Friday, February 28, 2014

Grades 5 and 6

     As I mentioned in last weeks post, I am attempting to do 52 weeks of sharing memories. This week we are into grades 5 and 6.
     I am looking at my report cards for both grades and see that I had aa problem in the last quarter of grade 5 with English - which I can't even imagine as it has always been my favorite subject - ask my kids - I love grammar and spelling and reading most anything I can get my hands on. They went through countless drills of diagramming sentences and reading the classics when I homeschooled them. All my habits were commendable and I was a good student. I do notice that Math was starting to rear its ugly head and my lack of interest in all things Science was also starting to show.
     Interestingly I don't recollect a lot about fifth grade, I was still friends with Janet Engel, but a new girl moved into the neighborhood named Betty Ann Cleary and we just hit it off and I spent many days after school at her house. She was from a large family and lived in a two story house, whereas we lived in a little cape cod. Sometime around 5th grade I got the measles and not listening to my parents, kept curtains open so the sun could shine in and continues reading - it would later be said to be the cause of my needing glasses.
     My sister and brother were growing older and now the three of us were sharing a room. I remember when my parent set up the bunk bed, my sister climbed onto the top and promptly fell off - needless to say, I got top bunk. We had a screened in porch right off our bedroom and there was a lovely glider that  you could make into a double bed of sorts - i spent many hot and steamy summer nights sleeping out there.
I had a huge crush on a boy named Jon Card. He was an Air Force brat as Mitchell Field Base was in our school district.  Jon was particularly talented. He did great imitations of Elvis and called himself Elwood Pretzel and we girls thought he was t he best. He had a great voice and we always enjoyed hearing him sing songs like Sink the Bismark and Battle of New Orleans at school talent shows. I can still hear his voice in my mind - isn't that funny?
     I played clarinet in band after giving up on the violin - my grandfather thought I was going to be the next Henny Youngman, when I switched, it became Benny Goodman! By sixth grade I was playing first chair.

In sixth grade, by the second semester, a lot of my grades started slipping and no one could figure out why. Then neighbors started to complain I was ignoring them when they waved at me>  My mom decided maybe it was time I get my eyes checked. Now I have a great memory and at school when they tested us, there was always a line so by the time my turn came, I just gave them the lines I memorized. I don't think I really thought about it meaning I needed glasses, I just didn't like to do poorly on things. Yes, I needed glasses, and yes they were ugly! We got these awful cat's eye frames - like this, but in pale blue
I thought they were hideous and did everything I could think of to get rid of them, but mom always found them - I even broke them, but she got me a new pair. My report card shows the change - and also those awful Math grades - I really think because I couldn't see the board for a semester or two I lost a lot of what I needed the next year in what was called New Math.
I did love the front of my report card which I never really looked at until I took it out to scan it -look what it says at the bottom in a message to parents - might be a good thing to think about today.
     Towards the end of sixth grade, my parents made the decision to move out to Suffolk County and buy a bigger home. We spent many weekends going out there to see how the building was coming along and Betty Ann often came along. My dad was very particular and checked every little thing. He even marked off trees he did not want cut down. Like my friend Janet, Betty Ann also liked to sing and was picked to sing for our graduation. She sang an old Irish Air - The Last Rose of Summer, which I fondly remembered and sang to my children and now my grandchildren. It always seems to quiet them down to go to sleep! We had a field day just before graduation and I did pretty well, winning the 40 yard dash and coming in second with Betty Ann in the three-legged race. Somewhere along the line I lost what little athleticism I had and never won anything physical again!  I was devastated when I learned we were moving the day after graduation which meant I would miss all the parties. It took me a long time to get over that. Betty Ann and I had big plans, but sadly they went out the window. We stayed friends writing back and forth until senior year of high school when I went to visit and see all my old friends. The next year she was off to college and we lost touch.

     The town we moved to was called Hauppauge which was an Indian name that meant sweet water. It was so different compared to Uniondale. While there were neighborhoods, there were no stores, restaurants - nothing unless you went two miles into town by highway, which at 11 I was not allowed to do. Even at that, there was only a small 5 and dime store, a luncheonette, movie theater and Grants. The post office was in a small house and the library was also in a house. I was used to  lots of things to do and places to go, so it was a huge adjustment. I remember seeing a Sheriff's car, which I had never seen in my life, and thinking, Oh my gosh, we're in Mayberry RFD with Sheriff Andy and Opie! Happily though, I eventually made new friends and was happy in my new home -with my OWN room!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sharing Memories

   I have been following Lorine Massey's blog Olive Tree Genealogy ( for a year now and always mean to participate in her yearly idea plan. I have missed January and most of February, but this year I would like to try to stay consistent in blogging. Each week she gives bloggers a jump off point to write about ensuring that at the end of the year, they have 52 stories about their grandparents, parents and themselves to pass down to their families.
     This weeks challenge is "Do you remember grades 3 and 4?" Who was your best friend? Do you have any report cards from those grades? Who was your best friend? Who was your teacher? What was your classroom like? How big was your school and how far from home? Did you walk or take a bus to school?

     Well, I really have to put my thinking cap on for this one - after all it was back in 1958-9! We had moved the winter before from the Bronx, NY to Uniondale, which is in Nassau County on Long Island. This was a big move for me. I had been living with my grandparents in their duplex, in a neighborhood filled with duplex buildings, with my mom, dad and baby sister sleeping in the second floor apartment with my grandparents, my great grandfather in the ground floor apartment and my grand aunt living in the basement apartment - I slept with Aunt Mae in the basement. Now we were living in a neighborhood of single family homes with lots of kids and a public school. For first and part of second grade I had attended Lutheran schools, so public school was still pretty new for me. I had been in combined classes of 60+ students and now was in a classroom of about 25. The Lutheran schools were in the city and had no grassy playgrounds, just pavement, and I don't recall any swings or slides. We played typical city games outside - Mother May I, Red Light Green Light, Jump-rope etc. and occasionally went to a nearby park for recess. My new school had a huge playground with swings, slides, monkey bars and even a baseball diamond where we played kickball. It was like heaven!

      I had to take two buses on the regular bus lines to get to school in the Bronx. My  uncle and aunt who were only 5 and 7 years older than me were also at the same school, so they were in charge of me on the 5 block walk to the bus and the bus ride. Living in Uniondale, I was allowed to walk to school by myself. We were just under 3/4 of a mile away, so there was no bus service for us. I enjoyed the walk there and back as there were always friends to pal around with. The school was called Walnut Street School and we used to say it was where all the little nuts go!

      My third grade teacher was Miss Caypinar. I believe her background was Turkish. Our neighborhood was a melting pot with people whose families came from all over the globe. I remember she was short with jet black hair. Third grade was where you earned the right to use a pen. If your penmanship had reached a certain standard, then you received the long awaited permission - it was a big deal! I remember wanting so badly to get a Parker or Papermate pen - and dreamed of getting one that was scented. We didn't have Bic pens back then - the other hoped for pen was a one that held a cartridge of liquid ink and wrote like an old fashioned dip in the inkwell style pen. We still had holes for ink on our desktops. You had to be almost impeccable in your use of those because they smeared so easily, but I couldn't wait to try. I had a nice group of friends, most of whom lived within 2 or 3 blocks from me. We enjoyed playing outside after school with all the other neighborhood kids; back then we hung out with kids both older and younger than we were. There was always a game of kickball or spud going on in the street. I enjoyed roller skating and loved getting to put my metal skates over my shoes and using the key to tighten them. When a neighbor had their driveway resurfaced, you could guarantee all the skaters would be there the next day to enjoy the smooth ride! We also made our own Chinese jump ropes out of saved rubber bands, played jump rope with old pieces of clothes line and my dad built me a buckboard out of carriage wheels and scraps of wood. In winter we were all outside making igloos and slides like this one. I am inside the igloo with my neighbors Steve McGowan and Laura Thalhammer outside.That's my house in the background.

