Ghosts in the Machine

Or, how to get from THIS—CaseyFamilyPhotos-1-7 to THIS.CaseyElaineGus

1. CaseyFamilyPhotos-2-3 2. CaseyFamilyPhotos-1-6 3. CaseyFamilyPhotos-5 

It all started innocently enough. (It always does, doesn’t it?) I decided to have a scanning session, something I have done countless times before. I was looking specifically for some photos to make a birthday album.

I came across this tiny (2”x3”) black and white photo, circa 1958. As far as I know, there are precious few “Family Portraits” of my grandparents and their children.  There is that one over-exposed, standing in the sunshine snapshot. And there is this. I am guessing an anniversary photo. Grandma Elaine is sitting in front of a bouquet, and Daddy Gus stands behind her. Their children are posed, above the mantle, frozen in time- 1952 or so, my father angelic in his first communion attire.

THIS is the only copy of the photo of which I am aware. So, I added it to my pile to be scanned, scanned them all and moved on. Last night I started to edit, retouch, crop etc. And I discovered a very, very odd situation.  I looked at Daddy Gus’s mouth. I thought it odd; I didn’t recall having my cursor on his mouth, or have any recollection or reason to have been playing with the mouth. But, I reset the image to it’s scanned state, expecting my inadvertent error to disappear. Wrong. The image SCANNED that way, it looks like it on the TIFF file. I can see every crack and speck of dust and fingerprints, and Grandma Elaine’s mouth is perfect, but Daddy Gus is smudged.

I checked the scan plate, set the photo on a different spot, and turned it on its side, figuring there was something on the glass. Nope. Same smudge. Someone suggested scanning upside down, but all that did was give him a crazy smirk.  So, I went old school and took a photo of the photo. Finally, success.

Those who knew my grandfather claimed that he was just having some fun with me. Smile with tongue out


This is an interesting shot, taken by ? circa ? The first is the scan, the second is complete with inky finger and palm prints. A 2×2 square photo.

Context Matters. Let us talk Outlander, shall we?

Are there differences between the reality of a fictional book world and the reality of a fictional television drama and the reality of reality?

There was much noise about “this isn’t the way that happened in the book”  and “how could her belt disappear” starting in episode 1 of OUTLANDER, but in truth, it is all made up. If you are able to buy the notion that Claire traveled through standing stones, back 202 years and immediately ran into her husband’s ancestor, who just happened to be in the same location at that moment, and who is the spitting image of him despite there being, what, 1/16 of the gene pool from Black Jack Randall, why can’t you accept a belt disappearing? (Continuity accidents on set, people. It’s a fictional belt, in any event.)

The costume designer has explained the how and why of Claire having more clothes than you think she should. Why do you deserve a reason, anyway? (Time. It helps to indicate passage of time. When you change Claire’s clothing you are inferring a different day. And the housekeeper, Mrs. Fitz, runs a tight ship and was able to find any number of outfits to borrow–six mix and match, “Granimal” type deals in Castle Leoch.)

But it wasn’t in the book, you continue to lament!

You love Frick and Frack Tweedle,  aka Angus and Rupert, and yet they are not anything like they are in the books, where they are scary, dour and large. They are comic relief  on the show, and yet, you have come to love The Tweedles.  You who know their fates are asking that those be changed, because we love them so much. Why can you accept the Tweedle’s place in the adaptation, embrace them (the typical TV trope of numskull neighbors), but you can’t handle that TV Jamie is  maybe a wee bit more romantic than book Jamie, who bought a ring instead of having one made, or is an inch shorter on screen than in real fictional life?

None of this actually happened!

It is ALL PRETEND. Some of it is book pretend and some of it is TV pretend, but none of it is documentary.  None of it is actual history. (Well, within reason. Some events did actually occur, although Jamie and Claire were probably not there. And, yes, as they do have a certain Forrest Gump way of being in the right place at the right time, they do run into actual historical people, albeit in a fictional way.)

The sole reason I can see that Jamie had a handmade ring on the TV show was because they needed to find something for the Tweedle’s to do that created a wonderful soft comic moment, that fell into the rhythm of the flashback storytelling of The Wedding.  It’s the symbolism of the the ring that is important, not it’s design, composition or origin. A ring made from the key to his home (?—Not verified, but strong indicators are that it’s a key to Lallybroch) indicates an acceptance and willingness to fully embrace Claire. She is part of WE now. And, we have to learn to TRUST RON. There will be pieces that move around (or get lost) for a better telling in episodic TV.

You are not going to go back and read the book and discover it’s now a key. The book you love isn’t changed. Can I insert here that that concept –of electronic books, especially history books, being changed to suit what the ruling class wants you to know is a continuing fantasy/horror/dystopian nightmare of mine?

How do we KNOW Frank didn’t do what he does on the show? Didn’t search, didn’t love so deeply, didn’t mourn? How do we know that Diana hasn’t told Ron what DID happen? Diana knows what happened/happens/will happen, even if we don’t.  There is so much that could happen off screen—

None of the costuming is accurate, historically, because even if the wool was spun by hand in a room lit by candles on a treadle spinner, the sheep the wool came from wasn’t even born in 1743, so it’s totally inaccurate. I am not interested in coming off like a sycophant, but really there are so few things that actually bother me about the show. I am looking at the big picture.

It IS a ripping good yarn, as show runner Ronald D. Moore points out, and it deviates almost immediately from formula because Diana Gabaldon WASN’T writing it for publication, but to learn how to write a novel. Or so we HAVE to believe, because Herself SAYS so, and were you there to disprove it? Ok, a bit of “aw shucks” about the retelling of such a happy accident; how much is what she wants the story to be?  Or better yet, why do we question it? It is the story of OUTLANDER’S birth. It was a practice novel, and, the hero and heroine marry early in the novel. Already not a romance by the numbers. And, 8000 or so pages in, they are still in love, and are grandparents. Much more than an epic love affair, OUTLANDER begins a multi-generational sweeping historical fiction series of novels.

In Diana’s ORIGINAL story, OUTLANDER, the first of 8 books, Frank is a cipher. By WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEARTS BLOOD, he is a very different man, and one who, in my humble opinion, is a more sympathetic character. Whether Diana had always intended for him to be more complex, or whether he showed up and wouldn’t leave, he is much more than one note.  He is actually a note on the show that a lot of folks don’t want to accept, because they are all about ALL Jamie/Claire, all the time. A lot of those readers are not particularly interested in the history, the tapestry she weaves, the other characters stories. How many times I have read people say, get on with it, stop writing about battles, about Willie, about Bree, about… well, about anything that isn’t 100% Jamie/Claire-centric. Those readers are totally missing what this is all about. I hope that viewers will embrace the fullness of the story.

We have had to wait over 20 years for this to become a TV show. And we were then given only eight episodes of magic.  And some complain about that, too. Then some complain that we have to wait too long for part two.

So, one more itty bitty thing. We are Diana Gabaldon fans. 10698621_10205421072830219_4101314330111693137_nApril 4, 2015? Jamie can perch on a windowsill that long. We’ve got this.

#Droughtlander ends Saturday

(Spoilers from this point if you haven’t read the book-and my comments are from the books depiction, as I haven’t seen the episode yet)

And now, some will complain about something else entirely. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth and the carrying on of ‘The Reckoning,’ 1.9 begin.

As fiction, THIS IS the way things were, in THIS world, whether or not it’s historically accurate or not acceptable today. Jamie and the men were put into amazing bodily peril by Claire not truly understanding the danger she was walking into. A woman of the 20th century believes in a civility and world order that is vastly different than where she ended up. 

