Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Autumns of our Lives

Autumn scenes in Sylvania, with a few photos of Elissa's and my exercise class and our fearless leader, young Wendy.

A year ago I wrote about Fall in Starobelsk, Ukraine. It’s very pretty at this time of year, walking up Panfelova to Karl Marx, through the University, bright with yellow-leafed, white bark birch trees, down Lenina to downtown. When I lived at Natalia’s on Kyrova, I just walked out the yard to the Post Office, book store, Library, shops, and Lenin Park, all right there, all ablaze with the bright light and colors of Fall.

Now it’s Fall in Sylvania, Ohio, USA, and it is also very pretty. It’s nice to walk around the neighborhood, go to the exercise class Elissa and I are taking at St. Joe’s Parish Center (a few photos above), drive to downhtown Toledo or over the border up to Michigan. The foliage is beautiful. It reminds me of autumns in Rochester when I was growing up, in New England when I was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, in Wisconsin when I was a graduate student in Madison. It brings back distinctive memories associated with the season. Autumnal nocturnes.

Fall is a beautiful season everywhere in the world, the autumns of our lives, now and forever.

Traveling Vicariously with Olga in Southwestern Ukraine

Olga in Yaremcha, Ivano-Frankivsk: her hotel; with folkart sculpture; with Hutsul musicians in traditional dress; picking apples; on the River. Below: Map showing Ivano-Frankivsk oblast in red. If you go due east across Ukraine to the Russian border, you'll be in Starobelsk, in Lugansk oblast. Photos of Ivan Franko, his gravesite in Lviv, and Hutsul bead embroidered wedding dress (from wikipedia articles on Ivano-Frankivsk and Ivan Franko).

My friend Olga Myroshnchenko (мирошнченко), my guide, mentor and fellow traveler during my two years in Starobelsk,
recently visited Ivano-Frankivsk oblast with a group of disabled women. She was a tour leader along with her friend Natalia. They stayed in the town of Yaremcha, on the Prut River. They hiked in the gentle mountains, picked apples, went to a restaurant that featured traditional Hutsul music, visited a museum of musical instruments unique to that historic region, and stopped to smell the flowers. Olga sent photos. I felt I was there.

This region in the Carpathian mountains in southwestern Ukraine was named after renowned poet Ivan Franko (1856-1916). Its historic name is Prykarpatia, and it is home to some of Ukraine’s storied patriots, like Stephan Bandera and Dmytro Vitovsky. It is also a seat of traditional Hutsul culture that goes back to the 12th and 13th centuries, and influenced poets like Franko, Lesya Ukrainka, Vasyl Stefanik, and Mykhilo Kosiubynsky (whose home is in Chernigov, open to the public). The region’s celebrated folk traditions include intricate bead embroidery, woodworking, wooden architecture, and music featuring unique instruments in the horn, flute, bagpipe and hammer dulcimer categories.

I never made it there, so I am traveling vicariously with Olga, doing a little travel research, dreaming Ukrainian. When I return, I’ll start in Lviv, go to Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, and travel east from the Carpathians (instead of the other way around as I did when I lived there)! I hope it’s soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nix Vegetarian Meals!

flickr photo Fil99

My vegetarian meals haven’t gone over so well with my family. Elissa, Julia, Tony and Philip, and also Kyle and Josh, find my ratatouille, summer squash and tomato sauce over couscous, and my vegetarian-only salads unappetizing, or a bit boring. In any case, they take a spoonful of this and that and leave me with lots of leftovers. Josh says he’s full; Julia says she isn’t hungry; Philip wants to go play with the treasure box; and Elissa says, yuk, all vegetables! I haven’t even gotten to the recipes cousin Kathy Curro kindly sent, which might be part of the problem. Alli would go for vegetarian, but she hasn’t been over because she is too busy with volleyball (they are 5-1 now) and other school leadership activities, student council, prom court, homecoming, etc. So I’m returning to spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs, chicken, and pork, which everyone likes. Except Alli. I’ll go vegetarian next time she is able to join us, but nix the vegetarian meals in the meantime. We are gathering for a steak dinner, cooked on the grill, on Sunday night!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Imagination Station

Photo collage: That's Josh, posing in astronaut cutout; some of the science "stations"; Josh on highwire; me taking a photo in a hologram-type mirror demonstrating effects of energy/heat of some kind. My brain appears to be as cool as the sweater I am wearing.

