Friday, December 29, 2017


FOTO FRIDAY: SNOW Days are different. You know what you do when you awake to a day of snow prediction and a high of 10 degrees and you don't have to go to work? 

Well, if you have my Southern blood, you don't venture outside and you find something to do in addition to the wash. Natureman and I worked in earnest on this winter's 1000 piece puzzle  below.  This is what the finished product will look like.

We still have a ways to go but look what we accomplished so far.
If you remember from past winters if you like puzzles this one can come to your house once we complete it.  Just let us know.

Last week's FOTO FRIDAY was about Two Bubbes under one roof.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Have you ever noticed if you donate to an organization you have become a target barraged by numerous solicitations from that very same recipient. Both mailings and phone calls increase. I tell the callers the truth. Once a year  I sit down to write my donations and decide how much I will give. 

The collection grows each year but when the end of December comes I alphabetize them, throwing out the duplicates I may have missed, pull out the checkbook and credit card and start writing. By habit I also add the recipient and amount to a master list. It used to be helpful for yearly deductions when I  itemized. Now, not so much but it doesn't mean not to give. In fact, charities are really worried about their funding with the new tax laws.

Apparently the wealthy are very generous with high profile donations ie towards higher learning institutions, the arts and hospitals while the middle and low class tend to donate a higher percentage of their income to social services. What's that about?  Folks will ooh and ah about how philanthropic so and so 'money bag's is and yet forget to consider what percentage that is of their income. So are the wealthy less generous? Studies show the donations of the wealthy at 1.3% while the lower income donated 3.2% of their total income. 

In fact, last year not one of the top 50 donors gave to a social service organization. The wealthy supposedly hold back from donations to disaster/ tragedy related causes due to lack of trust in organizational efforts. Yet it is the $5 and $10 donations that support these causes.

Why in such a wealthy nation can we not make healthcare affordable so families don't have to do their own fundraising through crowdfunding to pay hospital bills? Can you keep  track of how many Go Fund Me donations come before you throughout the year?

No matter what we need to share and support all the worthwhile organizations to make others lives easier. Our wallets might be lighter but our hearts will be fuller.

Happy Holidays!

* Coincidentally I just noticed Natureman's youngest, Simon, just posted about the homeless.Guess winter makes it much the needs more obvous. Here's the link:Homeless

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


After arriving in Ajaccio by ferry, our almost 2 hour bus ride had taken us southward to a small coastal town near Figari called Pianottoli, the last stop of our French journey. 

Here our days would not be filled with museums but downtime with warm days, sea air, blue skies,  the Aegean Sea and its beaches besides getting to spend time with Alain, Jim's friend from Marseille and Alain's  English speaking brother and sister-in-law and visiting bilingual young grandson who spoke French and Spanish. Both Alain and his brother have vacation homes within walking distance of each other.

After our lovely seafood home cooked lunch Alain drove us to a small secluded beach.  We  walked a small path towards the beach. En route we stopped at one of the old towers which sprinkle the coast line. Unfortunately it was closed due to stairway disrepair but we still had stunning vistas.

From our alcove swimming hole we could also watch the sailboats. 

After a refreshing dip in the sea, we stopped to meet Alain's charming family. His brother had been a headmaster for many years and his sister-in-law had taught English. We recapped our French travels with them. The days had flown by in retrospect. 

Late afternoon passed and as was customary we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner. Chez Felix. a Mediterranean restaurant, was within walking distance and Sally and Jim split a pizza and I enjoyed a lovely salad on a second floor covered terrace sitting among German and French tourists.

With our first Corsican day behind us, we fell asleep quickly that evening with beach plans for the following day where we would meet up with Alain's family and another adventure/2 to ensue...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Perhaps writing about the best Holiday gift of Time lends itself to a follow up of an even larger element in my own personal seasonal stress of being a minority in this country who does not celebrate Christmas. 

This year especially our political climate set the 'War Against Christmas' as an issue.  A country who prides itself for a founding principle of religious freedom has an agenda to take back Christmas.  Nobody took it away but rather over the years has said why not be all inclusive.  

Why does it hurt Christianity to recognize Christmas is not threatened by other religions who have their own seasonal cultural practices?  We don't have to equate holidays's significance just recognize people celebrate different holidays for different reasons. Chinese New Year is really in February this year and is a celebration of the beginning of spring, not winter. Kwanzaa falls on December 26th - January 1st and is a celebration of West African cultural heritage and traditional values. Chanuka, a minor jewish holiday falls on a different date each year as it follows the lunar calendar and marks the rededication of the Temple and a fight for religious freedom.

