Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Family That Rolls Coins Together. . . Gets a New Big Screen TV Together

One Thankgiving Day in the late 90s, we cut open the blue crayon bank and rolled the coins. I found these photos today and thought I'd share. It took us nearly all day to roll what turned out to be around $1,700. We bought a big, clunky (no flat screens back then) TV. Now its too big and works too well to justify getting rid of it. We hardly ever watch it anyway, now that the baby bird is grown up and lives far away. It's just a fun family memory. Never underestimate the small things. . . like change. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Keeping the Blog Alive

Hi everyone, I am not shutting this blog down, at least not now; but, I am on hiatus from posting to it. I have been traveling much and continuing to work at the job I retired from a while back. Just setting different priorities for now. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have such a full and rich life.

I am focusing my current efforts on my poetry blog at http://www.n2poetry.com/. Please join me there for a while, at least until I re-energize this site.

Love and Hugs,

Grace Curtis

Monday, February 6, 2012

Adanna Literary Journal: A Collection of Contemporary Love Poems

So excited to be reading at this event on April 8, 7 pm at the College of St. Elizabeth, in Morristown, NJ.

Adanna Literary Journal: A Collection of Contemporary Love Poems:


Founder & Editor, christine redman-waldeyer

assistant editor, david crews


Monday, January 23, 2012

Glassblowers at the Museum of Glass in Tahoma, Washington
 from The Seconds--Claude Laurent, Glassblower, 1850

by Linda Bierds

And thinking of seconds--first time, of course, then
the hapless devoted to step from behind
with their handkerchiefs and swords, ready to give shape
to another's passion, as a body gives shape to a soul.

from one of my favorite books of poetry, The Seconds.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Having a 25 year old child -- it's not possible, is it?

This year, our daughter, Sam, turns 25. I have to keep reminding myself that I am old enough to have a child that age, although I could actually have one much older, but that’s another story.

For good reason, I have not shared much with my daughter about the fact that I spent my entire 25th year living onboard a sailboat and actually sailing through the Caribbean during some of that year. My parents could only communicate with me by sending letters to General Delivery Key West, Miami, Nassau, San Juan. . .you get the picture. (You can read my journal entries, presented in weekly installments, in reverse chronological order on my Tumbler site, if you are so inclined. Click on the tag, Ship’s Log to get to all of them). Except for one raging storm that lasted a few days, during which I had to use seasickness suppositories to keep from becoming too dehydrated since I couldn’t keep anything down, it is actually pretty tame stuff. What I am sure was not “tame”, was the angst I caused my parents and family, wondering where I was and what I was doing, or even if I was still alive. I can’t imagine how I would feel if our daughter suddenly left the country and I was not able to get in touch with her easily. Times are different now. I'm not just saying that because I am old (older). When I finally flew home to Ohio, the entire family—orchestrated by my mother, I’m sure—was at the airport to greet me. It was a clear message to me that I was loved and missed. Oh, and by the way, I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.

What brought this to mind was an article that ran in the Dayton Daily News yesterday written by Dayton writer, Sharon Short. It made me think of being a young adult myself, and. . . of having my own young adult who, like Sharon’s daughter, occasionally worries about the parentals! You can read Sharon’s delightful article at the Dayton Daily News Site.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Truth About Memory

There is a plethora of research on the topic of memory accuracy. One need only search the internet using those terms to find numerous scientific studies discussing theories about it—Gestalt tradition, special memories, schema theory, post-event misinformation, memory for gist….well you get the gist. But, this is not a scholarly article. Instead, it is simply my musings on the fact that I have come to realize my memories of past events might not be as accurate as I have always assumed them to be. 

I am not talking about the kind of memory we are all afraid we might lose one day—how to get to the grocery, for instance, or the name of our spouse. No, I am talking about the good ole memories of past events, the stories out of which we have spun our identity.

This realization--that maybe my memories of past events are not always accurate—feels important to me, not because I am afraid I will start forgetting them, or not because I am going to start questioning the accuracy of everything I think I remember, but rather, because it feels like a more reasonable way of considering past events and by consequence, the way they have shaped my life.  

