I said okay.

When you work for a bank, and you are presenting a loan to your boss for approval, stop talking when the pen goes to the paper and scrawls out a signature. Just stop. There is no need to say a word more.

twenty years

As they say, a lot can happen in twenty years.

the insubstantial

It is what holds the pieces of your life together.

My Secret Ambition

Time passes. And sometimes little dreams get lost in the shuffle of everyday living. For me, I’m going to reveal something I’ve felt for the last 50 years: I wish I had better handwriting.

Yes. That’s it. My secret ambition is to have nice handwriting.

I’ve always struggled with neatness, uniformity, and envy (of others’ ability to write a nice-looking set of words). In the 3rd grade (approximately 1967) I worked hard to learn cursive writing and ended up with C’s. This mark got me into trouble at home, and it bothered me, because I was working as hard as I could.

Well, decades passed and my handwriting has now come to look like this:

Notes I took about my husband’s care in preparation for his surgery after his accident, January, 2017.

Many times I have written out a check, scribbled a note, filled out a form – and thought how scrawly and awkward my words looked. I also had trouble writing something others could reliably read.

Not only did I want to write a nicer hand in everyday life – I also wanted to be able to handwrite the text for artist books I make and to put handwritten words into other artwork I do. Right now I type out words and glue them in, each time feeling it’s a second-best solution.

It hit me that I could do something about it. Plenty of people want better handwriting, I thought, and maybe the internet could help me out. After some research, I settled on the Getty-Dubay method, the brainchild of two teachers. I bought their book, Write Now. I printed out paper with the correct line spacing. I got a fountain pen to reward myself for taking on this challenge and to use when I had nicer letters for it to write.

I now can write, in printing, the lower-case letters.

I have just started. And I am quite excited. You know, this dream is not a big one, but a small one can be powerful nevertheless. I love the idea of being a person with nice handwriting.

I will keep you up to date!

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter Seven

My husband’s leg continues to improve. On Sunday, February 19, we went to a local park, Cisco Park, in Erdenheim, PA, to get in a little bit of a walk.

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Cisco Park is a modest little place that punches above its weight, as far as all the things to do there. It has a half-mile figure eight paved trail; tot lot; ball fields; picnic tables; a little dam; a creek; and a pond.

A pond that was full of geese on this sunny day. The scene reminded me of a marina full of boats at rest. Never mind what that sign says.

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This plot of land has an interesting history. I read up on it courtesy of the marker near the parking lot. Apparently it was a small amusement park about 100 years ago, another one of those built in the Philadelphia suburbs, accessible by streetcar, to attract business for the streetcar company. The roads, Hillcrest, Montgomery, Paper Mill, and Bethlehem Pike, are in the same positions today, but the tracks are long gone.

You can clearly see that this pond has been around for a while, because there it is on the map! As a personal note, my husband grew up near here and it was a popular ice skating destination back then (before the sign…)

The marker said that the building marked “Casino” was not a gambling establishment but rather a place for music shows and dancing.

Well, my husband walked a half mile, and I did about three (warming up for a marathon session of yard work later that day, something the nice weather made it a pleasure to do). The park was very busy – kids in the playground, dog walkers, people watching the geese, and walkers like us, getting out on a really nice day.
Hurt Leg Chapters from the past:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Day AfterThanksgiving – Part 1

Today, Friday, November 25, is Black Friday. Lots of people think about shopping. Me, I don’t. I don’t like shopping and so a special day for it doesn’t excite me. But, being the day after Thanksgiving, my husband took the day off, and so we decided to get out into the world, avoid shopping, and do something for fun.

We decided to take a trip into Center City Philadelphia. I had a few sights in mind to check out. I’ll take you along with me in the next couple of posts – I took a lot of pictures.

I worked for many years in the section of the city where we were going. I have 35+ years of memories everywhere I go around here. Things have changed a lot in that time. I marvel at the new buildings and I celebrate each renovation or repair to old familiar ones. But the city always feels the same to me – as I walk down the sidewalks I am the same person who came here in 1980 and has never left, and never wants to.

