Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bubby

I mentioned previously that my grandmother passed away this month.  I was fortunate to be able to speak at her at her funeral, and I've decided that the experience of growing up with her is worth sharing with a wider audience.  of She was 97, or at least we think she was, but she may have been as old as 99.  Record-keeping was a little iffy where she grew up.

Bubby had a long, interesting life, but not an easy one.  There were many people who loved her very much, but she had a lot of sad experiences.  At ten years old she left the village where she spent her childhood, never to see the relatives who remained again.  Almost everyone who stayed behind was killed during the Holocaust.  She grew up nearly fatherless, first because he immigrated to America when she was very young, and because he passed away not long after he was able to bring his family over.  She outlived her beloved husband, my grandpa Jack, by more than 45 years, and one of the reasons I try to keep her absence in perspective is that she wanted to be reunited with him for a very, very long time.  I miss her a lot though. 


In some respects, I got to experience the best third of her life.  By the time I showed up she was retired, she was in good health into her early 90s, and she made caring for my brother and I a top priority.  She had great friends, she traveled a lot, and had a wide variety of interests and pursuits.  She was special, and we were really, really lucky.  Here's a snapshot of that experience. 

Hello Everyone.  It’s really good to see all of you, even if we are all sad today.  My grandmother Ida, or “Bubby,” as I liked to call her, was very good at bringing the people in this room together, and I feel like she has accomplished that today.
My younger brother has told us about our Bubby’s life[i], and the things that she did.  I would like to take just a few moments today to explain what it was like to be her grandson.   I’m getting to share my thoughts because I spent a lot of time with her, especially early in my life, but Ida was very lucky to have four grandsons, each of whom she loved dearly.  Daniel and I saw her all the time because we lived 10 minutes away, but one of her great joys was a visit from Joshua and Simon. 

(As an aside – I really saw Josh and Simon as kind of exotic when I was little – they lived far away, they were older, they had long hair, and they were into Phil Collins… this was pretty advanced stuff for a 7-year old in 1985 Toledo).

So here is the main thing I want to convey today about Bubby – she was able to do extremely special things, and to make you feel extremely special, but she made it look so easy.  For example, almost every Sunday evening, from the time I was extremely young until I went to college, we would go to Bubby’s house for dinner. 

We would usually arrive at around 5:30, walk up the steps into her house, and say hi to her back, because she was usually pulling a kugel out of the oven with her bare hands, pulling spaghetti out of the oven[ii], or grilling lamb chops at her table broiler.  If you’ve had her lamb chops, then you already know that you could tell when they were ready because the smoke alarm just went off. 

Usually we would be handed steaming potato latkes when we walked in, sometimes right out of the searing Crisco, which needed to be eaten with a napkin holder, unless that night she made round fries, which we would have with the aforementioned lamb chops, or a potato kugel, or some whole potatoes roasted in fat, which would go alongside the brisket or the turkey, or some mashed potatoes, which would have some kind of gravy from the meat.  After a latke, we would make our way to the dining room, maybe turn on the radio for a little background noise, and have soup, which would be chicken with matzoh balls, or kreplach, or noodles, or noodles and kreplach, unless it was split pea or lentil, or unless she was serving blintzes, in which case there would be cold borscht for grownups and fruit cocktail for Daniel and I.  The grownups, knew not what they were missing.

Once we were good and full, it was time to eat dinner, which would be a brisket, or a turkey, or more of those lamb chops with the delicious marrow, or London Broil, or broiled steaks, or spaghetti and meatballs, or meatloaf, or stuffed cabbage, or blintzes.  Dinner was on about an eight week rotation, and on the side there would invariably be an iceberg salad, some kind of a potato, kishke if the occasion merited, and a little dish of pickles and olives. Occasionally frozen kosher egg rolls made an appearance. 

