Wiser Today



The Promise

Why do stars in the night shine so bright?
Why does the sun in the sky give us light?
Why do the buds appear and push up in the snow?
Well, I don’t know, but they are a welcome sight.

It gladdens my heart to see hints of spring.
Buds on trees and limbs turning green.
Some plants survived winter snows,
protected from the harsh cold. Nature


beckons the birdsong once more.
The promise of what is to come, the hope.
Now at peace with the world, I rejoice
and give thanks for verdant green

abounding our plot of land. It
is good to be alive, to regard such
delights.   Wonder and awe fill me.
So this is spring’s promise and delight.

No clouds in the blue sky.
Now I know why I feel the sights
differently today. Wiser and happier.
Now I understand why.



Photo credits to Sally Rose Dolak in Costa Rica and Emily at the beach.  Sally’s blog can be viewed at the following link:  http://rosedevi.blogspot.com/


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Breakfast on a Winter Morning

Sun streams through the windows on a snowy winter morning as I enjoy a breakfast from many countries. Glancing at food labels has become a habit.  Today I noticed a large label on my honeydew melon declaring it to be a product of Honduras.  My creative train of thought paused to recall friends from this country.  Blueberries and blackberries sported labels from Chile and Mexico.  The Greek yogurt is produced in New York.  Pomegranate juice is from California.  I conjure up visions of distant places and the fruits of their labor.

Thoughts wander to earlier times when jet planes, computers and technology did not exist. People enjoyed the harvest of their own gardens and labor which were often canned and preserved to consume during long winter months.  Sometimes I add a warm oatmeal to my usual fruit and yogurt breakfast as I ponder how lucky I am to be able to enjoy such breakfasts.

Mr. Rabbit has left his tracks in the driveway which then disappear under the parked cars. I look for tracks in the snow and step outside to enjoy a rare sunny day in winter.  The newspaper reports the latest tallies in the snowfall amounts of cities across the US which are similar in size to where we live in Upstate New York. We are ahead in the race with over 100″ of snow thus far with more winter yet to come.  We are approaching our average now.


I Wonder

What do people the world over
eat for breakfast? Bread, butter,
marmalade? Eggs, cheese, sausage?
Fruit and yogurt? Honey?  Coffee, tea?

Hearty oatmeal with brown sugar?
Milk? Grapefruit? Orange juice?
Bacon, ham, hash browns?
Donuts, Danish, muffins, bagels?

Breakfast is the most important
meal of the day, nutritionists inform.
Espresso starts my day.
I wonder why some folks skip breakfast?


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Witty Winter



Bring It On!

Out the window I observe large
white snowflakes cascading
silently, covering the lawn.
A vast white blanket.

Early visitors scurried
through our yard leaving tracks:
rabbits. Where do they
winter over I muse?


Under a neighbor’s tree,
a big fat squirrel is busy
digging for buried treasures:
acorns? Fir branches heavy and
laden with globs of white, like fluff of
marshmallows entertain. Serene.

My train of thought is now
jolted by the crash of
the snowplow as it sweeps along.
The silent landscape is interrupted.
Life in Upstate New York.

Weather reports announce
two nor’easters looming overhead.
Word from our daughter on
Long Island: the blizzard is over.
Now we compare notes on
the storms and aftermath.

Never lacking words, people seem
eager to discuss the weather.
They brag about the big one
as if talking about the big
fish that got away.

Furry creatures leave behind
tracks in the snow. Reflecting on
past childhood winters, I
smile inwardly. It is only February.
More winter remains. Bring it on!


Posted in animal tracks, Nor'easter, snowflakes, Upstate New York, winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Homemade Pies

Who doesn’t recall your grandmother’s pie baking in the oven?  Or you mother’s cakes or pies baking?  We associate our fond childhood memories with these wonderful smells coming from the kitchen or cooling on racks.  Whenever my mother sent her famous chocolate chip cookies to school for our birthdays, they were carefully boxed.  The teachers used to comment on the presentation as well as on the wonderful taste.  My Irish grandmother and my Irish mother made the flakiest pie crusts.  I could never seem to duplicate them.  In season, we enjoyed fresh blueberry or apple pies.  There never seemed to be leftovers either.

Today we celebrate our son’s birthday. He and his wife flew from Florida to Upstate New York.  Our daughter and her fiancé were also here to view their upcoming wedding reception venue.  When there are winter birthdays, we have weather to match.  First we lunched at Ebeneezer’s Café nearby with wonderful soups, sandwiches and, of course, pies and cakes for dessert.  The drive to the wedding venue would only take 15 minutes in summer weather, but yesterday the snow was heavy and falling fast.  I drove through unplowed roads in whiteout conditions listening to the phone voices giving me directions.  It was coming down that hill with a stop sign at the bottom and a truck going through when I discovered my trusty Jeep didn’t want to stop.  From the back seat, my daughter navigator yelled to tap the breaks gently.  Finally coming to a stop, my nerves were frazzled.  Savoring my peace and quiet when I drive alone or work on my writing, I now asked for or rather demanded  silence from the back seat and startled myself with the volume of my voice.

