Race? So What!

I grew up on a chicken farm on a dirt road five miles from town in rural Maryland.  I was the only child of Finnish immigrants. My parents had many friends, mostly Finns, Swedes and Danes who were also farmers in that area.  They held regular dances and other social activities.  My parents often had company for dinner.

My pals were the children of other farmers in the area.  We swam in the creeks, fished in the Chesapeake Bay, played softball and badminton, and rode our bikes for miles.  We climbed trees and built clubhouses where we met and read comic books.  We explored the woods and walked the old railroad tracks.

But one thing puzzled me: there were lots of different kinds of people in our area.  Why were the black kids sent to a different school in the country seat?  Why didn’t they go to school with the rest of us?  Why were they not allowed to eat in our diner or shop in our stores?

My parents came from a country far, far away across the ocean, yet I fit right in with my blonde hair and blue eyes.  But the black people who had been here for several generations did not.  I couldn’t understand it and no one could answer my questions.  “It’s just the way the Americans do it”, said my father, not wanting to make waves.

I never once spoke to a person of color until I went away to college.  They seemed fine to me when I met a black professor or a fellow student.

As I progressed through adulthood, I learned the history of this country.  As times and traditions changed over the years, I welcomed the new openness of our society.

Today, I have persons of color in my neighborhood.  I have worked, played golf, attended church, gone to lunch and dinner, and served on committees with folks of every race.  They are my friends and fellow human beings.

We are all born with different gifts and talents.  Some of us sing and play music. Others write books, do accounting, teach, mentor, and coach.  We can all love.  We can all help each other.

Let’s do it!

I Love College Sports!

My husband and I both attended Syracuse University and became totally immersed in their sports programs.  We went to football, baseball and basketball games.  We watched wrestling and lacrosse and track meets.  It was great fun and exposed me (a small town country gal from Maryland) to a whole new world of competition.

After graduation, my husband got a job with a big accounting firm in New York City.  We married and started having kids.  Our four daughters all played sports (one even went to college on a full scholarship for gymnastics) and we loved it!  We all played golf and belonged to a local golf club.  In addition, we often drove up to Syracuse to watch basketball or football.  We attended many professional sporting events in New York City and even had season tickets to the New York Rangers.

But then, kids grown and raised and off on their own, Gene retired early and we moved to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.  It’s beautiful here.  I look out my back porch and I see three holes of our golf course.  I open my front door and I hear the ocean.  The clubhouse overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway.

But one thing was missing:  College sports.  It’s too far to drive up to Syracuse for a football game now.

So, we started going to baseball and football games at Coastal Carolina University, just a 45- minute drive away.  We grew to love the college.

Located in Conway, South Carolina, just west of the resort town of Myrtle Beach, CCU was founded in 1954 as a Junior College.  It grew and grew over the years, and became a four-year school in 1973.  Today, there are over 10,000 students.  The campus is beautiful with brand-new football and baseball stadiums.

We are members of the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation (CAF) which helps support their athletics programs.  We have season tickets to both baseball and football.

One of the best things is Chauncy the Chanticleer, their mascot.  A man-sized aqua-colored rooster, Chauncy is loved by all: athletes, students, parents, supporters and friends of the university.  He interfaces with everyone during games and is an integral part of their sports programs.

Go CCU!  Go Syracuse!  Go College Sports!

Take a Walk

TAKE A WALK!

 One of the healthiest things we can do is to take a walk.  I started walking several miles a day about 20 years ago, and my back issues have disappeared, my headaches are gone, I breathe better, and I feel great.  When I go for my annual checkup, my doctor tells me that I’m one of his healthiest patients. 

 Besides the physical aspects, walking is great in many ways. 

 When you walk in your neighborhood, you connect with other people, even if it’s a quick “Have a good day!”  You meet new neighbors and see old friends.  Sometimes, a neighbor will stop and tell you that he lost his brother to cancer last week.  You can offer sympathy and a hug of comfort. 

 Another neighbor may tell you that her grand daughter just got engaged.  Hooray!  A cause for rejoicing. 

 Maybe a storm is coming and you and your neighbors share information on speed, wind, evacuation routes, etc.  A website to find information. 

 You’ll meet dogs and visiting family.  Walking is definitely a social phenomenon. 

 Best of all, nature has a powerful effect on us.  I am lucky to live in a neighborhood that was never clear cut.  In fact, you need permission from the Master Association just take down a tree on your property. 

 Think of it as you walk.  Those trees overhead give us shade and beauty.  They hold the soil together.  The roots soak up moisture and the leaves exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide.  The branches and leaves filter the air and when it rains, those dirt particles drain down into the soil. 

 I believe that trees are beautiful, that they are creatures of our universe.  When I walk by myself, I often talk to the trees.  “Hello, Beautiful Trees.  I see you and love you and thank you for being here, for helping us humans survive. 

 Just look at a big Live Oak (our neighborhood is filled with them).  Thousands of square feet of surface in their leaves, branches and trunks and, under the soil, hundreds of feet of roots. 

 The trees are host of dozens of animals:  squirrels, birds, raccoons, chipmunks, and more.  Various Insects climb trees and bees build their nests in them.            

 So the next time you go for a walk, talk to your neighbors, greet their dogs and say “Hello!” to the trees.  It’s all beautiful!

Roxie:  The Best Dog in the World

One of the best things in our life is our dog, Roxie.  She showed up as a stray here in our neighborhood about nine years ago.  We wanted to keep her, but the dog we had then was old and did not have long to live.  It would have been cruel to bring a bouncy, young dog into the house, so dear friends of ours agreed to keep her for the next few months.

Gabby finally passed and we got Roxie for our very own.

She is tan and white, looks like a husky with large upright ears and weighs about 70 pounds.  She has the funniest personality and makes us laugh at least once a day.

If I say, “Want to go for a walk?”, Roxie prances and bounces around, telling me with her body English that she is more than ready.  We are a recognizable pair as we walk around the neighborhood.  If I walk without her, folks always ask, “Where’s Roxie?”

Now, as she has gotten older and slower, I do my afternoon power walk without her.  If I try to take her on a second long walk, she sits down in the middle of the street, looks at me with those sad eyes and says, “I’m getting older, Mom.  I can’t go around the block twice in one day.  Please take me home.”

When my husband and I go out for dinner or a meeting, she is always here to welcome us with a smile on her face and her tail wagging.  If I leave her at the kennel for a few days, she yips and yipes and prances when I pick her up.  “Hi. Mom.  So glad to see you!”

There is one thing that Roxie hates:  Thunderstorms.  Usually, she sleeps in the walk-in closet next to our bedroom.  When there’s a thunderstorm, she climbs into bed with us.  If the skies are clear and the weatherman has not mentioned any storms, Roxie knows more than he does.  She’ll climb into our bed on a perfectly calm night and within an hour, there’s a raging storm overhead.  The Weather Channel should hire her.

Like all dogs, Roxie has her own special personality traits.  She does not like to chase balls or sticks or Frizbees.  Outside or inside, if you throw one, she’ll just sit there and look at you like you’re some kind of fool.  “I ain’t chasin’ any stupid ball,” she says.  “Find some other patsy.”

Roxie is very gentle.  She does not jump on people, or give her paw, or lean into anyone.  When my grandson was a toddler, he could lay on the floor in my house and the dog would come over and lay down beside him, no touching him or leaning on him, just keeping him company.

Roxie rarely barks.  We live on a golf course and there are golfers going by all day long and she just lays in our living room and watches them.  Even when I put her on our back porch, she rarely makes a sound.  If someone comes to the front door and rings the bell or knocks, she lets out a quick “woof!” to let us know, but then stops.

My husband and I have had nine dogs since we got married (eight were recues).  Each has been special, but this last one is the greatest dog of all.

We love you, Roxie.  You are a special gift.

 

 

 

 

The Adventure of Writing Poetry

Just this past week, I received notice that one of my poems had been included in a new anthology published by Poets Choice.  The anthology is called CLOSE FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.  

I ordered the book and when I got it and saw my poem right there on page 53, I cried tears of joy.  My poems have appeared in various magazines and on-line journals, but never in a printed book!  There is something magical about a solid book that you can hold in your hands, pass on to your friends and family, put on the nightstand when you fall asleep, or next to your computer when you need a break.  

It’s filled with various kinds of poetry and fun to read.  I see poems as word pictures, as a way of expressing ourselves, showing others a thought or message in short form.  A blending of sight, sound and thought.  

Here’s the poem.  Let me know what you think.  It’s also on my Facebook page.

