Monthly Archives: July 2017

In which Arthur and Benedict bring me JOY!

As some of you know, my mother died last August, three days after my 60th birthday. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years before she died, and I suspect she’d had it for even more years before the diagnosis.

I stopped sleeping well about two or three years ago – waking up at night worrying about my mother and feeling guilty that I was not helping out more. After her death, the feelings of guilt stopped, but other worries took their place, so I continued to wake up at night worrying about this or that – work, the election, and other things I don’t want to discuss here.

Whether or not it was the general feeling of anxiety, grief over my mom’s health and death, or a by-product of not sleeping, I must have been in a state of situational depression for some time. Not that I always felt unhappy – but I never felt completely happy and some things that used to interest me didn’t interest me anymore – birds, reading, cooking…

I’d vowed to get back into reading – especially books that interested me. Most of the books we’d read for book group were fine, but only a few really caught my attention and made me want to stay up reading them all night. Two of those books were about men of my general age who for different reasons discovered new things about themselves in the course of the books. One book was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and the other was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. A man sitting on a sofaAmazon recommends books based on books you buy and in March a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was recommended and was on sale for $1.99 so I purchased it. It looked like something I would like, but I didn’t start reading it until last week. I liked it immediately and early in the morning on July 11th I was halfway finished with the book. Sitting on our back porch, I put the book down, took a sip of coffee, looked out through the screen at the bird-filled backyard and I felt something I’d not felt in a very long time. I felt JOY! All Caps with an exclamation point and bold font JOY!

It took me by such surprise and I realized that I could not even remember the last time I felt pure JOY! that I began crying. I cried because there were so many times over the past few years that I should have felt this way – when I saw my daughter after a long absence; when my brother married the love of his life; when my son graduated from Oberlin. I cried because I’d wasted so much time on being angry or resentful or guilty or scared or despairing.

Then I wondered where the feeling came from. Coffee? No, I drank it every day. Sitting on the back porch? No, I did that every day too. Hearing birdsong and watching birds? No, again, that was a daily event. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper? Bingo, it was Arthur Pepper’s search for who his wife was before they met that did the trick, I am sure of it. In fact, I’ve been on a similar search – I’ve been going through items I brought back from my mother’s house and trying to find meaning in them. Why did Mom have them? Where did they come from? Who had them before she did? I think I suddenly realized that even though I’d lost my mother in August (really, years before that) I’d not lost the memories of her and could make more memories because of the items from her house. I mean, I have not even got to the letters and have only touched upon the photographs.

Cover of Rise & Shine Benedict StoneSince that epiphanous Tuesday, I’ve been able to sleep through the night (with a slight hiccup this week because of a work issue) and have been able to deal better with things that would have made me angry, resentful, or despairing before that Tuesday. Maybe I am done with the grief – the grief that I told everyone, including myself, I didn’t feel.

This morning as I sat on the back porch drinking coffee, watching the birds, listening to bird chatter I once again felt JOY! This time, the book I’d just put down was Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick’s second book. Coincidently, I am halfway through it.

So this is not a book review but a too-long, twisty-turny open thank-you letter to Phaedra Patrick who I hope continues to write charming, witty, life-changing novels. And no, I don’t believe we are related but it would be cool if we were.

New Blog: A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement and Instruction

Another item I brought back from my mom’s house is a book called A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement, and Instruction. This book is all one needed in 1903 to be entertained, amused and instructed. For instance, it gives detailed instructions on how to throw dozens of socials, from an advertisement social to a bird social to a beheading social. It also provides guidance on throwing parties including a progressive soap bubble party, a children’s Valentine party and a brownie party. It gives instruction on how to play ping-pong, how to do various exercises and explains both American football and English football rules. Several of the socials, parties, and instructions are accompanied with “full-page half-tone images” and others are paired with simple line drawings.

Three women dressed in warm clothes for a "Northern Social"
An example of the images from the book

I remember looking at this book various times in my life, but it never caught my attention until I took a closer look at the images and some of the content.

So, thought I, what a great idea for a NEW BLOG! Maybe I will actually keep this one going beyond a few posts!

I’m slowly adding content to the new blog, with little, if any commentary. So far you can learn how to put on a Carnival of Nations or a Reunion of Characters from Charles Dickens’ novels. You can also learn how to host a Cat Social, a Bird Social, an All Fools’ Social and a Broken Hearts Social.

Hyman Herron’s Spelling Book

On my desk sits a 1906 beat-up copy of Reed’s Word Lessons by Alonzo Reed, A.M. The front endpapers are covered in childish writing: numerals 1-9 and the initials H. H. in small and large writing. The end endpapers have more writing: the number 15 in three places, Hyman Hernw, the name Patty and, in much nicer handwriting the words confectionary, confederacy, corb, coterie, dau, and daguerriolyn (which doesn’t seem to be a word). On a page that may have been reserved for notes is the name, Hyman Herron. Hyman also wrote his name on the edge of the book, across the pages.

