Category Archives: Memoir

Dear Abby: elders need to share family history

dear abbyDear Abby:

In your column today, “Not Interested” kvetches about his mother, “obsessed with family history and preserving attachments to relatives…her house is stuffed with furniture, books, legal documents, photos, and the like. Each has a story that goes with it.”

Instantly I identify with both of them, the young person who yearns to accomplish goals in the future, and the old person who wants to pass down her heritage (memories, objects, collections, pick one) to her descendants. I was that young person, dealing with a memory-preserving mother, and at age 79 I still share the lofty goal of :making a difference’  with the time I have left to me.  I am that old person, yearning rather desperately to leave ‘something of me’ behind.

Abby, your advice was practical but insufficient. You tell the son to find other relatives who might want the collection. You tell him not to make any promises he does not intend to keep.

As a former print journalist, I honor your word limitation. But you failed to acknowledge the deep almost desperate desire of elders to preserve their heritage. Perhaps later you can suggest ways for young people to help us do that. Videotape us telling our stories. Photograph our objects and make a book for us to keep. Set up storytelling sessions with our grandchildren. At the very least, be lovingly polite about our desperate need – as we face the end of our lives — to pass along a bit of ourselves.

And on the other side, we elders need someone to help us face the River Styx. Someone to remind us that, regardless of the objects that anyone keeps or does not keep, whatever we said or did in the past is what they will remember.

PS. Here’s a shout out to my sister, RosalieAnn Figge Beasley, and family genealogists everywhere. Those of us who don’t want to do that work now — we are likely to be grateful later.

 

 

 

Swimming upstream in the workplace

At the time, I didn’t notice it, how hard it was. In the ’60s and ’70s, we moms didn’t even think of having it “all” or “leaning in.” We thought we were lucky to have a smidgen. We were swimming ‘in the water.”

Then I read Tom Watson’s account of how the Watson dynasty built IBM  (“Father, Son & Company..”)  and I came across my old yellowed copy of a Rockefeller funded book project to encourage women to enter the workforce entitled (get ready) “How to go to work when your husband is against it, your children aren’t old enough, and there’s nothing you can do anyhow.”

You may have my copy of the latter. It was put out by Catalyst, founded in 1961 to make workplaces better for women. That was the year I graduated from college and — newly married and out of the workforce — I had NO idea how hard things were for women.

Watson’s book is a good read. But if somebody like Watson had published his autobiography in the ’70s, I might have recognized how badly the deck was stacked against women.  Everywhere where you  might think Watson would refer to “they,” “employees,” “managers,” whatever term — he uses the pronoun MEN. There simply weren’t any women in his ken. All men. 

That was the way it was, then. It was ordinary. When my husband went to a summer training program at IBM, the class picture had two women and 30 men.  It was in the water.

Einstein Ever Fascinates

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Einstein lived at 110 Mercer Street, now a private home with no house number.

While on duty to give tours of the Tiffany window at Princeton United Methodist Church, I encountered a visitor who wanted to take an historical tour, shorter than the ones offered by the Historical Society of Princeton.

Princeton Tour Company is your answer, I said, but you will still have to hoof it.

Vainly I looked in online files to find one of my 20 minute driving tours, titled “Gossips’ Guide to Princeton,” but I did find this “Einstein Tour,” written in 2005. It’s longer than 20 minutes if you get out at each stop. I’ve updated it a little. It begins:

Einstein has always been Princeton’s most sought-after celebrity. Visitors from Europe who are visibly unimpressed by “old” buildings like Nassau Hall, and those from other continents who turn a deaf ear to stories of the town’s role in the Revolutionary War – they all know about Albert Einstein and are eager to view any signs of the great man’s legacy.

Continue on the Einstein journey

The newest addition to the Einstein tour might be the sculpture that intends to represent Einstein’s brain, pictured in this article on the Arts Council of Princeton website. 

sculpture of einstein's brain

Finding your ender: Here’s help

 

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Tabernacle by sculptor Adam Kraft at St. Lorenz Kirche in Nurnberg.

Good writers supposedly know how they will end an article before they start. Enders were always my burden (as in this gratuituous photo of a 15th=century stone sculptor). 

From Medium, here is extensive help, by Jason Shen, filed for my personal  use and perhaps useful to you.

How Great Writers End Their Articles: What you can learn from the final paragraphs of 100 top feature articles from Malcolm Gladwell, the Atlantic, Fast Company, and the New York Times

In lieu of a card

 

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My Christmas Card: before dawn, Rochester New York

I probably won’t get around to answering your cards this year, again. Sometimes I have sent New Year’s cards. Or Valentines. Or St. Patrick’s Day cards. 

Instead, here is a list of resources that are helping me face 2019.

At Princeton United Methodist Church, we have embarked on a series called Relationships and Faith, based in part on materials from the Arbinger Institute. to  learn the difference between an Inward Mindset and an Outward Mindset. Pastor Jenny Smith Walz is undertaking the important and difficult task — to talk about difficult questions of gender and race within the church. Her challenging sermon series, titled “The Beloved Community,”  begins this month, focusing on “What God wants for God’s people.”  The ongoing study has workbooks available in the church office. Also here is a link to one of the Arbinger books,

I am also led to discover, and embrace, the work of Julia Cameron. Known for founding  The Artist’s Way, Cameron recommends — nay, requires — those pursuing creativity to write “Morning Pages,” three pages written in the morning, first thing, to clear the addlement from one’s brain. I found my first Cameron book in one of those “free libraries” on the street in DC in October, and it has taken me this long to convince myself it might work.

For the evening, I am trying to use a journaling system called Vertellis Chapters,  This “mix of mindfulness and stoicism practices” is a Netherlands-based journaling system (the Dutch are so smart!) and I found it at my favorite shopping spot – online.

Then, my old favorite, is the Upper Room Disciplines. a book of daily devotions based on the lectionary — the Bible passages read throughout the Christian church. So often, that commentary, that scripture, speaks to a current sadness or gladness of the day. My small group at PrincetonUMC, the Monday Morning Group, uses these readings for informal study.

Am I reading these, writing these, studying these consistently every day? No. 

George was a habit-driven person and I am the exact opposite. He did exercises daily without fail. When it comes to doing exercises daily, I mostly fail. 

But I am trying to create these habits. And I feel led to share them with whoever is out there, just as Jenny, Ginny, Gerri, Aimee, Anthony, Ineke, Judi, Mary Lib, Pat, Deborah, Susannah and so so many more have shared their inspirations with me.  

 

 

 

Gossip’s Guide: What to see in 20 minutes?

Antonio Salemme's Paul Robeson
Antonio Salemme;s Paul Robeson

 

Conversing with a reference librarian at the Princeton Public Library, I learned that visitors sometimes ask: “What can I do in an hour before I leave for the airport?”

With my Gossip’s Guide hat on – I suggest: 

In 20 minutes, more or less

The Quick Paul Robeson Tour: Check out the Robeson bust by Antonio Salemme in the Princeton Room on the second floor of the library. Walk past the Arts Council of Princeton’s Robeson bust (this site formerly belonged to the Colored YMCA) to the Paul Robeson house and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, where his father preached. (Both visible only from the outside).

the Norman Rockwell “Yankee Doodle” painting at the Nassau Inn Tap Room (reminding the patron that it is NOT a colonial era building!). Check out the alumni headshots. If you have time, a free place to sit is the upstairs lounge, by the fireplace.

Princeton Cemetery. Available at the entrance is a new brochure. 

Tiger Walk:  Stroll from the tiger in Palmer Square and the tigers at the entrance to Nassau Hall. Keep going and you will find more.

The Comparative Architecture Tour: Enjoy the interior of the Princeton Public Library, a Taj Mahal of libraries, designed by the Hillier firm. Diagonally across, the work of postmodern architect Michael Graves. Contemplate the differences. Then check out the interior of the Arts Council and the current exhibit.

Dohm Alley: a startling array of thoughts and objects in a small narrow space. Plus, there’s a water feature good for contemplating, and it’s right down the street from the town’s college bookstore (never miss a chance to enjoy a college bookstore.)

In 30-40 minutes

A quick Einstein tour — the Einstein museum in the back of Landau’s plus the Einstein bust at the corner of 206 and Nassau Street, great photo op. (The house is too far to walk in a hurry, but I tell people to drive and park on Edgehill.) 

Morven, now made relevant by truthful and inclusive exhibits that tell the stories of female occupants and slaves.

Prospect Gardens, always attractive in any season.

Cotsen Children’s Library inside Firestone Library

Princeton University Chapel, always open and it has a brochure about the windows

Tiffany Window Tour at Princeton United Methodist Church on Fridays and Sundays noon-2.

Quick sculpture tour 1: Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei and Picassso’s Head of a Woman, down by the former Dinky Station.

Quick sculpture tour 2: The Plaza in front of the chapel: statue of John Witherspoon, Song of the Vowels by Lipschitz, and (just inside the University Library, and open to the public) Noguchi’s White Sun. Throw in Oval with Points if you are walking that way.

This tour works if a Princeton native can direct the visitor. Later I may have time to add the links. What would YOU recommend?

 

Connect with your audience

EileenSinett_colorI was lucky enough to be able to take Eileen Sinett’s 4 Points of Connection  earlier this year. In this workshop I was able to put together a talk about social justice — not an easy task but she skillfully guided me through it. Her next presentation of this workshop is on October 18, details here.

Sinett knows how to connect with her students, whether a student is frightened to just open her mouth, or is an experienced speechmaker seeking to hone her skills. Everybody comes away more confident, more ready to step up to the podium.

 

With local sports, he made a difference

A wonderful tribute for a sports writer and, indeed, any journalist: “He instilled in us the importance of knowing that the event you were covering that day was the most important thing to the players and coaches on the field. George never thought he was bigger than the event and he never thought another event was bigger than the one he was covering.”

This accolade is for Trentonian sports writer George O’Gorman from Bob Nuse, Packet sports editor, who I am privileged to number among my friends at Princeton United Methodist Church. Here is his memorial column.

Medieval Nuremberg

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Good friends,  Ginny and Norm, will have two days in Nuremberg, our home town in the ’60s. They have booked the Nuremberg trial tour, and here is my ‘take’ on what else to see. Our most recent visit was 2015, when our friend Martin gave us an excellent tour of the medieval city, rebuilt after the war to look old again. Take your guidebook but here are my picks with the caveat that my sense of direction is spotty; check your map!

The “berg” in Nuremberg is a hill. The “burg” on the top of the hill is a castle.  Start at the  the castle, the highest point in the old city. You can do it on your own but if you take the  short tour you get into the “deep well,” which is fun and could be a sermon topic. You will learn it was NOT part of Bavaria, but of Franken, of historic import, says Martin.

As you walk down the hill to the RR station and tourist office, you will pass most everything you need to see. Plan to get to the Hauptmarkt and Frauenkirche at noon, so you can see the Glockenspiel clock.

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But do stop at the Albrecht Durer house. We spent at least an hour there, going room to room and learning about 16th century life. You might even be greeted by Agnes Durer. A Durer-focused gift shop is across the street.

 

 

My favorite of the churches is St. Lorenz. Buy the English guidebook and you can easily spend an hour. You will also like the big area at the back with its mission exhibits. Weekday services are at 5 p.m., just before closing time at 5:30.

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Annunciation at St. Lorenz

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Tabernacle by Veit Stoss at St. Lorenz. Open 9 to 5:30, services at 5.

 

 

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The Nurnberg Angel (I don’t have an umlaut but I like this spelling better) hangs over the streets in December for the Christkindlmart. You should be able to find her in the souvenir shops; she is made from colored foil. The story goes that a Nurnberg craftsman was grieving over the loss of his golden-haired daughter. She appeared to him in a dream, and he made a little doll out of colored foil for his Christmas tree.

 

By this time you will have reached the Hauptmarket, where you can get fixings for a picnic. They probably sell lebkuchen, and they might even have it ‘gluten frei.’ You can read about the sad history of this area,  a plaza dominated by Frauenkirche, here.  Hopefully you arrived at noon so you can See the clock . Don’t bother with the church. The Beautiful Fountain is also here as is St. Sebaldus Church, worth seeing and open till 6 p.m.

At the bottom of the hill, right at the wall of the old city, across from the RR station and the tourist bureau, is the crafts market (Handwerk Market) good for window shopping, tho pricey, and it also has eateries.  Tree ornaments are hard to resist!  If you might want to buy loden woolens (I love my cape), price them at Landau’s before you leave or online. They are more fun to buy in Germany, but they might be just as well priced in Princeton. But shop in Germany for unusual and stylish woolen hats.

Another option for sightseeing is this excellent walking tour from the New York Times; it emphasizes St. Sebaldus Church.

Somewhere in the city – ask in the tourist office because I can’t remember where – is an outside statue of a man whose front half is normal and whose back half is full of worms and ugly things. It’s a cringe-worthy Bible lesson for medieval passersby.

Along the way you will encounter lots of photogenic spots, including this one on the Pegnitz River. Be sure to get someone to take this iconic photo!

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Thanks, Martin, for a terrific tour! Ginny and Norm, have a wonderful time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From worm poop to designer bottles?

TerraCycle_CEO_Tom_SzakyGarbage is certainly the hero at the Terracycle headquarters, says Diccon Hyatt, who tells of Tom Szaky’s latest iteration, a new business model for his throwaway manufacturing business. It’s Diccon Hyatt’s cover story in the issue dated July 4 but being distributed a day early, click here, 

It’s a long way from when the headquarters for Szaky’s four-person start-up was a basement room, with a futon cot, on the corner of Nassau and Chamber Street.  U.S. 1 has charted his progress. His success story – leaving Princeton University to start a business –  is no comfort to hand-wringing parents of students aiming to quit school to follow their dreams.