Helen and Teacher

Helen and Teacher
The Story of my Life

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Memoriam and Happy Birthday Mary Hillier, "Almo...

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Memoriam and Happy Birthday Mary Hillier, "Almo...: To my friend, Mary, who always said she was almost a May Queen. Her birthday was today, and she would have been 95 years old or so. But, a...

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Memoriam and Happy Birthday Mary Hillier, "Almo...

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: In Memoriam and Happy Birthday Mary Hillier, "Almo...: To my friend, Mary, who always said she was almost a May Queen. Her birthday was today, and she would have been 95 years old or so. But, a...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why I Write

It was about six or so years ago, and I was trying to enter a writing contest, and a very scholary one at that. It had to do with Virginia Woolf's A Room of Ones' Own, a piece I knew like the back of my hand. The contest called for lesson plans based on Room; easy! Right! Wrong! Though I had taught, read, studied, written about, viewed, and reviewed Room dozens of times, my mind went blank. I couldn't come up with anything, and got cold and hot at the same time just thinking about it. This wasn't just a case of writers block; it was mind block. I had forgotten everything. THE ROUTINE as I called the daily grind for me had eaten up my writing capabilities. Why? I thought I was washed up, done, before I'd even started. My unfinished manuscripts called to me; I couldn't answer. I looked around at the "writing stations" I had tried to carve out for myself, the bedroom desk piled with reference books, the living room computer station, my trusty lap desks, the writing board I used at my parents, even my old 386 comptuer at my parents. Nothing called to me. It was a challenge just trying to get the right writing atmosphere. Then it hit me; I needed just to write. Anywhere. On anything. There was no magic room, or pen. Like many writers, I dreamed of being The Madwoman in the Attic, with my own vintage rolltop desk, and a laptop, and file cabinets for all my carefully sorted manuscripts. My pencils would always be sharp, but the sharpener would never be far behind. I would have inspiration words written all over the attic, the way Anne Rice wrote words on her study walls in the house on First Street. I would have writing costumes, my first editions and signed books nearby, my reference books and dissertation research all handy. And, if this fantasy realy took hold of me, I would never write. I took Woolf's title too much to heart; she didn't literally mean a "room" when she penned A Room of One's Own. She meant finding time to write and the courage to seize the moment. So I took a page from Barbara Pym's book, and like her, I started to carry around little notebooks for ideas. I wrote words I liked, ideas, character skteches. Sometimes I taped in things I cout out. I started stories and novels. I keep these little books and go back to them. They keep me from losing good thoughs and ideas. If I really don't have a little book handy, I jot notes in caledars, on margins, on scraps I tear off of envelopes and napkins, and on PostIts. I tend to keep my PostIts, usually in pretty tins. I've put them together like puzzles to create entire essays, sort of a literary Mah Jong. The little notes helped. So did getting my Netbook, pink and cute as it is. Now, I could write anywhere, and I do. I make my inspiration and materials portable. I like to write outside on my patio on quiet days, when it is cool enough to be comfortable but sunny enough to see. I write on a wooden TV tray in my living room, surrounded by all my books, collections, family photos and things I love. Sometimes, when it is very hot, I go downstairs to the carpeted hallway of my basement, and set up said TV tray and my favorite green camp chair. It is a good place to edit, and to find solitude. I write in cafes and coffee houses; usually I work on longer projects there, and maybe bookmark Internet research. Libraries are OK; but I'm usually there to do research, or to browse their salesrooms. It seems harder to concentrate in libraries for me. I could only study productively in my law school library. To this day, I couldn't say why. I also work on several projects at once; I read for one, edit one, research for one, write a draft, write a chapter. This keeps me fresh, and sometimes one project informs another, or reminds me of what I need to do an another. Because my mind is occupied with new and various things, I don't get stuck or bored. I also blog. Some writers warn us away from blogging; they say it is a way to waste time, when we should be turning out a manuscript. Form e, it is a warm up exercise. My ideas are born in blogs; some are tried out as excerpts on my blogs. I also like to read blogs to get ideas; sources may need to be checked, but the writing is fresh, honest, written by someone who cares. Blogs give me confidence. I can see who is reading them, and as the number of viewers grows, so does my sense of accomplishment. So, I write everhwere. When I can. On a lot of things. The world is now my "room." That dreamy space in the attic? If I ever get it, I'll use it for sleeping.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brief Kon Tiki Memories

Sunday Morning featured a story on two new Scandinavian sailor/explorers reprising the voyage of Kon Tiki, the brain child of Thor Heyerdahl, who in 1947, wanted to prove that inhabitants of then Polynesia could have drifted on a raft from Peru to their new home.  He sailed with 4 others on a 45 ' raft, 4300 miles, with a sale that had a Peruvian mask painted on it.  I read the original book in 5th grade, and thus became fascinated with all things Heyerdahl.  I was actively maintaining acquariums, and my love of sea and water was all consuming.  Kon Tiki and The Ra Expeditions seemed to combine all things I loved, and fuled the sense of adventure I had then.  We traveled all the time, by plan and car, and once in  while, took a train ride.  I was ready to go at any time, and my parents were young and healthy, so for the three of us, the world was our oyster, or at least our Ra expedition!

There will be a new film; I can't wait to  see it, and will find the old documentary on NetFlix or Youtube if I can.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Abide With Me-Grief

One of the original 49 tips was to be spiritual, however you define that term. Having read Elizabeth Strout's Abide with Me, I have to say that I found a quote or two that expressed what I felt when I first wrote that tip over 3 years ago. Here they are; The first gives us permission to grieve, and to realize that sometimes, there simply is no closure. I understand that. I grieve still for my Uncle George, killed at 30 in an accident, 40 years ago this June. For so many others, too, for Janet, my 14 Year old friend, who survived so much, do die in a car crash. For my mother, I'll never stop. I wait everyday for something to change, to come home to find her waiting for me. And I know, that as long as I live, I'll never see her again. She lives in memory with me, always. I wasn't always a good daughter, and we didn't have the smoothest relationship, but she loved, truly loved me. I was like her in many ways, and I look like her, and that is a compliment to myself. I sound like her, ail like her, enjoy much of what she did. Yet, she was unique, and brave, and smart, really smart. Everyday, she is with me, but just out of reach. Read below what Strout says; it sums it up-- "Anyone who has ever grieved knows that grieving carries with it a tremendous wear and tear to the body itself, never mind the soul. Loss is an assault; a certain exhustion,as astrong as the pull of hte moon on the tides, needs to be allocated for eventually" (283). I got sick the week she died; I had bronchitis off and on, and other things, through July of that year. My athritic hands developed over that time, and I have full blown asthma. Like she did. There is something to this. And: "Do you imagine that the scientist and the poet ar enot united? Do you assume you can answer the question of who we are and why we are here by rational thought alone? It is your job, your honor, your birthright, to bear the burden of this mystery." I'll fix my typos later.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A New Memoir from Carol Burnett

This Diva of evening comedy has written a memoir of her and her late daughter called, Carrie and Me. Carrie Hamilton, her daughter, died of cancer several years ago at only 38. We wish her luck with this book, and acknowledge the courage it took to write it. I would like to write a memoir of my and my mother, and include much of the books she wrote for me and as a memoir of her time living in Greece during WWII under the fascists and Nazis. My little boy and I did a narrative for Deb Bowen's a Book by Me, but it has not been created yet for that organizaiton, which asks children to write books about local Holocaust survivors and those who sufferred under the Nazis. We call ours Clara and the War. I have also started Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Like everyone, I seek answers for why those I love have been taken, and sometimes, in the case of my Mom, so suddenly no one could have foreseen it. There is no closure for that kind of loss, only ways of trying to deal with it. As Chaucer said in far more eloquent words, this time of year can be the cruelest. Death is hard to take when the earth is recreating itself. My memories of this time of year involve my Mother and me on Easter break, going to the annual Antique Show by the Women's Club, buying flowers and bulbs, walking our dog Smokey, or before him, Killer, a little Scotty mix. We would sit outside sometimes, and drive to McDonalds for cokes. We loved hitting sales and the annual miniatture show where we bought kits of Ethel Hicks' Angel Children miniature dolls. We loved to go to lunch when we had a day off, and some of our favorite restaurants are gone, too, Velies, Harrolds on the Rock, The Italian Village. We cooked for Easter, and made turkey, usually. We made Easter baskets for each other, and dyed and decorated eggs. We brought the egg collection, Czech, Amana, Ukranian, blood Red orthodox eggs with a gold cross, dolls with egg heads, my own watercolor designs, sugar eggs, African stone eggs, Chinese, wooden, wax, goose eggs made into shadow boxes or jewel boxes, one heirloom that belonged to my Uncle George, with a miniature book and chalice inside. My Uncle Tom fixed it after it was crushed by accident. They, and mymother, are all gone, now. So, in this time of year when life begins again, many of us, including Carol Burnett, remember where it began, and ended. For us, our memories make them selves known, blossoming again like flowers.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Her Kind by Robin Throne; Memoir through Letters and Historical Documents

Debut novel fictionalizes the lost great river village of Parkhurst, Iowa Thank you to the incomparable Dr. Ellen for allowing me to share some thoughts about the historical research behind my debut novel, Her Kind, released last month by 918studio. Her Kind is a fictional account of the settlement of the real-life, lost great river village of Parkhurst, Ia., now part of Le Claire (voted one of the “2013 coolest small towns in America” by BudgetTravel). LeClaire historian, Dorothy Lage, first chronicled a narrative history of this eclectic river town with her self-published manuscript, LeClaire, Iowa: A Mississippi River Town (1976). In it, she characterized the attractiveness and functionality of Pau-pesha-tuk, the agitated waters of the big river, a series of rapids that drew some of Iowa’s first settlers after the Blackhawk Treaty of 1832, and later rapids pilots before the lock and dam system tamed this tumultuous stretch of river. The diverse blend of cultures, personalities and vocations led to the establishment of an even earlier set of communities that thrived along this unique stretch of the big river border of LeClaire Township, Scott County, Ia. Lage’s interpretation of the LeClaire oral histories said Eleazor Parkhurst, Iowa immigrant and native of Massachusetts, crossed the river and arrived in Iowa in 1834 from Port Byron, Ill. (est. 1828), and purchased an existing log cabin and 180-acre land claim on the Iowa side of the big river that had been built earlier that year by George Harlan. See this home on LeClaire’s River Pilots Self-Guided Tour. Although reports differ, Parkhurst had arrived to a community of somewhere between 500-1000 Sac natives that resided along this stretch of the river after relocation from their Illinois village of Saukenuk under President Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act. Prior to the Homestead Act of 1862, that clarified property claim rights in the new states and territories, earlier land acquisition claims in the LeClaire area of the Iowa district of the Wisconsin Territory were handled by the Dubuque land office. Parkhurst extended his Iowa land grant west and north along the big river in LeClaire Township, some accounts say as long as two miles, settled the first farm, and built a house from native stone and stucco in 1842. Eleazor Parkhurst then convinced his brothers, Sterling and Waldo, to join him in the Iowa district, and his post office application was approved in 1836 establishing the village of Parkhurst. That same year, Sterling and Thomas C. Eads, who had purchased a portion of Sterling’s property, jointly began to plat out the town of Parkhurst. Surveyors making the original survey of the Black Hawk Purchase in 1837 recorded finding this town in section 85, LeClaire Township, and said it was prospering. Prior to the official Parkhurst plat, another topographer made his way through the Iowa district in 1835 and came across the early Parkhurst settlement. Lieutenant Albert M. Lea (namesake of Albert Lea, Minn.) had this to say about Parkhurst in his self-published work that led to the official state name of Iowa: Of this place, not yet laid out, it is sufficient to say that the site is beautiful, the landing good, building material convenient, and the back country fine. There is nothing wanting to make it a town but the people and the houses, and these will soon be there. Its position at the end of the Rapids will throw a little more trade and storage there then it would otherwise have. A good deal of trade of the Wabesapinica will find a port at Parkhurst; and many persons, emigrating from Illinois and the Lakes, will pass by this route (p. 39). Lea’s book was later reprinted in 1935 by the State Historical Society of Iowa and renamed, The Book that Gave Iowa its Name. In 1839, the Parkhurst post office was renamed Berlin, and Lage and others have noted that this may have been due to the influx of German immigrants within that period. In 1845, the name was changed back to Parkhurst and in 1847, the post office became LeClaire, and the village of Parkhurst became the Parkhurst addition. Get Robin Throne’s Her Kind, a novel free from Kindle April 5-7! She is the recipient of the 2013 David R. Collins Literary Achievement Award, and see why Her Kind readers are giving 5-stars at GoodReads!