Lasting Memories of Dad

Dad - Joseph H. Fiet III - the Marilboro man look

By Judy Berman

Children are sponges. They soak up what they see and hear. They often learn best just by observing.

Growing up, my Dad led by example. From him, I learned about trust, standing up for what was right, and how to treat those who are less fortunate.

“Dad, you’re someone to look up to no matter how tall I’ve grown.” (Author Unknown)

Dad’s handshake was as good as a contract loaded with legalese. His word was his bond.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get a “real” bike. The one I’d learned to ride on was so short I could easily stop it just by planting my feet on the ground. But when I nagged Dad for a bigger one, I’d always get the same response.

“The bicycle is not in the garage.”

He explained later – after I did get a shiny new Schwinn bike – that he didn’t want to promise me something unless he already bought it.

I got that he didn’t want to get my hopes up. Life does get in the way. Unexpected bills, too much month at the end of the money … there’s no way to predict that you’ll be able to afford that special gift your child craves.

My parents grew up during The Great Depression in the 1930s and avoided piling on the debt. I don’t think they even had a credit card then.

This incident left a huge impression on me. But there were other lessons along the way that shaped me.

Dad - Joseph H. Fiet III - in the Army - 1943


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Dad was a jury foreman in a civil case involving two brothers who sued a hotel after they’d tripped over a cord that had been left on the floor. Their injuries required hospitalization.

Initially, Dad was the only juror who thought the men should be compensated.

He stood his ground and challenged the jurors to re-examine the evidence. When they did, many agreed with Dad’s assessment of the case and the plaintiffs won a settlement.

Dad and me - overheated car - Dad clowning around

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.” (Umberto Eco)

One brutal winter night, when I was a teen, a man came to our home seeking work. We had 66 acres, but only farmed a half-acre for ourselves. So we didn’t need a farm hand.

The man told Dad that he’d been fired from a neighboring farm. He had nowhere to go and was hungry.

My Dad was hesitant as the man was a stranger and Dad was concerned for his family’s safety. Still, my parents didn’t want to turn him away that bitter, cold night.

Dad let him sleep in our detached garage and provided blankets so he’d be warm while Mom fixed the man a hot meal.

The next morning, Dad started calling shelters to see who could help this man. The Salvation Army in Syracuse, New York – about 30 miles from our home – offered the man shelter, food and some work to earn money.

Dad felt that was the best option and drove the man there. The man appeared to be happy that he’d have a secure place to stay, meals and a job.

My Dad passed in 2011, but what I learned from him has stayed with me all my life:  always keep your word, don’t rush to judgment, and when given a choice, always choose ‘kindness.’

Wishing all dads, stepdads, guardians and Big Brothers a Happy Father’s Day.

What’s one favorite memory of your Dad?


Main Photo: Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III, in what our family called his Marlboro man pose

Photo: Dad when he was in the U.S. Army during World War II

Photo: Dad clowning around when our car overheated


Lasting Memories of Mom

Mom - Milly Fiet2 - copy

By Judy Berman

As a child, my favorite hangout on the weekends was a room filled with electronic gizmos and tubes.

I marveled at the naked TV tube that sat on a table. There was no cabinet surrounding it because my father, an electronics engineer, was always tinkering with it – even though it worked perfectly.

When Captain Midnight’s show came on, I’d pretend I was part of his daring adventures.

By the time the show’s sponsor – Ovaltine – came on, I was running downstairs to the kitchen and nagging my Mom for a cup of that chocolaty milk drink.

My Mom would heat up that drink or fix something else. By then, I’d be caught up in what she was listening to on the radio.

It might be the mischievous antics of Froggy on the “Smiling Ed’s Buster Brown Gang” (which became “Andy’s Gang” on TV), an opera or pop music of the day.

This is where I learned to appreciate many types of music.

But what I loved most was when she’d put down what she was working on and read to me.

I confess that I didn’t really get into reading on my own until I was in fifth grade. Oh, I could read all right. But I preferred to listen to Mom as she told the story.

