Fran over at FranIam tagged me for the "10 Random Things About Me" meme. And I am so grateful to her, since of course during NaBloPoMo it is always good to have fuel for a post!
So, here goes - here are 10 things you may not know about me:
- I collect trolls. Yes, the little dolls with the hair. It started back in 1964 when they were at one of their popularity peaks. My first troll was an orange-haired troll whom I named Thomasina. She was quickly followed by her husband, William (black hair), and then Homer and Yolanda (green, yellow). I admit it, I name them all. I have various types of trolls, from the kind with painted eyes, to the ones with the brand name Wish-Nik, the "True Trolls" (they were really nice ones with pretty colors for the hair and glass eyes of various colors) and the original "Dam Dolls." They always have brown glass eyes and the distinctive "DAM" somewhere on their little plastic bodies. I have trolls from Scotland, from England, from Germany, and of course the United States. My collection waned for awhile when the fad passed, but then about 10 or 15 years ago their popularity revived, and I started up a whole new phase of collection. People started giving me trolls of all sizes and types, and then they started appearing at garage sales. I've even bought some of the 1960 vintage ones at antique stores. My collection is now above 150. I still have names for all of them, and keep them on a typed-up list so I won't forget them. The original 60 I can name by heart; the later ones are more difficult. My father was the official "namer" of new trolls up until the time he went into the nursing home with dementia and a broken leg. Now my friend's daughter is the one who helps me name new trolls. Every holiday season I put them all out on the piano, the end tables, and anywhere else I can find a spot, so that they form a cheerful array of color in the dark winter days. Here are just a few of them on top of the piano last December:
- I had a pet squirrel for nine years. Back in the late 70's I worked at the Associated Humane Societies in Newark, NJ, for a little over a year. My duties consisted of answering letters, working on their monthly magazine, opening the office in the morning (which included sticking a pole through a monkey cage to turn on the air conditioner in the summer - which the monkey did not appreciate one bit), and doing anything else the Assistant Director or Director thought I could do. I even went to a meeting organized by the State to find out how to apply for grants for workers from a program called CETA (from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973). Another task that all of us in the office had to perform was to raise baby squirrels. At certain times of the year, the Society was inundated with baby squirrels people discovered in their attics or chimneys or that were orphaned when their mother was hit by a car. And these babies needed to be fed until they were old enough to be released into the wild. At one time I had eleven of them that I had to get up and feed with an eyedropper every two hours. We fed them with a milk substitute for animals, called Esbilac. We mixed it up along with Polyvisol children's liquid vitamins and sometimes a little Gerber's rice cereal and fed it to the baby squirrels. They weren't fussy, they lapped it up. Not all of them made it; sometimes they drank too fast and aspirated the formula, causing pneumonia. But I think I lost only one squirrel among the many I raised. However, not all could be released into the wild; one squirrel among the babies I raised was crippled from a birth defect; her front paws were not long enough and she had to hop around more like a kangaroo than a squirrel. She was great at jumping but not so good at climbing. She was a tough squirrel; she almost died of pneumonia once but I nursed her back to health with Robitussin and by steaming her in a little tent. After I left the Humane Society (you can only make $3.00 an hour for so long) she went home with me and she was a pet for nine years. I used to let her have the run of my room (to the detriment of some of my books, whose corners she loved to chew). I had named her Phoenix, since she rose from the ashes, so to speak, twice - first by being rescued at all, and second from surviving pneumonia. Phoenix was a great pet. She would jump on my bed in the morning to wake me up and we would play. She played a lot like a kitten; you could tickle her stomach and she'd kick and bite you gently. She liked to jump on my shoulder, and went crazy for walnuts, pecans and cucumbers. She finally died of old age (a rare event for a squirrel - did you know they get wrinkled?). Later on my husband and I got another squirrel from the Humane Society - a blind one named Felix - and had him for about 6 months but he died suddenly because of a back injury. We think he may have had a congenital defect in his spine just as he did in his eyes. He too was a great pet - he knew his way around our apartment and could find the package of nuts we kept for him in the kitchen. His favorite food was strawberries. I would love to have another squirrel someday. This one looks a little like my Phoenix:
- In my youth, I loved to climb trees. No matter where I was, if there was a tree with the proper alignment of branches, I was up in it. One time we were at my father's company picnic, and I found an excellent pine tree that was begging to be climbed. I started up and kept going until I heard my father's voice down below yelling at me to come down. Apparently one of his colleagues had gone to get him and told him, "You know, your daughter is about 60 feet up in a tree over there!" To this day, no matter how middle-aged and decrepit I am, I can't look at a good climbing tree without noting its attributes. In fact, at Cape Cod recently, there was one that was so good that I had to at least try to clamber up into it. I got up to a branch about 4 feet off the ground and DH took a picture of me in it from an angle that made it look as if I was much farther up than I actually was!
- I was a voracious reader when I was little. From the time I learned to read I was never without a book. To this day, I love to read, but I find my attention span is not what it was when I was young. I used to read books for fun that other people moan and groan over having to read for school. I devoured books such as Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmore, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, and Scaramouche by Sabatini, when I was only 12 or 13 years old. In fact, I was probably so young when I read The Scarlet Letter that I wasn't quite positive of the nature of Hester Prynne's sin. Then when I was older I read things like Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and others. In college I took an English Novel course and read even more long-winded and difficult books; I read the 900-page tome, Middlemarch, by George Eliot, over spring break (we didn't go to Ft. Lauderdale or Mexico in those days). And I loved these books! Now I find my attention span is ruined by our sound byte lifestyle. I once tried to re-read Lorna Doone and couldn't get past the first chapter. It's really kind of sad, and I hope I can regain some of that perseverance after I retire and have more time to read.
- I used to consider myself more of a cat person than a dog person. When I was little our first pet was a combination calico-tiger cat named Boots. She was a beautiful mixture of gray and orange tiger, with a white shirtfront and white paws - all four of them, hence the name Boots. Later we got Silly (short for Silver-Grey - I named him at age 6). When I was nine years old, we got a Pekingese puppy whom we named Suki, but I was still more attached to the cats. My family always had multiple cats; the most we ever had at one time was four. We had our dog until he died of old age at about 14 years old; we did get another Pekingese after that, named Tango. But it wasn't until DH and I got Alice that I really became a "dog person." She was a dog that was virtually human; she had moods and worries and concerns. She had enthusiasms, joys and love. She didn't love everybody, but those she did, she loved with endless loyalty, and she would have defended us to the death. Her loss from cancer in 2005 was devastating. Luckily Diva came into our lives and filled a new space in our hearts. Here is Alice in her last weeks:
- Our family moved twice when I was growing up: from New Jersey to the suburbs of Rochester, NY, when I was almost 9; and from Rochester back to New Jersey when I was 14. The first move was painless - I made friends immediately and had a wonderful time up there. It was a great place to be when you're still a kid and can enjoy the outdoors. My friends and I went off in the woods for hours and played or went fishing; in the winter we sledded down a hill we dubbed "Suicide Hill" in someone's back yard. (Needless to say, its danger was somewhat exaggerated). The move at age 14 was much more difficult, because it entailed me entering freshman year of high school two weeks later than the beginning of the school year due to the timing of our move. By that time all of the new freshmen had learned their way around the school, so I was the only oddball asking for directions to different classrooms. And many of the other kids had gone to grade school together so they already knew one another. It took me about two years to get my own little group of friends, most of whom were a year younger than I was, and I do not look back on high school fondly. My advice to parents? If you can possibly avoid moving when your kid or kids are at, or near, high school age, don't.
- When I was about 23 I got involved, through an old boyfriend, in the evangelical Christian religion. I was brought up as a mainstream, liberal Protestant (United Church of Christ); my father, who was Jewish, had converted, so although I did hear Yiddish spoken in my home occasionally, the Jewish religion did not really come into my upbringing. Later on I considered myself an agnostic, until in 1979 I became a "born-again" Baptist and attended two different churches until I became totally disillusioned with the whole thing. I guess I was looking for some kind of meaning in my life at the time. I was able to rationalize a lot of things (I told myself maybe evolution was just the way God managed to create everything), but what I could not abide was the deep-seated bigotry I heard against gays. The second church I went to prayed one day for "Anita Bryant's success in her mission" and that was the last service I attended. From the link on Bryant: "...in 1977, Bryant became obsessed when Miami-Dade County added an amendment to its human rights ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment, loans, and public accommodations based on "affectional or sexual preference." Announcing, "I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before," she founded Save Our Children. As the group's name implies, Bryant's central -- and ludicrous -- argument was her fear that children would be molested or converted by gay perverts. "As a mother," she famously explained, "I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children."
Bryant's Old Testament activism drew many followers, and within a year the law was repealed, making it legal again to fire workers, deny people housing, or refuse their business based on how and with whom consenting adults have sex. Celebrating her victory in a sound bite that aired nationwide, Bryant promised she would "seek help and change for homosexuals, whose sick and sad values belie the word 'gay' which they pathetically use to cover their unhappy lives." Even after the local amendment was repealed, Bryant fanned the flames with speaking tours that made her a national spokesperson against "homosexual rights." She was the star attraction at rallies that led to the repeal of gay rights in numerous cities, and she came to California to support the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which failed, but would have banned homosexuals or anyone advocating the 'gay lifestyle" from teaching in public schools. "I don't hate the homosexuals," she wrote in a fundraising letter. "But as a mother, I must protect my children from their evil influence." Not surprisingly, Bryant's outspoken activism inspired the gay rights movement like nothing since Stonewall. The response included pickets, petitions, and a boycott of Florida orange juice, which led the Citrus Commission to let her endorsement contract lapse. She was one of the first political figures to be 'pied' when she was banana-creamed in Des Moines, Iowa, and National Lampoon published a parody ad for 'Anita Bryant's Homo No Mo Macho-Building Course'. Her record and book sales declined, she eventually sold her 33-room mansion, and her marriage ended in divorce -- which left Bryant "shunned as a sinner" by many of the judgmental people who had joined her campaign against equal rights for gays." (My thoughts: Serves her right). I do have something to be grateful to her for, however - she drove me away from the clutches of the evangelical "Christian" movement. As I've said many times before, the Christian religion is not what these people are practicing. Another thing I'm grateful for: The Bible classes I attended gave me an appreciation of the book and of the teachings of Jesus, which I am able to use in my life. I also find it helpful to know the scriptures when refuting the claims some so-called Christians make on behalf of the Good Book. If there is a God, He (or She) would not be happy with some of the beliefs they claim they base on His book.
- I am addicted to green tea ice cream. We recently started going to a great Japanese restaurant, called Aki, and I tried their green tea ice cream. Now, I may have had this in the past and maybe it wasn't as good as theirs. I don't remember why I had never gotten into it before. But theirs is wonderful, and now I can't resist finishing off a wonderful meal of miso soup, innovative sushi and perfectly sesame-seasoned seaweed salad, with a dish of wonderful, creamy, not-too-sweet green tea ice cream.
- Speaking of ice cream, another of my favorites is mango ice cream. I became a mango ice cream fan in Maui the last time we were there. The brand we had was a local brand called Roselani, and it is creamy and refreshing. Here in New Jersey, Pandan Restaurant has a very similar version, imported from the Philippines. The food is an eclectic mix of Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino specialties, and well worth a visit if you're in the area.
- Despite being totally non-athletic, I have ridden a horse into the crater of the Haleakala volcano on Maui. DH and I did this on our honeymoon. Below is a picture of a similar group, ascending out of the crater. If you want more information you can check out my travel blog, Marvelous Meanderings. I started that blog back in March with a thorough tour of Maui, and haven't written another post since. Someday when I have time!
It occurs to me that I am supposed to tag others for this meme. I won't be specific, but will send it out there to anyone who is doing NaBloPoMo. I'm sure you may need some inspiration!