Heartwings Love Notes 1087: The Virtue of Doing

Heartwings says, “The virtue of doing may cause one dismay.”

Those of us Yankees raised in the traditional way of our ancestors, may well have inherited their ethic: To be busy, to be doing what is useful and good, to keep our hands occupied, is our watchword. There is even a saying that goes something like, “the devil finds work for idle hands.” This means, I expect, that if we don’t keep busy, we’ll get into mischief of some sort.

Perhaps because I had a mother raised in Germany, or perhaps because I had a Yankee father, I was always urged to be doing something, even if it was reading a book. My chief daily chore was taking care of our chickens. They lived in a hen house with a yard fenced in with chicken wire. I had to carry their mash from the barn and in the spring, summer, and fall, fill their water container from the faucet by the henhouse. For this I was paid the princely sum of fifty cents a week. In the winter I had to lug the water from the house, which was much more difficult.

Nowadays, fortunately I have no chickens to feed, only two human beings that need three meals a day, and our pitcher with the filtered water needs only to be carried from the sink to the table. Until fairly recently my life seemed relatively tranquil and most of what I needed to do could be done easily within my available time span. Then along came Parkinson’s Disease: a collection of symptoms clustered around the nerves and their connection to the brain.

My chief symptom is slowness. It takes me much longer to get things done than I am accustomed to, even though I have had two years or so to get used to it. This is made more difficult due to my childhood programming vis a vis the virtue of doing. For instance, I have to deal with my dismay at taking more than an hour to fix a meal when it used to take so much less time. My kind husband would say, “Don’t worry about it, take all the time you need.” That doesn’t silence the little voice that tells me I am too slow, or even that I am lazy.

Dealing with the frustration is a daily chore I wish I could eliminate, yet so far, I haven’t been able to. The voice of conscience seems to have no mercy on the hands that fumble when I work at cutting vegetables, or the feet that I must walk slowly and mindfully with lest I stumble. I know I do just fine, yet when the dinner isn’t ready in a timely manner, it says I ought to have begun sooner, and that’s no help.

I don’t mean to complain, only to share in case someone else who shares my dilemma might feel comforted to know she or he is not alone. 

May you make peace in your heart wish any disability you may have.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P If you have a story to share or some issue to discuss I’d love to hear from you. Your correspondence is precious to me. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1086 The Wisdom of a Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear

Heartwings says, “Gently ignoring a situation can help soothe troubled waters.”

In the interests of peace, it is often advisable to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to some of the unimportant yet annoying sources of conflict in a relationship. For instance, my mother resented it that my father did not want her to ever wear black. His mother, after the fashion of her day, wore black for seven years after my grandfather died of the terrible flu that ravaged the American soldiers and many others who were overseas at the end of World War One. Young at the time, my father had grown to intensely dislike black attire. Perhaps it reminded him of the loss of his father; I do not know and never asked him.

My mother was patient about this, as well as many other things that were not agreeable to her in their life together. To turn a blind eye is to avoid seeing, a deaf ear to avoid hearing what might otherwise be a source of irritation. However, doing this may also build resentment toward the perpetrators. It is sometimes difficult to walk the line between giving too little attention and giving too much. One must ask, is this situation important enough to make a fuss about or is it something that can be overlooked?

Here it might be good to take note of one’s feelings and to pay attention to them. It must be decided whether the annoyance is strong enough to prompt a response or not. If not, one can let it slide. If so, one can speak up. Sometimes the unaddressed feelings can build up and cause a problem or an argument. Sometimes which is worse, they create a ‘blowback,’ causing resentment that turns into anger and even sabotage. When one is trying to be nice, it might be all too easy to ignore the very real feelings of dismay that will turn into something worse when treated with a blind eye or a deaf ear. It seems important to allow one’s feelings about something uncomfortable to be mentioned rather than ignored, when there is danger of a buildup to the point of explosion.

For instance, I remember many years ago when I was a teenager, chiding my parents about their prejudicial language. They had grown up with it and to them using the ‘N’ word, for instance was perfectly normal. They did not take kindly to my efforts to correct them. Still, it was important to me to do so because I felt strongly about it.