This must be a big problem for memoirist—the accuracy of the details as they write. I know that when I am recalling events from childhood, like in my last post about life-long friend Noni Wood, many of the details are sketchy—like where an event happened, in what year, at what age, who else was there, who said what exactly, and so forth.  With thought and exploration, I found, I could begin to reconstruct some of the details, but I know that even details I would swear are accurate, can only at best be branded as “my version of the story.” And, my version is important only because of the impact it had on me at the time and the impact, it apparently still has on me because I am recalling it now.

What I am not talking about is the inaccuracy of such details, like whether or not someone really was a drug addict and went to rehab. I know the big things are accurate. I am talking about some of the finer points that don’t alter the impact of the event as life-shaping but lose their sharper focus over the years. For instance, I recently heard a couple arguing over whether it was 2000 or 2001 that they went on a particular cruise. It was ridiculous discussion because what they were concerned about didn’t alter the point of the story which was that the husband almost missed getting back onto the boat at one of the ports-of-call. 

This animation video of Robert Krulwich relating a story of flawed memory to Ira Glass, beautifully and humorously illustrates just how convoluted memories can become.

Memory and Salvador Dalí

What made me start thinking about this topic was a recent trip I made to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Dalí is a wonderful place to visit. It is a mecca for those interested in his work and in American Surrealism in general. While there, I picked up the museum catalog, something I always do because I love the words used to describe art. The day following the visit, I read the catalog and happened upon this passage in reference to a Portrait of My Sister, (1923), about Dalí and his sister, Ana María. (I have found another references to this work, that shows its titles as, Portrait of My First Cousin, 1923.) Here is what the catalog says of this work:

Another interpretation of the over-painting is that it reveals the tension growing between the artist and his sister. Close during their youth, Dalí and his sister grew distant once Gala, his future wife entered his life. The two women disliked each other from the start. When Dalí published his creative biography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, in 1941, filled with outrageous and shocking stories about his behavior as a boy, Ana María felt compelled to challenge his carefully orchestrated stories. In 1950 she published  Salvador Dalí as Seen by His Sister, presenting his youth in far more ordinary terms. Instead of a monstrous child, she presents her brother  simply a spoiled child, and she blames Gala and the Surrealists for encouraging his aberrant fantasies. (34)

This painting which is actually two portraits, can be seen as an early (Dalí at age 19) example of Dalí’s propensity to compose work that is not simply a retelling of the visual image but rather an exploration of life’s complexities and possibilities. The original portrait—the one that is considered to be right-side up, is more neo-classic in its conception while the second portrait—the one that is upside down—is  described by the catalog as Cubist. The catalog suggests, the version of Ana María painted upside down, is most likely a reflection more of new artistic influences in the young painter's life although it is not entirely out of the question that the very different portrayal was a reflection of their changing relationship.

The point of this story is to highlight how different the two versions of Dalí’s early life are—his memories of his early life presented in his autobiography, versus his sister’s memories of his early life as presented in her biography of him. Dalí chose to tell his story of being an outrageous child because it suited his self-image. Ana María chose to portray him as merely spoiled because that suited her purpose of getting back at Dalí for abandoning her as his model and confident in favor of Gala Éluard, new life-long model and wife. I haven’t read the two books so, I can’t say which feels more believable to me. Unless you are testifying as an eye-witness in court—it’s pretty much irrelevant; but it illustrates my point perfectly. I would likely have a different, though close, version of an event—say, the time when as a child, I bit a hole in my sister’s red sweater—than my sister would have, or than, say a friend would have, or than my husband might have of some other shared event.  I believe, we create (or rather recreate) and cling to memories that support the image we have of ourselves, or at the very least are versions of a truth about ouselves we have come to believe in or want to believe in.  