In fact, perhaps it's a good time to remember Jesus was jewish and the lessons he taught are Abrahamic. This translates to Muslims, Jews and Christians have a lot more in common than differences. 

Yet, what an uproar about public schools and institutions substituting the once traditionally called 'Christmas' programs / parties name with 'Holiday'.  If you know for sure someone is Christian, it's a no brainer to wish them a Merry Christmas. 

Cultural sensitivity does not mean the Christian faith is under attack. Isn't love for mankind the most important lesson to share? Why the hostility for a reminder to respect others and their beliefs?

Okay, let me close today's entry with two lovely gifts we received this past week.  All my life my parents invited non Jews to share our holiday celebrations but this was the first time in Natureman's and my 60+ years we have ever been invited to share Christmas dinner. It was heartwarming to break bread with a table full of Catholics and a Catholic prayer and then be asked to add a Hebrew blessing.  Thankful for the gift of inclusivity.

The other gift was another totally unexpected present. A friend who has heard me comment about the lack of decorations for Chanuka made me a special Chanuka decoration of a beautiful illuminated glass block wrapped with a metallic silver bow. Thankful for the light of recognition. 

May we continue to be enlightened and share the gift of love and understanding. Make love, not war.

Monday, December 25, 2017


This morning many children are rushing to their trees to see what Santa has brought them. There will be a lot of very happy boys and girls who are indeed lucky enough to be recipients of something on their list/ even be surprised. Yet, some children are going to be disappointed to not receive that desired thing for whatever reason...  And, if the truth be known, adults are not too different as holidays tend to revert us back to our younger selves. 

The stress of gift giving has really taken its toll. You see it on people's faces as the pressure builds to make Christmas mailing deadlines for those cards and gifts.  And who should be on that list... Gee,  social media has kept us more in touch than ever before, do we still need to send so and so a card/family newsletter?

Gift choices create oodles of stress. Whether you are good at shopping/dread it, some of us are just bad at gift ideas. Others have a knack of choosing just the right thing.  BUT wait we haven't even spoken of expense. Some folks actually go into debt to please loved ones/ create what they consider to be the 'perfect' holiday/ try to compensate for less than stellar holiday memories. OY, what a mess!

The other unspoken issue is being spoiled as not only do we spoil our children, we tend to spoil ourselves. If we want something, we tend to just go and buy it for ourselves. Seriously, what do we really need when it comes around to holiday time?

What we need is not material. We need each other to be 'present' for our families and friends.  We need to make time to be with others without being plugged in, to turn off our electronics and create memories of togetherness whether it's in the kitchen, at the table, taking a walk, playing games/singing favorite tunes, etc... 

What is the best gift and can not be bought? Time and only you can give it.  Do your best to enjoy your time together. 

Friday, December 22, 2017


FOTO FRIDAY:  Harry and Larry never knew what hit them. That's how it was when another Bubbe arrived in the End of the Rainbow Valley on Monday for Chanuka this year. Just when they were ready to steal pieces of the puzzle, look what happened. 

Remember Bubbes have eyes in the back of their heads.
Yep, she knew exactly where they would be because she tied them both up to prevent any mischief that night.

So I had some questions for questions for Bubbe after seeing her efforts with Harry and Larry. How long she was staying? What would she like to do while she was here? If she wanted to see the animals, etc... Here's what she said when I took her hand.

How have your elves been behaving? Is one Bubbe enough?
 Thanks to my brother Marc and Family for sending Bubbe as an extra set of hands for the Holidays. Sometimes a Bubbe gets tired.

Did you catch last week's FOTO FRIDAY: SANTA'S COMING

Thursday, December 21, 2017


We arrived in Ajaccio, Corsica on a Sunday am. It was so quiet it dawned on us that the same fate awaited us again regarding our luggage.  Our plan initially was to leave the baggage at one of the two bars where they provide this drop off service and they would not be open. No need to drag our luggage all over kingdom come as the next bus departing to our final destination was sitting with its engine running.

Jim ran into the depot and secured our tickets and made sure we were on the right bus and off we went. 

Up and down the rolling hills of the island we barreled taking in the sights of buildings,  the architecture and
landscape as we zoomed by.

We would be arriving early but we knew it would be great to have down time near the water. 

The bus driver was very accommodating and pointed our hotel.  Sally and I would be staying in a hotel within 3-4 blocks from Jim's lodging at his friend Alain's summer home.  

Alain was indeed surprised with our early arrival but so gracious as he fervently worked on our lunch and refused to let us do anything as he insisted we rest as he finished up the stuffed melon with carpaccio and a salmon lunch extraordinaire.  

It was delicieux. Nothing can beat sea air and homemade food, n'est pas?  