Honesty is indeed the best policy; however, you need not be blunt nor simply complaining about something insignificant. The secret to success in speaking up is to not play the blame game, but to be truthful about your feelings. When you feel strongly, when your feelings are authentic, and when you phrase them in such a way as to convey this, your rate of success will be much improved.

Heartwings Love Notes 1084: Memories of My Mother

Heartwings says, “Holidays often generate memories of days gone by.”

There was a large cedar chest in my parents’ bedroom.  In it my mother kept items that were special or precious to her. As a youngster I was fascinated by its contents as well as what she kept in the drawers of her vanity and her shoe closet. The four vanity drawers held odds and ends, except for one that had evening handbags. These were fancy and often glittery. She had quite a collection.

My parents lived during a time when men and women ‘dressed for dinner.’ What that meant was long, formal evening gowns for the women and elegant trousers with a dinner jacket or even a tuxedo, for men. I can still see my mother, dressed in a lovely gown, sitting before the mirror of her dressing table, putting on her makeup and brushing her blond hair. She would be looking into the big mirror set between the two sets of drawers, as my dad tied his bow tie and put on his cummerbund.

Sometimes my mother would open up her cedar chest and I would get to see what she kept inside. Among other items, it held two costumes I never saw her wear. One was a colorful skirt and cropped top she wore in a picture someone had painted of her. There was a design of some kind on the cloth and perhaps it had been made for a dance performance. The other was a white skirt and top with many ruffles she once wore for Spanish dancing, accompanied by castanets.

Much of her time was spent tending our family—ultimately there were four of us; I was the eldest. We lived in a cottage on the property of my great aunt Alice. She also tended a large “victory” garden, growing most of our vegetables during the summer. She canned them, too, and again I have an image of her standing over a steaming kettle, lifting jars in and out.

She made the jelly we had with chicken on Sundays, too. In addition, she plucked and cleaned that chicken herself. She had not grown up in a household that did these tasks, and I admire her greatly for her ability to adapt to a very different lifestyle than the one she was used to when she met my charming, handsome father. We also kept chickens, and somehow had acquired a few bantams that included a white cockerel that strutted around crowing. My mother loved animals and the little hens would perch on her shoulders. Our goat, Ebony, was another of her favorites.

Of course, I have many more memories. Mothers’ Day has prompted me to remember and to share with my readers some of my memories from a time long gone by, when life was simpler, though of course I did not know that then. It’s odd how little we can tell while we pass through a time, compared with our        perspective on it in the years later.

May you have pleasant memories to share of times gone by.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. I’d love it if you’d share your memories of your mother with me. Be well and enjoy each day to the fullest.

Heartwings Love Note 1083: Bigger May Not Be Better

Heartwings says, “Size is not really a good indication of value.”

Have you noticed how big commercial trucks have become? Within the last few years, it seems that most of the trucks that transport much of our nation’s goods have become a third to a half longer and appropriately wider and taller. I remember when I noticed one of my first ones a couple of years ago when they were rarer, and pointed it out to Stephen. He told me no, I was incorrect, it was the same size as always. Then a normal sized truck, the usual ones we saw on the Mass Pike went by and drew up next to the larger one I had pointed out. “I see what you mean,” he said.

Since that day it seems to me that the older, smaller trucks I was used to have greatly diminished and the newer larger sized ones seem to have greatly increased. To be honest, I find these monsters to be somewhat intimidating. They just about dwarf my Toyota sedan, and it’s not a small car. I often wonder what the truck drivers do when they need to navigate narrow, twisted streets in small towns like ours. Surely, the trucks can’t get any larger, yet who knows what the manufacturers will decide to do.

Fruit is another thing that has become larger. Blueberries have become much bigger in size. I don’t think the flavor has increased any, perhaps it has even diminished. Don’t get me talking about strawberries! They’ve been growing bigger for a long time, and it has not contributed to their taste. I wait for the real (to me) strawberries that arrive in farm stands in June and snatch up as many boxes as I can get during their brief season.

