Repost: Zora Neale Hurston (Jan 7, 1891)

Featured

Remembering one of my all-time favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston , on the 125th anniversary of her birth. Zora was an iconic figure, and product, of the Harlem Renaissance .

Time Magazine: How Zora Neale Hurston Helped Her Readers Understand the World

Zora

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

For the Writer’s Quote Wednesday Event, we’re asked to share a favorite author’s quote that inspires us as writers. Celebrated novelist Zora Neale Hurston, a product of the Harlem Renaissance, has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Today marks the 114th anniversary of her birth.

Q_Zora_Sorrow's_Kitchen copy

The daughter of former slaves, she lived with various family members after her parents’ deaths. Poet, Langston Hughes was counted among her closest friends. You may know her most popular work, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday

writers-quote-wed-20151

Advertisements

At What Price Fashion? Anastácia

Featured

Racism rears its ugly head in fashion. Yep. I just went on and put it out there. One fashion designer, whose creativity had obviously tapped out, resorted to racial degradation in order to ensure her line made the runway. Seemingly inspired by the Brazilian folklore surrounding a chattel slave named Escrava Anastácia (Slave Anastasia), designer Adriana Degreas chose to fashion a garment featuring the muzzle the beautiful slave was forced to wear.

As Model No. 2, Shirley Mallman, sashayed Degreas’ creation down the 2012 Sao Paulo Fashion Week runway. My first reaction when I saw the creation was how the model felt about having to wear it. Her expressionless gaze

Bikini and Dress copy

Two Adriana Degreas fashions featuring Brazilian slave Anastácia and styling a swimwear accessory based on a slave muzzle.

did a good job of hiding any disgust there may (or may not) have been. But the model was not my main concern. A couple of search strings brought me right to the event and the designer.

This show ran Degreas’ 2012/2013 swimwear line. You won’t have to watch the entire video. In fact, Degreas was so inclined toward featuring her creation that she opened the collection with both of her slavery-inspired designs.  I’m not sure of the size of the troupe; but there was one Black model out of the first seven that walked.

  • Garment No. 1 was the swimsuit with the muzzle as an accessory.
  • Garment No. 2 was the dress depicting a muzzled Black woman.
  • Model No. 3 was Black. Degreas made sure her skintone matched that of the face on the previous garment.
  • Garment No. 4 also featured the muzzle as an accessory.

So she opened the show with these pieces; and the video fades from the seventh model to the finale including the entire troupe.  It appears the pieces were the anchor for this collection.

“The case of Anastácia suggests how a particularly evocative and powerful image can function as the material ground upon which the processes of cultural imagination and folk memory coalesce, and how a popular image can serve as a repository of values and ideas quite different from those of its creation.”   (Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint)

For the sake of relevancy, I developed a detailed overview of how Anastácia is regarded in Brazilian culture today. The 2011 show sparked a protest about the lack of Black Models at Sao Paulo Fashion Week. Now, I’m wondering if this design was a rebuttal to the protest — a statement piece. Did Degreas take it upon herself? Or did SPFW give her license?

As with most folklore, the story of Anastácia depends on who you talk to. Black Then tells of a beautiful slave woman with piercing blue eyes whose owner sent her away to hide from his wife the indiscretion that he fathered her with an enslaved woman. Of all the versions in Jerome Handler’s The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint, the most fascinating was the tale that Anastácia was raped by an overseer and

Punishment for Slaves

1839 print by Artist Jacques Etienne Arago “Castigo de Escravos” (“Punishment for Slaves”)


other whites and subsequently birthed several blue-eyed children as a result. The story goes that Anastácia never allowed him to kiss her. So she was made to wear the mask because she refused “her lips to the overseer’s kiss.” The facebook post that brought Anastácia to my attention says the slave owner made her wear the mask as punishment for spurning his advances. Finally, one of the first versions I read said Anastácia was made to wear the muzzle/mask because she was too vocal about the treatment of slaves.

Pages 26 and 27 of Handlers, however, talk about how the popular image, actually entitled Punishment for Slaves came to be erroneously attributed to Anastácia. An unobjective look at the print impressed upon me that the subject appeared to be masculine. And Arago, himself, referred to his subject as male. Interesting reading.

I’m glad to have learned about Anastácia. However, I think plastering her likeness, or the idea that memorializes her, on a garment to be strutted around on a catwalk shows the level of disrespect that Brazil still holds for Afro-Brazilians. It also solidifies the case for global White Supremacy (Racism).
Roberto-Custodio-Art-Anastacia
Santa Escrava Anastácia (Saint Slave Anastasia) Santa Escrava Anastácia is especially popular in Umbanda religion traditions. Her story vacillates between either a kidnapped princess from Nigeria or a slave born in Brazil. Legend dictates that Anastácia was a healer and was also known for her unusual beauty which was punctuated by her blue eyes. She was forced to wear a muzzle and collar. She eventually contracted tetanus from the collar; and it killed her. Legend is that she forgave her captors and even healed their children as she lay dying.

For Further Reading:

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Featured

My weekend visit to Barnes & Noble reminded me of the upcoming release of Balm, a historical novel about the meshing of three lives in the Midwest after the Civil War. While I was drafting my post about the release, it dawned on me that I should probably revive a 2011 review of her first novel, Wench. . .

Introduction

The slave/husband-figure arrangements mentioned in the description of Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez instantly captured my interest. In all my reading about slavery and genealogy, Lizzie’s and Nathan’s arrangement is the first of its type I’ve encountered. While it’s certainly conceivable from a physical standpoint, it’s most definitely inconceivable from both a historical and an emotional one.

Opening Line

“Six slaves sat in a triangle, three women, three men, the men half nestled in the sticky heat of thighs, straining their heads away from the pain of the tightly woven ropes.”

Seated Hair Braiding

Outdoor hair braiding session

This author “can turn a phrase,” as the saying goes; and comes out full throttle in her debut novel. The activity being described above is that of the traditional positions assumed for hair braiding. The men were getting their hair braided by the women. Just imagine them seated on the ground rather than on stools as shown in the picture. Readers can look forward to more of this type of brilliant narrative in Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. She subtly and cleverly sparks the imagination by leaving things unsaid. Her implied word engages the reader to conform the idea to his understanding — an excellent example of “reading between the lines.” The author can express an idea in a manner which allows each reader to arrive at the same thought on his own terms. Dialect was natural and not forced, as I’ve seen in some attempts at fictionalizing the concept of slavery.