In order for his men to continue following Jamie, for him to be able to lead, he has to make SURE Claire understands, and he points out that her punishment is mild compared to what one of the men might receive. The punishment is measured, but not in anger or fury. It is to show that he is in charge, that he takes the protection of his people seriously, that there is justice and that there are consequences to actions. This is incredibly different from the modern husband smacking his wife around and bloodying her nose because she didn’t bring his beer fast enough or because dinner was not hot enough.

The larger point is—he sees Claire as an EIGHTEENTH CENTURY woman who is being willfully disobedient, who should know the consequences of her actions and yet still puts them all in danger, all for a nebulous bit of wandering around. He has no clue she was trying to go forward in time, to get back to Frank. For all we know, he could think she has turned on them and actually is a double agent.  Jamie has one piece of information withheld from him that would make it all different. If Jamie were aware that Claire was from a different time, she would explain her thoughts about strapping, and he would explain his reasoning to her. But because he has no reason to think she wasn’t from his time, he would think she would know, expect, assume the consequences of her actions.

He doesn’t know any better than to use corporal punishment, not because of a big moral failing on his part, but simply because that’s how it was then.  A wife was property. Legally, a husband could punish his wife for disobedience.  Or, a father could have his daughter beaten for disobedience. Just a few episodes (chapters) back, the community at large was willing to allow a teenaged girl to be beaten in front of them in the Great Hall for disobedience. (How many of us who know the future wish Jamie had just let Rupert have at Laoghaire?) And remember, too, that Colum Mackenzie was the law. There are no Edinburgh policemen to enforce law. Just the laird.

Also, keep in mind that Claire is an unreliable narrator; in the book, she often says one thing and then does the polar opposite. Who is Claire telling this story to, and what editing, embellishment, or changes does Claire make as she recounts what had occurred? (And the bigger unanswered question—WHEN is she telling this story??)

This is one episode—But this is the very, very beginning of an 8000 page love story. It’s brutal, it’s bloody, it’s real (fictional real).  Jamie becomes a man among men through his experiences. He learns from Claire. He becomes a better, more rounded, and definitely a more modern man, because of Claire.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you have had intimate experience with abuse or with sexual assault, it may be a difficult thing to let go by. It isn’t glorifying these things, but it isn’t shying away from them, either. It can be jarring. It ISN’T real, though. Except in it’s own world, it is a work of fiction. 

There is this website called StoryWonk. The couple who run it are dedicated to the idea of “story.” They have done an episode by episode podcast, and at hiatus started a seminar for the book.Listen to Scott and the Sassenachs seminar for Outlander. It’s a 17 episode podcast that takes apart the story chapter by chapter, and gives great insight into the story—the structure of it; the good the bad, and ugly. It is like taking a college literature class devoted to one book.  It draws your eyes to the incredible story telling as well as the deeper meanings that can be found implied in the text. I’ve read the book more than a half dozen times, and yet this seminar has drawn my attention to any number of things in a new way. Fascinating stuff, by very interesting people.

*I welcome discussion about this topic. Because I know it is very, very subjective and delicate, I ask that you respond with the same civility that you would if we were standing face to face.

Adaptations— A primer

ADAPT: to change your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation

: to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose

: to change (a movie, book, play, etc.) so that it can be presented in another form

So, this book I love is becoming a TV series tonight (not a movie, not a mini-series, but a full on, 16 episode first season series!) I have had the pleasure of reading the books for over a decade,  seeing the first episode during the last week, and conversing via social media for  the past year with author, costumer and actors…. and you know what?

THEY are right and you may be wrong.

Outlander, the first of at last count an eight big-book series, (with a number of smaller works that go along with them) written by Diana Gabaldon, premieres as a TV show on Starz tonight.  The things that are IMPORTANT will be there. Possibly in a different order. (Patience, young grasshopper!) I have faith in this, because Ron D. Moore tells us his job as show runner is to not mess up his wife Terry’s favorite book.