     My best friend was Janet Engle. She and I shared a love of Ginny dolls and Anne of Green Gables. Actually, it was her mom who first told me about Anne. She was from Canada where I think every young girl read it, but in the US it wasn't popular at the time and I borrowed the books from Janet. I made my mom get wigs for two of my Ginny dolls, so they could be Anne with long braids and Anne with short hair after the bungled dye job! Janet and I were always in constant competition to see who was the best singer. We would stage shows and sing songs like Casey Would Waltz with the Strawberry Blond and songs from South Pacific. The big problem was that usually the judge was her younger sister, so you can imagine how that turned out!

     Miss Sill was my fourth grade teacher and she was a world traveler. We were deep into the "Cold War" at that time and spent many a day practicing how to avoid being killed by a bomb. "Duck and cover" was our motto, though I have yet to understand how that was going to save us!
Miss Sill felt that learning Russian might be good for us - another thing I am not sure I understand! Did she think Russia was going to invade the U.S. and take it over?  I still remember a smattering of the words and phrases she taught, along with the travelogue of her photos from Russia. Hmm....maybe she was a sympathizer!

     I really enjoyed fourth grade, I was always one to want to learn more - and the difficulties of math hadn't reared its ugly head. It's funny the things you do remember. I remember our gym teacher showing us how to fall off a ladder or high place without hurting ourselves. Everyone got a turn to "fall off" the ladder, tuck in and roll. We also were separated into classes for the boys (Shop) and the girls (Home Ec). Schools today don't teach this till middle school and only for a year whereas we were taught from grades 3-8. We girls learned to knit by making squares to be sewn into lap afghans for the World War II vets, how to sew ditty bags for our gym clothes, and make tasty (not) things like Welsh Rarebit. The boys started with the usual ashtrays and worked their way up to salad bowls and such. Janet Engel continued to be my best friend and we enjoyed many days of playing dolls, house, and those darn talent shows!

     I went back to Uniondale six years ago, I hadn't been there since we moved out to Hauppauge in Suffolk County, NY in 1962. The houses all looked the same, but they had one huge difference - many had iron bars on the windows. I continued on to the elementary school and high school and was shocked to see a large iron gate around them and policemen checking each kid as they entered the area. It made me so sad. I guess my parents had seen the writing on the wall and its why they chose to move further out on the island. I was happy that it at least looked nice and clean like it did when I was a child. I have many fond memories of my four years in Uniondale and it was fun taking the time to think of them!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snowy Days


  I'm in the "north country" of New York with my daughter-in-law, her 3 year old daughter and newborn son. My son is away for his job and I have been enjoying the process of helping out while my daughter-in-law recovers from her c-section. I love it up here; they live on top of a small mountain where they have a 10 acre spread and an open plan ranch house. It's nice to be able to keep an eye on the 3 year old while making meals and it has a bright and airy feel. I'm pretty good at keeping the dishes done (something my hubby does at home) and picking up, but I had to relearn how to fill the wood stove and get a fire going.

     When my husband and I were first married, we emigrated to Canada and bought a house in Bracebridge, Ontario, which is the "north country" for Toronto. It was a sweet 100 year old log cabin: small at only 800 sq. ft., but we loved it. It came with a Ben Franklin Stove.

Now, I grew up on Long Island, and never even heard of wood stoves, but was in what my mom called my "earth
mother" phase, so I learned the ins and outs of starting and stoking a fire. After a year of working constantly to keep it going, we invested in an airtight stove similar to the one in my son's house.
They are way more efficient, you don't have to be adding wood constantly and they hold the heat well all night. They are however, a little more difficult to start because of the closed doors. The whole idea came back fairly quick, although I will admit to asking for help a few times. There were a few anxious nights for me when I worried I filled it too high and kept watching to see if I'd started a chimney fire, but my fears were unfounded and we stayed warm and snug all night.