Review

Cover of Wench by Dolen Pekins-Valdez

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The story covers three summers during the middle of the 19th century at a resort then known as the Tawawa House — which later became Ohio Africa University — which was ultimately named Wilberforce University — near Xenia, Ohio. The story opens in media res during the summer of 1852 — the slaves’ second summer at the resort. The storyline consists of two sub-plots and vacillates between activities at the Ohio resort and the Drayle plantation in Tennessee. The first sub-plot centers around Lizzie and her summer friends from other plantations, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu. Phillip, another slave from the Drayle plantation, accompanies his master on the annual vacations as well. He and Lizzie share a sibling-type bond. Henry and George round out the group of male slaves — with the dimensions of Phillip’s character being the most developed. The second sub-plot includes Lizzie’s interactions with Nathan Drayle, her master/husband-figure — whom she simply calls, “Drayle.” I was leery of the confidence Lizzie had in him; and felt her misplaced trust would come back to bite her. It was one thing to trust him with her own life and the lives of her children. But given the confidence she placed in him, I was concerned — and rightly so — about the other slaves who became part of her “resort family.” The one good thing that came from this arrangement was that they all invested in the “kinship”; and the bonds of their sisterhood remained with, and sustained, each of them. Simply stated, Drayle was a jerk — who was led around by a certain part of his anatomy. Love Lizzie? Never could, never did. Yes, he taught her how to read; but he would not consider or discuss the idea of freeing her or their two children — a son called Nate and a daughter nicknamed, “Rabbit.” I always detected insincerity in his dealings with her. His base motives always overshadowed anything said by or about him. The following observation regarding his absence during Lizzie’s delivery of one of their children (keep it real — his pickaninnies), however, sealed it for me: “He was far from being a worried father. His celebration would be less over a newborn child and more over a newly acquired piece of property.”

Lizzie committed what I consider “the unpardonable sin of slavery” when she confided to Drayle about a slave who was planning to escape. I knew she wasn’t snitching though; and could only shake my head in astonishment at her naieveté. She actually thought his “love” for her extended to her friends; and that he would make an effort to soften the effects of the consequences since he knew her friend’s “man.” Silly girl — tricks are for kids! A mere whim of Fran Drayle, (Nathan’s wife) could bring any plans or provisions he had made for Lizzie crashing against the harsh wall of reality. An example is Fran’s decision to move her visiting nephew, Billy, into the room Drayle had set up for Lizzie; and Drayle did nothing and went along with it. While it appears that both Fran and Lizzie are weak when it comes to “King Drayle, in all actuality, both women know how to manipulate him. He is being pulled in two directions; but, interestingly, he’s never in the position of having to squirm out of the fixes he creates for himself. He’s lackadaisical and doesn’t seem to care. I suffered with Lizzie in her embarrassment as she was moved from the room Drayle had designated for her back to the slave quarters. But Lizzie is smart enough to fend for herself. When vacation time comes, she doesn’t check her plantation train of thought at the gate of the resort. She never really lets her guard down — not even when escorted to a luxurious dinner in the main dining room. She knows what time it is. We all know. While, at times, she feels like “Mrs. Drayle,” deep inside, she knows her role and usually manages to get something out of the deal.

And there was one more thing she had managed to escape with: . . . the pamphlet. She needed to find a safe place for it, somewhere it could sit for a few years. She planned to give it to Nate once he was a man, so that he too could feel the heat of the words and channel his young anger into the righeous fury of this Wendell Phillips.”

I did not want this story to end. One critique I have is that the expanse of time between major events began to decrease toward the end — as if the author were trying to “hit all the bases” before heading home. But my “critique” is hardly a negative one. It’s an indication that I’m waiting for more from Perkins-Valdez. The Author’s Note explains the true existence, and background, of Tawawa Resort. The publisher offers a Reading Guide at on the Harper Collins website.

This book review is also posted on my genealogy blog because it’s about slavery. I’d love to know your thoughts. Thank you.

© 2015 Donna Palmer Haines

Book Review: A Vintage Affair (Isabel Wolff)

Featured

This is a resurrected review in anticipation of Wolff’s February release of Shadows Over Paradise .

Isabel Wolff’s A Vintage Affair (2011) centers around Phoebe Swift and how internalized pressures concerning her best friend’s (Emma Kitts) untimely death influence her life. In addition, Phoebe’s parents are recently divorced; and their strained relationship also contributes to her quandary as she juggles being loyal to her mother with growing to love little Louis, her father’s love-child.

Cover_Vintage_AffairPrepared by a successful career as an auctioneer at Sotheby’s in London, Phoebe branches out and opens Village Vintage, an upscale vintage clothing boutique, in Blackheath. Wolff’s use of the UK (mecca of international fashion designers) and Sotheby’s (a vehicle to introduce vintage clothing) as elements in the setting of this novel contributes greatly to it ability to instantly engage the reader. The vivid descriptions of not only the appointments within Village Vintage, but also its diverse clientele, prime the imagination — transporting the reader into an appropriate setting to watch the storyline unfold.

Emma’s death and the surrounding circumstances are clearly one of the sub-plots of this novel. The obvious link to the main plot is Emma’s and Phoebe’s BFF relationship. “The hat” Phoebe displays in Village Vintage, however, is a subtle link to the main plot. Another pivotal character is Thérèse Bell, whom Phoebe addresses as Mrs. Bell. She enters the storyline as a client with a well-kept wardrobe and one item with which she refuses to part — yet another sub-plot.

Wolff skillfully weaves a mother obsessed with rejuvenation, the perfect assistant, a choice of three potential suitors, a high-schooler who can’t afford a coveted gown, a superstitious dressmaker, an inept medium — and other relevant characters — throughout this charming tale. The element of suspense is subtly incorporated throughout the storyline. Wolff continually broaches the subject of Emma’s death in a manner that hints at suicide — a conclusion so obvious that I couldn’t readily accept it. Instead, I immersed myself into the plot and patiently waited for the author’s revelation.

Though the French words and phrases are a necessary part of the dialogue in keeping with the vintage fashion theme, they also caused me to sometimes forget that the setting was actually in the UK. The author’s UK references, however, nudged me back into the appropriate setting.

Phoebe was a fan of the Modigliani, Rubens style of body-typing. The fashionista reader will take pleasure in the designers mentioned:

Dior Burberry
Mary Quant Ferragamo
Betsey Johnson Pierre Cardin
Hermes Kelly Givenchy
Ted Lapidus Nina Ricci
Vivienne Westwood Guy Laroche
James Wainwright Halston
YSL Jean Paul Gaultier

I love all things vintage and knew, just from reading the description, that I would love this novel. Reading it brought on the same waves of nostalgia I get when I enter certain vintage, consignment, and/or resale shops — depending on the stock at the time. As I read about some of the items Phoebe purchased from clients, one passage reminded me of my mother at day’s end in her beautiful bed jackets. I enjoyed reading the stories behind the items that were brought in for Phoebe to purchase. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Advance Uncorrected Proof of A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.

Beginning Your Family History Search

Featured

NOTE: THIS POST IS GEARED TOWARD ANALOG GENEALOGY. ONLINE METHODS WILL BE DISCUSSED IN A SEPARATE POST.

So you’ve decided to research your family history. Get ready for the whirlwind of astonishing highs and discouraging lows that are all a part of genealogy. As you work your way backwards through about three generations, you’ll be encouraged by readily available data. The pedigree chart and family group sheet will prove to be your workhorses for the life of your project. So get into the habit of updating them with each piece of documented evidence you find. Neither the pedigree chart nor the family group sheet are static documents. Changes will be required to both throughout your research. Documenting each source of information is key and will help you zero in on the most probable data for each ancestor. It will also come in handy in ruling out erroneous data that is likely to surface when you take your search online.

Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time. The operative word here is “work.” When you’re first starting out, it’s very tempting to try to fill in all the blanks on your pedigree charts. I’ve been there – done that; and in some cases ended up having to revisit “there” and re-do “that.” So, resist the urge and save yourself the extra time and frustration. Instead, work your genealogy by focusing on one generation; and collecting as much data as you can find on the husband and wife. Be sure to complete a family group sheet for each head of household before proceeding to the next generation.

I do believe in making the most of research trips, however. So, I consider it good time management to gather more than one generation of census documents while you’re at the library. Likewise with obtaining copies of court records you know exist and have names and dates for. But I would limit work on earlier generations to just copying the census sheets, and doing a very basic extract of court documents. Then file the documents and extracts until your research brings you to that generation. In addition, you’ll have them handy for reference checks to ensure you stay on track.

Since I began researching my family history in the 1990’s, I can only advise you on how to begin your research offline. As I learn to employ online methods, and confirm their authenticity, I will incorporate them into my posts.

The Missing Element

Featured

Yesterday, I shared four blogs on which I’d placed substantive comments. Today’s Blogging 101 assignment is true. Of the four, one of them stayed with me enough to influence the direction for the STUDIO. But another of the four used the same technique — photography. Deanna’s photos of Clouds and Sunsets underscore the narrative in her posts. They illustrate her appreciation for God’s creation. She has a vast repository of photography from over the years that she continues to expand.

Another self-photographer, Chameleon, uses her own photographs as well. Her posts are written in both English and French — yet use the same photos. This speaks volumes on the power of a photograph and reminds me of the quote:

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

I’d like to amend that quote and add, “A picture needs no translation.”

The content of these two blogs focuses on completely different subject matters. But they both come across as more personal. And I think it’s the photography that makes the difference.

WP_FI_Photography copyWhile scouting for stock photography is an enjoyable pastime, personal photos seem to add a layer of authenticity to a blog. My only camera is the one in my Galaxy S3, which I understand can deliver quality images. It’s a welcome alternative to my broke-down low-mp Canon that’s held together by a rubber-band after being dropped. I’ve read about how the GS3 takes great pictures and that the various levels can be adjusted to affect different image styles. I think I want to add this layer of authenticity to a Commonplace STUDIO. What this means is that I’ll have to spend less time at the keyboard and get to snappin’.

I can usually tell a stock photo from a personal one. And, along with the stock photography comes the responsibility of attribution.

I’m more into the writing aspect of blogging; so the switch to personal photography will be a slow, methodical one. I know not to expect professional quality; but I do aim for my photos to be above “point and shoot.” So, I’ll continue to use stock photography, and work a suitable attribution style into my posts. And, of course, I’ll announce when one of my own images is featured. Wow. Who knew? “Blogging 101 is just what this STUDIO needed” said Miss Donna as she added yet another stock photo to the STUDIO. 🙂

A Little-Known Fact About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Featured

MLK_Speaking copyOr is it known but not talked about? After mentioning Reformation Leader Martin Luther in a page on Christianity, I decided to write on something I’ve wondered about for many years. I’ve often wondered how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s grandparents decided on that name for his father. So, prompted by next week’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I set about the task of writing on the circumstances behind his grandparents’ choice of names. Why did the Kings name his father after the noted German monk who sparked the Reformation movement?  Well, truth is . . . they didn’t — not at his birth.  I came across two articles about the origins of the MLK name. And neither of them say that the the grandparents named the father of the Civil Rights Activist after the monk.

The first report I came across was in an online issue of Forbes. What I found out there was that the elder King’s given name was Michael (some reports specify, “Michael Luther King”). Then after a 1934 missionary trip to Germany where he learned about Reformation Leader Martin Luther, he changed his name — and that of his 5-year old son — to Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr., respectively. This is the most likely, and most repeated, version of the truth. It’s harmless enough and carries a level of charm.

This fact is also addressed in question 7 of the NPS’s Frequently Asked Questions About Dr. King’s Birth Home. Nestled among other questions about the home is a question about Dr. King’s birth name.

As I sought to gather more writings on the same explanation, I came across another that claimed the physician misunderstood what the child’s name was to be and wrote “Michael” instead of “Martin” on the birth certificate. My genealogical experience confirms this type of error was possible during that era; but it’s just not very convincing.

This post focuses on the charm aspect of the story; and will not probe into whether the names were legally changed. I can only imagine how King detractors would process this fact about him. I suspect their obvious treatment would be to focus on the legality of the name and documents that bore its signature. I stumbled upon it while preparing to write about why his grandparents chose that name for his father. Instead I found a little-known fact, with a varied range of significance, that we can only smile and wonder about today. Yes the circumstances and dates vary. But isn’t that the mark of a true legend? What I found was an unexpected fact that I am even more inspired to share.

So my relating the 20th century “Martin Luther King, Sr.” to the 15th century “Martin Luther” was not far-fetched in the least. My thought has been that the Civil Rights Leader’s parents named his father after the German monk who sparked the Christian Reformation. Well, the source of the name is correct. The only difference is that it wasn’t his grandparents who decided on the name . . . but his father . . . five years after young Michael was born. In the end, both the namesake (a word for which there is no antonym) and the original made substantial contributions to effect change in their respective eras and for posterity.

Read more about Dr. King

Read more about theologian Martin Luther

The Analog or Virtual Commonplace (includes poll)

Featured

Commonplace_Book VOTE IN MY POLL BELOW! Commonplacing is applicable to any interest and beneficial to the individual. Solely for the sake of word-flow, this post will use commonplacing and journaling interchangeably. It’s a flexible tool that’s as beneficial in the craft room as in the board room.

  • There are pantry items, recipes, shopping lists, task items, cleaning, and decorating ideas for homemakers.
  • Scrapbookers can sketch layout ideas and plan future projects.
  • Genealogists can track documents, chronologies, locations, surnames, hidden ancestors, software apps.
  • The Bible scholar can outline the Bible by book, develop character study and word study pages, maintain topical studies.
  • Book enthusiasts can keep track of their TBR lists, review notes, pending releases.

It’s early enough in the year for me to implement an idea that hatched a week or so ago. Even though my Bible study journal will be maintained separately, I think I’ll keep sermon notes in my day-to-day journal. That way, I’ll be more likely to apply the teachings because I’ll have the notes to constantly remind me. The analog journal will just always be a part of my system. But, recent developments make digital journaling a reasonable choice as well. I prefer to do both. Commonplacing my blogs in a separate blog is my choice for managing these projects. Plus it helps me learn WordPress better.

The theme selection tool that WordPress offers is phenomenal. When I began using it, with mobility being the main criteria, I thought, “Now we’re getting somewhere!” Just as an analog journaler considers size, format, and color when selecting a journal to be used as a commonplace book, I want it to feel as if I’m flipping through the pages of my Moleskine. Therefore, with the digital aspect, asthetics are a factor as well. I switched themes about four times before I settled on Origin as the theme for my personal blog.