I don’t mean to complain, but bigger is not always better. At least the flavor of the peaches and plums that are all swelled up in size taste better if I cook them with a little sugar. I often do the same with the outsized strawberries when I can find organic ones. There are too many pesticides in the inorganic ones. These are said to be one of the highest of the top ten fruits and vegetables in pesticide content. Pesticides and other chemicals are being linked to cancer and other ills, and one is safer buying and eating as much organic food as possible. Besides, it tastes better.

Recently I took out a book by one of my favorite authors, and much to my dismay, I had to return I to the library the next day. It was too heavy to hold to read. One exception is our new library. It has increased in size yet has not diminished in any way, quite the contrary. Growth in size is not necessarily a bad thing, when it is necessary. Necessity seems to be the key. Growth for the sake of making something bigger may not work as well as keeping the size the same. It’s all a matter of what works best.

May you discover what seems to work best for you in terms of size.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Do you have any thoughts on this or any other subject? Please share the with me, I do so enjoy hearing from my readers. Write to me at tashahal@gmail.com and for more love, notes visit my website at www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

The Fear Factor

Heartwings says, “When our opinions influence us, we may act without thinking.”

What if? When you hear that as the beginning of a sentence, do you anticipate a negative or a positive to follow? It is good to know what passes through one’s mind, i.e. to listen to yourself. Doing so can be very enlightening. What do you focus on? Do you look for optimistic outcomes? These and other rhetorical questions can help you to understand how to be happier, even though circumstances might conspire to make you think otherwise.

There is a story from an anthropologist, as I recall being told, that on a certain island in the tropics the monkeys began to wash their food. They were the first to do so. As time went on, it was observed that other monkeys on other islands, without any contact with the first monkeys, began to do the same. How? Perhaps there is an influence working that is generated without effort but simply by a flow of energy.

Along those lines, I recently heard a remarkable Ted Talk that was entitled, “You are Contagious.” I highly recommend looking it up—probably Google will help. What this essentially boils down to, at least to me, is that if we work at it, and enough of us get going at it, we can begin to change the world for the better. This will take time, but if we start where we are and keep it up, it can spread.

Right now, all too many people are driven by fear. Statistically I am told there are four guns for every person in this country. Many of them are automatic, shooting many bullets quickly. We have a gun lobby so powerful that gun laws designed to help often do not get passed. Sadly too, the laws we do have get broken anyway. In this climate of violence, fear and paranoia flourish.

We hear of these tragedies, and it is more and more frustrating because there is nothing we can do, or so we feel. But wait, there’s more! There is something we can do. We can manifest some positive energy to spread an antidote to the fear factor. I’d suggest beginning with gratitude. When you hear of the next awful sadness, turn your thoughts in another direction. Think how grateful you are for or about something in your life.  Express thanks, either silently or aloud, with your next breath. It is not that we don’t sympathize or feel sad about it, it’s that we don’t need to dwell on that sadness. It does not help.

We are all contagious. It is as though each of us is an island in an ocean of being, all connected. Perhaps the water the monkeys used to wash their food somehow carried the message to the monkeys on other islands. No one can say. By living with as much optimism and gratitude as we can, who knows how much influence we can manifest? It would be wonderful to try. Nothing is ever accomplished with endless mourning, nor will peace be bought with a sword.

May you find much to be grateful for and stay optimistic.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS If you have stories, questions, comments, or information for me. Please drop me a note at tashahal@gmail.com. I so like to hear from readers and am enormously grateful.

Heartwings Love Noes 1072: Time to Smell the Roses

Heartwings says, “It’s vital to take time to appreciate the present moment.”

One of my great pleasures in June is driving in the country when the wild roses are in bloom. If I am fortunate, I can have the car windows open and the scent of these small white single petaled blossoms pervades the air and drifts into my car. It’s enough to make me wish to stop, just sit there, and breathe it in.

It’s true that the vines that bear these flowers are invasive. When we owned our home on Sartell, I planted some by the swimming pool enclosure and while to begin with they were lovely to enjoy, they soon began to overpower their space and spread. In the end, the lovely scent was not enough of an inducement to keep them. But where they can grow wild it doesn’t matter.

