Who Dares Say?

Friday, 1/22/16 11 AM

Friday, 1/22/16 11 am

I used to live in a tiny town in Northern Vermont, known for it’s record snowfalls. My kids went to school even if the temperatures were near or below zero. In July my kids took swimming lessons at nearby Joe’s Pond, and often came home shivering, with blue lips. We put storm windows up in September and made sure cords of wood were split and stacked inside the barn attached to our house, where we could retrieve it easily when the wood stove was burning low. All of the produce from the garden was in and preserved by the end of August. We made and sold our own apple cider from the falls from our antique apple trees in September and October. I made sure the hay loft was filled with bales of hay to feed my sheep and angora goats during the cold months, way before summer was over.

1/23/16 around 3 pm. Snow still coming down,

1/23/16 around 3 pm. Snow still coming down.


I lived there for about twenty years. Toward the end of that time, dealing with the dark, cold months was getting quite old. I suffered from what I called the Winter Blues, officially known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which usually took hold in December and lasted well into March or April, depending on how the winter weather was going.

This weekend it snowed 18” here in Charlottesville. It was dark and cold. I got sick with a very bad cold and didn’t appreciate the snow, even though it’s absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of Vermont and why I moved here to Virginia.

This winter there has been very little snowfall in Vermont.  The ski areas are going bust.

It stopped snowing here around 7 pm on Saturday.  On Sunday the sun came out, it warmed up to near 50 F and the snow started melting. Monday more melting and sun.  Today I’m going to the grocery store.  My cold lingers and it’s going to rain tomorrow.

Who dares say that global climate change is a myth?

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How I Met The Love Of My Life, Part II



For those who are waiting to hear Part II of my love story, here it is. If you missed Part I you can read it here.

As that summer moved into late June and early July, a few interesting things began to happen. Bill invited me to join the gang (Russ and all the kids) for a movie on a Friday night. I was tired and not thrilled about being with a whole bunch of people, especially kids, but decided, Hey, why not. It’s an opportunity to get out and do something different, instead of sitting around here at home.

Bill pulled into the driveway in his VW bus, loaded with Russ and three or four boys and the sister of one of the boys. I climbed into the front passenger seat which was empty. Russ sat in the back surrounded by kids telling jokes that weren’t all that funny. During a break in the chatter, I asked what movie we were going to see. Bill answered: “We’re going to Tarzan goes to India.”

Yikes, I thought. Then Russ piped up and said “I’m not going to that crap. I’m going to see Hud, with Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, and Patricia Neal.

Which movie do you think I chose? You guessed it. I went to see Hud, with Russ, I had no inkling that Bill’s invitation to the movies was supposed to be a date. Would you have thought it was a date? With a bunch of kids in tow?

Word got back to me the next day when my brothers told me that Bill had been very disappointed. The next time he invited me on a Friday night movie trip to town, I smiled teasingly and said, “No. If you really want a date with me, we have to go alone. No kids or Russ. And by the way, I’m not a Tarzan fan.”

We spent the rest of the summer, going to shows at Vermont’s abundant summer theatre venues, ate luscious dinners together, and went to the movies alone now and then. I liked Bill a lot and began joining the gang for Friday night movies regardless of what they were going to see.

One night after a movie and a stop at the local ice-cream joint, my brother, Reid climbed into the front passenger seat. Bill told him to get in the back, but Reid refused, saying, “But I got here first.” Bill went around to the passenger side and pulled Reid out, pushed him up against the bus and said, “That is where your sister sits from now on.”

I’m not exactly sure of the exact moment that love sruck, but Bill became my best friend who listened to me and understood me. Best of all he loved my crazy family and they loved him. Bill and my father, argued philosophy and politics at the dinner table. And there were times when I thought Mom and Dad cared more about him than they cared about me.

When September rolled back around, Bill went back to New York City, to finish his masters at Columbia’s Teachers College. He was interested in international education and his dream was to open or be involved in a secondary school with kids from all over the world.

I went back to school as well, and resumed my job as a waitress and chambermaid at the Lodge. I stopped dating anyone else, and put all of my energy into my classes.

