Amy Abbott

Jul 092021
 

July 9, 2021 — We anticipate summer forever and then it seems to rush by. A friend told me that her grandchildren return to school in less than a month.  Returning to school in early August is a silly thing.  Why do children need to spend half their summer in school?  When I was a kid  (there it is, old person lingo) we didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day.  Of course, there was no air conditioning, and that was a big part of it.  Still, on the East Coast, many children do not return to school until mid-September.  This feels right to me.

In truth, it is not summer I highly anticipate.  It is spring.  In southwestern Indiana, summer means ozone days and chunky air. My home sits smack dab in the middle of five coal-fired plants, that are noted for polluting the air.  Combine that with the humidity of the Ohio River Valley, and summer can be daunting.  With my lung disease, I don’t go out much in the summer.

This summer has seemed strange to me,  but not nearly as strange and quiet as the Great Summer of Lockdown 2020, but different.  On one hand, we are delighted that things seem to be opening back up  But everyone seems confused.  On my one trip out of the house since Monday, I went to the local Post Office.  A  small sign on the plastic window  stated, “Masks are required inside the lobby.”  Which lobby?  The outer lobby?  Or this one where the sign is?  Did I miss the sign on the outer door?

I am fully vaccinated.  What should I do?  But I also have several health conditions and I’m not a teenager anymore.  (I’m 37, two years younger than Jack Benny, a name which also dates me.)

Yesterday Pfizer announced that those individuals who received its MRNA vaccine would likely need a booster within six months of their last dose.  Wow.  How will this be managed?  Will folks who received the Moderna jab, also an MRNA vaccine, also get a this shot?  And what about those who received one shot?  What will the tiny sign on the PO window say, “For those of you who have not received your third booster if you had two shots, please mask up.” Huh?

And the Big Elephant in the American room that I’ve not yet mentioned are those people who refuse the shot.  Imagine that all over the world, people are clammering for vaccines.  We’re so fat and sassy in this country that many people are just blowing it off like it is nothing.  I have news for you.  If there’s any virus left anywhere in the world, it is coming for you if we don’t vaccinate.  Remember from the old commercial:  It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.  And, frankly, you can’t.  You can run but you cannot hide.

So, months into the pandemic, we are still in a holding pattern.  Or are we?  A relative who drove to Indiana from Chicago this morning told me that, “Chicago traffic is back.”  Everyone — it seems — is going everywhere again.  And that’s how the soup was made before.

I will likely wear a mask out in public for the foreseeable future.  We will mostly stay at home, thankful for hobbies than engage our minds and spirits, and be awfully careful. What is your plan?

 

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Jun 292021
 

July 29, 2021 — I’m happy to report at 39 plus many, many years, I can still learn.

The reason I still learn is that I still make mistakes.

AllowSee the source image me to elucidate. That’s a good example. The word elucidate should be avoided at all costs. The phrase avoided at all costs should be avoided at all costs. That’s a cliche.

Allow me to share my idiotic choices that turned into terrible ideas.

  1.  I ordered a giveaway for 100 Kindle books and posted it on social media before the giveaway actually started.  This made people mad because it took them down a broken elevator shaft when they clicked the beautiful button.  Mad people don’t want to buy your book.  Lesson learned:  read the fine print before you start promoting.
  2. I learned mail merge and purchased a list of bookstore owners. The whole experience involved several mistakes.  Lessons learned:  First, vet the list you are buying.  People who own bookstores that are only for children, LGBTQ, or mystery lovers do not want to sell your Midwestern history book. Second, make sure you know how many outgoing emails your e-mail can send at one time.  Hint: It’s not 2900.  Mine is THREE HUNDRED.  Yes, 3-0-0-.  When you start receiving multiple “undeliverable” emails back to your Inbox, congratulations.  You’ve made several Big Boo-Boos and should be thwacked on the head.
  3. For my next mail merge, I decided to test on a certain list of public librarians from out of state.  Lesson learned:  make sure the email is attached to the mail merge or send out something blank. So that’s what I did.  However, the good news is that I accomplished this no-mail merge on the same day as the first mail merge.  (See above.)  So all the librarian emails came back as “undeliverable.”  I doubt if there will be too many Virginia librarians purchasing my book for their collection.
  4. I posted a note on social media noting that the Kindle book is available.  Lessons learned: do not post anything on social media when you are tired.  When I checked it, I found I had posted a picture of the Moen shower head I want to buy for the basement.  I feel very fortunate, however, as we are also getting a new commode for the downstairs bathroom.  Readers probably don’t wish to see either—showerhead above not an actual one, but freebie one from Wikicommons.  

In my late twenties, I worked for a man who graduated from Annapolis.  He would greet us each morning with a Navy saying, “Another day in which to excel.”  So, we will try again tomorrow, one small indie writer against the machine.

Jun 142021
 

Flag Day 2021 — Strange times we’re in: cicadas eating plants, dogs eating cicadas, humans stepping on cicada carcasses, the world seemingly falling apart, the pandemic over or not?  What does one little book matter in the middle of all this?  It matters a great deal.

History is important.  It’s how we learn when we bother to pay attention. Unfortunately, history isn’t in fashion now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I fear that generations of students do not hear about the bondage of Africans in slavery to whites, the Great Depression, the Trail of Tears, the anguish of the Civil War.  Lack of context of our past breeds deniers.

Hear me out: nothing I’ve written is as important as “Centennial Farm Family,” my new book that launches two weeks from today. Why?  Because it records a time long gone, a time many of us shared, and a time from which we can learn.

When my maternal grandmother passed, she left me boxes of information—land deeds from the 19th century, pictures, items, history books, and letters. “Centennial Farm Family” took me 29 months as I looked for more information and validated what I already had.

I found some ugly truths about my family.  My ancestors Henry and Philip Long, owned slaves in Virginia.  I felt sick when I found out, but the story needed to be told. Henry’s son Lewis left Virginia for the free state of Ohio.  How I wish I knew if he was opposed to slavery or just experienced wanderlust.  My family also benefited from the inexpensive, rich land that the federal government usurped from the native Americans.

This is not “Gone with the Wind,” I don’t gloss over the terrible things that happened in the family. The first chapter alone will shock the reader with a mysterious poisoning that has never been solved. A family member died after Vicksburg in the Civil War and was buried 300 miles away from home.   His death changed the course of ownership of the family farm, benefiting me.  I hope you are inspired to tell your own stories to your children or even preserve them somehow.

Read “Centennial Farm Family.” On June 28, it will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.  Please write a two-to-three sentence blurb of what you learned, what you liked, and what struck a nerve with you on Amazon or Goodreads.  Indie books fight for recognition, and I need your help.  I’ve been blessed already with several editorial reviews from writers and historians.  But I need your words.  If you’ve been an advanced reader, go to Goodreads or Amazon and placing your short review.  Yes, I’m talking to you. It would mean the world to me, and it would encourage others to read the story.

Don’t get me wrong.  This has never been a money-making adventure.  I am donating many books to historical societies, museums, high schools and universities, and libraries in the coverage age.  I am not as concerned about covering my costs as I am about getting the book into the hands of those who will share their own history.  (As you may know, I’m an eccentric billionaire living on an island in the South Seas.)

In summary:

  1. Ask your local library to buy the book or purchase it yourself.
  2. Please read it.
  3. Write honestly about what your thought and post on Amazon or Goodreads.

(Paperbacks are now available on Amazon, hardcovers in pre-order in/at Barnes and Noble or Amazon, e-book coming June 28. The book is in the Ingram catalog and can be purchased there by any bookstore or library.)

Yes, I’m a brazen hussy, but you are already over it and recovering from dealing with my obnoxious self-promotion.

 

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May 292021
 

May 29, 2021 — Joy, in passive voice, is not being sparked in this house, Marie Kondo.

After 29 months, my latest book project (stay tuned) is written, edited, designed, and ready to roll. What is left in its wake is an office I wouldn’t invite the local animal control officer to visit.  (Why do we verbally assault dogcatchers?  They do good work.)

Today is the day I start.  Today is the day I begin to clean my office.  But do I have the strength?  (Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be writing about it.)

As I look around, I see things that shouldn’t be here.  Much of it has nothing to do with the book but adds to its pile of papers, bins, and objects.

  1. The cardboard posters I made for my parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party in 2005.
  2. Every birthday card sent to me by anyone in the last ten years.
  3. Christmas card pictures from family and close friends.
  4. 142,000 magnets on the four-drawer filing cabinet.  Ironically, the filing cabinet is empty, a grotesque symptom of the disease I have.
  5. At least 2,000 blank notecards of all stripes (ones I made, ones I purchased on vacation or at museums.)
  6. A 100-piece package of neon red glitter pens.
  7. Deeds for every legal move ever made by anyone who owned the legacy farm in the book.  What to do?  Wallpaper a bathroom?
  8. At least four million and sixty-six tiny Post-It notes with my illegible handwriting reminding me of something.  Since I can’t read them, they are worthless, but I keep them.

My desk is L-shaped, and I have a small table set up next to it.  I swear the other day–for no apparent reason–I found a program from my own wedding in 1984. How did it get there?  I have no earthly idea.

The goal here is to get rid of ninety percent, maybe ninety-five percent of the papers in this office, so I can really clean the furniture and then have carpet cleaners come in and attempt to restore what was once Berber carpet.

I have a problem.  And it is genetic.  My new book is about four generations of my family.  Did I mention some of them were named HOARD?  This makes me part Hoard, and it is no accident.  Much of this stuff came from LeNore Hoard Enz, my grandmother.  So this is the rhetorical question if I’ve written a book about it, do I need to keep every original piece of paper?  I can’t ask my husband; he’s a librarian.  He’ll say yes.

I have a  history of throwing things away, so I know I can do it.  The reason the metal filing cabinet is empty is that I purged my newspaper and magazine clippings. That was a triumph. You may find this hard to believe, BUT NO ONE WANTS THAT CRAP.  Oh, for heaven’s sakes, stop scowling.  It’s all available online or in books.  Some of my closest friends were horrified that I would throw these things away.  Upon my death, there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth because I didn’t save my work. People will weep when they think of the treasures that have been lost.  My page one story on the Toyota plant’s new vehicle, or the history of Girl Scouts in Washington, Indiana.  My series of 4-H Fair pictures from 1978 and 1979, in which almost every animal is overexposed.  Give me a break.  I was using a Roloflex and had to adjust the F-stops.  Do you even know what F-stops are?

Another big success I had was throwing away the slides and carousels from the family collection after I had them digitized, copied, and given to anyone who wanted them (small group.)  Of course, it took me TWO years after I did this: five hundred slides and several carousels.  Slides are coming back.

Time to move on.  There’s a big pile of papers sitting to the left of me, calling my name.  My husband took the recycle box to the Recycling Center yesterday, so I have a big empty box sitting right here, waiting for me to fill it.  I can do this.