The book itself is a spelling book for “the higher primary, intermediate, and grammar grades”. It contains 289 lessons starting with the “long a as in hate” and ending with prefixes and suffixes.

I don’t know when Hyman used this book. Perhaps when he was 15? I don’t know how this book came to be sitting on my desk. But below are some clues as to who Hyman Herron was.

Hyman was born in New York City to German (Prussian) immigrants, Issac and Fannie Herron on either December 25th or 26th in either 1895, 1896 or 1897, depending on what source you believe. His sister, Esther, was born in New York when Hyman was 2. By 1900 the family had moved to Elgin, Illinois. They lived, along with an Irish family, at 58 State Street, Elgin, Illinois. In 1910 they lived at 115 West Chicago Street in Elgin, which seems to be the Beckwith Building, built in 1888, according to Google Maps. Hyman’s father’s occupation is listed as “Fruit store” in the 1900 Census and Confectionary in the 1910 Census. Issac died October 23, 1910.

In 1917, Hyman registered for the draft. He was 21 and lived at 411 Prospect Street in Elgin and worked as a chauffeur for W. A. Kerbru (?) in Elgin, Illinois.

Hyman lived as a roomer at 310 Spring St. in Elgin, Illinois in 1930. The homeowners were George H. and Addie E. Rutledge. Dr. George H. Howell, a dentist, was also a roomer at this residence. It is possible Hyman paid $18 for rent. The home was worth $10,000 according to this Census report. His listed occupation is “Shipping Clerk” at a thread factory, which later information suggests was Collingbourne Mills.

In 1940, Hyman was still a single at 43, living at the Kelly Hotel in Elgin, Illinois. and was still working for, probably, Collingbourne Mills.

In 1942, Hyman again registered for the draft.  He was 45, living at the Kelly Hotel and still working at Collingbourne Mills. Harold Rule, also of the Kelly Hotel, is listed as someone who would always know Hyman’s address. Hyman’s telephone number was 6086.

Hyman’s mother, Fannie, died March 23, 1962, and is buried in the Elgin State Hospital Cemetery. Her gravestone also contains the numbers 771.  Interestingly Fannie is listed as Lena in the 1900 census, but Fannie in 1910. It could be two different women, but the age seems the same.

Hyman’s grave marker indicates he died on June 22, 1975, was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, in Elgin, Illinois.

This leaves me with more questions — how did Issac die? Why was Fannie at the Elgin State Hospital? How long was she there? Was she also Lena or was that another wife? What happened to Esther? Did she marry? And how did this book end up on my desk?

The only connection, besides Elgin, is Collingbourne Mills. My grandfather worked there as a traveling salesman when he met my grandmother. Perhaps he knew Hyman Herron from work. Hyman was about 12 or 13 years older than my grandfather. My grandfather probably worked at Collingbourne Mills in the early 1930s. Did he give my grandfather the book? Or perhaps there was no connection and this book ended up at my mom’s house with a bunch of other stuff from an antique store.

At least I’ve given Hyman and his mother (and sister and father) some thought today.



Bible stories in words of one syllable

Christmas 1936, my 8-year-old father was given a book of stories from the Old Testament. I don’t know how much he read it, the spine is still stiff. Growing up I’d seen this book around the house but never really looked at it. It wasn’t until I pulled it out of my “to blog about box” this afternoon and saw that it was not just a book of stories from the Old Testament, but a book of stories from the Old Testament written in words consisting of only one syllable. Or so the title claims.

Before I opened the book I wondered if the author shortened all the names in the book to make them one syllable. Noah = No? Moses = Mo? What about place names? Garden of Eden = Yard of Ed?

In reality, there are words with more than one syllable in the book, but the author hyphenated them or, in the case of names, used an apostrophe between the syllables which I think is cheating. (Actually, it was probably really hard to do this.)




Green’s Point Rules

Green's Point Reminders
The actual rules that used to hang in the cabin

Before my grandparents moved to their cabin in Chetek, Wisconsin, they used it for a vacation home. My grandfather typed up a set of rules for when friends and family visited the cabin. I remember the rules hanging on the wall in the hallway that led from the garage door to the kitchen.

I know for a fact that my grandfather typed this on a big, black, heavy typewriter with round keys — I know that because I learned to type on that very same typewriter by copying poems from my grandfather’s books when I visited them many summers.

I found the framed rules when I was going through things at Mom’s house in February. Here’s the scan so you can read it more easily.