The first theme I selected was based on aesthetics alone. I was satisfied with my choice until I pulled it up on my phone. The display was less than I could handle. I had to scroll all over the place just to read a page. So it was, “back to the drawing board.” I tried a few others. They were mobile friendly but lacked the “personality” of Origin. That sounds funny; but developing and maintaining my commonplace blog needs to be an enjoyable experience. Just like the size and color options influence me to buy a certain analog journal — functionality, ease of use, and appearance are game-makers or -breakers in digital journaling.

Zora Neale Hurston Was Born on this Day in 1891

Featured

Zora

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

For the Writer’s Quote Wednesday Event, we’re asked to share a favorite author’s quote that inspires us as writers. Celebrated novelist Zora Neale Hurston, a product of the Harlem Renaissance, has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Today marks the 114th anniversary of her birth.

Q_Zora_Sorrow's_Kitchen copy

The daughter of former slaves, she lived with various family members after her parents’ deaths. Poet, Langston Hughes was counted among her closest friends. You may know her most popular work, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday

writers-quote-wed-20151

I’m Still Here

Despite appearances, I haven’t abandoned the STUDIO. I finally got my genealogy blog launched; and have been writing over there. I’m happy to see a few of you have already found it and like it as well. I’ll continue to keep my eye on the reader. One thing I’ve learned is when I come across some of your posts in the reader and want to comment, my “DSA” icon appears instead of “aCS.” For that reason, I’m thinking about creating a separate account for the blogs. Thinking about it.

And yes — you’ll notice I “borrowed” this theme. I actually think it works better for the other blog. So I’ll be looking for a different theme for this one.

Okay, it just occurred to me — even this post will display my alter-ego blog icon. To circumvent that, I would need to change my default blog then change it back. What do you guys think? Those who have more than one blog, how do you handle this issue? Thanks.

Substantive Writing

Aside

These days, most of my substantive handwriting takes place in my journal, Bible study notes, or notes on sermons. (I refrain from using the term, “sermon notes” — because doesn’t that sound like I’m preparing to preach the sermons?) Anyway, if you’ve read any of my pages that talk about commonplacing, you will reason that I am an analog note-taker. I love my Moleskine; and a good ballpoint pen — fine tip over medium. I’ll never understand all the rave over gel pens. Although I’ve purchased Levenger notebooks and journal pages, I have yet to invest in a ballpoint — and I still haven’t found any journal that could replace my Moleskine. Handwriting serves as a vehicle for more impromptu notes. I’ve thought about trying to do stream of consciousness writing in an analog journal. I guess I’ll never know unless I try. But I keep seeing images of myself staring blankly off into space waiting for a substantive thought to come. And sometimes my hand doesn’t want to cooperate with my impression of how a character should look. Will I be able to decipher my writing later; or should I mar my journal page with a scratch-out and rewrite? I truly don’t understand compliments about my penmanship. Quite a while ago, I noticed that not only do I type faster than I write. I’m more able to keep up with my thought progression when I’m typing. Whether I’m typing into a Word or Notepad document, my thoughts flow more freely than when I write by hand. The faster I record my thoughts onto the screen, the faster I can process and upload new thoughts. And “the beat goes on.” So, note taking: analog or keyboard. Blogging, stream of consciousness, creative writing: keyboard. What about you? When was the last time you Pens and Pencils wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand?

Be my Neighbor?

Untitled-1 copyThe creative minds behind Blogging 101 have put together a no-holds-barred program. From day 1, we just jumped in with both feet. But the instructors, Happiness Engineers, and fellow course participants kept us afloat. Even though the course outline is prominently displayed in the Commons, assignments always come with an unexpected twist to help us blog with a purpose.

Yesterday’s assignment: leave comments on at least four blogs that you’ve never commented on before.

Ironically, each assignment is actually a building block for something I’ve already incorporated into my blog. Yesterday was an exceptionally good day for connecting with other WordPressers. Seeking out bloggers with whom I’ve not communicated has been quite rewarding. For instance . . .

  • In her Weekend Mission post, Chameleon talks about her choice to write in both English and French. The topics mentioned in her “About Me” widget are what initially interested me. But the English / French concept is also a draw. Reading French with English narrative close-by is a good way for me to update my sketchy knowledge of a subject I studied for six years.
  • Deanna talks about how things came together as she decided on Clouds and Sunsets as the name for her blog. She shares how the name came with an added bonus. Along with reflections, she will be sharing all the amazing photos of clouds and sunsets she has taken over the years.
  • a hectic life had me on pins and needles all the way to the finish line as I read The Morning Race. She brilliantly uses a (part of speech?) or symbolism — whatever — to describe her daily ritual. Cute, funny, and very creative.

My fourth one is missing. I’ll add it later. Anywho — I don’t know if I’ll be a Hero by the end of the course. But I’ll be far from a Zero

Blogging 101

Status

I’m meeting a lot of other bloggers in Blogging 101. It’s a great course. I’m just taking a minute to familiarize myself with WordPress in general. This post is a Status format post. Just want to see where and how it will display. I still have the second part of my assignment to complete this evening. Yay Blogging 101!

Daily Prompt Post: Image Search

Aside

Daily Prompt Post: Image Search

What this image brings to mind is my wish that I could rattle my ancestree and shake all those hidden ancestors out of there! A maternal great-grandfather that just disappeared off the face of the earth before 1860. I suspect I can identify his mother; but haven’t found anything concrete. A paternal great-grandfather that I suspect was free. This picture just gets my juices flowing and visions of ancestors dancing in my head.

It also reminds me of how straightforward the process is. There’s no need for web interference at the beginning stages. Just collect those names, dates, and locations and connect the dots. There’ll be plenty time for online sharing afterwhile. But, for now — wait, what’s that I see? That’s right — don’t forget about those collateral ancestors. They can fill in some of those sparse branches. Is that Aunt Edna’s uncle RayRay? The stories I’ve heard about him tell me I could find a long, lost cousin or two.

I prefer photographs over drawings — especially if the photographs are vintage. There’s just so much to be imagined in facial expressions in portraits, shadows in landscapes, and perceived activity in groups of people.

How I Monitor My Followed Blogs

Before I learned about the Lists feature in the Reader in today’s Blogging 101 assignment, I had developed a system to keep track of the many awesome blogs I came across. My Blogs I Follow list was getting longer by the day. And I wasn’t keeping track of which blog was about what. Today’s assignment showed me another way to view blogs by category. I’ll give it a try until I decide which method will be more efficient for my use.

Follow 5 New Topics in the Reader: I had actually begun doing this before the assignment. The only difference is I set up categories in my left navigation panel (described below) to keep up with the blogs I wanted to read regularly. The assignment, however, showed me how to use a similar feature in the Reader. I’m always open to learning new or multiple ways to do things.

Follow 5 New Blogs: As for the new blogs, I had already added four from interacting in the Commons. I’ll surely add more than the one required to complete this assignment. I appreciate the level of instruction in the blogging course. They provide a lot of detail to show us around WordPress. I’ve been looking forward to this so I can quit stumbling around on my own.