The final destination came several turns in the road later. My daughter urged me to just turn around and not  drive down that last hill!  No, we had come this far and the owner awaited us to show  the renovated dairy barn into a shabby chic venue for wedding receptions. With high vaulted ceilings, lights and antiques, it was a perfect space for the reception. I must admit that I loved the location since we were able to turn into the property without going down that final hill.  The snowplows had not touched the country roads yet.  It was rustic and simply beautiful inside. No further decorations are really needed.  It is not a cookie cutter hotel room for weddings.  And the owner has vested interest:  she was married in this space and runs that part of the business called Hayloft on the Arch.

Family celebrations are special times of sharing love and laughter. I smiled as I watched our grown son try to make a snow man.  Why not 25 like my sisters and I made in Massachusetts one winter day?  The child inside remembers and celebrates these special moments.



Posted in chocolate chip cookies, heavy snows, homemade pies, wedding reception venue | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Do Your Best!

The poet Ovid wrote, “Nothing is stronger than habit.” My parents believed strongly in forming good habits early in life. Parental example is a powerful teaching tool.  I was reminded of this when I read a newsletter from one of my language organizations.   We were fortunate to have a mother who stayed at home.  Our bedtime in Massachusetts was early by today’s standards:  6:30 PM.  We had to get up early enough to have our bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and walk one mile to the bus stop. Our bus ride was 45 minutes one way.  When we were older and in the upper grades in school, bedtime was later.  I recall my father telling me when I started high school that I determined my own bedtime based on how much homework I had.  If I stayed up until 10:30 PM, I was sometimes tired the next day at school.  My father woke me up at 5 AM daily to practice piano one hour before walking to church and playing the organ  daily at 6:30 AM.  He even fashioned a small piece of wood to wedge between the piano pedals to hold down the middle pedal which dampened the sound of the keys.  My other sisters had to take turns  practicing one hour of piano after school.  Three other sisters practiced on one of our  two pianos.  Later, my sister Sheila began violin lessons and had to add that practice as well.  Once per week we drove to piano lessons.  We also had choir rehearsals once weekly.

Summers were an adventure with music practice in our house. I normally practiced four hours, sometimes longer or less depending upon inclination and weather outside beckoning me.  We all had longer hours to practice music in the summers.  4-H projects were also the norm:  cooking, sewing, safety, first-aid and more. Besides my job as the church organist which was a daily habit and three times on Sunday and all the funerals and weddings, I babysat in the neighborhood or tended lawns and gardens of neighbors who went on vacation.  The going rate for babysitting was 50 cents per hour.

Later in life, my mother wondered aloud to me about our childhood and whether I thought it had been too regimented. Life seemed normal to me. I don’t recall ever feeling stressed about school, church, outside activities, etc. It was expected of us, and I simply did whatever my task was.  Dinner was on the table when my father returned home from work.  I recall my mother spending hours cleaning the house, doing laundry, shopping for food and cooking and baking.

In retrospect, what a wonderful gift my parents gave us.  It taught me to live a purposeful and orderly life.  I learned to be organized, methodical, industrious and diligent in everything I did.  What a marvelous preparation for college, my study abroad and my teaching career.  I learned the value of doing something right and to be thorough.  That sometimes meant extra hours of work for a project or term paper.

As an educator, I interacted with all kinds of students and parents. Some taught their children to be independent, disciplined and organized.  They did not “do”  homework and projects for their children.  They had high expectations for their offspring.  The only thing I recall being told about studies and school/college was to do my best.  Today I am grateful for my parents and childhood.



Special thanks to Sally Rose, my niece, for some photos from Costa Rica.

Posted in 4-H, church choir, church organist, educator, habits, music lessons, parental example | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments



On rainy days in rural Massachusetts, our mother would tell us to use our imaginations to find things to do to entertain ourselves. This was before all the electronic gadgets came in to entertain children.  We had to imagine and invent games to play and things to do.  We played hide and seek in the upstairs attic in Sturbridge.

Using old newspapers, we cut out paper dolls and made fancy clothes for them. We fashioned furniture using cardboard boxes and played in imaginary kitchens.  With no television to watch, we listened to radio plays with intriguing sounds such as The Lone Ranger and The Shadow.  We also played card games like Old Maid and Authors.  Our parents read books aloud to us.  My first few glimpses of television were on a black and white screen about 12″ wide.  We watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and later political addresses during which I learned the term soap box.

My childhood was magical with plenty of outdoor play and roaming through our woods.  We were happy and content with what we had. When the weather allowed, we made our own campaign speeches standing on makeshift soap boxes in our back yard.  We cheered for baseball teams as well.  Win or lose, we learned at an early age to participate and to be a part of the process.  These early lessons formed the basis of who I am today.  We learned to work hard, be positive and hopeful for the future.

School began in first grade where we learned to write cursive and play outside on the playground during recess until the teacher signaled time to return to the building with a big bell she had in her hand. We learned to read by phonetics.  Our writing pencils were big, thick and tall yellow pencils.  Our reports cards had the letters S for satisfactory and U for unsatisfactory and spaces for citizenship.  When we did receive letter grades, they were A, B, C, D or E (unsatisfactory.)  The grade F for failing did not exist.  We recited the Pledge of Allegiance and marched in parades for holidays.

Today as the United States transferred power to the new president, I watched on color television and took photos with  an  iPad.  To me, this is a national moment of celebration for our democracy.  No matter which side of the aisle people are on, we come together every four years for this civic  sacrament and peaceful transition.  Ever hopeful, I imagine peaceful times ahead.

Credit to Sally for some of the photos from Costa Rica.



Posted in childhood play, citizenship, cursive handwriting, imagination, Massachusetts, reading aloud, Sturbridge | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Better Late Than Never!

Mildly amused but not surprised, I read the translation of my English to German sentence for wearing braces on my teeth. Google  translate offered me a funny example for  “She wore braces on her teeth.”  It seemed pretty straight-forward to me, but it was wildly wrong and had me wearing “Hosenträger” on my teeth.  These are suspenders for holding up pants.  As I laughed out loud at yet another odd translation, I recalled  essays my students wrote after Thanksgiving.  They obviously did not investigate further and used the first definition found in their dictionaries which I allowed them to use in class.  With my serious teacher face, I would ask them if they had been hospitalized after consuming the stuffing of sofas and chairs.  Or I queried further inquiring if they were cannibals since they had written they had eaten the people of the country called Turkey and not the meat of the bird called turkey.   Humor is the best medicine sometimes.

But I digress. At one of my recent dental checkups, I casually mentioned my crooked bottom teeth which probably could not be straightened.  I had become accustomed to being asked if I smoked.  I do not.  I do drink coffee which stains my teeth.  To my surprise, I was told of an invisible type of braces, not suspenders, which I could wear up to 22 hours per day.  No one would be the wiser.  I could remove them when I ate and then put them back on.  No wires, no small elastic bands which my siblings and our son endured.

Intrigued, I investigated further with an orthodontist who has many senior citizens in his practice. With an entire series of photos and x-rays of my teeth, I was provided an online link to track my progress from all different angles of my teeth.  At the end of September I opted to commence the process which would take approximately 8-12 months using a special device to gently speed the process by 50%. Every five days I change to the next set provided me.   My first impression of having these foreign bodies covering my teeth was that they impeded my speech. My tongue seemed to be in the way when I tried to form certain sounds.  People have asked me to repeat things on the phone so I have to make a concerted effort to enunciate my words.  In the office, I was told I did not have a lisp with these braces.  Good.  That’s all I wanted to have at my age!

A scant four months later, I am no longer aware of wearing these invisible braces which gently do the work of straightening my teeth.  I love driving to the office in a swank part of the city called Franklin Square with streets of red brick.  And the office itself is akin to an art museum with beautiful quilts hanging everywhere and sewn by the Dr.’s wife.  An added bonus as well is the fact that he speaks German and lived in Leimen outside of Heidelberg where I studied for three years.  He and the office staff are warm and welcoming and have become an extended family.  Lest the reader think me maudlin, it is rare to find such a beautiful setting which might have been just an office associated with a painful process.  Far from it.  The entire process has been gentle and so gradual, I have hardly noticed.

When I began this odyssey, I fully expected people to take notice, but they simply have not. Think about it:  do you look at another person’s teeth that closely when you talk?  Probably not.  When all is said and done, there will be another series of photos of the new, improved me.  On the bright side, I have been able to continue my voice lessons with no problems.  The only thing I can’t do as spontaneously is to eat.  I carry a case to store the braces when I remove them, but in polite company, one does not usually remove one’s dental devices.  And, yes, I have forgotten that I was wearing them a couple of times and wondered why my “teeth” seemed to be making an odd squishy sound as I chewed.  And why did the food feel so funny I wondered?  Suddenly I realized I still was wearing the braces.  Stay  tuned.  Brace yourself for the final outcome!



Posted in dental braces, German, Germany, orthodontist | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments