January 31, 2013

Joanna Belle Harkness Cartledge, 1922 - 2013

Middle Bass, 2003: Mary Jo, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Tara, Shirley, and Mother.

Joanna Belle Harkness Cartledge of Middle Bass Island, Ohio, born May 26, 1922, died on Monday, January 28, 2013. She was the daughter of the late Charles and Lilian (Brown) Harkness of Vestaburg, PA, and Detroit, MI. She was proceeded in death by her husband of 69 years, Douglas Cartledge, and her older daughter, Amy May Thomas Reidling. 

As part of the war effort in the 1940s, Mrs.Cartledge built Pratt and Whitney engines. In 1941she graduated from the Del-Mar School of Cosmetology.  With her husband she owned several island businesses, including the Erie Island Mirror, Doug’s Ice Fishing, the fishing boat “Way Ahead,” and Island Pottery.  Her final business, Belle’s Dolls, received national and international recognition for a series of 43 U. S. President and First Lady dolls, which she sculpted in porcelain and costumed authentically.  She was a member of the International Association of Doll Artists. For five decades, she served as an election poll worker, and in the 1990s she was recognized by the State of Ohio for voting in every election for fifty years.

Mrs. Cartledge is survived by two sons and her surviving daughter, 8 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Memorial tributes may be made to your local chapter of the Salvation Army (which Mother honored because of the vital services she saw them offering to the destitute during the Depression) or to the Middle Bass Fire and EMS Department, 455 Fox Road, Middle Bass, Ohio, 43446.

January 6, 2013

2013 - A Year to Savor

A friend has picked out one word to focus on for each of the last few years.  This time, I decided to follow her example.  My word for the year?  Savor.

It's a good word for me.  To begin with, I've been carrying a fair amount of resentment because of  the dog attack in June, during which my life partner got between me and a pit bull that had lunged into our back yard. The pit bull went to live with Jesus a few moments later; and I took Michael to the doctor shortly thereafter. That Tuesday a return visit to the doctor ended with hospitalization, massive antibiotics, massive painkillers, and, on Wednesday, plastic surgery to clean out the infection, which by then was sending red streaks up and down his arms. Five days in the hospital and nine weeks out of work wiped out all of the year's vacation time, personal time, etc., which is no doubt the reason my resentment escalated in December. I'm accustomed to being surrounded by dozens of friends and family over the holidays, but I wasn't going to leave Michael alone; and Michael had no options for taking time from work.

That brings us again to savor, which, it seems, to me, is the antonym of resent. I'm willing to let the dead past bury its dead; and to let the pit bull rest in peace, having learned that, as vicious as pit  bulls are, cocker spaniels are notorious for attacking pretty little two-year-old girls. (Per a nurse we met, they always go for the face).Cocker spaniels, I'll admit, commit less damage, but the essential problem is owners who don't believe that any dog, including their own sweet precious dog, must be constantly overseen.

It was a summer of panic attacks for me and concern that somebody would retaliate by killing my dog. I also  spent hours in hospitals, where I constantly called Michael "Fred" -- the name of my late husband, who died in 2000. (PTSD has many guises.)

On a lighter note, in September I was five years out from giving up cigarettes and thought I could withstand the modest deprivation of a diet. I've lost 17 pounds, using a miracle method I developed ALL BY MYSELF but will now share with you. Here is is:
    no ice cream
    no eating between meals
    after putting your meal on your plate, scrape half of it onto another plate to eat the next day.
    in a restaurant, ask for a go-box when your meal is served, put half the meal in it, take it home with you, and don't eat it until the next day.

That's pretty much it. I also did join a wonderful site called Bitch Yourself Thin which has an emergency distraction button and people in charge with smart moves and bright ideas to keep you motivated. Love them a lot.

Not eating takes up a lot of time. Further, I've come to suspect that blogging, while useful, does not equal writing. I can blog with one eye shut and my brain sent out to the cleaners, which is the opposite of writing. All of this is to say I'm going to be out of pocket for a while, giving my time to understanding what it means to savor each day; and to notice what is to be savored in each day; and how much.  Wishing you the best for 2013.

October 12, 2012

Best Present Ever!

I found this sweet December Angel, along with a September Angel, back in the spring.  My birthday is in September and my granddaughter's in December, so it made me happy seeing the two of them together. After I knocked a wing off September Angel (yeah, no surprise there), I retired her to the fix-it box but kept this cutie on a shelf in my bedroom.

Last weekend, I was thinking about my older daughter's birthday, on 10/11/12.  Her daughter, Lizzie, is off for her first semester at college, and I was remembering how I seemed to rattle around the house when my daughter left.  Something was just . . .  missing.  I decided my girl needed December Angel more than I did.

Here's where the "best present ever!" part comes in. I've been organizing and packing and generally putting my hands on every single item in the house, and last weekend what should come upon but a photo of Lizzie as a toddler. I'd found her a red pocketbook (or "pockeybook" as she, and consequently the rest of us, called it) and she was holding it, with glee sparking from every pore.  I photocopied the photo and cut her loose from the background.  Then I grabbed a U. S. map that was handy on the shelf, trimmed out the South Carolina part, glued it to card stock, and glued ribbon around the outside edge.  Then I added Lizzie's photo.  Here are the card and the figurine together in the box waiting to be mailed.
Yes, I know she is indeed the most darling baby ever.  (The angel, by the way, is standing on a plastic container; I'd covered the lid with fabric nearly identical to some I'd used to make a dress for Lizzie when she was about a year older than in the picture.)

All of that is pretty good, but what put it in "best present ever" territory is what I wrote inside the card: "Someone to keep you company until your own December angel comes dancing home."

I'm not always this good at giving presents, but when I get it right, I get it really, really right.

October 9, 2012

Spring is here!

Today my contributor's copies of Spring: Women's Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings, edited by Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass, arrived.  My essay, "The Rescue Dog," is included; it's about how Laramie (whose photo I posted last week) came into our lives in a difficult season.

This book is one of a series of four being published this year by Tending Your Inner Garden, in celebration of their tenth year of offering programs on health, growth, and healing for women.  You can check out the website to learn about their on-site programs in Iowa, their potential on-line program, and the book series.

