Lost Memories?

Wow. I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in having trouble remembering things. That’s another reason I’m glad I have my bullet journal — I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing and am scheduled to do. But, that’s the day-to-day stuff.

Suna in the only long, white wedding dress she ever wore. Sadly, it belonged to her friend Liz (still married to the guy she wed in this dress). This is in Pennsylvania, when I went on a visit to cry about being a bad girlfriend.

Talking to people in my extended circle, I realized that many of us have lost access to our past. One friend said she no longer has memories. Others are having a hard time remembering things when they need to, or remembering whether they told someone something. Lee totally forgot to tell me his car broke down—that’s something you usually remember to share!

This photo reminded me that my dad put wood siding up on our house in Plantation, Florida, just before he left. He was ahead of his time.

We all have a clue as to why this is happening. It’s the stress, the mega-stress, the overwhelming worry and anxiety. We all have COVID stress. No one can avoid having world events stress right now, what with wars, storms, earthquakes, and shootings galore. We have overload from black-and-white thinking in politics, organizations, and families. Many of us have big work struggles. Our brains are full. And so are the brains of the people we encounter. I’m getting stressed just writing this.

Here’s a happy memory of me and my friend Robin, who, by the way, is still my friend Robin and has children older than she is in this photo.

Sometimes, you can get your memories back, though, which is why I’m glad I grew up in the age where people took lots and lots of photographs (though nothing like today). Today, for a bit of stress relief, I wandered through my photo album from 1984-1986, which were not my best times (I managed to lose the love of my life and my mom in just a few months), I’ve got to say, but which also had some really good times. I’m so glad I can see both types of memories.

Here’s a place I once lived, in Urbana, Illinois. I doubt it’s still standing. I’m remembering that is my Asbury Jukes jacket that I won at a record store.

Also, when I was young, I wrote a lot of letters. It was in my blood, since my whole family wrote letters to each other. I found a box from when I was in college and grad school lately, and they reminded me of my journals in that some were a bit embarrassing (I sure fell in love HARD in my twenties, repeatedly), but others reminded me of what strong connections I had to my communities, and that brings me back to today, when I’ve learned from some of those infatuations and heartaches and gained some balance.

I never share photos of this guy, but I remember him. It’s the late Bill Crain, my first husband, being coached on good husbanding by my dad, in 1986. He didn’t listen.

I’m glad to be able to dredge some of my memories back up, after all. I hope you enjoy some little glimpses into my box of memories. See if you can come up with some.

My office in October 1984. I wallpapered the walls of this closet/office that I shared with two fellow grad students with my word a day calendar pages. Behind me is an original IBM PC that had two floppy drives and no hard drive. I can’t believe how happy I looked. I was one big mess and had anxiety symptoms 24/7. And migraines.

Book Report: A Girl Is a Body of Water

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was sort of sad to finish my latest relaxation read, A Girl Is a Body of Water, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, because I sure was enjoying my education in the culture, food, and clothing of Uganda. Basically, all I knew about Uganda before was Idi Amin, and he certainly isn’t something worth representing an entire culture with. Well, and I knew the Gandan people spoke Lagala there (among other languages), from when I studied linguistics. I guess that put me one step ahead of most people in my culture.

I also really like the cover.

Do you have to be interested in the culture of Uganda during the 20th Century to read this book? Absolutely not, because the story is beautiful, interesting, and very captivating. You grow to love the characters as you learn more and more about them, especially Kirabo, the main character, and Nsuuta, the blind woman of mystery who is inextricably linked to Alikisa, Kirabo’s grandmother. You just want to know what’s going on with this fascinating and many-layered family!

But for me, the information about traditional Ugandan culture, how it changed with colonialism, through Amin’s reign, to more modern times, was fascinating. The book does a fantastic job of delving deep into the traditional and modern roles of women in Uganda, which parts change and which parts stay traditional. Many of the women Makumbi writes about were among the first to try to do things differently, and you might be surprised at some of the consequences and who encouraged and discouraged them. The way feminism and traditional roles came together in A Girl Is a Body of Water was really skillful.