I don’t think I have always understood that. Instead, I have been more inclined to believe my version of the important stories of my life is accurate, or at least, more accurate than anyone else’s version. Interestingly, doesn’t this suggest that there might be a reason for things, like forgiving and reconciliation since there is the possibility we might be seeing the event wrong? Or, might this be reason to put some things where they belong, firmly in the past and not a part of our present? The catalog says that Dalí and Ana María never reconciled. Clearly memories are tied to something deep and life-shaping in us.

Capturing the Facts in Photographs and Journals

On my trip to the museum and to St. Petersburg, I took a lot of pictures. I always do and that got me to thinking that maybe it is this problem with memory and its inaccuracy that drives me to take pictures and to keep a journal. I want to remember a sunset, to remember what someone’s face looked like at a specific moment—my daughter’s face, my husband’s face, for example, or perhaps a sunrise behind a bridge.

On the first day of 2012, the sun rose at 7:35 a.m. just behind the bridge that crosses the cut from the Gulf of Mexico into Clearwater Harbor above Sand Key. The sky was layered with pinks, corals, yellows and blues. I was there with my husband. The view from our hotel room was beautiful. I am sure I will remember it vividly for the rest of my life, but I took a picture of it just to be sure. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Noni Wood, Mayor of Clarksville, Ohio

Noni Wood on election night.
At an age when many people would be slowing down, if not retiring, my friend Winona Wood, or Noni, as she is better known to family and friends,  has chosen to head down a path many today might consider temerarious at best—that of becoming an elected official, the mayor of her adopted hometown, Clarksville, Ohio.
On election night I drove to Noni’s small village—and when I say small, I mean small as in the size that brings to mind the old Hee Haw population skit, “Clarksville, Ohio, population, 497, SAA-LUTE!!"—to be with her, and 20 of her supporters at Friends Backyard Grill, a diner that sits on the edge of town. Throughout the evening we drank coffee and ate sandwiches and chili as we waited for the results to come in. Around eight, Kimber, the local Precinct Judge, called to say Noni had won the election by 77 votes (101-24).
Choosing Friends  
Noni Wood and I, waiting on election results.
Even though I am not from Clarksville, I was there because Noni and I have been friends for... well, let’s say, since we were kids many years ago. We went to the same church where my father was the minister. I can’t remember the exact time or details surrounding the moment we recognized that we shared a special bond as friends, but by junior high we were tight.

             As I started to think about this post, I got to thinking about friendship and why it is two people will single out each other to create a special attachment. In fact, I researched it a bit to see if anyone had addressed this social phenomenon—friend selection—and lo and behold, or rather, of course, someone had. Maureen Solomon, reporter for Health Day reported in an article titled, Your Genes Help You Choose Your Friends, Study Says, posted on MedicineNet.com, that some researchers  have found that genes play a role in friend choice.  She writes that “Mapping specific genetic markers within each individual's social network, the researchers learned that individuals tend to forge friendships with those who share two of six tested [genetic] markers.”  I’m not surprised. Special friendships are that kind of thing—the thing that is hard to explain and therefore most surely driven by something like biology. We’ve all experienced it. Many people come and go in our lives. There are precious few we click with in that magical way and even fewer with whom the relationship lasts throughout a lifetime.
Noni is just such a person for me. She is likeable to begin with, affable and not the least bit chary. She makes friends easily. It’s no wonder she was successful in her mayoral bid in Clarksville. She is a hard worker and seems indefatigable, just the kind of person you would want as the mayor of your village.  Also, I have always recognized in her a keen intellect (I’m hoping this is one of the gene markers we share). She has one of the most remarkable memories of anyone I know. She can dazzle me with recitations of our phone numbers from childhood, of street names, and recollections of people from our church that I don’t even remember having known at all. However, what I connect with most in Noni is the one thing that might just determine how well I click with anybody—her  sense of humor. (Probably also another valuable attribute for a mayor.)
By our early teens, Noni and I had become good friends, hanging out together, going to church camp, sleeping over at each other’s houses, and spending time together at church functions. Our shared sense of humor got me into trouble more than once at church when muffled laughter occasionally released itself down the pew during otherwise quiet moments. Mid-way through high school, I moved 30 miles away. It was the days before Facebook, cell phones, Skype and all the other great ways we now have for staying connected; so, as happens, we lost touch with each other until several years ago when we reconnected and discovered that the same strong bond still exists between us. (We’re genetically predisposed to be friends anyway, right?)
Making Choices in Our Lives
Noni Wood on the campaign trail.
But this post is only partly about friendship. It is also the story of someone that has made a conscious choice to continue to be engaged and active even as she heads into what Gail Sheehy, in her book, New Passages, calls, the third age. Sheehy suggests that individuals who have made the choice to not slip into social and spiritual isolation during late middle age and even later life are more likely to enjoy life and to continue to thrive during this period. While many pop psychology books come and go, Sheehy’s book seems amazingly relevant even though it was written in the 1990’s. In it, she writes,
“The consequences of genes, gender, race, class, marital status, income, and preventive health care (or carelessness) all pile up. But while our genes largely determine our health status and longevity, this hold true only until we reach 60 or 65. After that, if we have escaped catastrophic illnesses during the critical middle life period from 45 to 65, it is our psychological attitude and behavior that more likely determine the quality and duration of our third age.”
All along Noni’s journey, it is evident she has made choices, like moving to Clarksville or running for mayor. Rather than letting life happen to her, she is deciding how she will live. There’s a difference. I think this is the quality Sheehy sees in individuals who continued to bloom into later adulthood, or into the Age of Integrity as Sheehy calls it. 