 

Watch for “Centennial Farm Family” later this month.  In hardback and trade paperback.

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May 152021
 

How I See Myself.

May 15, 2021 — Oversharing.  Yes, that’s how I roll.  This horrifies almost everyone who loves me. But, I have to write.  Whether anyone reads it or not is irrelevant.

I’ve been getting requests for updates.  I appreciate the love and support during this most recent adventure.

People keep asking me what they can do.  I have absolutely everything I need and more, but here’s what you can do.  Please pray for my Pastor Roberta Meyer in her struggle with cancer, my friend Whose Name I’m Not Sharing who has only one good eye and is having issues, my friend Robin Lawrence in her struggle with cancer, Pastor Roberta’s granddaughter Kennedy who needs to gain weight before spinal reconstruction surgery, my childhood friends Cindy and Tim who are both suffering from serious, painful health problems.

And on a wonderful note, we rejoice for the birth of our new great-great-nephew and niece, Owen, and his twin sister Jo, who were born May 4 to our great-nephew Austin and his wife, Coray, in Cincinnati.  They also have a two-year-old, so their household is mighty busy. We thank God for the precious gift of these beautiful babies (both over five pounds) and the lives they will lead.  A prayer is a powerful tool–I believe talking to your Higher Power can change your attitude and doesn’t hurt, either.

How I Look Today.

Okay, now let’s get caught up on surgery.  I expected everything to be as it was twenty years ago.  Why do we as human beings fail to realize that we age?  How do you see yourself?  I see myself as about 37 years old.  But it’s really like Snow White looking in the mirror and seeing the old hag in the reflection.  I still can only see Snow White, and as Fernando would say, “She looks marvelous.”

Now I was knocked out, so I didn’t know, but it sure caused some excitement with the Gas-Passers on board, an MD, and a CRNA, for which I’m grateful.  I had been given general anesthesia (as opposed to conscious sedation) because this was a lengthy surgery with several items on the “to do” list.  A bigger tube was used to open my airway during the bronchospasm, which left me with a big fat lip and a sore throat.  The surgeon was not able to do everything on his list.  He did, however, fish out the old lens and replace it with a new one.  There’s a good chance my peripheral vision will return, which helps with balance and depth perception.  My central vision in that eye is likely not returning. The surgeon would make a second pass at placing a gas bubble in the macular hole that’s developed.  I had this surgery two years ago, and it did not work, so I’ve been without central vision in that eye since then.

When the pressure returns to my left eye, the good news is that the vision will likely come back.  I’m wearing an eye shield with a patch over it to hold it in place, so I can’t wear my glasses.  I can read perfectly well with my right eye, especially on my large computer monitor, but I can’t see distance.  I’ve been listening to podcasts, including one on Lady Bird Johnson that usually accelerates my nap within thirty minutes.  It’s a good story — she was a smart businesswoman who influenced LBJ’s presidency more than we knew at the time.  But the podcast also has a melatonin quality to it.

So all is well here at Squirrel Vista, where I am grateful for good doctors, a smoking hot male nurse named Herman, and loving family and friends who prayed and reached out.

 

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May 112021
 

May 11, 2021 — Tomorrow morning at 10:45 a.m. Central Daylight Time, while you are having your second or third cup of coffee, I’ll be under anesthesia.  About a month ago I experienced a loss of vision in my left eye, and will be having my second vitrectomy. More on that later.

This past week I’ve spent much time on the phone with the surgery center in preparation for the festive events.  Last Friday afternoon the surgery center called  to remind me that “if your underpants are not 100 percent cotton, you will  have  to have  the surgery without them.”

What?  This pronouncement struck me as absolutely hilarious.  I have no idea if my Granny panties are 100 percent cotton.  I had a similar surgery in February 2019 and they had me take off my top and That Apparatus that Holds The Girls Up, but I swear I wore undies and jeans right into surgery.  I can understand why That Apparatus that Holds The Girls up would be suspect, what with its series of iron and steel levers and pulleys to get the job done.

My husband was incredulous that I did not ask WHY undies had to be 100 percent cotton.  I felt like I had spent enough time talking to the surgery center last week.  It didn’t matter.  I swear if I had asked them why, they would have made another ridiculous request.  Maybe all my toenails need to be shaped into hearts, a new Joint Commission recommendation.  (From Dr. Google, I learned that some patients have been burned by the metal in their Spandex underpants because eye surgeons use cautery.  Okay, that makes sense, but wouldn’t the metal parts on blue jeans, the rivets and the zippers be way more worrisome than undies with a 5% Spandex content?  What do I know?  I studied the liberal arts.)

At their request, I had talked with the surgery center folks many times this week. However, they waited until Friday afternoon to have me check with the retinal surgeon about taking 81 mg of aspirin daily.  Of course, I immediately called the office, which told me that I needed to check with my cardiologist.  Anyone who has ever worked in healthcare knows that you NEVER call a doctor’s office on Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Fortunately I got through to both offices.

After finishing my calls, I checked the undies drawer.  Of course, I can’t see well, and the labels were faded.  I had to search through the entire drawer to find a label I could read.  95% cotton, FIVE PERCENT SPANDEX.  I found one pair of really old Granny Panties that were 100 percent cotton and I could still see the label.  That they had a label tells you how old they are.  Haven’t they been printing labels directly on the undies for two decades?  This pair was in sad shape and went directly into the trash as I feel the hot breath and wrath of my mother who always warned me about moments like this.  Spandex it is.  Au naturel.

Then there was the matter of COVID testing.  I was told that regardless of getting my jabs on February 8 and March 1, I needed to have a COVID test.  Wednesday of last week, they called to say if I could send my COVID test card, I was off the hook as long as I stayed in lockdown until surgery day in a week.  I took a picture of the card and sent it to the surgery center with a request that they let me know if they received it.

The surgery center has a policy to use secure and encrypted email,  so I got an email back on my phone with a two-screen procedure on how to set up their email system.  I just wanted to know “YES or NO, Did you receive my #$%(*$ card?”  The type was so small that I could barely read it (remember I am having EYE surgery.)  So I called and of course, I didn’t get the same person because that’s now how they do things.  Finally, the random surgery center person was able to look at my chart and see that the card was there.

After the surgery, they’ll send me a teeny tiny email to see how I’m doing.  Maybe it’s a TEST.  I can’t see the giant E in the doctor’s office but I’m supposed to read this teeny tiny email on my phone.

***

About 28 years ago, I started having eye problems and was diagnosed with Pars Planatis (often known as Uveitis.)  My local ophthalmologist sent me to a world-renowned retinal clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.  I was 34, my husband did not have tenure, we had a mortgage at 8 percent, and a two-year-old who had just been diagnosed with autism.  We sat in the waiting room surrounded by people in various stages of blindness.  It scared the living hell out of me.  I prayed that my vision remained until I raised my child to adulthood.  I had no idea, but many people suffer from retinal diseases.  My husband’s brother also has the same disease.  I had no idea. The initial experience made me so aware of how precious all our senses are, and how lucky we are to enjoy them.

My prayers were answered, but my eyes did worsen over the years. I was diagnosed with various issues, had treatments and surgeries.  My vision in my right eye remained fairly good, except for glaucoma which is kept in check by drops.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  I woke up one morning, and out of my left eye, I could only see a fog of shapes and colors, light and dark. I also saw a crescent-shaped floater (floaters are not unusual for me), but this one was large.  My opthalmologist worked me in and sent me to the retinal surgeon.  The doctor figured out that my artificial lens–placed years ago when the cataract was removed–was coming loose.  I saw the edge of it.  He decided to see me in three months but told me to call if it got worse.  Within days it got much worse, plus I  could see the entire artificial lens, which has been incredibly distracting and irritating.  I’ve been patching my eyes, purchased both a leopard skin patch and a hot pink one. (Catch me out on the town with my bifocals, oxygen cannula and cord, leopard eye patch, and Aetna Medicare purple face mask, and you will have seen the foxiest 63-year-old in the universe.  I have to wear my tiara only at home now because I am Just. Too. Much.)

So the doctor is now replacing the lens.  A note: if you’ve had normal cataract surgery, don’t worry.  This hardly ever happens as Cap’n Carl said when he took us and two 11-year-olds on the Florida dolphin cruise and we saw wild dolphin sex.   

Chances are the new lens will give me back some of the vision I’ve lost, which will be great.  My balance and depth perception has been compromised.  If the vision doesn’t return, my brain will adjust, and likely the balance and depth perception will also adjust and I can resume my career as a knife-thrower.

There are millions of people with monovision who do just fine.  You may not be aware you know people with monovision. The doctor will also make a decision in surgery whether or not to place a bubble in a macular hole that has returned.  I had surgery for that in 2019 and it did not work, but he may try again with nothing to lose.

I would appreciate your prayers and good thoughts.  And if you could each deposit $3,000 in my bank account, that would also be helpful.  I can certainly recover better if I have a driver and a black town car to take me, my husband, and my giant oxygen tank to a private beach where the pool boy is Pierre Brosnan. I will not be online until Thursday after the patch comes off.  We will know Thursday if the new lens has made any difference.

 

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t

 

May 092021
 

I’ve misbehaved at times. One of my lowest moments involves Valentine’s Day 1983.  Valentine’s Day is among the Hallmarkiest of Hallmark holidays, setting expectations for some and creating downright heartbreak for others.

I was in a new relationship, only about six weeks in.  I had high hopes for our first Valentine’s Day together.  Being immature,   I had dreams that he would shower me with love and gifts.  He gave me flowers and an ankle bracelet.  I was not too fond of the ankle bracelet and let him know about it.  I know, right.  My husband–then-boyfriend–is one of the sweetest, most caring men on earth. I gave him a bad time for reasons I can’t remember. A completely unnecessary bad time.  Amazing that the relationship survived.  Then-boyfriend was also acting a little weird that day, and I couldn’t figure it out.

Much to my long-term shame, I found out later that Valentine’s Day is his father’s birthday.  His father was killed in a car accident on November 6, 1982, at the age of 61 just months before this Hallmark holiday.  I had no idea.  I had heaped expectations of this wonderful man when he was in pain.

Great-grandmother Anna, mother Marilyn, grandmother LeNore, 1936, Homeland Farm, South Whitley, Indiana

And he gave me lovely gifts, which I didn’t appreciate because I couldn’t get out of my own way.

That moment was a reckoning for me and made us talk about how we felt about holidays.  We decided early on that cards will suffice for most of these holidays. That was nearly forty years ago.  Since then, I’ve lived with a man who is 99.8% of the time (doesn’t get 99.9% because of how fast he surfs through TV channels). He is kind and good, who takes care of me every day.