Makumbi does a great job of introducing new Ugandan words, ideas, and concepts in the course of developing the plot, so it’s easy to learn as you go. I found it fun to try to figure out what some of the words meant, especially foods and items of clothing. I admit to looking some words up, like luwombo, which is a kind of stew-ish dish served in banana leaves. Some words, though, I waited until I could figure them out from context. That is MY idea of a good time. YOU might want to keep Google handy.

Luwombo, from an online brochure. It can feature any meat.

The culture stuff was really fun to learn, too, like what constituted beauty to them, how who was related to whom was calculated, who counts as “family,” and how the deal about having multiple mothers in households with more than one wife worked. It sounded like a lot of love, actually. It was fun to imagine living in a society so different from mine, with different mores and guidelines, but that made perfect sense in its context.

I’m glad I finally was able to get around to reading this book, which I’d had to put off for a while. If you are like me and enjoy learning history through the eyes of women in a culture, you will enjoy this book very much. It’s going to stick with me, and I’ll always wonder how Kirabo did after the book ended. Hey, a sequel, that would be fine with me!

Say Thank You to Your Word Processing Software

Today Lee was unpacking stuff from our old Austin house, you know, the stuff I just couldn’t get to in all the time we lived at the Bobcat Lair, now officially known as Anita’s House of 300 Boxes. (She is ready to move out soon as she can.)

Anyway, Lee found a true gem, a takeaway notebook from a seminar in 1988.

Blast from the past.

Oh wow. I forgot how much effort it used to be to make newsletters and such back then! Or write dissertations (footnotes on a typewriter, hell). This really helpful (back then) guide even came with tools. Let me explain to you lucky people only slightly younger than me.

A ruler

So this ruler is for figuring out how many characters you can fit in a space. I’d completely forgotten that typewriter balls came in Pica or Elite. That’s if you were lucky enough to have an IBM Selectric, the dream typewriter with an eraser key and interchangeable heads. I’m eternally grateful to High School Boyfriend for sharing his with me.

We made money typing papers for others in college and I even typed a whole book on Basque for pay. That typewriter was beloved, even though we sure typed a lot of pages over and over, especially when we had to use footnotes. No wonder I love end notes today.

This tool was a mystery.

The other tool that came with the notebook was this crazy wheel that tells you how much you have to reduce your text to fit in a certain space. I imagine this was very handy. It also makes me really glad I didn’t make newsletters until personal computers were available. I never had to paste up anything. Yay.

I think this is too much math for words.

I thumbed through the notebook as it showed how to make monospaced text interesting, as it went over how to get photographs (real ones) and put them in, and extolled the virtues of typesetting. Then I remembered the date. 1988.

Scary

I got my first PC in 1985. The people one year ahead of me had to write dissertations on a mainframe line editor. I got to use WordPerfect in beautiful Times Roman. By the time I got my first real job in 1987, page layout software existed. I just gave my graphic designer my words and she poured them into the software. The typesetter at work saw their career path dwindling to a footpath.

Good advice.

Things changed so fast around this time. It was fun, though. Soon I could make my own documents.

Soon after that, I was making web pages, all words, no pictures. Monospaced. Then there were digital images! You could make text blink! Be green! Have moving backgrounds! Play an insipid song in a loop! Ah, times were so simple then. I’m so grateful for word processing and page design software!

But the course on how to make newsletters on a typewriter didn’t help Lee for long. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t given much longer. But I sure like that ruler and reduction wheel!

Book Report: The Four Winds

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Finally, I was able to read a neighborhood book club book again. The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah (2021) is set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the horrible Dust Bowl times in Texas, Oklahoma, and surrounding states. It’s definitely not a feel-good beach read, though there is plenty of goodness in it.

This book draws you in quickly, as you’re taken in by the story of CCX and her isolated life in west Texas. Hannah truly tells a good tale and make the characters seem real.

Every once in a while someone says or does something that seems out of character to me, but I just rode along with it. I think some of it is how jarring Elsa’s breakthroughs of her “true self” appear, like when she suddenly goes out and BOOM has sex with the first male she encounters.

You also can’t avoid drawing parallels with our current times. Those hard working farmers just couldn’t grasp that they were actually the source of the problems. The message isn’t subtle, but the points ring true.