Josh and I spent a great afternoon at the Imagination Station, a hands-on science museum for kids of all ages. There are great explorations of everything from light, electricity and energy to holograms to water works. Josh rode on a unicycle high up on a tight wire. I got vertigo just watching him. He posed behind a great cut-out photo of an astronaut, went into wind tunnels, tried his hand at sportscasting, piled up magnets, shot balls into the air with pulleys, witnessed optical illusions, bent light and sound, and halograms. He did the hands-on stuff and I read the very well-done posters explaining the science of the activities. The fun museum is in downtown Toledo, right on the waterfront, and the views are fabulous. A super way to spend time with my grandson.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary, Peace Corps


Elissa Cary, Sylvania Advantage graphic designer and daughter of RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) Fran Cary, in the lobby of Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC, with JFK poster; PC 50th anniversary logo.


“Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.” -- Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps, 1961-1966

I feel blessed to be part of the Peace Corps as a returned volunteer from Ukraine, where I served for two years (2009-2011) in the Russian-speaking village of Starobelsk, Lugansk oblast, in far-eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. It was a transforming experience of a lifetime.

September 22, 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act in Congress by president John F. Kennedy. I remember the sense of optimism when it started in 1961, that Americans could help work for peace in the world from the bottom up, by living in another country, learning its culture, and sharing our skills and optimism. I was a student at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, with hopes of going to the University of Wisconsin to continue studying American History. I followed the Peace Corps from those days forward. I joined in April 2009, and turned 70 years old in Ukraine!

Over 200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries since 1961. Today there are 8600 volunteers in 77 countries. The world has changed since then, and so has the Peace Corps, for some people not fast enough, for others at a good-enough pace given the difficult process of transitions. We contemporary PCVs are not as isolated as the early volunteers, who didn't have the internet, cel phones, iphones, and the technology that keeps us connected. Current PCVs wonder how our predecessors, the pioneers, did it in those early days; we are lucky we can stay in touch with loved ones.

Also, we are working on a host of different issues, from agricultural development to AIDS/HIV education, information technology, non-governmental organization development, human rights and environmental protection. We are in villages, towns and cities around the globe, "a legacy of service that has become a significant part of America’s history and positive image abroad" (http://www.peacecorps.gov/).

So Kudos to the Peace Corps on its 50th Anniversary! May it have 50 more years of growth and success in its ongoing grassroots efforts toward peaceful change and positive relations around the world.


Here is a listing of some of the Peace Corps' newest programs and projects (http://www.nationalpeacecorpsassociation.0rg/):

HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean
The Peace Corps has intensified its role in the global effort to fight HIV/AIDS by training all Volunteers in Africa as educators and advocates of HIV/AIDS prevention and education. Regardless of their primary project, all Volunteers are being equipped to play a role in addressing the multiple health, social, and economic problems related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Peace Corps programs in Botswana and Swaziland are devoted entirely to fighting the disease. In addition, efforts are expanding into the Caribbean, where more Volunteers are focusing efforts on combating HIV/AIDS.

Information Technology
Volunteers provide technical training and support to groups and organizations that want to make better use of information and communications technology. They introduce people to the computer as a tool to increase efficiency and communication and to "leap frog" stages of development. Volunteers teach basic computer literacy skills, (e.g. word-processing, spreadsheets, basic accounting software, Internet use, and webpage development) and they introduce host communities to e-commerce, distance learning, and geographic information systems.

Expanding Into New Countries- Africa Region
Since Ghana received the first Peace Corps Volunteers in 1961, more than 60,000 Americans have served in 46 African countries. The Peace Corps continues to enjoy strong cooperation and support from the people of Africa. At the end of fiscal year 2011, some 3,000 Volunteers and trainees will be on board, working in 25 countries. In 2003, the re-opening of the Chad, Botswana, and Swaziland programs poised the Africa region for substantial growth.