See below image for full text of the rules
A scan of the reminders

Green’s Point Reminders

We hope your stay will be a pleasant one, and that you catch such a big fish, and so many, that you won’t have to stretch the truth when you go home and tell about them.

Use whatever we have here, but think of the next ones who are going to use the cottage. If you eat it or drink it, replace it so there is at LEAST as much here when you leave as there was when you came.

If you break something, or it goes haywire while you are here, replace it or have it repaired. If there isn’t time to do either before you leave, report it so we can have it taken care of. Don’t take a chance on having someone drive 340 miles expecting to have everything in order, then have to have something repaired that was out of order when you were here.

Before you go: Defrost the refrigerator and leave the refrigerator door open, unless someone else will be up within a week or so.

Shut the gas off at the tank and hang the key with the others.

Pull the plugs on all appliances.

As an added precaution, pull the main fuse in the switch-box and put it where you found it, so if lighting should strike the line outside, it can’t go farther than the box. Disconnect the radio aerial and let it hang outside the cottage.

Bring the motor, oars and other fishing equipment, etc., and put them in the basement. Lock up the boat and put the keys where they belong. Clean up before you leave, especially garbage and refuse, so the next ones won’t have to wade through it. Don’t leave anything edible in the containers that field mice or other rodents can get into and be attracted, unless it is inside a cabinet or can they can’t get into.

It is going to take all of us to get the place the way we want it, so you see anything that needs doing give us a hand.

We believe the foregoing to be only fair to all concerned; and we hope the place will always be ready so we can unlock the door, turn on the lights, and start to enjoy the time we are able to spend here. We hope you have the best vacation ever.

Lois and Walt Green

Two Fishermen

“Hiyamac. Lobuddy Benearlong? Cuplours. Ketchaneny? Goddafeu. Kindrthey? Basanacarp. Ennysiztuem? Cupplapoinds. Hittinhard? Sordalite. Wahuoozin? Gobbawurms. Fishmonahboddom? Rydonnahboddum. Igoddago. Tubad. Seeyaround. Yatakidezy. Guluk.”


Again, I thought I’d blogged about this subject, but apparently not since it did not show up in a search result. I found something else, though, that made me happy and a little sad — but that’s a post for another day.

There are many kinds of people in the world but today I want to discuss two kinds. Those who like to go through life without background noise and those who like to have music or other sounds playing during their waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours.

I am the former kind of person. While I appreciate some music, I prefer to listen to it when I want to listen to it and not constantly. My husband is the other kind of person. He seems to need (although he may disagree with the verb, need) to have music or some other noise (I am using noise here in a general sense, not in a negative sense) in the background of his life at all times. In fact, when we first met, he used to have a radio playing softly when he slept. The only time my husband does not have music playing over the speakers in the house, or through headphones seems to be when he first wakes up, drinks his coffee and reads the paper. That, I think, is out of consideration to me since I usually sleep later than he does.

My husband nearly always tells our kitchen Echo to “play NPR” when he sits down to eat — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I usually tell Alexa to stop when I join him at the table, but sometimes she talks on through our meals. My husband has even started to listening to podcasts when he goes to bed at night.

My kids are the same way — they both play music from their phones when we are in the car together and my son, at least, often hooks up his phone to our Bluetooth system and plays music — mostly music he wants me to hear because he thinks I will like it (I often do, but since I don’t much listen to music I rarely go back to it).

Other people I know like to have a television on in the background. My folks were like that to some extent. Some of my in-laws are like that. My brother often has the television playing when no one is actively watching it.

I love silence*. I love silence when I wake up in the morning and have my morning beverage. I love silence when I get ready for my day. I love silence when I work (unless it is a mindless and boring task where I sometimes watch Netflix). I usually love silence when I am driving, but often listen to NPR when I am running errands or audiobooks when I am driving long distances. I love silence when I cook dinner  (although sometimes I listen to an audiobook when I am puttering around in the kitchen). I love silence (except for conversation) when I eat dinner. I love silence when I read. I love silence when I blog. I love silence when I am falling asleep.

I know I have a hard time concentrating when there is background noise, even wordless music so that explains why I need silence when I am working or reading or blogging. But why do I like silence when I am just sitting around thinking or when I am eating?

This makes me wonder why the difference? What makes some crave silence and others crave sound? I think I am in the minority. What do you like: silence, noise or something in between?

*My silence is not like everyone’s silence because I have a bit of tinnitus. I might be one of the only people that do not consider it a burden — I figure that I always have crickets singing in my ears.