I quickly learned that I don’t remember what many of the blogs on my followed list are about. So, rather than continually add to a lengthy list of blogs I think I want to follow, I’ve limited my followed blogs to 12. (I just used 12 as the cut-off to keep it brief and because I wanted to name that section, “The Dirty Dozen”.) Then, after I visit the 12 on a few occasions, I determine whether to promote them to a link category (left nav) or stop following. When unrelated blogs come off, it creates room for more to be explored. This is the only way I could come up with to manage all the blogs I was finding.

I’m just hoping that, even though I’ve removed blogs from my “Blogs I’m Following” aka “Dirty Dozen” (see bottom left menu) list, the bloggers I’ve promoted to my links categories know I’m still following them via links. We’ll see how it works out.

How do you keep up with all of your followed blogs?

Decisions (choose ye this day . . . )

Along with the end of 2014 came my usual thoughts of what I could do differently in 2015. I stopped making resolutions many years ago. Now, I merely take inventory and focus on self-improvement. I like that I don’t have to wait until year-end to do this. It’s an ongoing process that is as welcome in May as in December. Last year (as in last month), was somewhat different. The words fear not came to me repeatedly. After reflecting on the times when these words applied, I finally understood them to be the Lord’s way of reminding me that there was no need to fear if I trusted in Him. Not only were they words of encouragement for last year — these words ushered me into 2015 with confidence and anticipation of a new guide-word to govern me. I tossed words around; but nothing stuck. Last week, I came across two things. One gave me my word for 2015. It is decisions. On January 2, I listened to Dr. Todd Hall share the meaning of this word for those who would lay hold of it in 2015. The second was a challenge to share the one word that would be my guide-word for the year. I thought this was a good way to keep the word before me. In each post, I’ll expound on what affects our decisions and how they shape our lives. As long as Christ is the head of my life and His will shapes my will, my decisions will be pleasing unto Him. The key is using scripture to interpret scripture. Nothing in God’s Word is open to human interpretation.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15 KJV)

Everything rests on the admonition to “. . . choose ye this day . . . ” Allowing these words to reverberate throughout our minds, we are more likely to:

  • follow God’s plan for our lives
  • receive grace to bear hurts and wrongs
  • receive blessings beyond what we can imagine

Hi. I’m Miss Donna

Shake_Hands copyHello, Reader. I answer to “Miss Donna”. I’m a Gulf Region transplant from the Mid-West who loves to write. I never acted on my desire to major in journalism. But I continue to write every chance I get. My current boss appreciates and relies on my ability to write with clarity. And, after reading a description of my first hurricane experience, my former boss told me he was totally drawn into the experience by my attention to detail and that I should consider writing a novel. a Commonplace STUDIO launched at the beginning of December; so there are not very many posts. I’m still learning my way around. I’ve changed themes — maybe twice. This is actually my second blog. The first filled the book review niche on another platform. I’m happy with my decision to switch to WordPress; and plan to import some of my reviews as well. Learn more about the STUDIO . My primary focus for starting this blog is genealogy. I began researching my family history around the turn of the century; and I’m ready to share my findings with my family and connect with other family history bloggers. I joined a couple of genealogy groups on facebook; but I’m looking for a little more. And think I’ll find it by blogging. Another reason I started this blog is that I have strong religious convictions that I want my children and grandchildren to have written explanations of for future reference. For now, you’ll find my thoughts and experiences with regard to books, genealogy, Christianity (particularly Protestantism), topical Bible studies, cast iron cookware, and the occasional random post. If you share my interest in any of these topics, hopefully we can engage in a digital dialogue or two. In the beginning stages, I will sharpen my writing skills by responding to challenges that inspire me. I’m also hoping to become well-versed in WordPress. Oh, and I’m teaching myself digital graphics. You’ll find some of my creations posted here as well. I know your time is valuable; so my goal is to keep my posts within the 300-500 word range. Welcome to my commonplace.

Fear Not

Q_Fear_Not copy

Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. (2 Chronicles 20:17 KJV)

Soundness of mind is a most virtuous gift from God.  A thing that zips right past others has a way of taking up residency in my mind until He gives me spiritual clarity about it — until I have understood “the thing.”

The New Year is a time of reflection for me.  If I could use two words to sum up God’s desire for me in 2014 — what He wanted me to finally grasp — they would be, Fear not .  Time after time, I found myself on the other side of seemingly insurmountable circumstances — shaking my head in humbled adoration of the power of the Hand of God.

The words, fear not were spoken many times throughout God’s Word when His people didn’t know what to make of a thing. And those are the two words I have finally lain hold of.  Now the only thing I anticipate is how He will restore order.  You know, that’s what He does when we fear not.

When You’ve Read a Good Book

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~ Paul Sweeney

Q_You've read a good book copy
For the Writer’s Quote Wednesday Event, we’re asked to share a favorite author’s quote that inspires us as writers. I had already begun uploading some of my quote graphics to a Commonplace STUDIO gallery. This is one of my favorites because it’s happened to me many times. His quote reminds us that inspiration often comes from characters who linger in the minds of readers. So in this instance, it’s the quote that’s a favorite. Plus, I wanted to show off my graphic. How do you like it?

writers-quote-wed-20151

Appreciation Breeds Happiness

Q-Happiness
An appreciative heart is the foundation for happiness. Appreciate what you already have, are, know, see . . .  Set your sights on what will compliment what you already have.  Don’t always seek to replace it.  Your current state is God’s intention; and reordering it is His business.  Elevation comes after you apply His truths to your situation.  Blessing comes when God sees you making the most of what is. Be poised to readily release whatever — or whomever — threatens your ability to appreciate.

Many times, when I’ve had to remind myself to take stock of what I have, I hadn’t considered the added responsibility that would come with whatever was on the horizon.  To look out on the horizon offers inspiration; but I had to learn how to apply inspiration to reality.  Yes, that’s the key to happiness.

 

I found quite an inspiring challenge.  It appealed to my affinity for quote graphBadge_WCWics.  That’s probably not the right name; but it’s what I call them.  Since I had already created a handful of them that I shared on facebook, I thought, “Why not share them here as well?”  Then I came across the Words Crush Wednesday Challenge.  I love words too, Lisa. That’s serendipity.

♛ Keep Calm — ChristMass is Older Than ✞ Christ

Keep_Calm_Christmas copyWhat if you found out that Christmas predates the birth of Christ? Not the word — the celebration. The word has roots in Catholicism. Compounded from the words, “Christ” and “Mass,” the first recorded use of the English word for “Christmas” was in 1038 A.D. when a book from Saxon England used the words “Cristes Maesse” in the text. The celebration, however, is connected with the pagan holiday known as, “Saturnalia.” You will find many references that relate Christmas to Saturnalia, which was first observed in 150 B.C. Then, in the 4th century, the holiday was renamed Christmas to assure Christians that it was acceptable to celebrate it.

Considering the controversial nature of this topic, let me clarify that I believe:

There are many other objections to Christmas including familiar concepts regarding the birth of Christ, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, holly, garland, gift-giving, etc. Though relevant, these are secondary to my interest. And, rather than delve into the details surrounding Saturnalia (and other facts concerning the celebration of Christmas), my first order of business will be to study the Holy Bible to establish a firm foundation on which to base any further study.