The books are available either in print or as downloads.

If you sign up for their newsletter, you get a free e-book.  Also, if you're a woman interested in writing, you still have time to submit an essay or poem for consideration for Fall, the fourth book in the series. Full details are on the website; the deadline for submission is October 30.

The editors are old friends, and it's been a pleasure to watch them bring this series to fruition.  Two wonderful women committed to empowering women in every way, Deb and Diane exemplify the new world of publishing, a world in which four or five large, rich New York publishers control the industry, leaving lots of room for independent publishers to create and publish powerful niche books.  I'm proud to be part of this project.

October 4, 2012

After the lovin', the dishes still need washed

The current conversation about whether women can have it all revolves around children and a high-powered career.  What nobody's acknowledging is that it isn't the children that beat you into the ground and leave you depleted. It's the dirt, grime, grease, hairballs, laundry, spills and maintenance.  It's the food -- shopping, hauling inside, putting away, preparing, serving, cleaning up after.  That's before we discuss the bills that somebody must pay attention to; and the decisions about various insurance questions that repeatedly emerge, not to mention the annoyance of getting prescriptions filled --

In other words, the kids go, but the drudgery stays all the the way to the grave.

It's possible for two people in a relationship to work out the issue of who is doing what.  For instance, Mormons tend to stick with firm gender demarcation lines between what a penis can do without shriveling and what chores (vacuuming and dusting come to mind) depend on a vagina.

The issues can also work out if both parties in the relationship are egalitarian.  As it happens, such was the case in my previous marriages.

The problem I've got now is that I'm the person I've always been but The Tall Dude, with whom I share space, was never house-broken, in any authentic pick-your-crap-up-off-the-floor sort of way.

I gotta tell you:  I find it incredibly annoying.  It's not that he isn't improving in these matters.  This very summer  The Tall Dude emptied the dishwasher ALL BY HIMSELF at least five times without being asked, coaxed, cajoled, or harangued into it.  (Okay, fine, he didn't wash the big pans or clean off the stove top, but I've given up even fantasizing about getting out from under those tasks.)

The upshot is that I've had it.  I give up.  I'm crying "Uncle!"  I decided a few months back that I'm dedicating this year to homemaking, which is a lot like my telling a surgeon "Go ahead and give me a lobotomy.  Probably by the time the year is up you'll have learned to reverse the procedure."

I've been a feminist since the day an employer told me I could get a salary increase as soon as I went to Sweden and had a sex change operation.  I hold two graduate degrees that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000, not counting time. Just to round things out, I'm on a drug that makes my joints ache all of the time.  Most critically, any interest I ever had in housekeeping whisked itself out the door with my children when they left home.

I've been driving myself nuts over the one-sidedness of the household drudgery. The first year or two I overlooked pretty much anything The Tall Dude did or didn't do, because he's really cute and has a precious smile.  A year or so later, though, I noticed that, while one of us rinsed her dishes and placed them in the dishwasher, the other one set his plate BESIDE the sink.  I don't know if he was expecting elves or a maid or spontaneous combustion to take care of the plate; but none of those things showed up.

I'm reverting to the practice of homemaking because I refuse to spend the rest of my life angry; and I also refuse to spend the rest of my life waiting on somebody capable of pitching in and doing his fair share.

Come year's end, if we've worked through the issues, the Tall Dude and I will begin the slooooooooow process of planning a wedding. (I believe in really, really long engagements.)  If we can't reach some level of parity, I will, on the other hand, throw his ass to the curb.

I'm not looking forward to it.  After all, when you've unloaded one dishwasher you've unloaded them all.  Or, as my late husband Fred, who was annoying in an entirely different way (he'd unload and reload the dishwasher BECAUSE I HADN'T DONE IT RIGHT," said when I gushed over my first sight of an oil rig on a trip across Texas, "Only the first one is actually interesting.  After that, they all look alike."

The purpose of this decade of my life, I'm convinced, is not to be an unpaid maid and personal secretary, and also cook. My exceptions are Laramie, the little dog who upchucks fur balls with all the elan of a Persian cat -- and her big brother Koko, our yellow Lab, who every few years gets sick before I can shove him out the front door. They can't open their own cans of dog food.  They can't take themselves for walks or drive themselves to the vet's office.

What does The Tall Dude make of all of this? Every time I mention that "throwing his ass to the curb" option, it throws him into a great good humor, and he wanders the house in a flurry of dropped socks and shirts and handkerchiefs chuckling to himself.

He's not a stupid man, which suggests he won't let the situation reach the stage where I'm lobbing his combat boots across the yard into his truck; but we'll see who breaks, and when, and then what.

October 2, 2012

The Monsters under Some Beds

I'd like to introduce you to Laramie, the Chihuahua mix we got from the Kentucky Humane Society on the next-to-the-last-day of my high dose radiation for breast cancer.

We adopted her because when I woke up the day after my surgery my first thought was, "I need to get a Chihuahua."  And so it came to pass.

This morning that cheerful little dog coughed up a hairball the size of my fist on the leather couch, jumped down, ran into a corner, upchucked, and then took a nap to recover from all of the excitement.

I cleaned up after her and then loaded the dishwasher. When I was done, I turned on the disposal. Fairly soon I noticed that the garbage, rather than being chewed up and flushed away, was bubbling up on the other side of the double sinks. I mucked around with it for a few minutes and then noticed that the bottom of the dishwasher also held several inches of water and undisposed-of garbage.

I was interrupted when Laramie pattered into the kitchen. She hadn't been outside yet, so we leashed up and headed for the door.  She didn't bother to wee before proceeding to the more serious business of a walk. You know what that means, right?  It means she'd taken care of the wee-ing before we went outside and that I need to walk around in my socks until dampness reveals the location she'd chosen.

Meanwhile this morning, the big-ass Mitsubishi television in the living room blew a gasket and now produces nothing but lines of static and a very loud crackling. I'm torn between wrestling the thing to the sidewalk for the trash men (it's huge and DOMINATES the living room) and waiting for my beau to get home from work to test the thingamajiggies (I nearly said tubes, but that's so last century).

