Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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A Gem in My Mom’s Handwriting

I found a blue spiral-bound copy of The Bride’s Notebook yesterday while emptying and sorting drawers. It has pages and pages of notes and names in my mom’s handwriting, dating from the months before her wedding in December 1951. Using my clever math skills, I realized it was almost 70 years old. Yikes!

Some things never change. This little book includes sections for everything the 1950’s bride needed to keep track of – wedding details, etiquette, wedding invitations and announcements, gifts, clothes, and room-by-room things you want for your new home. Not sure if brides registered at department stores then, but this at least told me what Mom thought she needed. [UPDATE: Apparently bridal registry started in 1924 at Marshall Fields. The stores listed in Mom’s book (Bamberger, Kresge, Hahnes) are no longer around under those names if at all.]

Most interesting to me were the list of wedding guests, in alphabetical order and with my mom’s perfect handwriting. Entries included full names and addresses, as well as checks and X’s to indicate who had accepted. My grandfather had many business associates who were included on a similar list for wedding announcements. Reading the names was a walk down memory lane: I remembered many of the people, either from my childhood or because my mom or grandfather talked about them.

And of course there were family members that I never heard of for years but now recognize: my great-grandmother’s sister Belle and her children; Grandma’s brother Leighton; my grandfather’s many Heginbotham and McCormick cousins. On my dad’s side were the Dails and the Keels. Funny, it never occurred to me that my grandfather Myers’ sister would have been invited but yes, of course. She didn’t come, but she was invited.

Then there was the meticulous list of wedding gifts. Silver trays and candlesticks were big that year. So were tablespoons and place settings in their Old Master silver pattern, and money. Because I was curious, I looked up the values today – a $10 gift in 1951 would be $99 now. Some of the gifts recorded looked more like items a bride would get today at a shower: electric broiler, waste basket, vases, clock, lamp, ash tray. My mom’s sister gave her a set of 12 towels, hand towels, and washcloths, which made me wonder what Mom gave her for her wedding 3 months earlier in the same church, the same dress, with a lot of duplication on the guest list.

But really what got me were the names and Mom’s beautiful handwriting. I remembered so many of the people. Minnie Mae Gautier in Wisconsin sent a bone carving set that I passed on to my brother after my dad died. I always loved her name. She was a private secretary in 1930 when she was a boarder in my grandfather’s home during the Depression. Mom remembered her and obviously she remained on good terms with the family after she moved back home.

Also the Coughlins who lived in Flushing, NY, where Dan was a policeman. They rented the “little house” in Manasquan for years. I never asked or knew how they knew my grandparents, but they were always part of our summers at the shore. Mr. Margolis from Williamston, who ran a men’s clothing store and made Daddy a loan to buy the engagement ring. Roy Ackley and his wife in Orange, NJ, who worked with my father and grandfather and was actually the one to introduce me to genealogy in 1970. Aunt Belle Glidden in Ormond Beach, FL, which is a new piece of genealogy information for me. Grace Kellner, my grandfather’s secretary for years (and how on earth do I remember that??).

Remembering these people made me smile and remember my parents and grandparents, too. And as long as I remember them, they still live a little longer.


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To Boston and Back

Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston

I flew to Boston last weekend for a special event that I anticipated for weeks. I left Boston in 2007 for a new job in New Haven, a whole 2.5 hours to the south, but rarely went back even though it was close. But I’d missed it. I missed the history, the bustle, the traditions, my church and the choir, the weather. And then I moved to Texas; quick visits weren’t possible anymore.

So I was super excited to get an invitation to go to a 25th wedding anniversary party for two special people, having sung at their wedding years before. The bride was a member of our choir, and her father described the wedding as a “concert accompanied by vows.” I knew there would be many other choir friends present, and I’ve missed that choir like my right arm. I had to go.

Saturday night was magical, seeing my happy friends and meeting their talented, creative children. Catching up with those I hadn’t seen in years as though that time was just a blink of an eye. As one friend said, “It was like, ‘Yes, that’s you, I had you on my heart all the time’.” I had spirited conversations with spouses I’d never met, gave and received hugs, shared wine and song and delicious food with wonderful dinner companions I haven’t seen in ages.

