This is day 30, the last day of the blogging challenge. It has ruled my life for the past month, and I will feel lost without it. The challenge achieved its purpose: to bring back my love for writing. I haven’t written poetry or my book for the past year and needed an outlet to inspire me. Writing every day for thirty days has shown me that I can do it. And I will do it.
In my blog posts, I returned to events I remember most fondly.
Vacations with my daughters in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Vacation in Jamaica with my oldest daughter and son-in-law.
Vacation with my younger daughter and son-in-law in the Dominican Republic.
Visiting with family.
Happy days when Nounous was healthy.
People I loved and lost.
People I will never forget.
People I respect and have come to love, including the Rave Reviews Book Club members. They have become family to me, reading and responding to my long-winded posts.
Thank you, my new family, for participating in the RRBC Blogging Challenge, and a big thanks to Nonnie Jules for organizing this fantastic event.
One of my favorite vacations was with my daughter, Ashley, and my husband in London, England. It was June years back, and my husband said let’s go to London in August. I feared it wasn’t enough time to make plans and book hotels and flights, but we had promised Ashley a European vacation instead of a Bat Mitzvah, and I wanted to take her before she graduated college, so I agreed. I yearned to see Paris, but my husband was leery because of the unfriendliness American tourists encountered there. Thinking back, I regret not visiting Paris since it was only a boat ride away.
This is our hotel according to their brochure: “Situated in the heart of London on the bank of the River Thames, Plaza on the River provides 90 generously sized suites with exquisite views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. A short walk from Vauxhall Station, our South Bank hotel puts guests within easy reach of the famous West End, the financial district, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Tate Britain, and other beloved attractions.”
In reality, to reach Westminster Abbey and the other sites, there is a long walk to a bridge and then more of a walk once you cross it. It would have been much easier if we had stayed on the other side. Since we didn’t book a tour, we spent time on buses and trains.
Ashley was with me, so it was worth the swollen legs and feet. Lymphedema and walking don’t go hand in hand.
To see London’s sights, we walked across this small bridge. We were on the same side as the London Eye but never made it there.
Ashley at Westminster Abbey on our walk. Behind her, there’s a statue of a man riding a horse.
Wherever we went, there were statues. Some elaborate and a few strange ones.
The statues served as great rest stops on our walking tours. The gold one was near Buckingham Palace.
I believe the goat statue stood in the quaint town near Windsor Castle.
We walked passed this statue on our walks across the bridge.
This statue gave me a good laugh since it stuck out like a sore thumb among London’s serious architecture and sculptures. I never learned the purpose of the blue rooster. Was it the year of the blue rooster somewhere?
The following two pictures are of sculptures at the London Tower. I’ll share photos of the London Tower in my next post. I found so many images of statues in my album that I wanted to share them separately.
Does London have a statue fetish? I only visited a few sites but found more statues than anything else. I’ll let you be the judge.
I’ve spoken on my blog about my dog, Nounous, but not about my dwarf bunny, Thumper. We bought Thumper for my daughter, and she took him to Binghamton University, where he lived in her dorm suite. Since he made no noise, no one knew he was there except for my daughter’s roommates and friends.
Thumper has a feisty personality. I remember him launching off the wall in the college dorm to return to his crate. In the beginning, he was skittish and would hide under furniture.
In the picture above, he looks enormous, but it’s only the camera’s angle. He’s a small bunny with a huge personality.
Once my daughter moved into an apartment in Manhattan, she didn’t have room for a bunny. Even though I was allergic to him, Thumper became mine. Achoo!
My daughter moved out, and the first day I was alone with Thumper, he plopped onto his side. I ran to his cage, fearing he was dead. I called his name, but he didn’t answer. So, I opened the cage, poked him with my finger, and he jumped upright. That was how I learned bunnies fall over when they go to sleep.
This peaceful-looking bunny is no pushover, even though he falls over. He’s always hated Nounous; I believe he’s jealous the dog gets to hang out and sleep on the bed while he is stuck in a cage. He’d roam free if he didn’t chew wires and everything in the house. One day, Ashley put Thumper on the bed with Nounous and me. All was quiet until Thumper jumped and latched onto Nounous’ ear with his teeth. We had to pry him off the poor doggy. Nounous whimpered but didn’t fight back. Since then, Nounous has been afraid of Thumper, even though he visits the bunny when he’s in his cage.