Europe, Mediterranean and Asia Region
More than 48,250 Volunteers have served in the Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia (EMA) region since 1961. EMA has well over 2,500 Volunteers and trainees working in 20 countries, most of which are undergoing rapid economic and social changes. Throughout the region, Volunteers work with governments, local organizations, and communities to provide needed technical expertise and promote cross-cultural understanding. Together, Volunteers and their counterparts work to address changing needs in agriculture, business, education, the environment, and health.

NIS countries
I would add to the above description the work volunteers are doing in NIS countries, the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Volunteers work in all areas and on all issues relevant to the transitioning economic and political conditions of these former Soviet republics. It is transformative work at the local level, step by step. It is about getting to know these countries and their cultures, and about them getting to know about America. Where there were enemies, there are now friendships. Where there was fear and hate, there is now acceptance and tolerance.

Inter-America and Pacific Region
Since 1961, more than 73,000 Volunteers have served in the Inter-America and Pacific (IAP) region, in more than 46 countries. Today, more than 3000 Volunteers work in 24 posts in all six of the agency’s sectors: agriculture, business development, education, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS, and youth. The Fiji program was re-opened in 2003 and a program in Mexico opened for the first time in 2004.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lviv Memories, for Stefa and Bogdan (стефа и богдан)

It's the 50th anniversary week of the founding of the Peace Corps, so I'm remembering my time as a PCV in Ukraine.

Photo collage: Women of Ukraine meeting at Lviv Technical Institute, which included a fantastic visit from Ostap, a well-known bandura player (all organized by Stefa). The bandura is a 60- string instrument that sounds like a harpsichord to me. Under the group photo is cultural leader and hero Mikhail of Sokol, playing the trembita, a welcoming instrument. Upper right is the Lviv Opera House, with our travel group in front: Stefa, Tonya, Yulia, and Olga. We saw a great production of "Die Fledermaus." Below, far right and left, with Stefa and Bogdan, at their Vinitsia (just outside of Lviv) home. Stefa is in traditional Ukrainian dress (and me, too) and Bogdan is in his Ukrainian army best. These are two fantastically talented patriots who touched my life deeply. Stefa is also a fantastic cook and Bogdan a fantastic poet and singer with a deep baritone voice. He and Stefa can recite any poem or song, by heart, with great eloquence at the drop of a hat, and they regaled us with their talents. I can't speak their language, which is Ukrainian (it was hard enough speaking in Russian), but I will always remember. я всегда буду помниtь.

My dear friends in Lviv, Stefa and Bogdan, will love this poem. Actually, they probably know it well, because Ambrose Metlynsky collected and published Ukrainian folk songs in the 1850s, all of which Stefa and Bogdan know inside and out. They are fervent Ukrainian patriots who honor the past and have high hopes for a united Ukrainian future. They embody a wonderful heritage, sing beautifully and with great fervor every Ukrainian song ever written, and showed me a wonderful side of Ukraine. So I send this lovely poem to them (from Ukrainian Folk Music facebook page), with heartfelt thanks for the memories.

"Може, і пісня з вітром ходитиме,
дійде до серця, серце палатиме;
може й бандуру ще хто учує,
й серце заниє і затоскує...
by АМБРОСІЙ МЕТЛИНСЬКИЙ (1814-1870)

Translation:

Perhaps my song will dance with the wind,and touch someone's heart,
and set it afire;
perhaps someone will still hear the bandura, and his heart will ache, and yearn...
And a young cossack will remember both me and my bandura..."

