Curiosity and Life in General

NASA mission to Mars: Rover Curiosity touches down

Congratulations to NASA. A new mission begins that will give us knowledge about what is going on way up there in Mars. It really is hard to believe that so much has happened my my lifetime.

Where is my safe little world of yesterday? I have been around long enough to see the world become smaller and smaller and life become more and more complicated. Men on the moon.  Senseless mass murders in public places of safety. Impossible packaging on all things bought because some unhinged or evil person decided to taint Tylenol. Cell phones, the internet, advances in medicine.

Everything seems to be changing too quickly for me. Each time I get a new Mac or iPhone, Apple soon comes out with a better and newer version making mine obsolete. Xboxes, Wii’s for everything! STOP. Let me breathe just a little. I am not ready to get off, please just slow down!  I don’t want to live in a world all about “things.”

The greatest “thing” that made my day when I started kindergarten in Wintersville, Ohio was the mega-box of Crayolas that my mother bought for me to bring with me on my very first day of school. I was the luckiest person in the whole wide world. Reds, greens, blues, so many colors I could use to make rainbows and houses and skies and pictures of my dog. I coveted those crayons like nobodies business and couldn’t wait to show them off to my soon-to-be new friends.

Until, that is, the world of other little people’s stuff entered into my life. My soon-to-be new friend Donna had a baton. Shiny silver-colored with a nice white ball on the end. Uummmm….. I soon found the ability to covet more than one thing at the same time.

By the end of the week, although I still loved my new crayons and my friend was happy with her baton, I keep eying Donna’s baton and she kept wanting to use my crayons. Here is where the World of Barter was born in my un-evolved little brain. Donna and I decided to switch (just for the weekend) our coveted treasures. She took home my Crayolas and I got her baton.

How much fun I had with that baton all weekend and I lovingly took care of that baton, so when Monday morning came and we had to give back our bartered items, mine came back to me (you’re right) mostly broken(just as much as my heart was when I looked at my well-used coveted gift from my mother).

That was my first painful lesson in trusting that others will treat your “things” as you do.

So good luck on Mars. Let us begin to love and tolerate our differences more. Let us be grateful for what we have and not covet more than we need. Let’s slow down and smell the roses.

©Sandra Hart 2012

Time Travel

Aunt Thelma’s heart still ticking after all these years
It was 1945. I was six years old. I was close to death.

Snow was so high that year. I remember that. I also remember my older brother’s friend chasing me and putting snow balls down my back. What did I know. I stayed out in our backyard with my brother for hours enjoying the snow in freezing temperatures in wet clothes.

They say you can’t get sick by getting cold, but I did. I had influenza and double pneumonia at the same time. My fever spiked to 106 and in the miraculous days when doctors made house calls, I had two doctors sitting by my side through the night for two days. One doctor, Dr. Sink, had delivered my mother in 1907 and the other, Dr. Healy, called him in to help. They both practiced homeopathy.

I only remember being in my room and seeing these men sitting in high back chairs near my bed and not really caring about much except being hot and wanting to sleep.

How long I was that way, I don’t know, but I do remember hearing the loud unfamiliar sound of tick, tick, tick when I finally opened my eyes. I looked. There on my small side table was a little clock made of green glass. Bright green glass with gold riming the hands of the clock. I closed my eyes again and went back to sleep with the tick, tick, tick soothing my fevered dreams.

Thank you Aunt Thelma where ever you are. Sorry I never told you how much I loved the clock. Or maybe I did and in my over-fifty state don’t remember. But do know I found that clock again today and it is wound, polished and set to 2012 time ready to sooth my dreams tonight. Tick, tick, tick. And life goes on.

Tuesdays Are For Traveling

The lush lawns of the Mount Nelson Hotel
In 2010 my husband and I visited Cape Town on the first leg of the South African Segment of our four month world tour. We thought the port of Cape Town would be an interesting place to visit on our way up to Port Elizabeth where we had booked a safari. Cape Town has interesting history, beautiful beaches, and also a new soccer stadium that was readying for the World Cup matches that year. We visited the barren Sixth District left as is as a memorial to apartheid, and later had High Tea at the famous Mount Nelson Hotel that has guested the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and years of dignitaries and celebrities (as well as ‘peons’ like my husband and I)
New World Soccer Stadium
Graffiti is worldwide as evidenced here
Beautiful beaches of Cape Town
Tablecloth on Table
Mountain can be seen beyond the city along the beautiful beaches
“] Tablecloth effect on Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa
District Six in Cape Town left barren as a reminder of the apartheid regime Wall of Castle of Good Hope

©Sandra Hart 2012


Narrow sidewalks of Bond Street in London

What a pro Queen Elizabeth is and a good sport, too. Danny Boyle said that she quickly got her role in the James Bond spoof during the opening ceremony of the Olympics and it only took a couple of hours to shoot the whole scene.