Dog, sink, and television all  in one morning. Our "things fall apart" experience continues unabated.  It began on August 30 when, ten minutes before we were to go out of town, my Jeep, which we were to take with us, broke down. Since then, empty jars, the Crock Pot, the Jeep again (it actually has had three breakages, two of which were fixed, the third of which awaits a spare thousand dollars to fall from the sky), a small end table, a piece of my mother's china and more have all broken.

All of this is to say that I had an annoying morning, which may be the reason I had a minor fit when I listened to the noon news and heard yet another half dozen reports related to the upcoming Susan G. Komen walk/run.I hope to God it's this weekend because I've had all I can stand of the sacralization of breast cancer that accompanies the annual event.

The White House was lit up in pink, for God's sake.

I've been on edge about the topic since last week, when two different magazines came to hand in which the editors whinged on idiotically about breast cancer

In the first case, the editor said every woman is scared before a mammogram.  Oh, please. I've never been afraid of mammograms, not my first one in the late 1980s through my most recent one two days ago.  In truth, I feel a great deal of affection for mammograms, what with them saving my life and the lives of zillons of other women.  I even love the room where my mammograms are done. Drunk on painkillers and Valium, I was taken to that room the day of my surgery and found the sight of five people hunkered around a tiny screen discussing my own personal left breast hilarious.  Whiffs of left-over good humor greet me each time I return.

(Obviously, my not being dead also contributes to my good feelings, but isn't that true of all of us and every thing?)

Getting back to editors, the second one had the audacity to say that the thought of breast cancer frightens every woman.

Where was I when Women elected her our spokesperson? Beyond that, why do people act as though breast cancer is the worst thing that could happen to a person?  It's nothing but a disease. Yes, some people die of it; and everybody hates when that happens; but how does that justify grown women acting as though a monster is hiding under their beds?

If you want to talk monster, I'll give you a monster.  It's name is multiple myeloma. Over all, life expectancy is 28 months following diagnosis.  Geraldine Ferraro got lucky; she lived for years following diagnosis. My late husband, on the other hand, only lived for 22 months.  Multiple myeloma is an orphan disease, far less common than breast cancer, but one hundred percent of the cases are incurable and fatal. If you want to be scared, that's a far more logical disease to fear.

And some things are far worse than that.

Not long after he was diagnosed, Fred told me that he kept asking himself "Why me?"  I'd pastored a church for the three years prior to his diagnosis and conducted more funerals than I'm going to count up. I'd spent quality time, in great quantities, considering the idea of death; and I'd reached one absolute conclusion.

"I don't mean this ugly," I told dear Fred, "but I'd rather you have cancer than five people I can think of right off hand."

Fred blinked, and then he uttered two healing words: "Me, too."

The five people referred to?  Our grandchildren. (We could as easily have been referring to the five children we had between us.) If you need something to be afraid of, don't bother with breast cancer.  Rather, be afraid that a child - any child: yours, mine, a friend's, a neighbor's, a stranger's - will be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.

A mammogram is a diagnostic test, no more worthy of drama than that moment  when the dentist pulls your tongue forward during a cleaning to examine your mouth for cancer.  If you want to over-dramatize the test and the disease, have yourself a big time, but leave me out of the conversation. I've got a Chihuahua to clean up after and a no-monsters-allowed-beyond-this-point life to live.

September 9, 2012

Two nights on Middle Bass = 100 years in heaven

We made our escape from the city in the glimmer of time between Michael's physical therapy and his return to work.  In a jolly burst of reliving my childhood, I rented what used to be Mrs. Murd's house. Behind this house is the very mulberry tree from which, when accompanied by our mother, Amy and I were allowed to pick mulberries.

Mrs. Murd stood on the side porch and pointed a shotgun (rifle? BB gun?) at two marauders up in her mulberry tree.Amy and I fled from the wrath at hand and saved ourselves. Every other thing I know about Mrs. Murd is of a kind, hard-working person.
The concrete floor on the porch meets up with the screen door into the house on one side and a concrete ramp on the other.  By the time this photo was taken, Laramie, the little dog with the grin, had been up and down the ramp fifty times, mostly because she wanted to track down all of the bunny poop she could find and point it out to Koko.

Laramie wanted to come up on the porch, but I was busy and she was inches from the ramp.
The critical moment: Laramie studies the ramp. She's a good dog, and brave, and true; but she has a little tiny screw that's just a weeee bit loose and logic is not her strong point, and so she bounced further away, toward Michael and Koko, because while something nudged her about that space, she couldn't quite put it together that if she were to step on it, she could join us on the porch.

The quintessential Middle Bass Island slogan: NO FISH GUTS.  These words have been written on every trash can, garbage bucket, outhouse, and cottage-rental agreement since the island was populated, and yet people still want to dump them into the nearest bin; and other people still loathe scrubbing away the stench of fish guts baked in the sun.

By the way, the best way to get the stench of fish out of your refrigerator is to put a vanilla-drenched cotton ball in a saucer on the bottom shelf. A little tip from back when I was cleaning cottages for Jim Bretz.

August 13, 2012

You may be a feminist if . . .

My friend Pat Jobe - preacher, poet, songwriter, and all around fine man - posted on facebook something like "100 Hundred Words on Oneness.  Now it's your turn."

I read what Pat wrote and decided to participate.  Here's my 100 words. (A caveat:  I can't find the word count function on this laptop, so you may want to count for me to be sure.)

Seeing the women win big
At  the Olympics and knowing
We did that.  We, the feminists working as one
For years in committees on phone trees on congressional visits on letters
At our home and at our meetings and
At our marches.
We, working, toward one goal: that our daughters
Our granddaughters, their granddaughters
Through every generation
Might stand on a stage, around her neck draped a ribbon
At the bottom of which dangles gold silver bronze and
Might hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Played for them.
If you love those strong be-medaled women holding nosegays
Thank one feminist tomorrow.

August 12, 2012

The Mystic Isle at Lonz Dock

From The Cartledge Archives: The Mystic Isle Put-in-Bay Auto Ferry landing at Lonz Dock, Middle Bass Island, Ohio, identified with my mother's handwriting on the bottom of the photo.

