Monday, July 31, 2017

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood

When Ann Hood's memoir Morningstar: Growing Up With Books arrived in the mail, I opened it up to glance at it. I read the Introduction, in which Hood talks about her family and hometown and discovery of books, in particular, Louis May Alcott's Little Women.

I made myself a cup of hot tea and settled in to read the first chapter.

Before dinner, I had read the entire book. I could not put it down. Hood's voice and personality, her childhood yearning for something bigger, her love of reading and the impact books had on her life, caught my heart as well as my interest. I felt a kinship. I recognized myself reflected in her life, and while reading I thought about the books that had changed my life.

Hood's reading was free ranging, preferring thick books. She believes that the right book comes into a reader's life at the time it is needed, and this small book gives credit to the books that helped her understand life, answering the questions that perplexed her, and showing the path to personal growth and adulthood.

I recommend Morningstar for everyone who loves books, whose lives were touched by books. Those who as children found answers and discovered new questions, who found understanding and direction in the pages.

The back cover reads, "In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels." Another book for my TBR list! But when I was at our local bookstore this morning, I choose to buy Hood's novel The Red Thread. I am eager to read more of Hood's work.

The chapters and major books discussed are:

  • Lesson 1: How to Dream, in which Hood address the impact of Majorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, which she read as a teenager who felt trapped in a narrow life. 
  • Lesson 2: How to Become a Writer concerns The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Hood's yearning for something more. 
  • Lesson 3: How to Ask Why considers Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbull and the Viet Nam War. 
  • In Lesson 4: How to Buy Books, Hood agonizes over purchasing a book, in particular, Love Story by Eric Segal, and how that first purchase led to a library. 
  • Hood's brother gifted her a set of Steinbeck books and in Lesson 5: How to Write A Book she writes about what Grapes of Wrath taught about layers of meaning. 
  • A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins was her introduction to another culture, which Hood writes about in Lesson 7: Be Curious. 
  • As a curious teen, The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer answered questions she could not ask, Lesson 8: How to Have Sex. 
  • How to See the World is Lesson 9, in which Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago exposed Hood to exotic places and times. 
  • The last, Lesson 10: How to Run Away, is inspired by the character longing to escape in John Updike's Rabbit, Run. 

I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Ann Hood

by Ann Hood
W. W. Norton & Co.
Publication Date:  August 1. 2017
$22.95 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-393-25481-5

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brave Deeds by David Abrams

When our son threw over his obsession with dinosaurs for WWII and later 20th c wars I found myself entering new territory.

For someone who couldn't stand to watch violence, whose high school classes didn't even get to WWI, I found myself watching war movies and reading a lot of war books. At first, our son liked The Longest Day and To Hell and Back. As he grew so did his sophistication. In his mid-teens, he read the book and watched the movie Black Hawk Down over and over. Which meant so did I.

My son's interests expanded my understanding of the world and politics--and human nature.

"Tell brave deeds of war." 
Then they recounted tales,--
"There were stern stands
And bitter runs for glory."

Ah, I think there were braver deeds.
Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

The title of David Abrams' new book Brave Deeds comes from a poem by Stephen Crane. What are these deeds that are braver than the 'bitter runs for glory'?

Told they could not attend the memorial service for their leader Staff Sergeant Morgan, six soldiers in Iraq decide to go AWOL. They had the mission all planned out: 'Borrow' a HUMMER, drive to the base where the service was being held, and return to face the consequences.

If something can go wrong it will. They did not count on the HUMMER breaking down in one of the most dangerous sectors of Bagdad. Or a grueling hike through hostile territory without even a map that in their panic they forgot to bring.

The trek takes eight hours, encountering people who sidetrack them into conflicts. But they stick to their mission, determined to pay honor to their fallen leader, "one team, one fight, one brotherhood," hopefully alive and intact at the end.

This journey tale brings the men into danger, but we also learn that their inner life journey is just as tortured. Each soldier's inner dialogue is heard in alternating chapters, without identification. Readers learn the men's fears and insecurities and pain, how they see each other, what has motivated them to go on this arduous, dangerous journey, and what Sgt. Morgan meant to them.

One soldier admits they are not 'great men risking death on a brave mission'. No, we are 'Fucked up and flawed' he thinks.

Morgan seen through the eyes of his men is a vivid character. Some saw his death as heroic, those who believed in "the First Church of Bush". Others were there for the paycheck, his death just sad and senseless. His death affected each one, and they now they risk their lives to honor him.

Reading the novel I was sometimes disturbed, sometimes I laughed. I felt compassion and revulsion, concern and sorrow. At the end I was moved.

The novel was inspired by a true story, as Abrams discusses here.

I received a free book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Brave Deeds
David Abrams
Grove Press, Black Cat
Publication August 1, 2017
Paperback $16.00
ISBN: 9780802126863

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Gary Hits the Ground Running at UMCOR

United Methodist Committe on Relief Mission Statement:
Compelled by Christ to be a voice of conscience on behalf of the people called Methodist, UMCOR works globally to alleviate human suffering and advance hope and healing.
Gary; UMCOR photo
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is part of the General Board of Global Ministries. During the 1980s they concentrated their work on relief, rehabilitation, refugee ministry, and the root causes of hunger.
Sketch by Wendy Turrentine
On October 23, 1984, Tom Brokaw broke the story of the famine in Ethiopia, resulting from a devastating drought. A million people died in the region.

"Before the world's media outlets broke the story, UMCOR was working with Church World Service on relief effors with the Ehtiopian Orthodox Church. A Bishop's Appeal for Africa provided funding." from the UMCOR website

Gary started work at UMCOR in November. As the Secretary for Specialized Ministries and Emergency Response Officer, he had to hit the ground running.

That January he was in Haiti for the winter conference meeting. His boss Norma Kehrberg accidentally introduced him as her "executive disaster."

I, of course, was home alone every January. After leaving Philly I told Michiganders that there were six weeks of winter in Philly, January and into February. While Gary went to the Caribbean I shoved snow.

UMCOR photo of Gary
Gary left the house before I was up, at 5 am. He walked several blocks to the Broad Street Subway, getting off at the North Philadelphia Train Station, then he rode the train to Penn Station in New York City, where he got the subway to 475 Riverside Drive. It was a two-hour commute both ways! He was often home at 7:30 pm.

But he made the most of the commute time, reading and listening to music with headphones. He got to know some of the other commuters. There was a group who worked in the World Trade Center.

It was a small department. Director Norma Kehrberg, who took over the position in 1983, had been a missionary in Nepal. There were an associate director and a woman whose specialty was refugees. Their secretary, Lydia Chao, as a girl during WWII had been interned in a Japanese prison camp. She also had cradled Malcolm X's head when he was assassinated.

UMCOR projects are funded with 100% designated donated funds. Even salaries and office costs were from designated funds. When an emergency arises churches across the world take up collections and the money is used to address needs arising from that crisis. A yearly collection for UMCOR is used to operating costs.

Norma went to Ethiopia very early. She told the story of seeing the endless stream of refugees heading toward a feeding station at a relief camp. She stopped and talked to a woman who told her story. Her husband had first gone to the camp and disappeared. Then her children died of starvation and her thirteen-year-old son was killed in a car crash. "How do you find the strength to go one?" Norma asked. "I'm pregnant." The woman answered. Gary was moved by that story of hope.

When Mexico City suffered a major earthquake in 1985, UMCOR worked with the UMC of Mexico to rebuild homes. Gary made a trip there.

After tornados struck across Ohio and Western Pennsylvania UMCOR went to discover what needs were left unmet by FEMA and the Red Cross. A woman at the relief center was angry and would not talk. She finally told her story to a volunteer: her son had been killed in the tornado and her husband's business destroyed. Her husband then died in a car accident. The mortgage on their destroyed house was due and she could not pay. She was angry at God. The worker told her to return the next day. When the woman returned, the volunteer presented her with a receipt showing payment of her mortgage. The woman was finally able to cry. "Anyone can rebuild a house," Gary would preach. "Only the church can rebuild a life and a soul."

In 1985 and 1986 the Haitian people rioted against Duvalier. Gary was there just after the riots. He visited a school high in the mountains. Children walked long hours and across mountains for free education and the only meal they would have that day.