Welcome to the 1964 World’s Fair. I was five years old, and my memories are primarily of crowds of people, music, and magic. I found my brother’s black-and-white photos, and I’m sharing them with you.
“The 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair was a world’s fair that held over 140 pavilions and 110 restaurants, representing 80 nations, 24 US states, and over 45 corporations, with the goal and the final result of building exhibits or attractions at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, New York City.” Wikipedia
The World’s Fair was a huge event, but I maybe thought so because I was a little girl. I have foggy memories of products from different countries and prehistoric animals. When I visited Epcot with my daughters, it triggered memories of seeing something similar. Epcot is my favorite theme park in Orlando, Florida, and this has led me to wonder why I used Disney World in my vampire books, not Epcot.
This picture symbolized crowds of people to me when I was a kid, but I didn’t understand crowds until I worked in Manhattan.
I wonder what the audience was watching. Was something happening in the water?
Maybe there were pavilions on the water since there wasn’t enough room for 140 in the park.
The last photo is of my brother. He’s wearing a hat because he became more Orthodox before attending college. After Yeshivah University, he wasn’t religious anymore, which is strange since it’s a religious college. If I was 5 years old, he was 16. I believe he was born mature and wise. And then they had me.
My earliest memory is trying to reach the window sill in the living room and saying that one day I’ll be tall enough. My next memory is when I was a few years old, maybe 3 or 4, and playing with my Barbie doll, using the radiator as her house. I always wanted a Ken doll, so Barbie had a friend, but my parents never bought me a second doll. I assumed it was too much money and better spent on clothing for my brother and me. I Googled old heating radiators but couldn’t find one with a door on the front, and I used the door as the door to Barbie’s house.
I remember my parents taking me to Marine Park, near Kings Plaza Shopping Center, where I later loved to shop with my friends. My mother sat on her folding chair at the park while I played with my father. I don’t remember what I did, but I loved my egg carton where I placed my little toys. Yes, a regular egg carton after we used the eggs. I’ve included a picture of Marine Park from 1965 since I found a few small albums in my drawer today.
I found a picture of my mother and me standing by the water in Sheepshead Bay. And yes, I had to wear those funny glasses for a few years to correct my left eye from drifting sideways. Thankfully, the eyeglasses were off by the time I began kindergarten.
I have few memories of my brother, who was 11 years older than me, but I remember loving him and hanging out with him in our apartment. If I couldn’t finish my food, he would take my leftovers. Since the apartment had two bedrooms, Neil slept in the foyer and gave me his bedroom after I was born. Later, I would paint this bedroom pink to match the dark pink carpeting. Now I know why pink isn’t my favorite color.
Below is a picture of Neil at the bay in 1966. He was a great photographer but not the person who had taken the picture.
The following picture is of me in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
My mother standing in front of our apartment building.
This photo shows my mother in front of the two-family house used for our temple and a glimpse of the next picture in the album of me in the living room.
I have one picture of my father munching on his breakfast.
The last picture is my grandfather, who had deserted my mother when he came to the U.S. I was afraid of him, and he still looks a bit scary.
Thank you for joining me on my journey down memory lane. These pictures were in a tiny album, and I hope to remember more after opening the other albums.
Sitting with Nounous in the living room while my cleaning lady washes the floors, I ponder what to write today on my blog. So far, I’ve written about painful experiences, and I’d like to revisit my memories and reflect on the happy times I had with my family after my daughters were born. I stayed home with them and took loads of pictures and videos while journaling their milestones. I’m close with my daughters, and I expect we’ll always be best friends.
Stephanie is my oldest. She had boundless energy as a toddler and loved to run, tripping and falling if I didn’t warn her of cracks on the sidewalk or steps. Stephanie always sported a huge smile and was an easy infant and toddler. Ashley was born three years later. She enjoyed sitting in her stroller, watching the world go by. Ashley still observes everyone with a quiet mien, and I believe she has my personality.