There are some near my porch here, however last year they did not blossom. I fear they may have been overcome by other wildlings in the vicinity. I hope they have survived to bloom this year. The roses you find in the markets often do not have much scent, though there may be special ones that do. I remember the roses my father and my grandmother grew, they smelled wonderful.

Taking the time to smell the roses has to me become an important part of my life. At eighty-seven how many years do I have to continue to enjoy doing this? As the bottom of the hourglass fills, every grain becomes precious. The pleasure of any moment is to be savored. I thought of this as I opened an envelope of a fragrant loose-leaf tea this morning, inhaling the delightful mixture of spices and herbs it contained.

These small and simple enjoyments of life take on a greater importance as the years dwindle—at least they have for me. The sense of smell is I believe one of our first to develop and the last to go. The infant finds its mother’s breast by the scent. It’s an important aid to survival. So is the smell of something burning. On the other hand, the sense of smell is an important part of the pleasure of eating, as well as other parts of life, such as embracing loved ones or just cooking with favorite foods. I do love to cook, as much for the good smells as anything. I even have a fond memory of someone saying as they came into the room, “This must be Tasha’s kitchen because it smells so good.”

It’s easy to get caught up in one’s busy-ness and forget to stop and smell the roses. It’s important, however, to remember to do that, regardless what else there is to be done. Life has many small and simple pleasures to offer and when we take advantage of them, when we notice them and murmur a small prayer of thanks for them, life is immeasurably improved. Try this for yourself and see if you don’t experience a lift to your spirits and a warmth in your heart.

May you have many pleasant present moments.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Do you have any stories to share, or comments to make? I so enjoy hearing from readers. Please write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com. My website, for more Love Notes is www.heartwingsandfriends.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1080 : A Spring treat that’s also Medicine

Heartwings says, “It’s true that food can be medicine, and asparagus is.”

My father ate asparagus with his fingers, picking up each stalk up by the end, dipping it in butter and slowly savoring its length. The end was always discarded. At fancy spring dinners my grandmother and my great aunt served asparagus on toast points–crustless toasted bread cut into triangles. There would also be hollandaise sauce or butter poured over the asparagus or served separately by a maid in a shiny black uniform and a starched white apron. This was eaten with a knife and fork.

In those days, coming only in the Spring, fresh asparagus was considered a great treat. My mother disliked canned vegetables and did not serve them, considering canned vegetables to be lacking in vitamins. Today frozen asparagus is easy to find and the fresh stalks can often be bought all the year round. However, it’s the local asparagus that is the real treat. Regardless of its availability, I only really crave it in the spring.

There is a reason it grows and is harvested early in the spring in New England: Asparagus has a wonderful effect on the body, gently cleansing the kidneys as well as the bowels. It serves the helpful purpose of helping us eliminate the leftover winter toxins from our systems. It is an important food that is also a medicine. It is delicious, can be eaten freely and will not cause any untoward symptoms. What a wonderful treat that something that tastes so good is so very good for you.

Euell Gibbon’s book Stalking the Wild Asparagus is a classic on foraging and eating wild vegetables. His description of how at the age of twelve he discovered the wild asparagus is quite enchanting. He admits that wild or tame, they taste the same, except for the thrill of finding your own wild harvest. Actually, this perennial plant, with the help of the birds who ate its seeds, originally escaped from the gardens where it was cultivated and proceeded to grow enthusiastically wherever it could. The wild stalks can be located by searching out the dried seed stalks. These look like feathery miniature trees that have dried up and turned to straw.

According to Mysterious Herbs and Roots, Mitzie Stuart Keller, Peace Press 1978, asparagus was once a royal food reserved for rulers and kings. A member of the lily family, it is related to chives, leeks, garlic, and onions. Wild asparagus, one of the oldest known plants, was believed to have grown in the salt marshes of Asia Minor thousands of years before the earliest recorded history and was unknown in Europe prior to 4 BC. Alexander the Great discovered it when he went searching in the land of Medea, where legend had it that she gave Jason of Argonaut fame the secret of eternal youth. High in vitamin E, it has been for centuries reputed to be an aphrodisiac and was treasured by rulers of many nations. The Romans maintained armed guards to protect their beds from thieves, while royal gardeners made money on the side from selling the seeds.

