Luck or Fate?

When I was a student at pre-med school, my biology teacher (Dr. Solomon) and I discovered our shared love for classical music. This brought us together as listeners, and we often discussed Beethoven, Toscanini, and Beethoven’s 9th symphony. It was hot stuff at the time because Toscanini conducted an orchestra created by NBC just for him. On this extraordinary evening, the NBC orchestra played the 9th sympathy with full choir. As luck would have it, we both listened while at our homes to this remarkable rendition of Beethoven’s symphony. I even remember crying at its conclusion — and as I discovered, so did the professor. It is a grand memory I will never forget to this day.

During this period, my sister moved to LA, and I decided to go where she was. Not only to help her with her family, but I intended to enroll at UCLA. Interestingly, my friend and professor also thought this was an excellent idea and that I study psychology instead of medicine. He constantly commented on my ability to be with and communicate with others. He thought this very special, and I thought of him as very special, so with his prodding, I thought, why not? As it happened, this brought Lennette and me together at UCLA. Perhaps you know that story? If not, Let me tell you.

Lenette had a job at the Santa Monica YMCA teaching swimming but accidentally stopped by my table where I was interviewing for summer work at our day camp. She so loved the philosophy I talked about that she decided on the spot to work for me at the day camp. Incidentally, I had the thought that “I just met the girl I’m going to marry.” Amazingly, Lenette had a similar experience. Shortly after our interview, she ran into some friends who also had summer jobs, told them about our discussion, and mentioned: “this is the guy I’m going to marry.”

Life is full of strange twists, and we have our share of them. Some work out — like moving in with my sister to help her, enrolling at UCLA, finding the estate in Malibu to rent and turn into a day camp, and meeting and marrying Lenette.

Then, of course, the strange story of finding the 80 acres we purchased and turned into the miracle of Camp Shasta was even more serendipitous!

Life is so strange———-We think it just plays itself out———Not true, it plays us.


How It All Began

I’ve been asked to share my story of how I got into working with children. It is a story about my journey of discovery. Although it began with me thinking I was in charge, events themselves took control and went the way circumstances often dictate. Yes, I was the driver behind the wheel, so we might conclude it was my choice. Maybe yes and maybe no? I’ll let my story answer that question.

After returning from the service, I used the G.I. Bill to enroll in a local pre-medical school. At this time, pre-med was something like a three-year college which led to more advanced medical studies. At the time, I also needed some pocket money. And since I preferred being my own boss, I came up with the idea of running my own day camp. I bought a three-seat station wagon and put the word out that I would be taking care of children during the workweek. I soon had fifteen boys and girls to take care of.

By listening and watching, it soon became apparent that the kids had their own ideas about what they wanted to do and how to spend their day together. I quickly established that it was my job to meet their desires, not mine, and I did my best to do so. Giving kids their own voice was one fundamental approach to how I worked with them. In other words, instead of me constructing activities for the day, I opened our morning gathering first by asking each what they wanted to do. I made it my responsibility to fulfill their suggestions. The more I did this, the more they expressed themselves. Little did I know that their words were training me, and little did they realize the power of their words.

Those actions, I came to understand, is a philosophy of leadership. Getting followers to express themselves and getting the leader to fulfill what they express (if safe) is good for both the individuals and the group. This philosophy evolved into a significant educational process.

A few years later, while a student at UCLA, the need to make a few dollars made itself known once again. Since I am not a compliant employee, it was easy for me to come up with my answer to that. As good fortune would have it, my brother in-aw found a perfect place to rent out in the Malibu Canyon, and in little time we had a day camp called Purple Sage. The philosophy of listening to children and small groups proved to be a remarkable success.


Aging, Regard, and Love

I’ve written on this subject before, but I have more to say on the matter. Why? Because it’s there running around inside of me. And, of course, where am I (?) not far from becoming 95, an age I never thought I’d get to and what comes with those years. So I’m finding out, and in the process, I’ll share what is taking place. Also, be sure, I have no idea where this is taking me (and us.)

Having to deal with physical stuff is probably one of the conditions common to aging. My problem is retaining liquid, but being under a good Dr’s care, I’m taking certain drugs that control the retention, which seems to be working. That’s a good thing because I’m sleeping well and enjoying the comfort of our bed. My difficulty is finding air, but only when I exercise, including extensive walking or stationary biking.

I must share with you that Stacy and Willy visited us and ended up giving us a new TV! One that provides us with everything a modern TV can offer its audience. We are blessed, thrilled, and feel so well cared for and watched over. Having relationships as we do with so many fills us with “family” love.

This is no small issue with us. We so appreciate the many that touch us with love and concern for our wellbeing. This sense of connection and reality nurtures us and has much to do with how we live.

When we worked with children and young college staff, we never did what we did to be given back. We gave our all because it was required and never because we thought about what would be returned to us. Our only thought was to be there for their betterment. That was all that ever counted, and it was also what so many of you did.

So, we age and live with what so many of you gave and continue to give us—regard and love. There is no question that is why we are the age we are and can look forward to many more years.

I am my age now———-I am not younger, older———-just my age, happy.
Loving gives so much———-How lucky to know this truth——–Our experience.


Another Story To Tell

Boo-Boo (Brutus) was our first dog. He was mostly Beagle at least in size and temperament, brown and black in marking, and very bright. This was obvious in how quickly he took to evidencing and learning certain behaviors and joining in as a member of our family, which soon included Cleo, a pure white and very productive cat in that she gave birth to 48 kittens. This was the way we lived until Heidi and Jeff joined us. Although we lived in tight quarters, to be sure, we all got along exceptionally well—many wonderful memories.

The story, for now, is about how Brutus entertained us. He would sit straight up in my arms and do numbers for us. If I asked him to multiply, divide, subtract or add, Brutus would do just that by barking the correct answer. For example, I would ask him to multiply 3×3, and he’d bark nine times. Or to divide, I’d say two into four, and he’d bark twice. It may sound like I was giving him cues, but not true. This incredible animal did what he did (almost everything) when he saw that something ought to be done. One example was bringing the morning paper to me. I never asked or trained him. He possessed intelligence that amazed.

When Heidi joined our family as a puppy, Brutus took on the role of mentor to Heidi. And Heidi (ultimately a huge German Shepard) came to adore her little friend. In fact, they were twins in the way they cooperated and communicated—Here’s an example. We bought a steak (a rare purchase at that time) for dinner. Lenette placed the steak carefully on the BBQ and left it for a few moments. Heidi and Brutus both knew that what we set on the BBQ was for us, and they would get whatever scraps were leftover. We never missed sharing food with them, so we never experienced prior “theft.” But it happened. With Boo Boo’s guidance, Heidi gently pulled the steak off the grill. Then, off in the corner of the yard, they indulged. Guilt may have oozed out of them, but the steak they still enjoyed. And so it goes.

Not as expected——–Things do not go as we want——-The steak our story.


Hello to all

There are times when topics flood me, and writing one-page papers comes to me easily. This is a time when writing on any given subject challenges me. In this case, I seek the help of others. So, if there is a subject you have in mind for me, please make the suggestion. I’ll try to make it happen.

IT is why I filled a page of Haikus for a recent paper. They are easy for me to write. Those brief sayings are fun to capture. If you’ve not tried, give it a try. 

In the meantime, Lenette and I are doing well living in a Senior Village called Revel.  Our apartment is a bit more than 800 sq. ft., located on the southwest corner of the 4th floor. It has a beautiful deck and views of the Mountains and the Ski area located directly west of us. 

We have been here since its opening about one and a half years now, and we’ve met some wonderful people. Interestingly, most come from back east and have moved to Reno to be close to their adult children and grandchildren.  

The facility we live in has a bar and large restaurant that serves all meals. All meals have a charge that is about equal to typical restaurant fare. We can have guests, although reservations are necessary, and wine and other alcoholic drinks are available.  

During the week, our relatively small gym is well used, but again and due to size, it’s essential to reserve a space. Also, we have small groups of people who meet with common backgrounds and enjoy sharing their stories, including an open discussion group that takes on various topics. We have both guest lecturers and residents with very interesting backgrounds who also speak. 

Management from top to bottom does an excellent job of seeing to our needs. All in all, we feel lucky that we’re here and sharing time and activities with others we enjoy.


Haiku Thoughts

The Haiku is simple. Five syllables in the first line. Seven in the 2nd line and five in the 3rd.

Try it, It can be fun. Here is a pageful!

Time has its own time——–It unfolds at its own pace——–Fast or slow, it goes. 

I read and I write——–Working to fill a time with thought——–It works and then does not.

Been smoke and cloud-filled——–Not a good time to go out——–Try to be fulfilled.

Age is a topic——–What to do with it?——–A question I try to answer.

This day is just fine——–Sun, blue skies, mountains so clear——–One of those sweet days.

Often our state of world——–Troubles me and I know zero——–Or can do nothing.

Nice to be in touch——–Hearing from you, so good——–Thank you for doing.

This day is vital——–How many more are left us——–Enjoy the gift.

How lucky to be——–I see, I hear, I feel now——–What else do we need?

Time cannot be held——–It is not a thing or place——–Or river that flows.

Enjoy each moment——–It leaves too soon and now what——–Waiting is foolish.

We are so unique——–None the same and yet we try——–Be yourself and glad.

Words are a challenge——Be sure of how you use them—-Often misunderstood.

Nature offers so much——–vTry saying this as Haiku——–It is original. 


Call of the Wild—Pt. 2

After Heidi let the Husky go, he crawled off into the forest. Brutus was now up and jumped in joy on Heidi, showering her with kisses as if knowing she saved his life. They continued chasing each other around, fully appreciating the results of this horrific event. Lenette and  I remained a bit in shock, although relieved and elated with the realization that Heidi saved Brutus’s life and us from injury or worse.

The campers and staff had been at camp for about a week when I told the full story one evening at campfire.  I concluded with a warning to be careful if they came across the Husky. I knew the dog offered little danger to people but was a potential killer of other dogs. In the early sixties, incidentally, there were no restrictions on bringing pets to camp.  This proved to be good for the kids, and few problems resulted from the dogs and their relationship with campers and other dogs. Heidi was the head of the pack, and none tested her.

We did not have our own Lake (which we created the following year), so we asked and were given permission to enjoy and use the hunter/dog owner’s large pond located a mile from camp and our horse corral. He learned to keep his dog chained since he did not want his neighbors to kill his dog to protect their own.

On one occasion, a gang of us were at the pond for testing and swim safety lessons. During lessons and fun, one of the campers yelled the Husky was off-leash. One of the staff had their dog with them, and the Husky was heading for it. I quickly grabbed the dog and headed out to the end of the diving board, looking for something to defend the staff member’s dog. But the campers membered the story I told them at campfire and began to scream for Heidi. When she heard the call of the campers, she leaped into action, crossing the field in seconds. When the Husky saw her coming, he turned and ran for his life, heading for his barn and safety. Even so, he couldn’t outrun Heidi. She struck powerfully, knocking him to the ground, where he flipped onto his back and surrendered completely. Heidi stood above him for a long moment before turning towards the campers and returning for a hero’s welcome. None that shared this experience will ever forget it.

Incidentally, Heidi spent almost all of her time with Kim, a wonderful horse wrangler. Amazingly, she kept the horses under strict control when kids were at the corral. It was her job to help Kim, and none could be better.


Call of the Wild—Pt. 1

We continue with animal stories. This is a true story.  I shared it around a campfire with campers and staff at Shasta soon after it happened.  And because of this, avoided a potential disaster.

It all began about a week before camp in June 1962. We bought the land in 1959, which is a great story because of how it happened, but I’ll save this for another time. In any case, Camp Shasta was located about 2 miles south of the original owner of the land camp was built on.  The man we bought the land from was a Gyppo-logger, a professional hunter, and a guide for people that hunted prize black bears and mountain lions. He also owned a large Alaskan Husky that he used on his hunting trips in the area. This dog had developed an ugly reputation as a “dog killer,” so this man had to keep his dog chained or face the likelihood that a neighbor would kill his dog to protect their own.

About a week before the staff and kids arrived at camp, Lenette and I decided to check out the forest and hike to Richardson Creek, our property line to the north. Brutus and Heidi, as always, went with us and played their way around every tree and smell they found. Near the Creek, we heard a growl and saw the big Husky heading for Brutus. The rope around his neck was torn, so I quickly surmised that he broke away from where he was tied and intended nothing good. I instantly grabbed Brutus and, with him in my arms, prepared to use the flat side of my machete to protect against the Husky. He dove at me at the same time as I hit him with all my might. The machete ripped from my hand flew to the ground, and the Husky had Brutus in his mouth. When the Husky grabbed Brutus, Heidi (all 125 pounds) hit the Husky, who dropped an unconscious Brutus. I instantly began to seek a rock or branch to attack the Husky and saw that Heidi and the Husky were engaged in a life and death struggle. I was in “Call of The Wild!” But this was not Buck and a wolf in fiction, but real and now.   Both dogs were on their back legs to gain height and traction. They boxed at each other, seeking an advantage, and Heidi found it. She grabbed the Husky by the neck and threw him to the ground. Within an instant, Heidi had his throat in her jaws.  I pulled on her tail and screamed for her to let the Husky go. Heidi’s eyes found mine; she hesitated but let go and backed off slightly. 

Story to be continued.  Sy 


I have many “dog stories” to tell, and I’ll try to share them over the next few papers.

This is the story of Lizzy, an Otter Hound and one of the most unusual members of our family of animals. Most of you never met her, but she was about as unique as any animal we’ve ever had. This is a rare breed, about the size of a Shepard, slim, fast, and a lover of water.  Her most unique feature was her fur, which stuck out in a wild and independent way—which she most certainly was.  She had her own ideas about almost everything and showed those independent characteristics whenever we went out into the wilderness to play and hike.  Besides Lizzy, our animals at this time also included: Toulouse Lautrec, a Bassett Hound about as close to the ground as a dog could get, Bear, a big and gentile Mt. Pyrenees, and two cats that fancied themselves as dogs. 

During this period, we lived in the country south of Reno with almost nothing around but sage. To the west was Mt. Rose and a Ski area, Slide Mountain.  The three dogs and two cats spent much of their day in this country. Yes, the cats went with the dogs almost everywhere, keeping close to them regardless of where they roamed. Together they spent hours in the fields, often returning home as the sun set. At first, it was Bear that they followed, but as Lizzy grew, her breeding took over, and she became the group leader. In this case, it meant all followed her. Being a full-blood Otter Hound, her history was group, and that’s what she demanded from the other animals.  They were her group.

Lizzy seemed to always know where she was. One day we went into a meadow of deep snow, and the animals went crazy with joy. They loved the snow and ran wild for hours until exhausted before they followed us as we cross-country skied. They did, but not Lizzy. She took off for the hills near us. Some time passed, and we gathered up the animals for our trip home, but not Lizzy. She disappeared into the hills; we knew not where she had run. We called to no avail. We did not see her, but she saw us and played her game of independence. We had no choice but to start the motor and at least act like we’re heading home. It was getting dark. But Lizzy saw it all and understood she’d better join us…  or? Then, out of the darkness, Lizzy appeared with a look as if to ask the question: what about me? That was typical Lizzy, and we all left for home.


Our Beloved Animals

Animals have been an important and fulfilling part of our lives. I’m sure this is also true for many of you, so sharing a few experiences with our animals might bring back memories of your own. Perhaps you can share some of those in the comments.

After Lenette and I were married, we had three animals. Brutus was our first, a brown and black Beagle who entertained us with his math expertise and other antics. While sitting up in my arms looking like Charley McCarthy, he—so help me, responded to my questions with barks. If I asked him the answer to two times three, he barked six times. Two from four, two times, and so on. He could count, multiply, divide, and subtract numbers. I swear I gave him no help whatsoever. He knew.

Brutus’ best friend was our huge German shepherd, Heidi. She was a puppy brought over from Germany and given to us as a gift. She grew into a remarkable protector of our family, which, of course, included Brutus and Cleo (a pure white cat who in her lifetime arranged to have a total of 60 kittens). Every time Cleo had kittens, Heidi would stick her head in the birthing box, pick up each kitten almost as if to swallow them. Then she’d take them to her box and totally clean them before returning them to the birthing mother. Clearly, the three animals cared for each other.

At dinner, Cleo the cat would play games with Heidi’s bowl and food. Many evenings we would watch Cleo attempt to take over Heidi’s food bowl by slowly pulling Heidi’s bowl towards her. After each relatively successful move, Heidi would move slightly closer to Cleo until they were a head apart. This continued until Heidi’s bowl came within range of Cleo’s mouth. At this point, Heidi would let out a warning growl and a curl of her upper lip, showing a canine. Only then did Cleo withdraw to a safe distance. Regardless of the games they played, they loved each other.

There was a German Shepherd that lived on our street. This dog roamed off-leash looking for trouble and was known for attacking other dogs in the neighborhood. One morning, Lenette was gardening out front with Brutus on leash and was attacked by this dog. In our back yard, Heidi instantly leaped over the six-foot fence and went to the aid of Brutus. Cleo also did not hesitate and joined in the attack on the criminal animal. Had I not saved the attacking dog Heidi and Cleo would have torn the shepherd apart. Sadly, his owners had no choice but to put their dog down.