UMCOR funded this well on La Gonave in Haiti.
Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
On the island of La Gonave, he visited a well that was funded by UMCOR. The barren island was first populated by natives fleeing Spanish colonists and later by runaway slaves under the French.
Well on La Gonave, Haiti. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske

Goats in Haiti. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske

In a Haitian classroom. Metal was flattened and cut
to make the scene on the wall. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
Gary traveled across the country and the world, sometimes going to exotic places, but usually to see the least exotic communities. He visited a garbage dump community in Kingston, Jamaica where UMCOR was providing hygiene, health care, and immunization of pigs.

He gained a sense of perspective when he was proudly shown the water taps and indoor latrines--a cement trough in the corner--new luxuries made possible by UMCOR programs.

He visited Cairo's garbage dump where health care and sanitation projects were funded.

Ezbat El Nakhl. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
People living in Cairo's garbage dumps sorted and recycled for a living.

Ezbat El Nakhl
photo by Gary L. Bekofske
Donkey carts are used to transport the garbage.
Ezbat Nakhl. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
Smoke from burning trash can be seen in the photo above. The smell must be imagined.
Cairo's garbage dump where people lived.
Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
At the Caribbean Conference of Churches, he heard about American Cultural Imperialism. Satellite television from America had created a 'need' for Western goods, like Atari game systems and designer jeans and shoes. But there was no way to purchase them. People going to the States would bring back these goods to sell.

He went to Mexico City several times, once with Norma. At the home of a peasant, they were offered them cactus juice to drink. Gary whispered to Norma, "What do we do?" He did not want to get sick from the local water. Norma replied, "You drink; you eat; you smile; and pray hard." It would have been offensive to turn down hospitality. Another time an impoverished family proudly offered a meal, which went down hard knowing the sacrifice being made to honor them.

It was a high profile job. Gary's name frequently appeared in the United Methodist Reporter. He traveled with Bishops and important United Methodists across the world and the country. He visited Mission Fairs across America to talk about how the money raised by local church impacted the lives of strangers in need.

Gary had two back-to-back conferences in San Franciso and I flew out to join him. Several times I visited his office in New York City, once for a Christmas Party. I had my office friends to the house for several parties. But our worlds mostly stayed apart.

As Gary stayed in a beach front cottage in Belize, or rode a camel to the Pyramids and Sphinx, he felt sad and lonely wishing he could share the experience with me.
The Pyramids and the Sphinx. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske

The Pyramids. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske

View of the Nile. Photo by Gary L. Bekofske
 Meantime, I was home alone with P.J. and watching our first color television.
"UMCOR makes a difference simply because people of faith believ they can make a difference by sharing God's gift. The 'body broken for you' is Christ's gift to us. This gift frees us to participate--frees us to empty ourselves for others, frees us to make incarnate that which we have received." Norma Kehrberg
Gary had finally found a way to make a difference, to touch the lives of the least and the lost. He saw faith in action.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the 1920s

Storybook Style: American Whimsical Homes of the 1920s by Arrol Gellner and Douglas Keister is a delightful pictorial history of fantasy homes influenced by Old European rural homes.

The 1920s Period Revival styles included Mediterranean, Normandy, Tudor, and Spanish styles, and the relatively rarer Storybook.

I had not realized that the architectural style I have long admired had a name, or that it's roots date to WWI when soldiers returned from the European front with a love of the rural, rustic houses and Medieval structures they had seen: the quaint cobblestone cottage with thatched roof, the half-timbered Tudor house, the shingled roof, and rolled eaves and seawave rooflines.

In my neighborhood there is a house that I have admired, built in the 1920s when a rail line came into our suburban town, allowing workers in Detroit to live in what became the never ending suburbs of Oakland County, MI.

The Clawson Historical Center has identified the house as a Montgomery Ward 'kit house' called The Cranford from the late 1920s. It is described as a "Tudor revival and “storybook” style home" that "combines several varied architectural features, including a gambrel roof, dormers, Tudor peaks and faux stucco and half-timber."
from  Clawson Historical Museum
There are several Cranford homes in our 2 square mile city.

The authors follow the evolution of the style, from "Backstory" to "Opening Act;" how Hollywood "movie people" adopted the fantasy period styles for their homes; the legendary development of Hollywoodland; and how the fad for Period houses made its way across the country.

The history of period styles dates to the 'picturesque' fad of the 18th c which revived Medieval, Classical, and Gothic styles. This is when people built fake 'ruins,' homes that looked like castles, and the construction of fabulous public buildings like the Brighton Pavilion with its exotic Indian/Chinese/Saracenic influences.

In the 19th c, Victorians rebelled against Industrialization in a movement reviving hand craftsmanship, resulting in the Arts and Crafts movement. Art Noveau briefly ruled, with its naturalistic designs and artistry.

The Craftsman style became popular and led to the Bungalow. My great-grandfather and his sons built Bungalow homes in Tonawanda, NY in the 1920s.
Bungalow built by y grandfather John Becker in Tonawanda, NY
Another Becker bungalow in Tonawanda
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition was the roots of the Colonial Revival which ascended in the 1920s and continued through the Bicentennial. My parents and grandparents all decorated in the Colonial style.

circa 1930 greeting card features a Storybook
cottage with a dovecote and thatched roof
The Storybook Style was the most fantastic period style of them all. The photographs show the wide variety of interpretation. The more misshapen, bizarre, and odd the design the more it pleased!

The Witch's House was built for Willat Studios in 1920 as a set for silent films, including Hansel and Gretel. One of the producers moved it to Beverly Hills and made it into his home.

The style influenced home design across the nation. Sears offered a medieval influenced English cottage with "catslide roof and rubble-tome trim" in its 1931 catalog. The Montgomery Ward Cranford kit house is a very domesticated nod to the style.

The book includes Michigan's Bartholomew's Boulder Park in Charlevoix, created by Earl Young. Born in Mancelona, Michigan Young studied at University of Michigan for a year before dropping out and going into real estate. His twelve stone houses were built in the late 1920s after the peak of the Storybook style, but are influenced by trips to Europe.

Photo by my dad of a "Mushroom House" in Charlevoix, MI
He also built ''mushroom houses' in 1952, and seven homes in downtown Charlevoix including the Half House in 1947. He used local fieldstone and cedar shingled roofs.

Another Michigan mention is Henry Ford's purchase of stone cottages for Greenfield Village in the 1920s. He had wanted Arlington Row, but was rejected and instead bought a 1600s cottage from near Chedworth. The cottage is one of my favorite parts of the Village.

Cottswald Cottage at Greenfield Village
1600s Cottswald farm at Greenfield Village

pigeon house, 1600s farm at Greenfield Village
Storybook Style was such fun to read, with plentiful color photographs.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Storybook Style
by Arrol Gellner, Douglas Keister
Schiffer Publications
July 2017
$34.99 hardcover
308 color and b/w images | 176 pp
ISBN13: 9780764353086

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aunt Martha's Quilt Booklets

My Tuesday quilt group was given boxes of craft supplies from an unknown source. I picked up some Aunt Martha's quilt booklets that date from 1952 to 1977.
According to Quilt History Tidbits the dates are:
Quilt Designs; Old Favorites--& New (No. 3175), ca. January 1952
Quilt Lover's Delight (No. 3540), ca. January 1960
Bold and Beautiful Quilts (No. 3778), ca. February 1977
Quilts; Heirlooms of Tomorrow (No. 3780), ca. February 1977

There were several figural patterns. The Gingham Dog and Calico Cat patterns are dear to my heart. The Eugene Field poem The Duel was a favorite of mine as a girl, as I wrote about here.

There is a sweet lady with a nosegay to applique and embroider.
 And Sunbonet Sue and Overall Bill.
 My friend Linda is making a version of this Morning Glory pattern.

I love this Hexagon Wreath! I can't see myself making it this size, but I would like to make a larger version of this.
Hexagon Wreath

 The Cornflower is another cute floral pattern.

The Ferris Wheel Quilt is an interesting pattern that could work up to be very Modern done in solids on white.

 Some day I will do a Rose quilt. This Democratic Rose makes an 18" block.
Read about Aunt Martha at Quilt History

The Quilt Index has full text and photographs available of
Aunt Martha's Favorite Quilts (No. 3230), ca. January 1953 found at

Q is for Quilter has clean scans of all pages in Quilt Designs, Old Favorites found at

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Once there was a young wife who was making her first ham dinner. She carefully sliced the end off of the ham before putting it into the roasting pan.