I can tell you, though, that the renaming of the pagan holiday was the Catholic church’s way of enticing Christians to join in with the Druid’s celebration of Saturnalia.

Does Christ approve the celebration of Christmas? You decide after reading where Jesus speaks on teaching as doctrine ; and God warns against adopting pagan worship customs .

  • From The Real Truth: “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth [emphasis mine}. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. . . .”
  • From Christmas Before Christ: The Surprising Truth!” : The early Catholic theologian and writer Tertullian (A.D. 155-230) was a convert from paganism. He wrote numerous works defending Christianity as he understood it, combatting contrary teachers and giving exhortation to fellow believers. In one he described how the Christian converts of his day were already ignoring the biblical Sabbath day and festivals and flocking to the pagan Roman winter festivals, such as the Saturnalia, which honored the god Saturn: . . .

Considering the abundance of web references on this topic, I am confident that Christians are aware of these facts. But many continue to struggle with separating truth (God’s word) from — let’s face it — fiction (traditional practices). Think about it. Are you observing Christ’s birth or are you celebrating tradition?

I used to be highly offended by signs and greetings that replaced Christ’s name with an X. I recoiled at any variation of the word, “Xmas.” And did not hesitate to remind offenders that, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Since I learned about the true origin of Christmas, however, it is no longer an issue — because, contrary to popular belief, Jesus Christ was never in it to begin with.

So my position is if, after confirming the information presented here, you wish to continue celebrating a holiday of pagan origin — simply leave Christ’s name out of it. Truth mixed with error is still a lie. And we know who God calls, “the father of lies.” Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44 KJV)

To separate from the paganism associated with ChristMass, the Christian should (1) refrain from celebrating anything on December 25; and (2) focus his observance on the teaching ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus rather than His birth; and (3) ascribe a scriptural name to his observance.

Maya_Angelou_SpeakingI could never deny the wonderful memories of Christmases past. My family’s traditions of candle-light services, carols, and gift-giving — along with the merriment of meal preparation and social gathering with immediate and extended kin are forever etched in my memory. And the truths I’ve learned about Christmas can never erase them. But, the beloved Maya Angelou who departed us earlier this year, could not have said it more plainly — “. . . When you know better, do better.” And I guess being a non-conformist helps. I’ve never had a problem adapting to change — with the exception of driving in Texas, that is. There’s still something in me that wants to teach Texas drivers how to execute a proper left turn!

No doubt many have happened upon this information and chosen to look the other way. But the fact that church leaders have chosen to look the other way is what really bothers me. There are those among Christendom who order their lives according to what they hear from the pulpit. And Romans 10:14 (KJV) does tell us, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

But, there are those who will take the pastor’s word as gospel rather than read the Bible for themselves. We are to follow Christ and what He reveals to us in His Word and through the Holy Spirit. Instead, many are content to form their belief systems solely on the words of their respective Reverends, Pastors, and Bishops.

The Christmas You Don’t Know Includes a detailed timeline of events related to Christmas. For the purposes of this post, I’ve extracted entries from 150 B.C. to the 21st century. I found some interesting references among the 19th and 20th century entries. Most of these popular references are secular in nature:

21st Century: Christians and non-Christians celebrate Christmas

20th Century:
1957 – Little Drummer Boy published
1947 – Glass Christmas Balls mass-produced
1942 – White Christmas released
1939 – Rudolph debuts
1929 – First flight of flying Santa

19th Century:
1857 – We Three Kings published
1856 – First White House Christmas Tree
1843 – First Christmas Carol
1836 – Alabama First State to Observe Christmas
1823 – The First Noel published
1823 – Visit from St. Nick published

18th Century:
1773 – Santa mentioned in newspaper for first time

For the record, I am a Southern Baptist — with a Reformed Baptist mindset. My church’s negligence to address this topic (and another — freemasonry) is an issue for me.

✍ Be it Resolved

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Be Resolved.”

Rather than New Years resolutions — what about daily improvements? Do they count? And do they have to be called resolutions ? KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAnd do they have to be proclaimed publicly ? I try to make corrections as soon as I realize there’s a problem. I don’t think anyone does this; but the whole idea of New Years resolutions suggests that that’s the only time improvements can be made.

Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.
Cavett Robert

I think I stopped making resolutions a few years after I realized my sister’s observation about me was right. She teased me about my habit of making resolution amendments. “You always say you’re gonna do something by Christmas .” Of course we laughed about it. But as soon as she said it, I knew she was right. It took me a while — as I caught myself stopping short of using Christmas as my deadline. If she were here, we would still be laughing about it. In fact, I’m smiling as I remember that the year-end holiday of Christmas was my mark for everything that needed to be done.

So, not only did I make resolutions. I amended the ones I had managed to actually keep with other improvements I thought needed to be made that year. I guess I tried the failed resolutions again the following year. Crazy . . . The mere mention of New Years resolutions can elicit a smirk and head-shake reaction from me. It’s actually pretty amusing to read other people’s resolutions as I think, “Did they actually wait until New Years to figure out they needed to make that change?”

Being my own worst critic, I’m happy to make self-improvements as the realizations arise. No, I do not make New Years resolutions. But I do look forward to reading other peoples’. It’s amusing to see that we all need to make similar adjustments.

I do, however, wish you a Happy, Prosperous, and Safe New Year.

To Be Resolved

A Bookcase, a Crack, and a Song I Love

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Final Trio.”

My book collection is something I will always treasure. A few years ago, I wrote a book review blog. It was a very fulfilling time in my life. I’m thinking about starting it back up again. I certainly have a solid collection of books to get me back into the swing of things.

I probably rearrange my bookcases a few times a year. I have whittled my collection down to favorite authors, books I will read and/or re-read, and classics. So I rotate my collections periodically. My fiction bookcase is one of a pair from the DOCENT line at IKEA. In the beginning, I loaded its deep shelves with double rows of books in a visually-attractive horizontal and vertical arrangement. I have a photographic memory; so I had no trouble remembering what was on the back row. I tried to incorporate art and objects among the stacks; but there was not much room for them. When my collection began spilling out onto other horizontal surfaces, I knew I had to do something. And it was not buying another bookcase. Of course I put up a fuss; but it turned out to be quite liberating.

On one of the shelves of my fiction bookcase, there’s a beautiful oriental bust that I found at the Goodwill. It’s so poised and elegant-looking that the crack on the back WP_Oriental_Bustof it didn’t stop me from bringing it home. I haven’t patched it yet; but that is a planned project. And rather than a crack, it’s a small hole. But I enjoy looking at it. And I don’t mind grabbing it from the shelf to reveal the hole to anyone who admires it. That’s just what junkers collectors do. We take pride in preserving other people’s cast-offs.

Even though I’ve stopped celebrating Christmas, this song has wormed its way into my ear. I say, “wormed its way into my ear” because a cursory search of the phenomenon disclosed the term for it. When a song gets stuck in your head, that’s an ear worm . See, there’s always something to learn at a CommonPlace STUDIO .

A couple of Sundays ago, I was standing at the sink after breakfast; and the lilting melody of this song just drifted into my ear and, despite all the Deep Home Southern Gospel, Whitney Houston, and R&B I’ve tried to drown it out with — it keeps playing. So don’t blame me if this beautiful Christmas melody burrows its way into your memory. It’s from the soundtrack of “Home Alone” — which I’ve been known to watch in March or July. I was so determined to find this song that I reviewed the entire soundtrack. I’m not sure what type of memory this is; but when the song first popped into my head, I immediately recognized it as being from the movie. Have a listen: Christmas Star It’s really beautiful.

Me? I’m gonna head over to the stacks for a new read. Maybe this bookworm will find a remedy for her ear worm.

Final Trio

The Year-End Holiday Season – 2014

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Getting Seasonal.”

The Holiday Season? My attitude toward the end-of-year holidays has, indeed, changed over the years. In a nutshell, I’m unfazed by it all. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. I’ve always known that it falls on the 4th Thursday in November. Recently, I found out why. In 1939, FDR gave in to the pleas of retailers and moved Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. The reason was to lengthen the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas so that people could spend more money Christmas shopping. Don’t believe me? Read about it here A simple Google search will return many similar articles. These are just articles I selected for this post. Two-Day_Doorbuster - CopyThere was a time, when my son was younger, that I would arise at 0:dark:30 on “Black Friday” to be among the earlybirds to snag a bargain or two for Christmas gifts, decorating items or whatever. Earlybirds greeted one another and discussed what we hoped to find, compared notes about where to shop for what. Fast forward to 2014; and both the consumer and retailer greed level intensifies greatly. Stores are now open on Thanksgiving Day to lure the most eager shoppers. Public outcry of late has been for the boycotting of retailers who open on Thanksgiving because by doing so, they are taking their employees away from their families. People begin camping out weeks before Thanksgiving to be first in line for “doorbusters” which are another greed tactic of retailers. Consumers are aware of this tactic; and now know they have to be one of the first ones in line because the store has only stocked a few of the doorbuster items. It’s a hot mess dot com. It was several yeaDoorbuster - Copyrs ago that I became disenchanted with the gross commercialism and revelry of what I believed, at the time, to be a sacred holiday. I don’t get caught up in the shopping, buying or expecting gifts. And once it finally dawned on me to question the giving of gifts to each other on Jesus’ birthday, I never got an answer that made sense to me. So celebrating in this way, just as Christmas Day itself, has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. (More about that in a post I’m writing for this weekend.) Of course I’ll be happy to spend the holiday known as Christmas with my family — many of whom don’t bother to display anyyears-text.2jpg acknowledgement of Jesus or His birth. And, I will say this. During the days when I shopped frantically through Christmas Eve, I had a great appreciation for the stillness of space and time that enveloped Christmas Day. There’s a peace that seems to abound when the world stands still. Most businesses are closed. Even though I really don’t immerse myself into all the hoopla like I once did, I still appreciate this blessed silence. And I’ll be happy for those who can finally collapse from all the frenzy and return to their senses and business as usual. When it’s over, it will be over; and the world will be set back on its axis. Then we can prepare for a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/getting-seasonal/">Getting Seasonal</a>

After a Year on Facebook

facebook_like_thumb
I finally bit the bullet and joined facebook a little over a year ago. Since then, I’ve gained some social media “friends” and reconnected with many personal friends, family friends, and acquaintances from my hometown. I’m an old-school “booker” who chooses to keep co-workers separate from social media. As far as friends, I still haven’t hit the 200 mark — and that’s fine. I like this quote about social media followers:

The number of ‘followers’ you have does not make you better than anyone else. Hitler had millions, Jesus had 12.

I went from 0 to 60 — okay, 30 . . . okay, 12 — in a short span of time: 175 friends! That’s plenty for a small-town girl like me who never needed to be the center of attention. My older son was so surprised that I had joined the book . He reflected back to some of the feelings I had expressed about not having my business out there for everyone to see, being careful about the crazies that could crop up, not wanting to be associated with “friends” who posted objectionable content, using baud width and cyber time more constructively . . . You get the picture. Well, it wasn’t long before that same son told me, Momma, your posts are too long. You need to write a blog. Don’t nobody wanna read all that. I just laughed it off and kept writing, liking, and sharing.

Then I ventured off into Gamesville. What a waste of time that turned out to be! It didn’t take long for me to realize that the game apps were digital leeches that would defy every attempt of removal from my profile. I couldn’t turn for a prompt about a game. That got annoying real quick. Needless to say, my friends started sending me invitations to engage in some form of digital play. Somehow these invitations managed to override my initial feelings of creepiness about someone else knowing what games I liked. So I obliged. Then I noticed that despite my following the steps to opt out of a game, I continued to receive invitations to play. So I replied to each individual invite with a tactful declination including a brief explanation of my reason. Then I noticed other friends posting general, sometimes not so tactful, declinations on their timelines. “Wow,” I thought . . . “I’m not the only one who is annoyed by this.” Because I understood their position, of course, I “liked” their post. But I have yet to posts my own blanket declination.

A few months ago, I was moved to write a post about my objection to people using their smart phone cameras to record embarrassing videos about people they didn’t know for the sole intent of gaining attention on social media. Shortly thereafter, despite many “likes,” my “algorithm” changed — shrug. I still kick around in a few groups; but I limit my input to “likes” and brief comments. And I’ve finally learned to steer clear of controversial topics. The recent debacle with a certain (now former) congressional aide and her comments about the first daughters brought out the fangs in me. Trust me — it was not pretty.

So my timeline had become my puppeteer. Whatever popped up on it was what got me going. That’s not what I was looking for. In the back of my mind, I knew my baby was right. I needed to write a blog. So, here I am. I still check my facebook — but not as often as before. And I’m all the free-er for it. Hello blogosphere! I’m glad to be back.

Cast Iron Collector

Cast_Iron_Skillets
I’ve been a collector of vintage cast iron cookware for quite some time; and prefer a vintage Griswold or Wagner over the current offerings such as Lodge. The vintage is lighter in weight and smoother in appearance. I also have some unmarked vintage pieces that I consider to be equal in quality to Griswold and Wagner. I can’t attest to claims about hot spots or other performance-related qualities. I just know my chicken fryer is up for any task — deep frying, sauteing, baking, roasting. Just think — the same pan for all this.

As far as the cleaning and re-seasoning — it’s a past-time for me. I enjoy seeing the difference between the neglected, often rusted, item I purchased and the restored item. I frequent resale shops and thrift stores for deals on vintage cast iron. I’ve even won a piece on eBay. As far as cost, I’ve paid as little as $3.99 for a “mut” skillet at Goodwill and over $30 for a covered dutch oven at a consignment shop. This summer, however, I did have to draw the line at a Griswold covered dutch oven that was priced at $95.99 at an antique shop. It’s probably still there. Griswold is rare; but it’s not that hard to find. For me, the thrill is in the hunt; and, as the saying goes, “I have more time than money.” So I’ll wait. Over the years, I’ve had to become more discriminate when it comes to grabbing every piece I come across. I’ve learned to walk away from some pieces; and purchased a couple with the sole intent of restoring to give away.

