Thursday, October 31, 2013

Senior slips or fidgety blips

The phone rang as I was checking one last thing on the computer, right  afterwards I'd  venture out into this grey dreary day for a walk.  I  have nearly conquered this cold that has bothered me a  few days and am really  missing my physical activities while my body demanded a couple days rest to recover.  We are waiting word from a roofer and the contractor  who did our addition in 2007 about a seeping in the roof line over the guest bedroom,  that happened some time ago, we are not sure when but noticed a spot on the ceiling when we had the windows washed this month.  Lots of things going on, but I am used to juggling  many things at once, being a multi tasker driven sort while Jerry is a one thing at a time no rush kind of guy.  I might have known it would be this kind of a day when  I immediately began to gather clothes for a washer load, as I walked out to the kitchen this AM.  Usually I first get a big glass of water, take my meds, and  make a cuppa, but with the cold and sore throat I've  resumed hot tea instead,  likely I am lacking caffeine alertness. 

As soon as I answered the phone and heard Barb, the dental  hygienist who cleans my teeth every six months say, "Pat I expected to see you an hour ago?", I shreiked "OH NO"   I completely forgot my dental appointment  which might not sound like that big of a deal but it is bugging me.  I had to call their office to confirm this appointment a couple weeks ago; it was on my calendars on my  tablet and smart phone, neither of which I use much or look at  while at home and it was on the kitchen calendar which I walk by mindlessly entering the kitchen.  Jerry sits right near the calendar reading the daily newspaper with his morning coffee and usually looks at it and can remind me of things but he said nothing today either.  Well Barb laughed to hear I had just flat blanked out and said, "senior moment?" Because I never miss my appointments, she called to be sure I was alright.  We rescheduled for a couple of weeks from now and I circled the day in red on the kitchen I have to look at it.  

I  Googled and reaffirmed what I  have learned that such things can just happen; here's a  link to interesting info on  a Psychology today website.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve and Study
Forgetting like this or being absolutely mindless may seem no big deal, but to me whose Mom had Alzheimer's, I  worry.  I think many of us aging pre and  baby boomers worry about dementia, memory loss, and certainly the big A more than other generations.  We have seen more of it and are more aware.  Jerry shrugged and counseled, "well it's not fatal, no one died, go on about your day, be happy."  I did leave for my walk, out into the misty grey to clear my cobwebs and I started to hum  "don't worry, be happy" the old Bobby McFerrin . Released in September 1988, it became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the  Billboard 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. It was a philosophy I never quite adopted but here it came back clear as a song.  

Maybe I shouldn't worry about my senior moment so much or is it a blip from my fidgety?  Must I begin to pay better attention, one thing at a time?  Certainly  I must look at that calendar each morning first thing.  Here in retirement I make my own schedule but live a rather uncomplicated routine.  Deliberate forgetfulness or mindlessness?  I have  heard that simply forgetting is nothing to show concern  about unless it becomes routine and or unless one does not immediately recall when reminded, as I did in horror today.  That's my Halloween fright 2013 style. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 Rerun from Week 13 Frank Ostrowski

So here I sit at keyboard in Minnesota, USA looking back oh so fondly at how many years it has been since I first learned of and participated in Sepia posts. Sepia got me to blogging and researching my roots and afforded the way to use so many old photos. Now as we are celebrating our 200th week of Sepia posts, I have chosen my contribution from Week 13,  February 27, 2010.  I am excited about Alan's proposal to publish our collection into a volume for week 200. Here with very slight updating is  my Sepia Week 13 post about my great grandfather, Frank ( Francis) Ostrowski. 
Frank Ostrowski
Frank Ostrowski is my maternal great grandfather who was a coal  and sometimes iron ore miner in Poland, Prussia and in the United States. I knew my family was entirely Polish on all sides, (2013 note:but after submitting my DNA to for analysis in 2012, I learned there is a very slight trace of Ireland or the British Isles as well, proof that the British Navy was everywhere in the world once.   I have found no connection to that Brit ancestry yet, despite periodic suggestions of 8th or so cousins however many times removed).  However, I have learned a lot more since 2010 and my research indicates German, Prussian, and  Polish heritage matching with my study of  Poland's history that reveals how often it was invaded, conquered and annexed to another country.  Those Poles are a hearty stock though and do not go down without a  strong fight.

