Sunday, September 27, 2009

On a Personal Note

This book, "On a personal note, a guide to writing notes with style" is my newest book, [will be cross referenced at my regular blog] having received it for my recent birthday along with lots of note cards. I was told it has many good tips, and it does--most of which I already know. But it's a great review. Books on how to write letters and notes are a genre that go back a few centuries. What note and letter guides don't tell you is the effort that goes into it. Even for someone who writes as much as I do, I sometimes get discouraged by the task.

Here's how mine goes. First, I look through the list of names on my family list--siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, my own children, to jog my memory if I need to write something--encouragement for that elusive job, a wedding anniversary, a thank you note for a special favor, or a get well/thinking of you card. Since paper address books just don't do it anymore (although I still have my mother's, grandmother's and some old ones of mine), I usually have to go to my computer database and check the Christmas label list. Then I get out the last several issues of the church newsletter--hospitalizations, moved to care facility, baptisms, deaths, etc. Then I check off the people I know, and get out the directory for the people I don't know, or can't quite remember the face. The picture directory isn't as up to-date as the printed directory, so both have to be used. Then I get out the bound day-by-day calendar book (no year) in which I record who got a note and why on what date (I write in the year). This needs to be reviewed from time to time, because if a church member I don't know well comes up to me 2 months later and thanks me for the card, I don't want to say, "Who me?"

We were out of town for 10 weeks this summer, so yesterday I covered up the kitchen table and counter top with all my accoutrements, and wrote 25 notes and cards, using my new gift. I'm not done yet, but I ran out of stamps. So many people use e-mail these days, that a regular U.S. mail piece is a real treat. It's especially so for people who are residing in assisted care or a nursing home. Even if they no longer remember who you are by name, they can enjoy a pretty card. There's one family in church I don't know but have been sending notes for several years about their daughter who was in a terrible auto accident caused by a drunk driver. Many people must be writing to them, or calling, because I've received occasional updates on her condition. One man I never expected would leave the hospital is home and in remission. My friend Lynne crafts lovely cards and she has helped me out with special "guy type" cards which are a little difficult to find.

If you're on one of my lists, you'll probably be getting a note on my new birthday stationery soon. The handwriting isn't what it used to be, so I hope you can read it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Six months in Bible Lands

On August 2, 2009 I bought a "bag of books" for one dollar at the Women's Club book sale in Lakeside, Ohio. There wasn't much left when I got there and I just picked some up randomly. When I got home and went through the bag I found some real treasures, including a first edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay's letters. However, I also found a delightful book with a very long title,
    Six Months in Bible Lands and Around the World in Fourteen Months; observations and notes of travel in England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, India, Ceylon, China and Japan. With fifty illustrations. Moral, practical and religious subjects are treated in harmony with the Bible. Wenger, A. D. Joseph B. Steiner, Mennonite Publisher, Doylestown, PA. 1902.

    Book Description from an internet used book site: Hard Cover. Book Condition: Good. Dark green cover, some light spots. cover slightly frayed at spine ends and corners. clean and tight. 550 pp. $14.00 (what the dealer wanted, plus shipping)
Wengers are in my family tree, so I first looked up Amos Daniel Wenger, and learned through a genealogy that he is a descendant of Christian Wenger, not Hans and Hannah Wenger, my first family Wenger in America. But they all arrived in the U.S. around the same time, the 1730s. Also in looking through internet genealogies, I learned that his wife of one year had died in 1898 and in January 1899 he began this around-the-world trip, returning in 1900, to recover from his grief. This is not mentioned in the passages I've read. He later married his second wife with whom he had 8 children all of whom either became ministers, missionaries or spouses of same. He edited his notes with research about the areas, and published the book in 1902.

He says in the introduction that no orthodox Mennonite had ever written a travel book of this type and it would fill a place in the church literature. Often I have a problem with the flowery purple prose of 100 years ago, but he is a delightful, easy read, and sounds like he went on our trips of the last few years. Before he even gets out of the U.S. he lets us know on page 3 that foolish claims of materialism and the worldly culture are claiming even Mennonites. Wenger has little use for magnificient buildings and would prefer to see the money go to feed the poor. More about that when he gets to Europe!

I blogged about this book here and here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ohio Scenes and Citizens

Last night we attended a play at Lakeside's Hoover Auditorium based on the life and letters of John and Mary Brown, formerly of Hudson, Ohio, before he became famous as a militant abolitionist.

