Archive | August, 2015

Saving the Monarch Butterflies

24 Aug

Excitement rules our home.   Our milkweed plantings were successful. We have monarch butterfly caterpillars munching on the leaves. And thousands of eggs deposited among our milkweeds. We are doing our part to save the Monarch butterflies.

We live in the path of the great Monarch migration. Each year millions of butterflies come through Kansas. When we see them, we celebrate. Our children, when they were young, would have such joy pointing to them and running to see the butterflies on our flowers.

Our concern started because we noticed fewer and fewer butterflies making their way through our property.   And then we watched a documentary on NOVA, “Journey of the Butterflies,” about the migration of the butterflies and how their natural habitat is diminishing. What could we do?

The docent at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten showing us a giant milkweed and a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. This got us started!

The docent at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten showing us a giant milkweed and a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. This got us started!

Then we went to a butterfly farm and conservation center on St. Maarten in the Caribbean. The tour guide/docent was very clear in his message. “PLANT Milkweed. This could save the butterflies.”

That spring when we returned home, we had a mission. Years ago we had milkweed growing. And we pulled it all out. Now we knew that was a wrong decision. We needed milkweed.

It was too late to start from seed. But we learned that the University of Kansas was selling milkweed in Lawrence. So I messaged my nephew, who was in school there, to please buy us some milkweed plants.

He arrived the next day with five plants, one of each variety being sold at the event to save the butterflies.

Planting the milkweed we got from the University of Kansas sale in 2014.

Planting the milkweed we got from the University of Kansas sale in 2014.

My husband cheerfully and carefully planted them.   But we made one error. We forgot to tell the gardener who weeded our gardens for us. A few days later we came home, and I said, “Oh, Donny must have been here.” My husband went running to the front. And then he started yelling, “He pulled out my milkweed. It is all gone!!!”

But it wasn’t all gone. There was still one plant. But it was not enough. We never had any caterpillars last year.

This year was different. My husband ordered 2,500 seeds on line. Yes, I said 2,500 milkweed seeds of five different varieties. I agree, a little over kill. I bought him seedling planters with 100 individual biodegradable cups. He planted over 200 seeds. And he waited. Soon they were sprouting.

100s of milkweed seedlings watched over by our kitten.

100s of milkweed seedlings watched over by our kitten.

First we kept them on our kitchen table in the sunlight. But our kitten was a bit too interested in them. So we moved them to a bright spot where the kitten could not get to them.

Over 100 seedlings survived. My husband pulled some out so that there was only one plant in each cup.   And eventually he had 50 good plants to put into the ground. It was not easy to keep them alive. The animals loved to eat them, especially the bunnies. And the squirrels kept digging them up. He put the plants in our flower boxes with wire screens above them.   Slowly he planted the surviving milkweed in the ground. He put up wire screens around his milkweed plantsto keep them safe.

He also gave seeds away to our neighbors so they also could plant milkweed. His aim was sincere. Everyone should plant milkweed!

Slowly the plants grew all summer. They did not flower, something was eating the flowers. And now the mature plants started to look badly. Something was eating his milkweed.

He went out to investigate. And came back with a big smile on his face.

Two of the four Monarch butterfly caterpillars eating our milkweed. Seen the wire screening we used to protect them in the background.

Two of the four Monarch butterfly caterpillars eating our milkweed. Seen the wire screening we used to protect them in the background.

Four caterpillars were eating the largest of our milkweed. We had done it! We had done a wonderful good deed! We had provided a home for the Monarch butterflies. Excitement and joy!

I expect next year we will have many more surviving milkweed plants and many more caterpillars because now we are experienced in the ways of saving the Monarch butterfly!

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/journey-butterflies

http://www.journeynorth.org/

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The Legacy of Woodstock

17 Aug

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

It is amazing to me that an event that divided a community; created havoc and orderly chaos; memories that lasted a life time, both bitter and joyful, is now the reason why the Town of BethEl, White Lake and Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY, might actually survive.

It was the Woodstock Festival that put these small towns in the eyes of the nation. I remember that weekend and the weeks that follow so well. My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake and we spent each summer there for my life. My grandparents had made Kauneonga Lake their year-round residence. They knew everyone. They were active in the community and the synagogue.

And I remember the hostilities and disruption that came after the festival was over and most of the people had left.   I say most because a small group stayed behind and never left the area.

I see my Dad trying to direct traffic in front our home. And letting a few vehicles park on our long driveway and front lawn.   I remember the people who came to ask if my grandfather would let helicopters land on our lawn. (That would be a NO.)

I remember the police on horseback trying to ride up the hill to the Woodstock site.

And I remember the mess afterwards. The days upon days to clean up the debris left behind.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

But now that same event that caused pain for many, especial the Yasgurs, is now the reason for renewal.  It so amazes me now that the sign of a bird on a guitar that was so hated by some of the townspeople, is now redone as a bird on a leaf and is  symbol used in the town. And even a horse stable uses a take off of the iconic sign as its symbol. Wow! How the attitudes have changed.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

At first the site of the Woodstock Festival became a legend and people would come up each summer on a pilgrimage to see it and talk about it. There was no monument. A group of people, the remains of the Hog Farmers who had helped at the concert, who hung out there to tell the story. Over time a monument was built, and the field was left empty.

Those who love the area owe thanks to one family’s vision, Alan Gerry and the Gerry Foundation. I believe it is thanks to him that the area is surviving the loss of income from the bungalow colonies. As the colonies closed or came under the ownership of orthodox Jewish communities, the area became desolate. But then in 1997 the Gerry family began it’s interest in the Woodstock site.

With the development of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel and White Lake and Kauneonga Lake have had a small rebirth. Each summer I come up and I see new restaurants, new stores, new houses even. On the weekends I hear the sounds of cars whizzing by our home before and after concerts.

People come to hear the music and to visit the Bethel Woods Museum. Every summer I take a journey the almost two miles to visit the Woodstock site and take a photo. I remember the blocked roads, the multitudes of people. I remember my grandfather’s reactions to all the young adults walking by our home. “Where are their mothers?” He kept asking as he shook his head.

But along with the memories of 46 years ago, I also see the new site. I have to tell you, it is wonderful!

 

Treasures in the Bookcase

16 Aug
Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

I honestly thought that we had discovered all the treasures in our Catskills house. Last summer my siblings and I had torn the house apart, filling a 20-cubic yard dumpster with unused and unusable items.   We had discovered a mother lode of photos and a photo album from the 1920s that I am still slowly scanning and finding more information about our maternal grandmother and her family.

But I had forgotten about the old bookcase in the corner of the living room. I actually did not think about it until the very last day we were in the Catskills this summer, when I got a ‘jubba’ as my grandfather would say — a feeling that I had to open the glass door.

My Grandma Esther's bookcase in the corner.

My Grandma Esther’s bookcase in the corner.

We now call it my brother’s bookcase. But in reality it was my paternal grandmother’s and before her it belonged to her parents. Since they lived in the same apartment, there was no real distinction. The bookcase came with the books in it after my Grandma Esther passed away. Over the years, new books were put in and the older books migrated to the bottom shelf.

We have placed it along side the fireplace behind the television. It acts as part of a wall, so that the area behind the fireplace can be used as a bedroom when needed. This semi-room holds an old upright piano, a trundle bed that opens up to two twins, and a computer desk. So we usually do not even think of this piece of furniture as a bookcase, but more of a wall divider.

In any case, my ‘jubba’ called me over to the bookcase about an hour before we were planning to drive home. And inside of it, I found treasures! Nine books containing bound copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922 through 1941, as well as a 45th anniversary book.   My great grandparents, Louis and Rae (Rachel) Goldman, were very active in the Bialyskoker group in New York City that founded the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.   In fact, he was on several important committees and boards.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

While just skimming through the bound copies, I found announcements of both my Dad’s and Uncle’s bar mitzvah. These were in English. The Bialystoker Stimmer was printed mainly in Yiddish. But there were also a few English pages or a few English paragraphs in almost every copy. I also found photos of my great grandfather on several pages that announced committee and board members.

His 70th birthday

His 70th birthday

But the best was a photo of him and a paragraph in Yiddish celebrating his 70th birthday. I can read enough Yiddish to recognize his name and a few other words. To be honest, I do not know what it says yet. But I will find out.

That was with just a quick skim. I needed these books.

I told my sister that I had to ship them home and search them. Since we found the books in what is my brother’s bookcase, my sister sent him a text asking if I could ship them to Kansas.

They both agreed that the books should come home with me, as I am acting as the family historian.   I was so excited. It was well worth the $40 I spent at Staples to ship them home.

Today the books arrived!

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

As I continued to go through the books, I found what appears an article about him. It, too, is all in Yiddish. I know I will need it translated. I am excited to know what it says about him. I know he was a tailor.

My Dad's first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

My Dad’s first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

I cannot read all the Yiddish, except really for the names and a few words. But in skimming the books I sometimes see a photo that jumps out at me. Like the one of my Dad’s first cousins, David. Well, it looked like a very young David. I was right, it was him at age 16, when he graduated high school. This article is also in Yiddish. I need a translator!!!

I realize that I will never know if my great grandparents were mentioned in other places. But I am taking photos of every page that has a photo or a mention of my family that I can find.

But besides the book, I posted the photo of my great grandfather Louis Goldman and the small article on the “Tracing the Tribe” Facebook group. I was hoping someone would be able to translate it for me. Although that has not yet happened, I remain hopeful. But someone posted a link to the Bialystoker Center Yahrzeit Cards website. There I found the yahrzeits for my great grandparents, my grandparents and my great aunt. I will say that the Hebrew name for my grandfather is wrong on the site. But it is definitely him. That was also interesting to see.

I started with the books from the 1940s, I am now in the 1920s.  There is much more Yiddish and much less English in these earlier books.  I am hoping to still find more treasures in them.  But to see members of my family mentioned in these early archives makes me so happy.  I knew my great grandfather was an active volunteer.  These books confirm what I had heard.  My heart is happy.

I hope to find a good home for these books after I am done investigating them. There are many other families mentioned in the books.   I do not know how many people saved them.   In our case it was benign neglect. We did not know they were there, so they were just ignored.   And allowed to survive. A happy, lucky find for me and my family.

PS: Thanks to Sabena and her Yiddish teacher who translated the paragraph about my great grandfather:  “Mr. Luis Goldman, has just become a septigenerian (70), and if he himself hadn’t told us, we would certainly not believed it. Mr. Goldman is among the most active people in Sumkh Nuflim (I think that’s a place) in the Center and in the old age home where his work is greatly admired. We wish him a lot of further birthdays with joy in his family.”

PPS:  The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, would love to have the Bialystoker Stimme books!

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/bialygen/Yahrzeit.htm

My Grandma Always Won At Solitaire

11 Aug

Grandma Thelma was not a good loser. In fact, I would have to say that she hated to lose, especially at cards. It did not matter who she played with, a solitary game or against one of her grandchildren. Losing was not an option for grandma.

She loved to play solitaire. And her endless days in the Catskills during the winter months gave her plenty of time to play. But she played even in the summer when there were many people up for the summer.

Grandma would eagerly deal out her seven piles of cards and start a game. But if it wasn’t going well, she might add an eighth pile. Or perhaps count out her three cards in a slightly different manner. Or maybe check the cards that were turned over to see where the card was that she needed.  She would then work to get that card uncovered.

We would protest! “Grandma, That is cheating!”  She always denied it. To her it was winning. Why play a game by yourself if you were going to lose?  She said she was not cheating, she was just changing the rules.  But rules are meant to be followed.  Not to Grandma, if she had followed the rules, she once told me, she would not be here. She would have died in the Shoah.  So you make the rules so that you win. To some degree I could not argue with that.