I missed Bill terribly and before long we were talking on the phone most evenings. Bill drove the four or five hours to Vermont for long weekends and school holidays. He’d put more work into the Round House, and we spent time hiking in the mountains and skiing when snow fell. He stayed at our house, not the lodge, and my father even allowed me to go down to New York to visit him. The big caveat was I had to stay in a hotel whose clientele were only women. The name of the place now escapes me, but it must have been one of last vestiges of the Victorian era. And knowing my father was not above checking up on me in his own sneaky way, I did stay there … at night.

The most memorable trip to see Bill was the day John F. Kennedy was killed. I was on the bus just outside of the city, when at one of the stops, a Trailways employee stepped up on the bus and announced that Kennedy had been killed. All of us on the bus were in shock, many of us in tears. Bill and I spent the next few days together glued to the television set, grieving the loss of the young and bright shining star who would lead us into a glorious future.

If nothing else can pull a couple together it is the processing of grief and loss. Through the sadness, we talked about getting married. At Christmas I had a ring on my left hand and traveled to Washington, DC, where Bill’s folks lived.

I had one more year of school to finish up. Bill, done with his Masters, applied for several teaching jobs in Vermont. He was hired as an English teacher and dorm master at St. Johnsbury Academy, in the northeast corner of the state, about an hour and a half away from Killington.  We spent the next year talking on the phone when we weren’t together, and on June 19th, 1965, a few weeks after I graduated from Castleton, Bill and I were married.

I don’t know where the years have gone. Some think that after 50 years together, some couples get tired of each other. Of course, we’ve had our not so good times, but we always worked our way through the problems. We still talk every day when we’re off in different corners of the world and always look forward to being together again. There is of course more to my story, and maybe over time I’ll have more stories for you.

Our Family, Summer 1970

Our Family, Summer 1970

Do check back here next Tuesday to learn about my monthly newsletter, which I’ll start sending out in October.

How I Met The Love Of My Life, Part I

A few weeks ago on her blog, my friend Shirley Showalter, told the story about how her parents met and fell in love. She asked me in her reply to my comment, how Bill and I met. So here it is for all the world to see.

December, 31, 1963.

William-Rough_HS4 (1)I was attending Castleton State Teachers College, now Castleton University, just outside of Rutland, Vermont. I lived at my dad’s ski lodge, The Summit Lodge, in Killington, one of Vermont’s newest and upcoming ski areas at the time. I commuted to school, and waited tables at night at the lodge. When there weren’t enough chambermaids about, I cleaned toilets, made beds, and did all the stuff that being in the hospitality business is all about. I wasn’t crazy about the work. But it was what I did to pay my way through college.

I wasn’t dating anyone seriously, but flirted with Bob, another college student who washed dishes at the lodge whenever school was on break. He wanted a serious relationship with me, but I wasn’t interest. He was one of twelve kids, and told me he wanted a huge family like his own. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t a whole bunch of kids. I loved learning, being in school, and didn’t want to limit myself to changing diapers, housekeeping, and chopping wood all winter in the mountains of Vermont.

Being New Year’s Eve, the dining room was filled with skiers of all ages, shapes and sizes, celebrating the end of another year. Outside the snow was piled high and still falling. The wind was cold, whistling down the chimneys and occasionally bringing in big puffs of smoke that were supposed to be traveling upward and out, not back into the room.

Tired of the holiday rush, waiting on tables, and connecting with the public, all I wanted was for everyone to go celebrate somewhere else, so I could relax instead of being constantly at someone else’s beck and call.

As the dining room was clearing out, my father introduced me to a couple from New Jersey, who were there skiing with their kids … and their daughter’s boyfriend. I had served their table.

That was the first time I laid eyes on Bill. He was tall, handsome, had dreamy blue eyes, and a cute chin dimple that I liked. That was it. No wedding bells rang. Cupid was off shooting his arrows somewhere else.

I didn’t see him again until May, when school was out. In the meantime, my dad had finished building us a house separate from the lodge, so that we could have some privacy as a family. We’d moved in to our new home during the early spring.

I was aware that Bill had been staying at the lodge occasionally and had become friends with my father who helped him purchase a piece of land, where Bill wanted to build his own private ski house. But I hadn’t seen him or talked to him.

