Playmobil Toys for Eternity

My son helped me clear out our attic and I managed give away my children’s Care Bears, Barbie dolls, Little People, Little Pony and Pet Shop toys, but I cannot part with Playmobil. Designed for children ages 4 to 12, kids never outgrow them. The way my memory is going, in a couple of years I will have regressed enough to enjoy playing with them again. Playmobil Toys for Eternity.

Hans Beck, (1929-2009) trained as a cabinet-maker, pitched his mobile airplanes to the Horst Brandstatter Company headquartered in Zirndorf Germany. Instead of planes, the owner asked him to develop figures for children. Beck, who became known as the « Father of Playmobil,» designed 3 inch tall human like figures along with buildings and vehicles made of hard plastic. In 1974 Playmobil launched the original series, which included sets of Native Americans, construction workers and knights.

If you are looking for a perfect gift for a child or grandchild, Playmobil fits the bill.

Though expensive, Playmobil are well worth the price because they last forever. Precise craftmanship developed hands that hold objects and pivot at the wrist. Detailed accessories fit to a theme and add authenticity to recognizable time periods. Knights snap on capes and hold shields, cavalry carry holsters and guns, skateboarders wear knee pads and elbow guards.

Playmobil themes include a school, a farm, a zoo, medieval castles and houses. Buses, airplanes, ambulances, cars, service trucks, cranes and boats come with fixtures, workers and passengers.

The intricate detail includes a hospital complete with an operating table and IV lines, a fort with artillery that project cannon balls, and a circus with a disappearing lady in a box.

As Nic and I emptied shoeboxes across the living room floor, my children’s youth flashed before my eyes. When my kids were little they spend hours weaving elaborate stories about the lives of the little figurines.

Nic’s favorite was the western fort with a stagecoach, wagons, and soldiers, and the Native Americans series with tepees and painted ponies.

Playmobil forever“These would be great for teaching history,” he said assembling the pirate ship.

Our daughter loved the hospital set. Who knows? Did Playmobil help motivate her to pursue a medical career?

After sorting and setting up Playmobil resurrecting our collection of memories, Nic filmed our handiwork for fun and send it to his sister. Instead of being amused, she texted back in alarm, “What are those toys doing out of their boxes? You aren’t selling our Playmobil?”

No, never, dear daughter. I could no more part with Playmobil than I could give up the priceless memories of your childhood. These magical toys inspired the stories that became your lives.

Special Appreciation for Grandmas on Mother’s Day

Though right now my only granny role comes as a basketball elder, many of my friends are enjoying the privileged status of grandma as they dote on grandbabies. During a time when warmth and support is especially critical, Grandma’s love fills in the empty spaces of childhood.

Both of my grandmothers impacted my life in lasting ways, and shaped who I am today. My “flying” Norwegian grandma came from her home on the east coast for extended visits in the Midwest, at a time when air travel was not yet the norm. She made my siblings and me feel special by making pancakes for breakfasts and chocolate chip cookies for afterschool snack. She taught me to find joy in simple pleasures – sampling a piece of fresh-baked pie, handwriting a letter, seeing the season’s first cardinal.

Grandma Betty, my paternal grandma, inspired me to write by giving me a blank notebook and encouraging me to record my experiences. She made a ten-year-old tomboy believe her life was important. Grandma Betty saved money to take 8 of us in car trips cross-country from Florida to California, from the Grand Canyon to the Everglades, from the Golden Gate to Mt. Rushmore.

She had the foresight to save a piece of land in Wisconsin and build a cabin where her grandchildren could grow up; developing an appreciation for nature untainted by industry while hiking in the woods, swimming in a lake and singing around a campfire. Like a fortuneteller she envisioned a magical place for future generations to forge memories over lazy Summit Lake summers and remain connected forever through shared experience.

Grandmothers remember anniversaries and birthdays. They never miss ball games, band performances and school graduations. Today, they also play catch, rebound basketballs and run marathons. Grandmas are the first to take the sting out of life’s hurts and the last to criticize mistakes.

With the advent of women’s rights and the obligations of both career and motherhood, the expectations of mothers are endless. With the impossible demands of being a mom, Grandmas’ role has never been greater.

When her first grandchild, our daughter, was born, my mom slipped into her grandmother shoes with ease. During summer holidays and school breaks she planned outings to plays and parades, parks and pools, movies and museums for all six of her grandchildren.

At times when I was exhausted with a mother’s mandate to give, give, give, my mom picked up the slack. She played cards, read stories, baked cookies. She offered that same selfless support to my son and daughter that she once gave me. She mastered the art of grand mothering long distance. She remained a steadfast part of my children’s lives, nurturing them in cheerful phone calls, newsy letters and inspirational trans-Atlantic trips. Her kindness and compassion are a foundation of their being. She has shaped them in countless ways, big and small.

Grandmothers will never truly grow old because their impact is timeless.

 

 

 

 

Chiropractors Keep Me Dancing

With the trauma my back has endured, I should be in wheelchair or limping around with a walker, but chiropractors keep me dancing. Forty years ago, when my right leg went numb from my first herniated lumbar disk, a chiropractor saved me from surgery.

Today chiropractic care is recognized as an integral part of the American health system, but back then it was controversial. Doctors were often referred to as quacks.

Historic caged elevator

But after my first visit, I was sold. Chiropractic looks at the body holistically and emphasizes the patients’ role in recovery by promoting exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

I have been chiro chasing around the globe ever since. Though the treatments may be similar, the settings are not and each chiropractor’s office reflects the unique personality of the practitioner.

In Geneva, I ride a creaky, caged elevator to the 3rd floor of an 18th century building to see Dr. G., a film fanatic. Posters of famous movie scenes cover his walls and his waiting room has an authentic jukebox. While I wait, I boogie down to old hits like Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” C’est Chic’s “Le Freak,” and Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.”

My chiro in Eagle River, Dr. D works out of his state of the art stone edifice with cathedral ceilings and gold plated fixtures nestled at the edge of the woods. While enjoying complimentary coffee and cookies from his dad’s bakery you may see deer outside the windows of the waiting room. After an adjustment, chill out literally as you ice down sore spots in comfortable recliners or recharge injured

Chillin with dad at Dr. D’s

body parts with electronic muscle stimulation.

My latest great find, Dr. A, has a family practice in Minnetonka. I thought that meant that he treats families, which he does including babies for free, but it may also mean his family is part of the therapy. His baby and pets accompany him to the office.

His place is like an amusement park. While waiting, you can play pass the baby and pet the dog. No sitting around bored waiting on back breaking straight chairs. Before a treatment, enjoy a free massage on a roller bed or take wild ride on a whoopee seat.

Ever so cheerful, Dr. A sings while he works on you. After my last adjustment, I asked what I should do to help it hold, he said, “Go home. Relax. Put your feet up. Drink a G & T.”

I laughed so hard I rolled off the table.

Convivial. Holistic. Optimistic. Chiropractors are lifesavers.

They make everyone believe – You should be dancing!

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FitBit – Tamagotchi for Adults

 

When our kids gave us a FitBit for Christmas, I had no clue what it was, but FitBit is like a Tamagotchi for adults. Remember those digital pets we babysat for our kids in the 90s? Well, FitbBit vibrates if you haven’t moved your butt in the past 30 minutes. A message flashes across the screen, “Wanna stroll?” And if you forget to feed FitBit with daily motion it will die. When I realized FitBit was another electronic gadget I was mortified because I am techno impaired. Alas, ze Frenchman to the rescue. Sure enough, he programmed that little wristband do everything except cook dinner.

Tamagotchi

For those not in the know, FitBit is a physical activity tracker designed to help you become more active,eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and live healthier. Or at the very the least, it can make you a more obsessive human being.

FitBit records time, measures motion, counts calories, steps, and stairs. It records pulse, tracks sleep, and differentiates between biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, strolling, and running.

FitBit data can be synced to an online account. You can track every breathing moment even while sleeping. Which may not be a good thing. Over morning coffee ze Frenchman checks my profile and scolds me, “Pot you did not sleep well. Only 4 hours and 18 minutes.”

“I know,” I grumbled. “Why do you think I wake up feeling like I’ve been run over by truck?”

For many FitBit is a great motivator. It collates data about your weekly fitness level and sends you virtual badges rewarding positive behavior.

London Underground Badge: You’ve walked 250 miles—as many as the world’s first underground railway.

My Frenchman, who is 62 going on 16, is really taken with it. Since retiring he never stops moving. He plays volleyball, lifts weights, skis, bikes, hikes and kayaks. With my bad feet, bad knees, and a bad back, I limp along a mile behind him.

“I am struggling to keep up with your dad,” I confessed to our daughter.

“Somebody needs to remind him he is retired.”

Good luck with that,” I said. “Your dad used to time his sisters when they walked to school. Now if FitBit shows we are not moving fast enough, he yells at me to hurry up.”

“Mom, what have we done?” Nat lamented, “FitBit will be the death of you.”

Ah, but for an old athlete I can’t think of any better way to go… on the move breaking records.

All About Eggs at Easter in Europe

In the past, I have spent Easter holiday on a farm in Germany where we collected eggs freshly laid in the hen house on Easter morning. I once cross-country skied on a mountaintop to enjoy a snow picnic of salmon and hard-boiled eggs at sunrise with my Norwegian cousins. I savored soufflé as light as air and leg of lamb with my French in-laws a table Normandy. And I struggled to color eggs, which were brown, not white with my children in Switzerland.

Easter traditions in Europe reflect the influence of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox religion with various symbols reflecting spring, rebirth and a time for celebration of life over death. Through time, the egg remains the most well known symbol of Easter.

The egg hunt originates from an ancient European tradition where eggs of different colors were taken from birds’ nests to make talismans; gradually, painted eggs replaced wild birds’ eggs. In Medieval Europe, eggs that were forbidden during Lent, became prized Easter gifts for children.

Germans also used to hang hollow, painted eggs on trees. Today branches laden with colored wooden eggs are centerpieces in homes during the Easter holiday.

In Eastern Europe, hollow eggs are still hand painted in elaborate designs and Poland and Ukraine eggs were often painted in silver and gold. Germans gave green eggs as gifts on Holy Thursday and even today friends will present one another with beautifully hand painted eggs. Specific patterns have been passed on for generations.

Around 1885, Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé created the Fabergé egg, the most famous egg of all times. This jewelry egg, filled with surprises of gold and gems inside, was especially designed for Czar Alexander III to give to his wife, Marie. Fabergé only created one egg each year and each was a masterpiece.

Eggs have been decorated, traded, devoured and have served as entertainment for centuries. Egg rolling, thought to symbolize the stones rolled away from the tomb, has varied slightly from Russia to England to Scotland. German immigrants brought the custom to America, which has been practiced on the White House lawn since James Madison’s presidency. Latvians invented the egg game where ends of eggs are tapped together until broken; the winner is the owner of the last remaining unbroken egg.

Although eggs have long symbolized springtime and renewal of life and strength, In France, bells, not bunnies, deliver eggs. As a token of mourning for crucified Christ, church bells remain silent from Good Friday until Easter Sunday. On Easter, when the chimes ring again children rush outside to see the bells fly home to Rome, while their parents hide chocolate Easter eggs spilling from the sky.

Somehow regardless of one’s nationality or religious belief, chocolate eggs have become the universal symbol of Easter in the Western world. In Switzerland, headquarters for world famous Nestle and Lindt, chocolate plays a predominate role in my Easter celebration.

Whatever your particular family tradition, whether you paint, roll, crack, or scramble your eggs à table, in the yard or on a mountaintop, as you celebrate renewal and new beginnings, reflect back on those traditions that your ancestors brought to the New World. Happy Easter!

Sterling Salutes Illinois’ First Girls’ State Basketball Champs

Forty years ago, my little sisters made history and on April 4, 1977 newspaper headlines read “Sterling High Girls win first ever-state title over 7,000 greet Illinois number one basketball team.” Five years after Title IX passed into legislation mandating equal opportunities for girls in all publicly funded schools, a new generation was born. While our country was struggling with civil rights and gender equity issues a small town team united blacks, whites and Hispanics in one dream – a state championship.

If I close my eyes, I can still see Marche Harris pumping her fist in air after a break away lay up, Fran Smith with her wicked ‘fro soaring at the jump circle, Dawn Smith grabbing weak side boards, Jojo Leseman, running the court like a platoon captain in fast forward, freshman, Amy Eshelman gliding the baseline. And my sister, Karen McKinzie, standing at the line swishing another free throw. Harris, Smith, Leseman, Eshelman and McKinzie names that have marked SHS record books for years.

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An odd trio of coaches, Jim McKinzie a retired boys coach, Sue Strong a GAA coordinator and Phil Smith the first African American teacher in the conference fought behind the front line to make sure female athletes were granted equal rights at SHS in those crucial years after Title IX. Before anyone dared to utter words like racism or sexism in public, they shaped a team far ahead of its time indifferent to gender or race. That group of unassuming girls enchanted an entire community. Part of the magic was their cohesiveness. No divas, no superstars, no drama queens, just selfless teammates who knew that they were stronger together than they could ever be alone.

It was too late for me. A 1975 SHS graduate, I became a Redbird and moved to Illinois State University where the first girls state tournament was held on my new home court. I watched with pride from the bleachers of Horton Field house as my little sisters made history under my father’s tutelage.

“What stands out most was how this team brought the community together,” he said reminiscing, “Nothing like it before or since. The Golden Girls were goodwill ambassadors for Sterling, a place no one heard of before was thrown in the limelight. When we returned as state champions, we were wined and dined like celebrities.”

Forty years ago, we had no clue that the old Golden “Girls” would bear daughters who would one day be recognized as Golden Warriors. All we cared about was finally being allowed to play the game we loved. Do the girls that play today know how lucky they are to compete on center court wearing fashion’s latest apparel? To prepare before games in weight rooms and repair afterwards in training rooms? To be immortalized in a state of the art Hall of Fame room?

Stop by the open house at Woodlawn Arts Academy on Friday April 7 from 4:00-7:00 to salute that first state championship team and their coaches. Tip your hat to those pioneers who grew up in flimsy, canvas shoes and one piece gym suits, who played ball when no one was looking or worse yet when people looked and laughed. Pay tribute to those women who gave their heart and soul to dreams that no one understood, dreams that became our daughters’ reality.

When you sink a jumper and drive the baseline young blood, hear our stories whispered from the rafters. Walk tall, be strong, be brave. Be proud of your past, Golden “Girl”. After years of battle, it’s an honor and a privilege to be called a Warrior.

A chapter of my memoir is about the 1977 state championship team.