The things that CAN be done will be done, and things that are important will stay. And if they aren’t still there, well maybe we are the ones who have created something in our heads that isn’t there. Seriously.


10559752_10152584443924246_6176897968434202756_n<—-Important bit. Included. (The text actually is NOT from the first episode, but the LOOK, so he can tell Claire this much later in the books, had to be in the first episode. )

As Ansel Adams said, There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

I would think that this is at least as true in the written word. When those words are then translated by hundreds of hard working actors, directors, screenwriters, costumers and set designers, the number of voices and visions might possibly deafen.

Each of us brings to any work of art, indeed, to any aspect of life, the sum total of all of our experiences. Either in the creating of said work, or in the consuming of it. That we have all had different life experiences doesn’t seem odd, and accordingly, our reading of words on a page must be influenced by different things. 

That doesn’t mean that any interpretation on screen is WRONG. It just may be different than what YOU brought to the reading of it and what you took from it.

After a year of having the supreme honor of hovering about the edges of this creative endeavor—following Twitter and Facebook conversations with writers and costumers and actors alike, I have to say that I think they’ve got it in hand. Trust them.

In the 8,000+ pages where he lives, the character Jamie has commented a number of times on his wife Claire’s substantial bottom.  That doesn’t actually mean that Claire’s rear aspect is overly large; indeed it could be read, as I did, as simple pillow-talk and playful behavior between Jamie and Claire. It also has absolutely no importance to the plot. For example, said plump ass never gets stuck in a doorway, blocking access for some thief in the night, which then causes a different outcome. If the big booty in question was required for the story, I’d be sorry to see them not get it right. (If you read the actual physical description of Claire, she is supposed to be about 130 lbs., and shorter than the actress portraying her. Diana Gabaldon put the height issue to bed quickly by suggesting that the only option was to find a less perfect actress or cut Cait’s feet off…)  Perhaps Jamie is simply a fan of Sir Mix-a-Lot?

As it is, I have to say that the ass, as shown, is a lovely round thing and how dare we as viewers denigrate an actor who is willing to bare all for the story? (Odd, isn’t it, to be admiring my ‘friend’ Cait’s backside, huh? I can’t imagine how I will be feeling when I get to see my other ‘friend’ Sam’s ass;– we have been assured he has a fine one, by the author Herself!)

Similarly, Claire’s eye color, a great device in storytelling, didn’t actually accomplish anything other than being a way of description. At no point does the heroine get caught because someone noticed her odd eye color and realized she was skulking about where she didn’t belong, thereby changing the story. Diana writes long books. Gorgeous, evocative description is obviously a part. And the camera is now going to create for us proof of how wonderfully deep and complex Claire may be, Caitrona Balfe’s eye color and butt size be damned.outlander-sam-heughan-caitriona-balfe-tobias-menzies However, Claire-hair WILL stay, and I think that a fine thing and a character of it’s own.


8,000 pages, give or take depending on your reading device, and the story isn’t finished. We, the long-time readers, can not continue to nit-pick every utterance or camera angle or choice made while ADAPTING the written word for the visual medium of TV. We are talking about taking one type of art and turning it into another type of art.10382772_10203709921660693_259376560995244149_n

There have to be changes. The medium requires it—We have to be adaptable as well.

It is entirely possible some scene that to you is incredibly important, because of what you brought to the reading of it, may be cut. It is going to happen. What we have to be thankful for is that the over all shape of the story stays. That the intent and love of the story remains intact. We can hope that many more people fall in love with these characters and that that the entire cast and crew remains committed to making a quality product.

We need to adapt because there are 25 million readers who have 25 million life stories, 25 million visions of Jamie, or of the size of Lallybroch or the size of Murtagh in relation to Dougal, or who think Tobias Menzies doesn’t have Frank’s smile.

That for all these years, YOU have considered Jamie Fraser to be the size of Hercules with a Ronald Mc Donald wig on his head in no way makes the color red they came up with for his hair incorrect. If his hair isn’t long enough for your vision, then adjust your vision. This is the character, Jamie Fraser, played by the actor, Sam Heughan.

Filming is almost finished for the first season, so stop complaining, will you? Jamie will be imbued with Sam as much as Sam will be imbued with Jamie.  (By the numbers, Sam is an inch shorter and a few pounds shy of the actual book description, your fantasy man notwithstanding.)

But we’ve already had that Conversation , haven’t we?      Ad infinitum.

There have been some absolutely wonderful reviews of Outlander so far….  Here is Rotten Tomatoes, which catalogs reviews.

Yes, books are different than TV and movies, and usually, the book is better.  And that will probably be the case, overall, here. But I am watching this as a companion to the books, not as a replacement. I can keep in my book world the images I have created and STILL enjoy the visual ADAPTATION immensely.

PS. Yes, young Roger IS in the manse. We just don’t SEE him in the first episode. Did you SEE how big that house is? He’s a tiny boy asleep on a chair, for goodness sake!  Dinna fash, aye?

COMMENTS welcome!!!!

pps, and I am editing as I re-read…..sorry about spelling errors! Dang Auto-correct strikes again!

Interesting reading about the costuming.

A nice review, episode 106, about Adaptation.



I really need a dandelion right about now. 

With just hours left before Written in My Own Hearts Blood (aka MOBY) book 8 of the Outlander series is published (*Disclaimer—for the majority of readers, as there ARE people who have already received the book, legitimately or via oversight by stores stocking early, and there ARE countries where the book wont come out for a few weeks and…) the self-absorbed, unable-to-accept-an-answer, petulant five-year-old contingent of the internet has come out in some force on some social media sites about Spoilers and Sharing.

Lets just say this about that, shall we? FIRST WORLD PROBLEM10447201_10204512464395576_677531282_nS

I know that the Red Wedding episode in Game of Thrones is bloody and shocking. I haven’t read the books, I am only on season one, but I am not so put off by this information, these “spoilers”,  that I’ve decided to stop watching. I’ve learned, before even starting into the series that really, George RR Martin shouldn’t be your wedding planner, via social media and yet….

Yes, while the overall issue is exposed, the how we get there and the enjoyment of the show isn’t “spoiled”.  I will just be on my toes, so to speak, and know that I shouldn’t become enamored of any character.  I can use Facebook or Twitter, and if I notice that one of my friends threads is “Going there” I just scroll on.  I MAY see a word or two, I MAY read a sentence, I don’t have to absorb and analyze the posts, and I haven’t asked them to stop speaking of the current season because I am three seasons behind them. No brainer. And of course, applying Caveat Emptor, I should stay off of Twitter on Sunday nights if it bothers me.

My Facebook page is non-denominational, if you would. I have a wide variety of friends, who have a wide variety of interests that we share, and they have a wide variety of interests we don’t share.  Almost every post that is put up is a spoiler to SOMETHING if you want it to be.  The topics we discuss, they discuss, (or, more to the point, that Facebook feels I should be allowed to read)  well, they are endless and varying.

I am NOT planning on coming onto FB or Twitter after every Aha Moment and exclaim or carry on—(Diana has assured me she got Jemmy out of the well tunnel. I know, Timmy down the well, Jemmy in the tunnel. I just “hear” Claire exclaim “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said. “Bloody Timmy’s in the well!” even though that is from ABOSAA)  It’s just not my style, reading has until now been a solitary activity. I may be noticeably missing for a few days. I will not be following or commenting on threads that may get me farther along; I will accept that if I see the trees it doesn’t mean I cant appreciate the forest….

I will scroll down before commenting.  I will honor any policy that is in place, but I will not have a fit if someone doesn’t understand the intricacies of the way a particular site works on a platform they don’t use and they inadvertently share ‘privileged’ information.  Life sucks, yah know?