Today is Mother’s Day, a rough day for many people.  Those who have recently lost their mothers are battered with pictures of happy mothers and children.  Some lost their mothers as children and have a huge hole where memories should be.  Some are childless, not by choice.  Some have lost mothers and children to COVID in the last year and other diseases, accidents, etc., in prior years.  The time before the holiday is a stampede of advertising, and it’s everywhere.  You can’t hide from the perfect families of TV and the Internet.

Both our mothers are gone, 2010 and 2012, respectively.  Our only child lives 1,100 miles away and will celebrate Mother’s Day with his girlfriend, her parents, and likely her grandparents.  I’m glad they can be together.  (And after not seeing him for 18 months, we will see him in 22 days!) 

While Mother’s Day is tough for some individuals, it’s heaven on earth for business.  An article on the “Grammarly” blog noted,  In 2017, the expected total spending for Mother’s Day in the United States is $23.6 billion. That’s an average of $186.39 per shopper. In the fourteen years, the National Retail Federation has conducted the Mother’s Day spending survey, that’s the highest amount yet.

On my heart, today are so many, one whose mother died far away during COVID. She has yet to visit the cemetery, one whose mother stopped talking to her when she got cancer. There are several women I know who lost babies to SIDS and childhood cancer.  Several others lost their mothers early in life. I know a wonderful woman of God fighting cancer, and her granddaughter, who lives five states away, suffers from a disease that requires major reconstructive spinal surgery.  I think of many friends whose mothers live far away in facilities that limit visitation. Many of their mothers have some dementia that limits their communication skills. And I think of several whose children don’t speak to them because a spouse doesn’t like the mother, and on and on.

If you are lucky enough to spend time today with family, don’t take it for granted.  Today I’m thankful that I  experienced much joy with my mom in the later parts of her life, even as she suffered from dementia. I am thankful to have known and loved my mother-in-law, who adored her son and grandson.  I am thankful for my son, a beautiful person who makes every day Mother’s Day for me. Having lived away from family most of my life, I learned that one must make your holidays when one can.  Don’t let the world tell you when to celebrate.  Don’t celebrate if you don’t feel like it.  And if you do, take joy and pleasure in those moments when you are together or memories you made together.

 

 

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May 022021
 

Courtesy South Whitley Community Public Library

As a child, I spent much time with my maternal grandmother, LeNore Hoard Enz. One of her main interests was family history. “Grammy” kept pictures, documents, and objects from her pioneer past. She recorded interviews with pioneer farmers for the local library,  using something new called a cassette tape recorder. Several of the interviews have been transcribed, and one I was able to use for my current project.

Our hometown library was — and is — a treasure trove. When I was a child, the building’s basement held the greatest gems in giant black books. Within their pages were bound copies of the local weekly newspaper, going back decades. My visits came after the town built the new library in my early teen years.  My grandmother had filled me with curiosity about my past, which has led to my own interest in family history.

I remember quite specifically looking for and finding an article about the death of my great-aunt Sarah Mae Hoard, who was my grandmother’s older sister.  Sarah Mae was known as “Mae.”  Mae was killed in a car accident when my grandmother was 14.  Mae had

Mae Hoard, age 14.

been my grandmother’s favorite sister.  Her oldest sister, Zoe, and my grandmother, LeNore, clashed as children and for the rest of their lives.  Great-Aunt Mae died 35 years before I was born, but she was very much alive to me through my grandmother’s stories.

I’ve written a new book that tells her story along with tales of our mutual ancestors.  The book Centennial Farm Family–Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1937 will be available at the end of June.  I long finished the story of Mae with multiple obituaries from newspapers around the area.  A couple of weeks ago, I remembered that as a child I had found Mae’s obituary in my hometown newspaper.  The library which housed the giant black books is 300 miles away.  The black books are long gone, replaced with microfilm.  Could a librarian find that same article I read as a curious adolescent?  Giving Taira Simmons at the library the date and names, she found the citation within a day.  She even sent the newspaper’s masthead from that week which shows the top of Mae’s story at flush left, “Mae Hoard Victim of Auto Wreck.” (The staff at the South Whitley Community Public Library has been extremely helpful to me in my research over the years.)

I had used other obituaries for the book, but it was still thrilling to see that the same story I read at 13 was still available fifty years later.  (Yes, I know, I should get out more.)  Seriously, anyone who researches family history will understand my happiness in seeing this article again. And this is why I devote my time to family history — fifty years from now; I hope someone will run across this column or my Ancestry page or my books and find them useful in their own search.

One cannot easily pass a passion along to another person. It is, however, my hope that readers will find something in my writing that encourages them to search out their own past.  A caveat, however. One can find surprises and shocks; I found several stories I would have rather not known.  I did not shy away because the truth makes up the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle that is my grandmother’s family.

Each person’s life affects another, as the angel Clarence Oddbody tells, “It’s a Wonderful Life” hero George Bailey.  Looking at the overall picture of my grandmother’s family, I cannot help but wonder how things would have been different had the 1922 accident never happened. “What if” is never a productive game. But I can’t help but wonder, having heard about the aftermath of Mae’s death.  Would the two remaining sisters have reconciled? What would have happened to their parent’s farm? Would Mae have married a local boy who wanted to farm the farm? Would that have stopped my grandparents from moving back to Indiana from their cushy life in Springfield, Illinois?  My grandparents and their daughters moved from a plush city home to a farmhouse with no electricity 23 miles from a city.

Like others in my book, Mae’s life and death affected many people. What happened to the farm ownership with each passing generation changed with unexpected deaths like Mae’s. Ultimately, the farm stayed in the family for 173 years, receiving the Indiana Historical Association award for a century of continuous ownership.  Writing the book took me on a journey of discovery without a clear map, heading off in directions that surprised me, shocked me, and sometimes delighted me.

I hope you will start your story today.  Your descendants are counting on you.

Coming June 28, 2021


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Apr 192021
 

The stories of my ancestors from my maternal grandmother piqued my interest. When she died in 1994, I became the keeper of the flame.

Family members gave me materials, adding to my collection my grandmother (Grammy) had given me. The family stories are compelling and have been waiting for me to propel them into the world.  Many of my lines have dead ends; the Long line had too much information.

I couldn’t wrap my arms around the project. I couldn’t find a way to make sense of it. I had too much information and not enough connection.  My grandmother, born in 1908, had access to most of the family documents and information through her DAR membership. But in the quarter-of-a-century since her death, the Internet has made family research easier. The Internet also offers many options and ways to connect with others who share interests or common ancestors.

Researching on the Internet is more my style than joining the DAR.  I’m still not over the whole Marian Anderson thing from 1939.  Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt, for stepping up and arranging for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Long lineage, my grandmother’s mother’s family, offered the most information. I can go back to Hanns Lung, born in 1520 in Baden-Baden, Germany.  Hanns Lung is my 10th great-grandfather, and every single relative through the generations was a farmer until my generation. There are craftsmen, millers, coopers, blacksmiths, cabinet makers, and yes, farmers on my paternal grandfather’s side and my father’s parents’ lineage.

The Long family believed in tilling the soil and encouraged their children to do the same.  The land seems the natural connection around which to shape a narrative. My book traces the story of four generations from 1837-1937.  Reuben and Elizabeth Long, Washington and Jane Long, Henry Kellis Hoard and Anna Long Hoard, and Carl August Enz and LeNore Hoard Enz farmed the same farm these four generations.

I wanted to know why.  Why did my ancestors love the land so much?  I found out why, but I also discovered a treasure trove of stories that I had never heard before.  You know the kind I’m speaking of–the kind that is “never to be discussed again.”

I found untimely deaths, suicide, diseases,  isolation, despair,  bigotry, hatred, unfathomable loss,  destructive weather events, and addiction. I learned that the farm hung on by a  thread several times.  I learned that a relative of mine was killed in the Civil War, and I had never even heard his name.  I learned that my great-grandmother Anna suffered more losses than anyone should in any lifetime.  And she managed to survive, despite the early death of her mother, accidental loss of a brother, loss of a daughter, and an early and horrific accidental death of her husband.

I also found beauty, joy, happiness, contentment, jubilation, creativity, community, and faith. As you will learn when you read “Centennial Farm Family: Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1037,” The Long family was guided by their love and protection of the land.

Until my book is published this summer, I’ll be sharing little tidbits here on my Raven Lunatic blog. At left is one of my favorite pictures from the farm.  I can’t use all of them, and frankly, I’m not sure who this is.  It’s not my great-grandfather, but it might be his brother-in-law Calvin or the hired man.  I suspect it was taken before the turn of the 20th century.  I love the picture because the naive observer sees in this old picture what I saw as a child, a gravel lane leading to the woods in the northwest corner of the picture, a magical place with wildflowers and walnut trees.  In theory, it was full of mushrooms in April and May, but I could never see them.  My mother, as a child, loved going mushroom hunting with her father and was, apparently, a good little mushroom hunter.  (For non-Hoosiers, this is an Indiana thing.  We like to find a fungus among us in the woods, flour it, and then fry it in fat.  Well, some of us do.  I never could hunt them or acquired the taste.  Which is fine because relatives who love them are only too happy to take your share.)

 

@centennialfarmfamily

 

COMING JUNE 28, 2021

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Mar 032021
 

March 3, 2021 — Earlier this week, Herman and I got our second COVID-19 vaccines. Anticipating a rough time, we made a big pot of chicken noodle soup for our recovery.  Both of us had sore arms, and yesterday felt a tiny chill all day. When I checked the thermostat about 9 p.m. last night, I realized we hadn’t turned it up that morning.  So, the chill was self-imposed. More proof that we have lost all sense during the pandemic.

NASA photo

Now we talk about what we will do post-shot-recovery.  I want to go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast sometime. Do I know how to live or what? And maybe take in the new Frances McDormand movie in an actual theater, not in pajamas five feet from our TV. But my social skills and discernment seem to have disappeared under the weight of isolation. It’s like all the muscle memory I had for a normal life has dissipated. I’m terrified of re-entry. Will the fire from my capsule burn me up as I return to earth?

This week marks the first anniversary of Herman coming home for good.  He was scheduled to retire at the end of May when the school year was over. But the university sent everybody home on March 6th. I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish the remote.  I had not processed what it would mean to have both of us in this house. Nor was he quite ready for the fact that the only time he would return to a workplace of more than 32 years was to clean out his office months later.

In some ways, it feels like a century.  In other ways, it feels like a weekend.  All sense of time is lost.  I joke with my brother that the only way we can measure time is by Garbage Day.  It’s the only fixed point in our lives.  Andy’s day is Tuesday, and ours is Wednesday.  The church is still at 10 a.m. Sunday, but it’s on Zoom and YouTube, so I can watch whenever I want. There are no regular coffee days with friends, no lunches out, no Gal Pal days. We have doctor’s appointments, but they aren’t regular.