Noni with her siblings, seated L-R, Sandra, Alana, Fonda, (Winona)Noni
Standing, (Charlina)Gai, (Nadina)Dina, (Chester)Butch, Allen, (Verona)Roni
On election night, Noni excitedly drove me all over Clarksville—it only took a few minutes—to show me her campaign signs. While we drove, I asked her how she had ended up in in this small town. She related that, as a child, her father and mother took her and her six sisters and two brothers on an outing to Cowan Lake, a picturesque lake near Clarksville, in rural Clinton County. A little over five years ago, on a reminiscence trip to the lake, she made a wrong turn and drove through Clarksville. Noni said that she was so taken by the quaint little village that seemed so inviting, that she made an on-the-spot decision to one day retire there. Just, a few years later, she rented a place in Clarksville, and then ultimately bought an old home on six acres that she has since been restoring.  Each summer she holds a large family picnic there, complete with blue grass band, dancing, and tents.
Now days, Noni travels on weekends to art shows, selling candles for her niece, Anna's business, Little Creek Candlesalways on the go, enjoying getting to visit different cities and towns. And, she still has a food business that she started over 30 years ago, Flamingo Concessions, that she has been selling off in smaller pieces over the past few years.
When I asked her why she decided to run for Mayor, she said that she believes it is important to care for family and friends, and for her community. Running for mayor was just one way in which she could demonstrate her caring and willingness to help others.
I have always, been community minded,” she told me, “and when I moved to Clarksville I became actively involved with the village, hoping I could use my past business experience and skills to help the village progress.”
Before becoming mayor, Noni held a council seat. She told me she never dreamed she would take on such a task, but that she feels humbled and honored by the trust the voters have shown by electing her Mayor of Clarksville. She adopted them, and now, they have adopted her. She serves not just as a role model for other citizens, but also as a role model of how to beautifully move into later adulthood. Clarksville is lucky to have her as their new mayor and I am lucky to have her as a genetic soul mate.

More Election Night Pictures

Noni with partner, Ken(Rug) Roberts, Katie Roberts
Katie Roberts, Noni,  Katherine Boyer
Noni with fellow campaigner, Mike Rickman, Owner of
Unique Gifts & More in Clarksville, who also
won a seat on the village council this year.
Village supporters gather for a photo after hearing the results.

Ohio House Representative, Cliff Rosenberger,
a lifelong Clarksville resident stopped by say hi.
Noni, with two of her eight siblings
on election night, Allen and Sandra.