Starting off, we parked the car in a garage, ate a quick lunch, and walked down Chestnut Street going east. This street now is a major shopping street, revived after a decline of decades. Plenty of people with shopping bags and lots and lots of tourists. You wonder how I can tell who is from out of town, and I answer: I just can. And then I laugh and I tell you the secret – it’s in how they approach crossing a street. If you are from around here, you barge out. If not, well, you are more cautious about stepping off the curb, and your hesitation reveals you…

Buildings along this street are a mix of old and new.

I like to look at store windows. What they do to make them intriguing. And then, I enjoy looking past the display into the stores themselves. First, some glamor.

Now, people at work. In this shoe store, the man was buffing up pairs of expensive

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You also have to look up sometimes if you want to catch what is going on. Here is what I saw when I stopped to pay attention to this hair salon located on the second floor. Street life goes on while upstairs, the stylist concentrates while the client sits in the chair, ready to be transformed.

I passed this sign on the street for a needlework shop. The store is on the second floor and so it needs a street-level presence. To get to this shop you have to follow the instructions on the sign. I might have walked by the sign, not being interested in needlework, but – I visited this shop with my friend Diane several years ago. What a warm colorful place it was, I remember.

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I noticed the tile details around the windows and doors of a store. It’s not usual to see this kind of decoration. Our climate is hard on tilework. You can see the effects of seasonal changes on this sample.

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A lot of people ride bikes through town. There are bike parking stands everywhere. And I’m not counting the bikes for hire that are available – these are bikes that belong to a particular person who’s elsewhere at the moment, while the bike waits.

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Well, that’s it for today. I’ll tell you more next time.

Oranges and Tangerines

Yesterday, November 20, my husband and I were in Allentown, PA, to go to an art event, and we had a little extra time, so we thought we’d drive around a bit.

We chose an industrial area of town.

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This section is a mix of factory buildings, some in use, some in the redevelopment zone, some waiting for whatever the future brings, and some doing business even on a Sunday (like the tire dealer – we watched a car with a flat tire drive on the rim, very slowly, and into oncoming traffic, to get into their parking lot. Don’t say the tire business has no drama).

We saw this little building perched at the corner of a vacant area near the old railroad tracks. Intrigued by the signs, we stopped to look.

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Here’s a closer look at the signs.

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It was a bit of a puzzle to us, this former business. Oranges, tangerines, and temples (a hybrid of tangerine and orange, I later learned), not to mention pecans – these are not local to us in Pennsylvania. So this place specialized in something – special! Why the business existed, why here? I don’t know. We went a little closer.

It’s a solid little building, isn’t it? Look at this sign – mentioning November 15. Not this year, I see, and maybe not any year recently, but at some time, winter was brightened up by the availability here of exotic fruit and nuts from down south. I am old enough to remember when a box of oranges or pecans at Christmas was something special, and they were popular gifts to have shipped from sunny Florida.

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Interesting little spot, wasn’t this?

Time Passes

I was walking in the Pennypack Ecological preserve today, a place I haven’t been for some time. Now, let me explain – I walk on the Pennypack Rail Trail, paralleling the Pennypack Creek, almost every day. It’s a wide, easy-to-navigate trail and follows the old rail line. Across the creek lies the Pennypack Ecological preserve. It can be accessed from the rail trail by two bridges.

The preserve is criss-crossed by a network of footpaths, quite rough, most of them, and there is one main trail, a former road now in disrepair. I crossed the creek from the rail trail to the preserve side, intending to walk along the road and re-cross later at the other bridge.

I took a whole adventurous walk, but I’ll tell more about that later on. For now, I wanted to mention this sight. In April, 2015, I took these photos of a toppled uprooted tree located right beside the trail. The overturning of this tree was quite recent.

Now in October 2016, take a look. Here is visible evidence of time passing.

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The roots are now wearing a wig of fast-growing vines.

Off the Beaten Path

When we were in Reading, PA, a few weeks ago to visit the Goggleworks Center for the Arts, I noticed a small green building set in a tiny cemetery, right up beside the highway, as we were speeding along toward home. We’d never noticed it before, and we said – we have to try to take a look at that next time we’re here.