We’ve been fortunate, as my Grandmother McVay used to say, “If you have a warm house and food to eat, you better enjoy it.”  For years, we’ve talked about downsizing when Herman retired. But I’m glad we had not made that move.  Having a big house was a godsend during this time.  My space. His space. My bathroom. His bathroom.

He has a small ETSY business, and I’m always writing a book, so we’ve kept busy for a year. The plague has only whisked by us—a two-year-old relative got it and had no symptoms. It was discovered on a well-baby checkup. The in-laws of my cousin died days apart. They had been masking and social distancing.  One masked visit from their adult son sickened them. My small church has had four deaths from this awful disease. The plague is everywhere in wider and wider concentric circles around us, touching and destroying so many lives that it is almost impossible to grasp the enormity of the loss.

We are beginning to think about downsizing. We hired a home inspector to tell us what surprises were in store.  Whew!  The roof and the foundation are good. But something was going on, under our noses, that we didn’t know. We have a potentially exploding toilet. Yes, that’s what I said. It turns out the Gerber FlushMate has been known to be a porcelain projectile, a sh##ty shooter, a rear-end rifle. Okay, I’ll stop, but I don’t want to. A butt bullet?

You live in a house for 26 years, and you think you know it.  And right in front of your face is danger. Or rather, behind you is danger.

Anyone who has known us for longer than five minutes knows that our most significant problem with this house hasn’t been an exploding toilet.  No, it has been an overabundance of critters. We weren’t even  that impressed at the San Diego Zoo.  They didn’t have that many animals, compared to what lives under our yard barn and deck.  Well, the yard barn is history, having suffered an enormous hole in the roof from a storm earlier in the year.  Add a Skyride to our yard and its practically the same property as the big zoo in San Diego!.

Under the deck is a magical world of its own.  And before I go on, I have to say a word about decks.  Fire.  That’s the word.  The best thing for a deck is a lighted match, according to my brother.  I will never again own a home with a deck, a basement, or trees.  Decks are a huge pain, and this deck is the biggest pain of all.  It is the entire length of the house, and L-shaped so there’s another large portion that juts out into the yard.  The deck is made of wood and requires enormous effort to keep it up.

I’m late getting to the punchline, but it has been home to more critters than seen on “Wild Kingdom.”  (Dated reference for Baby Boomers.)

We’ve paid Greg the Ground Hog Guy to trap and relocate whatever monstrous beings have settled in for several years now. These include opossums, raccoons, groundhogs, and now skunks. We’ve seen plenty of deer, fox, lions, tigers, and bears, and we hear there are bobcats out there. This year, we decided enough is enough.  Eventually, we want to downsize, and we don’t want to have to declare this as a national

Fat Bastard, baby groundhog on deck, 2019. Now in Gopher Relocation Program, whereabouts unknown.

wildlife refuge when we sell.

Greg will be constructing a barrier under the deck to keep the critters out. To make sure he isn’t closing anyone or anything in, he has posted two web-cams under the deck.  I like to call them Gopher Cams.  Herman keeps saying, “Au revoir, Go-pher,” imitating Bill Murray in “Caddyshack.”  I have to think like a gopher.  Superior intelligence and firepower.

You have Hulu or Netflix or Sling.  So what?  Every morning, I can watch monsters frolicking in living color on my big computer screen.  Last night we had an appearance by Pepe Le Pew and Meester Ground Hog.  Both of them appeared to be significant.  Both showed up, looked around, and left.  There’s a hole under the deck, likely a former groundhog residence, that Greg put something in to discourage settlers.  The night before last, which was Gopher-Cam’s premiere, Pepe Le Pew made his grand entrance.

The hole is directly below my office window.  I wonder if the camera goes the other way and the critters can see me?  We live in their world, you know.  Do they wonder why I’m wearing a Sandra & Ruth & Elena & Sonia T-shirt?  And pink fuzzy house slippers?

Their fate is knowable. They will be leaving soon.  I know this as much as I know my lilacs will bloom in late April. And it’s not like the Roach Motel where roaches check-in, but they don’t check out. They can visit, but they cannot stay. In the words of Jean Paul Sartre, Au revoir, Go-Phers!

 

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Jan 312021
 

January 31, 2021—If you talked to me recently, you know I’m completely obsessed with living in the past. This work is the book I’ve wanted to write since I was a child. In 2019, I compiled letters my now 92-year-old aunt gave me; letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother before they married  “Always Carl” had a narrative arc, but it was determined by the letters.

Something about the “Always Carl” project set off some internal alarm.  If I was going to write my magnum opus, it should be now.  I started on the new book “Centennial Farm Family” about 18 months ago.

Cover by Diana Ani Stokely, GRAFIX to go.

I know I should get to the point and tell you what it is about, but I’m not ready yet, so you are getting more context.  My maternal grandmother was wicked crazy about her ancestors and their stories.  She liked to dress up like a pioneer in a bonnet, black dress, and a petticoat.  (She was on the Bicentennial committee for our county and wore this heavy, black outfit on the July 4, 1976 parade float.  Seriously, she was 68, so I guess she was long past menopause, but I don’t know how she did it. She was big into the DAR, which wasn’t something I wanted to join.  I’m still mad about Marian Anderson.

“Grammy,” that’s my grandmother, told me stories from the time I was a baby until she died in 1994.  She took me to history meetings.  She shared pictures with me.  One of the things she liked to do was interview people on her fancy-schmancy new cassette recorder.  The librarians had transcribed one of the recordings. Grammy interviewed a man, born in 1880, who knew her parents and talked about farming from 1880 to the then-present, which was about 1970. He was a good storyteller, and she asked good questions, which I so appreciate fifty years later.

I always thought I would write a book about her family and the farm.  The stories were compelling, and that the farm continued was pretty impressive considering some of the events that happened. I started looking through the boxes she gave me.

Grammy also wrote a lot of handwritten notes.  I found two that made me cry and fully accelerated my brain into go mode.  I found two notes on which was written “For Amy LeNore,” dated 1958, and tagged to items she thought I might find interesting. I was a year old.  I realize now that I have been brainwashed. However, it is so sweet that she thought someday I would be interested in these old stories.

“Centennial Farm Family”  tells the stories of four generations of the Long family, who kept the same farm for a century and received recognition from the Indiana Historical Society.  There are hundreds of other families who have received this recognition. (The farm stayed in the family for 173 years, but the book stops in 1937.)

Reuben Long came to Indiana in 1835 to stake his claim for 160 acres.  Through wild gyrations like two Great Depressions, a cholera epidemic, and a Civil War soldier’s death, the family ownership was sometimes in  jeopardy. Still, the land came to my great-great-grandfather Washington Long, Reuben’s seventh of eight children.

Two of Washington’s three sons died, and the other had tuberculosis.  But the farm passed to another generation, split between his remaining son and daughter.  Washington’s daughter and husband had three daughters, one of whom died, and the other two left the area.

A colorized picture from a reunion in which three of the four generations in my book are represented

When my great -grandfather died an unexpected and horrific death, my great-grandmother doesn’t know what to do with the acreage, half of the legacy farm, and the land she and her husband have purchased. Two men come along to help her–unlikely suspects really–one of them is in a wheelchair, and the other has a wealthy and kind father.

The farm that was in the family in Indiana for 173 years was sold 11 years ago.  While Reuben’s great-great-great-grandchildren (I would be one of them) still live in Indiana, his great-great-great-great grandchildren have flown the coop.

It’s ironic, for me, that I am the one keeping the farm’s memory alive. I was not interested in agriculture, though I was interested in the stories and pictures.  I wished my family owned the local newspaper.  Not a farm.  As a child, I loved going to the farm, seeing the wildflowers, watching the stars from the large, flat lawn beside the farmhouse, and being with my grandparents.  I wasn’t the type to show animals at the 4-H Fair or make my clothes or grab eggs from under a chicken.

Writing a historical narrative about one’s family is a challenge.  It isn’t quite journalism, and it isn’t quite history.  And it is not fiction. One can speculate, but one cannot make things up.  I am fortunate that I have items from my grandmother as well as a rich oral history. She told me the same stories so many times that I have them memorized.  And along the way, I guess I always knew that I would write this book because I interviewed both my aunt and my father multiple times over the years.  What has also been helpful is the encouragement of many writer friends.  I also took both the beginning and the advanced “Creative Non-Fiction Magazine” classes on Historical Narrative.  For anyone interested in writing a family book, I highly recommend the classes.

From the collection of my grandmother and her two sisters. Abt. 1919

Earlier this week, I had the good fortune of hearing David Maraniss speak about his new book, “A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father,” through my membership in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Maraniss discussed the tightrope walk between journalism and history and discussed the challenges of working in one’s voice.  He mentioned that he takes about four years to do a book and is currently working on a new book about Jim Thorpe, the great Native American athlete who started the National Football League.  He affirmed some things for me, one, that I wasn’t taking too long, and two, I need to chase some rabbits into holes for accuracy and completeness of the story.

Talking about research, he said, “Turn the page.”  Three little words that are the key to writing an excellent historical narrative. I’m afraid I’ll never stop writing this book.  The manuscript is 98% finished, but as I edit, I find things.  And when you find things, you dig another rabbit hole.  That’s how I found out today that Washington’s wife’s brother married  Reuben’s brother’s daughter.  In English, this means that my second great-granduncle married my first cousin, four times removed.  That explains a lot.  Stay tuned.

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Jan 262021
 

By elizaIO – https://www.flickr.com/photos/elizaio/5412345718/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91578153

Updated from 2010–January 26, 2021–(This was written when I was a spry 52-year-old, having hot flashes. My sales job required that I visit senior centers.  The senior centers required that sales people “do something for them,” thus, I called Bingo once a month.)

I  have math dyslexia. Numbers just do me in. When God formed the two sides of my brain, He decreed that one side be 95% poetry, words, talking, Joni Mitchell, more poetry, more words, and more talking.

The five percent of my brain representing spatial reasoning allows me to dial a telephone and add one-digit numbers. I call it car-hop math after my high school job at the root beer stand.

I struggle with using a calculator, and I did not fare so well in freshmen Algebra class.

Despite my lopsided hemispheres, today I called my first Bingo game at a senior citizens center. This requires that I read and use numbers.

I arrived early with my prizes and already 60 people sat waiting for me. The game room temperature was a balmy 108 degrees. Most of the guests wore sweaters.  In June. This environment is incompatible with hot flashes and sweaty nervousness about reading and remembering numbers in public.