My grandmother and her sisters spoke Polish as did my mother and aunt; it was especially annoying to me as a child because I could not understand what they were saying. I know that was the reason they spoke it around me! But little by little I learned enough to eaves drop and discern the secrets.  I discovered Frank in 1977 when my great aunt Francie gave me the photo of the Ostrowski (aka Ostroskie) gathering which I posted last week on Sepia Saturday. I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother, Rose, Frank’s daughter from his second wife. How I wish I had known about him back then and could have asked my Baba (babacis in Polish) about her father. She talked very little about her family or else I paid little attention, but said that her father died of stomach cancer as did several others in the family; she feared that and sadly she died of pancreatic cancer and  diabetes; perhaps that was Frank’s diagnosis too.

Frank Ostrowski my maternal great grandfather
Coal miner, pick axe,  lantern hat and white shirt
After Aunt Francie gave me the gathering photo she also found this snapshot of Frank in his miner’s hat which I had copied and enlarged into a 5 x 7 Sepia print that has been prominently displayed in our home ever since.  It is a good conversation piece. My grandmother’s hand writing is on the back so at one time she had the photo but there is no date. I adore the old coal miner hat. Those were the most dangerous days of the mines and many Europeans flocked to the states to do the dangerous dirty work. My mother and aunt were of no help in verifying dates, saying that they never knew any grandparents but lots of aunts and uncles. Notice the clean shirt and the pick axe over his shoulder, arm crossed and holding hands with someone.  Likely this was not what he wore into the mine, but there must have been some special occasion to pose.  Someone really had to work at keeping that shirt clean and starched, back then, without today's automatic  washers and dryers.

Frank married three times and outlived two wives. By his photo he does not appear to be that handsome, but staunch, determined and I suppose an employed coal miner in America was a good catch for the times. If the historical fiction “A Coal Miner’s Bride “by Susan Campbell Bartoletti has any truth, the old miners wanted a woman to care for them. Frank fathered many children so that would also account for his need to remarry when one wife passed on. I notice he has one eyelid that droops and my grandmother had the same affliction; I in 2013 notice the same has happened to my right eyelid so that ultimately I will have to have that "fixed" or lifted..

The spelling of the name Ostrowski changes depending on who recorded it, Ostrowski, Ostroski, Ostroskie, etc.  I have two different years for his birth 1855 and 1857 and have been unable to confirm which is correct. However, the date of November 11 is certain making him my fellow Scorpio. Perhaps on our next trip to PA I can visit the Union cemetery in Arnold where he is buried and that may clarify date of his death. I should hope it will not add yet another date. (2013:  Note several years ago we visited the Union cemetery; the office building was not open but there was a note on the door that if one wished to locate a grave submit a letter in writing and pay a fee of $15 or more and allow several months.  We tried roaming and found some  caretakers who directed us to the area known as Polish hill, far in the back, with few gravestones, quite over grown with shrubs, etc.  No luck finding Frank's grave.  I suppose one of these days I will send that letter and the fee and wait and wait.  This is a strange thing as most older cemeteries are very helpful at no cost and willingly look in their records.) 

Frank was born in Prussia, Poland or Germany to Franz Ostrowski and Katazinea (Kor Catherine) Biegonski. who likely immigrated to America with the children, but the records of when and where they arrived are sketchy. His sisters were Kate, Mary and Pauline who is recorded to have been born in Cleveland, and a brother Maryn John. It is possible that they came through Canada, but I have hit a block wall with that as well.