“You may have tangible wealth untold, Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold, Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me,” (Strickland Gillian)

She opened my eyes to a world outside of what I knew, where I could immerse myself in the stories and take on the role of one of the characters. Mom introduced me to authors that she enjoyed. They soon became my favorites as well.

I’m sure Mom preferred that I was inside reading, rather than off on one of my adventures. If only she knew some of the derring-do I attempted outdoors, her hair would have turned white decades earlier.

I thought of those escapades with dread many times as my own girls were growing up.

“Being a mother is learning about the strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” (Linda Wooten)

Mom and Dad - Boulder City, Nevada

My Mom, who passed in 2001, taught me well. Hopefully, I passed those lessons on to our daughters, too.

When I was hurt or had worries, Mom would be the one I turned to for comfort. Like the song, “Mama Said,” by the Shirelles, Mom always said something to lift me up.

“What is a mom but the sunshine of our days and the north star of our nights.” (Robert Brault)


Wishing all mothers, stepmothers, guardians an early Happy Mother’s Day. This quote from Sophia Loren says it best: “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”


Music Video: “Mama Said,” Shirelles   

Photo: Mom and me

Photo: Mom and Dad (Milly and Joseph Fiet)

The Gift O’ Blarney

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Dublin - 2007 -_Lord_Mayors_State_Coach

By Judy Berman

Tiny droplets cling to a blade of grass on a gorgeous spring morning. The timing is perfect.

As a teen, I would rush out and grab the dew from our lawn and spread it over the freckles on my face.

Mom told me this is the way to get rid of freckles.

Dew on green plant

Flash forward. There was no scientific merit to that Irish superstition.

I had better luck searching through our lawn for four-leaf clovers.

This is just part of the Irish folklore I grew up with. My Mom and my Dad are both part-Irish. Her ancestors hail from the south, my Dad’s from the north.

It was one of many contradictions in my DNA.

Some years on St. Paddy’s Days, I wore green. Some I wore orange (to represent Northern Ireland). Others, I wore a black armband to mourn the troubles in Ireland that have created a huge rift that is yet to be healed in this beautiful country.

But Ireland’s stronghold on my imagination and heritage drew me to it years ago.  We made the trek to Blarney. There, we kissed the stone to acquire the gift of eloquence. (story is here)

A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.

A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.

One well-known for the gift of gab is a leprechaun. But a chance encounter could be risky.

How do you avoid a mischievous leprechaun? Mom said you should go out a different door than you entered because a leprechaun might be lying in wait for you to pull a trick on you.

Some websites on Irish lore disagree. Their theory is to enter and leave by the same door.

But Mom’s made sense.

Dad, an electronics engineer, might have raised a skeptical eyebrow at some of these stories. He had a very logical mind. Think: Mr. Spock, with a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

Still, Dad went along with the gag

These superstitions, folklore and traditions also became part of the fabric of my family’s life when our daughters were growing up.

Green mashed potatoes? Yep, we did that. I also tried green dye in the milk. Our girls loved it.

But corned beef and cabbage? Never. Our staple was ham and cabbage. Or, mustard-roasted chicken with spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Irish dinner - Mustard Roasted Chicken and Spring Cabbage - 3-16-14

Check the crowds at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. You might see me waving at you across the way.

Before I leave, I’d like to share an Irish blessing: “May the best day of your life be the worst day of your future.”

 “Erin go Bragh” … Long live Ireland.


What traditions, folklore or superstitions were part of your growing up years?



Photo: St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin – Lord Mayor’s State Coach – taken March 17, 2007 by William Murphy

Photo: Dew on green plant – Taken: August 2003. Author: Luke Elstad.

Photo: Blarney Stone – woman kissing the Blarney Stone (Blarney   Castle, Ireland) – August 2002

Photo: An Irish meal we made to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: mustard-roasted chicken, spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes. 

A Grand Weekend

Connor and Kaitlyn at the McLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Fl

By Judy Berman

Gold was within our reach. But we walked away empty-handed.