Mary Brown sounded a bit familiar to me, so when I got home I browsed my little shelf of cottage books, many of which are about northern Ohio or the lake, and found "Ohio scenes and citizens" by Grace Goulder, a very popular Cleveland writer who died in 1984 at 91. Mine is an orange paperback in excellent condition, Landfall Press, 1973, reprinted from the 1950 World Publishing Co. The chapter on John Brown's wives is probably the only one I'd read in this collection of articles that originally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Her work on Dianthe and Mary Brown is just a masterpiece of research, with material taken from letters diaries, interviews with relatives, and trips to archives, cemeteries and libraries. I didn't see anything that was in conflict with last night's presentation, although Mr. Artzner commented after the play that within the past decade there have been many new books on John Brown. Maybe so, but if you want to know anything about his wives, check out Grace Goulder. Really terrific.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So Your Husband's Gone to War!

This is another great book I picked up at a Memorial Day yard sale (how appropriate). It was only fifty cents, but what makes it special, besides the interesting content, is it still has the cover. That's unusual for a book going on 70 years old. When I checked on e-Bay I didn't see any that still had the cover. The book was given to someone named Emily on Christmas 1944--and I'm guessing she was entering this new experience of being the woman left behind. Oddly, the handwriting looks exactly like my mother's, who in March 1944 had to learn all the tips and tricks the author Ethel Gorham writes so well about as a war-time wife.

This was a very interesting book to research on a number of levels. I found a great review at "Library Thing" where people share reviews of books in their own collection. I particularly liked this one by a retired librarian, Mary Lou Miller, living in Nebraska:
    There are chapters on loneliness, on budgets, on dealing with furloughs. She writes about coping with rationing, occupying lonely hours, and what to tell the children. She is honest about worries and fears, without being depressing. There is one whole chapter on learning to recognize uniforms and insignia (so you don't look like an idiot in front of your husband), and another excellent chapter on how to write the essential "letters from home."

    Since 1942 was relatively early in the U.S. involvement, rationing hadn't progressed much beyond sugar and leather. The reality of Hitler's treatment of the Jews wasn't yet known (although she does protest the beating and humiliation of Jews on the streets of Europe, she did not know about the extermination camps). She speculates about what further changes are coming, and is often quite accurate in her predictions.

    What I found most touching was the final chapter, where the author discusses the woes left over from the First War, and what lies in store after this war. She wants - as we all do - a better world after the suffering and sorrow of this global conflict. But the title of the chapter is "What Are You Waiting For?" Gorham's premise is that we must start now to make things better. She specifically mentions improving racial relations (How can we gain the trust of the Asian populations if we still think whites are superior?), an idea that seems quite a bit ahead of her time.
I found the many references to WWI very interesting--because that was the "big" war of Gorham's memory, even though she was a young child then. She thought Americans wouldn't make the same mistakes--like men returning from war to find their jobs taken by women. She was obviously a career woman and she really walks a tight rope on this advice.
    So many women got their start financially in the last war. For years the success magazines have been full of the tales of their skyrocket rise. Now, in this war, women are really leaping ahead to fame. Where they took over a white-collar executive post before, or flowered into advertising, or headed a store, they're now running factories, publishing newspapers, poaching on purely male preserves.

    And don't think the men don't know it. They remember the postwar employment horror tales. They remember the stories of boys who came back from France to find that the little girl who had taken the job over for the duration was now firmly entrenched in an important career. Taking herself seriously, to boot, so it wasn't fair to dislodge her, was it? They remember the uncles and fathers and older brothers who walked the streets looking for jobs, who found no jobs because there were women in them. . .

    She believes in a woman's right to work, in war or peace, if she wants to. The fact that employers discriminated against the men who returned after the last war, that they didn't keep their fanfare promises, and that many women didn't get out of jobs that were given them on a temporary basis don't alter that right."
What a wonderful read for Memorial Day, a day when we honor the war dead, beginning with the Civil War in 1868.

Notes on the author: GORHAM--Ethel. Of Westport, CT., died Wednesday, November 17, 2004, after a short illness, age 94. In her long career, Mrs. Gorham was the author of several novels & non-fiction books, a noted peace activist, an advertising executive and a loving wife and mother. She is survived by her children Deborah and John, by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband Charles O. Gorham and by her daughter Abigail Gorham. Donations in her memory may be made to the NAACP, the Friends of the Westport Connecticut Library, or the charity of your choice

Author of “So your husband’s gone to war!” Recommended by Eleanor Roosevelt in her column "My Day," May 3, 1943

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

The only thing more fun than poking around a Lakeside yard sale is finding a bargain for one dollar. This book, purchased on Oak Street near 5th on May 23, 2009 looks new. I did find some papers in it, so it has been used. When new it retails for about $25, but on used book sites it's quite a bit less.

I spent several hours looking at it last night, and although I'd planned to leave it at our lake house, I'm going to take it home and remove some less satisfactory, less readable Bible sources. Why would anyone get rid of such a nice book? I think because it is conservative. Many of the editors and writers are Baptist. The illustrations are fabulous--particularly interesting (and worth a dollar by themselves) are the entries on Ephesus, which we just visited in March. But I really appreciate its fairness--something you never find in a liberal, scholarly compilation, who like to pretend that evangelicals and fundamentalists scholars don't exist or it's an oxymoron. Here's the product review:
    The Holman Bible Dictionary edited by Trent C. Butler has become one of the best-selling Bible reference tools since its publication in 1991. Now this revised, updated and expanded edition called the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary offers even greater value to Bible students and teachers with over 250 new articles, new maps and charts, and 90 new contributors. This book is designed both for those who need information quickly and those who want in depth treatments of hundreds of topics. Each entry begins with a brief definition of the word followed by more detailed information. Through its more than 700 full-color graphics, this book brings readers right into the world of the Bible and enables them to better understand the Scriptures.

    Features: Exhaustive definitions of people, places, things and events-dealing with every subject in the Bible

    Over 700 full-color photos, illustrations and charts.

    Unique scale drawings and reconstructions of biblical places and objects based on careful archaeological research.

    Over 60 new, full-color maps with map index

    Major articles on theological topics, collective articles on plants, animals, occupations, etc.

    Pronunciation guide for all proper nouns and other hard-to-pronounce words.

    Up-to-date archaeological information from excavations in Israel.

    Timeline that compares biblical history to world history

    Summary definitions that begin each entry for quick reference.

    A variety of Bible translations used-the only dictionary that includes the HCSB, NIV, KJV, RSV, NRSV,REB, NASB, ESV, and TEV.

    Many articles based on the original languages, but written in a user-friendly style. Technical language and abbreviations are avoided.

    Extensive cross-referencing of related articles

    "Quicktabs": marginal alphabetical guides for quick and easy location of information
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Revised and Expanded, Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, general editors. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, 2003. (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0805428364
ISBN-13: 9780805428360
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Out the door, no room for more

After getting a look at my messy bookshelves I decided it was time for a bit more culling.

Martyrs' Davy by Michael Kelly
An alphabetical life by Wendy Werris
A new prescription for women's health by Bernadine Healy
Abraham by Bruce Feiler
Working men by Michael Dorris (d. 1997)
Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
Cloud Chamber by Michael Dorris
The Crown of Columbus by Michael Dorris
A heart a cross and a flag by Peggy Noonan
This Week's short short stories by Stewart Beach, c1947
A book of the short story by E. A. Cross, c1934
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder.

I suppose you can tell I loved Michael Dorris' writing. Never did believe the tales told about him after his suicide and he wasn't around to defend himself. Supposedly he was part native American, but it's hard to prove--anyone can say it. But he did adopt 3 native American children, all of whom had some problems with alcoholic birth mothers as I recall. Euro-Americans are so guilt ridden they often elevate people of native parentage to a special status. Still, I liked his writing, and he believed so passionately that he could make a difference in the life of a damaged child. Call it suicide, but I'd call it a broken heart.

And Peggy Noonan. Flippity flop, where to hop? Where will her garden grow next? Not on my bookshelves.

I've pretty much cleaned out most of my short story books, both the how-to's and the collections thereof. In the 90s I had a lot of fun writing short stories, so I liked to read other authors to see how they managed to pack a punch in a few pages. The short stories of 40-50 years ago were much better than today, but no one writes that way any more.

Bernadine Healy was head of the College of Medicine for awhile at Ohio State when I was still working. She was attractive and on TV a lot. Went on to NIH. Appears in articles from time to time.

Michael Kelly (1957-2003) was the journalist and editor (The Atlantic) the libs loved to hate because he reported on the Iraq war. Then he was killed and they were so angry because he deprived them of their favorite target. Such hysteria. As bad as BDS. May have been the start of that when they had to move on to a new host for their parasitic behavior. I don't think I ever even cracked this one open.

I think I picked up the Wendy Werris book because she used to work for Pickwick, and so did I. She has a blog that she writes in about twice a year. Tsk, tsk.

The Bruce Feiler book was for our book club. I think I missed that meeting.

Dear old Garrison Keillor. I loved to listen to his old radio show. He's wandered a bit. That movie, "Prairie Home Companion" he did a few years ago was good--sort of recaptured the feel. Some of the performers had been at Lakeside.

Sophie's world came highly recommended, and I bought it intending to read, but could never get into it. The blurb says "a wondrous journey of intellect and imagination that will make you look at life through the eyes of a child again." I suspect it was too late.

I'm trying to decide if I want to get rid of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 2 (very fat) vol., 3rd ed. You can probably get them for $2 or so--so cheap you could start a fire with them. However, because editors keep revising what is "American" you almost want to hang on to them. This edition is from the late 80s. When I pulled it off the shelf I took some time to read Anne Bradstreet's poetry about her children leaving the nest. She may have been the first to think of it as "empty nest syndrome." It's a terribly painful time. I'm sure she causes a lot of conflicted feelings among feminists--I mean, she's our earliest published woman poet, but she's so. . . so. . . womanly.