“Just marvelous, darling.” as Fernando Lamas used to say. She is a great example of debunking the fact that the British are too ‘stiff upper-lipped’. As a matter of fact, I thought the whole opening was entertaining and quite a feat to execute. Bravo to the Brits!

Again all this talk about London takes me back ( okay, over-fifty’s sometimes live in the past) to a visit I had there several years ago.

As an actress I always enjoy those impromptu moments, you know, when I have to listen to my fellow actors and then react by my gut or fly by the seat of my pants emotionally and verbally. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it is fun.

Unfortunately though, once off the stage, I admit my skills in real life are not that great. Hasn’t this happened to you? I always think of what I should have or could have said long after the encounter has happened. I create this ‘after-play’ in my head that is just great.

Well, the first day of a trip to London I headed for Bond Street, with its very picturesque road winding along and creating a narrow pathway for some of the most magnificent shops in London. It is among one of my favorite streets in the world, but you must walk almost touching shoulders with other shoppers along the narrow way. As I walked from our flat at Wimpole Street, all the while savoring visions swirling in my head of the wonderful credit card opportunities that lay ahead of me, I tried to ignore the man who had popped from an art gallery and insisted walking at my pace and getting into my ‘personal space’.

Annoyed at his arrogance, I kept my eyes straight ahead and didn’t even glance his way. “What a creep”, I though to myself as I finally decided to give him a less than friendly stare as I quickly crossed the street to get rid of him. Our eyes met.

Well, if there had been a manhole available, I would have dived right in. Tall, tan and gorgeous, there he was receiving my ‘ugly American’ scowl-the actor and self-styled celebrity, George Hamilton!

I was so embarrassed that I almost humiliated myself more by tripping as I ran across the small street to escape from my stupidity. I couldn’t get away from George and Bond Street fast enough.

A few days later, forgiving myself for being such an idiot and my humiliating experience slowly fading, my desire to shop and satisfy my credit card addiction on Bond Street won. I returned to the scene of my crime.

After visiting several stores, I stopped by the Maud Frizon window to look at the shoe display.

Suddenly I was aware of a presence behind me checking to see what was capturing my attention. My heart almost stopped. I couldn’t believe the reflection I saw in the window. Lightening had struck twice! The reflection had a familiar name attached to it. It belonged to the one and only George Hamilton.

“We have to stop meeting like this”, he said with his white perfect teeth glistening within his perfectly tanned smile.


My mind went blank, and the following events are a little hazy in my memory, but I think I do remember turning toward him and giving a slight idiotic embarrassed giggle with my ‘should I lie, but I can’t’ honest…. “Yes.”

Then what seemed an eternity (was probably no more than a few mille-seconds), “Too bad,” he replied with a wink that crinkled the skin around his perfect eyes.

And he was off to continue his journey down Bond Street and I was left to think of what I should have, could have said, or wanted to say to George Hamilton.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the
almost-right word and the right word is really a large
matter-it’s the difference between lightning and the

©Sandra Hart 2012

My Berlin Post Script

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church left as bombed during WWII

As for my Berlin connection, my daughter and grandson and I visited Berlin in 2008 during Octoberfest. We stayed at The Upstalsbloom Hotel in East Germany close to the rail lines that took us to Alexanderplatz and access to all points in Berlin. We took the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus around the city and saw the best of Berlin. It is the easiest way to independently tour the city highlights.

Berlin is such a beautiful city that has been reenergized in the best architectural way.  They even have left a few WWII buildings in their bombed condition for remembrance of what humanity can do to one another. The Holocaust Museum is free to all visitors and is a moving testament to the past history of what can easily happen in a society driven by a mad man.

So I leave my memories of Ursula with this posting and have to move on to today. But I will never again forget  and set aside my letters from Ursula. Back in the Balfour box they go again, but this time not forgotten. I promise.

Brandenburg Gate
My family at Checkpoint Charlie
Billboard at Checkpoint Charlie
Portions of Berlin Wall are left along old all and markers mark the wall line where no longer standing.
Hop On bus with a big furry traveler along for the ride

Alverterzane Ursula

Ursula in 1956

Ursula and I continued to write back and forth until right before I went to college. Through the years we exchanged gifts of a small nature, birthday cards, scarves, cedar boxes and her things from Germany, chocolates and flower pressings.