Corsica was just the icing on the cake to complete our French adventure. Stay tuned for more in Corsica TBT. 

Last week's TBT:FERRY NICE

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


I had the best of intentions to include what happened to the elves last night but  a new phone arrived yesterday in the mail and the learning curve may be bigger than I thought as long tiring fruitless phone conversations with AT&T ensued re: the old android.

So while I work out my technical difficulties I need to share something else. Our very own Jennifer Barney, local baker extraordinaire, won the finale of Holiday Baking Championship and you can read about it in our local paper with this link:WINNER

We are all so proud! 

Monday, December 18, 2017


Sunday night the Jewish community in La Crosse gathered together to celebrate the 6th night of Chanukah in the city's synagogue social hall by first lighting their menorahs (candelebras) as the age old blessing was recited followed by singing Ma'oz Tzur, Rock of Ages. 

The traditional Rock of Ages's lyrics are a poem written in the 13th century referring to the Hasmonean stronghold in Bethlehem  originally sung in homes, but began being sung in synagogues in the early 19th century. Little did I know there are six stanzas  because generally we just sing the first/ 1st and 5th. Usually we sing it both in Hebrew and English.

"Rock of Ages, let our song, praise Thy saving power;
Thou, amidst the raging foes, wast our sheltering tower.
Furious they assailed us, but Thine arm availed us,
And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.
And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.

Children of the martyr race, whether free or fettered,
Wake the echoes of the songs where ye may be scattered.
Yours the message cheering that the time is nearing
Which will see, all men free, tyrants disappearing.
Which will see, all men free, tyrants disappearing."

Upon googling the song I also discovered the poem is acrostic twice. The first letter of the five stanzas spell out the composer's name (Mordechai-מרדכי) and in the final stanza the letters spell out 'hazak' which translates 'strong'.

Our celebration was simple as is the holiday with a deli style dinner buffet with cold cuts, hot dogs, cole slaw, chips and of course, latkes (potato pancakes) with apple sauce. Foods cooked in oil are symbolic to recall the destruction of the temple and its sanctuary eternal light's last container of oil miraculously lasting 8 days.

Of the set eight tables in the social hall last night, half were filled with small children which is exciting as the congregation is small and children are our future. Activities to keep all the families busy from a coloring project at each table to interpret the holiday's story to art stations to create a paper dreidl/ create a joint sticker art project / play dreidl, the top game.

The evening was boisterous, mingled with voices of visiting and children. L'dor v l'dor from generation to generation to continue sharing traditions that bind us to the past. As one of the lines from Rock of Ages says "From every age a hero or sage came to our aid."  From our mouths to G-d's ears.

Link to tune: Rock of Ages

Friday, December 15, 2017


 FOTO FRIDAY: Santa's coming to another needy household thanks to the kindness of my Jazzercise instructor Debbie's good heart. Each year our classes adopt 2 families and this year the needs were indeed different. This year the wishes included more than gameboys and bikes with more mundane necessities like underwear, socks, gas cards and yes, even cleaning supplies.

After wrapping the more fun stuff I had chosen to give, I returned to the tree of ideas and chose the cleaning supplies but they needed more than just to be given in a bucket. Pinterest had decorated beer/wine bottles last year like reindeer so the Chanuka elves Harry and Larry helped take this a step further than just transforming the bottles to reindeer and also included bottle brush Santa on his dust pan sleigh with scrubbies. Pipe cleaners, google eyes and pompom noses will now hopefully make this receiving family's  Christmas a little more fun.

Are your creativity juices flowing? Come on, share. I love seeing what you all create.

In case you missed last week's FOTO FRIDAY: GOOD ADVICE

Thursday, December 14, 2017


If you finished the title in your mind "Ferry Cross the Mercy," you mistakenly assumed I was referring to the Beatles hit but it was the  Mediterranean we needed to cross in order to go southeast from Marseille to Corse (Corsica), an island which is one of France's 18 regions.  One could take a plane but the ferry was the better option per Sally's brother Jim. A grand idea indeed. It would be our floating hotel for the evening.

Sally's preference for a cab was also a wise convenient decision from our hotel to go to the ferry landing, assuming the taxi driver knew which pier we needed. Well, there was some uncertainty and as soon as we hit rush hour traffic, discussion about the quickest way ensued. Oops, changing lanes to circumvent the back upped cars made us miss our exit. Uh oh. Then, a good mile later, in front of police, the driver made a U turn. I wondered if we were going to get pulled over. Nope, maybe they were in disbelief/ had different worries/maybe it was no big deal???

This time we saw a port terminal and Jim insisted the driver pull over and let us out. It was the correct building bearing the name of the ferry line.  Once checked in and through security, we boarded a bus which once full whisked us to the correct ferry where we would board. Whew, we had made it to our overnight transport to Corsica with time to spare. 

We dropped our luggage off at our room and sought out the lounge where we claimed a table to enjoy a bon voyage drink while other passengers arrived. Many had sleeping bags and pillows with them. They would be sleeping wherever they found a space, not just in  this lounge. Hallways, floor lobbies, etc... I was certainly grateful for a bed.

As we pulled away from the pier we joined others outside on deck to experience our departure from the Marseille harbor to the open sea. It was very blustery to say the least.  

The flying flag on deck was Corsican, a Moor's head in black with a white kerchief above his eyes on a white background. Later readings would inform me that the1755  original version of that kerchief was a blindfold. The kerchief was raised above the eyes to signify liberation of the Corsican people. Once the island belonged to Italy and was sold to France as a debt to Genoa. A revolt ensued but the island remained in French hands.

 Back to the view...

Passengers toasted the journey

Dinner in the dining room's two sittings was filled by mostly reservations so we chose the snack bar for dinner where pizza and sandwiches hit the spot.

We enjoyed a lovely sunset end to our day.

We would awake in the morning in  Ajeccio, Corsica. 

TBC next TBT as we finish the last leg of our French adventure in Corsica... 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


If you are wondering what the red x is, it's actually the state flag of Alabama. In fact, Alabama made me not so upset to be awakened in the wee morning hours by our dog Romeo wanting to go out.  You've got to understand I had fallen asleep really early and I had no clue what had happened with the controversial senatorial race in Alabama between

Republican Roy Moore (L)  vs Democrat Doug Jones(R) election in Alabama.

 An alleged pedophile Mr. Moore had his party's allegiance despite numerous accusations. And even if we have a judicial system that states innocent until proven guilty, voters we hoped surely would know this is not OK. Yet, each day as we neared voter Tuesday more and more elected Republican party officials were declaring their support for Moore. 

A low percentage of voters were expected at the polls.  The outcome looked bleak and as you well know from many of my posts my faith in humanity has been less than stellar.

But as I scanned the newspaper releases people did come to the polls and despite Moore not wanting to concede at 10:30 last night every with a 20,000 vote difference, Alabama showed the nation that Moore is not who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate. Moore indicated a recall would be necessary due to recount write-in votes .

Well Alabama showed up at the polls and told  Bannon supported Moore neither party wants him. Bow out and see the writing on the wall.

Meanwhile newly elected Senator Doug Jones stated his campaign was run with "dignity and respect. " My wish is that the Democratic party get to work serving 'all' of society.

Congratulations Alabama for doing what needed to be done! 

* I have to add this link my friend Debbie shared : Oh Happy Days!
Ana Navarro Oh Happy days

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Tonight, the 25th day of Kislev in the lunar calendar marks the first night of Chanuka which commemorates the Jews first fight for religious freedom in 165 B.C.E.  

Last week on Viterbo University's campus, the Identities Project sponsored a community forum to speak about Islamophobia as Muslims today are the victims of hatred just because of their religious affiliation.

Why is religious hatred still plaguing us in 2017 so many centuries later  and what do we do about it? 

The dialogue has begun and must continue in all our communities. 

L to R Sister Laura, Wale, Steve, Vince and Trevor

This particular forum consisted of 2 Viterbo professors in the Department of Religion;  Sister Laura and Steve, 

 Wale, a local Muslim resident, 

Vince, past Director of the Franciscan Spirituality Center

and  Trevor, vet of the war in Afghanistan, now a nursing student.
Wale started the forum answering the first question : What is Islam?  

With a short summary he explained Islam as a monotheistic (Allah) Abrahamic religion with Mohammed as its last prophet, prayers 5x/day and pilgrimages.

Doesn't sound like something we should fear, right?

The evening's questions also included:

Can Christianity and Islam coexist?

*General consensus :yes

What are the problems now? 

* Rise of fear
* Elimination of the problem

How was it as an American soldier being in a Muslim country? 

*Difficult experiencing hatred of U.S. soldiers towards Muslims *Extremist groups don't represent the majority nor the religion
* ISIS does more injury to itself

What are some solutions?

* Universities attracting Muslim students to have a presence 
* Learn about differences between religions and cultures
* Educate oneself
* Communicate more
* Cultivate a loving heart
* Use one's voice in the face of discrimination
* Education has to be worldwide recognizing beliefs and ethics 

How would you have answered these questions?

 'Tis the season to be jolly?  Time to work harder to make sure all our neighbors can be. Time to work on eliminating discrimination.