I did a poor job and often got rapped on the knuckles.  We had a lay teacher for elocution and drawing and she was much kinder than the sisters.  We had cookery classes on Saturdays which I enjoyed very much.  We also learned sewing and knitting.

Children were required to attend school until the age of 14.  For many, that was the end of their education. Most had to leave school and find some sort of unskilled job to contribute to the support of their families. The sisters were aware of this and did their best to ensure that they left with at least a good foundation in the Three R's.

For more about Nora, click here: Nora's Website

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sister Week, by Gail Earl

My younger sister Jan, and I are best friends. We have always shared a special bond. We know what the other is thinking and always finish each other’s sentences. We are very lucky that we share every Saturday together. We just always have.

My older sister, Sharon, moved to Idaho a few years back with her husband. We miss her terribly but stay in touch via email and Facebook daily. When she moved we started a tradition called "Sister Week.” She comes down and stays with me. My sister Jan also takes a week off work and comes and stays with me. We plan every day ahead of time; the entire week is filled with laughter and adventure. It's a week long slumber party. We are all pretty goofy, love to laugh and be silly.

My husband, kids and Grandkids all know that they fend for themselves the entire sister week. My poor husband even sleeps downstairs and the girls get the upstairs (to be honest it's not really a sacrifice). I think the giggling gets old with him. He loves us all and is happy to give us our space. Sister week is the middle of October. So far we've planned a train trip downtown L.A. We like to go to the fashion district, the jewelry district, China town and the museum.

We have one day where we'll drive to Oxnard to see our brother. He is an eye doctor so he'll examine all our eyes and then we'll have dinner on the beach. One day we will be antiquing in the circle of Orange. One day will be spent cruising three different marinas and beaches (Hermosa, Redondo and Newport). One day we'll be at Farmers Market, the Beverly Center and Santa Monica. We'll visit our old haunts from when we lived there.

One day is our mani/pedi and spa day. One day will be a family dinner with the kids and grandkids. We do this family dinner every Saturday night, but Sharon is never here for all our chaos. We like to make each day a marathon day and pack in as much as possible.

As much as we love all the running around, I think what we like most is at the end of a busy day, all getting jammied up and jumping into my bed and laughing and giggling 1/2 the night away. It reminds us of when we were children and shared a room. Our father would have to yell at us to stop the giggling and go to sleep. After we laugh for as much as we can take, we all go to separate rooms to actually sleep.

I know we're silly together, but it even amazes me how utterly ridiculous we can get. Our conversations range from uncontrollable laughter to free tears. Nothing is off limits.

I know how lucky we are to have this time together, but I think the real luck is that we all know how valuable it is!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Our Special Centenarian Friend, Elizabeth, by Charlene Farnsworth

I wish all of you could have known our dear friend Elizabeth McEntee who celebrated her 103rd birthday on July 17 of this year. It was always delightful being in her company.

My friend Steve and his “harem” (Elizabeth, Donna, Clara, Phyllis, Wilma and I) enjoy a wonderful friendship and frequently dine out together. We especially celebrate one another’s birthdays.

Elizabeth celebrated her 100th birthday in 2007 at the Doubletree Hotel restaurant. It was a grand celebration with a private limousine transporting us to the special event. My gift to Elizabeth was a small decorative “Grandma’s brag book” filled with the happenings over her 100 years, 1907 through mid-2007. For each year, I included various discoveries, inventions, patents and Academy awards. If a child’s, grandchild’s or great-grandchild’s birth also occurred in a particular year, I included that information on the opposing page.

In 2008, Elizabeth celebrated her 101st birthday at her favorite Home Town Buffet. Can you imagine dining in a restaurant and glancing over to see a big balloon with “101” brightly printed on it? It certainly did turn many heads with accompanying whispers. One darling young girl quietly came over to our table because she wanted to meet Elizabeth personally. This time the little book I created for Elizabeth included cartoons and jokes, fun and interesting facts, cute and pretty pictures, etc.

In 2009, we all had another limousine ride to the Savannah on the Beach restaurant in Huntington Beach for Elizabeth’s 102nd birthday. I remember how difficult it was for her to exit the restaurant for there were many customers who wanted to meet a special lady on this amazing occasion. I made a colorful display of floral clip art with accompanying birthday greetings for Elizabeth this year.

For her 103rd birthday celebration, Elizabeth wanted all of us to join her at Spires restaurant in Orange. The excellent service by all the staff made for a wonderful celebration. Bright balloons were floating up from the table and tied to the back of Elizabeth’s chair. Again, curious patrons’ heads turned when they saw the brightly-printed “103” on the largest balloon. This time my project for Elizabeth was a birthday card/booklet with 35 clip art fortune cookies, all of which contained fun pull-out fortunes. Some examples of Elizabeth‘s personalized fortunes are, “You will enjoy a good movie soon,” “Good news is coming your way,” and “Sweet dream will be yours.”

Sadly, our dear friend Elizabeth passed away on August 16, 2010. The care provided by her daughter Donna certainly contributed immensely to her longevity. Elizabeth was a very special lady, and it was always an honor and pleasure to be with her.