May you enjoy your medicine as food, and relish this spring treat.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Tales to tell or hints to share? Please write to me at tashahal@gmail.com It’s a great treat for me to hear from readers.

Heartwings Love Notes 1079 Easter Customs Make the Celebration

Heartwings says, ” Colorful Easter echoes with spring.”

Like Christmas, Easter has accumulated a number of customs, and it has its roots in a more diverse past than that embraced by religious Christians. The first official celebrations by Christians began with the Council of Nicaea, in 325 when the date of Easter was established as being set for the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Equinox. It is called a “moveable feast,” as opposed to Christmas or Halloween that are fixed, on the same day every year.

Many of our Easter customs, like many of our Christmas ones, come from the people of Germany and their traditions. Colored Easter eggs, for instance have been found in burial sites there that date back to the bronze age. The Germans who settled in Pennsylvania brought their Easter and Spring customs with them to this country and they spread from there. One of these was that the Easter Hare (aka for us rabbit) both laid and hid the colored eggs that the children hunted for on Easter morning or found in the nests they made for them in their hats and bonnets.

The Easter bunny, originally a hare, is an integral part of the holiday. Chocolate bunnies begin to appear right after Valentine’s Day, both in food markets and drugstores. The fertile rabbit is a fitting symbol for a springtime celebration. Easter named for the Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre, is part of the collection of lore around the season. Like winter, the solstice and Christmas, Easter, Spring, and the Vernal Equinox associated with it, have been celebrated long before the advent of Christianity. Our bunny rabbit has a similar association.

The hare, a cousin of the bunny rabbit, is the original animal associated with spring.  It is associated with and sacred to the moon. Hares are larger than rabbits and fiercer, known for engaging in fights and, unlike rabbits, who live and give birth in underground burrows, are born in nests above the ground. Born in the spring, they emerge with their eyes open, able to fend for themselves very soon. The gentle rabbit is far more appropriate as a pet, because the hare is not easily domesticated. They are a food source as well and are often hunted or trapped for that purpose.

The wearing of new clothes for Easter is another symbolic act. It speaks to the custom of seeing spring as a new beginning; new clothes are a part of that. There is a superstition that it is good luck to have at least three new items to be worn for the celebration of Easter. The Easter parade of song and story, is still a tradition as well. Best clothes are worn and animals are even dressed up and wheeled or walked in New York City and other places that hold an Easter parade.

Easter is a delightful time to enjoy and affirm the advent of spring, a fine opportunity for all to gather in celebration.

“May your celebrations be joyous no matter when they are held.”

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Do you have any Easter memories to share? I so enjoy your emails and comments. Please write to me at tashahal@gmail.com with any thoughts, stories or suggestions.

Heartwings Love Notes 1078 Food for the Body, Food for the Soul

Heartwings says, “Taking care of ourselves is very important, and dandelions can help.”

    I have always loved dandelions. My memory holds an image of my four-year-old self making a crown for my mother–picking the dandelions, carefully slitting each stem and then poking the heads through to make a bright golden circle. I also remember picking great bunches of them to give her and being disappointed when they closed up, never to reopen. I love to spot them flowering in vacant lots or beside city buildings; their cheerful brightness refreshes my soul. These little golden suns are starting to show up everywhere these days.

    Some will groan and go out to buy weed killer. Big mistake! In addition to the damage most weed killers will do to the surrounding denizens of the year with paws or wings, not to mention humans, when you know how to use them, the greens are good food. You can use them in salad as well as cook them. Somewhat bitter, dandelions are nutritious food. In addition, you can add the steamed greens to steamed kale, collards, spinach or asparagus and whirl them together with garlic and olive oil in a food processor. Promise you won’t experience the bitter at all.

Dandelions contain a whole pharmacy of healthy ingredients. According to Susan Tyler Hitchcock, writing in Gather Ye Wild things, one half cup fresh dandelion greens provides 14,000 milligrams of Vitamin A, as well as half our daily requirement of vitamin C, plus minerals–most especially potassium, calcium and others.

