True stories with a twist!


Everyone knows what color a tree is; ask any nursery school child and you’ll hear the answer: “green.”

That’s what I used to think, but it’s not that simple. Green is not only green. It shares its color with other shades, tones and hues. Now when I look out at the garden I see a rainbow of yellow-green, blue-green, and lime-green. The maple trees are red and golden yellow. I see a beautiful collage of colors although flowers are no longer blooming.

The most glorious tree in the garden, reigning high above the others on top of the hill is the Cryptomeria. This conifer soars above the other trees in it’s size and majesty. It’s not only the height of the tree that is so striking: it’s the color. This rare version is known as “The Rust Tree.” Nothing else in our garden or any other one in the neighborhood flaunts this unusual shade. It’s not brown, not red, not orange and not yellow. Rust comes the closest to describing it.

Here is its picture:




But the joke is on me, and perhaps on you also, if you believed in my “rust tree” because there is no such thing as a rust tree. But there is such a thing as Death, and this cryptomeria is dead! It got browner and browner and then lost its needles. Sadly, the tree had to be taken down. And that’s the story of how I, the eternal optimist, sees a dying tree and thinks it is a rare new species, alive and thriving.

Reality can be so disappointing.

On a beautiful summer day we took an hour drive to Hamilton Township, New Jersey, to a fantastical park called “Grounds For Sculpture.’ The artist, Seward Johnson, a member of the Johnson & Johnson family, founded this park and contributed the sculptures for the public to enjoy.


Some of his sculptures are whimsical.


IMG_1551 Harvey will try a hot dog anywhere!IMG_1552


…and some use impressionist paintings as a format to place sculptures of famous artworks  around the park in unexpected places. You may be walking around, enjoying the scenery, when there’s a break in the foliage. You peek in and see a famous Monet painting of a picnic scene.



IMG_1539Further ahead is the graceful form of a seventeenth century woman by a refreshing stream.


A group of Monet friends gathered at a table for dinner. They graciously invited me to join them.



You can imagine my joy to be reunited with my friend, Mona.IMG_1580



…and happy to visit old buddies from Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”



Harvey didn’t think “The Scream” was anything to get too frightened about!



But it’s not all about art: don’t they realize that Grounds For Sculpture is a family park?


People show personal feelings among the shrubbery:IMG_1560


Grounds for Sculpture is a treasure. It’s one of the most unusual parks I’ve seen. Theres a wonderful restaurant on the property called “Rats.” The name is from the classic book, “The Wind in the Willows.” Worth a trip!


It’s all my yoga teacher’s fault. She told our class that a good way to prevent and treat leg cramps was to drink cocoanut water. So when I woke up in the middle of the night I drowsily ambled into the kitchen to get a glass of the brew.

Suddenly, when I opened the refrigerator door a wave of dizziness overtook me and I fell to the floor. And that’s without storing Limburger cheese in the cheese drawer. Who wouldn’t swoon after a whiff of that stuff?

The next morning I was greeted with a swollen foot the size of a NY Knicks basketball.

An emergency visit to our friendly local orthopedic surgeon became a necessity, even though when he x-rayed the ankle and proclaimed it broken. Who needs news like that on a Friday morning before a beautiful weekend? His diagnosis ruled out a hike at the Delaware River Water Gap, a hot air balloon ride in Peapack/Gladstone and battling through end of summer sale at Fox’s. Since none of these activities were on our agenda anyway it wasn’t such a loss. But mobility was.

Crutches hurt, walkers require hopping on one foot (preferably the good one), and rickshaw rides are not available in our neighborhood.

On to the internet, where I learned of the wondrous device called a “knee scooter.” This gadget allows mobility, carries your stuff in a basket on front and was fun. I could just picture my grandchildren fighting over who will play with my new toy first.

So I leave you with this famous quote:

photo 1        “Bones, shmones. As long as you’ve got your health!”






We were having a beautiful experience traveling through Spain; getting a sense of its history, enjoying exquisite scenery, and living the lives of jet-setters. Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming and pleasant.

Until we came upon her: an elderly local woman with a basket full of crocheted shawls. All I had to do was make initial eye contact and “my goose was cooked.” She earmarked me as a prospective customer, and nothing I could do could save me from those persistent eyes. She started to follow me across the church patio, holding up a shawl with a pleading expression on her face.

“Twenty five dollars,” she begged.

No, I said, walking away. But she persisted, following me across the plaza.

“Look. Beautiful,” she said, as she wrapped the shawl around my shoulders. “$25.00.”

Bargain with her, my inner voice coaxed. Don’t agree to the first price she offers.

Is it hand made? I asked. She held up her hands and pointed to her arthritic old fingers, signaling that she crocheted every stitch by hand. Along with the hand-showing she put on a pathetically sad, overworked, exhausted expression.

Poor old thing, I commiserated. She looks at my life, a traveling tourist able to afford the luxury of leaving my country to explore hers, while she labors away stitching these shawls. She probably sews in a room with poor light and uncomfortable back-breaking chairs. I’ll bet she lives with her family, including a bunch of small children whom she helps support. How can I haggle with her for a miserable few dollars?

I could always use a hand crocheted black shawl, I reasoned convincingly. So I gave in and paid her the full price she asked. I tucked my new purchase into my traveling bag and joined my husband and friends for a tour of the church. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a shop in town filled with local souvenirs.

There on display was a counter filled with identical shawls to the one I had just bought. Each shawl was enclosed in an individual plastic bag, indicating that it was factory made, not home sewn. On closer inspection I saw a small tag saying, “Made in China.”

They were selling for $15.00 apiece.


I didn’t have a boyfriend.

It was senior year. The senior prom was written in large capital red letters on our wall calendar in the kitchen.

What could I do? Stay home? Admit I had nobody to ask? Confess that no boy had asked me to go? Not a chance. No way would I admit that to anyone. The humiliation would be too great to bear! I’d have to think of something drastic.

Who could I invite? My mind turned over its Rolodex for names from every walk of my seventeen year old life. Distant cousins, brothers of friends, the delivery guy from the drug store. Nobody seemed right.

At the time my family belonged to a swim club, staffed mainly by a large group of college students. One particularly handsome lifeguard was Mike, a blonde, muscular He-Man type that every girl at the club had a crush on. Could I dare ask him?

“You have nothing to lose. All he could do is say No,” advised my mother.

If he refuses nobody has to know I ever invited him. So, I reasoned, I would not lose face or be mortified. But if he said “Yes,” I’d be the envy of every girl in the senior class. Imagine walking into the prom with Mike, the dreamboat lifeguard.

I gave myself a pep-talk, mustered up my courage and approached Mike one afternoon during his break. “Hi, Mike, I was wondering: would you like to come to my senior prom with me?”   Unknown-1

“Sure. That sounds like fun.” Did he actually agree to be my date for the senior prom? That was way too easy! I was incredulous and excited beyond belief; it took total control to keep from screeching and jumping up and down.

I primped, I fussed, I did everything I could do to look grown up and sophisticated. After all, my date was a college man, not some sniveling babyish high school kid.

With great expectations I opened the door the second the doorbell rang that night. But something had changed. Mike no longer had that wind-blown casual, sexy hair he did at the swim club. Someone had chopped his hair and it cut it way too short. He didn’t look cool any more. He didn’t look hip. He didn’t even look handsome. And worst of all he looked old. He must have been at least nineteen, and looked over twenty. Mike would be out of place at a high school dance; he’d never fit in. And I’d be the laughing stock of the class.

I never found out what my classmates said about Mike and nobody said anything about him to me. My memories about that night are vague and totally forgettable. But never again did I invite a date for the shallow reasons I invited Mike to the Senior Prom.

He never called me after the dance. I never saw him again.