Мои дорогие друзья во Львове, Стефа и Богдан,будет любить эту поэму. На самом деле, они, наверное, знаете это хорошо, потому что АмвросийМетлинский собраны и опубликованы украинские народные песни в 1850-х годов, все из которыхСтефа и Богдана знаю изнутри и снаружи. Онигорячо украинских патриотов, кто чтит прошлое ивозлагаем большие надежды на единой украинскойбудущем. Они воплощают прекрасным наследием, петь, красиво и с большим рвением, каждуюукраинскую песню когда-либо написанных, и показал мне прекрасные стороны Украины. Так что яотправить эту прекрасную поэму них (с украинскогостраница народной музыки facebook), с сердечную благодарность за воспоминания.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fussing at the Fence: Amy's Ukraine Story

Starobelsk memories: With Tonya at her farm, harvesting pumpkins, and those cute pigs.

Amy is the Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who was assigned to Starobelsk when I left. She keeps me posted on friends and what’s going on. She is living in the same room I had at Natashia's on Kyrova (I call her Natalia), a good place to be with a fabulous host and a perfect location in the center of town. Amy’s tenacious. She’s working with NGO Victoria and its indefatigable director Vera Flyat on the “Know Your Rights” project. She got a Partnership Grant for a new women’s project and does some work with the library and with Natalia Dohadailo who teaches English at the university. Amy has a sharp eye for detail, and a good sense of humor. Here is one of her stories, with some minor editing. It resonated on so many levels and brought back lots of good memories of my time in Ukraine.

"As I was making my coffee and breakfast this morning, I could see Natasha through the window doing something in the yard with Lydia Kirilova,* our neighbor, excitedly fussing at the fence. Usually when they fuss at the fence like that it is in reference to some kind of food delivery. Last one I witnessed was the watermelons.

*Amy's sidenote: Everyone has more or less the same first name. I know lots of Natashas, Ludas, Oksanas, Svetas, Lydias, etc. The same for boys names. So in conversation its normal to refer to someone with their full name, thus Lydia Kirilova, for example.

All was revealed as Natasha bustled into the house with two large plastic bags. She looked at me and said, "Amy, Operatszi Reeboo (fish)!" She proceeded to try to jam the two rather large bags of fish into the (small) fridge, muttering something about "Operatszi Reeboo" (Operation Fish)! I chuckled at that and imagined the "Mission Impossible" theme song playing in the background, knowing that in the very near future there would be a huge production of chopping, slicing, salting and preserving going on on the porch today. She was excited about the fish. Me not so much. Large deliveries of watermelons, amusing. Large deliveries of tomatoes, interesting and colorful. Large deliveries of fish? Yuck. Stinky.

Then she jumped up, washed her hands, put on some makeup and hersunglasses and told me she was going to the market. "Amy! Operatszi Okroshka"(Operation Okroshka)"! Now that is more like it. Okroshka is a cold sour cream-based cucumber and dill soup with finely chopped potatoes, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, and ham or kielbasa. Mighty tasty."

Amy's story, with its keen observations of daily life, reminded me of a pork story. I had visited my dear friend Tonya’s farm with Olga, a long bike ride through the countryside, and spent a day walking around the gardens, haystacks, and pig-pens. We fed the two large pigs and the cute little piggies fresh corn and other leftovers from the garden. “All natural,” Tonya boasted, as do all the women who cultivate their own gardens. Tonya’s garden was bigger than a kitchen garden though, and she made much-needed extra money from selling its produce, fresh fruits and vegetables. I didn't put the pigs in that category.

Then one day, there was a huge commotion at Natalia’s house, similar to Operation Fish. Tonya and her husband were coming with fresh pork to sell! Natalia was helping. She set up a special place on the first floor behind her shop for this "operation." I realized those cute little piggies were now meat for sale. Hmm. Fresh pork. I usually buy meat at the supermarket and don’t think about its origins. But I knew these pigs. People came from around town to buy the meat. Sales were brisk. I was happy for Tonya. And I must admit, the pork was delicious, the best I’ve ever had, before or since. операчина свинина!"

It's sometimes hard to describe daily life in Ukraine. Amy's story is full of the kind of details and observations we experience as PCVs in a new country. It's the little things, like the growing, buying and selling of produce, that make life in another country so interesting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Speaking of Attitude

Harmony in Life, my next door gift shop.