In 1955 she wrote:

In the last war by the bomben are falling our Opera, Unter den Linden. Now it is standing up. A wonderful house with the best orchester and the best singers and musicers from Germany. Unter den Linden is the name for this great street, what is a sign of Berlin.

Now dear Sandy I have a great request. Upi know I live in east berlin, where we have the russians. All textiles and clothes have many high prices. When you can send me some or a winter clothes, what you have worn and have not your great now, or have other therefore, then I were very gratefully. When you not can that, please are not evil and excuse me.

Your german friend,


I remember I sent her some warm things, after all in Ohio we did have strong winters and I could manage with less in spite of that fact. I guess it was the beginning of how deprived the East Berliners were going to be before and after the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, about four years after we stopped communicating.

As I read her letters now I can see that she is less cheerful and it is though the heart and lightness that came through her writing as her inner voice had gone out of her.

Then her letters came to me with segments cut out of them. The Soviets must have been editing all mail that went from their sector to the other side, and especially to the United States. Big patches of her letters had been carefully sliced out.

That fact made me wonder if my letters also were opened, read and edited. I became a bit paranoid that I was going to say something that I shouldn’t, either for her sake or for the sake of my country. The summer of 1956 was the last I heard from her.

Evidently Ursula and her family lived behind that wall until it was torn down in November of 1989. By my count she would have been 53 years old. She spend her youth behind that wall. She probably got married and had babies behind that wall.



There probably will never be closure with my friendship with Ursula. I have tried to find her via  the internet, but the one that I found had her father die in 1965. Facts don’t match. I just have to believe that she is still alive and living a contented life without a wall separating her from her extended family.

©Sandra Hart 2012

July 17, 1953

Life in the summer of 1953 in Ohio

It was summer. It was hot. It was Friday night in 1953. My friends and I boarded the bus downtown to our local YMCA and scampered down the outside stairs to the basement Swing Haven. It was the place to be. The rainbow-lit juke box would be blaring and swinging with Dean Martin, Perry Como, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Fisher and Hank Williams. We could count on it. Our teenage hearts were pounding with excitement as we entered the darkened abyss.

Duck-tailed boys on one side and poodle skirts and pony tails on the other. The biggest worry for us girls was that we would be left standing alone and not get picked to dance.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that, other than being rejected by the opposite sex, we had so few fears in those days. We rode the bus alone at night and walked home on dimly lit streets and came home to unlocked doors. No cell phones or alarms. My parents never worried that I would be anything but safe in Steubenville in 1953.

At the same time a world away in Berlin, my pen pal Ursula, was living an entirely different life.

July 1, 1953

Dear Sandra, Berlin, 7th Juli 1953

I have the letter from June 18th not can send to you. Here in the sovjet-sector from Berlin we had a big demonstration of all people here. I send now the letter from the west-sector (american-sector). I hope very, that you now became it. Escuse me, that is so a long time continues.

Please write me directly, therewith I wait that the post goes. The next letter send me please to my aunt in the west-sector of Berlin.

Sincerely yours,
from Ursula Thie

On June 16, 1953 construction workers on Stalinallee in East Berlin downed their tools and went on strike. The initial strike spread quickly: by the morning of June 17th 40,000 demonstrators were marching in East Berlin, with a wave of similar strikes and protests recorded in numerous cities.

Berlin, June 16, 1953

By the afternoon, the situation had escalated to such an extent that Soviet tanks had rolled out onto the streets of Berlin, the conflict leaving more than 40 dead and 400 injured. By the evening it was over. Seven hundred protestors were arrested for their involvement. The level of discontent took both the East German authorities and the Soviets by surprise. And people like Ursula were caught in the middle just because she lived in a sector given to the Soviets.

Ursula lived through the violent fall of Berlin in 1945, loosing her father. The Soviet Army held little interest in taking prisoners, which seemingly played well into the German mentality of “fighting to the last”.For her hard times were a well-etched part of her 17 year old life so far. She seemed to take it strangely in stride.




The letter I received from her written during the uprising talks matter-of-factly about the mini-opera houses, cinemas and her life living in the heart of ‘the chief city’ of Germany. In closing, she notes that in Germany the modern music of bogies, bops, and other dances grows. Jazz has only found ‘some friends’. They like waltzes, fox trots, polkas and tangos.

Little did we both know that the world would in time become smaller and smaller with an internet click melding each civilization and one another.