Posted by Honey Lazar
By mid-century, people over 55 will outnumber those under 18 for the first time in history. Aunt Ruth's ingredients for a live well-lived include the importance of community and helping others. We know research tells us that as we age, social interaction becomes even more vital to our well-being, which means Actual Face Time!
Aunt Ruth is known as "The Pharmacy!" She keeps shelves stocked with bandages, aspirins, cough medicines, and various over-the-counter remedies that neighbors and friends might need. Her hours are 24/7, and the price is right! A simple idea that holds unlimited acts of kindness on each shelf. Imagine the comfort of knowing that Aunt Ruth is upstairs!
I don't live in an apartment, but I was inspired to offer care services to friends who might need an emergency driver for medications, etc..
I asked Aunt Ruth how she would like to be remembered, and she said, "...as a nice person." I think she can be certain of this. Living on in the memory of others is nice to consider, but Aunt Ruth has lived her entire life in a giving way...not just in her later years. How many of us can say this?
If you have a lesson or a story you'd like to share, please let us know! We love to hear from you.
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July 5, 2013 | 6:51 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
Photographing for "Loving Aunt Ruth" turned out to be delicious and somewhat fattening. Well worth the pounds! Aunt Ruth is a marvelous cook with a recipe collection. Yes, these are her cards lovingly protected in plastic, because she either cooked for friends, a temple function, or was being asked for one of her ingredients by her devoted family. She has been on countless charitable cookbook committees and served her family wonderful meals for more than 70 years. She culled newspapers and tested recipes and gave them all ratings!
But, that isn't why I am writing today's blog. It is to remind you to ask for recipes from people you love or even like as a way of gathering data that will keep people close to your heart! they will tether you to your past in ways that will keep traditions, laughter, and love as close as your oven.
If you leave us a comment with your email, we will send you a recipe!
Here's a recipe from the above collection that Aunt Ruth marked as "very good." Let us know if you agree!
12 oz vacuum packed can of corn
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk or non dairy creamer
2 eggs, beaten
4T melted butter
Combine all ingredients in the order listed making sure to stir the mixture while add the hot, melted butter.
Pur into a 1 1/2 qt. casserole and bake at 425 for 35 minutes or until golden.
Aunt Ruth says that it serves 4 if you're lucky. If you double the recipe, she asks that you remember to increase the baking time...maybe even up to an hour.
Invite some friends. Take it to friends....Enjoy!
July 3, 2013 | 5:28 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
I recently spent time with a close friend who told me that when we collect our family stories, photos, and ephemera,we become Chief Memory Officers. In the case of loving aunt ruth, I think I am the Admin to the CMO, Aunt Ruth, whose memory remains tack sharp for all the answers to my myriad of questions. Aunt Ruth kept all of the photos, slides, and albums and has been generous with my need to know, to hear, to listen, and most importantly to learn from all of her lessons.
There is no way for me to express my gratitude to Aunt Ruth for her patience in being endlessly photographed, but I hope she knows that my heart is swollen with the magic she has bestowed. Our elders have so much to teach us, and since I have become a...gulp...gasp...sputter...senior...I find that I want to know how to continue to age from a teacher whose life is lived with fierce passion.
I am not alone in my quest. In the "New York Times", there was a wonderful article which speaks to the importance of archiving our families. Please read it and let me know what you think. It is about the importance of photos and story.
Mining Memories to Preserve the Past
By FELICIA R. LEE
Her memory is creaky, Dwania Kyles insisted, and most of the photographs that help unlock it are stored in her computer. But recently, sitting in a warren of rooms in Harlem as the light outside faded, she had a rush of recollections about her family and the night that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not come to dinner.
Ms. Kyles and Thomas Allen Harris, a documentary filmmaker, had donned white gloves to thumb through photographs of her parents in high school. “My parents left the promised land to jump into the lion’s den,” she said of their move from Chicago to Memphis to join the civil rights movement. On the evening in 1968 that King was expected at their home for soul food, her father, the Rev. Samuel B. Kyles, ended up with him on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where King was felled by an assassin.
Mr. Harris and Ms. Kyles, a 55-year-old wellness consultant and songwriter who lives in Harlem, were in his office ferreting out information for the filmmaker’s Digital Diaspora Family Reunion project. Since 2009, Mr. Harris has traveled the country collecting photographs and stories from families, then putting those and filmed interviews onto his Web site.
Now, Mr. Harris is taking his show onto the stage, presenting the stories he’s collected to a live audience using interactive media and old-fashioned storytelling. On Sunday afternoon, after dry runs around the country, the show will have its debut at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. (The event will be streamed live to the Web site.)
At Harlem Stage and in future reunion cities, the enlarged photographs and accompanying stories will be presented to audiences who will be invited to trade family histories, ask questions and even identify people and locations. The project will also work as community history, with its glances at the places and people that define neighborhoods.
“It’s survivors and ‘firsts,’ ” the effervescent Mr. Harris said of the people he is documenting, few of them celebrities. “It’s the stories in history books and films about civil rights.”
As a kind of curator/master of ceremonies, Mr. Harris, who has made two acclaimed documentaries, “The 12 Disciples of Nelson Mandela,” about South African exiles who were part of the African National Congressand the anti-apartheid movement, and “É Minha Cara/That’s My Face,” about spirituality, looks to figure out which stories enlarge and provide context for many aspects of black life, from immigration to education to military service. “We are living with gold — one person in Atlanta came with a truckload of images dating back to the 1850s,” he said.
Photographs and stories can also be directly uploaded to the Web site, which features interviews with scholars, news about family reunions and images by black photographers.
A Harvard graduate who is in his ’40s, grew up in the Bronx and spent time in East Africa, Mr. Harris had long encouraged fans of his work to collect their own family stories, as he has done in his deeply personal films. It struck him that social media could be used to archive and share the results. His younger brother, Lyle Ashton Harris, is a prominent photographer and artist known for work that fuses aesthetic considerations and sociopolitical observation.
“All of my work is about identity, about how we represent ourselves to ourselves,” Thomas Allen Harris said.
“We take grandma for granted.” he said. “We need to understand that instead of looking outside ourselves for value, we can look inside.”
On Wednesday through Friday, Mr. Harris will set up shop at the Gatehouse, at 150 Convent Avenue, so people can bring him their family photographs and other documents (reservations are required, though there is a waiting list: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-281-6002). The photographs Mr. Harris selects will be digitized and put onto a DVD for their owner. All will be shown as part of a slide show at Harlem Stage, and some will be expanded into an interactive film for the Web site.
“The history of African-Americans has been told by so many people other than ourselves, and even in the telling it becomes abstract,” said Pat Cruz, the executive director of Harlem Stage. “With our family photographs, this opens up some doors as well as some eyes into what we are, on an intimate level.”
Recently, Mr. Harris received funding to complete another feature film, “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People.” It is an exploration of how black communities and photographers have used the camera as a tool for social change. Mr. Harris planned to show clips from the film at Harlem Stage on Sunday.
Both Digital Diaspora and “Through a Lens” offer visual counterpoint to the stereotypical, caricatured images of African-Americans that still circulate, said Deborah Willis, an art photographer and historian of African-American art and a professor at New York University. For participants, “it creates a reconsideration of what it means to preserve family history,” Professor Willis said. “Their excitement about sharing their history comes from a sense of providing evidence for those who might feel excluded, who feel they are not part of the larger discussion.”
The experience of telling and sharing stories and images can be revelatory and therapeutic, some said.
“You have to tell your story,” Mr. Harris told Ms. Kyles the other day, nudging her to recall that her father had knotted King’s tie an hour before he stepped out on the balcony.
“We were so excited about him coming to the house,” she said. Telling Mr. Harris about her time in Memphis, which included the lonely and humiliating experience of desegregating a school, was “healing,” Ms. Kyles said afterward.
Lana Turner, a 61-year-old real-estate agent who lives in Harlem, brought photographs of her parents to Mr. Harris’s office. Her father worked as a chauffeur, she said. She spread out images of him posed in front of an elegant, vintage car, and a 1952 photo with a group of natty men in suits who belonged to a chauffeurs’ club. Her mother, a chambermaid and a cook, wore a tiara in a photograph in which she and several other women were adorned in elegant white dresses.
“People took off their chauffeur’s uniforms or maid’s hats and they made joy out of a day that might have been drudgery,” Ms. Turner said softly.
The Turners were the kinds of unsung heroes who helped move the country forward, Mr. Harris said. “We need these stories,” he said, “to let the next generation know they come from a people who have made it by their bootstraps and made it for everyone around them, regardless of color and race.”
Aunt Ruth and I hope you are enjoying our collaboration. Here's to "preserving the past before it is lost" and understanding that the time to learn from it is right this minute.
June 28, 2013 | 9:12 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
Aunt Ruth is more organized than I can ever imagine being. These are all new recipes waiting to be tested and rated. Yes, she rates them, files them as being "good" or "bad," or draws a huge X through them in a favorite cookbook to make certain she never tries it again. Being organized is another lesson I am learning from Aunt Ruth. It isn't my reflex, so I spend far too much time looking for things. She never does. Really, she knows where all of her things are, because there is a place for everything, and everything in its place.
With summer parties, tables being set, and deadlines for work pressing in on me, I am wondering where I put my glasses, placed my coffee, laid my grocery list, or even if I remembered to extinguish the lavendar relaxation candle i had burning in the kitchen!
Paying attention to small things that make life easier is one of the many ways Aunt Ruth influences me every single day. Maybe, she can do the same for you.
We welcome any subjects you'd like us to address, so please leave us a comment, and we promise to organize it in our "to do" pile!
June 27, 2013 | 9:44 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
One Thing I Know For Sure...
I know that Oprah has been the nation's therapist, ultimate gift giver, inspiration, and teacher of best lives for so many, but for me, it's Aunt Ruth! (All right, so I also like Oprah and so does Aunt Ruth.)
Aunt Ruth and I were sitting in her living room talking about the usual topics ranging from the economy to her current discovery that cutting up those small cucumbers and putting them into a jar of leftover pickle juice makes some swell snacks! I found myself asking, "Aunt Ruth, what do you know for sure?"
Without hesitation, she said:
1. Time doesn't ask if you want more time. It keeps going on like a river, so you better take advantage of it!
2. I know for sure that I have many good friends. They are vital to my life, and I have had many of the same friends since I was three.
Then, there was a pause....and she said:
3. I know for sure that getting old is very hard to accept. When I was young, I never thought I'd get old. I know for sure that I have had to accept being old, otherwise I would turn into a miserable old lady, and there are already enough of them!
4. I know for sure that you have to like to eat to be a good cook. You must taste while you cook to know if what you're making is any good.
5. I know for sure that being an aunt is easier than being a parent. I don't have any responsibility as an aunt.
6. I know for sure that being a wife means being truthful.
7. I know for sure that to be a good sister you must love each other, but even more important, you must respect and help each other. I adored my older sister, and I miss her every day.
We sat in silence for a while, and she smiled and said,
"Honey, what I know for sure is that love is the most important thing in your life. It is the greatest gift."
If you have a question or comment, please leave it here!
June 25, 2013 | 5:56 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
One of the wonderful things about asking those we love, those who have cooked for us for a recipe, is that it always comes with a story.
I asked Aunt Ruth for a cake recipe, and I learned all about how her mother made "Daddy Cake" for her father every week. His own cake! She made another one for the family and all those known for stopping by their warm and welcoming duplex apartment for conversation, cake, or challa! A great recipe for learning about family is to ask for one or two or ten and sit back and listen. It is delicious oral history!
Here's the recipe for Daddy Cake....please let me know how you liked it. What's your family's favorite?
June 21, 2013 | 9:01 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
Before there were apps, there was Aunt Ruth
If you wanted to know the conversion of 1 cup to its metric system equivalent, you could call Aunt Ruth, and she would go to her desk drawer, retrieve her Conversion Chart, and tell you, “It’s 230 milliliters.”
If you wanted to know what “earned surplus” meant, Aunt Ruth would say that it is “also known as income retained in the business. The amount retained from year to year depends on both net income and dividend payments.” She handled her family’s bookkeeping and investments, worked during the war as an accountant for the Navy, and because she wanted fast facts at her fingertips, she kept a copy of How to Understand Financial Statements in her desk drawer.
She had a United States map with time zones and area codes, Webster’s Thumb Indexed Dictionary, a pamphlet on treating the 15 most common household stains, and another that outlined the Kiddush service for Sabbath.
Aunt Ruth was smart and savvy. As times changed, her pamphlets and charts did too. She had data for everything before we knew we needed it. She was remarkable.
She was fascinated by technology and learning and quite proud that she owned the very first generation of Kindle, and on hers was Thomas Friedman’s, Hot, Flat, Crowded : Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America along with other selections ranging from current fiction to biographies.
Aunt Ruth never stopped wanting to know, and one of her many lessons to me was to keep an insatiable Appetite for knowledge.
I wish there was an App for that!
June 18, 2013 | 10:49 am
Posted by Honey Lazar
Loving Aunt Ruth: Recipes for a Life Well-Lived offers one woman’s ingredients for living a life of caring, authenticity, and love along with great recipes, humor, and Aunt Ruth’s thoughts on Jewish traditions. The blog introduces the lessons and photographs found in our book which is a collaboration of words and photographs that feature life lessons mixing faith, selflessness, and humor, with its core being about love. The combination of illustrations and narrative reminds us that we all have the capacity for love.
With her husband and children gone, I asked Aunt Ruth how she stayed determined in the face of so much loss, and her response is the anchor to our book and this blog. She said:
I accept that life isn’t easy. I have my faith….but I have a will to live, and that will comes from loving people.
Aunt Ruth was 87 when I picked up my camera. Like many women of the Greatest Generation, her most significant relationships were with her family, but her reach extended to friends, her temple, and activities that resonated with her sense of civic pride. During the war, Aunt Ruth drove every type of army vehicle for the Red Cross while her husband, my Uncle Bob, served overseas. She was President of her temple, the temple Sisterhood, and founded the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ohio Bar Association.
An ordinary Jewish woman from a small town shows us how easy it is to appreciate everything, to love unconditionally, and to make great food! Aunt Ruth approaches every aspect of life through her lens of love. She understands how important it is to listen, to refrain from judgment, to embrace difference, and that freedom comes from unconditionally loving.
In this last year, both of my sisters have died. Aunt Ruth’s life lessons sustain me.
I hope you join us on the blog for “Auth Ruthisms!”