UnknownIt was a special gift I’ve enjoyed from the moment I received it. A step counter. My father always said,

“Walking is the best exercise.”  Dad walked like a man with a purpose; a man who was going somewhere important. Perhaps that’s why I never understood people who meander or stroll, frequently stopping mid-step to make a point or to finish a sentence. Can’t they speak and move their feet at the same time?


Knowing how far you’ve walked is fun knowledge. It sets you up for a contest with yourself, like playing solitaire or golfing. Golfers tell me that golf is a game between you and your scores. Walkers can make a contest of walking longer  distances all the time. The goal is 10,000 steps day. Walking a few extra steps, like up a set of stairs instead of hopping on an elevator is like getting extra credit for a school assignment. It’s something not required, but you do it anyway to win some extra points.


The physical fitness craze has caught on and become quite popular. Everywhere I go I must be careful not to be bumped by bicycles, run down by runners or rammed by roller bladers. Will I soon be threatened by being pummeled by pogo sticks? The momentum to keep moving grows.


That’s why I am always so surprised , any time I drive into a big box store like Costco, to see cars waiting patiently near the entrance for someone to come out, drive their car away, and leave a spot free for them, close to the entrance of the store. They could park farther away and have the advantage of adding steps to their day, moving their bodies, exercising while they run their errands. A great two-for-one advantage.


imagesBut even in beautiful weather these couch potatoes on wheels prefer to sit and wait for a closer parking spot. If these anti-walkers owned step counters as I do, they would understand the advantage of gaining a few extra steps to the totals of the day’s completed steps. With a step counter clipped to waistbands every step walked is an opportunity to crank up the day’s step total. It becomes not a chore but a game in which anyone can win. So I wonder, as I watch this phenomenon,


1) Are those car-sitters people who exercise early in the morning and then consider any extra physical exertion a waste of time, or a redundant activity, like eating breakfast twice, reading the newspaper again or buying two identical raincoats?

2) Or do they take pride in achieving the honor of winning the closest parking spot to the store entrance? Has the place in the parking lot become a status issue, like being seated next to the guest of honor at a dinner party?

3) Do they have small children hidden in the back seat who run wild in parking lots?

Or are they just lazy and unwilling to exert any more time or energy than necessary to the dull task of grocery shopping? Is walking an insult to their dignity?

Maybe some day a kind, generous person will present them with a step counter of their own so they can gain the satisfaction of knowing how far they’ve travelled on foot each day. It could be a real game changer, transforming a sedentary  soul into an energetic, healthy ambulatory human.

images-10“Why do I have to waste my time studying places I never heard of and will never hear about again? This whole project is a total waste of my time.”

These were the words of one of my high school classmates as our history class began a unit about East Asia. Far East: Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.

Yes, those countries were remote and beyond the radar of our awarenesses at that time, the wonderfully innocent, relatively trouble-free 1950s.

Way too soon after my classmate’s objection to studying those countries everything changed. We were at war in Korea. Who ever heard of Korea before then? Whether they heard of it or not, every male above eighteen was called to serve in the military. There were no choices. In the days of the dreaded draft, very few young men escaped the call of the army.

Even Elvis Presley had to learn the names of those countries and where they were, as he signed into the army as Private Elvis Presley. We all knew the names of those countries by then. They were in every news headline.

By the time the Korean conflict erupted I had lost touch with many of my classmates. Including the boy in my history class. I sometimes think of those days and wonder what became of him. Was he one of those clueless young guys who suddenly discovered that his life was more closely connected to those countries than he ever could have imagined?  images-9

I don’t know whether he was against learning, against having to study subjects he deemed unnecessary, or whether he was a conscientious objector. I do know he lived at a time when individual opinions were not considered; no one was given the choice of whether to fight or not to fight. Soldiers were not given tests to determine their knowledge of far eastern countries.

What does this subject have to do with today’s situation? Teachers reading this post, may consider getting similar rebellious answers when studying the moon’s topography.

Just assure any questioning students that “You never know what facts of which places you might need to know in the future.”

Tag Cloud


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 653 other followers