Her husband queried, "Why did you cut the end of the ham off?"

"Because," the wife replied, "that's how Mom always did it."

The husband suggested, "You should ask your mom why."

So, when her folks arrived for dinner the young wife asked, "Mom, why do you cut the end of the ham off?" "Because," the mother replied, " otherwise it wouldn't fit into my roasting pan."

We are sometimes slaves to tradition, chanting 'it's always been done that way.' We do not consider the reasons behind received wisdom and the custom of the country. When tradition has the church or government behind it, there is even less reason to question its validity.

Once in a while, a rare mind arises that sees another possibility, a higher moral order; someone sensitive to the lives of individuals caught in a crushing system. They preach, they lead, they stand up against the system, and engender a new vision of how things can be.

First, someone has to question why we do things the way we do.

Presented for your consideration:

An island with a small separatist society, refugees from a violent world consumed by war and fire.

They have inherited a faith and laws from their founders. Like other tribal societies, their strict rules make their survival possible. There shall be no more than two children per family. When adults become superfluous they drink the potion. Dutiful wives and daughters are the foundation of society. Wives must submit to their husband, daughters their father.

The daughters hate their lives. They dream of escaping their father's caresses, the early marriages, the horror of childbirth too often resulting in 'bleeding out' or delivering a mutant child. They wish they could enjoy their childhood summers of wild freedom forever.

One girl resists, inciting a rebellion and setting off a chain of events that brings retribution and reveals horrifying secrets.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed is a hard novel to read. The cult is so despicable and perverse, I was conflicted by what I was reading and physically felt stressed. The author is a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in traumatized children and child sexual abuse. She knows what she is portraying in the novel. And she does it very well.

The novel was also compelling, with sympathetic characters and enough mystery to keep me turning pages. Without graphic descriptions, the author subtly implies the girl's hated realities.

When I finished I asked what did the novel offer to redeem the horror I felt as reading? Why would someone read this book? What can it teach me?

And I remembered the sermon illustration I'd heard long ago about the ham and the daughter imitating without understanding.

This dystopian novel is a warning.

Everything we do because it's the way people do things can be reconsidered. The Protestant Reformation, the American Revolution, votes for women, Civil Rights--these movements all arose because a few people questioned and challenged the established order.

But also we should consider the 'little' things we do. How we spend our time or our money. We buy a product without considering its human cost or environmental impact. We allow advertising to drive our purchase choices.

I won't soon forget these brave daughters willing to fight for dignity and wholeness. May they inspire us all.

Jennie Melamed lives with two Shiba Inus. I approve. I have two myself.
Kamikaze and Suki, our Shiba Inu
mill mother rescues
I received a free book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed
Little, Brown & Co
Publication July 25, 2017
$26 hardcover
ISBN: 978031643652

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jane Austen At Home by Lucy Worsley

I have been reading Jane and about Jane for thirty-nine years. I found Jane Austen at Home to be revealing and thoughtful, expanding my understanding, and bringing Jane to life as a living, breathing woman. I so enjoyed every bit of Jane Austen at Home.

"Miss Austen's merits have long been established beyond a question: she is, emphatically, the novelist of home."Richard Bentley, publishing Jane Austen's novels in 1833

Worsley offers this quotation at the beginning of her Introduction. The search for home is central to Austen's fiction, Worsley contends. Jane herself lost her first home, the Stevenson parsonage, upon her father's retirement. She moved from rental to rental before her eldest brother Edward, adopted into a wealthy family, offered his mother and sisters Chawton Cottage.

Austen's characters are in need of a home, have lost a home, are concerned about home in some way. Charlotte even enters a loveless marriage with Rev. Collins to have a home. And yet Jane turned down the opportunity to be a woman with a substantial home with the brother of her dear friends.

The book is about the importance of 'home' and how Jane was impacted by her homes. It is also about family, and friendships, and love affairs, and the greater world, and most of all, Jane's dedication to her novels and how she used the world she knew to create her fictional worlds.

The book appears in four acts, a nod to Jane's love of theater and plays.

