Grandma Diary: Pancakes & Coins

After my husband cleaned out his closet and dresser a couple days ago, he handed me a mug full of coins, amassed from emptying his pockets. US currency and foreign coins, from overseas travel, filled the cup.

My eldest son and his children came yesterday for breakfast, giving their mother a chance to prepare for Passover. I’d made two kinds of pancakes—blueberry and banana to satisfy the varying tastes. After eating, I brought out the coins, offering that if they sorted, they could keep the change. I added a large coin-filled coffee can that their father had used as a piggy bank years ago and had been sitting on the shelf, giving them more work to do and more money to earn.

My grandson, 8, and his sister, 6,  called the foreign coins, “fake money,” and gave those to their four-year-old brother, who none the wiser, dropped them in an empty coffee can, happy to create a percussion instrument to shake and make loud noises. We laughed, noting they wouldn’t be able to pull that con much longer.

The sorting began in earnest. They piled pennies, in batches of 100, stacked nickels by 20s, dimes by 10s and quarters by four. When they turned up short of a particular coin, they’d  ask me to find them another one or two to even things up.

After a solid hour of counting and sorting, the task, interrupted only by a visit to a local park, was done. They asked me to divide it. Each ended up with $16, and left physically fed and financially fortified.

Posted in aging, coin collecting, food, Grandchildren, parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments



Thundersnow?? Snow Bomb? We’ve had our share of winter extremes, the most recent, Winter Storm Quinn,  this past Wednesday, March 7. Just last Friday, March 2, we had an unnamed nor’easter. I was expecting friends for dinner and all the trains from New York City were delayed or canceled. They got here, via Path train and then an over-priced Uber ride and we celebrated Purim, (reciting my updated megillah to include today’s political Hamans.

By Tuesday, Quinn was predicted and by 4 pm Wednesday,  we lost power. After Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and losing power for five days, we invested in a generator and were well prepared for the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Friends stayed with us and others availed themselves of offers to shower or charge their devices. The generator covers heat and hot water, the refrigerator and freezer so we don’t need to rush to grill all our meat or eat all the ice cream; and a couple lights and a few outlets. It’s not the whole house; if we were to lose power in the summer, we’d be without air-conditioning.

Schools are closed. People aren’t going to work. Wires crisscross roads, felled by trees and broken utility poles. The recording from our electric company says power should be restored by March 14th. That’s a week. If. I’ve seen a few trucks out—a crew from West Virginia. By three pm yesterday, they’d disappeared and I saw none today.

As a kid, growing up in rural Connecticut, we’d lose power infrequently, often due to ice storms. We’d fill the bathtub with water to use for the toilet, and lots of bowls and big pots for brushing our teeth. My father would make a huge fire in the fireplace and we’d camp overnight in front of it. I don’t remember being without power for extended periods and remember these episodes as adventures. School wasn’t canceled and life seemed to continue. I remember playing in the snow and enjoying distinct seasons; snow yielding to spring, to summer, to fall.

Weather now is more extreme. Rarely does the snow last long enough to play in. One of my grandsons loves winter and had hoped for a sledding birthday party back in December. Instead, the temperature was over 50 degrees and they played in the park. He invented “indoor” sledding, using cushions as a toboggan to slide down the stairs, landing softly on a pile of pillows.

These extremes are examples of climate change. Of how we’ve polluted the earth and seas, how we rely on fossil fuels, how we dump toxins, how we warm our air and sea temperatures with our negligence. Earth Day dates to 1970, and yet we continue our bad behavior, passing it along to the next generation.

Yet, we pride ourselves on our education system and our technology. Certainly, a country that produces computers, electric cars, solar and wind power, can find the innovation to combat global warming and still provide the electricity communities need to remain vibrant.

Among the many admirable attributes of the movie, Black Panther is the country Wakanda’s inspiring technology in transportation and communication. I’m sure its leaders have planned for potential natural disasters to avert a complete shutdown of the grid.

The fact is we have power. We have the power to challenge the climate change deniers; the politicians who have been coerced by business interests to continue the status quo, who refuse to acknowledge that global warming is real and coming for us.

I went to a local library to use its Internet. Every table was filled with families and business people working, seeking refuge from their unheated, powerless homes and offices. I’m luckier than most, I admit, with my “glamping” situation. I have to return to the library to post this blog, and to write to elected officials that I’m outraged about the outage.
I hope you are too.

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Posted in commentary, environment, Family, Grandchildren, Nature, news, Trees, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

California Teachers Divest Funds from Gun Makers

Reposting this blog in light of the call to arm teachers.


Teachers in California, resisting calls that they should be armed in the classroom with something more than their lesson plans, are taking a stand against guns by  aiming one of their most potent weapons—their wallets.

The California State Teachers Retirement System, known as Calstrs, voted last week to divest itself of firearms holdings.  Teachers don’t want their retirement funds linked to companies that manufacture guns, including The Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used to kill 26 children and adults in Newton, CT.

California teachers pulled their pensions from tobacco stocks in 2008, and while the amount going to guns is small relative to the entire portfolio– $12 million out of a total $154 billion, the move sets an example for other states and allows teachers to take an active part in reducing access to guns.

As a college student in the late l970’s, I remember…

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Do Something

Do Something.

It’s a mantra that’s been playing inside my head since the 2016 election.

Last July, I joined the League of Women Voters, a nearly 100-year-old organization dedicated to preserving our democracy. Inspired by a friend in Connecticut whose chapter teaches civics and conducts voter registration at local schools, I met with my chapter’s president and said that’s what I wanted to do.