Incidentally, I learned from the experts at the Kentucky Historical Society that to preserve photos, the first step is to remove them from any album in which they're stored. Then scan them at the highest resolution possible and file the scans on your computer, on disks, on thumb drives, and on whatever other devices are devised in the future.

Then essential principle in historic preservation is to have digital copies in as many forms as possible in as many different places as possible.

August 10, 2012

Middle Bass Island Grade School, Spring 1960

Ha!  Here we are, the total school population of Middle Bass Island Grade School, circa spring 1960.

From left:  Karen Lee Kuemmel, Douglas Jonathan Cartledge, Amy May Cartledge, Mary Joanna Cartledge, and, in the foreground, Carolyn Yvonne Riddle.

Karen and Douglas were in seventh grade; Amy was in sixth; I was in fifth (and, incidentally, had already caught up with her in height); Carolyn has the grin of a child whose front teeth just came in, so she's either in first or second grade).  We were the core island scholars for several years.  I don't recall any students older than Karen and Douglas during my eight years there; and the only younger children were Carolyn Riddle's siblings, Steve and Rickie.  (They had a little sister, Marguerite, but I graduated before she started school.)

Regarding the building in the background, I rather think it's Walt and Izzy Swisher's home/store, although the style of the windows makes me wonder.  Perhaps it's Frank Roesch's house, which was also white with tall windows and buildings in the back.  Why were we there?  The answer is lost in memory, as is the answer to the question of how my mother, who was fastidious about the way her children dressed, let me out of the house with my petticoat showing.

We are not wearing the white gloves which were de rigeur for field trips.  However, you'll notice that bangs were a happening fashion statement that year.

August 8, 2012

Housekeeping Is for the Birds

I've been fabulously busy doing incredibly interesting things, like mopping the kitchen floor and loading (not to mention running and also emptying) the dishwasher every day.  Brushing Koko, our yellow Lab, once a day is keeping the dust bunny/hippopotamus situation under control; and figuring out supper every night -- my, that's just oceans of fun.

Kokomo, Michael, and Laramie panting in the heat on Middle Bass Island, each of them wearing dog tags and a rabies tag (ha! we can finally joke about the summer's trauma).

Not one of those three contributes a darned thing to housekeeping, except for Koko, an important decorating element, and Laramie, who travels the interior perimeter each morning to learn whether any bugs invaded in the night. As for Michael, he does all of our grilling and recently learned how to operate the dishwasher. I'm very proud.

Housekeeping, it turns out, is exactly as repetitive as I expected it to be.  (I'd like to say "as I remember it being" but apparently I stopped caring so long ago that memories have faded away.)  Nothing stays done, which is to say that if you mop, vacuum, cook, and clean today, by five o'clock tomorrow no evidence will remain of that effort. Which is why you might as well not bother.

I, however, am choosing to bother, for 365 days, some of which I've already used up, thankyoujesus.  Yesterday's  event was cleaning off the huge desk in the living room. I worked five hours, mostly making file folders and then putting pieces of paper into them. The desk needs another five hours of attention if I plan to see its surface.Yesterday evening I went through half a box of my parents' papers, a satisfying activity that turned up some photos I'd forgotten.

For instance, here's my aunt, Mary Astrid Cartledge Ayers, after whom I'm named:
 Written on the back in my mother's handwriting, "Mary A. C.  1943 + - "
Written on the back, in my father's  handwriting, "What do you think of my cute kid sister?"

Today's cleaning project is my studio/office.  I've rearranged the furniture and tidied the bookshelves and done the floors.  Now I'm off to scan some of the spectacular mail art I've received over the last four months.

August 1, 2012

Paperwork!: preserving family documents, step one

I began the morning paying bills and now, at 10:15 p. m., I have monstrous piles of family documents and artifacts bedecking the living room rug.

I'm beginning to get a handle on the huge project I've undertaken.  My father died at age 88; my mother is now 90 and has a good memory for important things, like people's names and how sewing machines work, but doesn't waste time on topics like what she had for breakfast.

Thirty years ago, Mother told me that you must always label everything.  That scrumptious photo of the most darling munchkin in the world, meaning yours, is going to be augmented by hundreds more photos, plus scrumptious photos of siblings; plus perhaps scrumptious photos of cousins; and then you throw in grandchildren; and I don't know about your family  but in the right light with the right tilt of the chin I'm hard pressed to distinguish between Charlie and Devin, Carson and Jon; David and Douglas; Mikey and Jeff - pretty much any of the boys - and a photo of my father in his youth.

Family resemblance is a powerful and wonderful thing, but it won't be your friend when 30 years from now you try to identify who's who on a photo that holds no indication of the date when every single one of those darling boys has a smile on his face and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

So as I was saying, Mother labeled everything, except for the things she didn't, most of which were duplicate photos that are labeled, which is good, if you can ever get the originals and duplicates within ten feet of each other.

Meanwhile, Mother also did serious genealogical research, traveling with Cousin Carolyn to do research in libraries, phoning relative to find out who remembered what stories and to clarify relationships she was unsure of and also asking for copies of important photos, especially of her mother (who died at an early age) and father, who each belonged to enormous farm families; so photos of their siblings were also good to get her hands on.

Mother filled out the suggested forms, and she created a marvelous set of notebooks into which specific family units were divided.  But then things got tricky.  First of all, a number of the notebooks and papers collected the faintest whiff of mold over the last 2.5 years in a closed-up house.  Additionally, Mother in her last few years at home couldn't see well and apparently rearranged items that had been carefully encased in protective sleeves.

I took a class on preserving family heritage last year, and this spring I qualified as a Kentucky Historical Society Certified Community Scholar, which means my head is full of information my body hasn't been able to follow through on completely.

Item One is to remove every photo from every album.  Remember the ones with the magnetic pages?  Mother had transferred most everything out of those;for the two or three that remained, I took the albums apart and gave each magnetic page its own folder. Every few months I check the folder and find the glue has dried out on a few more photos and rustle the folder and see if the glue has dried enough for the photos to fall off.

Item Two is to keep all of the photos together in some sort of coherent chronological order.