After dinner, as we staggered into the living room to watch “60 Minutes” and take a nap, Bubby would put on the coffee, do the dishes, and get dessert ready.  Sometimes it was just us, and sometimes Uncle Ben and Aunt Nettie or Uncle Harry and Aunt Leeta would come for dessert.  When Aunt Molly visited from Dayton, or sometimes just because, dinner would perhaps be replaced by a lunch of corned beef and pastrami from Siegel’s, unless there was turkey or pepper beef, with marble rye and Bubby’s own potato salad, with its eggs and celery a meal in itself. 

Think for a moment about the amount of work she would do for us every week of every year for decades, and then think about the staggering amount of food that would emerge from her kitchen on Passover for a couple of dozen people,  or the extra latkes that we would gorge ourselves on at Channukah.   Think about her cleaning it up in a sink with no disposal, and cooking it without a microwave or even a mixer.  I’ve made kreplach with her, and she did it with a fork and a spoon. 

The phrase “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore” is batted around regarding all sorts of things – cars, homes, cast-iron stoves, but they really don’t make them like her, and Bubby was our cast-iron stove.  She was solid.  She was reliable.  She warmed us with her love.  She loved us unsparingly, all of us in this room, and those no longer with us.   She endured a lot of change and loss and pain in her life, and she could have become cynical and embittered, and I have seen her in her sad moments, but she was overwhelmingly positive and happy, at least to see us. 

I have never heard her point out a fault in an acquaintance.  Perhaps she saved it for her bridge group, but we never saw sarcasm or fun at someone else’s expense.  That said, I can recall the countless times we laughed at her table until we cried, and we had to put down our strudel because, in our mirth, powdered sugar was getting everywhere.   Daniel and I saw her sensitivity to personal slights, and she did not forget them, but she rewarded friends and family’s loyalty with a lifetime of care.   She was tough, and she had to be.  She had to take care of people from an early age, and she never retired from that role. She took care of her family, she took care of her tenants, and she took care of her friends, whether they were from North Lockwood or from the gym she joined in her 70s, as progressively fewer of her friends came to the Jewish Community Center.  Daniel and I remain somewhat awed that into her 80s our grandmother exercised more than we did in our 20s.  Collectively.

In my early years, when my parents were working, Bubby was my daily caretaker, and then Daniel’s, and our days were full of constant small adventures – bus trips to Downtown Toledo to wade in the fountain or walk around Portside, shopping expeditions in her Nova, and then in her Chevette, and then her Tercel - always with two doors because she thought they were cheaper - to Siegel’s or to Farmer Jack’s, where she would get me my free cookie from the bakery.  To Sanger library, often enough that my dad would be surprised later when the librarians knew me when I came in.  To Wildwood park, where she’d smoke a Taryton while I played on the swingset,  or to Uncle Benny and Aunt Nettie’s for Laurence Welk.  I can smell Uncle Ben’s Dutch Master, I can feel the roll of pennies Aunt Nettie would give me on the way out.  I can taste the Kedem grape juice.  Bubby would teach us to play cards, and to crochet.  She would show us how to paint our nails – with clear polish! – which would drive my dad nuts.     

Some grandchildren get the defining major memory – the Caribbean cruise, or the birthday car[iii].  We got the benefit of the continual presence of someone who loved us and told us constantly how wonderful we were.[iv]  Our self-esteem was never in question, and I think that being adored by small people was good for Bubby too.  She was never too busy for us, never had something she wanted to do more than make us a bowl of soup or watch “The Price is Right” with us while we had some bread and butter.  I am sure that she must have, but I cannot remember her ever having said “no” to me, and we listened to her a lot more than we did to our parents.  I can see the theme repeating itself with Noah, which I guess is a form of justice the universe metes out. 

On Friday, after we had heard that Bubby had passed away, Lauren reminded me of how starting about six months ago, when Bubby wasn’t able to converse the way she did before, pretty much all she could do was wave at us and say “I love you!”  And we'd wave and say, "I love you!" And then we’d do it again.  That moment was the distillation of Bubby’s life, it was what she lived for.  The millions of potato latkes, the loaded table groaning with food, the giant wet kisses I squirmed away from as a kid – they just came from a sincere, open place of love.  Most people are afraid to come from somewhere that unguarded.  When she couldn’t do anything else, when she was away from her home and her friends, and you had to quiet everyone to hear her, she still had love for us.  That love was her motive, it drove her for decades to give and share and lead a vital, valuable life.  I can’t tell you everything I loved about her in 5 minutes, but I don’t have to, because everyone here has experienced it. 