On the prize table, I put out the prizes I purchased at the neighborhood dollar store. I refer to the prizes as WPC—worthless plastic crap. These delightful parting gifts included hand lotion, sugarless candy, nail clippers, dishtowels, storage bins, a flashlight, a Groucho mask, a toothbrush, combs, a screwdriver, bunion pads, a birdfeeder, bunny ears, gum, and other eclectic WPC. This batch of prizes was of the absolute highest quality, all for less than one dollar. Imagine!  Seriously, did they expect little blue boxes from Tiffanys?

Did I mention the Groucho mask and bunny ears? My theory was these festive items might add a laugh and some fun. I was wrong.

At promptly two p.m., the facility manager was still talking with me, and the serious eyes of the players shot daggers at both of us. These folks were ready to go. B I N G O!!!!

The little white numbered balls rest in a gold apparatus, resembling a wire birdcage. The caller spins the gizmo, and six or seven white balls drop down into an open chute. The caller reads the number and fits the correct ball on a huge white grid with all the numbers and letters on it. This is an easy task for those folks who are not numerically challenged. I swear at employee orientation, they said there would be no math.

Think of it like this: some of us are good at math and science. People with those attributes are called “doctors” or “engineers.” When these individuals view a group of numbers on a page, they see the theory of relativity, a chemical chain, or perhaps nuclear fission.

Others possess excellent skills in talking and writing. These individuals are called “sales reps” or “unemployed.”

Those of us in the second group are fond of saying, “Which of Leonardo da Vinci’s skills would you eliminate, the math/science or the arts?”This philosophical paradox makes for an interesting and provocative cocktail party discussion, or something to ask the person ahead of you in the unemployment line.

Image result for the moonWhen I see numbers on a page, I think of a Jackson Pollock painting. They look like scattered drips of paint that collectively have no meaning to me.  Imagine how much fun I have with an Excel spreadsheet.  Love me some pivot tables.

I blame this whole thing on President John F. Kennedy. I struggle with calling Bingo well because of “new math.” President Kennedy wanted young people to study math and science “so we can put a man on the moon by the end of this decade.”

That darn American “Sputnik moment” really messed me up. I started first grade with old math, and by the middle of second grade, “new math” burned past me to a galaxy, far, far away.

Forty-something years later, add to that the problem of poor vision corrected with bifocals. Did I mention my two cataract surgeries?  And glaucoma?

I spun the machine and looked through the top of my glasses to read the number.

“B, 14. B, 14.”

I liked how my voice sounded through the sound system. A little like Joni Mitchell and a lot like Broderick Crawford.

Next ball.

“N, 41. That’s N, forty-one.

“N, 38. N, three-eight.”

“You’re saying them too fast, honey,” shouted Alma from the front table. “Slow down.”

I felt I was crawling along, but Alma straightened me out. I used my bifocals to read the number and switched to regular lenses to see the cutout grid for the ball. The back and forth made me nervous and somewhat dizzy. And, I have to sound out the numbers phonetically in my head. “Zero, sixty-eight.”

Madeline, in the back row, quickly corrected me. “It’s Ohhhh, not zero.”

I felt that she wanted to add, “you ding-a-ling, what rock did you crawl out from under?”  I had a few choice words for her in my mind, along the same theme.

Seven balls filled the chute. Then, I spun again. If I did not have the right touch on the wire cage, too many balls came out. I spun the cage too fast and four balls fell and bounced on the floor. I chased after them. And the horse she rode in on.

Everyone laughed as I bent over to pick up the rogue balls.  Even in my work suit, I’m sure I looked like one of those  wooden garden cutouts of a farm wife leaning over, that some of the Leisure Land residents had in their tiny front yards.

“I’m winning them over,” I thought, assuming their laughter was friendly. Of course, they were  laughing at the sight of my behind. Then, I said, “Sorry, folks, I have the first-time jitters.”

“Move on with it,” said a man in the back wearing a WWII hat.

“What branch of service were you in?” I asked. “God bless you for your service to our country.”

He said, “Battle of the Bulge.”

“Let’s give him a hand,” I asked the group to applaud this old soldier. No one applauded. The old soldier said, “Now can you just move on?”

As the games progressed, my calling skills improved. I did not drop any more balls, but I did have trouble remembering if it was game one or game two.  This is easily explained. As a post-menopausal woman, I have less estrogen in my body than the old soldier from the Battle of the Bulge. This causes inability to remember which part of the game we’re in. Was it time to clear the board? Did we just clear it? Did I unplug the toaster this morning?

I made a joke out of it. “I’m having trouble remembering which game we are on. This is why no one in my family wants to play cards with me; I’m easily distracted.”

“Cut out the jokes, and move on, girlie-girl,” said the man in the WWII hat.

He was my favorite.

Each winner stepped up to the prize table after I verified the win and took a prize. The Groucho mask and the bunny ears may as well haveImage result for free picture of grocho mask been covered with bubonic plague germs. They did not move off the prize table.

“How about some bunny ears for the grandchildren?” I said, as two winners “Bingo-ed” at the same time. Lurlene, who used a walker and sported shiny pink hair, said, “My grandchildren have their own grandchildren,” and took some dental floss.

This has not been the greatest day of my life for a number of reasons. All day it’s been raining.  I  want to finish this endless nightmare of a game day and go home.

Unfortunately, we’ve only completed four games, but it feels like I’ve been here since seven o’clock this morning. I know we were at game eight because I counted the prizes. I bought twenty-five. I can leave when five remain.

Wait—there is the Grand Prize, a ten-dollar card to Wally World.

Almost finished. I am spinning the birdcage apparatus and I hear Alma and her friends talking about me. They think they are whispering, but they are less than ten feet away from me and I can hear every word.

“She isn’t funny. Why does she keep telling those jokes?”

I want to scream, Ladies, I can hear every word you are saying, but instead I say, “I, nineteen, I, nineteen.”

 

 

 

Nov 012020
 

October 31, 2020 — Today was a great day until about 6 p.m. I’ve spent most of the last 48 hours at a (virtual) humor writers’ workshop named for the late great Erma Bombeck. Erma’s spirit hovers over the conference, and like her writing, the speakers are uplifting, inspiring, and wildly funny. Laughter has soothed the heart of this savage beast, who, like most everyone else, is in a quarantine funk and positively witchy.

On the asset side of the ledger, I heard many A-list writers and comedians talk about craft. I learned so much that I can put into my newest project, which, by the way, is not a humor project. But it’s about my family history. Let me tell you. Somebody has to see the humor in it. #virtualerma #centennialfarmfamily

I also reconnected (even virtually) with old friends and made new ones.  I have been bathed in gratitude and love throughout this experience.  I wish I could bottle and share my emotions.

The conference this time was able to reach nearly twice as many writers. Physical attendance is capped around 350, but the virtual world opened up spaces for more writers.  The technology worked surprisingly well as complicated as it was. (Well, except when zooming from Outer Slobovia, Alabama, on a six-year-old phone. There were a few minor technical glitches. Can you hear me?  Can you see me? Is that your vacuum cleaner in the background?)

The long-time emcee Patricia Wynn Brown put together a video for the end of the conference.  Attendees had been asked to submit a picture of our apparel for the meeting. Naturally, I dressed as Snow White, holding an apple. (The sight of a Plus-sized aging Snow White is enough to scare any Halloween goblin.)

And then the conference was over. The grim realities of pandemic life crept back. Despite a respite for two days, all the world’s problems remained. A friend with cancer got a bad report. The country reached 100,000 COVID deaths.  A friend in Miami still suffers from the long-haul version of COVID. Like my father and aunt, older adults I love remained locked in senior facilities, surrounded by the disease in Indiana and Massachusetts, respectively. There was an earthquake in Turkey, prompting me to look on a map and see if my first cousin, his wife, and their two babies were in danger. (They were not.)  Many in our divided country threaten violence around election time.  And others are locked in private horrors of illness, addiction, death of a loved one, and depression, and anxiety.

Even though I laughed until I cried for 48 hours, the real world was still there.

I wanted to hide in the darkness, and unwittingly, I got my wish.

We had decided not to pass out candy for Halloween this year. In the 24 years we’ve lived here; our neighborhood has been a haven for trick-or-treaters. We usually buy those nice mini chocolate bars, the good stuff, and no circus peanuts. The community rule is that if porch lights are on, we’re open for business. If the porch lights are off, a wicked witch lives here and GET OUTTA MY YARD.

I made beef vegetable soup as my husband, Herman, prepared to leave for the store. I told him that I couldn’t turn on the outside lights for his return because that would signal that we were ready for the little goblins.

Herman had chastised me all week, “You’ll be sorry. I’m telling you.”  He thought we should hand out the candy and be careful at the door.  Since we had no candy, he was abandoning me for the grocery.

During a typical year, my husband — did I mention he’s a weirdo — likes to pass out the candy from a Dutch oven? Not an orange pumpkin, but a Dutch oven. Is this tradition from his strange childhood? I don’t know–he doesn’t own up to it.

He noticed I was cooking the soup in our Dutch oven and commented as he left, “What are you going to tell the children? That you couldn’t pass out candy because you were using the Dutch oven to make soup?”

Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to tell them, you big dope.

Through the trees, the full Blue moon marginally illuminated the outside of the house.  I needed the kitchen lights to chop vegetables. Chopping celery with a very sharp knife in the dark is a bad idea, at least where I come from. And there it was. Shortly after he left, there was a rapping at my door. Oh, nevermore.

Putting on my purple Aetna Medicare mask, I undid the chain lock from the front door and peeked out. About six inches on the other side of my face was the face of the most beautiful pink princess (sans mask).

“Trick or treat,” she said and was echoed by two other princesses, also unmasked,  right behind her. About six feet behind them stood her unmasked mother, smoking a cigarette.

“I am so sorry. We don’t have any candy this year,” I spurted out, almost in tears. And I turned them away. Hadn’t I just seen on the local evening news a warning that people with compromised health shouldn’t participate in trick-or-treating this year?

I’m a rule follower, but my heart hurt.

I turned off every light in the house, tripping on my oxygen cord until I sat down in front of the TV, still blaring on in the living room.

My wish was granted to sit in the darkness and ponder all that is around me.

When Herman came home and found me in the dark house, he said, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” I was not impressed with Herman going all Sir Walter Scott on me, especially after this witch had tripped all over my web (oxygen cord) trying to find a safe place to hide in the darkness.

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

Erma Bombeck

 

Happy Halloween, everyone. Pray for those in need.

 

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Oct 042020
 

October 4, 2020 —  Earlier in the week, I walked into our kitchen in the afternoon to find my husband in his pajamas, eating lunch.  I wore the pink flannel nightgown I had slept in the night before.  Two p.m.  I noticed that husband Herman was eating clam chowder out of a saucepan.

“We’ve completely deteriorated as human beings,” I said, “We’ve become animals.”

Herman said, “I did this because it’s one less dish for you to wash.”

Honestly, I couldn’t argue with that.