  • Act One: A Sunday Morning at the Rectory presents Jane's childhood home and younger years, including her teenage trip to the Bath "marriage mart."
  • Act Two: A Sojourner in a Strange Land follows Jane and her family into the series of rental homes, vacations, and visits after her father's retirement from ministry: Bath, Southampton, Lyme Regis, and their Bigg's friend's home Manydown. All of these locations appear in her novels.
  • Act Three: A Real Home finds Jane, Cassandra, their mother and Martha Lloyd living in a gifted home provided by Edward (nee' Austen now Knight).
  • Act Four: The End, and After concerns Jane's later years, last novels, and illness and death.

It was interesting to read that, based on a pelisse Jane may have worn, her measurements were 33-24-33 and that she was a stately 5'7" tall. The small waist would have been from wearing stays as a girl. She had high cheek bones and full cheeks with good color, and long light brown hair with a natural curl.

Jane had many suitors over her life; those who perhaps she wished would make an offer did not, and those who showed interest or did offer she turned down. As Worsley remarks, consider the novels that would never have been born had Jane wed! Had she married she may have ended up like her niece Anna, worn out by age thirty from successive pregnancies.

Jane died two hundred years ago. Her family lived into the Victorian Age and endeavored to make Jane palatable to the new era by presenting a pious and loving Aunt Jane who excelled at spillikins. The real woman had a sharp wit and acerbic pen which she employed to earn money to live on. And Mrs. Austen, for all her ailments, loved to put dig her own potatoes and muck about in the kitchen garden! No wonder this Austen family seemed lacking in sophistication by Victorian standards.

The impact of slavery, plantations in the Caribbean, and the Napoleonic Wars on Jane's world and her family are also shown. With brothers in the navy, relatives invested in slave plantations, the bank failure of one brother and an aunt who was charged with shoplifting, Jane's life was anything but sheltered!

I am asking for this book as a birthday present, to sit on my shelf with my Jane Austen sets.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Jane Austen at Home
Lucy Worsley
St. Martin's Press
Publication July 11, 2017
Hardcover $29.99
ISBN: 9781250131607

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Nancy Writes Junk Mail for Ministers

One of the artists I worked with, Vic, made this impression of me for my birthday.
I am wearing a Brooks Brothers dress I had bought when I was in sales.
In seminary, I knew the address 2900 Queen Lane as the home of Fortress Press. Now I had a job working there, working for the Board of Publication (BOP) as a copywriter/copyeditor.

The interview was quite strange. The head of Promotion looked over my resume and noted I had worked for the Lutheran pastor who once was an editor at Fortress. She decided I had to be OK because my old boss had high standards. And that pretty much ended the interview.

I discovered that my coworker was another United Methodist pastor's wife, a younger woman whose husband was serving at the Providence/Mt. Pisgah charge! I discovered we were very different, and also that I was totally unprepared for my job.

My coworker was an English major who had interned at the American Poetry Review, to which I had subscribed to since it began. I had a sales background and had loved advertising since a teenager. If the arts--literature, music, and painting--influenced people's thinking and feeling, I saw advertising as another form of influence. The power of the word, whether in fiction or a print ad, fascinated me.

At my desk I had my Stunk & White and a good grammar book. And learned on the job how to write, edit, and prepare manuscripts. 

Everything was old-school, pre-computers. We used an IBM Selectric typewriter and cut and pasted changes with scissors and mucilage glue. 
A brochure and a print ad I wrote
We wrote ad copy for display ads in Lutheran publications, flyers and brochures, catalog copy, and letters for mass mailings. The in-house graphic artists did the layout and art. I took several evening classes on graphic design at the Abington Art Center, reimbursed by the BOP.

Book promotion copy ad I wrote
I had to learn about the new software that was being developed to write a display ad and an article that appeared in the Lutheran paper.

 I had challenges such as how to make a boring history of Christianity exciting....

 Vic did the art for this catalog I worked on.
After our boss red penned our manuscript, we would cut and paste, and then it went to the in-house artists for the graphic design aspect. I loved working with the artists. Vic was an older gentleman who had worked for Theodore Presser Music for years. Wendy had joined the army to get her art school education. They were later joined by a young Hispanic artist.
A drawing Vic presented to me.
Wendy's sketch in response to the Ethiopian famine.
It was the first full-time desk job I had ever had. After a few weeks, I started joining my coworkers at coffee breaks and lunch. I got to know people from other departments as we sat in large groups at long tables in the cafeteria. The job had its drawbacks; I gained twenty pounds the first year and another twenty pounds the second year. Regular lunches and sitting all day took its toll after years of skipping meals and being on the go. Plus, I drove to work as there was no direct mass transit route.

A woman we met through the Kensington Area Group Ministry worked there. Jane also was into clowning and Gary joined her, becoming a mime.

Gary in his mime costume
Jane had joined a new choir, The Choral Arts Society directed by Sean Diebler. Gary and I auditioned and were accepted. The choir had four performances a year.

Here I am at a Halloween party dressed as a witch
with Jane in her clown costume 
Sean was a demanding director, whipping us into a 200 voice choir that would sing with the Philadelphia Orchestra in several venues.

In 1984 we performed the magnificent A Sea Symphony by Vaughn Williams. That July we were at the Mann Music Center, an outdoor venue, for An Evening with Rogers and Hammerstein with Erich Kunzel directing The Philadelphia Orchestra. In November the choir participated in the second Concert for Humanity, with Ricardo Muti and Emmanuel Ax. And in December we sang the Messiah by Handel with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music. In 1985 we performed the Neue Liebeslieder by Brahms, the Gloria by Vivaldi, Sea Drift by Delius, and other pieces.

Gary's work took him to San Francisco for two back to back conferences over two weeks. I saved up money and flew out to join him for the weekend between conferences. We ate in Chinatown, went to the Warf and walked around the city, drove across the San Francisco bridge to see the John Muir Redwoods National Monument and Napa Valley. We even had time to stop at some famous wineries.
I was enchanted. I knew the geological history of the area and had read about the Redwoods. The very flora and fauna were so different. I did fall in love with the city and area and would have moved there in a heartbeat had it been possible.
Company picnic

The BOP was a real community with were social events and trips. We went to the Baltimore Inner Harbor to see the opening of their new Aquarium. I wrote this poem.

Baltimore, 1986

Room walled round with water
and fishes flashing, weaving
or slowly spiraling downwards
like drugged dancers
in weightless pirouette.
Some paired, some schooled, some
silver racers in revolution, some
enacting most ancient rituals.

Most primal and original of creatures!

And into these, with regal entrance
the stately ray wings effortlessly;
mottled brown back, wing tips
upturned, tail properly level.
Majestic, even to the cream underbelly
and smooth-lipped gills elegant rhythm,

proving humanity's simplicity
with a sting.

On Halloween, we wore costumes to work. I remade an old choir dress. wore a long blond wig, made a hat, and carried a real vintage ostrich feather fan, channeling Mae West. I am at the center arrow in the photo below.
Halloween at 2900 Queen Lane

My coworker left for another position in the building and a new woman was hired. We became friends and one weekend when Gary was away she invited me to her mother's cabin in the Poconos.

I enjoyed writing but my editing was not consistent. When the Lutheran pastor I had worked for offered to help me get a job at the Board of Pub I had declined. I knew my failings ever since my Kimball High writing class. My mechanics were not great, and I was not a perfectionist.

Right before my boss went on vacation she told me I was in charge of overseeing all the projects in process. She did not prepare me in any way. I neglected to notice my own copy was missing the all-important order form. I went on vacation and came back to learn that my coworker had been promoted instead of me.

My boss Mr. Lilyers
When Jane changed jobs I applied for her old job, working for Len Lilyers who managed the periodical and music departments. I did secretarial work and helped drum up advertising for a publication for organists. In my spare time, I helped at the in-house house retail shop, the St. Nicholas Shop, and the customer service gals with whom I shared office space.

 Another birthday came with another card from Vic.