Item Three is to remove all of the sheets of paper Mother laboriously put together from her research, photocopy and/or scan them,  wipe off the glass of the copying machine, put the papers into archival quality folders, and then store everything scanned and photocopied on a thumb drive and one or two more back-up methods.  (The more back-up methods the better, because everything is going to fail somewhere down the line, and you want backup upon backup for every potential failure.

Oh, wait.  There's another Item One, which is to remove every newspaper article from the rest of the artifacts.  Newsprint and ink are like friendly drunks, notorious for deteriorating and taking everything else down with them.  The acid content is higher than in other papers, and they self-destruct and contribute to the destruction of anything in the same file, album, box, and closet with them.

(On a side note, somebody at the preservation workshop last year had a newspaper printed in the 1700s, given to her by an elderly neighbor years earlier.  What should she do with it?  The answer:  find out whether the newspaper exists on microfilm, microfiche, or is any other way preserved.  If so, don't worry about. Newspapers, it seems, were a dime a dozen and -- here's a shocking idea -- their value was in the information they contained rather than in the paper on which the information was printed. Bummer, especially if you think you've been preserving something that might make you famous, or at least rich.)

We don't have any of that stuff.  We are, as my mother said, plain people.  We have lovely documentation, and lots of it, because my parents lived in the same house for sixty years and never threw a thing away.  Yes, I know it's a problem for a lot of people, but they weren't hoarders so much as frugal and cautious. If the water pump broke in the middle of the winter, you might just be able to get the one that worked poorly last year to work a little better this year -- at least, a little better than the one that 's not working at all.

On top of that genealogical notebooks and family photo notebooks and grown-up family notebooks, there are booklets from Tideswell, the town in Derbyshire, England, where my father grew up; and pamphlets published over the years by the ferry boats listing schedules; and the odd wine bottle label; and a lovely letter my father received when he was naturalized, and an award presented to my mother for having voted fifty years straight, and another award for having worked at the voting polls for 25 years.  Then there are the various businesses my parents operated over the sixty years on the island; and information about other businesses; and the Mr. Zippy or whatever his name was who arrived on a postcard to announce that the zip code for Middle Bass was 43446.

Tubs and boxes and cases, oh, my.  Some people have a little bit of everything.  I have I a lot of everything.  I think I have a handle now on how to organize it all. All that's in the way is a lot of scanning, photocopying, verifying identities, deciphering Mother's handwriting (which, thank heavens, remained legible until just a few years ago), and putting pieces of paper into archival quality document holders, for a second time.

Long, slow project, but rewarding in its own right.  I've found numerous photos of my mother that I don't remember ever seeing before; and a few new ones of my dad; and a darling photo of his sister, my aunt Mary, after whom I'm named, giggling the way only an eight-year-old girl can giggle.  I also found my parents' original wedding photo, which is a relief, because I haven't yet been able to locate Mother's wedding gown. I'm beginning to think a relative took it home for safe keeping, intending to deliver it to me once I weathered the uproar of my dad's death followed immediately by my breast cancer diagnosis. I know it's around somewhere and will get to me eventually.  Meanwhile, I'm sorting and scanning and trying to get the mild scent of mold out of my house as quickly as possible.

July 28, 2012

Hangin' with the Good Dogs

We escaped the heat of the city and spent two nights at the Murd House on Middle Bass Island, Ohio.

When we were children my sister, Amy, and I wandered through Bretz's pasture one day looking for wildflowers and ended up behind Mrs. Murd's house. Seeing no evidence of her presence, we climbed her mulberry tree so we could reach the few ripe mulberries. We weren't breaking any rules that we knew of; Mrs. Murd had allowed the picking of mulberries every time Mother asked her.

Imagine our surprise when Mrs. Murd appeared on the porch, yelling and waving a shotgun. Rather than approaching to tell her who we were, we escaped through the woods and scurried home.

No photo of the one-room island school house this trip, but I'm delighted to report that the tacky red paint has had its day in the sun.  The school is being repainted the historically correct white that's appropriate for the site where generations of island children learned to read.

Great trip, including conversations with people I hadn't seen in decades, fabulous food by Chef Elvis at the restaurant at Hazard's, and lots of time laughing at the dogs' enthusiasm for the sight and smell of bunnies.

July 20, 2012

Quench not

I love the photos I took this spring, but I love them even more when I've captioned them.

Rise. Shine. Breathe.

I'm in love with this technique.  Wait, maybe the word is obsessed.

July 19, 2012

I made this just for you.

My photo.
My text.
I used picmonkey for the first time.
I'm liking it.

July 16, 2012

50 Ways to Use Marshmallows

In a burst of caffeine this morning, I decided to devote the next year to being a -- oh, Lord, can I manage to spit the word out of my mouth? -- home maker.

That's one step short of housewife, for which I'm not qualified, what with not being a wife and all.  I do have a house, though, and a compadre who thinks eating three meals a day is reasonable and two dogs that shed unmercifully.

I've juggled the work/home bombs for decades, setting off numerous explosions along the way when I dropped one or the other.

Today, finally, I had enough. "Screw it," I thought.  "I give up.  Somebody hand me a freaking apron, quick."

I'm changing my ways, dedicating myself to the house first and the things that make life worth living -- art, fresh air, stepping stones, photography -- a gloomy second.  I'm going to recreate that magical mythical time -- roughly the 1950s -- during which white women with affluent husbands wore pearls and heels to vacuum, smiling vacuously all the while.

I'm not really prepared for vacuous, what with having a master's degree from Duke and another master's degree from Goucher, and also a brain; but I'm giving it a shot. Maybe I've been wrong my whole life.  Maybe this domestic crap is worth doing.  No time like the present to find out.

We live in a comfortable three-bedroom house in a slightly suspect neighborhood that's had a rash of car and garage break-ins recently.  It's an ideal location for turning the clock back to the 1950s, for taking the opportunity, now that my adult children have children who are nearly adults, to figure out the homemaking swamp,  complete with cleaning, cooking, finances, organizing, Saran wrap,and fake smiles.

I'm going to upend my world and aim for what society has wanted from its women all along:  tidy house, tidy pets, tidy life, tidy relationships, and a lovely meal at the dining room table every evening, often by candlelight, not to mention throwing money at every new fashion that comes down the pike in order to keep the economy strong.