I’m not sure I can ever really measure how lucky I was that she’s the grandmother we drew, but the last thing that she taught me, and perhaps the great lesson of her life, was that coming from a place of love is something we can all aspire to.  Thank you. 

Some uncollected thoughts I had in writing this: 
1.       They don’t make people like her anymore
2.       We were all lucky
3.       She let me win at cards as a kid, and she didn’t let many people do that.[v]
4.       She would take Daniel and I out for non-kosher fast food that she didn’t eat.   My dad says that when he found us in the backyard eating a McDonalds cheeseburger During Passover, he knew she would relate to us differently than him.
5.       She used to take me to the ice cream shop for tin roof – still my favorite flavor
6.       She would make strudel, latkes, soup, and give us those little chocolate/vanilla/strawberry wafer cookies. We would eat the soup right off of the kitchen window-sill as it cooled, looking out the window
7.       She sat on the steps when she babysat to make sure we were not turning the light on and reading (making sure we were OK).
8.       Sparkling grape juice on new years.   
9.       Always, always, always there.
10.   Never said no to me
11.   Always kind
12.   Always loving
13.   Talking around the dining room table, during dessert, or during 60 Minutes.  Wanted to know the gossip. 
14.   Came to every show, play and recital. 
15.   KREPLACH
16.   Giving us frozen macaroni and cheese from the aluminum tin – a long lost products since people can’t microwave it
17.   Jello molds with suspended fruit cocktail
18.   Vernors on the table during dinner
19.   Driving to Dayton with her in Uncle Harry’s Town Car
20.   Egg whites with sugar for her for dessert, with strawberries
21.   How to play cards – poker, blackjack and solitaire
22.   Always counting stitches or cards under her breath while she crocheted or dealt a hand
23.   Wore a lot of house coats
24.   Friends with Bert, Kappy, Anna Stauber, Shirley Sanders
25.   Curtailed fear of death, dying old age
26.   Was always doing something


[i] Hopefully he’ll send it along for me to post
[ii] She learned this recipe from an Italian neighbor woman
[iii] In the original draft, this read "the Caribbean cruise, or the birthday car, or perhaps a little cosmetic work."  I decided maybe it wasn't the place.
[iv] Although in actuality my ‘present’ may have just been a case of deferred compensation.  I cashed in my Bar Mitzvah bonds for part of the down payment on our new house.  Bubby and her friends were still helping me out, and we literally could not have bought it without those gifts from twenty years ago.  It’s an amazing thing.
[v] Truly, she was very, very sharp at bridge and gin, and I’m sure poker and other games too, but she saved those for the grown-ups.

It's been a long time

In 1998, when I was a sophomore in college, Rakim came out with a terrific, intense album called "The 18th Letter."  Even though he "wasn't down with Eric B no more," it was great, and we bumped it in North Case Hall and in my Tacoma*.  There was a song on it called "It's Been a Long Time," where he points out that even though it had been a while since he released Hip-Hop music to the public, he remained a vital, relevant artist who was now ready to "blow the spot without warning."  His mental state was for quite a while not conducive to recording, but by 1998, the wait was over.

Today I feel like Rakim must have felt in 1998, because it's been a long time since I could contribute here in any meaningful way.  There were times when I could write a lot of blog posts, because our company had one product that wasn't selling very well, or because Noah was young and we just left the house less often, and it left me a little time during the day to write some posts.  Over the next few years, we got progressively busier.  Noah grew up, the company got retail distribution, my days got much more full, and I didn't have much time to write.  Ride-spottings and Produce Thursday fell by the wayside.