At the BOP I was surrounded by people gifted in music, art, and writing. In my department alone there was Larry, a church organist who brought me in as a 'ringer' when his choir had special performances; Kent who was a wonderful pianist who had built his own harpsichord; Jane who sang in the Choral Arts Society;and Andy, editor of a periodical and a church organist, and his wife Jane who sang and played recorder.
Jane, Kent, and Larry were dear friends at work
My sketch of Kent, Jane, and Larry
Mt. Zion in Darby celebrated an anniversary and all the previous pastors were invited back.
Gary and I at the Darby anniversary celebration
Gary's job at UMCOR meant he was away long hours and many weeks. He left the house by 5:00 am, taking the subway to the North Philadelphia station, riding the train to Pennsylvania Station in New York City, then catching a subway to Riverside Drive. Depending on transit delays he was home about 7:30 at night. He traveled across the country and out of the country, sometimes being away two weeks a month. So my friends at the BOP were a Godsend.

When Christmas came I still worked a second job. In 1985 I was a sales clerk at the Lord and Taylor store in Elkins Park. I worked in the sweater department, back in the ugly sweater era, and spent my free time refolding them. I found notes for a poem on the back of their mimeographed employee instructions

Lights Out at Lord & Taylor, Xmas 1985

Hating things, yet loving, caught in the world's trap
desiring this man's gifts but despising his scope,
at night when the lights are out and the empty sterile hall
sends back my solitary steps upon the linoleum floor
the stony models' cold gaze diminishes all to its material form
the essence of breath and spirit flushed out, purged;
no longer do the clocks carol around the upright
nor muzak's mild assault reverberate. All is silent night and dearly still.

Oh! But were it not for beauty that money can purchase!
Cold change and worn paper rule our senses.
The richness of fine things, well-wrought artifacts
which enchant us, entrap us. Where it not for beauty
how content I would be to remain poor.

Who has turned us around this way, senses tutored
to delight in the lovely, who cannot pay the admission fee.
I have come to disdain the wealthy who take their wealth
so carelessly, who cannot understand those who live
not by their desires but by necessity.

 At night the gold chains, leather purses, silk shirts
all turn drab, seen for what they are, apart
from the value we award them. Then our petty desires
shrink, flimsy and hollow.

In 1986 I worked at the holiday St. Nicholas shop in a mall. That was fun because everyone working there was from the BOP.

I had not been a television watcher since Ninth Grade when I decided to give it up. (Except for Star Trek!) We only had a 13" black and white portable television. But with Gary away so much I was watching more tv. In 1985 we bought a 20" color tv.

I would come home from work and walk P.J. Because of the mass transit hubs, there were a lot of outsiders in the area. People made wide arcs passing us and when someone asked, "Yo-is that a miniature Doberman?" I would reply "Yes." No one wanted to mess with a Doberman. When we got home I had to play fetch with P.J. for an hour, and then I made a light meal to watch in front of the tv. I also took up working on Gary's stamp albums.

I had to deal with house problems on my own, too. One morning when I turned on our vintage torchiere lamp I heard a mad squeaking. I found a bat nestled around the now hot

When the water heater died and leaked all over the floor I had to clean it up and have a new one installed. Another morning I discovered I had forgotten to close the front window behind the couch and found the screen halfway pulled out. I realized someone in the process of breaking in must have met P.J. face to face. Thankfully, our 'miniature Doberman' scared the intruder away. P.J. also twice alerted me when people tried to steal our new Toyota Corolla when it was parked in the driveway behind the house.
Remember those big glasses of the late 1980s? 

Gary helping out in the kitchen.
Since turning thirty I had been thinking about a child. I had never before considered having a child. But now I saw the child with us, and I was constantly thinking about our actions and how they would impact a child.

Maternal Instincts

I am the one who always
comes when called, closing
windows at the first sound of rain,
opening the door
for the dog at night.

I caress children, sympathetic
to their fragile questionings,
fond of their games.

And the small animals
of the suburban malls gather
a great indignation in my breast,
a longing to set all creatures free.

Suffering from the hollowness
of my womb, my Antarctic breasts,
I am the woman born for loving
who has not the luck to love.
Another birthday, another card from Vic!

I had no idea back then how a woman's fertility drops after age 30. Every month I would dream that I was not pregnant. But one day I just knew. Gary and I bought a test. It was positive! I made an appointment at the HMO and told the intern I was two weeks pregnant. I was 34 years old and the biggest adventure of our lives was just beginning.