 

 Good Friends

 

Good friends are precious, priceless commodities.    

Not connected through parents, siblings, or birth, 

they have no obligation but love.    

 

Good friends are like blue sky, buttered popcorn and sweet 

chicken roasting in the oven on a cold winter afternoon.  

They are

the book we read over and over again, our favorite bottle of 

cabernet and 

sometimes a Texaco station when the gas tank flashes 

empty.   

 

They are laughter at midnight, early morning telephone 

calls,   

hugs of understanding and a quick winks in a crowded 

room.  

They last a lifetime, forgiving mistakes, laughing at twice-

told tales, encouraging us, scolding us, rejoicing with us 

when times are good and weeping with us when we mourn.  

 

They endue separations and misunderstandings, and stand 

beside us in the 

ceremonies of our lives.  They are our bridesmaids and 

groomsmen, godparents to our children, and fellow-

mourners in our grief.  When we are feeble, they help us 

across the street and up the stairs.  When we die, they carry 

us into the beyond.    

My First 24 Hour Fast

I’d been thinking about trying a 24 hour fast for several weeks. My daughter Cora, who owns a
gym in Richmond, VA, does it regularly because of its benefits. I read several articles about how
fasting helps with weight loss, digestive tract health, and cognitive enhancement.

Sounds good to me! I think I’ll try it. Here’s how it went:

4:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 1. I cook dinner for myself and save some for my sweet husband Gene.
We usually eat around 7:30, but since most of the articles advised me to eat my last meal late in
the afternoon, that’s what I did.

4:30 p.m.: Dinner consists of sliced ham, a sweet potato, cucumbers and onions in a Balsamic
vinaigrette. Sliced strawberries for dessert. Iced tea. All too soon, I’m done, my stomach is full,
but can I last until 5:00 tomorrow afternoon, consuming only water and clear tea?

7:30 p.m.: I drink unsweetened iced tea while my husband eats his dinner. I watch enviously
when he pours himself a glass of Chardonnay. Oh well, suck it up, Elsa. You can do this!
I read my book, watch the news, and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Finally, at 10:30, I’m
ready for bed. I put a bottle of water next to me.

I sleep like a rock. A couple of pit stops, then back to sleep immediately.

Alarm sounds at 6:45. It’s time to get up and walk the dog (Roxie, a large husky mix rescue).
I’m determined to perform my normal activities today, make no changes except for not eating. I drink more water before I go. I’m amazed, I’ve had nothing to eat since 5:00 and I’m not hungry.

As I walk Roxie, it’s raining, but warm. I notice that colors are brighter this morning. Is it the rain or my clearing mind? Everything is clear and happy and distinct. I love it.

When I get back, I make big pot of English Breakfast Tea. The day goes well. Whenever I feel hungry, I sip water or tea. I do my exercises and Yoga-stretches, I do household chores and I work at my computer, editing a few chapters of my friend’s book.

At noon, I fix lunch for my husband: sausages and eggs and an English Muffin. I sit across from him and sip my tea. I tell him how great I feel, how alive, how energetic. How everything around me is bright and beautiful.

I will get through the rest of day until 5:00! No food, not even a cracker or piece of cheese, not
mints or even gum. I’m determined to finish what I started!

The afternoon rolls on. More editing, making appointments on the phone, talking to the men
who are fixing my sprinkler system outside. I go for my usual power walk at 4:00. That will be
my last physical task of the day.

I walk my usual mile and a half and my stomach growls a couple of times. I’m really hungry
now and the deadline looms ahead. I will finish what I started.

Finally, it’s 5:00. I pour myself a glass of cranberry juice and it tastes great. Several articles
strongly suggested not eating a big meal immediately after the fast and that’s what I’m doing.
Fruit juice and an orange will hold me until dinner at 7:30.

I did it! I feel terrific. I may do this again. Stay tuned!

CCU Sports Weekends Are Fun!

This past weekend was excellent! We have seasons tickets to Coastal Carolina University baseball games and they won a three-day tournament!

On Friday afternoon, the Chants played Bryant and won that game handily 8-1. On Saturday, they played West Virginia and had a relatively easy win, 10-5.

The situation changed in the finals on Sunday when they faced undefeated Kennesaw State.