However, there were times she would never make up her own rules. During the summertime daily canasta games with three longtime friends (including my other grandma), she played honestly.  Doing anything else would have been a disaster. And when you play with a partner, it is much more difficult to make your own rules, since you both have to play as a team.  But to be honest team work was not my Grandma’s strong point.

She also never cheated during the weekly gin rummy game that the women of the colony played when the husbands were in the City. It was for money! A penny or two per point depending on the win. When she played for money, she always followed the official rules.

But with her grandchildren, the three of us who spent the summers in the Catskills, she would often follow her own rules.   Sometimes is was as simple as taking a peek at our hands.  I admit we were a little lax on holding our cards close to our chest.  But when playing gin rummy with Grandma, we learned quickly to keep our cards hidden. She would warn us once if we held our cards where she could see them. But if we made that mistake again, forget about it, she looked.

On rainy days, when we were stuck inside for the entire day, my Mom would often ‘kick’ us out of the bungalow and send us across the lawn to our Grandparent’s house.  They lived there throughout the year and had a television.  But that was not our true reason for going.  With our Grandparents we played cards or baked or just visited.  The card games, however, were epic battles.  They could go on for hours as we played gin rummy for points.  Or perhaps a canasta game, the three grandchildren and Grandma.  Or perhaps a canasta game for two.  Hours of entertainment,  And my Mom would get a break.

My brother believes (and it is true) that she would rearrange the deck, stacking it in her favor, if you had to leave the room for a minute. I remember often calling for someone to watch Grandma while I ran to the bathroom.I would bring my cards with me,  I knew that if I left my hand unattended, I would not win.  Sometimes, if my brother or sister were around,  I just asked one of them to play out the hand.

You might think that she not a good role model by all this ‘cheating.’  But she really was so obvious about it, and never sneaky, that I am a little adverse to calling it cheating.  We knew exactly what was happening.  We knew she just did not like to lose, but at the same time she knew that she was not really winning.

It became a running joke.  I remember once telling a friend that my Grandma always won at cards.  She was amazed. “How did she do that?” My friend asked.  “She must have been really lucky.”

“Well, luck had nothing to do with it,” I admitted.  “She created her own rules.  And in her rulebook, my Grandma always won.”

At The Cemetery Visiting Those We Will Always Love

4 Aug

It has been over two years since we finally held the unveiling for my parents and brother in law. They died over a difficult 15 months. One funeral was more difficult than the next. In between my aunt passed away as well. Four new graves in a family plot.

The unveiling was emotional and miserable. Not just because we uncovered all three stones on the same day, but because it was held during a deluge of rain. The heavens were crying for us, as well as the over 80 people who showed up to remember our parents and my sister’s husband.

I have not been back to the cemetery since then. I live in Kansas. The cemetery, Beth El, is in New Jersey. I have not wanted to bug my sister about It when I was in town. But when I was in New Jersey this past March, I mentioned it. And she seems oaky.

Now I am back in New Jersey with my son to spend 12 days with my sister, niece, brother and other family members. We already spent a weekend at our Catskills home. It is filled with memories of our grandparents, parents and others. Over the weekend, I once again mentioned my desire to go to the cemetery.

My sister was fine. “Let’s not take the kids,” she suggested. I agreed.   They are in their early 20s. But I know that going to the cemetery is not something they want to do. It is still painful for them.

I meant to take stones from the Catskills back to New Jersey with us. But I forgot. In the last minutes as we were getting ready to leave, our children were impatient. I should have picked up some stones earlier, but we were busy visiting and just relaxing.

So this morning I went outside with a ziplock bag and searched for small stones around my sister’s home. Although my niece did not think I would be successful, I found enough stones. It is a Jewish custom to leave stones as remembrance on a grave, not flowers. And I needed at least 12 stones.

Our family plot includes all four of my grandparents, my parents, two sets of aunts and uncles, and another uncle. We are fortunate that my aunt is still alive. In fact we have plans to see her and some cousins in the City this week.

My brother in law is buried directly opposite my parents. My sister put the biggest stone on his grave. I had selected it for him, since it came from his house.

Then we turned and went to our grandparents. We went by couples, my sister putting a stone on one grave, while I put a stone on the other grave.  We read each name in English and Hebrew. We spoke about each of them, just a little remembrance: our grandparents, our parents, our aunts and uncles.

For the first time I really focused on their Hebrew names, I have begun to realize how important graves are for those studying their family’s genealogy.  Especially since I had joined the group, Tracing the Tribe.  I realized that some had left off the Levy designation.  And one did not have the Hebrew name.  Would that lead to problems for future generations? Perhaps not, since they were all together.

I had a stone left. I had picked up 13. We knew just a short way down from this family plot was our cousins’ grandparents. So we walked to visit them as well. We stopped and put a stone on Grandma Rose’ grave, we read her name and remembered her. And although we did not have a stone for him, we read the name of Grandpa Asher. My sister did not remember him as she was only three when he passed away. So I told her something about him.

In the same plot are the graves of one of their son’s in laws. So we read their names as well, and I remembered them.

My sister does not remember Grandpa Asher and the other couple as well as I do. Three and half years in age makes a difference. But I felt it was important that all of their names be remembered.

After we were done, I took photos of all the graves. Do other people do that? Or is it a Jewish custom? I am not sure. But since I am so far away, I wanted this memory.   I am not sure when I will be at their resting place again.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I started to cry, a little.  My sister admonished me.  “NO crying when we are driving.  If you cry I will cry.”  I stopped.  Driving and crying are not allowed.

So on our drive home we spoke about our great grandparents. Two perished in the Shoah. We have no idea where they are buried, or even if they were buried or burned. One died in Europe in the 1920s. Not sure if her grave still exists, so many were destroyed by the Nazis and the townspeople. Four are buried in the NYC area. We need to visit them at some time. We know were two are, thanks to our cousins. But the third and fourth we are not sure. And one we think is in Seattle, Washington.

I remember one of my great grandmothers. She passed away when I was not quite three. My sister is named for her.

We say in our tradition, “My His or Her Name Be a Blessing.” We name our children for those who passed before us. My brother, sister, cousins and I are all named for our great grandparents. Our children are named for the grandparents who are buried in the plot in New Jersey.

These are the graves of people who were blessings in my life, in my family’s life. I am glad we went to the cemetery this morning and remembered those we loved and still love. Those whom we will always love.

Flying Is No Longer Fun!

3 Aug
The moon from our plane window.  It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

The moon from our plane window. It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

Six and one half hours. That is how long our flight was delayed.  We spent 8 1/2 hours at the airport in Kansas City in total. A very long day. I am so happy my son was with me.  His amusement and laughter made the day much more enjoyable.

It started as a simple 30-minute delay for an incoming plane. It quickly turned into a nightmare for those with connecting flights.

When the new crew entered the plane they noticed something was wrong,  the plane was extremely cold.  We did not know what was happening at the time. But I did noticed that the captain had come back up the jetway and got the woman agent who was working the desk (for what she thought would be a routine flight.) She went down the jetway with the pilot.

I turned to my son and said, “That does not look good at all.”

I have been flying a lot lately, and to me this indicated a major problem .  She came back out and immediately anounced a one-hour delay. It was a simple problem she told us, one that they would probably just look at and note. If only that was true! But it was not to be.

That one hour turned to two hours . We were told that maintenance was now looking at it and determined that they would need a part to fix a thermostat.

Those with connecting flights started to line up, making their connections would be difficult.  In the summer time, flights are often crowded, with every seat filled.  Plans to fly overseas were especially difficult.

My son was walking around the waiting area, while I read a book.  He came back to where I was sitting with our carry-on luggage.

“Mom, they are offloading luggage from the plane,” he said.  A very bad sign.  I have learned that if enough people are taken off the flight and put on another flight, the airline will cancel  the ‘problem’ flight.  I did not want to be waiting for hours for a cancelled flight.  I absolutely hate that.

I immediately got on the line. I wanted to reserve a seat in the later flight.  Which I did.  We were only 2 1/2 hours delayed at this point and the next flight was to leave in four hours, but you never know. I try to be flexible, but I also want to be prepared.