Turns out, an education program isn’t standard and my chapter, which comprises three New Jersey towns, didn’t have one. Until now.

I wrote a script and Susan, the league president created a power point to present to 5th graders.

Why 10-11 year olds?

Why not? In only 7 or 8 years, these students will be voters.

They have opinions. They have voices. They have families, friends, and neighbors.

The presentation, “Why Voting Matters” included a mock election between candidates Zeus and Apollo; one promising free homework passes and the other more screen time. We discussed what does it mean to be informed, how do we become informed, and how do we know we can trust a candidate’s promise?

The second round of voting took the candidates into the community. Zeus wants a new skateboard park in an open space inhabited by a rare colony of ducks. Apollo is against it. Debate ensued. They learned about compromise and non-partisan (as the LWV is).

In the third round of voting, we showed what happens when people don’t vote. By removing a percentage of the class from voting, students witnessed the effects on the outcome. When asked how it felt to not vote, students expressed anger, acknowledging the unfairness.

Hopefully, the students went home and shared what they did in school. Hopefully, we made some impression about the importance of voting. Though we touched on apathy and inability to get to the polls as reasons why people don’t vote, we didn’t mention disenfranchisement. That’s for another lesson.

At the end, I gave each student an index card to write something they learned. Here are a couple responses:

“It is important to know the facts about a person before you vote for anyone.”

“I learned that it is important to vote because if you didn’t vote, you wouldn’t have a say in something.”

“One vote can change the world.”

“I learned that everyone has a duty to vote, and if some people don’t vote it affects the outcome.”

As witnessed by the high schoolers taking on the gun lobby and its abhorrent supporters, there’s power in youth. They are our future and I’m betting on them.

Do Something.



Posted in aging, Education, teaching, women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Grandma Diary: Censorship & A Science Museum

My grandson looked over my shoulder as I read the morning newspaper. “Why are those girls crying?” he asked. I quickly turned the paper over. How to explain sexual assault to an eight-year-old? “They’re upset about something bad that happened to them,” I said and looked through the paper quickly to find a story that might satisfy his news curiosity and be more appropriate.

An article about a state park and a potential golf course development seemed to suffice and my grandson grasped the potential environmental issue and said he hoped there would be protests against the golf course.

It’s hard to share the constant bombardment of news with little kids.

He and his sister had slept over. He’d already plowed through half the bag of library books I borrowed, and we’d heard enough “Knock Knock” jokes to last a year or so. Then at one point, I heard them humming lyrics from Hamilton. Their parents, who saw the show, play the music in the car and the kids know several songs. My grandson performed what he called an entire sentence, mimicking the rapid pace and diction of one of the lines. They asked if they could go see the show. No, I told them, they’re too young for some of the lyrics (profanity), and I wasn’t sure that they’d really understand the story. Instead, we’re planning a trip to see The Lion King. I think for now that satisfied them.

After a pancake breakfast, we took them to the Liberty Science Center, newly renovated and touting its planetarium, the fifth largest in the world. Before the show, we had time to tour some exhibits. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, we saw a staff member demonstrating how sound effects objects. That staff member happened to be our son’s former high school biology teacher.  


The kids went into a space simulator, climbed a rock wall, and participated in all sorts of physics experiments, including a “Power of Air” demonstration. 

The planetarium show, “To Worlds Beyond” toured the planets and solar system, posing the question about life beyond our Earth. I told the kids that most likely in their lifetimes, they’d be able to travel into space, as easily as they now visit their other grandparents in Detroit.  I wonder about life beyond Earth, and sure hope that they’re taking better care of their planet and inhabitants than we do.

Posted in aging, commentary, Education, environment, Family, Grandchildren, Museums, galleries, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Yes, Medicine too

Wise words from Dr. Judy Washington.

A Family Doctor's Reflection

“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice”. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Why we can’t Wait, 1964

My mother worked two jobs to support the three of us. She did refuse to clean houses.  That was not where she saw herself day in and day out.  She landed a job in an upscale boutique in a wealthy section of Birmingham.

I learned early in my life about racism and sexism and how it can hold a family back. When I applied for summer jobs, they were always filled. The jobs in fast food restaurants that paid well went to white students and the openings in our community were filled.  So, I was a camp counselor for free, taught vacation bible school and did a summer science program.

I have never made a comparable salary…

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David Hockney at 80

We should all age like David Hockney. At 80, he paints everyday. Sometimes on his ipad, sometimes on canvas. Lucky for us, we get to see his work and appreciate how his art has evolved in his life.

A little break in the cold weather provided a perfect morning to wander through the exhibit, transported from Britain’s Tate to New York City’s Met, chatting with my friend Claudia, comparing the prolific artist’s younger works with current ones. 

As a young man, Hockney embraced his homosexuality, proudly expressed in his paintings. Growing up in Britain, he fantasized about life in Los Angeles, dreaming of sunny weather and water, especially swimming pools. He’s spent the past 30 years living on and off in California, a residence that has informed his work.

The show includes works inspired by his mentors, particularly Pablo Picasso, his love of nature, and desire to combine genres. One of my favorites is “Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica,” (1990). Hockney invited friends to accompany him on an hour and a half drive through the Santa Monica Mountains, choreographing the views, twists and turns in the road to music by Richard Wagner. Later, he turned the experience into a painting.

At the Met until Feb. 25th. Go.






Posted in aging, art, Museums, galleries, New York City, reviews, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments