A Promise to My Two-Year-Old Niece

Dear Niyah,

I promise you that I will do everything I can to ensure you are safe and supported (legally and emotionally) if:

  • You love, and wish to marry, a woman;
  • You decide you will be happier living as a male;
  • You want to use birth control; or
  • You want to get an abortion.

I promise to help your parents and grandparents teach you that EVERYONE is equal and deserves justice, no matter their ethnicity, national origin, religion, ability or disability, gender identity/expression, or age.

I also pledge to do what I can to slow the advancement of climate change. The current outlook on this is terribly bleak, but many Americans are mobilizing and ready to fight those who choose to ignore scientific research.

I admit that I’m scared for you (and every other American including myself), but hope is stronger than fear. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Light and love will see us through.

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A Reunion and a Mystery

A few weeks ago, my dad and I attended a family reunion with 100+ strangers.

Let me explain.

About a year ago, as I was doing some genealogy research, I learned that a family reunion was being planned for August 2015 in the town where my mom grew up. The reunion was actually for my father’s relations, but he grew up a couple of towns over from my mom.

The reunion was for the descendants of William Bloom, my sixth-great-grandfather. I knew that I wouldn’t know a soul, but I had high hopes that my dad would find a long-lost cousin there (he had many aunts and uncles).

I also thought that the reunion would be a good excuse to visit Pennsylvania again. I have many good childhood memories of traveling to see my grandparents and great-aunts in Pennsylvania (my parents moved to New York when they married).

We started off the trip with ice cream at 10:00 am. Hershey’s ice cream…

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It’s not the most exciting drive, but I relished the journey’s traditions, such as clapping and hooting as we came upon the Welcome to PA sign.

I was saddened to learn that “the Indian store” had closed. It was a shop that sold Native American crafts and candy, and we would always stop there to get gas. I was also saddened to learn that we were no longer able to drive through “Stinky Town,” a town with a huge paper mill at its center. Now the highway goes aroouund the town.

We stopped and visited with my aunt and uncle on the way to check in to our apartment rental. It was great to listen to them talk about people they grew up with. Lots of drama in those small towns!

On the way to the reunion the next day, we stopped in downtown Curwensville. All of the places we used to visit were long gone. Buzzard’s candy store, the Tastee-Freeze. The only shop that was open was the Dollar Store and it was packed.

The reunion was held at the town park. When we arrived, there were probably 100 people there already. As we ate our lunch (it was bring your own) we made small talk with our neighbors at the picnic table. Many people had traveled from other states, which surprised me.

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The one descendant to whom we were all related had 14 children. So someone was taking photos of each child’s descendants. My dad and I laughed when it turned out that we were the only people representing poor Elizabeth Bloom. I was glad that we were there to represent!

After chatting with people for a couple of hours, we headed back to the apartment. I walked downtown to scope out a restaurant for dinner. Even though we were staying in the county seat, the place was a ghost town. I saw exactly three stores and a few restaurants/bars. I found a nice-looking restaurant. And I also found this:

A relic from long ago...
A relic from long ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, a video store! My dad and I went in and I bought three previously used DVDs. Oh, how I miss browsing the movies at a movie rental shop.

All in all, it was a fun trip and my conversations with some fellow genealogy nerds inspired me to restart the research.

Oh, what’s the mystery, you ask? Well, it has nothing to do with the reunion…

When I visited the Bahamas a few months ago, I was looking to buy some tea at the grocery store. I picked up a box of Twinings “Nightly Calm” tea. I’d never heard of it, but it looked interesting. I ended up loving it.

I’ve been looking for it in stores and haven’t found it yet. So imagine my surprise when I was poking through the bathroom cabinets in the apartment and found this:

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A. What is a tea bag doing in a bathroom cabinet with toiletries.

B. What is the tea that I’ve been searching for for months doing in a bathroom cabinet with toiletries.

I do not have the answers to these questions. I took this as a sign of… something…When I came back home, I ventured to the Twinings website and learned that a grocery store near me should carry it. Hooray!

I leave you with a photo of the open road:

Heading back to Rochester...
Heading back to New York…

Somebody Loves You

A few weeks ago, I volunteered for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s national Overnight Walk for the second time. In solidarity with the walkers, I took the 12:00 to 6:30 am shift.

I walked into a disorganized situation because of the weather. It had been raining for hours and it wasn’t about to stop. In nice weather, tents are set up on a big plaza at City Hall. So most of the tables, signs, etc. had been crammed into City Hall.

The route of the walk, which is usually around 17 miles, had been shortened due to weather-related safety concerns. So when I arrived, walkers were starting to cross the finish line. I didn’t have a set job because of the turn of events, so I stood at the finish line to cheer on the walkers for a while.

The walkers were soaked. Some were excited and grateful as they approached the finish line. Others were exhausted and limping. I witnessed a marriage proposal, which was sweet.

My next task was to help a woman find her luminaria. Luminaria are paper bags that walkers can decorate with messages for and photos of the loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. Once decorated, battery-operated tea lights are put inside and they are displayed by the finish line. Some people choose to put out their luminaria before the walk, and some bring them on the walk and put them out afterward.

Because of the rain, luminaria were placed in a number of random spots. Outside, inside, 20 there, 50 there. The woman I was helping showed me a photo of her luminaria. On it she had written some inspirational thoughts in black Sharpie. I registered the second one, “Somebody Loves You.”

