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I tackled the attic today. That’s a thoroughly frightening activity. We don’t have black widows here, but we do have the occasional brown recluse. I didn’t see a single spider, but cam across hints of spiders (cobwebs, egg sacs, and just general “I think it’s gonna drop down on me” feelings. Yes, my friends who think I am spider-invincible, I have moments of vulnerability. Those moments come when I suspect I may be in the eyesights of poisonous spiders. (Eyesights=they DO have eight eyes).

I attacked the right hand side of the attic first. I don’t know what is in that box labeled “Arwen’s Stuff” but I do know for certain that if it is ever moved again, her husband is going to be the one doing it. I think it had books. A lot of books. Arwen, you are grounded until you come home and take your things with you.

You, too, Levi. At least your boxes aren’t heavy.

My husband is grounded, too. I lost count of how many boxes I moved around that were labeled “Don’s Stuff”.

Unfortunately, I did not find what I was looking for on the right hand side of the attic and I had to move to the left hand side. Note that the attic is about 10×6′ and more of a crawl space over the addition than a real attic. I had to do this on my hands and knees. Insulation dangles overhead, the pink fiberglass stuff that used to have a paper cover and now just hangs free..

I moved everything to the right and discovered… <ahem> a number of boxes labeled “Jaci’s memorabilia and saved letters” possibly matching the number of boxes labeled “Don’s Stuff”.

I hauled them out, vowing to go through them and cull the less important stuff (I refuse to throw out the newspapers of November 23, 1963.). I was 7 years old, in the Third Grade, and I remember the day vividly. But i could probably trash a lot of other stuff.

I did find what I was looking for: our stash of slides. Film slides, for those of you too young to remember. A friend loaned me her digital converter and I wanted to make certain I converted every single slide to digital* (*assuming the photos are worth saving or have meaning to our heirs). I didn’t expect to find all the other photography stuff: negatives, lost photos, my first SLR (a Kodak), and boxes of my memorabilia.

Damn. Now I really have my work cut out for me. Fortunately, I have four empty photo albums to fill. And plenty of time. I stacked my boxes in the middle of my studio, spider egg sacs and all.

I did finish scanning all the slides. A lot were throw away worthy. I converted over 200 slides to digital. That’s done. I can return the converter to my friend (I wanted it to convert 120 film to digital, but it doesn’t work for that size film. But it worked for the 35mm slides). Will return when society returns to normal.

Meanwhile, I have this stack of boxes to go through. Oy vey. I won’t be bored.

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Not “post- apocalyptic” as we are in the middle of the pandemic, or maybe still in the beginning, but being out certainly had the ominous feel of a bad post-apocalyptic film (ever see Zombieland, only we don’t have a shortage of Twinkies. Or maybe we do; I didn’t look).

There were aisles of empty shelves in every store I had to go to: canned goods, pre-made meals, paper towels, tissue, toilet paper, baby wipes… I didn’t look for hand sanitizers because I already had enough of those weeks ago. I could have used a package of TP, but we still have a week’s supply. My allergy-riddled sinuses screamed for tissues and I did score two small boxes of the precious nose-blowing material.

I went into the stores with latex gloves on. I keep them handy for certain art projects. No face mask as those are really only useful if you already have the virus and you’re trying to stop it from spreading to the people around you. A lot of people have this backwards or I shopped in a store with a lot of infected cashiers wearing masks. I did not go through their lines. I did note that most store employees wore latex gloves but scarcely any shoppers did. I don’t know what that says about people.

I did not touch my face once the entire time. I managed to not sneeze inside a store (in my car, yes). Hay fever was gracious to me today.

Some interesting takeaways: at a smaller chain store, they are refusing to allow you to bring in your reusable bags. This is interesting only in that our governor banned the use of  ‘single use plastic bags’ and mandated a five-cent per bag surcharge for any paper bags you need at checkout. Basically, this small chain is forcing you to pay the five cents or to carry everything out in your arms, Oregon style.

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Shoppers at the same store were less likely to distance themselves from everyone else, crowding the entrance. I grabbed the two items I went in for (no TP or tissue!) and got outta there.

It’s weird to watch cashiers and baggers sanitize everything between every customer, even yourself. Remember cooties? It’s like you have the cooties.

Most people have a “well, this is our new world and we’re going to smile anyway” attitude, but there were the odd grouches. No doubt they were completely out of toilet paper, in which case they may have had more success at a Plaid Pantry-type store than any of the major chains.

My biggest takeaway is how utterly bizarre shopping is right now. this is The Land of Plenty. The U.S.A. where we have grossly over-supplied the consumer with toothpaste flavors, strengths, colors, and brands. Where we sell generic and name-brand products side-by-side. Ten choices of rice. Twenty flavors of yogurt and at least ten brands of yogurt. Soap – the kind that comes in a bar – is not sold out, yet that is the one thing we’ve been told to use the most (I purchased a lot of soap from a crafter last summer and have plenty left).

We are utterly, woefully, underprepared should this pandemic run the long haul (which I think it will). We are utterly incapable of making do with what we’ve got. There are apparently a lot of people out there who think liters of soda pop are an essential to their survival. (Hm. Maybe the Twinkies ARE sold out.)

My last stop was to pick up my asthma medication. ASTHMA. That puts me right up in the “most-likely-to-die-from” category, compounded with my “advanced” age (hey, when did being over 60 qualify me to be called “elderly”? I resemble that!). Asthma meds are essential to my survival (believe me, you do not want to experience the horror of not being able to breathe that this novel coronavirus can cause. Asthma has its own risks and not being able to breathe is right up there). Anyway, the reason I went shopping today is because I don’t want my husband to see how much a two-month supply of a stabilizer inhaler costs – with insurance. He’d die of sticker shock.

In the pharmacy line where the other customers aren’t practicing a cool six feet of distancing.

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I like social distancing. My “personal bubble” is about six feet around. I want to throat punch people who crowd me when we’re not on a lock down. Imagine how I felt today with my latex gloves. Hi-YAH! (No wonder the pharmacist’s assistant was grouchy. Not only does she have an essential job, but she deals with idiots all day long.)

I am finally home and safe in my own little world. My husband ranted over the lack of toilet paper, but – honestly – we have 12 rolls left. It’s not the end of the world as we know it. Yet. There are alternatives and I don’t know why that bugs him: I do the laundry. He cooks, I do laundry.

I leave you with this by REM:

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Today was gorgeous. I think it got up to 63°F, but I could be wrong. I put my flip-flops on. Remember when we called those “Thongs”? Yeah, not any more.

The bees were out all over the place, especially the small carpenter bees. People freak out about insects: bees, wasps, and arachnids (which are not actually insects) are at the top of the freak-out list. A friend posted a photo of paper wasps on her timeline on Facebook along with a hint on how to trap ‘yellowjackets’. Nice try, but the meat on a stick over a bucket of water doesn’t really work for paperwasps (they don’t eat meat, just other insects) or for yellowjackets this time of year (they’re not aggressive until the late summer when they are stockpiling for the winter).

The birds were busy in the yard: song sparrow, junco, scrub jay, robin, and northern flicker. The turkey vultures are home from their southern migration. Anna’s hummingbirds are everywhere, which brings me to the point of the birds conversation: poor little male Anna’s hummingbird made a mating dive overhead today that resulted in a disappointing “whirr” of wings. It should sound more like a loud “CHEEP!” as he pulls up and the air flows through his feathers. Don and I gave him a thumbs down, as did any esirable mating age female within hearing. Poor bachelor Anna’s hummingbird.

One of the crows has been hauling long sticks up into the tops of the neighboring Douglas fir trees. We think he is wooing a potential mate. No idea if his gifts are being accepted or not.

Twice today, I watched a fairy flit over the Hawthorne in the back yard. Most people refer to them as mayflies, but since you can never get a real good view of them without swatting and killing one, I think they are really fairies. Swat and kill one and they turn into insects to hide their true identities.

Lean back and watch, you know they are fairies.

New neighbors moved into the rental due north of us. We watched several U-Haul loads come and go yesterday. Today, there was no movement but there was a small trampoline in the backyard so either they have a small child or the woman is pregnant ant that’s her exercise stimulus. Bounce-bounce-bounce. BTDT. It didn’t work.

I conceived an idea yesterday but had to sit on it overnight. Today, I acted on it. I wrapped a pretty ribbon around a roll of toilet paper and hand wrote a note welcoming the new neighbor to the N’hood and introducing ourselves. Part of me thinks they might be very offended (“What? Our new neighbors think we can’t afford toilet paper?” or “what? We just moved in next to a TP hoarder?”

I really hope they get the irony of the gift: “There’s no Welcome Wagon anymore but we really value your presence in our community so much so that we will sacrifice a roll of toilet paper to welcome you”.

I was going to dry my laundry on the outdoor line, but I had a white rag disintegrate in the wash of (mostly) black items. Yeah, I had to rely on the dryer to filter that shit out. In my defense, it was supposed to just be a load of towels and I didn’t know the white rag was going to disintegrate. Yay for dryers.

I did hang our bed sheets out.

How are you surviving as of today?

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Afternoon. I have moved planters out from their place of isolation and back into the flower beds where they belong. I have set out all the peony rings I own and counted to see how many more I could use. It hasn’t been hard work (I used a dolly to move the planters), and I haven’t moved at my usual frenetic pace, trying to get the most done in what time I have. I’ve uncoiled the sprinkler hose and snaked it through the north flower bed where it proves most useful.

Now, with the sun bearing down on me, I am sitting in a lawn chair, sipping on my water, and doing what I do best in the warm rays: bird and insect watching.

The paper wasps returned home a few days ago. We coexist gently: they don’t bother us if we don’t harass them. I take macro shots of them as they crawl out to sun themselves.

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The mason bees are coming out now, and a few honey bees from someone’s hive are busy working the blue flowers of the rosemary. The long-horned bees are there, too, and some smaller ones. Bee flies hover over the grass, hunting. Gnats and other tiny winged things flutter about. I saw a Painted Lady butterfly rest on the side of the garage.

In the flowering tree northwest of us, a flicker calls. Over and over and over. He pauses, waits for a reply. Calls again. Some mornings, he bangs on the side of the house or the drain pipes, trying to make as loud a knock-knock-knock as he can. She is out there, whoever she is, and he is hopeful she will hear him.

The crows make their calls: caw-caw-caw or the strange purring call we refer to as “The Predator Call” because it sounds like the noise made by that creature in the Arnold Scwharzeneger film by the same name. One crow repeatedly poses a question: ‘ka-CAW? ka-CAW?’

I am alone at the moment, basking in the sun and feeling warmer than 58° F. My view is of a hanging bird feeder and several bird baths distributed around the back yard, as well as hummingbird feeders. Wind chimes and mobiles hang from shepherd’s hooks.

A dark-eyed junco (formerly Oregon junco) takes a tentative dip in a hanging birdbath. Another tests the water in the concrete pedestal bird bath. Within minutes, seven juncos have taken turns, dipping their heads under water, fluffing their wing feathers, and shaking their tail feathers in a shower of water droplets.

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A low flying prop plane buzzes overhead, having just taken off from the nearby small airport and trying to gain height.

It dawns on me then, watching it rise into the sky, that there are no chem trails. We sit under the flight path of many major airlines as they make their descent to PDX International or they soar on past on their way to Sea Tac or San Francisco. There are always a few chem trails paralleling each other in the sky – and this afternoon there are none.

It feels as ominous as the days after September 11, 2001 – except for the small plane that buzzed by and a Lear jet that came in low on its way to Aurora airport to land.

And yet – the birds and the bees go about their daily lives, unconcerned. My heart soars like the sparrow’s.

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We went out to The Hive on Sunday to have our last public beer drinks before self isolation for the next few weeks. We’ll still have to go out and pick up the occasional grocery item (yay for Fred Meyer’s having “click-list” where you purchase online, go to the store, and someone delivers your filled cart to your car for you) (if only the liquor store would do that) (one of our favorite brewpubs is offering delivery within a small radius) (parenthesis are like hashtags – they can go on forever).

Self isolation for my husband and I means: life as we normally live it but with slightly fewer trips to the craft store, grocery store, or hardware store. We’re introverts by nature and staying home comes naturally but there is something about *having* to stay home that makes us a little bit stir crazy. “Wait, you’re telling us WE HAVE to stay home?”

Then the mind makes up a billion little errands you need to run.

If I could give any advice to you it would be this: keep your sense of humor. There’s a reason “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Psalm 17.22KJV): there’s healing power in laughter. It won’t save you from the most dire of circumstances, but it will get you through most of the darkest ones. I suspect the reason my family sends out the most scathingly funny cards for birthdays and other celebrations is that both of my parents survived the Great Depression. Or maybe we’re just a sick people, I don’t know. We laugh.

A word on The Great Depression. Americans (I only know our history) were plummeted into abject poverty overnight. Crops failed, the Dust Bowl obliterated thousands upon thousands of acres of previously good soil, and food and gas rations were instated, You had to have rations to purchase food or gas. Sugar, flour, salt, dry beans – all rationed. The ability to travel where you wanted and when – stripped away.

By the way, those rights were reinstated after the Depression lifted, so we still have some hope that we will regain lost rights during this time of trial.

I have been messaging back and forth with my daughter-in-law as I write this. She has six children 12 and under and she is suddenly a homeschooling mom through the end of the year. I feel for her: this was never her plan. She wanted some time to herself to work on HER dreams and plans, and suddenly – kids. Six of them. Four boys, two girls. Two athletes, a couple artist-types, and two little hellions. Six different learning styles. Six different personalities. No husband to help her out as my son/her husband is deployed to a foreign country right now.

TheHomeschoolMom

This is a small plug for a really dear friend. I met her years ago when I was first looking into homeschooling. I ended up in a support group for unschoolers, a philosophy that expouses children will naturally seek out that whick interested them and learn. John Holt is considered the Father of the Unschooling movement. I actually fell under “eclectic homeschooling” more than unschooling, but there is so much to be learned by studying the underlying educational philosophies.

On a side note, I have met The Homeschooling Mom in real life. Some of the writers for her website are also mutual online friends. These women have wisdom.

One thing I urge you to do is to NOT take this COVID-19 threat complacently. It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s not a device to undermine a presidency. Do not post a meme asking how many of us “really know” anyone affected by the virus, please. I have 4 people as of today. 5 if I count the man who died. I won’t name names, but I know them.

One of my acquaintances is a young woman named Daniela, who lives in a small town in Italy. She was in a “red zone’ as of February 27 and wrote to a online group about her fears. Days later, the entire nation shut down. Days later than that, Italy declared that they could not handle the CORVID=19 deaths and anyone over the age of 80 would be left to die. Think about that.

Daniela is younger, is recovering, and I hope to read soon that she has been set free. She lost wages, but she had a certain online group that asked her to be accountable. Not everyone has that kind of group or circle.

Such a depressing post.

This weekend, we would go out to Bent Shovel Brewery and spend a few bucks for friendship, fire, and good brews. They are a very small brewery. My personal plan is to write them a check for what we would have normally spent there and to thank them for the hours they have poured into their brews.

It doesn’t have to be a brewery. A coffee shop? A breakfast dinery? a bar? Any place you go to every single week and spend money at.

Oh, and only if you ae on a fixed income and not hurting yourself.

Think I have rambled enough for tonight.

 

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These boxes, nestled one inside the other, contained the sum total of my mother’s paper doll collection. The blue box housed the large paper dolls that came in sets, the cigar box hid the “Progress” box, and inside that box were the paper dolls Mom cut out of magazines and catalogs.

I played with them all for the last time this past week.

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There are a total of 11 Starlets: Greer Garson (3 dolls), two dolls each of Bette Davis (pictured above), Gene Tierney, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Claudette Colbert, Rita Hayward, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Ann Sheridan, and one doll of Alice Faye.

Then there are the generic sets including two military weddings (one complete with a cutout Reverend), some Prom dates, and a set of nine Cabaret girls, all with multiple outfits.

I made the hard decision to attach the dolls to archival paper and cover them with acid-free protectors, one doll and corresponding sets of clothing on the page(s) following. For example, the Cabaret Girls all together in the box, and then all separated out with personal outfits in the new scrapbook.

The dolls are not in perfect condition: they’ve been mended, are missing feet or hands, and their clothes have also been mended many times over. They are 76 years old and have been handled by my mother, her friends, and by my siblings and I.

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The white album contains all of the sets of store-bought paper dolls (81 dolls, total) and their outfits (156 pages! Whew!). The blue album contains the dolls we were NEVER allowed to play with: The dolls cut out from magazines and catalogs.

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There are three type-written pages detailing the names of the dolls, their religion, and age. Marital lines are carefully catalogued. My mother was 14 years old when she typed out this Family Tree for her precious paper dolls. She then wrote on the back of almost all of them with a pencil, an act that was a Godsend in helping me identify who was who. Also, one name might have several dolls to correspond with it (the men were easy – there is usually only one cutout per man). I guess women change their outfits more often. And their hair color.

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I did find a date on the back of one paper doll: Redbook Magazine, December 1946. Mom was still adding to the family after she created the family tree!

There are 43 “living” family members listed (7 are listed as “deceased” and no doll corresponds with those names). After I attached them and put them in their sleeves, I counted them: 272 different dolls for those 43 “living” names.

They are in excellent shape, having never been played with by anyone other than my mother (I highly doubt she allowed her older sisters to play with them, or even a play mate – she certainly never allowed her own children to touch them!). I did get to play with them this one last time as I sorted them all out.

I asked myself several times why I was saving these paper dolls. The store bought sets are worthless on the retail market and are not even museum quality – they’re just the banged up remnants of a 14 year old girl’s childhood in the mid 1940’s. The magazine cut outs have a charming quality to them and are better preserved, but they really have no monetary value, either.

The next generation may not care about the time my mother spent cutting out, naming, and detailing the “lives” of her silent playmates. They may not care about the time I just invested in preserving those precious memories of my mother as a girl and of my childhood spent staring longingly at said dolls.

They probably won’t even care that I’m afraid if I damaged or destroyed the paper dolls, my mother would come to me in the night, full of temper.

I saved them because I can. I saved them because they’ve survived 76 years already. I saved them so I can show them to my own granddaughters (I hope).

But mostly I saved them because fear of being haunted by a mad Scotswoman is real.

 

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Where was I? Oh, researching the Scots. Got a little side-tracked by the Germans, but discovered some exciting things about my family history through those little shaking leaves on Ancestry.com. Like how German I am.

I pulled up some military records for my 3rd Great Grandfather on my maternal side: Henry B. Rowe was a Private in the 18th Division, Wisconsin Infantry, during the Civil War (that’s on the North side for those of you not familiar with history).

Both 6th Great Grandfathers up the same maternal line were Privates in the American Revolution: Benjamin Reigel (or Riegel, there’s some discrepancy in spelling so it’s either pronounced with the long I (Reigel) or the long E (Riegel). Benjamin was a Private in the 1st Battalion, Northampton County Militia (Pennsylvannia). Peter Kern was Private 2C1 under Captain Arndt’s Company, 1st Battalion of Associators, Northampton (also PA).

Peter Kern is where I ran into trouble with those cute little fluttering leaves of hints. I could accept the data leaves with verifiable written history, but the “other ancestry trees” veered way off course. I had to back way the heck up.

Start with his wife, one Catharine (Catharina) Deshler, born 11 JAN 1746 and died 11 Hmmm… February of 1825 or November of 1815. Wait… She might have been born 11 JAN 1751. Oh, and her maiden name may have been Hoffert. What the…?

I’ll explain in a minute, after I tell you about Peter.

Peter Kern was born either 11 April 1741 or 23 July 1741. He may have been known as John Peter. He died either 31 May 1820 or 25 May 1820. And his surname may have been Daudistel.

I can’t accept those”hints” because I have no record tying them together. Someone did a lot of interesting research, but how did they tie those names (and dates) together? What records?

Or did someone do what I did ONCE (and one time, only) on Ancestry? Just blindly accepted a hint because the dates were similar and the names were “close enough” that maybe there was room for doubt?

STOP.RIGHT.HERE.

Do NOT accept those hints. Back off. Find another way to verify this person is your ancestor. I now need to find the birth records, marriage records, death records – the actual verifiable bits of history to tie up the loose ends of the Kern/Deshler connections. The children are right and the siblings match, but where the heck did those alternate surnames come in?

UGH. I have a headache just thinking about untangling that web of misinformation.

On the other hand, I as able to follow the hints into the Rheinland down that same maternal line by veering into a paternal line. 6th great Grandfather Benjamin Riegel’s father, Matthias, immigrated from Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany during the early 1700’s. His spouse, Maria Margaetha (Unknown) immigrated around the same time from Rheinland-Palatine.

BINGO: family came out of the German Palatine immigration.My husband’s ancestors also immigrated from the same area around the same time (darn! We might be related outside of marriage – haha). I know another family line came out of the same area (too tired to look it up, but it was up a patriarchal line on my father’s side).

What is interesting to me is how much more connected I am to the Scots/Irish connections than to the German, although the German probably played a greater role in my DNA. Considering how religious the Palatine Germans were, when did that heritage drop off and the Irish/Scots Protestant kick in? (Pretty certain my German ancestors were Protestant, although many were Catholic).

I’m excited about the possibilities even though I feel I’ve reached a dead end up this particular family line as Ancestry has proven ambiguous. But never trust in a single source. I’ll just have to go old school on this line, so I am tabling it for now.

I did save documents about occupations (a lot of carpenters in there), military records, and how people died. Certain records are historic proof.

Oh-Oh-Oh! Rose became Rau the closer I got to Germany. Heinrich Rau was my fourth great grandfather, but the spelling of his surname quickly changed to Rowe, and his son, Johannes, became John. I can trace that and the names are similar enough to make that transition.

Common names often went through a period of misspellings: Presley/Priestly/Pressler/Pressley or Willcocks/Wilcox/Willcox. Johannes is the same as John in German. Rau to Rowe is a simple hop. Americanization. Assimilation. I even noted one stenographer who interpreted the hand-written “ROWE” signature to be “RONE” (I looked at the record. It’s clearly ROWE to me).

But Daudistel to Kern??? Or Deshler to Hoffert??? That’s not a simple leap. And the disparate birth/death dates are a huge red flag.  I’m backing way the heck off on that one until my brain quits hurting.

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