Everything changes, and it's difficult to be consistently productive at any endeavor, especially when there are so many things swirling in the mix.  What has not changed is that there are still things worth talking about, and I want to be more active in that discussion again.  Just this month, for example, I went to the Consumer Electronics Show, I rode a mechanical bull for the first time, we refinanced the house, and my beloved grandmother passed away at 97 (more on that in a moment, she gets more than a passing reference).

Rakim is still recording.  I confess I have not purchased his newer work, so I can't comment on it.  But, if he can find the time to flow, I can find the time to write, so I'll try to do better.



*6-disc changer, stick shift, bench seat, roll-up windows.  Thing was sweet.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Snow & Peace

Ooooooooooooh, yesterday I was so happy!!!
It finally snowed more than just an inch or so of powdery dusting. This is Michigan people, it's late January! Our recent "no snow" thing has really gotten me down. One of the main reasons that I could not live in San Francisco long-term, was that I desperately missed the seasons!

I will never be a snowbird. I need to see my fluffy white flakes, and the leaves change golden. I need to sit on the porch and listen to a spring shower, and hear the crickets on a hot, humid night. I love the seasons. I love them more than I could ever say! I've always thought something was strange, to care about the changing of the seasons so much as I do. The rhythm, the knowledge of what comes next, the admiration for our great, big earth and what it does.

When you go out in nature, you are reminded that there IS something hidden, something yet to be fully understood. Something greater and more magnificent that just us.
A universal secret that we can only hope to understand. At least I hope to.

I'm sure I've spoken about "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth.
It is my ponder poem. It speaks to me. It reminds me of taking walks in winter, in the woods, and thinking.

The World Is Too Much With Us

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.
Along with my Wordsworth poem for winter walking, I have a winter walking set of songs. I find them to be the perfect snowy companion and I'd like to share! They are both by Claude Debussy. The first is Reverie. This one makes you introspective and cautious and worried. But then, then you feel hopeful and an almost peaceful resignation to whatever might be.
The second song was my first favorite of Debussy's. I was taken in the minute that I heard it. Arabesque 1. Ahhhhhhh, Arabesque 1. is just about the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard. It is falling snowflakes, it's "Hey! Open your eyes and look at your beautiful world around you"! It's what Mr. Rogers would have sounded like if he was having a conversation with you. It's just that lovely. I hope you can enjoy it too.

So it finally snowed, and I was content. This is what it looked like, quiet and gorgeous.

I forced upon them the obligatory "Stop what you're doing and let me take a posterity shot"!

Noah and his best buddy played in the backyard while I watched from inside. They thought it was hilarious to throw snowballs at me as I stood in the big windows. I found it a little more fun than actually getting hit.

Peace to everyone on this snowy day. Maybe you all have your little winter walk in the woods!
xo,
Lauren

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fortunately, I Live One Block Away from Anthropologie. Unfortunately, I Live One Block Away from Anthropologie.

Welcome to another installment of "Shop Local, or Don't Mean to Shop, Was Just Going to the Mailbox and Became Distracted. Then I Shopped Local"!

(Before I begin, could I please just tell you that the squirrels in my backyard as so large right now, that they look like monkeys. They really do. The squirrels are scaling up and down two of the beams that hold up the pergola, and they look like Gibbon monkeys.
I guess all of the seeds and suet and cracked corn is fattening them up. Did I tell you about our family's new hobby of "birding"?)


Ok, ready? Alright, one squirrel, FOUR Blue Jays and a WOODPECKER! He's the redhead in the back .
Four squirrels hanging out with two Blue Jays and a Woodpecker!
OMG! It's EIGHT Cardinals!!!!!



Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! Shopping local, even when you don't mean to! (Shop that is.) Yesterday I took a walk over to the mailbox to mail a letter. It was so nice out, and the fresh air felt great, so I decided to walk a few more blocks before heading home. Some how, heh heh...... somehow, for some totally inexplicable reason, I was pulled into Anthropologie. Anthropologie, one of my faaaaaavorite stores.

Where, I bought this butter dish that blends perfectly with our mixer and our er.... ceramic berry container?