Still want to poison them? Consider that every part of the plant is edible, that the early settlers who brought the seeds here from England used to make coffee from the roasted roots, and that your liver as well as your kidneys will greatly benefit from eating the fresh or sautéed plant. Anyone who wishes to diet will do well to eat dandelions as well as drink dandelion tea, available in health food stores in tea bag form. It is a healthy, inexpensive diuretic. It makes a great wine. It’s easy, tasty, and fun to share.

Ingredients: three lemons, three oranges, six cups of sugar, one package of dry yeast, a quart of dandelion blossoms and a gallon of boiling water. Method: Slice the lemons and oranges into a bowl. Pour the sugar into the bowl and stir to blend. Leave over night. At the same time, pour the boiling water over the freshly picked blossoms in a large crock, or enamel or stainless-steel pot and leave overnight. Never use an aluminum vessel.

The next day, combine all in the large crock or pot, sprinkle with yeast, cover with a cheesecloth or netting and leave for five days. On the sixth day, strain out the fruit and blossoms, bottle the liquid, and cap with a balloon. Set aside to ferment. When balloons hang limply, fermentation is done. Cork tightly and store at least six months, the longer the better. This recipe makes about five bottles of a slightly sweet, mellow, green/golden wine. It is best served after dinner or as a special treat. To me it tastes like a Spring Day.

May your dandelions nourish you in whatever form you have them.”

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Please write to me with your thoughts, messages and suggestions. I so enjoy your dear letters and will always answer you sooner or later; that’s a promise. My email is tashahal@gmail.com and my website is www.heartwingsandfriends.com .

Heartwings Love Notes 1077: Duty, Obligation, and Love

Heartwings says, “Small acts of love sustain a relationship over time.”

Stephen and I have been together for more than 45 years and this year in July we will have been married for 43. If you were to ask me what keeps us together, I could give you several answers, and they would all be correct. However, in my opinion there is one that stands out above any other: we do our best to be kind to each other. Of course, there are times when one or the other of us, in an attempt to be kind, metaphorically steps on the other’s toes. However, all is quickly forgiven when the one with the stepped-on toes informs the stepper of the error and a discussion ensues.

The codicil of this kindness is a dedication to honesty and truthfulness about feelings. We’ve learned it’s all right to say “ouch” when necessary, and usually to do it tactfully. “You made me…” is not a good way to begin any kind of conversation featuring a complaint. Neither is “Why did you do that to me?” Owning up to one’s feelings is vital. To say “You made me angry when you…” is not helpful. What is, is rather, “I felt angry when you…”.  This is fair and honest. It is important to allow oneself the luxury of being vulnerable enough to admit to being hurt, while not being accusatory and making the other feel uncomfortable.

Kindness in small ways is important. Stephen washes the dishes as a gift to me for doing the cooking. I appreciate this, especially since I know he doesn’t really like doing it. Sometimes I ask him if he would mind if I did them, and he may say yes, or no depending upon how he is feeling. I actually don’t mind doing them, and I even find it soothing to have my hands in warm, running water, however I appreciate his doing them as a loving gift. When I tidy the bed in the morning, opening the covers I’ve straightened to air the bed, I make it easier to make later. This is a gift of love I give Stephen because he makes the bed.

These little daily acts of love between us are not extraordinary or big hearted, but they are part of how we express our love for one another. Small gifts he finds here and there from his forays into thrift shops, thoughtful gestures like holding the door for me, or handing me my cane, are other simple offerings of love and caring that keep love in the forefront of our relationship. Asking each other if one or the other is happy several times a day demonstrates this as well. We live in close proximity, in a small apartment, and it would be easy to get irritated with each other, however we don’t because we are tender with one another, as well as honest. I am grateful to him for his caring, as he is grateful to me. We express this often. It also helps keep us both in love.

May you find happy ways to express your love to your dear ones.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

P. S. Your comments, dear reader, are always welcome, as well as any tidbits from your own experiences. Your correspondence makes me so happy, so please, do write when you can.