     I've also been in charge of bringing in the firewood - luckily my husband  and son had filled half the length of their front porch 2 feet high with wood, so I didn't have to dig through the giant woodpile covered in snow.
I have to tell you that carrying an armload of wood is really awkward! I can only manage one large piece and 2 small pieces or 3 small and some kindling, so it took 5 trips each time to fill the wood holder inside.

     At any rate, we had a wowser of a storm Thursday. By evening there was close to a foot, so we had someone come to plow out the driveway so we could get out to a doctor's appointment Friday. He graciously offered to come again in the early morning at no extra charge, so we were quite sure we would be able to get out. I got up really early Friday and looked out the door and groaned. You couldn't tell it had ever been plowed and the car had a drift over it.
I went into the bedroom and told my daughter-in-law there was no way we were getting out today. She initially thought we could clear away the drift from the car and get out, but when she looked out, she realized I was right - plus we were literally snowed in! The door had over 20" of snow in front of it!

     The storm continued all day and was just crazy wild. I felt like I was in an episode of Little House on the Prairie with the wind howling outside. It was coming down the chimney and blowing the vent flaps and oven flaps constantly. When I got up this morning and looked out the kitchen window I saw what looked like dozens of whirling dervishes skittering across the property with snow flying everywhere! The drive looked like a plow had never touched it and there were 4' drifts everywhere.

     It's now 2pm and still the wind continues. I have no idea if we can even open the door to the driveway, but luckily the front porch is covered and there is very little snow there which will make it easier when I go out for wood. After watching some Baby Channel and Daniel Tiger, the 3 year old is now napping and we are catching up on Under the Gunn and the Olympics. It really makes me think about our forefathers and the tough winters they endured with little more than a fireplace and some candles at night. We have the luxury of TV, food in the fridge and freezer, electric lights, good books, kindles, iPads and telephones to keep in touch and make sure our dear ones are okay. So many women were left alone for days while husbands were out trapping, and had to make do with the little they had.

     Hubby just called to say we got 27" at our place and because of the snow already on the ground, it is up over our 4 foot fence. He has our sons dogs and said they disappeared into the snow when they first went out, popping up for air before the forged on. Our neighbor, God bless him, has a snow-blower and dug us out the first night - but the same thing happened - it looked undug by morning and he had to do it again.

     I've just been thinking about what a wild winter this has been, not just for us, because we are used to snow up here, but for NYC which is a nightmare in the snow, places like Georgia and the Carolinas taking huge hits and not having anything to take care of it, storms in the deep south across and up through the mid west prairies and drought in California. Sometimes we think this could never have happened before, but it has, it just seems worse when you are in the thick of it.

     So, according to Punxsutawny Phil in New Jersey and Wiarton Willie in Ontario ...
we still have a way to go this winter. Keep your fires burning, lay in a good store of coffee or tea and bundle up!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

See You in a Few!

I know its hard to find a blog, go back to it and see nothing - so I apologize for the past 2 weeks. This little guy and his mom need me right now, so I will be away for a week or 2 depending on how things go. There is no internet at her house, so I can't get on to blog. However I can bring my laptop and get ahead on writing - I have so many things I want to share with you - from genealogy, to do it yourself jobs to weight loss, so I will endeavor to keep myself busy with that when time allows. See you all soon!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Genealogy Day - Autosomal DNA...I am what???

 My great grandmother Ernestine, my grandmother Eleanor, me, and my mother Eleanor at my Confirmation in 1964.

 I'm taking a little break from the food addiction pieces to do a few pieces relating to genealogy. It's been somewhat of a crazy day today with family emergencies during a blizzard, but now that things seem to be settling down, I find myself "antsy" from all the turmoil. So what better time to direct my energies elsewhere?