Lt. Col. Don Williamson 7-7-65

I thought I’d written about my POW bracelet before, but I cannot find it when I search my blog. I did mention it on another blog in 2005

If you were a teenager in the 1970s, you probably knew someone who wore a silver POW bracelet. Maybe you did too. Maybe you still have yours. Did you research the soldier who was on your POW bracelet? I did. I hoped to find out that he was released and was reunited with his family and lived happily ever after. That was not the case for my POW.

My POW bracelet

My friend Cindy gave me the POW bracelet for either Christmas or my birthday. She said she chose it because my name is Dona and his name was Don. I wore it for a very long time, longer than most other people wore their POW bracelets. I planned on wearing it until I knew Lt. Col. Don Williamson was either safely home or his remains were returned.

His name was one of my first searches on the Internet, and it wasn’t until the last 12 or so years that I found out more about him. It wasn’t until today that I saw his photograph.

His full name was Don Ira Williamson. He was born in 1930 and lived in  Louisville, KY. He was an Air Force pilot in the Vietnam war. His fighter jet was shot down on July 7, 1965, and according to reports (see link above) he survived being shot down but died in 1979. His remains were returned in 1989.

Read the link above if you want to know more about Lt. Col. Don Williamson. If you want to see his photograph visit Don Ira Williamson’s memorial page on The Virtual Wall®

I didn’t realize that his name was on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Or if I did, and visited it, I don’t remember doing so.

Happy 4th of July, you wonderful old First Federal Savings and Loan!

Apologies to Frances GoodrichAlbert Hackett, and Frank Capra. for the misuse of their words.

My first bank account was with Elgin’s First Federal Savings and Loan. Apparently, at the time, when you opened an account you were given a bank in the shape of the building. I found that bank, along with my passbooks a few years ago in the attic of my mom’s house in Elgin.

The bank is the color of old pennies — it may have been brighter copper colored when it was new. It is showing wear on one side, I think it is oxidation. White, not green, so I guess it is not copper.

I use the bank to hold foreign coins. I found a key that works (now that I look at it, it is the original key), so they are not forever stuck in it. I had the bank on my bookshelf in my office, but I want a less cluttered area so I am not positive what I am going to do with it.

The passbooks date from January 9, 1961 (I was 4) and is a joint account with my father. On January 10, 1961, a total of $31.06 was deposited into the account. The most money in the account was $2,364.74 on November 28, 1979. The account was closed on June 20, 1981, probably because I moved to Pittsburgh.

It seems I had another account with Elgin Federal Savings and Loan that I opened on March 8, 1976. Its highest amount was $538.11 on July 1, 1976. I closed this on November 23, 1976.

I vaguely remember going to the bank to deposit money and to withdraw money using these passbooks. I didn’t have a checkbook or credit card and ATM machines weren’t invented yet.

As for the passbooks — I will keep them in a box in the knee wall. Maybe the kids will find them interesting someday. If nothing else, the advertisements are interesting.

I like the way the style of homes are different from the passbook that was opened in 1961 and the one that was opened in 1976.

I guess $30,000 was a lot back then (1961)


Pregnancy Shaming

Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.

In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.

I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.

When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.

Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.

Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.

*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.

Creepy Dolls

My mom had a soft spot for ugly dolls. She liked going to antique shops and occasionally purchased the ugliest doll there because she was afraid that doll would never be loved.

A few years ago she gave me two of these dolls “for Clare” but Clare really didn’t want them. I often have them sitting on the back of my office sofa staring at the back of my head while I work.

The first looks like she’s dressed up to go on a trip. Her clothes are elaborate, handmade for sure. She’s wearing pantaloons and a petticoat under a traveling skirt and coat. The undergarments are finished with lace and the skirt and coat are lined. I thought this was a very old doll, but I am now thinking it is not so old, maybe from the 1970s or later. The rear has a stitched name and probably company name: “Meg Jandolls.” What’s creepy about her is her expression. Eyes that bore right into you and a small, slightly askew mouth.

Meg the traveling doll

The other doll is, I think, much older. I call her the strict nanny. Her graying hair is in a messy bun, Her face is stern (or shyly smiling depending on the angle). She’s wearing a pink gingham dress over a petticoat. Over her dress is an apron. Barely visible in the photo below are her black (removable!) boots.Her hands snap together so she can hold a baby. The baby wears what looks like a baptismal gown and a pink knit shawl. I think both the nanny and the baby had bonnets, but they’ve been misplaced.

Strict Nanny Doll

The baby, now that I look at her without her bonnet reminds me a lot of young Karen from the BBC series, Outnumbered.

Okay, maybe not, but to be fair Karen’s hair often looked like the doll’s hair in the early episodes.

All three of these dolls will continue to sit in my office unless I decide to put them on the guest beds. I am pretty sure someone could write a Shirley Jackson-type short story about each of these dolls.

And they are not as creepy as this creepy doll: