Social Security Comes Through Again

February 6, 2017

I starting getting social security payments when I turned sixty because a friend told me I was entitled to them.

“You’re a widow,” she said.

“A widow? No, I’ve been divorced twice, not widowed.”

“How long were you married to Rob?” she asked.

“Twelve years. We divorced in 1982,” I replied.

“And he died,” she said.

“You know that. He died in the plane crash.”

“He’s not alive, so you’re a widow according to the Social Security Administration,” she insisted. “Make an appointment and check it out.”

So I did. After twenty0five years, I was shocked I still remembered his middle name and birthday. When I made the appointment, I was told to bring my marriage certificate, divorce decree and Rob’s death certificate, I had all that in my safety deposit box, which held no valuables, only important papers.

I went to the Social Security office on Tatum in north Phoenix and was shocked to find out that I was entitled to $1300 a month in widow’s benefits! That money enabled me to afford my cabin in Munds Park.

I visited the Social Security Office in Flagstaff a few years ago, as a “walk-in” (without an appointment,) to find out how much I would receive if I switched to benefits from my own account. The fellow told me if I waited until I was seventy, I would get a thousand dollars more a month. Wow!

Last summer I went back to the office in Flagstaff, again as a walk-in, to check on that. The woman told me I would get about five hundred dollars more a year. I was nonplussed. Why did I get such different answers? I told her I was still working part-time and made $15,000 so far, this year. She counseled me not to take my won benefits yet as the money I earned this year would replace years when I earned far less.

In January I decided to look into it further. I couldn’t use the handy dandy device online to figure out my benefits because I was already receiving benefits as a widow. I did the math by hand and to my reckoning I would get almost two hundred dollars a month more if I waited until age seventy. I made an appointment with the office in north Phoenix, just to make sure I was right.

As soon as I signed in my name was called and I was ushered out of the busy room where the walk-ins clustered. A fellow took me back to his space. It wasn’t even a cubicle. I could hear what the other clients were saying and vice versa. Good thing I wasn’t discussing anything embarrassing.

I was glad to hear that my math was correct. I would get almost two hundred dollars more a month if I waited a year.

“I guess I’ll wait,” I said. “I can make up the twenty-four hundred dollars in a short time.”

The fellow went to his keyboard and typed. He turned to me and said, “It will take you until you are seventy-six to make back the money.”

“Seventy-six?” I didn’t think my math skills were that bad.

“That calculation is based on the money you’re losing in the next year by not taking the extra benefit now.”

Aha. The light bulb went on. “Okay, sign me up.”

It took some time for him to enter everything into the computer, but I was patient. I’m going to get my increased benefit starting in February!

So, the moral of the story is, don’t trust information you get as a walk-in to the Social Security office. And even if you get information at an appointment in Flagstaff, it may be worth your while to get a second opinion in Phoenix.

The Women’s March in Phoenix

January 23, 2017

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I joined twenty thousand like-minded souls and marched and met at the state capitol for a march to show our support of Women’s Rights. It was reassuring to know that in this very red and conservative state there are still plenty of people who share my views. I had been crushed by the election results and was still eating too much chocolate.

The crowd was quite diverse: babies, children, teens, young twenties and thirty-somethings, middle aged people and oldies but goodies like myself. The crowd was at least a fifth men, which was heartening to know that the term “feminist” is not restricted to women. There were also a great variation of skin tones and an LGBT contingent.

Denise, Laura, Richard and I were not at the front and could not clearly hear the speakers. We had arrived at 9:15 to get a parking spot. We stood for two hours before the march started, which is not a comfortable thing for us. At least we kept warm being in the middle of the crowd. The day was chilly, by Phoenix standards, about fifty-eight degrees, and a bit windy, but the rain held off.

When we finally got going, it was a very slow march. Among the sea of people it was impossible for us to tell just how large the crowd was.

I loved the creativity of the signs. A few were nostalgic.

There were NOW (the National Organization of Women) posters. I had been very involved in that organization in the seventies. Here’s a sample of what I saw:

 

A December Not to Remember

January 1, 2017

December not to Remember

A few good things happened in December but I’ll mention most of them at the end.
December began well. I attended training for my job in L.A. The training was not boring, mostly due to the trainer, Patty Walton. About fifteen hundred of us were housed in Marriotts near LA Live. It’s in the center of the city and was gussied up for the holidays. There was even a skating rink and a huge tree.

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There were plenty of luscious restaurants and most had Happy Hour so we could eat and drink inexpensively and walk back to the hotel. The buffet breakfast at the Courtyard Marriott was the best I’ve eaten. The choices were stellar. The only drawback was that the room faced east and the sun streamed in and blinded me wherever I sat.
After I returned to Scottsdale, I arranged to see Grace, my former mother-in-law and spend the day with her. I drove out to my ex-husband’s home in Mesa in the Subaru Cross Trek I’d bought in July. I picked her up and headed for lunch with my youngest son Max and his family. We were on highway 60, just east of the Gilbert Road exit, when the car in front of me slowed and stopped. I slowed and stopped. The SUV behind me didn’t. He hit me in the rear and rammed my car into another lane of traffic that wasn’t stopped. We were hit again on the front fender of the driver’s side. It happened fast and I couldn’t believe it.
My Starlink activated and said, “You’ve been in an accident. Do you want me to call 9-1-1? I have your location.”
“Yes,” was all I could manage. I tried to start the car but it didn’t go anywhere. Then I noticed I wasn’t in “Park.” I put the gear into park and it started. I drove over to the side of the road, where I finally noticed two other cars.
“Are you hurt?” I asked Grace.
“Yes, I’m bleeding on my arms.”
I got out of the car and opened her door. We gingerly took of her sweater to reveal lots of blood where skin used to be.
I didn’t have any towels in the car, but I did have a pack of tissues in my purse.
The paramedics arrived and I let them take over. After they examined Grace, they said it was her choice as to whether to go to the hospital. She declined the invitation.
By this time the Department of Public Safety had arrived and taken her driver’s license, my license, car registration and insurance card. We were parked away from the others two cars involved in the accident.
I called my ex-husband to come get his mother. He was furious that she wouldn’t go to the hospital and I let them hash it out.
A tow truck came and boxed us in. I watched with sadness in my heart as my crumpled Subaru was loaded onto the flat bed. The tow truck driver gave me a card with the company’s name. I stayed with Grace until her son arrived.
We were parked very close to the wall so I had to deftly maneuver my way to the DPS officer’s SUV, passing the other people and their cars.
I asked for Grace’s license so she could leave. The officer gave it to me but said he wasn’t finished with the report and I’d have to stay until he was. I inched my way back to Grace, gave her the license and they left. I found out later that she went to the hospital to get the massive abrasions treated, a CT scan and some x-rays.
How was I going to get home? I texted my son to let him know that lunch was canceled. He doesn’t have a car, so he couldn’t solve my transportation problem. I called my friend Elissa, who lives in downtown Phoenix. Bless her heart, she agreed to pick me up. I told her to go to a fast food place near the exit as I didn’t want her to have to stop on the highway. The DPS officer agreed to drive me there.
I’m usually a convivial person, but I made no effort to talk to the two groups of people by their cars. I inched my way back to the officer. It was hot in the sun and I’d already drunk the bottle of water I’d taken from the car. The officer allowed me to sit in the back seat of his air-conditioned SUV while he finished the report.
He got out to give the reports to the other drivers. I think the guy who hit me got a ticket because he got more papers than me.
I called my insurance company and arranged for a rental car the next day. I told them I didn’t have a preference for a body shop. When I told that to a friend, she said to call the Subaru dealership and get a recommendation from them.

I was a bit sore the next day, but didn’t even need Tylenol. I called Grace and she was hurting. She took the painkillers they gave her at the hospital.
After I picked up my rental car, a Jeep Patriot that I didn’t care for, I called the Subaru dealership. They recommended ABC Collision, who had fixed my Honda when a driver had rear-ended my Honda five years ago.
I spent time on the phone with the claims people. That day and many days thereafter. And talking with the collision analyst. I was instructed to call the insurance companies of the other drivers to start claims. One of the numbers was not correct, but I used my librarian skills to look up the driver’s phone number. I called and left a message. Her husband called back with the policy number so I could call State Farm’s 800 number. Of course, the fellow who caused the accident had minimal insurance that wouldn’t cover all the damage to the vehicles.
I was out to Happy Hour with the usual group from my condo complex when the claims person called and said my car was a total loss. I hoped that would happen since the repair was up to $18,000 the last I’d heard, and with Car Fax it would be near impossible to ever sell the car if it was fixed.
So now I got to deal with the car loan and the GAP insurance. My car loan had recently been sold and was now being serviced by a different company, so I had two entities to deal with.
GAP insurance covers the difference between what is owed and what your insurance company pays for the totaled car. From my point of view, this is a good deal if you’re financing most of the car. (I got it on a new car I’d bought for my youngest son. He totaled it four months later and the loan was paid off.) GAP insurance can last as long as the loan, but you can also cancel and get a refund when the value of the car is more than the loan.
So, I had many companies wanting documents, claims numbers, police reports, etc. It was a part time job, in addition to the part time job I’d just started. And then I got I got pink eye and bronchitis that lasted two weeks.
Camelback Subaru helped expedite things and I was able to get a new car December 23. I got another Subaru Cross Trek, but a 2017 and cranberry red. I named her “Cranny.” So it’s Granny Annie’s Cranny.”

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On December 28, my neighbor Joan was standing outside her garage and a truck backed into her. She fell forward on her face. She didn’t want to call 9-1-1. I took her to the emergency room. After four hours, they decided she needed to be in the ICU due to a subdermal hematoma. She also broke her pinky and her nose. She hurt.
She stayed in the hospital two days, but was only allowed to go home if she had someone stay with her 24/7. Donna stayed overnight and I did the daytime duty. On New Year’s Day, Joan’s daughter came over to stay for four days. She brought many meals already prepared. “Mails on wheels” she proclaimed. Joan is hurting and looks like a raccoon with two black eyes, but she’ll fully recover.
So I’d rather not remember December except for the following: my new granddaughter Madison came home from the hospital after being in neonatal ICU for four weeks; making holiday gifts with my granddaughters Abby, Savy and Charlotte;

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Santa greeting Charlotte by name (because we’d just made her a Santa hat with her name glittered on it;)

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celebrating Hanukkah with Nick’s family;

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celebrating the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve with Charlotte (and Max and Liz;)

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and getting my new queen-sized bed.
2017 is going be a lot better than 2016.

 

Graduating to a Queen-Sized Bed

December 23, 2016

Right after I graduated from college, I got married and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. We lived in an efficiency apartment and slept on a convertible couch. When we stepped up to a one bedroom apartment, we bought a double bed. I slept in that double bed until I moved to a new house with husband #2 who was six feet three inches tall. He bought a queen-sized bed. When the marriage ended twelve years later, he took the bed with him and I went back to the double bed that had a head and footboard.

Now I do have a queen-sized bed at my cabin and it seems enormous. My dog Louie sleeps in the place where someone else’s head would be. Sparky usually stays on the floor. I’d been thinking about buying a new bed for Scottsdale as the mattress was fourteen years old. (only used seven months a year since I spend the summer in Munds Park.)

Enter Mr. Hot Stuff. He’s six feet six inches. No way would he fit in my double bed. But then we broke up after Labor Day and I put the idea on hold.

When I mentioned the bed quandary to a good friend she said, “Having a double bed advertises that you’re not interested in a relationship.”

After much cogitating, I decided to get the queen-sized bed.

Low and behold, Mr. Hot Stuff is back in my life.

I went to downtown Phoenix to the Tuft and Needle store to try out their mattresses. Question: Why is the company called Tuft and Needle when the mattress is two kinds of foam with no sewing or tufting? There were several “bedrooms” which had doors so you could go into one and try out the mattress in private. It seemed a bit firm for me. When I spoke with a salesperson, she said that the mattress would conform to by body within two weeks. And I had one hundred days to decide if I liked it. If I didn’t, I let them know and they refunded my money and I would donate the mattress to a charity. Since the company is headquartered in Phoenix, the mattress could be delivered the next day. It came vacuum-packed in a box. It seemed a fool-proof plan, so I bought queen size one for $600.

I went home and immediately went on Amazon and ordered a box spring for $120. Since I have Prime, the shipping was free. I had bought my youngest son a bed last February and he’d never used the bedframe, so I picked that up.

Now the Tuft and Needle mattress doesn’t need a frame or box spring but I wanted the bed high enough that I wouldn’t have to tax me knees. There’s nothing wrong with my knees now, but I was thinking forward.

Imagine my surprise when the box spring came in a box that was tall and skinny. Hmm. It required assembly. I looked on the order and sure enough, it said “some assembly required.” Shoot. I have many talents but mechanical ability is not one of them.

I asked Mr. Hot Stuff to visit the Valley of the Sun and put the bed together. He was happy to leave the cold of Munds Park and help me out.

I had started my new job, so I worked in my office while he wrestled with the bed. I had a bad cold and was existing on hot tea with lemon and honey. He got the frame together in no time. When he opened the carton for the box spring, he called me into the bedroom. There were at least sixty steel pieces!