I have to wonder, seriously, if when people go off the deep end about the small stuff, is it because it is the only part of their spiraling out-of-control life they can manipulate? Is everything else so bad, so out of control that they obsess about things that aren’t worth the energy? The amount of psychic energy that is required to keep up a full-steam frontal attack on something that is truly amounting to nothing is more energy than I have. I am inherently lazy, I guess.

So, I apply empathy, and have to assume that the only reason they would waste 30 miles of gas, and hours of time, three times, to complain about and have the BACK of a picture frame repapered because it didn’t look smooth enough is because the rest of their world is uncontrollable and they need to be able to be in charge of SOMETHING. #Piff!

A Tale with Two Sides…

There is a saying–“There are two sides to every story.”  We tell people to wait to get all the information before forming an opinion.  I recall in high school reading  Dear Abby suggest you write a note, expressing all your frustrations with a person and then instead of stamping and mailing it, tear it up! (more satisfying than the delete button, to be sure.) And then there is the game of Telephone. The internet often reminds me of these things, chat rooms and forums in particular, (but news outlets are getting as sloppy as private people expressing opinions about the widget de jour.)


A few weeks ago, on one of the first truly beautiful afternoons of the spring, I decided to eat my lunch in my car.  Eventually, an older woman came to her car which was parked next to mine in the lot. And as she approached her car from behind, she started gesticulating and mumbling to herself. She saw me sitting in my car, windows down, food in hand and just had to point out to me how disrespectful people were nowadays, how this vehicle parked behind her was almost touching her car, tells how he had all that space behind him but he was practically touching her bumper.

Not having a horse in this race, I took another bite of my sandwich, smiled, nodded my head and went on reading my book. She put her bags in her car, locked up and headed off to another store.

A few minutes later, a gentleman wearing a clerical collar unlocked the door of the SUV that was apparently overstepping its bounds and he backed out and left.

Far too quickly my lunch was over, and I got out of my car and headed back to work.

As I passed this ladies car, it turned out that HER bumper was over the center line more than 15 inches.  When she had pulled into the spot and through it, it seems she didn’t use her space appropriately, and so the vehicle coming in behind her had no choice but to get close to her bumper in order to fit into the space.


Make the moral of this story what you will.

Happy Birthday, Grandfather Clark!

Birthday cakeWell, OK, in the interest of full disclosure, Great Great Great Grandpa. And of course, as he would be turning 217, he isn’t around to read this, either.

But, of all my ancestors whose lives I’ve poked around in, I feel a certain kinship to Ephraim Clark, MD.

Ephraim was born in Wheatsheaf, New Jersey on March 29, 1797, an only child. I can trace his father back another 7 generations, and go sideways to a variety of cousins, including his second cousin, a Signer of the Declaration.

However, there is something personal about him, something personable, that makes him more to me than notes on a page. 

His handwriting is distinctive. If he wasn’t left-handed, I would be very surprised. That is a pretty rare thing back then!  So, when I am going through those piles of papers that were in my attic as a teen, his were always easy to locate. And as a fellow south-paw, I guess I feel an affinity.

He participated in the Civil War, as a Post Surgeon. (I haven’t done too much actual digging for service records.)

While he was born in New Jersey, he moved to Staten Island as a young man and married into an old Island family. He stayed there till he died at 88 in 1885.

He knew the Vanderbilt’s, he met the Marquis De Lafayette,  and he was one of Aaron Burr’s physicians.  This article was published in 1878 in the New York Times.

It describes a pretty lively 77 year old!

ephraimI have only one photo of him; I assume there are more because during his life time, he seems to often have been where the action was, but I haven’t discovered them. Someday, maybe I will find them at Richmondtown. He is the old man with cataracts on the top left; the gentleman to his right is his son, James. You can read a letter James sent to him, below. Those are his grandsons below him—Fredrick Ephraim and James Guyon.

I have a lot of papers that I rescued from our attic…Here are a few transcriptions.