Information shows Franz was buried in Detroit, Michigan in 1893 and Catherine died in 1910 and is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.  That date makes me wonder if the mystery Ostrowski photo taken in Ohio which I dated at about 1910 could have been for Frank’s mother’s funeral; perhaps confirming some of what my mother alluded to of a funeral in Ohio. ( I used that photo last week for my Sepia contribution; here is the link  )While some of her research is flawed, I am grateful to my 2nd cousin who attempted to piece all this together with infrequent trips to PA. Maxine lives in Utah today is in poor health but as a member of the LDS church had access to many records. Still, I know she had some errors in the lineage and names and am skeptical of some of the information where dates show as "appx."   Maxine spent some time interviewing my grandmother in the 1960’s, but I know that my grandmother could be evasive as  were many of the Polish.  Whether they were untruthful to avoid attention or sometimes could not understand the questions,  I cannot determine. I know that they feared and respected government authority and as immigrants escaping tyrants or worse in Poland, or the old country, they kept quiet about many things. Someone usually knew someone back in “the old country” though and kept in touch, frequently sending some  cash along to help out.

Frank married his first wife Frances appx. 1877. Her last name is incorrectly recorded as my maternal grandfather’s last name on the documents so I know that is wrong. She was born in Poland and died appx 1888 in PA. They had three children Joseph (born 1878 with a twin John who did not survive the birth), John (the second son to be so named born appx. 1882), and Benjamin Frank who was distinctly given the middle name (born 1883 appx.) Years ago Sharon, a cousin I had not previously known, granddaughter of Benjamin contacted me. When I asked my mother and aunt about this, they shrugged their shoulders. While they knew nothing about a grandfather they recalled their aunts and uncles and made no distinction of their being half brothers and sisters.

Frank’s second wife who was my grandmother’s mother was Frances Swartz (aka Schwartz) whom he married about 1889. Frances came from Poland, was born in 1869, died in 1902 in PA. Sometime during this marriage they dropped the “w” from Ostrowski off and on. They had five children although I recall my grandmother mentioning that some of her brothers died when very young; there is no record of others. These were Walter  (born 1889 in Detroit, MI who went by Bill and changed the family name to Austin), Mary (born 1891 in Salamanca New York), Veronica Bernice (born 1892 in PA), and Rose (my grandmother born 1894) and Adam Maryan who died at birth in 1899 or shortly thereafter. My grandmother said he was her mother’s last child and did not live. I never referred to any of her sisters or brothers as "Great" they were all aunt and uncle to me; I  called them the Polish word for aunt, “czotczhe”.
Helen Sajikowski aka Sekoski, Frank's 3rd
and last wife

Frank married his third wife, Helen Sajowksi (aka Sekoski) in 1905. Their only child was Frances born in 1906 and was always known as the baby sister. Helen is seated next to Frank in the Ostrowski Ohio gathering, the photo I shared last week.  Helen would survive Frank who died April 19, 1915 making him either 60 or 62 depending on which birth year is correct.  My grandmother was fond of her step mother Helen and spoke well of her.   Whether Frank fathered more than nine children is unknown but each wife seemed to give birth annually. How they traveled around from Michigan, to Ohio, to New York and to Pennsylvania is a mystery; I suspect it was by rail car. They certainly did not own vehicles to drive. Tracing the different places the Ostrowski's moved from Salamanca area of New York, Michigan and Ohio before settling in Pennsylvania,  it appears Frank was following the mines in the heyday of coal mining; some how Pennsylvania must have offered him steady employment because he set roots there and his children did so as well. It was hard dirty work that the immigrants took on.  Today, his descendants are all over the eastern United States, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and on to Michigan and Ohio into Newfoundland, Canada as well as some in California. All my years living in California I was never aware of any Ostrowski relatives there. (2013 note:  A few years ago another contacted me from southern California where she still resides.  They spell the last name Ostroskie).  When I see the Ostrowski (Ostroski) name today I wonder if that is a shirt tail relation. Writing this piece I googled and found many; one example is Frank, a "falsely accused murderer in Canada" released on bail to his daughter. 