The Four Winds seems eerily prescient in 2021 . . . Its message is galvanizing and hopeful: We are a nation of scrappy survivors. We’ve been in dire straits before; we will be again. Hold your people close.”

The New York Times

I was fascinated by the depth of the horror people lived through during the Dust Bowl times. The graphic images of dirt and more dirt are sobering, as are the details of the lives of “Okies” who fled to California.

You’ll come to admire the tenacity of Elsa and her kids and have a hard time putting this one down. I love historical novels like this, where you learn a lot as you enjoy a good tale.

The Past Is a Blast

The past is a blast of what, you ask? It’s more like a punch to the gut sometimes and it sure makes it hard to slog through to the future, if you aren’t careful. I’ve been trying to let go of things, but it’s sometimes more successful than other times.

These are my first glasses. I’m 27. They are back in fashion.

Today I canceled a lot of domain names and blogs I’m no longer using. Our event venue at the church in Cameron never happened, as we pivoted to other projects and started Hearts Homes and Hands. So, that website is gone (though I saved all its stuff). Maybe someday we can start again. I also canceled a bunch of domain names having to do with our former Hermit Haus Redevelopment company (it’s where I primarily blogged before this one, and it has so many stories and photos I treasure, like when Mandi interviewed us all). We had been careful to get domains that resembled the right ones, in case people typed in the wrong thing. I guess I saved myself a thousand bucks or so, but it felt like admitting we failed (even though we didn’t fail, we just moved on when real estate went on its complicated recent course). It still sorta hurt.

Me in 2017. I had a strange hair-do.

And, as part of moving things out of the Bobcat Lair, Lee brought home the rest of my photo albums, and wanted me to open the boxes and put them somewhere. I’d been avoiding opening those boxes, since they are full of memories of happy and sad times (naturally). I just didn’t want to see my first husband, who died not long ago of cancer. And I didn’t want to remind myself of how amazing my older son was as a baby and how much I enjoyed being his mother. But, the good thing was that I found some really cute photos of my younger son with his grandfather in Ireland. My heart was warmed, so I asked Lee to scan them, and I sent them to him.

It’s odd to me that I like to save objects that remind me of the past, like gifts people gave me and little souveniers, but I have a hard time looking at photographs, because they put me right back into other times, some of them pretty rough, like when my mom died and I was only 26.

Poor mom wasn’t really cut out for the stresses of life.

But, at least I’ll never be able to forget the good things, like Pumpkin, my dog sister from the 1980s, who brings Vlassic to mind so easily. And by the way, his nose is looking way better.

Well, hmm. The past is just there, and just little neurons firing away in my mind. I know it’s best to focus on the present! So, here’s how the shawl I recently made came out after being blocked. You can really see the pattern now!

I’m proud of that!

Book Report: Green: The History of a Color

This is the fourth book in the series of books by Michel Pastoureau that detail how colors have been perceived and used through European history that I’ve read. It’s convenient that I was reading this along with the Greenlights book, which has all the green print and green pages. I find the color series really interesting and entertaining, so if you like colors, check out Green: The History of a Color. A lot of what I learned surprised me.

Jane Fonda is smokin’ on the cover, in more ways than one.

You do begin to feel sorry for green, like you did poor yellow in the book I read most recently. It really didn’t get much mention in historical texts, and wasn’t even used in paintings for a long time. One reason was that it has always been difficult to get a green dye that wasn’t made of copper or arsenic or some other poisonous substance. The safe ones were pretty dull. Another was that people just didn’t divide things into colors the way we do now, so a lot of what we would call green was blue or brown to the eyes of people in the past.

Then, poor ole green had a bad reputation of being a color of evil, deceit, and treachery (green knights were never up to any good), unless they were very young men, who were “green” in the untested sense. As time went on, it came to symbolize young love (not necessarily faithful love), peace, and fairy folk.

Apparently, saucy horses wore a lot of green. I love the fact on that horse.

People just didn’t like to wear it, other than a few brief fads where various rulers decided green was their color. Then the sickness came…apparently from covering walls with paint and wallpaper that was green. Some even think that’s what actually got Napoleon.

Green and nature do go hand in hand, though, so there is a lot of green in landscapes and such. A lot of it wasn’t very stable, though, so some landscapes that look brown were once green. And natural objects like the sky, sea, lakes, and rivers were often painted green, not blue. I found that interesting.

Etchings on green paper were popular. I just like this dude’s fuzzy hat.

Since this book dealt primarily with European history, Pastoureau didn’t bring up the color green in other parts of the world. From my studies, I know that Japanese didn’t have a word for green for a long time; aoi meant both blue and green. And the number of colors languages distinguish vary from three to dozens. It just depends on what’s important in a society. For Europeans, Pastoureau notes that texture and other tactile features were more important than color in describing objects (also, apparently in the Middle East when people were writing Biblical passages), which I found pretty interesting.

In addition to all the history stuff, the illustrations in the Green book are just as gorgeous as in the others in the series. These are majorly great coffee-table books (in fact, mine are on the coffee table!) and they are just fun to page through.

Your friends will be green with envy if you display this one, with that fine smoking Jane Fonda on the cover!

Proud of Pride: Remembering the Other Gay 90s

Since I am the hyper-volunteer that I am, I’ve been helping out with the PRIDE employee resource group where I work, as part of our diversity and inclusion initiative. Not surprisingly, you meet gay people in such groups. I’ve made a new friend there, who lives in Seattle and works at a company we recently acquired. C is a bit younger than me, but we share a lot of memories of the past.

Way too rainbow for many people. But, it’s not just for fun.

When no one else is at our meetings, we chat about stuff, and yesterday we got to talking about the differences between being young and gay when we were young and how it is now. Looking that far back, it becomes very clear how much things have changed for the better in North America. It also confirms how much I admire my gay and lesbian friends from the 1970s through 1990s, who really lived on the cusp of a more accepting world. This led me to some thoughts as Pride Month in the US starts.

Both of us remembered that when we were in high school NO ONE admitted being gay, and there were just whispers about certain theater types and flashy dressers. Whew, I feel bad for some of the guys, especially, who were pressured into dating women and must have felt really uncomfortable. Not to say that it was easier for women…and none of us even really grasped the possibility of being trans back then. I know lots of people who have children from the inevitable marriages that happened back then who treasure those kids and are grateful to understanding former partners.

I’m lucky to be able to fly my flag at work.

When I went to college, so many young men were coming out. My friend had similar memories of college being the first place where people felt safe to be themselves. Today, young people are so much freer (as a whole, not saying there still aren’t issues) to be open about figuring out their sexuality, loving whoever they want to, and not feeling forced to make a permanent choice. The fluidity nowadays is something I wish we had when I was young.

And while there is still a lot to fear for minorities today, fewer people feel like they must hide to stay alive. There are still workplaces and other spots where people my age are careful, though. Why, even ten years ago a friend of mine called his husband “Joan” at work to deflect an intolerant supervisor. And I hesitate to wear my Pride outfits in Cameron, even.

One reason that I have chosen to be an LGBTQIA+ ally for all these years is that I saw how dangerous it could be in the Gay 1990s for people to speak up for themselves when faced with homophobic behavior. My gay buddies used to stand up for me when people said sexist things in my presence, so it was only fair for me to point out homophobic speech and action when I saw it. That’s the job of the ally, to show that we do notice these things and won’t accept them.

I’m grateful for the men who have been my allies.

I’m here, noting when I feel uncomfortable, use an improper pronoun, or say something inappropriate, and I make sure to acknowledge it, then move on without making it into a “woe is me, poor cisgender ally person.” Being an ally may sometimes be hard, but it’s merely a choice for me. Being gay is NOT a choice and not something you can take a break from if it’s hard.

What makes me, my friend in Seattle, and so many others of us who are getting older right now very happy is seeing progress, seeing happy and productive people out there living authentically, and watching as society inches toward equality and inclusion, at least here. We are not forgetting those who live in parts of the world where people who are not cisgender males by birth are not at all safe. I guess our work just has to keep going!

Love to all of you.

Book Report: Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie

Rating: 5 out of 5.

With all this extra time at the beach and having mostly run out of things to do that actually appeal to me, I’ve had a lot of reading time. I bought three books on Amazon a few days after we got here, and have already finished two of them.

One fine book

The minute I heard that Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, by Lisa Napoli was out, I ordered it. I have listened to National Public Radio for many years, even when my kids were young, because they would listen to stories and stop the chatter briefly (love those kids, but they had a lot to say…perhaps that’s from being related to me?). I knew they’d had some troubles at some point, but I started listening long after that. What I did know was that I loved listening to all the varied voices I heard, especially Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg, and Cokie Roberts.

What a fascinating story of how women came to be “allowed” to be public-facing voices in the news media! And what interesting people these four are/were! My favorite has always been Nina, because I love hearing her describe what goes on in the Supreme Court. It’s like a soap opera. I knew her father was a famous musician, but it was great to learn his story along with hers. And Cokie Roberts, now there’s someone I probably would have hated in college, to my detriment, since she was actually incredibly talented, versatile, and smart. Susan broke the ice for everyone else, and her story of courage and tenacity is most inspirational. It’s similar with Linda, who was so focused on her goals that she just made them come through.

The stories about the history of NPR are just as captivating as the stories of the founding mothers’ lives. A real parade of quirky, visionary, and sometimes not-so-helpful leaders showed up and left. The dude who just let them go bankfupt because NO ONE was watching the money, Frank Mankiewicz, was the villain in the book, and he never shut up after his big screw-up. What impressed me the most was how most of them remained fiercely devoted to NPR even after they left or were shown the door. Public radio is very popular with its fans!

Napoli does a really fine job of weaving fun anecdotes and insider stories about all of the characters in this group biography, and it makes you feel like you know these inquisitive, tough, chain-smoking news geniuses yourself. I appreciate that Napoli doesn’t make these women into saints, but shows how ruthless and cut-throat they could be at times. Their devotion to the news and the truth is fierce and strong, as apparently is their ability to love, since they all seemed to have great spouses to cheer them on.

Yep, this book impressed me and brought me a lot of joy. It easily took my mind off of what is going on in the world around me, but let me pretend I was paying attention to the news; it was just news in the 70s and 80s.

Book Report: Yellow, the History of a Color

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There’s a reason you haven’t had any book reports in the past week or two, and that’s because it’s taken me a while to get through Yellow, the History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau (2019). This is one in a series of works by this French author, all of which detail how a particular color has been used in European history. I’ve already done his book on red and his book on blue (apparently before I started this blog), and I still have green and black to go through. Not only are these books fascinating to read, but they have rich illustrations, are on thick, quality paper, and look darned good on the coffee table.

The work of art on the cover reminds me so much of my friend JD in New York. Such ennui.

The cover of the book shows a painting called “Study in Yellow,” I think, and it depicts a man sitting in a wicker chair, dressed in a yellow robe, holding his finger in a yellow book to keep his place, and dangling a cigarette out of the other hand. He is looking right at the observer as if to say, “Leave me alone in my foppish revelry.” It’s a good image for the color yellow, which has seldom been a popular color, no matter how cheery yellow flowers are.

Nonetheless, I got greenish-yellow alstroemeria to decorate the condo while we are in South Carolina (greenish yellow is particularly unpopular through history).

One of the most important issues surrounding yellow is that its association with gold at least got it some popularity in ancient times. And, it was one of the earliest colors humans could draw or dye in. So, it did okay, especially with the Greeks and Egyptians.

As time went by, yellow got more and more negative associations. Judas, who betrayed Christ, always wears yellow in paintings (though the Bible didn’t say anything about that). Countries made Jewish people wear yellow hats, insignia, or clothing, long before World War II. Yellow was associated with liars, cowards, prostitutes, and other people of questionable morals, including musicians. It got pretty depressing for a long time. Protestants didn’t help, with all their modesty, dislike of adornment, and fondness for black and grey. Fun times.

Painting by Giotto, showing bad ole Judas with his yellow robe, red hair, and sack of betrayal coins in his bad ole left hand. Plus a Devil.

Thank goodness for the 18th Century, because everyone was happy and people could wear yellow for fun. Then came the 19th and 20th Centuries, which were somber and drab. And thank goodness for painters who used it more and more. There’s a lot of useful information on pigments and dyes, and Pastourneau theorizes that one reason people didn’t wear much yellow is that unless you used expensive colorants like saffron, most yellows were drab and dreary, and not very colorfast.

This painting by Jan Steen is one of my favorites. Not only does it show that Dutch peasants wore yellow, but there’s a dog, a broken egg, and a kid looking right at you.

What’s the good news? Yellow is back in this century, and it’s used more in clothing, homes furnishings, and other areas. I know I personally have a yellow bedroom, and it cheers me up. I’m not down on yellow! Living on the ranch, surrounded by yellow flowers, golden hay and grass, golden autumn willow leaves, and such, I have come to love yellow. So, I’m glad it’s back!

There is so much more about yellow in this book that I can’t summarize well enough to include; it’s worth getting or borrowing from the library. It’s not a good audio book, because the illustrations are half the enjoyment. I’m happy that I still have the green book and the black book to read later.

Much of this morning, you could not tell where the sky stopped and the sea started.

But, now I’m going to finish my knitting project or ELSE, and do some serious work on what’s going on with my mental health. At least I can ruminate with an ocean view!

At least there’s foam to brighten the gloom.

Evening Exploration

It was a long day of “working from beach” today, but it was fun doing my individual meetings on the balcony. I still have things to do, but I’m plowing through them, and some of the stuff is getting interesting.

I guess I’m relaxed

We had to leave for a while in the early afternoon, because they were going to turn the power off in the building for some test. We took that opportunity to visit the new and trendy Market Commons area, which is sort of like the Domain in Austin, but a bit prettier.

Dining spot.

Lee was not impressed, but I’d have a lot of fun with Kathleen or Anita there. The shopping looked excellent, and there were many nice places to eat. We had sushi, and it was fresh and interesting. My lemon roll was divine, and I also had a yellowtail ceviche in a ponzu sauce. The air was just right for outdoor dining, too.

Lemon roll.

Of course, Lee found numerous plants to be allergic to, especially the gorgeous plantings of jasmine. But hey, he’s not allergic to azaleas! He says if he lived a hundred years ago none of this would be bothering him, since he’d have died from some allergy in childhood. Cheery!

Lee wasn’t allergic to this palm flower.

When I finished working at 6, Lee wanted to go see small towns, so we drove on the inland road to Georgetown, SC. We passed many beautiful forests with hardwoods, Wild magnolias, and pines.

Speeding by woods

Much of it looked exactly like northern Florida from my childhood, including the many plantings of pines for harvest. All the big rivers and swamps we passed also made me feel at home.

Pine forest, thinned

As we approached Georgetown, Lee wondered if we were near the sewage plant. Nope, another memory from childhood blasted in and told me what I soon confirmed: there’s a large paper mill just outside of town. You can’t miss that smell.

Stinky but cool.

Other than that, though, Georgetown is beautiful, one of the oldest cities in South Carolina. It currently has a scary looking old steel mill as another industry.

Steel mill

But, as I read one of the information signs around the boardwalk, I recalled where I’d heard of this place. Not only was it a center for growing rice (as evidenced by the rice museum in town), but it was also an early indigo growing center! I’d read about it in the book on indigo I read last year.

And there are boats!

I must say, this is a gorgeous town, with a fixed-up downtown harbor area, a boardwalk, and many places to shop and eat. We had another outdoor meal, with a bonus of watching a Great Dane sit on a kid’s lap.

Both of these families own Great Danes, so the kid was fine with him. He just kept scratching the dog, and the dog kept smiling.

We are glad we will come back later for one of our boat rides (assuming I book them), so we can see more of the beautiful old homes and such.

This old house is a museum.

Lee and I both are excited about our upcoming adventures! We wish we had folks with us, but wow, there’s a lot going on!

Sunset in the rear-view mirror and reflected on our vehicle. Artsy.

Once again, I’m thinking of all my friends and family who have been undergoing treatments and surgeries and such. Healing wishes to you all.