Nothing earth shattering, just interesting snippets of life. And you will note that children haven’t changed much in the ensuing 200 years, when you read the letter from his son!


I am now itching to start to dig through these letters again and to do more on the fleshing out of other members of the family!


State of New York, Richmond County
I hereby certify, That on the 20th day of January, A.D. 1842 ….constitute Ephraim Clark Aide-de-Camp of the Second Division of Infantry of our said State (with rank form 1st December 1841) …..  Witnefs WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Esquire, Governor of our said State,….
Passed the Adjutant- Generals Office.   (Signed) William H. Seward
(signed) Rufus King? Adjutant-General
(original in possession of Trish Casey No. 19)
Bellvue Feb. 5, 1846
Dear Pa,
I received your letter  ….I therefore want you to provide me with at least $20 with which to take the trip and spend a couple of days or so.  I deem the recreation necessary to my well being before going to the Small Pox Hospital.
Your son, JG Clark, MD.

DEMOCRATIC DELEGATION (Charleston,)  April 23, 1860

Dear Son
I have but one moment to write – all is confusion  We are just going into battle. Climate warm and beautiful.  We have the best quarters in Charleston.  I wish you were here.  Oh, how you would enjoy it. I never have seen so pretty a place– We live like Nabobs at  a small expense- a servent at every elbow. The Delegations from other states have called on us every hour.  We shall have a hard fight.  Love to Ma. and Etta. I will write tomorrow.  Yours aff. E. Clark
(original in possession of Trish Casey  No.3)



The blast of the foghorn momentarily distracts me from my reverie. The damp, foggy air only sharpens the smell of “OLD”. It is pervasive, touching everything. It has wrapped itself into the folds of cloth, into the cracks and crevices of boxes and books; it is folded inside letters. Its perfume lingers in old trunks and hangs low from the rafters.

Gingerly, I open a letter. The date– 1823. Quickly scanning it for a familiar name, I refold it and place it on the ever-growling pile on the floor. Its destiny– not neglect or mildew any longer, but a curious strangers’ careful transcription.

A stack of memories builds by my side. Letters forgotten before my grandfathers were born are entrusted to my care. I’m guardian to their memories. They have traveled physically only within the confines of an Island, but over one hundred years later they have journeyed to an attic where they sit waiting for me. Generations separate them from their intended audience.

I read through missives written by people whose names have but the slightest meaning to me. Letters that were written at a time of candlelight and feather pens. They are very formal, with proper and labored wording, even to those with whom they were intimate.

It occurred to me anew as I peered uninvited into these peoples lives and their private thoughts, that this “collecting” spirit is seemingly an inherited trait.

There is a photo of Aunt Genes’ back door hanging on my wall. The door was planed to fit the frame, the paint is peeling, and the door knob is of purple glass. But according to my grandfather, the photo is missing a crucial element– the strings hung with once and twice used tea bags, suspended there to dry.

Last year, Aunt Gene and Uncle Everett had to move to Florida. Cleaning out their home was a distressing experience for them. These two people had spent their lives reusing, recycling and collecting. The ultimate irony became, for them, a painful reality. Mom got the glass jar full of old broken crayons. Those crayons and the coloring books that went with them were old when I was a child. Just a few years ago, my own daughter colored those same pages. Tow five-pound mayo jars full of glorious old buttons were donated to a preschool.

After some cajoling on my part, Aunt Gene gave me a few mismatched antimacassars, and a lace table cloth, crocheted by my great- great grandmother, my great grandmother Miriam or by Aunt Gene her self. Boxes of negatives were rescued from the rubbish pile.

The sum total of nearly 100 years (for her parents lived there before her) was slowly and precisely laid out on the front porch, the front yard, the curbside, and what wasn’t picked over, finally went to Fresh Kills.

It no longer seems odd that my little one has an affinity for paper; for “books” filled with all manner of scribble, crayon drawings, stacked in piles, balance precariously on the tops of toys in her “area”. Her “figures” collection pours over the edge of the large Easter basket put into use to house these treasures. They are each precious to her. None may be discarded.

I can’t walk by a stationary store with out looking. The desire to own these papers is strong. To fold and tuck into an envelope my thoughts and secrets, sealing them inside.

I know now why boxes fascinate me. Small, large, containers of all sorts I collect to hold– what? I have an extra-deep bookcase so that I can perch various momentos and memories in front of the smaller books (mostly volumes rescued from the ravages of various basements)

So many parts and pieces, each with a story. My home is a living overstuffed monument to those who came before me. I am a product of my upbringing.

The Tiffany candy dishes that now grace my tables, were wrapped and carefully tucked away in my grandmothers closet. Every year I discovered them as I searched for evidence of Santa’s early visit.

This inherited trait is the reason that this treasure trove exists. No one could bear to throw things out. It is reassuring to understand why I frantically search through reams of paper for a letter I know exists.

It is just because of a long line of collectors before me. I can’t complain, but only be thankful because I know there were other people in my family who were the same way.

And I feel secure in the knowledge that someone will find that paper I’m looking for– Someday!  <<<<THIS was written a few DECADES ago by me. I’d say 1991…  But it still holds true!

Countdown to SPRING (cleaning)

Yes, I WANT spring.  Desperately.  I am ready! (I will have the most fantastic garden this year, I just KNOW it. And I will love it and weed it and name it George, and by mid May, be over it) BUT.

There is that other part of spring, I’m not a fan of, and that is spring cleaning.  (actually, it is a known fact that I am not a fan of house cleaning on the whole, but that is another story altogether.) I’m sure I can find something to do that is more exciting. Absolutely anything.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” SOUNDS nice, but the practical application leaves much to be desired, as I like having my things out and around and available.  I do love pretty containers, but more often than not, I buy them for the wrong reasons, and they don’t get used the way they should. And, truth be told, while I probably have too much stuff, this house has too little storage. There isn’t even a coat closet, broom closet or mud room area!

My thought this year is to break down the house into manageable chunks, and assign tasks and days, and hopefully be finished by March 21. Then I can spend the vernal equinox trying to balance an egg on its tip in celebration!

















If I start on the 4th (I am away on the 1st and 2nd, the 3rd is my birthday and not particularly how I planned on celebrating….) AND I am of course, working 40 hours a week… lets see, thinking out loud here, can’t do it on Mondays, that’s Laylabug day…

Kitchen 4, 5, 6

  • clean out all drawers and cabinets
  • wash curtains, windows, floor
  • clean fan, cabinet doors
  • Refrigerator,-emptied, cleaned
  • stove, microwave

Dining room 7, 8, 9

  • clean out all drawers and cabinets
  • wash curtains, windows, door, floor
  • clean fan, all art

Living room   11, 12

  • Vacuum under/behind furniture
  • Remove rug, put liner down.
  • Vacuum couch, cushions/chair
  • wash curtains, windows, door
  • clean fan, all art
  • China Cabinet
  • Get rid of winter clothes/clutter at door

Den  13, 14

  • Vacuum under/behind furniture
  • Vacuum couch, cushions/chair
  • wash curtains, windows, door
  • clean fan, all art
  • all bookcases and side tables

Bath one 15

  • Under vanity
  • basic deep clean
  • Do linen closet as well

Bath two 16

Under vanity

  • basic deep clean
  • utility area

Bedroom one 18, 19

  • Vacuum under/behind furniture
  • wash curtains, windows
  • clean fan, all art
  • side tables, headboard
  • closet
  • change out clothes
  • dresser

Studio 19, 20, 21  Notice that it is conveniently at the end.

  • Vacuum under/behind furniture
  • wash curtains, windows
  • clean fan, all art
  • closet
  • scrapbook side
  • desk
  • fabric side
  • cutting tablepickerimage2









  Anyone interested joining me? Keeping me honest?