I’d love to have a story about using my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. I wonder, even, who ended up with it. My Mother and all her siblings are gone. I wonder if Grandmomma’s skillet survived and is being used by one of my cousins. I think I’ll check into that just to satisfy my curiosity. As a matter of fact, I don’t have any specific memories of my mother cooking in a cast iron skillet. The only thing I can think is that she may have used one when I was too young to notice. I do remember, however, that when US Steel went on strike in the 1950’s, my Daddy started selling Presto Pride cookware door-to-door. I wonder if the cast iron was laid aside so he could become familiar with the product he sold. I do still have a few random pieces of it.

On the other hand, I have given pieces to my sons and to a family acquaintance. And, my niece rescued one that her friend was going to discard during a move. Try as I might — that skillet just didn’t like me! It would not cooperate with any of the techniques I’ve used on other pans. Determined to restore that skillet, I repeated my process three times! When I looked closer, I realized it was made in China — a significant deterrent when it comes to cast iron cookware. That stubborn rust didn’t budge! Never buy cast iron that was made in China. In addition to an inferior casting process, I’ve also read warnings that the quality of materials used are detrimental to your health.

I’ll write about the breaking down and re-seasoning process in a future post. I’ve even found an unexpected method of seasoning. The photo above shows my trusty chicken fryer on the back of the stove and a cleaned 12″ Griswold ready for firing.

Only One Word

words (500)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “One at a Time.”

This post is a short one
That’s sure to bring fame.
I was told to use short words.
So I guess it’s a game.
Words with one sound
Is what they have asked.
Can’t wait ’til they see
How I’m up for the task.
Oh how I love my blog
Let me count the ways.
The words that I write
Will be read for days.
Food, books, news,
It will all be right here
Clothes, dreams, health
What’s “in” this year?

One at a Time

Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Cast Iron in the Oven!

Vintage_Cast_Iron

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wronged Objects.”

Not a day goes by that I don’t turn on my oven. It turns out the most savory roasts and delectable pound cakes one could imagine. It warms fried chicken pieces until the entire batch is done. It browns meringues and broils steaks until the perfect crust is achieved. When I “blind bake” pie crusts, it’s the stability of my oven’s thermostat that gives me the confidence to tend to other matters for a spell.

Considering all that my oven provides for me, an apology is definitely in order. Seems I’ve developed a past-time that calls my oven into action while others are at rest. Since the dawn of this century, I’ve never met a vintage cast iron skillet I didn’t feel the need to salvage. So I am always seasoning or re-seasoning some piece of cast iron! Steady 350 degrees — an hour a pop — rest the cast iron and bake on another coat. Sigh . . . I know it’s a lot on you, Mr. Oven. Plus, because of repeatedly baking lard-covered cast iron, I expose you to harsh cleaning agents more often than your manufacturers probably deem feasible.

To top it off — with the Thanksgiving Day demise of my microwave (which was used mostly for reheating), I am — once again — calling on my trusty buddy to reheat my meals. So I also apologize for finding yet another reason to press him into service. But why forage into the murky waters of the “Black Friday Weekend” crowd for an immediate replacement when I could just wrap my meals in foil, sit back and let my trusty oven heat them at 350 for 20 minutes?

I’m sorry once, sorry twice, sorry three times and more, Mr. Oven — for the extra burden my cast iron obsession places on you. But you handle everything I throw at you so well. And you have now earned the distinction of being recognized as my wronged object. As a result, you can boast holding a place in my blog. Other of my belongings may be mentioned in various posts. But You, Mr. Oven, have a post of your very own!

Wronged Object

Digging for Roots

Girl_Reading

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge: “Digging for Roots.”

When I read about this challenge, the first thing that came to my mind was an observation I made within the approximately past five years. I could probably be considered a loner — nowhere near reclusive — just comfortable functioning independently of others. Comfortable in my own skin — yeah, that’s it. (In the cast of “The Big Bang Theory,” I would be Sheldon.) My observation showed me the basis of this attribute. I am the youngest of a family of four children. There are two years between each of my siblings but five years between the youngest of them and me. Even though my sister was splendid about making sure I was included in things where age didn’t matter, I still knew they enjoyed privileges I would have to wait years to experience. On the other hand, I got more alone time with my parents.

My dad and I savored pickled pig’s feet and crackers after he picked me up from Kindergarten. (You couldn’t pay me to eat one now.) My mom and I enjoyed shopping trips, puzzles, word games, restaurants. I owe my love of books and reading to being allowed to spend hours in the library across the street. And I had more “Golden Books” than you could shake a stick at. I remember going to the drive-in movie with them in my pj’s. Afterwards, Daddy would throw me over his shoulder and carry me into the house.

I remember the time Billy and Pat went to Chicago Bandstand. Our family gathered around the television, watchChicago_Bandstand_Postered and squealed with delight when we got a brief glimpse of them among the teenagers on the dance floor. Our family loved music; and it was one of the things that bridged our ages.

I still recall, however, that while they did teenager things together, I enjoyed one-on-one time with Momma and Daddy. They all attended school together (walking a few city blocks). But as the youngest, I attended grades 1 through 6 at the school where my mother was the secretary (riding across town in our family vehicle). My parents were pleasantly surprised when, at the age of 10, I debuted with “The Palmer Trio” — making our gospel group, “The Palmer Family Singers.”

Palmer Family Singers (1979; Gary, Indiana)

Palmer Family Singers (1979; Gary, Indiana)

Subsequently, I had no problem functioning alone. The greatest illustration of this attribute was when I decided to relocate my family from Gary, Indiana to Houston, Texas. After five years, and for five years following, I experienced the deaths of my mother, sister and older brother. While it was difficult when I couldn’t make the trip home for some of the surgeries, health episodes, etc., our bond transcended the miles. Our separation was physical only. And when I had my own health experience, updates to them were done by phone — multiple calls in a day between my sister and me were the norm.

I thank God for the faith that was instilled in me from a young age. That faith transcended the physical separation. Through the years, our dynamic and my place in the family structure prepared me to function independently — undergirded with my family’s love and support. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of each one of them, Daddy, Momma, Billy, Charles, Pat — my family. They have all gone on to Glory. But they prepared me to function independently with training in self-sufficiency.

Digging for Roots

Welcome to a Commonplace STUDIO (the STUDIO)


welcome(1)

Welcome to A Commonplace Studio. This is my commonplace for all things digital — my main blog and proving ground for the topical blogs I have in the works. One is a genealogy blog; and the other is scrapbooking. You will also find articles about cast iron cookware — especially vintage. Some of my interests are Bible Study, Resale Shopping, Consigning. I’m considering categories that will encompass them.

I’ve blogged before — several years on Blogger. WordPress is new to me; and I’m happy with my decision to switch. In the beginning stages, I will sharpen my writing skills by responding to challenges. I’m also hoping to improve my blogging technique. I know your time is valuable; so my goal is to keep my posts within the 300-500 word range. Learn more about the STUDIO .