     For a long time I have wanted to have an autosomal DNA test done. I had my mtDNA done a few years ago but it really doesn't give much information. mtDNA is inherited from the mother (maternally inherited). This means the information comes from my mother, then her mother, her grandmother and so on - it is passed straight down much as the Ydna in males is passed from father to son. The difference in that is that while the male last name remains the same through time, the mother's last name changes every generation, so its more difficult to use in tracing a family. That's about the easiest way to explain it. What you can get from the mtDNA is a haplogroup. A haplogroup  is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mutation in all haplotypes. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations. Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have different haplogroup designations. Haplogroups pertain to deep ancestral origins dating back thousands of years. Got it? Yeah right! I don't even get it all!

     At any rate, my maternal haplogroup according to the testing is I4 which is a very small subclade of I.
It appears to have originated in the Near East or Caucasus Mountains about 40,000 years ago (well, at least they didn't say ...billions of years ago) not long after humans began migrating beyond Africa. Today the haplogroup is widespread in Europe, where it is present at levels of about 2%. Though fairly rare in the Near East, the haplogroup is found in a swath from the Caucasus region to Pakistan. I4 is nearly absent in the parts of Europe most distant from that area. Today it is most common among the Lemkos in the Carpathian mountains (11.3%), the people of Kirk Island (Croatia) (also 11.3 percent), and among Russians from Oryol Oblast (8.3 percent)
     Now that kind of fascinates me - my family's heritage through my mom is basically German. My great-grandmother's family, though they claimed to be German, lived in what was then Poland under Russian rule. They spoke German, attended German schools and German churches. In those days it was called Prussia as there was no Germany as it is today, it was all city-states.  I have only been able to trace this line to the late 1700's and at that point they were still in Nowy Witoszyn in Kreis Lipno - not easy to find on today's maps, but I did find it, just can't seem to copy it into this program. It would seem that some Russians, Croatians or Lemkos snuck in there somewhere!

     To paint a better picture of my haplogroup, I need to add my biological father's YDNA haplogroup into the mix. His is apparently very rare and also a subgroup of a larger group - A3b2*. I thought at first the asterisk was something that was a mistake, but apparently this is included in the subclade! Haplogroup A contains some of the oldest Y-chromosome lineages on Earth and is very rare today. A has deeper roots than any other branch in the Y chromosone. It is most common among groups in eastern and southern Africa, such as the Ethiopian Amhara, the Sandawe of Tanzania and the hunter-gatherer Khoisan people of the Kalahari desert in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Many of the populations where haplogroup A is present speak click languages, using distinctive pops and snaps to communicate in addition to the vowel and consonant sounds employed by most of the world's languages. The subclade of A3b2* seems to be sub-saharan African and Nigerian which then spread into Greece, Turkey, Sardinia and Italy.

     So then, what is my ancestry composition? My mother is supposedly pure German. My biological father is half Irish, half Italian. I redid my DNA with 23andMe because they do what is called autosomal testing. This means they can pretty much tease out and break down my ancestry into actual groups. Mine really had one big (well, it was .1% and from my mother's side) surprise. My results are:
95.2%  European, broken down into
8.2% British and Irish
1.4% French and German
0.6% Scandanavian
31.4% Non Specific Northern European
0.7% Italian
3.5% Non Specific Southern European
3.2% Eastern European (Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Hungary)
0.1% Ashkenazic Jew
46.1% Non Specific European
4.8% Unassigned

     So, the .1% Sub-Saharan in my biological father's ancestral makeup didn't pass to me, BUT in my mother's DNA, I have .1% Ashkenazic Jew - that was a real surprise! I am sure it would be to my mom too! I would love to know how that all played out in my maternal line - did someone from Israel travel into the Ural Mountains and marry a Russian who then married a German in Poland?? So curious!

     My husband had some real eye opener's in his DNA as well, but he really needs to have a cousin who descends from his Bowen line get tested to find out the truth in family stories! I'll get to his another day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Love Hunger


  Sorry I haven't been blogging - we have had a new arrival in our family! My son and his wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy last Tuesday and we have been up at his house with no internet connection.