We started watching people be sent away.  I was calm.  One woman was very upset because she had special concert tickets. She was making phone calls, speaking to people and speaking to the agents.  I notice one of the two male agents who had replaced our original agent was leading her away from our gate.

The delays piled up.  The part was found, but now a team of mechanics were working on it. Instead of being an easy fix, now an entire unit had to be taken out of the plane to get the plane repaired.  It was apparent that things were not going well.

We were sent to another gate as a new plane was coming, being ferried in just for us.  Okay, maybe things would get better.  Maybe.

The line to transfer or find solutions was long, since the earliest we would leave was 4:30 pm.  Our scheduled flight now was leaving five  and half hours late. Some people went home or to a hotel. They had no chance to make any connections, so they were rescheduled for the next day.

We went to the new gate and waited.  The woman with the concert tickets was back! What happened? The flight on Delta was cancelled  so she came back to United to get on the original flight.  Needless to say she did not make the concert.

The plane came. You could feel the excitement from the crowd.  Although many had left our group,  others who were on a flight with a stop in Chicago had chosen to change to our flight to Newark.

We lined up ready to board.  The new agent asked if any of the first class flyers wanted their original lunch meals. One raised her hand.  The agent had to go to the other gate to get the food.  People moaned.

The crew got off the plane.  You could feel the anticipation as we waited for our crew to arrive.  And waited. And waited.

The agent came back on the speaker. “Ummm. Well, first I am really sorry, but the crew members were sent to the hotel and are not here.  We thought they were in the crew lounge at the airport.  But they have left.  We have to get them back.  So there will be another hour and half delay. The earliest you will leave is 5:45 pm.”

People audibly gasped! Tension filled the air. The comments and questions were flying around the waiting area: “Don’t they talk to each other?”  “How could that happen?”  “Will they really come back?”  “Is this flight actually going to go?”

My son burst out laughing. I got up to ask to transfer to the other plane. But the agent was not done.

“Also I have been told that we cannot serve the meals from first class as they have been on the plane for too long.  I am sorry.”  So first class passengers were getting no food.  Neither was my son or I or anyone else.   They had just joined us peons.  And there are not many food choices at the Kansas City airport.

My son and I  had already gone without a real lunch.  It was obvious that we were going without a real dinner.

I was first in line at the counter. “Can you just transfer us to the other flight, please.”  It was scheduled to leave one minute after the flight we were supposed to go on.  But I just was not sure we were actually going to go anywhere.

“I could” she said. “But it is scheduled to go on the original plane that you were supposed to go on, and it is still being fixed.  What do you want to do?”   I really had no choice, at least I knew this plane was in working order. I stayed with the original flight.

We all sat and waited and talked to the people around us.

When the crew arrived we all applauded.

When we boarded the plane, people were laughing.

When the plane took off we were amazed.  I actually heard a few people applaud.

The captaiin came on and apologized.

But we had been at the airport for 8 1/2 hours. The airline did not offer us food coupons. There were no snacks on the plane. Luckily I had purchased some snacks for us.

We arrived 6 1/2 hours late. Instead of 3 pm, we arrived at 9:30 pm. A wasted day. We missed dinner with my brother. We were tired and cranky and hungry.

At the luggage carousel, my son and I waited with others from our flight.  Making jokes about whether our luggage was actually put on the new plane, and what else could possibly go wrong.  However our luggage did arrive.  Our ride from the airport did show up within minutes of us leaving the terminal.

The passengers had bonded during our time together.  People who were strangers became temporary friends.  But it was now over, we were all returning to life outside of the world of the airport.

Earlier in the odyssey I told my son I was going to send an email to the airline when I got home. I was angry. But United emailed us first, apologizing to us and offering a link for a gift for each of us.   You know it is bad when that happens.  I have 90 days, so I have not checked the link yet.

Although nothing can give me back my day, which was spent watching the world from a terminal window, I do appreciate the apology.  But in reality flying is no longer any fun.