I was lucky in the draw for children. I love having daughters and wonder if I would have been as close to a son. Stephanie is close to her two sons and stopped working after she had them. Ashley gave birth to a baby girl this past September, a week after my oldest had her second son. Ashley is lucky she and her husband have jobs where they can work from home and continue working after hiring a nanny for the daytime.
I have their baby pictures in albums and in frames around the house. So, this afternoon’s activity will be to find ones to share with you, take photos with my phone, and store them on my computer. I will have them ready for the blog tomorrow.
I found two pictures of my daughters in Wildwood, New Jersey, on my computer. We vacationed there many summers since we loved the beach, boardwalk, and amusement parks. We tried different hotels along the boardwalk, some nicer than the others, but we always had a great time.
I’ve reached the tenth day of the blogging challenge, and I’m amazed I’ve made it this far. And look above, I received a Blogger Award. Since the challenge is to inspire us to write about our days, I’ll share what I do with my time.
Besides food shopping, I have excursions with my dog to the vet or the park. Since he has diabetes and Cushing’s Disease, we visit the vet more often. Nounous doesn’t enjoy walking on the sidewalk since he trips on everything since he lost his sight to cataracts. I visited the park near his vet two months ago when I was getting his medicine. When I spotted people walking their dogs, I was surprised since dogs were never allowed in this park, and I searched for signs, and there weren’t any prohibiting dogs. The park I usually visit, which has the outdoor pool I use in the summer, doesn’t allow dogs and sports huge signs stating that fact. Since then, I’ve been walking Nounous around the small lake in the park when the weather isn’t too cold. I’m waiting for the weather to brighten later this week for me to take him on Thursday.
I miss going out with my friends since my husband refuses to see them on Saturday nights, saying he’s tired from work. Whatever. My friends work during the day and see their families on Sundays, so it’s hard to see them. During the summer, I met them at the pool. If it wasn’t for Covid, I’d spend most of my days at the indoor pool, not far from my house, but I’m afraid of catching Covid. I was exposed to one person who had it, my husband, and I was sick three days after him and three weeks longer than him. I’ve never had any resistance to colds or viruses.
My daughters live in New Jersey and Connecticut, and since I don’t drive on the highway, it’s been challenging to see them. Hopefully, they’ll visit when their newborns get older. Covid and RSV have limited a few of our planned events. We haven’t celebrated Chanukah yet with our grandchildren, and I told Ezra, my oldest daughter’s four-year-old, we had more presents for him and that Chanukah would be extended through January.
I use my free time to create book banners and trailers and then share them on social media. This past year, I edited my work in progress a few times but am still waiting to feel the urge to continue writing it. The reviews on the first book in the series asked for more background on the Penobscot Indians, and I always listen to my reviews. I read everything I could find on the Penobscot, but I might have outlined and researched too much for this book that I’ve lost the creative drive to finish.
I tell myself to be happy I have my health and my daughters and grandchildren and to use my loneliness to write better books. This challenge has pushed me to write daily, and I hope to continue this productive habit.
For my last article about my family, I will write about the person who was my role model, my hero. He was my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was the type of person who lit up a room when he entered it. He was 6’2”, but not his height drew people but his dynamic personality. Sparkling gray eyes mirrored his great intellect and future capacity for greatness. When my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi, my brother cared for my blind mother and helped raise me. Neil protected me from life and responsibilities, shouldering those burdens himself.
After college, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he acquired enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company, becoming the majority stockholder in American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. The picture above shows Neil with Mayor Koch as they negotiated for a factory in Queens. Neil had taken me along on his ride to stardom. I’d worked for him during my summer vacations from college, first in his Madison Avenue, Manhattan office, and then later on the Exchange. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. Life was perfect until the phone rang in the middle of the night.
The lights went out for me, trapping me in darkness as dark and deep as the one where my mother lived. Neil had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. Even though he was a great driver with quick reflexes, his Porsche hydroplaned on the wet roads, and he drove the car off the highway and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him. A truck was parked in his path, and the Porsche crashed beneath it.