Guess what? After all that good baseball in the first two games, they were losing 9-1 at the bottom of the 3rd. Gene and I briefly thought about leaving and going out to an early dinner, but decided to stay.

Boy, are we glad we did! The Chants came back and scored again and again, defeating the Owls 13-11!

There were thrills and chills, brilliant catches in the outfield, bases-clearing home runs, strike-outs, walks and errors. Those three games had everything imaginable in the world of baseball. I couldn’t write a better script.

And that’s exactly why Gene and I love college sports. We both went to Syracuse University and attended many sporting events. They were free to students. Since we didn’t have a lot of spending money, we went to football, basketball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse games. We attended swim meets, wrestling matches and gymnastics events.

Everything was fresh and new. The competitors were students like us, not professionals who make millions of dollars a year. Many were on scholarships, some were walk-ons, but it was fun, fun, fun and I learned a lot about athletics.

After graduation, we lived in New Jersey and it was easy to drive up to Syracuse for an athletic event. When we moved to Brunswick County, North Carolina, it was just too far to travel.
We were sad. Something vital was missing in our lives.

Then we discovered Coastal Carolina University, located in Conway, South Carolina, just 45 minutes from our house. We started going to baseball and football games there and we loved it!

Their mascot is Chauncy the Chanticleer, a large teal-colored rooster who is present at many sporting events.

Coastal Carolina has a beautiful campus, just minutes west of Myrtle Beach on Highway 501. They have wonderful sports programs. Their baseball team won the National Championship in 2015. Dustin Johnson played on their golf team before turning pro. I could go on and on about their sterling athletic department but you can look it up yourself and be amazed

So, if you live in the Grand Strand, go to a Coastal Carolina Baseball or Football or Basketball game. You’ll love it! They have a brand-new football and baseball stadium and many pristine sporting arenas with plenty of parking and a great staff.

Wherever you reside, I’m sure you can find a college or junior college campus nearby with a sports program. Try it, you’ll like it!

For more information about Coastal Carolina University sports programs, go to www.GoCCUsports.com. See you there!

99th Floor

 

The 99th Floor

by Elsa Bonstein

 

(I wrote this article several years ago for the Brunswick Beacon on a 9/11 anniversary) 

 

It was Camelot, Cinderella’s Castle, and the Land of Oz all rolled up together.  It rose 107 stories into the heady skyline of New York City.  

My husband worked there for 8 years from 1980 to 1988.  His office was on the 99th floor of the North Tower.     

But the World Trade Center was more than a set of office buildings.  It was a place where people gathered.  Some came to work in offices, to make important decisions, to climb the corporate ladder.  Others came to cook and clean.  Thousands came just to look at the wonder of it all.       

Our kids were small back then and on Saturdays when my husband had to work, we often drove to the City with him.  

My children knew the grand open spaces, the dizzying heights, the whooshing, clanging elevators like other children know their back yards.  

They stood on the observation deck looking down, down at the streets.  They stared out and around at New Jersey, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Queens.  The Statue of Liberty was a small green toy and great ships were tiny models trailing v-shaped wakes in the blue-green waters of the Hudson River.  

I was a fledgling writer in those days and in 1986 I wrote a poem for my children about the wonderland we so often visited.  It went like this:  

My father works on the 99th floor

Of a building so tall, 

You can’t see it all.  

It’s too far to walk

All the way to the top.  

The elevator ride

Makes my tummy flip flop.  

The windows of his office 

Are the most fun for me. 

If I stand by his desk 

I can look out and see…..

Buildings of glass 

Of stone and concrete

Places to work 

And places to sleep, 

Boats on the rivers

Cars on the bridges

Way off the distance, 

Mountains with ridges, 

Cars like fingernails, 

People like ants!

Oh!  I’m ever so glad

That I had the chance

To visit my Dad on the 99th Floor!

And what’s more?  

HE’S PROMISED TO TAKE ME AGAIN!    

It is all gone now, taking 2,8039 lives with it.  Countless families were decimated, lives ruined.  Businesses were in rubble, confidence in our system was shaken.  

But more than that, we lost our wide-eyed idealism, our core belief that things will come out alright in the long run if we try very, very hard. 

The Twin Towers were a symbol of what humans living in a free society could accomplish.  

We must not forget that dream.  

It may take another form.  It may happen in another time, but the dream must remain.    

“HE’S PROMISED TO TAKE ME AGAIN.”     

 

xxxxxxxxxxxx

The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 45

The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 45

HOUSES: Use your imagination!

During this Covid Crisis, my husband and I have been going for drives every afternoon. It’s been great! We take our dog Roxie and we get out of the house and into the fresh air and explore the area around us.

We live in Brunswick County, North Carolina, so there are beaches and golf courses, historical old homes and plantations, parks and tree farms. There are cornfields and cows, luxurious vacation homes and trailer parks. Single-wides, double-wides and abandoned old shacks.

The sheer variety of homes in this area is staggering. And, even within each community, there are great variations. A tiny single-wide might have junk cars littering its perimeter. Next door, the same size house may have beautiful plantings, with birdhouses and blooming flowers. A large two-story might be austere with perfectly round-cut shrubs, the home across the street will be a crazy riot of color and texture with winding walkways and fountains.

What about abandoned houses? Why are they abandoned? What happened? Did the resident grow older, unable to care for the house? Were there no living relatives to help and intercede? Did the county take it over for non-payment of taxes? Why wasn’t it listed and sold?

There’s a story in every house and I’m especially intrigued by these abandoned ones. There it sits, a rusty old trailer, half-covered with vines, grass knee high, broken swing set in the back yard.

What happened?

Another home is buried in the woods. This one is large, two stories with the chimneys showing above the encroaching trees and bushes. It was a big home, obviously the owner had money or he (she, they) wouldn’t have built this house.

What’s the story?

How about a big field, overgrown with weeds? A line of old oaks marks a defunct road that leads to a grove of large old trees with the remains of fireplaces and chimneys in the middle.

Another story.

When I see these sights, my imagination is stirred. Was it a simple aging process and neglect that led to the abandoned home? What about murder? Abuse? A malignant divorce? A romantic triangle that led to chaos? Children who were abused and neglected and later abused and neglected their aging parents?

Did someone go bankrupt? Or suffer a financial reverse? Are those people now homeless or living in shelters? Or with their grown children? Or in a senior community?

Wait! I see an open window, a cracked doorway!
Is a homeless person living in the abandoned house?

What’s their story?

The journalist in me is always inquisitive, wanting to ask questions, to discover the story behind a house whether it’s occupied or not. I want to go to the hall of records and trace the history of that home. I want to interview the people who lived there.

There’s always something to write about, always something to explore.

My advice? Never feel tired or burnt-out. Go for a ride through different areas in your county. Explore unknown paths. Walk past an old, neglected hulk of a house. There’s a story there.
Drive through a trailer park. See the variety of homes. There are many stories around us.

Find them. Use them. Write that book!

The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 44

The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 44

Mother’s Day Tribute to My Mother-in-law

One of the best things in my life was the pure fortune of having a fabulous mother-in-law.
Her name was Ruth Irene Bonstein (known as Irene), a terrific woman in many, many ways.

First of all, she loved and accepted me from the start. Here I was, a chicken farmer’s daughter from rural Maryland. My parents were immigrants from Finland. I had met her son on a blind date at Syracuse University.

My husband’s family traced their family line back to a couple of Hessian brothers who came over and fought in the Revolutionary War. My father-in-law had a great job with Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, covering the whole east coast heavy equipment sales. Irene played the piano beautifully, everything from Beethoven to the 12th Street Rag. She could read music and also play by ear. I had had music lessons and this gift was amazing to me. I once asked her how she did it. “Oh, I hear the tune and it somehow comes out through my fingers,” she said modestly.

Despite the differences in our family backgrounds, she welcomed me with open arms and we became good friends as well as in-laws.

Holidays and family gatherings were fun. She played the piano and we had loud noisy sing-a-longs. You could hum a tune and she would pick it up and play along. Irene had special recipes that were devoured by the grandchildren. I have most of them in my personal cooking file.

Best of all, she was a lot of fun, loving jokes and telling them. Regaling us with stories of past family adventures and poignant moments.

Irene was kind and loving and I still miss her.

In fact, I wrote a humorous article for New Jersey Woman (magazine) years ago called Wives and Mothers (in law). It recounted what a curse it was to have a terrific mother-in-law. I had nothing to talk about with my friends, in fact, they had a hard time believing that I really liked and respected my mother-in-law.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to you, Irene. You were an inspiration to me. I only hope I can be half as close to my four sons-in-law.