Below was my horoscope, and Elissa's, on 14 September. It's not only aging and attitude, as I wrote in my last blog, it's "attitude" across the board! This is from "The Daily Om," an online meditation site Elissa sent me.

September 14, 2011
A Positive Shift
Pisces Daily Horoscope
You may be focused on a misperception of lack and feeling gloomy today. Perhaps you are feeling down about your finances or struggling with negative thoughts. If you have been seeing the glass half-empty rather than half-full lately, you might benefit from choosing to see your situation from a different perspective. While struggles will happen occasionally, you can get through them easily if you adopt a positive mind-set. By understanding that you can choose how you want to feel in each moment, you can learn to change your mood by using the power of your thoughts and intentions. Even if nothing has changed about your situation, you can feel happier and more in control today.

When we choose our mind-set, rather than allow ourselves to be influenced by our circumstances, we empower ourselves. In the midst of difficulties, it is easy to allow our frustration to turn into pessimism. If we can remember that pessimism only makes a situation worse, we can choose to focus our thoughts on what's positive about our circumstances. While this may not solve all of our problems, it can help us feel better while we deal with our situation. If we consistently focus our thoughts on what’s positive about our situation, we eventually begin to experience only the positive—and a negative situation becomes a positive one. Concentrate on what is positive about your life today, and you will create a more positive reality.

In Ukraine, where pessimism reigns, and I understand why, having a positive attitude made all the difference in modeling and mentoring positive behavior for social change from the bottom up. It was as if I had the opportunity, being a PCV, to put ideas into practice, theory into reality. And it worked, and still does, most of the time. It 's attitude, and it cuts across cultures, age, and even to a big extent, the circumstances of our lives. It sounds facile sometimes, when so many people are struggling to make it through another day, make it through life itself. But the alternative--negativity, pessimism, woe is me--doesn't work either. I remind myself of this every day, when things seem tough, politics gets me down (and it has lately), and the hope for change seems dim. It begins with "empowering" ourselves; then we can empower others.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Aging and Attitude

Yahoo photobucket images: upper right by Stacnjo and lower right (hands) by Seanchai.
Aging is like the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s what we see when a difficult project is finally nearing an end, a conflict is drawing to an inevitable conclusion, a dream is floating into a bright blue sky.

It’s what every human being faces from the moment of birth to the end of life, the final dying of the light. Most of us boomers and older long-retired are raging against it, in positive ways, like taking care of our health, eating right, exercising, being with friends and family, having an upbeat spirit. Most of us don’t feel as old as we are or as old as we look. As Jimmy Buffet put it, “Let those winds of time blow over my head, I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m Dead.”

But aging is not for the feint of heart, a friend said to me, as we silently

contemplated, without saying it out loud, our arthritis, osteoporosus, waist spread, high cholesterol, sore hip and other aches and pains.

It's all attitude. I think there’s an energy and a freedom that comes with age, not to mention some experience and wisdom about life. I myself tend to go light on “the wisdom” factor, and a little bit more heavy on the “life’s a daring adventure” side. When I was a PCV in Ukraine I used to say “It’s amazing where life takes you, if you take life as it comes.” I still think so, even at this age, even as I walk toward that bright light.

My daughter Elissa, my new fitness and workout partner, reminds me to take it easy! Yes, I need these reminders. When we got to our first fitness class at St. Joe’s, her new parish, we picked up a poem, more a prayer, left by the young fitness instructor. It’s another reminder that our perceptions about growing old make a difference.

A Blessing for Old Age (from the Sacred Art of Living Center)
May the light of your soul mind you…
May you be given a wisdom…to see this beautiful time of harvesting…
May you be given the gift of meeting the eternal light and beauty
that is within you.
May you find a wonderful love in yourself for yourself.

PS We are still going to that exercise class, every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, us and about 20 beautiful aging and ageless women. A wonderful, friendly, enthusiastic group. Next up, joining the Y and taking water aerobics and using the gym. On a roll.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Toledo Remembers 9/11

Photo: St. Patrick’s Church interiors with special Firefighters' memorial (upper left); Bagpipers, all firefighters, who played mournful tunes and taps; a Toledo Firefighters' Museum truck; full moon and sunset over Sylvania at the end of the day.

The 10th anniversary of the unthinkable, the unimaginable. The terrorist attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, on the fields of Pennsylvania, the heroics of Flight 93. I still find it surreal. I remember watching on TV, horrified, as those planes headed straight for the Twin Towers, in real time, not virtual, not reporting, in real time, and people flying out of windows, first responders going in and never coming out, the towers collapsing, people in shock covered in white ash like statues.

This 9/11 I went to The Historic Church of Saint Patrick with Elissa to attend a special Firefighters Mass. This is a church whose steeple was struck by lightening and destroyed in 1980. The Toledo firefighters saved the rest of the church, and the steeple was later rebuilt. A grateful St. Patrick’s built a beautiful firefighters’ memorial inside the cathedral, and continues to support the unique Firefighters Museum. A partnership made for 9/11 remembrances, the secular and the sacred.

Toledo firefighters and their families and friends filled the church and participated in the Mass. As part of the commemoration they rang a bell three times, a firefighters' tradition, to remember those who gave their lives. It made me think of Hemingway’s “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for you.” It tolls for those who died and for those who remember. America will never forget.


Friday, September 9, 2011

TGIF: Making traditions


Great grandson Philip, lime green cast conspicuous, plays hide-and-seek under the new umbrella his Gran E gave him!

Another Friday rolls around, another week, and Elissa, Julia and Philip come for dinner at Casa de Mama. It's becoming a tradition, this four-generation, end-of- the- week gathering. We have pizza, the usual, and Philip plays with the treasure box, one-handed, discovering the new toys left behind just for him by cousins Josh and Kyle. He loves surprises.

Granddaughter Julia gets here first so we have a chance to catch up on her work (she works for a large nursing home complex) and what's going on in her life. At 23 years of age, she is a great mom and conscientious worker, and I'm learning how knowledgeable and thoughtful she is about current events, too. She's also thinking about the future and what will be best for her son Philip. Next year he'll be five and starting kindergarten. She wants good schools for him and lots of positive motivation and activities. She’s getting a big promotion and a pay raise, and she feels good about that, if cautious about what the pay raise means and what the new management duties will be like. She is a steady force and role model in our lives.

At the end of the day, we bask in the light of a beautiful sunset and a stunning full moon rise due East. The rain and grayness have dissipated. Philip runs about seemingly unencumbered by his cast, up and down stairs, around the backyard, jumping over logs, plunging here and there. Our fearless active boy! It's a nice end to a lovely day. It feels good to enjoy the moment, to create new family traditions, to bask in the glow of nature and the energy of our brave Philip. TGIF is taking on new meaning!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Great-Grandson Philip: What a Trooper!


My great-grandson Philip, four years old, fell and broke his wrist a few days ago. The next day, his wrist bandaged awaiting a cast, duct tape holding it on, Philip was at our family Labor Day cookout climbing a tree and dangling from branches as if nothing had happened. “Look mom, one hand!” Invincible.

Philip is a rough and tumble little guy. He loves jumping into the fray, wrestling with the boys, running fast, boxing along with a video game. Watching him box is amazing, the way he punches, jabs, moves. The natural! Physical, fearless, and also very smart, articulate, charming, sweet. The cutest little boy going. Just ask his Gran E, my daughter Elissa, whose biggest fear is that Philip really will become a boxer when he grows up. She's trying to interest him in soccer.

Yesterday, Philip was back in the hospital to get his cast on. Lime green, like a popsicle. His mom Julia, my first grandchild, says he was "very brave." She's so proud of him. We’re not surprised. Nor will we be surprised if he’s boxing, climbing, running and wrestling as hard as ever, or playing with all the cars and toys in his great-grandma’s treasure box with just one hand (his right hand, and he’s a lefty!). What a trooper our Philip is!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My seasonal wreaths


To everything there is a season (my favorite verse from Ecclesiastics), and that’s true of my wreaths, too.

I have an old wreath that I change with the seasons. Same basic reed and sticks wreath I’ve had for years. It’s now the welcoming wreath on the white back porch door up the old steep steps with the peeling grey paint to my 2nd floor Sylvania apartment.

This summer I added silk blue and purple hydrangea, red poppies, sunflowers, some white daisies, and a large pink bow. Now that Fall just blew in, the weather has cooled, the days are shorter, the breezes are gently swaying the changing foliage of our trees, so many trees here in Sylvania, I took out the summer flowers and added red, orange and gold leaves, bright yellow marigolds, and a green bow (photo above).

My love of the changing seasons returned during my time in Ukraine. It was one of the reasons I decided I could make the move from Florida, which I loved, up to Sylvania, Ohio. Florida has its seasons, but they are subtle; the palm trees and bougainvilla are always in bloom year round. It’s fantastic for the 6 months of winter, and I relished it while I lived there.

Up here, up North, like in Ukraine, the seasons are distinct and bold. Fall means winter isn’t far behind, but it remains one of my favorite seasons. I love the changing foliage and how the flowers brighten before they die. It's as if a photographer has saturated them with color, dazzling, eye-popping color. The painter of the universe, the transcendent goddess, letting us know she is there. I think Loren is with her now.

I feel an empathy with this season, too: I am afterall in the autumn of my life. Winter’s not far behind, but I’ll enjoy this northern autumn for as long as I can, watching the birds fly south, the squirrels gather acorns for the winter, and the dying of the light as winter whiteness slowly descends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend, Sweet Emotions

Had a Labor Day family picnic with a sleeping Chase, plus a Car Show in Sylvania. I think it's the "Sweet Emotions" that get to you at these times. At the dinner it was 4 generations together. At the car show: an old Chevy named "Sweet Emotions" and a 1960s Oldsmobile that reminded me of my Dad. And for Elissa? A Challenger, what else!


We had a family picnic for Labor Day weekend; we moved it from Case de Mama to Michelle’s because she has a big yard and cool house, while my backyard is in full sun all day, and the weather was hot and muggy. My grandsons, cousins Tony and Josh, put up the new grill I bought, and got a good fire going. They were our chefs. Barbecued turkey sausage, hotdogs and pork chops with lots of sauce, and all the trimmings to top them off. We invited my neighbor Judi, another babushka, to join us. We were four generations! We spent lots of time watching baby Chase, who wouldn’t wake up from a deep sleep no matter how many of us held him, how loudly we talked, or how boisterous we were. The little cutie slept through the whole thing. Loud noises, music, constant chatter, endless conversation, the banging of pots and pans. While Chase slept, we ate, complimented the chefs, and enjoyed Michelle’s yummy pudding and whipped cream dessert, which she assured us was low-calorie. This family togetherness is good for the soul, but it’s not so good for my waistline. As we gave blessings, I couldn’t help but recall some fantastic "shashlik" (шашлык) dinners in Ukraine, one of the best ever when I was in Slavsky in the Carpathian mountains with Olga and Tonya.

On Monday night, it was just my daughter Elissa and me. The weather had cooled way down overnight; it felt like the first day of Fall. We had dinner, chatted, counted our blessings, then went to a car show. Yep, a car show. It’s what Elissa loves to do these days. She’s in love with cars, especially Challengers, which I unfortunately have a hard time distinquishing from any other cars. But Elissa got her car fix, and I got to spend time with Elissa and have a bit of an adventure. I must admit these cars--old, antique, and race cars--are meticulously preserved and look fantastic. They gleam, beam, and scream. They carry you back to old times with "sweet emotions," like seeing a 60's Oldsmobile convertible did for me, my Dad's favorite car.

How grateful I am to share a Labor Day weekend with my family, to gather four generations, to commemorate and remember, to experience something special with Elissa. So summer turns to Fall and the seasons change again, and we change and grow with them. Sweet Emotions.