Working as a cashier at one of the grocery stores in Rutland for the summer, I was bored out of my mind and trying to save up more money. One day after work, as I walked through the front door of my house, Bill stepped out of the bathroom off the hallway, freshly showered.

Everyone wants this part of the story to be different, but trust me, he was DRESSED in jeans, a tee shirt, and hiking boots.

The Round House as it stands today under it's newest owners.

The Round House as it stands today under it’s newest owners.

It turned out he was in the area for the summer. He and one of his college roommates at Princeton, an architect, were beginning to build the ski house they’d both been dreaming about. It was to be round and made out of stone. They were camped out at the house sight in a huge tent furnished with cots, a refrigerator, a telephone, and a tiny television set. But there was no shower and since the creek at the bottom of the property was icy cold, my dad had kindly invited them to shower at our house anytime.

Bill hired both of my brothers as gophers to dig holes, move rocks, and do whatever needed doing as the building process began. Reid couldn’t have been more than ten years old, which would have made Zed fourteen. He paid them a dollar an hour and as a bonus, took them and three or four other kids he’d also hired to the movies in Rutland every Friday night.

Bill and Russ, his roommate, were frequent shower users at my house and often stayed for dinner. My mother, a fabulous cook, loved their oohs and aahs over the food she prepared, which guaranteed them seats at our dinner table whenever they were around … which was a lot of the time.

They were both really nice guys, but I wasn’t shopping at the time. It was a period of my life when I spent my time as one of the walking dead. I worked by day and went home to my parents home, bored and wishing I was anywhere else. School was out for the summer so I wasn’t seeing anyone I knew. But having left school after my freshman year to go back to Long Island to work and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, all I wanted now was to get my degree, go off on my own, and find a teaching job somewhere far away and hopefully interesting. I didn’t want to live at home with my parents and never dreamed I would find love in the mountains of Vermont.

Oh, Darn. There isn’t enough room here to tell you what happened next, because the love hadn’t started yet. So you’ll just have to wait until next week to find out how our first date worked out and how a VW bus full of kids helped me find the love of my life.

In the meantime, you can talk amongst yourselves, share how you met the loves of your lives, and begin writing your own story. It’s important to do that … everyone wants to know about it, especially your kids and grandkids! 🙂

Oh, and forgive my use of current photos.  After searching through many boxes I discovered that Bill and I weren’t using cameras very much at that time.  

Meeting With Old Friends

Lou and Bill with the "Ski Twins, Connie and Joan, October, 2014

Lou and Bill with the “Ski Twins,” Connie and Joan, October, 2014.

Because I moved around so much as a child, there are only a few people I’ve known for a long time. My freshman year, college roommate, Connie, whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time until just a few weeks ago, is one of them.

We graduated tfrom Castleton State College, in Castleton, Vermont, fifty years ago this coming June, with Bachelor of Science degrees in Elementary Education. She lives in Connecticut and I live in Virginia. The last time I saw her was at least 25 years ago on a trip Bill and I took to New England. When we stopped to visit Connie and her husband, Lou, they took us out for a lovely evening sail on their boat. We ate luscious lobster for dinner and spent several wonderful hours together catching up. Over the years we’ve kept in touch with Christmas cards, an email here and there, and  few rare phone calls.

So it was delightful when a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from her, saying that she read somewhere on my blo, that I was going to be in Vermont to visit family, noting that she’d be there at the same time staying at her condo at Pico Peak, next door to Killington, where my parents built one of the first ski lodges on the mountain and where both Connie and I first tried our legs at skiing.

We met on a sunny day, in September of 1960, when we moved into our dorm room together. She was from Brooklyn and I’d recently moved to Killington, from Long Island where I’d grown up. Our New York accents stood out amongst a class of students mostly from New England. We both felt out of place.

The funny part of our meeting was that when our applications were accepted, someone with a crazy sense of humor, decided that Miss Connie Debski and Miss Joan Zabski, both from the New York City area, would room together. What’s better than one Polish girl who knows what perogis are? Well obviously, it’s two. Thank goodness it was a perfect match. Everyone on campus knew us as “The Ski Twins.”