To some, that would be mighty disappointing. For the grands, Kaitlyn and Connor, it was just one of the adventures we had during their visit in October.

All great excursions involve food. Right? We stopped for lunch at Capt. Hiram’s Restaurant in Sebastian, Florida. While we ate, we sat on an open deck and watched plovers and sea gulls scurry back and forth hunting down their meal.

Mel Fisher Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida

Then we went down the street to Mel Fisher’s Treasures Museum.

After searching for 16 years, “a salvage team led by Mel Fisher recovered the mother lode of the Atocha” in 1985. The Atocha, which sank in 1622, met a similar fate as the eleven Spanish vessels that sank in 1715 in a storm near present-day Sebastian.

gold bar at Mel Fisher's Museum, Sebastian, Fl

Seven hundred lives were lost and more than 14 million pesos worth of treasure went down with the eleven Spanish Galleons. No wonder this area is referred to as the Treasure Coast

It’s typical to take the sites and attractions for granted. In our role as tour guides, we discovered the many treasures close to us.

The next day, we were transported from visions of gold, silver and jewels hauled from the depths of the sea to a ride up a seven-story tower overlooking Port Canaveral on the Space Coast in Brevard County.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral - Oct. 2014 (24)

What is it like to navigate a boat? The “pilots” made it looks easy, but I bet it’s harder to do than parallel-parking a car.

On the fifth floor, Connor, and then Kaitlyn, safely steered their vessel via a simulator through Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship. Not a dent or a scratch on either boat.

We shifted our course from the present to the past. It was all just a touch screen away.

Where did early native populations live? Where did the first European settlers land? We discovered this and more thru an interactive map.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral - Oct. 2014 (44)

When you enter the Exploration Tower, and when you leave, visitors are reminded of our fragile environment via the exhibit, “Embrace,” by Sayaka Ganz.

Vivid blue and white right whales, red jellyfish and stingrays can be seen from the lobby and second floor. It’s remarkable not just by its size, but from the elements used to create it. Ganz recycled items that people toss away: kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

From trash to treasure. That, too, is worth more than gold.

What attraction near your home do you want to see or return to?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Video clip: Wallace & Gromit’s “A Grand Day Out” – ‘We Forgot the Crackers.’ (No, we didn’t forget the crackers, but we did have a Wallace & Gromit video marathon … and we had a grand time.)

Music Video: Jimmy Buffet singing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (with apologies to our vegetarian granddaughter) 

1.Main Photo: Connor and Kaitlyn outside the McLarty Treasure Museum which is part of the Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida.

2.Photo: Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida – photo taken by Ebyabe on April 25, 2011

3.Photo: Gold bar from Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum

4.Photo: Exploration Tower – Port Canaveral, Florida – Connor and Kaitlyn piloting and navigating a boat using a simulator thru Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship.

5.Photo: Exploration Tower – “Embrace” exhibit by Sayaka Ganz. She captures the movement of right whales, rays and jellies out of discarded objects such as kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

Links to sites:

Mel Fisher’s Treasures in Sebastian, Florida

McLarty Treasure Museum at Sebastian Inlet State Park –

Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral –


In the Misty Moonlight


Judy, deer and cousin Tony 2

By Judy Berman

An old, dusty, red tin box, tucked into a corner of the closet, holds a treasure-trove of memories.

Like a time machine, it transports me. The contents, however, might mystify today’s teenagers.

Black round discs with a huge hole in the middle. I smile as I pluck one of the 45s from the stack. The song takes me back to an unforgettable trip to visit my Aunt Martha’s family in Pennsylvania.

Some of my recollections are as foggy as the misty moonlight that hung low in the night sky.

But one thing remains certain. I had a wonderful time.

My aunt lived in Three Square Hollow. Just the name conjures a remote, woodsy place filled with mystery and adventure, and neighbors a distance away.

My Mom told me that I always referred to Aunt Martha as my fabulously wealthy aunt. The reason? I think it had something to do with a spring on her property.