I've been preparing for this task for years without even knowing it.  For instance, I have my very own copy of a pamphlet called "50 Ways to Use Marshmallows."  With that pamphlet in my hand, how can I go wrong?  I've already had one breakthrough, which I hint at with the photo at the top of this post.  Stay tuned to find out about my first extraordinary find.

July 15, 2012

The "Done Me Wrong" Hall of Fame

My good friend Pat Jobe has this to say on youtube about forgiving people:

He says he oughta know, because he's got his very own "done me wrong" hall of fame, inhabited by two people, one a "hateful, vindictive, smug, self-righteous, no-good dirty rotten scoundrel who did everything he could to undermine my ministry as a Methodist."

And the Pat says, "FIFTEEN YEARS I've been carrying around those bums."

We've all got a few bums hidden up our sleeves or camped out in our heads or weighing down our backs.  Give Pat a listen, if not to get around to forgiving somebody today but as information to have with you for the long haul.

July 13, 2012

Sunset, No Tornado

 Yesterday's sunset was beautiful.
 What looks like a tornado was actually just a parting of the clouds in the evening sky.
The colors were different from one moment to the next and made moreso because I was taking photos out the passenger window as we traveled on the Watterson Expressway at 55 mph.

The Coco Chanel/Old McDonald Quilt

 I was three-quarters finished with this peace/love/fashion quilt for a friend when she posted on facebook that her nearly 18-month-old daughter knows a kazillion animal sounds.  My compadre thought it really important that the animals representing the sounds show up on the quilt.
 Laramie, my Chihuahua, totally loved making this quilt. She's been indifferent to others but persisted in spreading out loooonng-ways across this one whenever I worked on it.

 Is that a happy cow or what?  I have the same design in pink but the blue just worked better . . .
 especially once I added the blue slithering snakes ("ssssssss").  The kitty, by the way, is orange for a reason:
because it's the same color as my friend's kitty.

We too the quilt/blankie over this evening, and it was so much fun thinking about how excited the toddler will be when she sees it (she was asleep when we got there), and how much fun she and her mom will have cuddling under it, with one of them thinking admiring the dresses and shoes while the other offers a background chorus of sssss, ribbit, meow, woof, moo, baa, roar, and more.  Ah, friendship; just another word for joy.

July 7, 2012

The Joy of Treasure Hunting - at 50% Off

I needed to get backing fabric for the quilt I'm making, so I headed off around two this afternoon for one of my favorite quilt shops, which is unfortunately closing.  A 50% off sale started at ten a. m., but I decided to miss the pandemonium by going four hours later.

Bet you're wondering how that worked out.  When I arrived, I was greeted by approximately 35 people waiting patiently to check out.  Fabric was being cut at four or five stations, and another 10,000 people, more or less, were carrying bolts of fabric, or piling fabrics together trying to decide what design they wanted with what other design, or rifling through stacks of fat quarters (18 x 24" pieces) making up their minds.  I escaped just before four, because the shop was closing for the day; and I brought a fine pile of fabrics home with me:  20 fat quarters, 10 half-yard lengths, a few full-yard lengths, and one two-yard piece, which was the backing I orginally went to get.  Fat quarters were $1.50 rather than the usual  $2.85 or so; everything else was $5.00 a yard, which is a true bargain, given that even Joanne Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics charge $9.95  a yard for what is often a cheaper, thinner fabric.

I scanned the small selection to post above because many people don't know what a riot of fabulous fabrics are available.  I'm a novelty fabrics fool, as you can tell from my selections, which include car tires, a skeleton on purple, coffee cups on turquoise, eyeballs for Halloween, wings for a blanket I'll eventually make for a friend who's in culinary school, sweet reindeer, and bees!

It was one of those times when an ordinary event turns into a party, like when there's been a heavy storm and the power is out and trees are down and neighbors congregate in the street to talk it all over.  Or it was like the state fair, when you're choosing between cotton candy and fries with vinegar or riding the Ferris wheel or going to see the goat exhibit.  Yep, it was like that, a great adventure where everybody was revved up and happy, including the people who work there. Such patience!  Such good humor!

I got home and arranged and rearranged my fabrics for a while, and then I got the back put on the quilt,  Used to be I always did bindings but for this one and the one before I used basting spray to attach the batting to the front and then put the backing fabric and pieced length together, right sides facing, and sewed all the way around it, like making a pillow.  Lots of pinning and unpinning and repinning and crawling on the floor to smooth everything out, and I love the way it turns out, the smooth edges rather than binding.

When I started quilting four or five years ago, I read everything I could get my hands on, which was quite a bit because Kentucky was a leader in the preservation of quilts, thanks in part to former Miss America Phyllis George, who was married to the governor.  The libraries are stuffed with books about quilts and quilting and quilting history; and in one of them I read that Ohio quilts - for God knows what reason - tended not to have the borders that were common everywhere else in the country. I'm from Ohio originally, and I feel as though I'm following in that tradition with this new-to-me style.  Thus endeth the history lesson for the day.

July 6, 2012

Stylin' and Profilin' with Old McDonald


Here are some of the fabrics for  the new picnic blanket (a. k. a. pieced quilt) I started this week for a friend.

I was zooming along with the construction when my compadre asked if I'd seen the friend's latest post on facebook. Turns out she'd told her daughter's adoring public about all of the animal sounds the toddler can make now.

My compadre contained himself until the next morning, and then he couldn't stand it any longer. He said, "You ought to put the animals on the quilt."

The what?  Yes, I'd heard correctly. He thought I should put all of the animals the little girl knows onto her mom's quilt.

"They'll look really good," he said.  He didn't need to add that my friend would be doubly delighted.

As an act of friendship, he was bang-on right.  From a design perspective, though, I had to rearrange my idea of what I was making.  See those pretty fabrics above?  The one with the black background shows up in a number of places on the quilt, as does another fabric with a black background.  The motifs for that one are fabulously outlandish boots and purses. It's a styling and profiling quilt balanced by a range of pinks and a few very small rectangles that reflect the presence of a little girl.

