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.
“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.
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.
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?
Golden Girls coach
1977 first State Champions
1977 State trophy & net
Jim Pat & Karen at Hall of Fame
P & K with garndpa & grandma Betty
Karen - Sate Champion 1971
Coach Mac with Amy Eshleman 1979
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.
I dream of throwing a big birthday bash bringing together the people from around the globe who have touched my life. Since that is not possible, you are invited to my virtual 60th birthday celebration. The guest of honor is not me but you. You who have stood by me during the hard times. You who have shared my highs and carried me during the lows. You who have given sense to my existence.
Today I am whooping it up for those people who have sustained me at different ages and stages during my past 6 decades.
I raise my glass to my family of birth, my parents and siblings. You have seen me at my worst and loved me unconditionally. You forgave my sharp words, ignored my flaws and overlooked my shortcomings.
Skål, to the nieces, nephews and cousins from coast to coast Oklahoma to Maryland and as far away as Norway who welcome me with open arms just because we shared the same ancestry.
Santé to my family by love, to the Frenchman who helped me transition to coach when injury ended my playing career, who wiped away tears after another health setback, who believed in me always especially when I most doubted myself.
Cheers to my children, who filled my mommy days with joy and adventure and now as young adults bring comfort and companionship. My daughter sensing my despair wraps me in a warm hug. My son seeing discouragement in my eyes offers to walk and talk. Each one reciprocating those simple acts of love that nourish our soul.
Prost to friends scattered across the world, who shared snippets of my life from my Sterling High School classmates, to my Illinois State University teammates and roommates, to my American, British, French, German, Swiss and other friends. To those folks who I may not have seen for years, but whose memory still makes me smile and fills my heart with happiness.
Salud to the members of my international community – colleagues, students, athletes – who taught me so much about tolerance for other cultures and customs. Your enthusiasm for learning fueled my weary soul through dark days of illness where our next lesson, practice, game was the only motivation dragging me out of bed.
Hail to my healthcare professionals specialists from Eagle River to Minong from Minnetonka to Geneva who believed me and kept searching outside the box for answers to help ease my pain.
Cin cin to members of my writing community who share the burning desire to communicate the old fashioned way, word-by-word. And to my faithful readers who give my writing meaning and whose comments offer inspiration.
February 28th may commemorate the date of my birth, but today I raise my glass to you, you who shaped my life. Because of your support, your loyalty, your love, I am still here raising Cain, full of « piss and vinegar » in my 60th year.
The inauguration day of our 45th President was a day of despair that I spent wrapped up in a blanket shivering from illness and shuddering from the political tsunami. The stark contrast between Obama’s gracious farewell speech to the campaign of the new president-elect whose words offended everyone with his disparaging comments about women, minorities and immigrants made me cringe.
But a day later on January 21st, my spirits lifted when millions of women (and men) took to the streets in America’s largest protest ever. Wearing pink hats and carrying signs, protesters peacefully chanted slogans and mocked Trump’s sexist demeanor and discriminatory rhetoric.
I did not have the strength to join the peaceful demonstrators marching across the Mont Blanc Bridge in Geneva; I was on the phone crying with my sisters as I battled pneumonia again. Like so many other women and minorities, I am worn out. Weary from this nonsense. Why must we continue to fight the same battles we won decades ago?
My only consolation was in knowing that we are not alone. The movement spread to 670 places nationwide and overseas ranging from Berlin, London, Stockholm, Sydney and others. Spurred by Facebook event messages, thousands paraded down the Parisian boulevards protesting the sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and racist ideology Trump defended during his campaign.
Around the globe, demonstrators objected against all aspects of intolerance. In South American countries, gender violence topped the list. In Tokyo, the right to education was a major issue and in other parts of the world health care reform was the priority.
The demonstrations stemmed from Trump’s campaign fueled by audacious claims and divisive rhetoric. He dismissed allegations of sexual assault and his lewd comments, like “grab them by the pussy” as “locker room talk.”
I grew up on the sideline listening to demeaning locker room talk. The ultimate affront to emasculate a male was to call him, “a pussy” insinuating that he was a pansy, a sissy, a girl.
In the past women were insulted daily, treated as second class citizens and obliged to fight for the right to vote, to participate in sports, to earn higher education, to hold office, and to lead companies.
Today I did not have the strength to join my sisters and take to the streets, but tomorrow I will rise. I will return to the gym, encouraging my international athletes to keep fighting in face of defeat. To take that energy, that strength, that power back to their homelands and to use their gifts to make a better world.
From our streets to our offices to our playing fields discrimination remains insidious and girls are still reminded in so many subtle and not so subtle ways that they don’t count.
I cannot change public policy, but I can make a difference. Everyday. I can use my voice, my example, my courage to inspire other girls and minorities to reach for the stars, to believe that they count just as much as their white brothers and that their contribution is equally valuable.
After a tumultuous year, pause to take stock, and reflect on the true meaning of the season. Holidays are loaded with sugar and sentiment and sometimes sadness for losses are felt so much more greatly at Christmas time. Don’t let the holiday frenzy take hold make time for kindness. You never know what burden that impatient, grumpy, long-faced lady in the line in front of you carries in her heart.
Do not let the twinkle of lights, sprinkle of snowflakes, and razzmatazz glitter blind you to the season’s true blessing.
Take a deep breath. Remember in the big scheme of things does it really matter if the cookies burn, the packages arrive late, the cards never get mailed? The true beauty in the holiday is in its’ imperfections…the crooked tree, the lumpy potatoes, the mismatched socks.
For as much time as you spend shopping, baking, buying, be sure to also pause to express gratitude to people working behind the scenes to pull off the holiday extravaganza… the postman, sales clerk, special aunts, and selfless moms.
As people journey across the miles to gather with loved ones, be mindful of the snowplow drivers, airline pilots, policewomen, firemen and other folks who remain on the job. And doctors and nurses, like our daughter and niece, who forfeit holidays to remain on standby to care for sick kids.
Personally, I want to thank my readers for your loyal following. A writer’s mission can only be fulfilled by sharing ideas with others; you give my words meaning. I appreciate the time you take to reflect, comment, tweet, share and repost my musings.
Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other special tradition -I wish you a merry, peace-filled gathering. Regardless of how or with whom you celebrate in your mixed, blended, adopted, foster, same-sex, cross-generational, cross-cultural or whatever other combo makes up your family tapestry, seize the moment and savor it. There is no such thing as a perfect holiday in a one-size-fit-all family.
Regardless of which deity you worship or not, what makes the holiday “holy” is not pretty packages, bright lights, fantastic foods – it is the fellowship. This holiday season cherish your time together and give thanks for one another.
The true value of the season is measured by our human connections.
To me it’s not about politics. It’s not about liberal or conservative or agreeing to disagree on what we each think is the best way to ensure that the US is a great place to live.
It’s about the values I thought we held regardless of our political leanings.
After hearing the election results on November 9, I cried. I felt a gut wrenching fear and despair that knowing there was no turning back. I walked out the door and wanted to keep walking right off the planet. My disappointment was magnified thousand-fold with the heartbreaking knowledge that half of the nation believes in a leader whose platform was filled with empty slogans and derogatory rhetoric based on repression, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny and ignorance.
I know that realistically not all those who voted support those views and that they have very legitimate reasons for wanting change, I know that for many it was an act of anger, frustration and hopelessness, not racism or misogyny. But it’s hard for me to feel that in so-voting, those views, which I find so abhorrent and antithetical to the very rights we fought so hard for in the past, weren’t being endorsed. Regardless of what happens at a policy-level, I’m fearful of the message that has been sent, of the noxious sentiment that has been aroused, and of the no-longer unrealistic possibility that the rights we have fought for could be taken away, or at the very least not truly be guaranteed for all.
I understood why thousands of Americans took to the streets in protest chanting, « Not my President. »
Not my country either. Not the country I loved so dearly for defending the unalienable rights we hold so true … liberty, justice and freedom for all, not just those who shout the loudest or have the biggest bank accounts or have ancestors born in Western Europe and have less melanin in their skin.
Having lived in Europe for the past 37 years, perhaps I have no right to judge. I do not know what it feels like to be stopped in the street for the color of my skin. Or to be a working class man facing unemployment when my job was outsourced overseas. Or to be homeless waiting in line for a food pantry hand-out. Nor the despair of watching my child grow sicker and weaker due to an inability to afford health care.
But I do know the fear of standing in line in a French immigration office fearing that I will be deported. I do know the humility of depending on German teammates for a roof over my head. And I do know the gratitude of people – international friends and colleagues – who ignored where I came from and accepted me for who I was.
And I know what it feels like to be left out. In the early Title IX days, I left the USA to pursue a dream denied in my homeland. In 1979, I moved to Europe on the heels of the Vietnam War at the height of the Cold War, during the Reagan era.
While living abroad, I tried to mitigate the stereotype of the loud, arrogant, ethnocentric American by speaking softly and keeping a low profile. I demonstrated the ideals of tolerance on which my country was founded by showing respect for others who worshiped different deities, spoke different languages and practiced different customs. As a guest in others homelands, I discovered firsthand through friendship the beauty in our diversity.
I came back to a nation where people were more connected than ever on social media, yet profoundly divided in real life and unable to communicate in civil terms.
Recently retired from teaching abroad, I stayed in the states longer and followed the election with mounting alarm, stunned not just by how vitriolic it turned, but how easily we condoned it. When did the election in one of the greatest democracies become more about digging up dirt on one’s opponent than discussing critical policy issues?
I felt as if I’d been flung back in time to an era when women were objectified, Jim Crow Laws kept blacks in their place, and gays hid in the closet for safety. Trump gave free licence to discrimination. His dismissal of anyone who is not a white American male echoes an Aryan supremacist ideology that nearly destroyed us.
« Make American great again ! » Trump proclaims. What was great about America was that everyone had an opportunity to pursue the Dream.
« Build walls to keep out immigrants ! » America was built on the backbone of immigrants who came here for a better life.
On the heels of Brexit, Trump’s victory, following a campaign filled with disdain for women, minorities, immigrants, gays and the disabled only fuels the extreme right of the world. Marie Le Pen is kicking up her heels in France; Geert Wilders is dancing in Holland. .
The nightmare I woke up to November 9 reverberates around the globe. We may only worry about what is happening in our neighbourhood, and I get that, but what we don’t realize is that, like it or not, any decision made in America affects the rest of world, environmentally, socially, and economically.
We need to remember that regardless of our political party, religious affiliation, national identity, race or gender, we don’t own this planet.
We cannot go back and change the outcome of the election, but that does not mean we should give up on those ideals. We can speak up for those who are victimized or do not have a voice. We can continue to teach our children to treat everyone with kindness and respect. We can encourage the many politicians in both parties who have condemned Trump’s racist and misogynistic rhetoric to continue to do so.