I was lucky enough to receive a couple of Anthropologie gift cards for my birthday back in June. And since then, I've been ever so slowly using them to buy an item here or there for the house, like Noah's bathroom shower curtain. Usually I go coo coo for all of the clothing in Anthropologie, (As in this picture)
but for now I'm content to just find some treasures for our home with my gift cards.

Here's the thing though, don't you ever go in there and feel like you're really over-paying? So many of the things that I see, especially the accessories and home goods, I think..... "Hmmm. Maybe I can make something that kind of looks like that"? I really need to up my crafty output. Now I just need somebody to show me how to make a rug like this:
Speaking of CRAFTY. Have you guys ever heard of the store "Paper Source"? I must be late to the game because it seems like a lot of my friends already know of the paper crafty goodness within. While not a Mom and Pop local shop, we do have one locally, in town, and I might have stopped in there too.

Every last item in Paper Source is disgustingly adorable and threatens the very existence of our bank account. I am good at resisting, but I will tell you, if given free reign, our house would be plastered in paper craft.
kids valentines

Now, just to be honest, we have a twenty year old, well established, absolutely wonderful paper and stationary shop just around the corner. I love it, and I'd love to do a write-up. I'm just trying to decide if I want to mention which town we live in. If you would like to know about a GREAT local Michigan stationary shop, just email me!

I did pick up a pack of these adorable valentine cards for Noah. I think they'll be fun for the kids and oh so cute!
kids valentines


Ok, onward, to something not so much about shopping local.....
We have a dinner issue in our house. I'm a vegetarian, Jon and Noah are not. I should really be eating gluten free (mild gluten intolerance), and Noah is beyond picky. Like, not just picky, it's a real issue. He's a one color, one texture guy. It's very difficult to find a dinner that serves all of our preferences.
I needed to blog about a very special, MONUMENTAL moment in our family life that happened last week though.
Ready? Noah agreed to eat his first sandwich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh , and the world rejoices!!!!!)
I was, we were.....SHOCKED. It was crazy. I wanted to try to make Reuben sandwiches for us. Regular for Jon, avocado for me. At first my instinct was to do the usual "deconstructed dinner" version for Noah. That would have been a piece of bread on the plate, with some corned beef on the side. That night though, I don't know, just thought I'd try to combine them. So, like a panini, I toasted a sandwich of corned beef. It was amazing, he ate it! TWO colors. TWO textures! WOO HOO! Here are some pictures, because I know you care. Not.

(Dear Universe. Please, PLEASE bring me new place mats. Anything but screaming pink. Thank you.)

Dad's Reuben, toasted Rye with Russian dressing, sauerkraut, corned beef and Swiss. Plus I added in some of my avocado. Also, I made matzo ball soup!
Noah's plate. DID he eat it.........?
And finally, just to stay on topic with shopping local. Sledding.
A big thank you to Nana & Papa for getting Noah this motor-less snowmobile when I was only thinking of this potentially embarrassing thing. &&<span class=

You really came through for Speed Racer.
And a creek.
And a winding stream.
And I still can't believe that they are all down the street and that I live here. Thank you universe. Omg.

FIN.

* I feel like the blog is becoming a little too much like a boring daily diary. Hopefully, some educational, or posts of more value soon! What do you want to hear about? I was considering freaking out over the Israeli/Iranian thing. Or maybe we could discuss secularism, or introversion.*

What Are You Doing With Your Saturday?

Hi everybody! I just wanted to throw a simple, little post up here.
I'm not sure that I've talked about it much before, but I am OBSESSED, literally obsessed with crocheting!
In November, when I knew were were going to have a stressful month for a million little reasons, I thought that I needed to find a new hobby to keep myself from pointless worrying. In the end, everything worked out just fine, and I also ended up with a wonderful, new form of creative expression! HOORAY!

Crocheting, in my opinion is easier than knitting. Also, projects seem quicker. So far, I've made about ten ear warmer/head bands, a small purse, five shawls and caplets, a necklace, a hat, three scarves and a really neat large collar, decorated with flowers and leaves. I'd like to photograph everything and start posting about the things I make in the future.