We’ve now been in quarantine since March 6.  Eight months? A hundred months?  What day is it?  Who am I?  How did we get here?  And like my life in 2020, there’s no narrative arc in this piece, just some ramblings and observations from where we are. We both fall into the high risk category.  He’s the shopper.  I only go out to doctor or dentist.

I know that I am beyond fortunate to have a roof over my head with enough space that my Beloved and I don’t drive each other crazy.  He is now fully retired, having completed his 32-year-career at a  local university.  And just in time, as the chaos of the world hits everyone, including small, private universities that struggled before the pandemic.  Herman has an online antiques business (www.randysgallery.com) and it keeps him busy enough that I get the free time I’ve learned to appreciate since my retirement three years ago this month.

We are cautious, but this week we made a six-hour round trip to a park in Greencastle, Indiana, to meet my father, my father’s girlfriend, and my baby brother.  We had not seen them since January 11th when we celebrated my brother’s 60th birthday and retirement.  My Dad will be ninety in December, God-willing.  In the months since we’ve seen Dad, he is more frail and his short-term memory is somewhat diminished.  But we’ve been quantaintining and he has been doing the same, so we enjoyed two of the best (masked) hugs a father and daughter could enjoy.  I cannot find words to express how joyful it was to see him.  He cried when we left, and my heart hurt.  But I am exceedingly grateful that my brother drove them to the park.

Even on a Tuesday in the middle of October when the park wouldn’t be crowed, I made sure we had shelter. I rented a shelterhouse. There was a sign on the shelter that MY NAME had reserved it..  But when we arrived there were about 10 or 12 elderly women having a Bible Study.  Oh, this could be delicate.  What would Jesus do?  Jesus would kick them out, as I did.  Actually, I gave them the option to stay in the large shelter.  But, they left almost immediately.  Was it the way I looked?   I wore my hot pink Heidi hat, the one with two braids that I bought in Iceland.  I had on clip-on, pop-up sunglasses on my purple, rhinestone-laden, new cateye glasses,  fingerless, arthritis gloves, and an oxygen tank strapped to my back.

This time, and possibly henceforth, I was wearing appropriate Foundation Garments. Now, you must be a woman of a certain age to get what I’m saying here.  This is what your mother or grandmother  call a bra.  Women of a certain age and of a certain size called it a Foundation Garment.  It’s what keeps The Girls of a certain age in line, shall we say.

I have known to refer to my rack as the “boobal region.”  For most of my incarceration in suburbia, I have gone without Said Foundation Garment, and this has caused unfortunate consequences.  I am now back wearing the blasted thing which keeps The Girl in their rightful place, because of the following event.

Last week I went into the kitchen to make a simple turkey and cheese sandwich with mayonnaise.  I put two slices of bread on a plate and covered one piece with mayonnaise.  On the other side, I placed a piece of Swiss cheese and turkey breast. I reached over the sandwich fixings to take out a handful of green grapes to eat with my lunch. At that moment, I created a work of art so fine that Jackson Pollock would likely rave about it.

The creation was a result of my not wearing what I should be wearing and something on the counter that shouldn’t be on the counter.

I have learned my lesson.   I’m moving forward, my career as an artist over.

All three of these incidents happened earlier in the week.  Every day I’ve sworn I was going to write about them.  But in this universe of horror, time flies by so quickly and escapes me.  Today, I said, today is the day, but as someone who wears oxygen for pulmonary issues, I got all caught up in the story about whether POTUS had dips in oxygen.  It’s not often this is talked about and I was interested.  It made me wonder what my daytime oxygen was, so I checked it and it was 89.  Damn, I thought, that’s pretty bad considering I’m on three liters of oxygen.  I did my pursed-lipped breathing and I checked it again, and it was only 92.  Then I started to get upset and worried about it.

At my last visit, my pulmonologist increased me from 2 to 3 liters.  These numbers were freaking me out.  I went out into the kitchen to check on a stew I’m making for dinner.  I passed Big Tanko (the 40-lb machine that I’m tethered to in the house) and noticed THAT HE WAS NOT TURNED ON.  Yes, this is a cautionary tale.  I am slowly losing my mind, but I’m fully dressed, oxygen saturation at 99% (just checked in) and grateful that those are my biggest problems. -30-

 

 

Sep 092020
 

September 9, 2020 —  I huff and puff up white marble staircases of the Doge’s Palace, over-the-top gold ceilings high above. Even on a rainy day, the gold-leaf reflects a shimmer in the mighty stairwells.  We cross over the Bridge of Sighs and see Casanova’s home in captivity, a lightless cell where he likely contemplated his conquests. The tour of the Palace is over, and we want to return to our hotel on the other side of Venice.

Friends told us not to come to Venice.  The Grand Canal, they said, is so dirty. We laughed, reminding them that we live a mile from the Ohio River, with its coffee-colored water that contains everything toxic from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and down river to us. Today is our third and last day before we go to Lake Como.

It’s raining as we step out onto the walkway to St. Mark’s Plaza along the seawall.  There’s a slight October chill in the air, a reminder that colder weather isn’t far away. My husband opens his black umbrella and covers both of us. Bluish-brown waves from the Venetian Lagoon crest over the wide sidewalk, forcing tourists to cling to the ornate outside wall of the Palace. Moored vaporetto’s and gondolas whack against the seawall, boats covered tightly with tarps sealed like plastic wrap over leftovers.

We fan out once reaching St. Mark’s, tourists scattering in all directions for safe places, hotels, restaurants, Harry’s Bar for the original Bellini. The pink lamps – five on a post – cast a spell on the plaza in the light rain.  Did Lord Byron see these same lamps in the rain? Where was his safe place to get out of the weather? Seagulls perch atop each lamp, as if arranged in advance, one bird to one lamp. The plaza itself is devoid of the usual crowds.  Tables are shoved to the side, their accompanying chairs upside down on them, puddles coagulating around each grouping.  A growing mist settles from the lagoon over the plaza, fingers of dampness reaching into dozens of little streets in three directions.

My husband has a headache, and we need to find a Pharmacia.  Which street will we choose? We quickly ascend steps in the rain, steps by now slippery. Most of our fellow tourists have disappeared.  We pass little restaurants, shops selling elaborate masks, crystal-colored rhinestone, and maroon feathers—no Pharmacia.

We cross small canals as we chart our course for the hotel, hoping to find headache relief along the way. We find ourselves near the Rialto Bridge.  Haven’t we crossed this already?  Are we walking in circles?  Asking directions with a language barrier is fruitless.  We follow the signs to the bridge over the Grand Canal nearest our hotel. Weren’t we just here? Three-hundred bridges in Venice, and to us, they all look the same, except for the famous Rialto with its distinct shape.  We find ourselves in a more touristy area – there’s a Hard Rock Café.    Ugly Americans in business also as out of place as the Starbucks at the  Louvre. Why are my expectations for Europe so different from our much younger America?

We find a Pharmacia, and my husband and the pharmacist negotiate his need for headache relief.

Finally, something looks familiar, a big bridge over the Grand Canal.  But we’re on the wrong side. We cross and believe we are getting closer.  A turn and another right beside a smaller canal, and the Hotel Papadopoli is ahead, sanctuary on a rainy day.

 

Aug 312020
 

August 31, 2020 –  A strange parallel exists for the years 1968 and 2020.  Much was written two years ago for the 50th anniversary of that seminal year, marked by assassinations, upheaval in the streets, and a contentious presidential election.

Our grandparents bought us a new RCA Victor color television set for Christmas 1967.  The set had four legs and a 26-inch screen.  Television programs on the three networks began broadcasting in 1965.  How excited we were to watch The Flintstones and The Jetsons in living color!

The excitement was short-lived.  In January, the North Vietnamese began escalating the war in Vietnam with what would later be known as the Tet Offensive.  In just two days at the end of the month, 232 American GIs were killed as the Communists took over Saigon.

Our family watched Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on the NBC news each night. For the first time, we saw the brutality and blood of this unpopular war, all in “living color,” as proclaimed by the NBC peacock.

Anti-war protestors marched in the streets in many cities and college campuses, especially after the “My Lai ma

ssacre,” where ground troops from Charlie Company killed about 500 Vietnamese villagers, on a tip that Viet Cong was in the area[1].

Several weeks later, Lyndon Baines Johnson announced on a nationally-televised evening speech, “I shall not seek nor will I accept your nomination for President.”

Four days after this speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. He was visiting the city to support a sanitation worker’s strike and shot and killed by James Earl Ray.  Rage rose throughout the country.  In Indianapolis, the capital city of my state, Robert Kennedy spoke to the  crowds who came into the streets after the assassination of King.  Kennedy’s healing words likely kept the protests from becoming riots.

RFK made several trips to Indiana for the May primary. On one trip, his motorcade traveled up to Indiana 9 from Indianapolis.  For reasons unknown, the motorcade pulled over near Duck-Creek Boone Elementary School in rural Madison County.  My husband, a fifth-grader, and his classmates shook hands with Robert Kennedy.  Kennedy was shot the night of his victory in the California primary, in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.  He died the next morning, June 6.

With Kennedy out of the race, Hubert Humphrey, the current vice president for LBJ, moved forward as a candidate.  According to a reporter from New York Magazine, Humphrey was approached personally by Anatoly Dobrygin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, with an offer of support in his campaign.

From the magazine, “In 1968, Moscow feared that the staunchly anti-communist Richard M. Nixon would be elected. To forestall that, the Kremlin decided to reach out to Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey. As Anatoly Dobrygin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, revealed in his memoir, “In Confidence,” two decades ago: “The top Soviet leaders took an extraordinary step, unprecedented in the history of Soviet-American relations, by secretly offering Humphrey any conceivable help in his election campaign — including financial aid.”[2]

The Republican in the race, former Vice President to Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, was Richard M. Nixon, who ran on the “law and order” ticket.  With Nixon’s election came a new breed of Republicans, those elected through the “southern strategy,” a successful attempt to wean southerners away from traditional Democratic leanings.  Many southerners were unhappy with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and began to vote Republican. During his campaign, Nixon refused a query about how he would handle the war, stating that any comments on his part might undermine the current president.

The Democratic convention in Chicago was upstaged by violence outside its doors.  Thousand of college students and anti-war protestors came to the Windy City, only to be met by Mayor Richard Dailey’s violent police response.  The TV screen was filled each night with bloody scenes, as groups like the yippies, the Black Panthers, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) marched in the streets against the war.

I remember the convention clearly as if it happened yesterday. Because it was in Chicago, only a few hours from home and a place we frequently visited, it felt close. Humphrey was ultimately chosen, only to be defeated by a jubilant Nixon, likely because of the war in Vietnam.  (History tells us that Nixon didn’t cut back on the war and that his “Vietnamization plans” and peace talks were ineffective.  Many more young men would lose their lives before the fight ultimately ended years later.)

Two young medal winners at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tommy Smith, and John Carlos, were thrown off the U.S. Olympic team after bowing their heads and raising a black-gloved fist (the Black Power symbol).  Their silent October protest, which today might be seen differently, made them heroes in the black community and shunned by everyone else.

If Americans watched evening television in the 1960s, most were limited to three network channels.  My family lived in a rural area served by the UHF band and three network channels.  No PBS channels existed yet.  And our service depended on a functioning antenna, stuck high on the roof of our home.  So, we watched political speeches, the conventions, and the Olympics, and we would watch the election night coverage when Nixon beat Humphrey.

Finally, though many people don’t even remember it, there was a pandemic.  The “Hong Kong” flu was derived from the Type the flu that still sickens many people each winter.  More than 100,000 Americans died.

Fifty-two years later, cable and streaming offer watchers multiple options. Americans don’t view the same three voices I heard as a child., ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Though the year 1968 may offer parallels to our current year, we perceive our current year through entirely different lenses and many more voices.

So many terrible things happened in 1968, and many naive American eyes were opened by witnessing violent activities and their aftermath.  Yet, for many Americans of color, this did not represent a change.  Persons of color had experienced Jim Crow, the burning of Tulsa, and the Colfax riots, and lynchings, and horrendous injustice.  Just this week, the New York Times featured the Colfax events in Louisiana.  In 1873, 150 men were murdered by a militia, ignoring the 13th and 14th Amendments and the Civil Rights law of 1866.[3]

The years offer parallels, but what lessons can we learn?  Does violence accomplish anything but beget more violence?  I must admit I’m terrified as we move into the last third of the year, as our discourse and actions become more unhinged.  I was 11 years old, a fifth-grader in 1968, and now I’m a near-senior, retired, and white-headed, still watching “in living color.”

I can’t look into a crystal ball and predict what the future will hold.  But, by looking at the past, we can gauge some clues.  Today we look at the Vietnam War period as a blemish on our history, an unnecessary war where 55,000 primarily middle class and poor Americans lost their lives.  The “law and order” president ended up resigning, and many of his aides and assistants went to prison.

I remember one more moment about 1968, another television program where the world came together.  But, this time, it wasn’t to watch bloody American carnage. On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut read from the Bible, the Book of Genesis, as he looked back toward the earth, on a trip around the moon.

To see the earth as Borman and his crew, William Anders and Jim Lovell must have been a fantastic, life-changing scene.  And due to technology, we who are earth-bound shared in the glorious moment.  Years later, in Florida at a hospital fundraising event, I heard Lovell speak of his gratitude that he was on that trip. He describe the emotions and the colors of seeing earth from where no man had seen our blue planet, frp, 180,000 miles away.

For the 11-year-old viewer, watching on the RCA color television, the view of earth from above was mesmerizing. Do you remember?  Did you watch it live?  Did you feel the smallness of our blue orb and the largeness of the universe?  Did you feel more connected to fellow earth-riders?  I did, and I never looked at the world the same again. Today we have the Hubble telescope, and we can see universes beyond universes, but in 1968 Borman’s “Earth Rising” meant for the first time, the world saw itself as it is.  In our living room, we have a poster made from a Hubble picture, of endless stars stretching into an endless universe and universes beyond.

Can we see ourselves today as we are?  Can we honestly look at our planet and know that we’ve done our best?  Think about these things as you cast your vote in the presidential election.  What will you leave for your children and grandchildren?

[1] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/my-lai-massacre-takes-place-in-vietnam

[2] https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/1968-election-won-by-nixon-still-haunts-our-politics.html

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/opinion/black-lives-civil-rights.html

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Aug 302020
 

I live in a suburb.  I am a white woman. I don’t want anyone to assume they know how or what I think.  I am an individual.  I’ve been called a member of the Me Generation and a Baby Boomer, often in pejorative ways.  I acknowledge my own lifelong privilege because of the circumstances of my birth.  I am not a perfect person by any means, and I make mistakes.

I want you to know who I am, today, August 30, 2020.

I believe in God, the God who gave us Her son Jesus.  I believe we should follow Jesus’ example as outlined in the four Gospels. I believe that my Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish brothers and sisters were also created by God, though we all reach Her on different paths.  Had I been born a Hindu child in India, instead of a Lutheran child in Indiana, would God be less God to me?  Of course not.

I believe in Mother Nature.  We were given this beautiful blue orb and we’ve not taken good care of it.  It is our responsibility — whether we are sowers of seed or consumers — to stop harming our planet.

I believe that Black Lives Matter.  And I believe we have to say Black Lives Matter Every. Single. Day. until people understand why it is important.  White people have not experienced the deadly consequences of the systemic racism caused by our ancestors that still happens today. This has to stop, and I believe those who ignite the fires of racism today must be stopped.

I believe that it is every American’s right and privilege to use their franchise.  Those who don’t bother to vote need to shut up and not complain about our government.  And there are not always perfect choices.  Should we eliminate the good because it is not perfect?  No, or nothing ever changes.  I believe in a peaceful transition to power after an election. I’ve watched every inauguration since I was a child no matter what political party takes power.  This ceremony, on the steps of the United States Capitol, sets us apart in the world as we all celebrate the new president, whether we voted for him or not.

I believe in a strong and educated police force.  I believe police who commit crimes against other citizens should be accountable for their actions.

I believe in the right of protest as outlined by our United States constitution.  I do not support those who would incite violence, loot, or carry illegal weapons to a peaceful protest.  I do not believe guns should be carried at a peaceful protest.  I support the second amendment, and I believe that automatic weapons are weapons of war, and unnecessary for sport or home protection.

I believe in science.  Science is based on facts.  Science can co-exist with faith, because “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV.  Many scientists admit there are some questions that cannot be answered. But for those questions that can be answered, we turn to science.

I believe that all children deserve to be raised by a parent or parents. I believe we have harmed many immigrant children by separating them from their parents or guardians.  Our country was founded by immigrants.  My family came from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.  Very few of us are full-blooded native Americans.  How can we look at immigrants any differently that our own ancestors?

I believe in capitalism, but not today’s capitalism where a small percent of our country’s overall wealth is held by the top one percent.  Several generations ago, Americans lived by the maxim, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  Strong unions protected the middle class.  Real income adjusted for inflation has not increased  for the middle and lower classes in half a century as it has for the rich.  This chart from Advisor Perspectives shows that middle income since 1970 has increased by under 40% while the top tier has increased by 140%  Supply-side economics didn’t offer the great trickle-down it promised.

I believe that a society is judged by how it cares for its most marginalized citizens, whether they be poor immigrants needing asylum to escape gangs, or individuals with disabilities who cannot work, or our senior citizens.

I believe in a free and active press.  Unfortunately, social media and 24/7 cable news has upped the profit game for media.  Media owners need a profit to stay in business, but I’m afraid the price is a toxic media environment where the lines between news and opinion have been blurred.

I believe that love is love.  Why am I more entitled, as a heterosexual, to marry as I wish?  I’m not.  Thankfully, the law has been changed and members of the LGBTQ community may marry as they wish.

I believe that love is the most powerful force on earth.  Great things have been done in the name of love, or as Mother Teresa suggested, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  I fall short on this item every day, but I’m working to be kinder and more compassionate to others.  In a world filled with hate, it is a challenge for me but I try to remember the example of those who came before me.

On November 3, we will vote for President of the United States.  I hope you will look deep inside yourself, and consider what you believe. What are your basic beliefs and how will you implement them by your vote?  What is important to you?

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Aug 242020
 

August 24, 2020 (revised for length 8/26/2020) — With the Presidential election just over two months away, I want to share why I am voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  I suspect many won’t get past my headline, but I ask you to bear with me.   I need to tell you a little bit about me before I explain the choice I’ve made.

Politics has always been a great joy in my family. My parents were Rockefeller Republicans, middle-class, middle-ground moderates, a group of voters that no longer exists. My family watched political conventions of both stripes with the same enthusiasm we reserved for baseball.   I cast my first vote in 1976 for Gerald Ford, who told us our “long national nightmare was over.”

In  discussions with my father around the 1980 election, we agreed we both felt uneasy with Ronald Reagan.  Both of us voted for John Anderson, an Illinois Congressman who left a safe seat to challenge Mr. Reagan.   I couldn’t bring myself to pull the lever for the Gipper.  I liked George H.W. Bush, and voted for him in two elections, 1988 and 1992.  I felt the Vice President had fallen in line with Reagan, despite calling Reagan’s signature supply-side economics policy “voodoo economics.”   I voted for Bob Dole in the 1996 election; Dole was one of the last moderate Republicans.

By the year 2000, much had changed in our society from when I entered the workforce in 1980.  The promise of supply-side economics didn’t lift all boats equally.  Wealth didn’t trickle down into education, with the cost of public and private colleges skyrocketing, and the student loan industry standing by with outstretched hands.  Wealth didn’t trickle down for healthcare consumers.  Prescription prices went up over the moon, insurance premium costs grew, and many two-income homes couldn’t take in Grandma, who spent down her life savings and went to a nursing home on Medicaid. Wealth didn’t trickle down for most people.Unions had become less popular, so blue-collar workers had less protection, while CEO salaries rose exponentially.  And for all workers, benefits changed.  That bank of vacation days you earned and your sick leave were combined to make “Paid Time Off.”  If you were lucky enough to stay healthy, you could take paid vacation. If you had an excellent corporate job, with good benefits, good for you.  Reductions in force became the norm at all levels of employment.

I did not vote for George W. Bush.  Junior was a different man than his father; he didn’t seem like a smart or serious man to me. And his politics were more extreme than his father’s.  Both Bush, the Younger, and Democratic nominee Albert Gore, Jr. were gaffe machines, and I wondered how they would fare with their finger on the button.  Despite a crazy election cycle complete with the new term “hanging chads,” Gore accepted the December 2000 decision by the Supreme Court, with the traditional peaceful transition of power from Clinton to Bush. After 9/11, George the Younger did an outstanding job of uniting our country in an awful time, only to ruin his legacy with tens of thousands of military and civilian deaths by taking us into two costly, lengthy, and possibly unnecessary wars.

(I suspect whether to send American soldiers into harm’s way is the most difficult decision a President has to make.  I understand there are times when there is no choice. We rushed into Iraq based on false information.  We are still in Afghanistan.  History will be the ultimate judge of those decisions.

August 25 is the anniversary of the Allies liberating Paris in 1944.  Americans swell with pride in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe about our achievements in supporting the Allies in World War II. We saved the world despite our being late arrivals to the war.  Churchill, as Prime Minister of England, begged Franklin Roosevelt, our President, to send planes, equipment, money, and finally troops for the cause.  Until Pearl Harbor, there was little support for a second “Great War:” the memories of “The War to End All Wars” still fresh in American minds.)