Coalfield in Pennsylvania, father,  Frank and son , John
Finally here is the last photo I have of Frank with his son, John. I found this in a drawer after my mother died in 2004. The back has the names and says "coalfield", but no date. My grandmother told that she learned to cook as a very young girl because her father was skinny but ate like a horse and said that her daughter, my aunt, Virginia took after him. Not all Frank’s progeny were as lean as this photo where Frank is poking John’s belly! John who was born in 1882 must be at least  20 years old here which would date this to 1902. I can only imagine what was being said.  But there he is my great grandfather, Frank Ostrowski, I wish I could have known him or learned more when my grandmother was alive. 
Click here to travel across the pond to the   Sepia website and visit other posts from shared stories.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sepia Saturday 199 Dressing up, down for around town 1983

1983 December almost ready to roll
Initially I considered some Halloween costumes for this week's prompt, as the day approaches, but while rummaging I found these of a happy time, almost twenty years ago now, when we lived in Newcastle, CA and when a friend and I decided to accompany the volunteer firemen on the  truck delivering sacks of candies to the children and the Indian homes. This was before the Indians went into the casino business and mightily enhanced their incomes after which they gave candies out at Christmas. This was known for a long time as one of Pat's brainstorms.   It was December 1983 and Shirley and I determined that the day could be brighter with our presence and the firemen could have an easier time if we volunteered to help with delivering the goodies to the homes.  It would end up with a stint in the little town where the children could talk to our Santa, portrayed by Bill Weber, a local grandpa.  
This little boy wanted the bag of candy but was not fond of
Santa and almost started to howl as this was snapped

Elf Shirley decorating the fire truck with tinsel before
we  depart for the local hillside
Just because it was California did not mean it was warm and sunny, in fact December could be quite cold, damp with the foggy over cast and downright cold hanging there off the back of that firetruck moving along with us  in the open air.  Santa Bill was a senior citizen and  smarter than Shirley and this (s)elf, he sat inside with the driver and waived through the open  window; he also kept warm and toasty with frequent nips from his flask.  The driver kept reminding Bill that he had to have children in town and not to empty the flask.  Bill did not heed that and kept himself merry.  Meantime, we elves and a couple firemen could hop off and on to the doors of the homes.  Really we hung on for dear life as the truck slowly wound down some very  bumpy, gravel, dirt and twisty country roads.  

 We dressed warm, layers and layers, but after an hour or so we were frigid and thankful to be done. I thought it would be fun and it was and we made quite the impression around town for some time but we did this one year only, one experience proved sufficient.   So here to the left is myself as elf, donning the down vest over which I would wear another down  jacket, underneath were layers of long underwear, a sweater, and a shirt, long underwear  on the legs and ski pants with some wonderful striped socks that I felt were just another whimsy. I had borrowed clothing form many people, especially the larger jacket I needed.  It had to be red or else the elfin affect would be diluted.  

 I tell you it was difficult to move, I waddled and I feared rolling down a hillside and not being able to stop with all this padding.  I suppose this was my equivalent of a fat suit.  Today I could have had a much more streamlined attire along with those packets of hand and toe warmers.  Well today this is a memory of younger times and not something I would consider.   I even made a top hat of sorts with ribbons and papers which did not fare well on the back of the truck, despite being attached  with numerous bobby pins and tied under my chin.  
Do I look puzzled or was I just frozen?

Don't ask me why but I thought I  would be more colorful if I had a red polka dot face, using lipstick.  I see looking back it might have more resembled some mysterious skin affliction. This was my first time elfing and it was fun to act out around the kiddies.  It was more fun after it was over and I could peel off all the layers and have a nip with Santa. Bill and Shirley are both gone now from this planet, leaving the elf to tell the tale.  

 Thankfully we prevailed.   These photos are fading somewhat as happens with those color ones from the  1980's.   So there you have it my dressing up as an elf, for some hours in time, back then.  

To see how others have dressed up their blogs with this Sepia  prompt, click here or above on the prompt photo to the international Sepia site.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doing what it takes to triump in the battles of the bulges

Autumn colors different around  town.
Partial color changes, early leaf drop, 
I've  had a fairly healthy lifestyle over the years and yet it is not enough, so to step it up, I  enrolled at the YMCA sponsored diabetes prevention program at the advice of my doctor who commented that the past two years my fasting blood glucose levels had risen.  While not yet to a stage considered medically "pre-diabetic" he advised, "don't let this get away and take your good health."  I have some family history of diabetes so I do not want to go there and will avoid it with all my power. Well, I also avoid the scale like the plague but was aware of carting along some excess poundage  because my clothes did not fit as well.  My annual doctor's check up (or any medical visit) involves encountering my enemy, the scale;  I could go in with a broken arm and I would be weighed first.  The pain of reality is diminished slightly  though because the pounds are no longer visible instead a metric version is displayed these days which gives me a content moment, being blissfully unaware of my weight in metrics. That lasts until the nurse translates it to  pounds for me or leaves the chart and I see the conversion.  I am a "nosey" inquisitive person so I always look or ask her.   Well my annual check up this July followed our month long trip in the motor home to New York and Pennsylvania which involved good times, good food, good drinks, good friends. 
Mid morning "snack" of immense cinnamon rolls
at Braeburn Lodge, Alaska