And there was music. How could there not be, given how important it is to the happy couple? The band was fun, playing Motown and standards, for dancing and for the caberet songs that seemed spontaneous but weren’t. It was like old times – and then they called the Trinity Kwah alums up to sing two pieces that we sang at the wedding 25 years before (“Rise Up My Love” by Healey Willan, and “Ubi Caritas” by Durufle). And for other occasions, to be sure – we all knew the music by heart and hadn’t rehearsed, but the sound knitted together seamlessly under the direction of our fearless director. It was Magic.

Trinity Church Reflected in the
John Hancock Building, Boston

Sunday I went to church at my former church, the gorgeous and historic Trinity Church at Copley Square. And I was disappointed. It was not realistic to think it would be the same but in my mind, I thought it would be all that and more. Congregational singing was minimal which made me crazy because music was such a huge part of my life in that place. But in a way, it’s good that I wasn’t blown away because then I would be even sadder to have left it behind.

After church, I lunched on Newbury Street with a law librarian friend, comparing notes about her new job, cats, and Irish genealogy among other topics. The afternoon was an adventure on the “hop on, hop off” trolley which has graduated to buses instead of trolleys. I’ve seen the inside of all the historic places and walked the Freedom Trail dozens of times. What I really wanted was just to ride around and see Boston without trying to drive in it, to see the changes post-Big Dig – and boy, there were many. So much construction everywhere! A little shopping after, a lobster roll for dinner, and early to bed before an early morning flight home.

What I hadn’t really understood was that traveling itself would be very hard. I hadn’t flown in almost 4 years and plane seats – and bathrooms! – have gotten a lot smaller. My body is not in good shape and I traveled with a folding cane to provide extra support and balance. Hiking through the airports was exhausting. Walking through the city was slow and lumbering. My sciatica was in full force with pain up and down my right leg. I couldn’t walk far or long without stopping, short of breath and hurting. I felt like a cow. And I was actually ashamed to see how hard a time I had getting around. I have things to work on before I can consider taking another trip but at least I know what they are.

Trinity Choir at Salisbury Cathedral

Taking the trip, taking the time and expense to travel back for something as frivolous as a party, was important. And it wasn’t frivolous at all to be there. Thank you, Carrie and Jon, for the invitation. Thank you, so many choir friends, for connecting and for sharing a few things that you remembered that shone crystal clear once you spoke of them. You matter. You all matter. What we did then mattered, and how we are connected now does, too.


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Mostly Lunch Dates Now

I’ve been booked solid for lunch every day for three weeks. Well, week days anyway, though I did have brunch on Sunday with my friend and catsitter. The other lunches, though, are with work friends and colleagues from the law school and main library. It’s funny learning lots of new things about them after knowing them for 8 years – one started her career in accounting before library school. Another was a professional singer before library school, and his library mentor and good friend of 30 years is someone I went to library school with 40 years ago in Texas. Things come full circle.

View from my new back porch

Above is the view from my Texas back porch, looking out at the golf course. Huge yard, lots of green, which someone else takes care of. It’s very peaceful and open and I’m looking forward to seeing it every day.

I ordered moving announcements from Vistaprint to make it easier to let folks know my new contact information. While I was at it, I also got new genealogy business cards. I still haven’t really thought about a business name or plan but I do need people I meet through genealogy circles to know how to reach me and what my credentials are. New cards are easy and inexpensive to get when I do decide on a name.

There are so many things to do when I get to Texas, getting started things. Car things to do – transfer insurance, inspection, registration, driver’s license. Find a new vet for Tessie. Figure out where to get her food. Investigate Texas medical insurance. Register to vote.

Some I can’t do until my stuff arrives, which could take up to 18 days because it’s such a small load. I want to completely reorganize the kitchen, taking out everything, cleaning the cabinets with wood cleaner and lining the shelves and drawers. Dad doesn’t care as long as he can find the basics, and those won’t be moving. But this will be my kitchen and I need to be completely comfortable working and finding things in it. Doing a little thinking now means final decisions on what I will take.

Doing things is easier than processing what’s happening. I’ll have time for that. For now, it keeps me focused to have lists of tasks with deadlines.


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Too Independent For My Own Good

I’m independent and proud of it, and it sure is necessary since I live alone.  Rather than whine about being too short to change lights, I got a taller step stool.  I sign legal documents, shovel out my car, meet deadlines, clean up the cat hairballs, pay the bills, and go “make the donuts” to pay for it all.

But one side effect of being so independent is that it’s very difficult to ask for help when it would make it easier or even possible.  At work I’m expected to run my own ship and consult with colleagues and staff, but even there I tend to take on more than my share and have trouble delegating some tasks even when it’s appropriate.

I hate asking people if they could take me somewhere, even the airport or the hospital.  In fact, I took myself to the hospital for all but one of my many surgeries (three knee ops, two carpal tunnels, two sinus, and the lapband) and except for getting a ride home, managed on my own at home because I’d done all the prep to make it work.

This time is different.  I’m taking myself to the surgical center a week from Wed. for plastic surgery.  The operation will take 4-5 hours (they’re doing a tummy tuck and tidying up my upper arms) and in some magic way, I’ll be transported from the outpatient surgery center to the university health infirmary, where I’ll stay for 3-4 nights.

I already asked a friend if she could come to see me that night and bring a small bag that I would bring to her house over the weekend, with some toiletries, a book, netbook, and chargers for the netbook and cell phone.  Although she’s a good friend, it felt like an imposition to ask.  I don’t want to put anyone out or have them go to any trouble for me.

But I need them to.  I need someone to bring me stuff, to take me home after my few days there.  I can’t lift anything heavier than 5 lbs for at least 4-6 weeks, plus I won’t be able to bend easily with my incision and compression binder on.  Which means I’ll need help with bagging and dumping trash, changing the litter box, clearing snow, stuff I don’t even know about yet.

It’s time to stop being so damned stubborn about it.  To let go of the tight hold on making sure everything is in place.  No matter what, there will be things left undone and help needed.  I’m hoping to be able to do with humility and grace, knowing that people are happy to help if asked and if the task is reasonable & achievable.

Just in case I haven’t said it lately – thank you for the help you all have already given me.  For your friendship and advice, listening ears, gentle nudges, recipes and food ideas, comfort when things are hard.  I’ll let you know how things go.


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Flu shots, travel, friends and protein powder

Pumpkins on the StairsDid you get your flu shot?  Not the H1N1 version, the one for regular seasonal flu?  I got mine yesterday on campus after standing in line for about 3 minutes.  A simple verification that I’m not allergic to eggs and never had a bad reaction to a flu shot, a little stick, a round bandaid and I was on my way back to work.  Most of my colleagues have had their shots, those who aren’t home sick for days.  Now that our staffing levels are reduced, one person’s absence really makes more of a difference than ever before.  But I don’t want germy people who are feeling lousy to come into work and that includes me.  I do better work if I’m healthy coz my head doesn’t get all fuzzy.

I had a great trip to Chicago last weekend.  The flights were on time and even landed early.  We escaped the tornado watches/warnings.  The AALL work went extremely well; the committee members were in synch and pumped to select and schedule67 programs from 192 proposals for next year’s annual meeting.  You learn a lot about how and how not to write a successful proposal.  It’s amazing how much following directions makes a difference.

After the meetings, I spent the rest of my time with my best friend Phyllis and her family.  She’d moved to a new (to her) house and this was my first time to see it.  I”m a visual person and it helps enormously to be able to picture someone in a place – provides a context.   We went out to eat, played with the adorable shih-tzu puppies, checked out estate sales and did a little shopping – and talked and talked non-stop.  We haven’t seen each other in far too long and this visit was very needed.  Love you, Phyllis!

This weekend one of my errands is to visit the General Nutrition store to investigate samples of whey protein.  Although the expectation is that I will be eating real food as a lapbander (though not in the first two weeks post-op), many patients report using powdered protein in smoothies and to mix in with other foods like soup, pudding, and cottage cheese to boost the protein levels.  I’m to eat a minimum of 60 gm of protein per day and the more I eat, the more I’ll lose – except my hair, which would start to fall out if protein levels fall.

But I need to be able to eat it, not gag.  And obviously all protein powders are not created equal.  All I know is that whey protein is the way to go, and I want to figure out what I want to at least start with since I won’t be out driving around for a week or so post-op.  If you use protein powder yourself, let me know what you recommend.  I’ve heard good things about Unjury, Optimum, and Isopure – but haven’t tasted any of them yet, so what do I know?