Neil was in a coma for two years before he passed away. His brutal ending wasn’t appropriate for the great man he was. He will always live in memories, and when I need comfort, I picture myself wrapped in his arms.
I am dedicating today’s article to Tony Vaccaro, the famous photographer. The first picture is Tony in 1945, holding his beloved camera.
This week, I learned that the famous photographer Tony Vaccaro died at 100. A sad day for the world. He had photographed my brother in 1981, the year of my brother’s car accident, and two years before my brother passed.
Tony took photos of Presidents Kennedy, Obama, and Nixon. Famous stars like Sophia Lauren. Artists like Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe. And my brother, Neil Leist. Neil had just become the CEO and President of American Bakeries. He made his fortune in the commodities markets and was on his way to the top. The accident ended his dreams and mine.
“Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro was an American photographer who is best known for his photos taken in Europe during 1944 and 1945, and in Germany immediately following World War II. He subsequently became a fashion and lifestyle photographer for American magazines.” Wikipedia
The day I met Tony Vacarro, and his family was one of the best days my husband and I spent together. How did I get to meet this extraordinary person? My blog on WordPress opened this door for me. A few years ago, I wrote an article about my brother and how he was my hero and the one I cherished most, and Tony Vaccaro’s daughter-in-law found it online. Maria Vaccaro emailed me and offered me the chance to meet her father-in-law and see the pictures he had taken of my brother. Tony Vaccaro had opened his archives for the first time to the public. His family sorted through the photos and contacted people if they wanted to purchase their images. I cannot describe how excited I was to meet someone who knew my brother and had also photographed him.
On a Sunday, we drove to Long Island City, where Tony lived with his son Frank, his wife, Maria, and their two young children. We walked up the steps to Tony’s apartment, where his massive archive of photographs was stored in the front room. Maria introduced us to Tony, a small, skinny man who appeared frail. But what I noticed first about him was the intelligence in his eyes. He was excited to meet us and showed us his famous framed photographs hanging on the walls. Tony spoke about his life and the famous people he photographed.
Maria found my brother’s black and white pictures, and I felt the room spinning. Neil was smiling in each image. The photos brought back memories. I told Tony that my brother was in a car accident a few months after he had taken his picture. Tony didn’t know my brother had died and began to cry. I was overcome that this great man wept for my brother that I hugged him. I’m not one to show emotions in front of others, but I felt closer to this stranger than many people I’ve known my whole life.
I wanted all the pictures, but Maria explained we could purchase enlarged ones since we were looking at the negatives. I had to pick one. This wasn’t an easy task. When I finally narrowed it down to two pictures, I asked Tony which one he liked best. He pointed to one, and that was the one I chose. Tony had photographed my brother sitting behind his desk. That day, Tony was hired to take photos at a company, and my brother was one of the people chosen for this honor.
After we purchased the picture, Tony led us to his small bedroom, showing mementos from his life, including his favorite cameras. Then he offered to take us to a restaurant where his famous photographs were displayed. I was excited; I didn’t want the day to end. Tony hung an old camera around his neck, saying it was a camera he’d used in combat in WWII. This camera made him famous when he took candid pictures of the war, where he revealed the reality of war and its horrors.
Tony and Maria joined us as we walked a few blocks to a quaint Italian restaurant. Once inside, we were welcomed by the owner and made to feel at home. Tony led us around the two rooms, showing us the framed pictures on the walls. There were black and white photos, but many were colorful. My favorite was the one he took of Georgia O’Keefe. Afterward, we sat at a table near the fireplace and were soon joined by Tony’s son, Frank, and their two children. They were going to have dinner, and we were invited. Since the restaurant wasn’t Kosher, and we couldn’t eat anything cooked there, we had coffee while they ate. Tony had the sweetest family; the children were friendly. Frank and Maria told us endless stories of people they met through Tony. Tony told us tales of Sophia Loren, one of his favorite stars. He hoped to invite her to his 100 birthday party a few years away. I’m happy Tony reached 100, but I don’t know if he had his birthday party since he died a few days later.
I will never forget the day I spent with Tony Vaccaro and his family. He was someone not soon to be forgotten.