If anybody out there also crochets, and you have any tips, or neat sites that you like, please let me know! I have so much more to learn, and it's such a joy to be able to create something usable out of a simple piece of yarn and a hook!

Last night I finished making my very first free-form, folk art type of crochet work. It's a necklace. A winter necklace. Kind of half jewelry, half chest warmer. That might sound odd, but it's cold and snowy today, and my shirt is a little lower cut. I wanted something instead of a simple scarf to warm me up!

Here is a picture of it:
I've been collecting yarn since November, starting with basic colors, economy yarn. Now I'm just beginning to experiment with multi color yarns. Someday when I get good, I can't wait to work with fine wool, and other special types.
This is a picture of my first multi-color yarn project. It's a caplet. A caplet works perfectly when you're house is just a little bit cold, but you don't want to turn the heat up. Since our house is so old, it really lacks the same amount of insulation as a modern home. This is part of the reason I picked crocheting as my new hobby, to make warm things!


Today Noah and I headed over to the Royal Oak Farmer's Market. I'm on the hunt for a few throw-back tchotchkes . Just a few! Our house is still not quite decorated, I need some additional things. I found this small piece of embroidery for a dollar! I think I'll paint the frame gold, or some other fun finish and hang it on the wall. I know it's silly, that's why I like it.
Speaking of house, have I shared with you our BEFORE & AFTER SLIDE SHOW?
Here's what we've done so far. It's fun to watch the progress. (At least for me.) We're going into month ten, and now it's almost all done!

Finally, I need to run to the Mac store today. My trusty, old laptop (Who happens to be a five year old hand-me-down), is still working great, but needs an operating system update. Yesterday, after several years, my also trusty, old iPhone finally needed to be retired. I loved my iPhone3, but her volume control went last year, and the cracks in the screen are growing, and now my battery is on the outs. So, I just bought an iPhone4s. I thought upgrading to the new iPhone was all hype. I actually went in to potentially buy another 3GS! It turns out though, that the 4S is indeed, really really neat. I can't believe how much crisper the images on the screen look. The camera is taking great pictures, and I've already "Face Timed", video chatted with my parents. Also, I have to say that playing with Siri is a lot of fun. (Watch the video, it's really cool.) I wanted to share with you my first new app. It's by Toca Boca, and the little game is adorable. It's called "Toca Hair Salon". You simply choose a client, and then give them a rad hair style using various tools and accessories. I especially like a gooey sounding gel that when applied, magically grows hair! Try it out if you can. It's a lot of fun.
And that's the scoop! Hope everybody out there is having a most wonderful Saturday. Take care!!!!
xo,
Lauren

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hi Lauren. This is Lauren. Nice to Meet You!

June 2011
Here comes the gray!
January 2012
Well on my way....

I really hate having my picture taken. It always makes me feel very self-conscious and insecure. When I see my photos,99% of the time the only thing that I notice are all of my different flaws. It makes me feel sad.

Today I needed a picture or two of myself for a project, so I had to force myself to take these.

One good thing, is that I've began trying to like myself more for who I am. For the real me. It takes acceptance, and a certain willingness to drop preconcieved ideas of beauty, which doesn't come easy. I'm never going to be taller than five feet tall. My body always goes right back to the very same weight as soon as I stop obsessively counting calories. And yes, I AM a 34 year old with LOTS of gray hair. (Who also happens to be allergic to a chemical called PPD, in 98% or hair dyes, even most organic ones!)

Buuuut....... the point is this: as I've come to terms with "This is me!", I've started to slowly get more comfortable in my own purple boots. I've always looked and acted and thought a bit different from most people, a little quirky. A quirkette. I'm getting more ok with that. Women, myself included, spend so much time worrying about the how we look to the world, but what matters the most in life and how you live it with those around you. (Your insides matter too of course, but we all already know that!)

Sure I'd love to be the best me that I can be, and I'm not in any way saying I should quit trying. What I'm purposely learning though, is to be a little more kind, a little more accepting, and a little more proud of good ole' goofy me. :)