There in is the culprit, the food, always. Why does so much of social life revolve around food, meals, snacks, treats.  Food is all over everywhere.  It is no wonder we have an obesity problem.  Most of us eat way too much. Our trip to Alaska involved more food than I could consume in any given  setting and less physical exercise daily than that which I routinely do, so those pounds joined my body.  But not to fear back home, again it is boot camp, baby, I cannot allow that poundage to become overly attached to me.  BTW, the other half  of this household seldom battles weight and is one of those fortunate people who can eat whatever.  Even he, did some cut back to trim back after the trip because he is very conscious about weight gain and will not go there. 

While I battle poundage, the  last maybe 20years especially, and acknowledge my metabolism is not what it used to be when I could eat half a bucket of KFC chicken and not gain an ounce. 

This is week 5 of the 16 week program; my doctor will retest my fasting blood  glucose in  December when I expect a clean slate, "ya done good girl".  This program developed by the American Diabetes Association after significant research and clinical trials is administered by local YMCA's country wide.  Like anything, results require commitment  Changing habits takes time.This multi faceted approach (food target and physical activity) involves a weekly meeting, a program lecture and participation, recording  every bite and morsel into our food journal  along with  amount of daily exercise, daily weight, any issues or concerns.  We turn these journals in at each meeting to our group leader who returns them the next week with helpful comments.  She has advised me to eat more and use those 33 grams of fat each day to avoid yo yo bounce dieting.  Yeah!  Eat more, slow down the loss which they set at only 15 pounds for me, but I set at 20. We have these dandy graphs to track our weekly weights, officially what her scale shows and yes, we weigh in every week. I still have not made friends with the scale. 

Because we meet at 6:00PM which  would be  right at  or before our dinner time.  I learned after weighing in the first time to not eat my dinner until after class.  There in is another mystery--how can I gain 3  pounds when I don't eat three pounds of food at a meal?  Yet, there's that dreaded scale lying in wait to annoy me.  There are about 20 other participants in the program with all their varying tales and excuses.    

 The sessions are interesting and I am reeducating myself in a lot of healthy food lifestyle choices.  We count total fat grams for which my daily allowance is 33 very easy to reach when eating cheeses (one of my favorite foods) and other non-essential things. My daily lunch or  midday snack was always apple, cheese and  maybe some crackers.  Now it might be a sandwich, apple, yogurt and only an ounce of cheese, that's a 1 inch cube.  I could eat 10 of those no problem.  So it is a process of learning or relearning.  I have indeed become a "fat detective" and carefully consider whether an indulgence is too costly a price to pay, in fat grams. So far I have dropped 12 pounds and the program has me stepped up to increasing my walking to many miles a day instead of just one or two, interspersing some jogging on the track, and finally  adding water aerobics, lap swimming and Zumba classes and toning at the Y where we have a free membership with this program.  Our weather has cooled down a lot so it is good to have the option of indoor classes at the Y.  
Wooly caterpillars abound; legend predicts winter by the
middle red, the head represents remaining time of autumn
and the tail the length of spring. 

So it goes with a step up in physically challenging activities and carefully paying attention to foods.  I doubt I will ever befriend that scale, but keeping healthy is my goal, healthy aging.  I love it when folks think I am much much younger than my 68 years. A healthier lifestyle, that's the choice here.  Doing what it takes.  This endeavor is requiring that we delay snow birding south until January; ironic in that now that we have no responsibilities of caring for elderlies, this old gal gets tied up in  a delay.  Such is life in retirement.    

Friday, October 4, 2013

Not gone but busy

I continue in a catch up mode on blog land and cannot shake that rut, not for lack of writing material or observations, but for lethargy or the "later on"  when I get  around to it" goblins. It is October and the goblins must be emerging.    This week I  went to our local City Hall to renew my MN driver's license while out and about and dressed less than the casual helter skelter way I usually walk around town.  Today for this photo shoot  I even had applied a semblance of make up, and had combed my hair in the style for which it is cut, not the  free windblown model.  This was to be an easy process involving paying  $23 and getting my photo taken.  But here in this small town, there is one person who staff's the local motor vehicles  and when she, Janie goes to lunch, the office closes.  Well, I know that, so I  did not go there until after I had run other errands across the river, putting me at the door at 1:30PM.  Wrong again, Janie is at lunch between 1:00 and 2:00PM, just as has been for years, but who would guess that time.  Choosing not to drive home, only a mile+ away because I knew that I would become distracted and not return, I  went up to the library and chatted with my friend the local librarian who has been besieged of late by the gang of clowns that serve as councilpersons to this rag tag city government.  Small town politics is as annoying to me as the circus in our nation's capitol, and perhaps more so because the good old boys reign supreme in these parts of Mayberry, the clowns really do run the circus and the locals seem to thrive on electing one idiot after another.  Of course I cannot say much because I have absolutely declined to run, I cannot see myself in prison orange at this age and I know that if I had to see the jokers in action at meeting after meeting murder would be my agenda.  So it is we have a ship of fools.  

 It could be oh so much worse.  I could be in California where a trip to the Motor Vehicles on a good day would involve an appointment,  if one could be had, plus a very complicated long time amidst crowds, herded from window and clerk to clerk.  So I accept the reality  and settle in for a 30 minute wait for the lone person to return from lunch.  Not all that bad, except that I heard the "city" had hired another part time worker and wondered why that person could not be available to keep the office open.  There are many things most logical sane people wonder about government at all levels but sooner or later we merely mumble and grumble and get over it. 

Which now brings me to the 2:00PM time for the office to open, but I have visited too long and now I am in line behind another man ahead of me and true to the character of the area, he is in no hurry.  In fact, this might be the high lite of his social interaction so he and Janie visit incessantly while I stew.  Whether she knows him, likely so because she has worked there forever and knows all the locals, doesn't matter, they discuss the weather, his health, his shirt, and the chicken soup his mother used to make.  This man is in his 80's if he's a day and is there for the same thing as me, a process that could take five minutes  really stretching it, but oh no.  Not now. I suppose she has to entertain herself "chewing the fat" or have to do other work, whatever it might be.  I am doomed to wait and wait, another  twenty five minutes+ while they go thru trivial pursuit. Why did I not bring my smart phone or tablet then I could have checked my email.   Finally he is ready to go, and turns while she motions me through the doorway, with a brusque, "fill out this, this and this, 1-6 and don't sign it yet, write a check for $23.25 and I will take your photo."  Suddenly she becomes efficient, maybe it is nearing break time,  and while I am filling out the brief form she  quickly helps and dismisses another young guy.  But then, here we go again, it is another local  older man, with a question and a need for social interaction and conversation.  Trouble is I am standing at the counter putting the answers on the form into those little boxes, trying to somewhat concentrate and Janie and he are talking right along side me.  I have long been against racket, interference and people having side conversations into my ear, particularly when those conversations are not pertinent to me.  As I look up and sigh loudly, I ask an inane question about the form  which directs her attention back to me and he decides to leave, whatever he wanted over with.  Perhaps oneday I will be  older and bored too, but I hope if that happens I will be content to amuse myself or read, or blog, or browse the internet.  

So after my photo shoot and her collecting my check, one of the few checks I will write this year, but it is small town MN no accepting ATM's, check or cash only, I am done.  About 1 hour and 20 minutes after admittance to the gallery counter I can return to the car and home.  All in all, that's life in Mayberry where things could be worse, all the children are above average and annoyances are minor.  I think about Chicken Alaska where we stopped this August on our way to Fairbanks.  Chicken is really the wide spot in the Top of the World road,  140 miles from the Arctic, the population is three and there is only a line when the tour bus arrives. 

Garage shop at Chicken

Cafe stop at Chicken