     Anyway, I have been reading this book called Love Hunger - Recovery from Food Addiction by Dr. Frank Minirth, Dr. Paul Meier, Dr. Robert Helmfelt and Dr. Sharon Sneed. All are psychologists from the Minirth-Meier Clinic in Richardson, Texas. The premise is that once we know we have a problem with food - then we need to discover its root and work through the problem so we can succeed in recovery. It definitely has a connection in this idea with Over-eaters Anonymous - the idea of working through your issues to effect recovery. Right now I am reading about understanding the addiction cycle so I can take the right steps. Ten pathways to recovery involve being successful in your endeavor, grieving out the pain, exploring new vsitas, choosing new guides, maintaining your victory and dealing with relapse. Then there are meal plans and recipes in the back of the book.

     I am not sure I really understand the whole "love hunger" bit. To me at least, its more about selfishness and control. I have mentioned before about watching how Gillian and Bob seem to get to the underlying heart of a contestant's behavior on Biggest Loser and the transformation that starts at that moment - its a moment I long for. I still don't believe I have too many underlying issues from childhood. There was the sadness of moving out of my grandparent's home and into another, but I was very young and I don't feel I really suffered too much as we saw my grandparents once a week until we moved away when I was 7 - and even then never more than a month went by without seeing them.  So I need to look elsewhere for this period of time that marked my loss of control.

     Once again I feel I am entering an area I don't want to go to. I started gaining weight shortly after I got married. I know this isn't about my husband - I have always loved him dearly. But I think maybe it's rooted in my giving up theater and moving so far from everything I knew. Being from New York, the Midwest did not fit into my comfort zone. My idea of  an enjoyable time included rehearsing for shows, performing in shows,  hanging out in New York City and seeing shows, singing around a piano with friends...well, truthfully, my whole life was wrapped up tightly in the theatrical community.  I made what may have been a dumb decision on my part just before I got married. I did not want my husband to ride motorcycles anymore as I had seen one too many victims in the hospital I worked at. His response was then you need to give up theater because I think it would be detrimental to our relationship. This truthfully was probably true. Now, I have to be honest here, I was pretty much tired in many ways of that lifestyle - probably because I was lonely - you don't meet too many dating prospects in the theater! I had been thinking it would jut be nice to get away from it all, get married and have the house with the white picket I thought, what harm could come from that - there is more to me than theater! So, I agreed.  I am guessing that decision and moving so far from home was the catalyst for my "love hunger'.

     My husband worked a weekend shift where he left Friday and came back home Monday. I had all that time on my hands and not a lot of people to "hang" with, so I would go to the store and buy sweets and brownies and use them as my meals while he was gone. I just didn't feel like cooking for myself.  His best friend also struggled with weight and we actually used to spend hours on the phone talking about food!
      I think the other thing I really struggle with is who I actually am. I am a people pleaser and try to fit into any situation I am in, which sadly means maybe I am a little weak in character. That's hard to admit. At any rate, fitting in meant living like all the people he knew - so I learned to garden and can my own food, go to baseball games and little town parades, join the ladies society at church and have pot luck dinners. Don't get me wrong I didn't exactly dislike it, but I think I lost a little of myself in the process. When we moved to Canada, I went into my "mother earth" phase living in a log cabin, learning how to cook on a friend's wood stove and oven, going to cutting bees where the men cut the wood and the ladies worked on crafts and cooked. We were the lucky ones on our road as we had running water and an indoor bathroom. Some of our friends weren't so lucky. But its not so bad when you are riding in a horse driven sleigh in winter or walking down a long lane-way with luminaria lighting the way.
      So there is my first area of attack I guess. Working through those initial years where I changed so drastically. I ordered this workbook on which goes with the book. I am hoping these directed studies will crack open a little more of this shell I have placed around myself.

      I hope those of you who are reading about my journey get something out of this that will help you in your journey. I know reading about others is helping me even though I am not seeing much result wise.