So, that next time was yesterday – we were visiting Goggleworks again, for their annual art festival. On the way home, we zipped off the highway exit and found the spot very easily – just a few yards down the road. We parked the car along the street and walked over – along a portion of the Schuylkill Trail that happens to pass by it.

 

Sure enough, there sat the brick building inside a stone wall along with an assortment of gravestones. Before we worked our way down the white-painted timbers that served as steps down the slight slope, we looked at the marker. Hmmm. Already we could tell this place had a story.

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The gist of it was this: the Fix-Gerber-Bittner families established this cemetery in the early 1800’s. It was much larger than the present plot when it started out. But as time passed, it almost seemed as if this little bit of ground had a bull’s eye on it. Industrial developments all took pieces away from it. Graves were moved, somewhat carelessly, too, it seems. This small place is all that’s left. It’s essentially ownerless, now that the families are defunct.

So we went in for a closer look, down the steep steps.

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We examined the building first. It had nothing to do with the cemetery – according to what I read later, it was built in the 1870’s or so by a friend of one of the families, to store dynamite (because it was outside city limits, where there was apparently a restriction on such a thing).

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I examined the walls of the building – the layers of peeling paint speak to a long time it has been sitting out in all weathers.

It seems incongruous, at the least,  for such a destructive agent as dynamite to take up residence in a place full of the hopes for eternal rest. I reflected on this idea a bit as we walked around the cemetery.

Another factor mitigating against eternal rest is the highway’s neighborly presence. Neighborly in the sense of – a loud intruding kind of neighbor.

We walked around. The cemetery has friends – it is being cared for by the Oddfellows in Shillington, PA.

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The grass is mowed and everything is neat. But the ravages of time are apparent. There are pieces of headstones separated from their graves, and my later reading told me that it’s suspected there are unmarked graves as a result of the carelessness of those who moved graves to accommodate the various canal and highway projects. Weather has also done damage – I have noticed that marble headstones do not stand up to the years as well as granite. Inscriptions fade and melt away.

This monument commemorates several people who served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. I know this because I checked the dates on the flags – these flag markers specify the conflict served in by each veteran as they are being honored.

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This marker is the footstone to the grave of a very young person.

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We left the cemetery and climbed the small hill, back up to the road. This little place gave me a lot to think about. For one thing, how unimaginable this world of today would have been to the founders of this cemetery, and what sadness they might have felt at seeing their family resting spot, thought to be forever, so vulnerable.

But I hope that they might have also seen that there are still people who care. This cemetery has friends – the Oddfellows, and the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation.  The grounds are neat and veterans are honored. There is talk of highway construction that could affect the cemetery, but people are sticking up for it, according to a recent article in the Reading Eagle. That made me feel good. So much has changed in 200 years for this cemetery, but people still think it’s important not to forget those who were here before us.

 

Good-bye and Hello

I tend to want to make friends with all around me, including pretty much every inanimate object in my everyday life. Especially the objects I live with. So when our stove, after 13 years, was no longer able to do the job, I wish there had been a retirement option, where it could have had a nice rest somewhere after all these years of baking and boiling and so on. But that’s not how it works. I need an oven that heats up, and a stove of this age is not worth fixing. The fact that most of it works still doesn’t keep it in service.

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So we bought a new stove. The old one left first. I felt sad, thinking about how much time I had spent with this stove. And I remember when we bought it, brand-new. It was the first stove I had ever chosen and made no compromises about. The glass cooktop, the nice black color, the simple controls (I didn’t want many options) – all just right.

The deliveryman for the new stove was amused as he disconnected the old one. I guess most people don’t show sadness at the departure of an appliance.

The new one came in, showing no shyness. It slid right into the space where the old one had been. Even looks pretty much exactly the same. Well, that’s a good thing.

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I don’t know why I feel a bit upset about this change. Maybe it’s because I still thought of the old stove as brand new, as just having moved in with us a little while ago. I remember my pleasure when I first started cooking on it – it suited me perfectly. I felt I’d done a little something about ordering my world, cooking on this stove. Where did the 13 years go so quickly?

Maybe that’s it.

Well, hello, new stove, I am sure we’ll get along fine and learn each other’s ways very soon. Good-bye, old stove, and thank you.

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