We spent our freshman year missing New York, wondering if we really wanted to be teachers, dating cute guys, and crossing “the line,”  just seven or so miles away, into New York State where the drinking age was eighteen, compared to Vermont’s twenty-one. We both struggled with college level algebra and mostly thought we’d arrived in some weird place where we were supposed to grow up and become adults. But we both needed more time.

At the end of the year, we both decided we’d had enough. Connie went back to Brooklyn, and I moved back to Long Island, to Bellrose, New York in Queens County, where I lived with good friends of my parents. We both got jobs as clerks with the Bell Telephone Company,  known as “Ma Bell, ”at the time, and subsequently as AT&T. We hadn’t been keeping in touch, but Connie found out that I had been hired on the same day she applied for her job, when she saw a letter addressed to me on her interviewer’s desk.

We worked in different offices so we didn”t get to see each other, but occasionally met in the City, for lunch and shopping. Mostly we each plugged away at work and tried to figure out what life was all about. I dated a few of the guys in my office, but basically was bored with them and life in general. Something was missing. My life was all about taking the bus to work, filling out papers, making phone calls, and then taking the bus home again. All of my friends from high school had all moved away. Nothing I was doing made sense.

Connie was going through the same thing and decided to go back to Castleton on her own the following summer. In the meantime, knowing I wasn’t doing anything of importance, my father came down to the Island in early August, to talk me into going back to school. He’d already called the Dean and the President of the college to ask if I could return and when he arrived at my door, he took me to dinner and bought me a drink for the first time ever. Though I really didn’t want to return to the land of ice and snow or live with or near my parents, he didn’t have to argue long and hard. I knew that working in New York as a clerk, without an education wouldn’t get me anywhere.

This time I didn’t live in the dorm. My father asked me to live at  home and commute to school, about forty-five minutes away. I’d work for him waiting on tables at night at his ski lodge and I was to pay my own tuition at school with the wages and tips I earned working for him.

I was fine by day when I was in school. I dove into learning, took a mind blowing European History class, and a Literature class in which I didn’t have to agree with everything the professor had to say. Though I was not terribly happy working for my abusive and controlling father, I knew that school was my eventual way out of living with a dysfunctional family. So it really isn’t that strange, that I first met Bill, the love of my life, when I waited on his table on New Year’s Eve in 1963 at the Summit Lodge. We married in 1965 one week after I graduated.

Connie and I saw each other on campus for the next three years but because I didn’t actually live there, it wasn’t very often. Afer we graduated  in 1965,  we went our own separate ways, but the links between us have continued. We both have unbreakable ties to Vermont, and she’s my oldest friend.

Last week, Connie and Lou and Bill and I had dinner together while Vermont’s leaves were at their peak of fall color, and the fairly quiet, scenic byways were overtaken by what we fondly call, the “Leaf Peepers.”

Hopefully we won’t wait too long before we get together again, and of course, Vermont is a perfect place to do it!  Maybe next year folks?

Traveling, Stories, and Change

Double rainbow over Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont. By, Z. Thomas Zabski

Double rainbow over Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont. Photo by my brother,  Z. Thomas Zabski

I’ve been off traveling in Vermont for the past six days.  I visited with my brother, my nephew and neices,  friends, old and new, and soaked in the essence that only Vermont offers at this time of year.

I tried and tried again to capture the colors of the leaves with my camera, but finally gave up.  Like the Grand Canyon that I gave up photographing years ago, there are some things it is best to experience rather than capture.  We may think we can capture it all on film, but we can only really capture it in our hearts through the thrill of being there.

Right now I need to catch up on bill paying, the laundry, and the everyday details of survival in the twenty-first century.

Next week I ‘ll be back with a story about seeing my college room mate after some twenty-five years and how we became known as the “Ski Twins,” in the old days.

***Please notice on my website, that I have changed the first chapter of my book.  This “new” chapter was what I considered my first chapter at the time I began writing. After lots of editing and advice, I’ve decided to put it back in the number one spot.***


 Facebook friend, Janet Givens on the left and the love of my life, Bill, on the right.  I forget which one of us took it!

Facebook friend, Janet Givens on the left and the love of my life, Bill, on the right. I forget which one of us took it!


***My revisions are coming along splendidly and hopefully I’ll have my final draft finished by the first of December.  I’ll keep you posted along the way.***