If I close my eyes, I can see it still. In the woods, water tripping over polished stones. I swear that water tasted better than soda pop. That description always cracked Mom up. But it was true.

Aunt Martha wasn’t well-to-do in terms of money stashed away in some bank or hoarded in a secret hiding place.

She was rich beyond measure in kindness, generosity and just plain good fun.

Judy and Aunt Martha2 - Aug. 1993

Her home was nestled in a wonderful place to romp and roam.

Years earlier, when my family visited, a fawn stumbled into their lives. It was abandoned. While I was there, I fed it and the tiny critter squirmed as I held it. Quite a thrill. I never knew what to expect there.

What was not surprising is there were children everywhere. Hardly a surprise. Aunt Martha had 11 children. Some of them were grown and on their own. The ones at home were determined to show me a good time.

One night, we hopped into a car. My cousin, Danny, egged me on to take the wheel. That was pretty courageous on his part, as I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Not a chance of any traffic stops, though. There wasn’t a police car within miles. We had a ball.

When I arrived, I was almost a stranger to them. We rarely saw each other as my family had moved to another state when I was nearly eight. Yet I got a warm welcome and I felt right at home.

Mountains - mists

The night before I was to return home, they really surprised me.

They threw a party for me. It might have included a bonfire, marshmallows and a cookout. I don’t remember.

What I will never forget is this song, “In the Misty Moonlight,” that played that night, and how special my aunt and cousins all made me feel.

Like visiting royalty.


Is there a song that reminds you of a special place or time? Is there a time when others surprised you by doing something special for you?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: In the Misty Moonlight by Jerry Wallace 

1. Main Photo: Me holding a fawn and my cousin Tony Barnhart at our Aunt Martha’s.

2. Photo: Me and Aunt Martha – Three Square Hollow, Pennsylvania – 1993

3. Photo: Mountains – mists, Environmental Protection Agency – Date: May 1973

Oh, The Places They Will Go

Danielle and Jennifer - Thanksgiving 1998

By Judy Berman

I never dreamed I’d see our youngest daughter become a nun – and a pregnant one at that. Or that our eldest daughter would be driven to madness and walking an invisible dog.

That’s not the worst of it.

Our youngest plotted with three friends to knock a woman off for her shoes. And our eldest? She was popping pills and hanging out with someone who was mad as a hatter.

I’m talking, of course, about roles our girls played in school and as adults.

Wherever there’s a kid involved in sports, drama, music or other activities, there’s a parent driving them to the event and cheering them on. That turn on the field or on the stage might lead to a thrilling hobby or to a professional career.

For me, it’s been fun to watch on the sidelines whether they were play acting in school or tapping into their creative side as adults.

We recently saw Jenn perform in The Dixie Swim Club. She was one of five cast members in this play at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park.

We knew she was a nun in the play. What we were unprepared for was her entrance. She really caught us off guard when she opened the door not far from our seats.

Jenn McGinnis - The Dixie Swim Club at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park - Sept. 2014

Jenn was eight months along and about to go into labor.

Years ago, when she was in elementary school, Jenn was the conniving girl (Dorothy) plotting with friends (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion), to keep the ruby-red slippers that the Wicked Witch of the West coveted in the “Wizard of Oz.” (I spun that story out just a bit.)

Danielle’s debut as a crazy lady walking an invisible dog was part of a Spanish version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Her Spanish high school class had a lot of fun with that, and added some improv to the skit.

The pill-popping was when Danielle played Alice, in “Alice in Wonderland.” Give the kid a break. Her character took the pills that made her very, very small … or super big … to escape the crazy Queen of Hearts and the even nuttier Mad Hatter so she could return home.


Nowadays, Danielle writes and directs plays for her children and others who are home-schooled. She’s already got me in stitches with dialogue she plans for “The Wizard of Oz.” Seems we can’t get away from that classic.

Jenn has directed a play as well. No matter which side of the stage she’s on, she’s having fun.

Looking back, I think of the times I drove them to be part of a drama class and encouraged their acting chops in school.

When that seed was planted, I had no idea what it would lead to

It’s been wonderful to see it come full circle.


What activities did you and/or your children do in school that continue to play a part in your life and in theirs?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1) Main photo: Danielle and Jenn in 1998

2) Jenn McGinnis and cast members in The Dixie Swim Club at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park. (Jenn’s the one in the middle with the huge smile.)

3) Danielle Wallace honored for her writing and directing of “Alice In Wonderland” in a school play.

An Old, Dear Friend

Mr. Benjamin Musser and relatives

By Judy Berman

He was nearly eight decades older than me. But, as friends go, the age span was never an issue.

The moment I met Mr. Benjamin Musser, I knew by his kindly eyes and shy smile that he was someone I could trust. He became my fishing buddy, my good friend and my protector.

My parents and I had a room on the third-floor in my Grammy’s row house. I was excited when he moved in just down the hall from us.

Our family quickly adopted Mr. Musser. By family, I mean the WHOLE family. Aunts, uncles and cousins all accepted him as kin. He was included in our family reunions and other get togethers.

At 82, some might envision a frail man bent over and leaning on a cane. Not Mr. Musser. His daily walks put us all to shame.

One time, shortly before Christmas, he went shopping for a Christmas tree with my Mom and me. We must have scoured every tree merchant’s business in the city. I was the lucky one. I got to ride on a sled – up until we finally purchased a tree.

When we got home, my Mom collapsed on the couch. She was just worn out from our excursion. Then, we heard Mr. Musser’s footsteps coming down the stairs.

He took one look at my Mom and said, comfortingly, “That’s it. You rest now. I have to go run some errands.”

Mr. Benjamin Musser 1

Remember the role Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morito) played to Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) in “The Karate Kid” (1985)? His lesson was that fighting is “always the last answer to problem.”

I learned a different lesson from Mr. Musser. One about patience.

That’s a critical skill when you’re fishing. First, Mr. Musser put a corn kernel on the hook, and then we’d wait for some unsuspecting fish to take the bait.

We caught a few sunnies that way. He cleaned them and cooked them for our dinner. Some of our cats might have benefited from our outing as well.

The only time my Mom raised an eyebrow about Mr. Musser’s influence is when he – and Grammy – allowed me to have coffee. I was about 6 or 7. They’d pour the scalding, dark brown liquid in a saucer. Added a lot of milk and let me drink it.

Mom hinted this practice might get me booted out of any proper social gatherings. But she didn’t put a halt to it.

One day, after school, I came home with some disturbing news. I told my folks that a man, who was driving a black car, stopped across the street from my bus stop. He told me that he worked with my Mom and offered me a ride home.

I had been conditioned by my folks to never accept rides with strangers and said “no.” When I told my Mom about this stranger, she was rattled.

Mr. Musser volunteered to walk me to the bus and come pick me up when the school bus dropped me off.

At work, Mom asked everyone she knew whether they had offered me a ride or knew any one matching the description I had provided. They didn’t.

Looking back, I feel that I lived in this very loving, protective cocoon. Imagine my reaction when I was nearly 8 and learned that we’d be moving because my Dad had accepted a job in another state.

I didn’t want to go. Mom, trying a bit of psychology, gave me the choice of leaving with them or staying with Grammy and Mr. Musser.

Tears ran streaming down my face as I blubbered that I wanted to stay with Grammy and Mr. Musser. I don’t know what Mom and Dad did to finesse that situation, but I was soon on my way to a new home several hundred miles away.

Mr. Benjamin Musser

While we were miles apart, Mr. Musser remained a friend and a part of our family until he died at 105.

He was the dearest friend anyone of any age could have.



COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video clip: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” by Randy Newman. Song in “Toy Story.” 

Main Photo: Mr. Benjamin Musser with my Aunt Lois Meyers, cousin Dar Mowery, and Aunt Ida Gilbert. (Thanks to my Aunt Susan Wagner, cousin Sherry and cousin Ruby Reich for sharing these photos.)

Photos: Mr. Benjamin Musser