She took the inside; I took the outside. There were approximately 1,800 bags, so I wasn’t hopeful. Like the last time I volunteered, I was surprised by the range of people who had lost their fight against suicide. Parents, children, spouses, friends. One person had lost his fight in 1981 and another had lost his fight a mere six weeks earlier.

I didn’t find the woman’s luminaria. I somehow was able to find her again inside and offered an apology. I felt an urge to look around inside myself. Within five minutes, I found her luminaria. Holding it to my chest, I practically ran to where I had left her, and thankfully she was still there. We exchanged some happy words and a hug.

By about 4:00 am, the last walker had finished. Everyone who was staying for breakfast and the closing ceremony was sprawled across rooms and hallways on the first floor of City Hall. I spent the next hour or two on garbage duty, picking up discarded breakfast items. Exhaustion, sorrow, and relief hung like a cloud over everyone.

At the closing ceremony, a young man who had attempted suicide spoke, and a musician who had lost her sibling sang a song. The AFSP CEO announced that the walkers had raised more than $3 million in that one evening.

I left exhausted but happy that I had helped AFSP in a small way. Please read these statistics and never be afraid to ask loved ones if they feel like hurting themselves. Let’s bring mental health issues into the light.

Message at the finish line
Message at the finish line

Lake Cruises, Forests, and Bears, Oh My!

At the end of May, Mom and I went to the Adirondacks to celebrate our milestone birthdays. Even though I grew up in New York, I had never been to the Adirondacks.

We spent three nights in the area, so I chose three items for the birthday list.

#36: Took a cruise on Lake George.

Mom prefers to stay on land, so I took a solo morning cruise on the Minne Ha-Ha. It was a bit chilly but sunny. There are 3,000+ lakes in the Adirondacks!

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Steam calliope
Steam calliope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of many "summer camps" aka mansions on the lake
One of many “summer camps” aka mansions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#37: Visited the Adirondack Museum.

This is an amazing museum! It’s a whole campus with different exhibits housed in different buildings. Visitors can learn about the area’s logging history, camping history, boating history, and recreational history. We spent a few hours there and could have easily spent the entire day there. I’ll definitely return if I find myself in the Adirondacks again. (I hope I do.)

I was especially interested in the logging exhibit because my second great-grandfather was a well-known log driver in central Pennsylvania. It was a dangerous job back then!

Log jam!
Log jam!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A typical hunting camp
A typical hunting camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mohawk basketry exhibit
Mohawk basketry exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#38. Saw a black bear.

Mom and I left the Adirondack Museum around 5:00 pm. It is an hourlong drive from Lake George on two-lane highways. We were about 20 minutes into the trip back when we came upon a serious car accident. We ended up having to turn around to take the only other route that would bring us back to Lake George, which was two hours out of the way. We were pretty frazzled and worried about the people who were involved in the accident. We stopped at a gas station for dinner (hot dogs) and to buy a printed map, since we only had verbal directions from an emergency crew worker to go on.

So we’re driving along. We drive by deer crossing signs, which works Mom up because she’s had some deer run-ins before. Then we see a bear crossing sign and have a chuckle. Really, bears?

And it wasn’t too long until, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a large four-legged animal loping off the road into the ditch. Um, it was a black bear that seemed to come out of nowhere. I chirped, “Mom? Was that just a bear?”

“Yes,” she chirped back. Lots of sighing and gasping ensued. The next day, we went shopping in Lake George and noticed that many of the stores had entire black bear figurine sections. So we each decided to buy one to commemorate our first-ever black bear sighting.

The Adirondacks is a great getaway and I hope to return someday. Have you been?

Nancy and Margaret

Well, it’s taken me almost 40 years to realize that two of my favorite hobbies were favorite hobbies of my grandmothers (whom I am named after). Are hobbies genetic?

Grandma Nancy, who died when my mother was 14, was quite the writer when she was in high school. Her writing is sprinkled throughout her senior year high school yearbook. Here’s a poem:

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My mom also instilled in me a love of reading and writing. Thanks, Mom.

Not only did my dad’s mother, Grandma Peg, bake and cook up a storm, but she also worked on a variety of crafts at any given time: painting ceramics, making holiday ornaments, creating Moravian stars, fashioning magnets out of fabric.

My main craft hobby is card making, but I have also done jewelry making and have tried glass blowing and metal working. I’m looking forward to a crochet class in a few weeks. Although I’m a little intimidated because I’m left-handed.

I thought of Grandma Peg and Mom this past weekend when I took a cake decorating class at Michaels (#10 on the birthday list). Grandma sold her cakes and also worked in a grocery store bakery department later in life. For years, my dear mother made beautifully decorated Wilton birthday cakes for me and my brother.

Suffice it to say that I now fully appreciate Mom making 12 different colors of icing for my Bert and Ernie cake. I’m referring to this two-day class as bootcamp. I spent approximately 17 hours prepping for and attending the class.

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I will spare you the details. But a brief overview:

On Saturday, we brought in cupcakes and learned how to use the different decorating tips and learned about the three different consistencies of icing and how to color it.

We were instructed to bring in a cake, filling, and 7 cups of colored icing in all of the consistencies on Sunday.

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I was stressed because my cake was only an inch tall. The instructor suggested I make a “half-moon” cake so I could add the filling, and it worked out fine. This is yet another craft that is tricky due to my left-handedness. I saw left-handed decorating tips for sale so might try them sometime.

Here it is. And yes, I put it in a snowbank.

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I’ve grown weary of the snow…when will it end???