Adding animals?  How would that work?  More smoothly than you might think, considering the fabrics I added:
Believe it or not, I had all of these fabrics except the lion (green background, top center) and the snake (Slither slither on the right side, with the white background).

The majority of the piecing was complete, but I was able to substitute good-sized chunks of animal fabric here and there.  The rest of them I fused down slap in the middle of my carefully chosen and organized pinks and peace signs, alleviating the potential boredom that never existed because it was wonderful to begin with.

And now?  What is it now?  I'll post a photo when I get the thing completely finished so you can judge for yourself, but I've got to say that sometimes dumping your original concept when a new one comes along can be a brilliant move.  Already I love thinking about how much fun my friend will have with her daughter, the two of them discovering animals here and there and giggling as they baaa and moooo and ssssss and oo oo ah ah (that's a monkey sound) and ribbit and roar with their blankie wrapped around them.

July 3, 2012

The Third of July

If there are any currant bushes on Middle Bass Island, the berries ripened today.  At least, they always ripened on July 3 when I was growing up.  I can remember the date, because it's my late sister's birthday; and it was also the day of the township's firework display, which took place on Put-in-Bay (another  island, just south of us).

July 3 was like Christmas Eve in that it took forever for night to arrive. We didn't just have to wait until dark; we had to work until really dark, and then we had to wait for the lights on Perry's Monument to be turned off. Then we'd pile into whatever jalopy was operational that year and Daddy would drive to the Main Dock, and we'd Ooh and Ahhh, the way everybody does, everywhere.

Since then, I've seen fireworks on New Year's Eve in Times Square (2001); on the Fourth of July from the roof of an eight-story building looking over the Hudson River in New York City (2003); and over the Ohio River following Thunder over Louisville, the annual precursor to the Kentucky Derby (2004).

Each of those fireworks displays was the largest ever in the history of the country, according to the news reports, but none of them compared to the fireworks on the island.  I've alwaysattributed it to the island's isolation, but today I've been reading interviews conducted in the 1980s with writers who are women, and a substantial piece of the conversations had to do with the role of place, in the sense of who grew up where, and Place, in the sense of an ongoing and tiresome conversation about how anybody who wanted to be successful as a writer had to live in New York City.  (Surprise!  The people doing the interviews lived in . . . wait for it . . . New York City.)

But I digress.  My point is that I was reading about the role place carries in our lives, and then I put the book down and started working on a new quilt.  The rhythms -- ripping, pressing, testing, sewing fabric - made room for meandering thoughts.  So I was thinking about the fireworks going off beside Perry's Monument (it's official name is Perry's International Peace and Victory Monument and it was built to commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie and to honor and attest to the peaceful border that has existed between the United States and Canada ever since the Treaty of Ghent was signed).  (Way to go, United States and Canada.)  I was also thinking about currants, cake and ice cream, birthday presents for Amy, and how the fireworks exploded doubly, in the sky and in reflection on the lake, and what a big deal they were.

Then it struck me that just as significant as the fireworks was the fact that we were down at the dock after dark.

We only ever were at the dock after dark on July 3.  Hell, we were hardly ever there in the light, unless we were catching the boat with Mother to go shopping in Port Clinton or to visit her relatives and friends in Detroit.  What was that, all together?  Four or five times a year?

Otherwise, we weren't allowed near the dock.  In the summer, Lonz Winery was generally crowded with raucous folks (many of them from Cleveland*) drunk on sparkling wine (the kind that would be called Champagne if the grapes and the product were both from the Champagne area of France).  Not only were they drunk on fake Champagne, but they were drunk on WARM fake Champagne, which meant they were either hollering or singing or throwing up.  Not a place for children.

Not a place for children in the off-season, either.  What were we going to do there other than pick cherries from the Bing cherry tree that stood near the cliff in front of the Lonz mansion (which we did, with Mother's company) or fall in the lake (which we didn't, because we were never near the water, which is to say the dock)? My folks were all about being somewhere where you could do something productive.  We never went anywhere to look; we went places to learn.  Which isn't a bad form of parenting, whether on a Lake Erie island or in New York City.

*P. S.  It has been said that my children and I are loud. I claim it's a habit developed from a childhood living with a parent who was deaf as a result of flying noisy airplanes in the war without ear protection.  You had to SPEAK UP and you had to e-nun-ci-ate; and it seems I passed that lesson on to my children.  A few months back, I was telling my compadre some island stories and mentioned how loud people from Cleveland seemed when I was growing up.  "Are we that loud?" I asked.  "Oh, no," was the answer.  "Nobody's as loud as people from Cleveland."

I mean no disrespect, you understand.  If people from Cleveland are, indeed, louder than the rest of the world, it's no doubt attributable to all of the reasons I've just named for our family's speech pattern, with the added element of living in a city, where you have to talk over cars and trains and buses and utter bitter cold and, oh, yeah, all of those people.

Happy Third of July.

The Joy of Catastrophe

As I keep repeating in hopes the shock will wear off, my compadre was seriously injured on June 3.

In accordance with my continuing desire to make sure life is as complicated as possible, the first thing I did upon our return from his emergency treatment was to lose the plug-in cord for my cellular phone.

It wasn't the end of the world.  I do have a cord in the Jeep, so when I seriously need a charge I could head out back and sit still for ten or fifteen minutes -- always my favorite thing to do in times of crisis.

Losing stuff wouldn't be half as unnerving if, when catastrophes hit, I didn't devote serious time and thought to tidying.  When life is out of control, I need clear spaces and the confidence that when I reach for something, it will be there.

And so it was, except for that blasted plug-in cord.

Day before yesterday I decided to take photos of the St. Snidely picnic blanket, and you'll never guess what I discovered when I opened the camera case.  Yes, indeed; I'd tucked my phone cord into the camera case, thinking it was the camera-to-laptop cord.

Oh, joy.

The kind of joy that only comes in catastrophes, because under ordinary circumstances the want of a phone cord is a mild annoyance. When the going gets tough, though, the want of a phone cord can be the final straw - and the end of that want thus becomes a truly joyful moment.