He had another cup of hot tea before he started on the task of putting it together. After we finished out tea, I retreated to my office.

After an hour, I ventured into the bedroom to check on his progress. He was sweating up a storm but excited because he’d figured it out.

“I’m building a steel box with steel slats. There’s a zippered cover that surrounds it.”

“Are you ready for a break?”

“I’ll take a break and a glass of water, but I want to finish the box spring before we have lunch.”

He worked for another half an hour and then called me in to help him put on the cover.

“This is a steel box. It’s never going to wear out.”

“Hmm, great,” I answered. Did box springs ever wear out?

We struggled but finally managed to encase the steel box with the fabric cover. It had a zipper. When would I ever need to wash a box spring cover?’

We went to lunch and then to a friend of mine’s basketball game. She’s the coach of a freshman girls’ team. Neither team played well, but our team lost.

We went back to my house to finish the job. He opened the box and we both tugged out the mattress. We positioned it on the box spring. The vacuum-packed mattress was only two inches thick. As soon as he cut the packaging, it morphed to eight inches thick immediately!

So, I now have a queen-sized bed. Sometimes Sparky sleeps on the bed.

The dogs have given the new mattress their stamp of approval.

What does this new bed portend for the future? I have no expectations.

 

 

Gals Glitter

November 28, 2016

Gals Glitter

           I’ve written before about the Art Glitter Factory and retail store in Cottonwood. It was founded by Barbara Trombley. She started making cards for retail stores and then invented the talcum-powder fine glitter in over 800 colors that’s sold internationally.

Imagine my delight when a retail store opened in downtown Scottsdale, two miles from my home. Weston is Barbara’s son. He runs the business with her and works out of the Scottsdale store. His girlfriend, Ariana, is also very involved. She uses glitter makeup and creates costumes, glitter shoes, and other projects. I stopped by to introduce myself as an enthusiastic user of the products. I’ve been appliqueing holiday fabric on aprons and glittering them. I also found some snowman fabric and glittered it and stretched it over painters’ canvasses. I left samples for them to display. I’ll add photos of them next week when I get home from training in LA.

As we talked, I got a brainstorm to give my friends an experience for the holidays instead of traditional gifts. Weston and I decided that ten to twelve would be the maximum capacity. I left to ponder the idea.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. The Glitter 101 class the store offers involves making a card, a butterfly, and a dragon. The latter two can be used to decorate boxes or cards. I wanted it to be less complicated and more holiday themed.

I went back to the Art Glitter store to see Weston and Ariana . I suggested that the projects for the party be a card, an ornament, a demonstration on how to use glitter in makeup and for each person to get a glitter tattoo. They agreed that my ideas were doable. I asked if it was okay to bring in food and beverages to set up on a separate table and they told me that was no problem. I was thrilled that Barbara herself was going to come down from Cottonwood and teach the class for my friends.

I bought round plastic ornaments at Michael’s. Then I made glitter card invitations for my friends. I decided to serve shrimp cocktail, homemade guacamole and chips, raw veggies and dips, homemade Oreo ruffles and tiny coffee cakes from Safeway as well as red and white wine, soda, and water.

I went to the Secret Villages on 26th Street and Indian School to get the cocktail napkins in their kitchen store. That place is amazing. It has a wide variety of napkins and mugs as well as all those kitchen gadgets for a much better price than at places like Sur La Table. I went to my favorite 99 cent store and bought glass mason jar mugs that had tops and straws so my friends could drink while working but wouldn’t get glitter in their drinks or spill their drinks on their projects. I wrote each person’s name in permanent marker on the mugs.

I was going to boil up the shrimp myself, but on the day of the party, Safeway was having a half-off sale on plated shrimp. Bonus! The party was from 5:30-7:30 p.m. I went early with Elizabeth, my son’s fiancé, to set everything up.

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It went smashingly well. Ariana’s demonstration of glitter in makeup charmed us and several of us bought the glitter hue she used. I’ve used it several times and love it. It doesn’t bother my eyes at all, and I’m allergic to some makeup.

Barbara told us her success story and was an excellent teacher. I do have a few friends who consider themselves craft deficient, but they were pleasantly surprised at how well their products turned out.

At the end of the party, Weston put glitter tattoos on those who wanted them. I got giraffes.

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Some of my friends didn’t know each other, but we all bonded during the party. Our ages or marital status didn’t matter at all.

I highly recommend giving your friends an experience rather than a physical gift for the holidays. Memories live on and who needs another thing?

The Single Senior Goes to her 50th High School Reunion

October 31, 2016

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I arrived at Newark Airport on a dark and stormy night. It was cold and rainy as I eased the rental car onto the turnpike, carefully following Siri’s directions. Luckily it was after rush hour and the other cars were going appropriately slowly, forty miles per hour. Siri got me to the hotel in Teaneck safely but did not direct me to the toll booth. I went where there was a green arrow, the EZ pass lane. I’ll probably get a ticket in the mail and a surcharge from the rental company.

I settled in my room and headed downstairs for dinner at the hotel. There were several people my age at the bar and at tables. Were they also here for the reunion? No one looked familiar.

The next morning, I drove around my home town. It has weathered the fifty years better than me, looking no older than when I left. Teaneck. a suburb a few miles from New York City, has tree-lined streets and brick houses with neat lawns. Only a few businesses remained from my day (Bishoff’s and The Butterflake Bakery) but most of the storefronts were occupied. I could see the influence of the influx of Orthodox Jews by the kosher signs in many of the restaurants and the two Judaica stores on Cedar Lane.

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My elementary school, Bryant, looked the same except that some of the playground had been paved for a parking lot and solar panels hovered above the parking spaces.

I met my sister in downtown Englewood for lunch at Baumgart’s, a café that still has homemade ice cream but now serves Asian food, not café fare as in the olden days. I had a hard time finding a parking space as the ones on Palisade Avenue had meters for only an hour. I parked on a side street but didn’t have two dollars in change to plug the meter. Instructions on the meter directed me to download an app, establish an account, and pay via credit card or PayPal. I could do this but marveled at the technology.

Palisade Avenue and its side streets host high-priced boutiques and jewelers. The Woolworth’s where Linda and I had a five cent Coke, browsed the aisles, and took our pictures in the photo booth has been gone for a long time.

My sister and I opted to share dumplings so we’d have room for mini-sundaes, which were the best I had all weekend. We went by our old houses. The one on Hubert Terrace looked quite different due to a new façade. The huge hill, Shoemacher Road, where we skated and sled on didn’t look quite so big. The one on Briarcliffe Road looked the same.

Friday evening was the informal Happy Hour. I saw friends I hadn’t been in contact for fifty years and heard their stories. Most have had good lives. Since there were over six hundred people in my graduating class, there were many I still didn’t know but I was interested in their stories too. My opening line was, “So what have you been doing for the past fifty years?” I’m including these photos and you’ll have to zero in on the name tags to see who is who.

 

 

 

I already knew that most of my “egghead friends” would not be attending. And the two friends I still see all the time were also not coming. I was on my own.

A few people had canes but most of the sixty or so people who showed up at the social hour were in good shape.

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I got to tell Nathan Fishkin that all the girls had crushes on him in junior high. He seemed surprised.

Debby Heller looked amazing! She has certainly kept her looks. It’s perfect that she went into interior design. We spent two summers at Dartmuthe, a summer camp for the arts on Cape Cod.

One of my classmates wants me to write his story about being a drug kingpin. I suggested he send me a digital recording of the first two chapters that I would rewrite. I’m doubtful it will arrive.

I hardly knew Valerie Metcalf in high school, but I give her the award for having the same beautiful smile that can brighten anyone’s day.

 

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And I didn’t think I remembered Sue Zeliff, who was in my homeroom class, until I looked up her photo in the yearbook. Of course! And she seems like she’s as sweet and self-deprecating as ever. And she looked fantastic, not our age at all.

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I encountered Danny Davis and reminded him that I wrote up his “divorce papers” from my friend Linda when we were in fourth grade. He had no recollection of that.

 

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Another classmate, Holly Frankfurt, has a Chihuahua as a service dog. He is trained to get her medication and recognize a TIA (commonly known as a mini-stroke) and get her assistance.

I was quite surprised that I only met one other writer. He works on devotional books and I think he does well. I brought my books to sell but no one bought one. A few people had read one of them. I gave one to a friend I hadn’t seen for many years.

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The next day we met at Teaneck High School for a two-hour tour. The “castle on the hill” looked the same as in my day. About sixty of us were ushered into the library. The Deputy Mayor, an Orthodox Jew, welcomed us and told us a bit about the town today. The Mayor is Muslim and the other Deputy Mayor is African American. Talk about diversity!

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The current principal, who’s been in the job for twenty years, spoke. He is a former football coach so when he said the school was still competitive with surrounding communities I wasn’t sure if he was referring to academics or athletics. He pronounced library “libery” and had nothing academic in his office. He had some relics of the high school’s history and many photos of students he’d coached. He said one day they heard a crash in the supply room and found a shelf had fallen. They discovered Miss Hill’s files. She was the principal during my tenure at Teaneck High. He said he read through the discipline files and shared them with his faculty after he redacted the names. That’s the premise of the full length play I wrote and plan on revising after this trip!

There were plaques in the auditorium vestibule to honor the students who died in World War II, The Korean War, and the Vietnam War. One of my classmates, Alan Atarian died in Vietnam. There were also plaques to honor faculty who had died while at work at the school, including Linda’s grandmother, Helen Russell, our nurse.

Student “ambassadors” conducted the tours. They were sweet and looked at us blankly when we asked about violence and gangs. They said there weren’t any in the school. The inside of the school was bright and cheerful with many photos of students on the walls. I’m sure the lockers have been replaced at least once in the last fifty years. The school is huge and the current students reported that they, too, had to run to make it in five minutes to their next class. They pointed out the gender-neutral bathrooms like it wasn’t any big deal.

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After the tour, I went to Bishoff’s with two of my elementary school friends, David Haxwell and Danny Davis. We rehashed the old days and shared our life stories. We all went into education, so we told many funny stories. I’m so glad to see my old friends happily retired. The small ice cream sundae was too large for me and the homemade double chocolate ice cream tasted okay but not stupendous.

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David Hawxwell and me

I went back to the hotel and dressed for the dinner dance. Since the dress I’d chosen was very low-cut, I wore a scarf that covered my cleavage. I walked around in the new patent leather low heels I’d bought for $14 at Last Chance. They seemed okay. (I took them off after only an hour and my feet were screaming at me and threatening to sue for pain and suffering.

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Alan Weissman (no relation,) Judy Chromow, and me

At the check-in desk, I got my name tag with my high school photo. Judy Chromow was helping so she can put a reunion on for her class next year. I’m sorry I didn’t make more of an effort to talk with her. Our mothers were best friends in their later years.

I was nervous so I bought two drink tickets for drinks. I got a glass of red wine and immediately lost the other ticket. I wasn’t nervous about going as a single person to the reunion. I figured many of my classmates wouldn’t bring their spouses. How boring for them! I was nervous about whether I would recognize people or remember what others did from our high school experiences.

I did see people with whom I had strong bonds in school. I wondered why we didn’t stay in touch. I guess we all went on with the next stage of life, college, and didn’t look back.

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Wendie Eisen has managed to be as enthusiastic a person as she was fifty years ago. She brings a breath of fresh air wherever she goes.

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And I apologized to Susan Silber for writing something snarky in her yearbook. She truly didn’t remember it, for which I’m grateful. Except I’m sure she’ll look it up as soon as she finds her yearbook.

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One of my elementary school buddies, Stanley Leibowitz, is a roller skating dancer. He and his wife complete nationally and internationally. I was amazed because the last time I donned roller skates was in 2979 and I fell backwards on my driveway and knocked myself out.

There was a preponderance of lawyers. And most people had stayed in the northeast, many in New Jersey, although there was a large contingent from Florida.

There was a board of names of those classmates who had died. The directory listed about sixty but the board had about eighty.

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I was ecstatic to see Andy Kosloff. He and I were buddies throughout high school. We’d seen each other a few times during our freshman and sophomore years of college, but didn’t after that. He couldn’t explain it and neither could I. He said he had college roommates who lived in New York and he got together with them over the summers. I remembered that I wasn’t even in Teaneck after I finished my sophomore year because I waitressed out in the Hamptons. Although most of the people at the looked appropriately older, Andy didn’t. It made me wonder if there was a portrait of him somewhere that was aging. I waxed nostalgic on the days when I had many male friends. In high school and in college. Somehow after that, I never developed anymore and I didn’t hang on to the ones I had.

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At dinner, I sat with Ellen Einhorn and heard a bit about her life with the circus, but I regret that we didn’t have an in-depth talk.

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There was a professional photographer but I didn’t get my picture taken until a group of Bryant School posed.

 

There was great sixties’ music played by the DJ but I was too busy talking to dance. The food was quite good and the desserts to die for.

I was surprised at how many people who lived in the area did not chose to attend. Does this mean only the people who have had good lives came and that skewed my experience? You may have to zero in on the following photos to read the nametags o you’ll know who is who.

I went back to my room to ponder whether the experience was worth the more than one thousand dollars to make it happen. For one thing, it will be easier to rewrite my play. And these past few days makes me more hopeful about the future as I age.

Thanks to Beryl Goldbaum Tobin and her hardworking committee to put this reunion together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reunions and Oreo Truffles

October 11, 2016

oreo-truffles

Tomorrow I’m going to a reunion of people I taught with at Lassen School 1978-1988. It’s a pot luck. What to fix? Many of the women are great cooks, as evidenced by pot luck meals while we worked together. I had a new recipe for a Chili Relleno Bake, but it used canned chilies and I’d have to buy the salsa. So I decided to make a dessert, Oreo Truffles. I often make them around Thanksgiving to use as hostess gifts. I made another batch with the granddaughters before the holidays and we wrap them up as gifts for the family.

I look forward to seeing my compadres. We were witnesses to important events in our lives and formed a support group that served as a safety net for those going through a divorce, death in the family, or hard to handle kids.

Recipe for Oreo Truffles (makes about 7 dozen)

Start with 36 Oreo cookies, a 14.3-ounce bag, 8ounces of cream cheese, candy cups and 2 bags of candy melts (both of which are available from Michael’s or Joann’s.)

Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper.

Crush the cookies in a blender and put in a large bowl. Soften the cream cheese and combine them with your hands. (Kids love this part.)

Form balls from the mixture, a bit bigger than a malt ball. Put these on the wax paper.

Put one of the packages of Candy melts in a microwaveable bowl and melt according to the directions on the package.

Plop the balls, one at a time, in the melted chocolate, and use two forks to coat each one. Take it out of the candy and place it back on the waxed paper. When one cookie sheet is done, put it in the refrigerator.

Melt the other package of Candy Melts and do it over for the rest of the balls. Put them in the refrigerator.

Arrange the candy cups in plastic containers, ceramic loaf pans (available on Black Friday sales at Michael’s for $1.00 each) or any other container.

Take out the firmed up truffles and put one in each candy cup.

If you use a loaf pan or other container without a top, wrap it in cellophane (rolls are available at the 99 cent store) and tie it up with a ribbon.

Keep the truffles in the refrigerator (they keep for over a month,) until you give them away, since they have cream cheese and are perishable.

NOTE: The Candy Melts come in many colors but I have found all but the chocolate hard to deal with. They don’t melt as smoothly.

 

 

Today is Summer, Tomorrow is Fall

October 4, 2016

 

Today is Summer, Tomorrow is Fall

Every year in September I remember a poem, September, I had to memorize in fourth grade. I tried to find the author on the Internet, but couldn’t. I think it’s by Vachel Lindsay.

 

A road like brown ribbon

A sky that is blue

A forest of green

With that sky peeping through.

Asters, deep purple

A grasshopper’s call

Today is Summer

Tomorrow is fall.

 

As I move this month from my summer home in Munds Park to my winter home in Scottsdale, the change is that sudden. Up in Munds Park I’m enjoying the changing of the seasons: the yellow, red and orange leaves on the trees; the crispness in the morning air; and using the flannel sheets.

I’m reminiscing about the summer: the weddings I attended; the grandkids’ visits; the lively discussions with the book club; the helpful critiquing of the writing group; the lunches and dinners at the country club, Patio in the Pines and The Pinewood; seeing my play “Pet Peeves” performed for Cabaret Nights; much glittering on cards and fabrics, fun with people escaping the heat of the Phoenix summer; pickleball; listening to The Mother Road Trio and other live music; and catching up with my summer friends. And, of course, my summer romance. Alas, it did not survive longer than the summer. (Question to self: Why am I so easy to dump?)

As it gets too chilly for me in Munds Park I look forward to returning to the Valley of the Sun and a winter of lunch and movies with friends, my winter book club, a contract job, more time with my family, and the impending birth of my fourth granddaughter.

East vs. West

September 5, 2016

East vs. West

I went to Pennsylvania over Labor Day Weekend for my niece’s wedding. I hadn’t seen her for almost ten years, when she came out for a week’s visit. It was a joyous occasion and I got to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law and my sister and her new beau, as well as see my nephew Ben, whom I hadn’t seen for at least fifteen years. Why so long? Because I live in the Southwest and they all live in the East.

I grew up in New Jersey. When I drove the rental car from the Pittsburgh airport to the wedding venue, about seventy miles into a more rural setting, my senses overloaded with the overwhelming greenness. Although I live in the pines in the summer, these trees were so thick of green that nothing showed through them. The cornfields are surrounded by contours of green, maybe crops, maybe just grass. The contrast between the starkness of the southwest and these over-green mountains astounded me. I love both. Even the remembered San Francisco Peaks seemed rocky compared with these hills.

My sister and her beau live in New York City. Of course none of the meals we ate compared to their usual cuisine, at least according to him. My sister is more amenable to bland food. We drove out into the countryside and ate at a family-owned place advertised as “lakeside dining.” The restaurant was on a small pond, but my sister delighted in watching the ducks and geese from our table by the window. My sister and I reminisced about childhood days gone by.

Annie in Pa green

I should mention that the Pittsburgh airport was a dream compared with Sky Harbor. The rental car booth was inside the terminal and the cars were across the walkway. Never have it gotten into a rental car easier! I managed to get everything into my new carry-on bag, one of those pieces of luggage that one wheels while it’s upright. So I skipped baggage claim altogether. I also have a GOES pass (similar to TSA precheck but global) so I breezed through the security checkpoints.

The wedding was held in a copse of pine trees. It looked just like Munds Park. We sat on rough-hewn benches. First down the aisle were the eight bridesmaids and groomsmen. Except one of the groomsmen was a young woman, the sister of the groom. She matched the others in her gray suit. Then came the groom with his mother and father on each side of him. My brother and his first wife escorted my niece down the long aisle. She looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of Vogue. Her gold mesh birdcage veil was perfect with her elegant gown. My twenty-eight-year-old nephew held up the train of her dress.

Alexandra during ceremony 3

This is a photo of my brother Joe and his wife Judy under the chuppa with the bride and groom.

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This is a photo of my sister Evelyn and her beau Russ.

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The hors d’oeurves were delicious, especially the lamb chops. The band was terrific and I got to sit with my brother, sister, and some of my brother’s friends whom I knew from back when.

bride and grrom lifted up

The bride and groom were lifted up in chairs during the Hora, a traditional Jewish dance.

Ali and Joe dance

This is my brother dancing with his daughter, the bride.

Annie, Joe, and Evvy at wedding

The Weissman siblings at the reception.

I drank in as much greenery as I could to store it up for the days in the desert when I miss it. I love the stark beauty of the West, but sometimes I do yearn for the green.

 

The Zen of Pickleball

August 19, 2016

The word “Zen” comes from a form of Buddhism that emphasizes mediation, self-contemplation and intuition. In a general sense, as applied to subjects like cooking or golf, it means highlighting simplicity and intuition over conventional thinking or fixation on goals. How does this relate to pickleball?

I starting playing pickleball last summer. It’s the only sport or exercise I actually enjoy and look forward to. The Pinewood Country Club’s resurfaced pickleball courts are a pleasure to play on, much easier on the knees and feet than a concrete court.

The investment to play is modest, a racket that looks like a ping pong paddle on steroids ($30-90) and whiffle balls ($10 for six.) I definitely suggest a graphite racket over a wooden racket. The latter is much heavier and hard on my wrists. The type of ball depends on whether it’s an indoor or outdoor court and the court surface. Now we’re using neon yellow-green indoor outdoor balls that seem to give the best bounce on the court. The attire on our courts include leggings, jeans or basketball shorts and golf skirts. In other words, regular clothes. More information is available from the USA Pickleball Association. (www.usapa.org)

The group that plays at the Pinewood Country Club courts are fun and friendly. People who have never played before are always welcome, though you do need to be a country club member or guest of a member. We are sometimes a raucous group, which adds to the fun.

Pickleball is played on a court one quarter the size of a tennis court. We play doubles, so there are four people on a court at a time. The game is a mix of tennis and ping pong. There are rules, but they’re not hard to master. We switch partners after every game and try to pair a good player with a beginning one to make it fairer.

Although I am not a competitive person, some of the pickleballers are. They are sweet enough to enjoy playing with me even if I miss shots. (I don’t run on the court as I fall about once a month in my regular life. I don’t need to add more incidents.)

What does pickleball do for me? It gives me an hour of thinking of nothing but the game. I get into a meditative state in that the cares and worries of my regular life fade away. I focus on the ball and hitting it, but not on the winning or losing. It’s a time to complement others on good shots, serves and saves. I do laugh when I get a tough shot back over the net, surprising everyone, including me.

I’ve gotten better, graduating from an “Oh my, are you kidding? beginner” to a regular beginner. Sometimes my team even wins. I have an extra racket for friends who visit, who usually love the game. We play every morning at 7:30, whoever shows up. When the days get cooler, we’ll start at 8:30. Hope you’ll join us.