The Republican party I knew as a child and young person does not exist and had moved from center-right to far-right.  The party had lost its way from the party of family values, and the part that wanted balanced budgets.   The funny thing, to me, is that I feel like I was standing still, and the party I knew moved without me.  That’s when I became a registered Democrat, albeit a moderate one.  No political party is perfect. But the Republican party no longer represented by values.

This year I will cast my vote for Joseph R. Biden for President of the United States for these reasons:

Experience: Joe served in Congress for many years before Barack Obama chose him as Vice President.  In an ever-more-bipartisan world, Joe has the history and wisdom to reach across the aisle to build consensus.  Joe worked closely in partnership with President Obama throughout his eight years.  Joe knows that a “good economy” just doesn’t mean a rising stock market. Joe will be a president for all of the American people, not just a few in one party.  Joe also enjoys world-wide respect from foreign leaders he knows on a first-name basis, a good place to begin his foreign policy as President.

Character: Joe has a spine of steel, but a heart of empathy.  He’s been through several tragedies in his life, including the death of his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident, which also left their two sons gravely injured.  Joe also lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer, the same kind that killed senators, Ted Kennedy, and John McCain.  His personal tragedies have shaped the person Joe is.

Empathy:  There’s an old trope that we judge a society by how it treats its most marginalized citizens.  During the convention last week, Joe asked a young boy from New Hampshire to speak.  This young man has a stutter, as does Biden.  Decades of practice have helped Joe work through his stutter.  Because of his personal experience, Joe reaches out to children who have this issue.  The courage of that young boy filled me with joy.  As the parent of someone on the spectrum, this busy man takes time to talk to children who share this disability is fantastic.  Joe is also empathetic and kind to veterans and their families, as he and his family know what it is like to have a loved one fight overseas.

Other issues:

  • Climate Change:  Joe will return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord.  Congress first held a hearing about climate change in 1981, which was nearly 40 years ago.  It’s past time for us to be fully on board to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Healthcare: Fix the Affordable Health Care act.  I know that many of my more progressive friends want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but I think the whole system is too fragile right now.  Let’s fix the ACA and figure out how to do Medicare for All correctly.  Regardless of what he inherits on January 20, he will have a plan and take decisive action about dealing with COVID.  He has demonstrated in 2009 that he can step up in a terrible situation, as he assisted President Obama with economic issues.
  • Choice of Veep:  Kamala Harris is a strong choice, and certainly qualified to step in on day one, should something happen to Joe.
  • Global:  Joe supports and understands the long-term political consequences of fostering allies like NATO.

Joe has demonstrated by his behavior that he’s not dismissive or threatened by strong women.  Joe commits to ending systemic racism and supports the LGBTQ community, as I do.

He is not perfect.  He has said and done stupid things in his career.  And he is four years older than our current president.  Frankly, I would rather have a nominee in both parties that’s closer to my son’s age than mine.  But Joe Biden will be a leader because he is a leader.  And think about the things he will not do.  I don’t need to list them for you; you know what they are.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please vote.  This is a privilege earned by the blood of those young men who stormed into Europe on D-Day in June 1944 and went on to liberate the City of Lights.  Take your franchise seriously.  America is depending on you.

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I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

Feeding America link

Aug 222020
 

August 22, 2020 —  Something strange happened to me Wednesday evening.  I cannot explain it.

We were watching either the DNC or Major League Baseball.  I honestly don’t remember because I was listening to an Audible book on my phone and playing a video game on my tablet.  My husband and I watch the Boob Tube together every night and sit at opposite ends of our

My mom’s hands on baby Alex 1990.

comfortable reclining couch.

Both of us have been known to fall asleep there, especially after a large meal.  I do not think, in retrospect, that I was sleeping.

I rested my right hand on the end of the sofa. I felt a hand resting on top of my arm, patting me slowly. This was a familiar gesture from my mom. She died at age 79 in February 2012 after battling dementia for more than a decade.  I couldn’t see her, but I could feel her comforting, warm hand on my arm.  It was Mom’s left hand, and she wore her tiny diamond ring between two gold bands so thin they had been soldered together.  While I saw the wedding set in my mind, I knew at the same time that they were in a drawer two rooms away.

My eyes, or my mind’s eye, followed up the course of her arm, and I saw her smiling at me, in a simple green outfit I remember from the 1990s. Her smile was glorious and so welcome.  At my conscious level, I know she has passed on, and I know she couldn’t be standing there, because of the table where I saw her.  Was I asleep?  I can’t say.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it doesn’t matter to me, because in my mind’s eyes she touched me, and I saw her smile.

People on my dad’s side of the family are dreamers, and I mean literal dreams.  Some of us talk in our sleep, sleepwalk, and have crazy, mixed-up dreams.  I have these dreams, but I never dream about my mother.  My inability to find her in dreams has disappointed me since her death. After my maternal grandmother died a quarter-of-a-century ago, I often saw her in dreams.  Sometimes these dreams were grand, like the first one after her funeral.  I dreamed that my maternal grandmother was swimming on north Clearwater Beach, a place that was special to both of us.  The dream was so vivid–I could feel the cold water splashing at me, I could hear her voice telling me she was beautiful, and I could sense the hot sun on my back.  That dream was in 1994, and I can remember it like it happened last night.

I accept the traditional Christian version of heaven and hell, though I widen the lens because I believe there is only one God, and all roads lead to Rome. I am quite curious about “the other side,” but have no answers.  I’ve always been curious about it, but I won’t know until I know.  I remember having long discussions with a former pastor about “will we know our loved ones on the other side?”

Curious about how others see it, three times in my life, I’ve consulted psychics and seers.   The In Clearwater, Florida, several friends and I hired a psychic to come to my house.  She arrived two hours later.  She is going to tell my future but can’t find my house?  The second time was in New Orleans, Louisiana, and after one Hurricane I didn’t pay much attention.  The last time was recently on a whim, referred by a friend.  This person says she talks to the dead on the “other side” but she doesn’t predict the future. What she said is for another time.  Mostly, I’ve found it to be smoke and mirrors. But I don’t know.

I’m not sure it matters whether it was a dream, or a vision concocted by my mind.  I don’t care.  I accept it as a gift.

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I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

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Jul 232020
 

Birthday dinner at maternal grandparents, 1962

I celebrate another trip around the sun today.  Either I’m 36 (what my head says), or I’m 163 (what my body says). Since my mother died, the week before my special day is always filled with weeping and grief.  Though this mini depression happens every year, it still surprises me.  This year was no exception, and mixed in the salad was a sadness about not being able to see my father, who will be 90 in December.  Stir in his deteriorating short-term memory, and I felt like crying.

Today I woke up grateful, happy to be alive, thankful we’ve had my Dad for so long. I’m ready to start a new year. God willing, Herman and I will celebrate another anniversary this fall, and our son is happy in his life out east.  We have shelter and plenty of food and exciting hobbies. I’ve already been showered with Facebook messages, texts, cards I will open this afternoon, and profoundly touching email messages from the Mazda dealership and the Ball State University Foundation. Oh, and I must not forget the email from Pat and Vanna and the Wheel Watchers Club.

I will grill sirloins, followed by several Zooms with dear ones, culminating in one with our son.

We miss our son every day, but are thankful he has a wonderful life, even so far away from us. Losing our annual June baseball trip was hard.  While I didn’t attend the games, I enjoyed our meals together and late-night bull sessions about everything under the sun. A never-to-be-spoken-of-again unfortunate incident with a Tall Boy and the Hot Sun ended my baseball career 23 years ago today at Riverfront Stadium.

One of the many losses of this pandemic has been the Great American Pastime, Major League Baseball.   I could not have predicted how much I would miss baseball, how it is the rhythm of my life, and the background noise of every summer. It’s the thread that weaves my father to my husband and our son. When I became engaged to a Reds fan, my Cubs-fan-to-the-death Dad said, “Well, at least it isn’t the American League.” I used to say that the perfect moment of death would be sitting about halfway up between home and third base at Wrigley, below Harry throwing out his mic to lead the singing crowd, and drinking a cold beer. In marriage, I had to accept the horror that was Riverfront Stadium.

Today, on my birthday, is the official start of the 2020 baseball season.  The Cubs played last night, and the Reds don’t play until tomorrow, but the World Champion Nationals (my third team after the Reds and Cubs) play today.

Backyard party, 1963, L-R, Gail Germann Murphy, Mom, Carla Sheeler Mitchell, Shelby Schoeff, me, Paula Bok, Lorie Bollinger, Melonie Kreider Sroufe

A summer birthday offers both disadvantages and advantages.  As a child, I couldn’t have a party at school.  Back then, before the Peloponnesian War, children brought homemade cupcakes to school to share with the entire class.  My mother, who was the queen of birthdays, gave the best parties, the iconic little girl party with pink party dresses. She wasn’t the most excellent cook, so she had a friend, Blanche Hathaway, make an angel food cake with boiled icing. Never heard of boiled icing.  It’s the best, sort of colorless and turns hard like fondant, but not as sweet.  We played games with Life Savers and string, and whatever my mother, who was a teacher, could make from home.

Even as we age, we like for the world to stop and give us recognition for our special day.  Of course, that doesn’t always happen.  My 21st birthday was spent at Lutheran Hospital, where my grandfather was being treated for a heart attack.  On my 45th birthday, we had to short-circuit a vacation because our water heater broke and flooded our basement.  Several years ago, on my birthday, my father gave my husband and I our 164th tour of Purdue University. We were glad to be with him, though neither of us attended Purdue.

The good ones have been outstanding.  On my 35th birthday, I saw an all-Gershwin musical “Crazy for You” at the Schubert Theatre in New York City.  On my 52nd birthday, I saw a revival of “West Side Story” again in New York.  This was the Tony-winning production, using Spanish for the first time.  Back at the Schubert for my 60th birthday, we saw Bette Midler in a stunning revival of “Hello, Dolly.”

On my 18th birthday, shortly before we all left for college, my friend Gail and her mom surprised me with a birthday luncheon at their home.  On my 50th birthday, I hosted a fundraiser/celebration for friends, and we raised more than 4K for playground equipment at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, where our son attended pre-school.  I have a beautiful picture from that day, hanging on my office wall.  That day was filled with much love.

While I hope to live many more years, one never knows.  If a bus hits me tomorrow (highly unlikely since I rarely leave home.) Let’s start over; if a meteor smashes through my office window, I have lived the best life because I’ve never doubted that I’m loved.  Everything else is a bonus. And, honestly, I would accept another tour of Purdue, if only if we could be with Dad today, (“That’s where the Dairy Barn was 70 years ago!”) Thank you, my dear ones, for all the wishes today, and especially, for love.