July 2, 2012

The Saint Snidely Quilt

 I finished this quilt for my nephew a few days ago.  It's title is "The Saint Snidely Sidewinder and the Unrepentant Uke Boys."
Saint Snidely is the patron saint of ukuleles, vegetarians, mustaches, and the A-Team.

My nephew plays in a ukulele band, and their logo is the mustache on the lower left in the mustache portion of this photo.

Here's the long shot.  I favor just enough quilting to keep the batting where it belongs.  In the case of the cotton batting I used, that means stitching can be 10 inches apart, which is still a little closer than I like.  Even so - this is a picnic blankie and is sure to turn up in the parks and environs of Spartanburg, SC, when Snidely and the gang hit the stage.

June 30, 2012


It's a bird!

It's a plane!

Nope!  It's a sunflower that I painted last month, and on Monday it will head out to Hawaii to add a helpful heaping of joy to someone's life.  What a wonderful world.

June 27, 2012

The Art of the Tidza Parade


My cousin just provided the link so I could see the 2010 parade in Tideswell, the small town in Derbyshire, England, where my father was born.  He left to join the navy when he was 17 and returned only for the rare visit.  My mother kept up the communication with his family, and so I knew about Wakes Week and the annual dressing of the well, a holiday celebrated on June 24 each year, which is St. John the Baptist Day and my friend Mary Flowers' birthday.

I just learned here that the custom of well-dressing is peculiar to Derbyshire.  Here's a bit of information:  
"This ancient custom is only found in Derbyshire and is the art of decorating springs and wells with pictures made from natural materials. Four wells are dressed in the centre of Tideswell.  Wells have been dressed at Tideswell since 1946. Refreshments are available around the village.
"Well locations: Fountain Square – main Well; Church Yard – Three wells dressed by Scouts, Guides and Tideswell School."

One participant posits that the custom of well dressing is a "Christianised vestige of early ritual celebrating the healing miracle of clean water" -- and it's not hard to imagine the custom having developed while the area was still pagan.  Bless the water, which, as we in America are becoming more and more aware, is life.

I met Betty Friedan at Forum '85, a session held in  Nairobi, Kenya, concurrent with the United Nations End of the Decade for Women Conference in 1985.  I happened upon a tree with a note attached informing anyone who cared that Betty Friedan would be there every day at a given time for an hour or so, and everybody was welcome to join the conversation.  One of the days I attended, some Kenyan officials (male, in suits) came to ask Betty what women wanted.  She deferred to their countrywoman, whose name was Sarah.  Sarah stood and replied that what women want is schools, firewood, and water.

Clean water.  Potable water.  Water close by.  Water not contaminated by coal ash or pesticides.

Women still want clean water, which takes us back to the well dressings in Derbyshire. Here are a few photos:
The 2011 Tideswell well dressing

England faces the same crisis with small post offices that we are in the U. S.

The point of all of this is to say that I've always wanted to go to a Tideswell well dressing.  When I told my cousin Danny, he posted the youtube link for my viewing pleasure.  I am filled with questions after seeing it, mostly things like what the money being collected was to be used for and how exactly did one find one's way into such a parade.  Then I dwindled off into thinking that by rights we ought to take part in that parade ourownselves, if we could settle on a theme.  (Actually, a pseudo-theme looks to be sufficient.)  Which leaves only one more thing to be resolved:  whom do we know in Derbyshire who owns a tractor and what would it take for them to let us use it on parade day?

June 19, 2012

The Craft of Going the Whole Nine Yards

Why, I have always wondered, would you encourage anybody to go the whole nine yards?  What kind of achievement is that when the goal is, at least in football, if cheerleaders can be trusted, as I believe they can, "First in ten; do it again."

What, I've perenially wondered without ever remembering to look it up or ask, is the point of stopping one yard short of the goal?  What, precisely, is gained by that?  If you're going to fight for nine yards, why not give that extra little push and actually accomplish something?

Today, my decades-long confusion was cleared up.  I'm excited to report that I got the answer while watching a rather silly spy movie with my compadre.  It turns out that my error in understanding is that all along I thought we were talking about football.

I was wrong.

The nine yards doesn't refer to football but to a far more serious endeavor.  At least since World War II, ammo belts -- the kind soldiers carry for military operations because that's how much fits in an average ammo box-- have been nine yards long.

To go the whole nine yards, then, means to give it all you;'ve got; to pour until the jug is empty; to take extraordinary measures to preserve the lives and physical wholeness of your colleagues; to keep using what you've got 'til you use it up. Life and death, in other words.

Now I have a new question about "the whole nine yards"? I want to know why we toss it into conversations about meaningless activities?  Go the whole nine yards to meet a company goal?  Go the whole nine yards to finish an art project?  Go the whole nine yards in getting a proposal written?  Go the whole nine yards in training your dogs, detailing your car, fixing a gourmet meal for friends?

Yeah, no.

I'm not saying those activities are to unimportant in the ordinary scheme of things.  Rather, I'm saying that they have nothing to do with life and death; and that a phrase born out of war, out of the deaths and maiming of military personnel and civilians shouldn't be trivialized in common conversations. With an all-volunteer army, it's easy for Americans to pretend that, while war may still be hell, it's a newer, gentler hell -- the kind of hell you get when the feet on the ground in Afghanistan and other hot spots belong to poor people and to minorities (not mutually exclusive groups) rather than to the profile of soldiers during the days of the military draft, when anybody and everybody's brother or cousin or high school friend or colleague's child could be on the next boat or plane heading into a war zone.

We need to go the whole nine yards to support military families.

We need to go the whole nine yards to provide effective protective clothing and vehicles and equipment for the military on the battle fields.

We need to go the whole nine yards to provide the support -- physical, mental, emotional -- that our veterans and their families need when a military person returns from battle.  And, yes, by that I mean not only hospitals with no rats in the hallways but also qualified therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, medical personnel, chaplains, folk life experts, poets, projects, and seminars to allow as much healing as a given person needs and wants.

Those tasks are more important than a first down in a football game.  They mean the difference between life and death, between a life of paucity and a life of abundance.

Wounded Warrior Project 
Support Our Troops By Supporting Their Children
Joining Forces

If you know of other organizations making a difference in the lives of military personnel and families, please leave a note in the comments section.