Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe
Summer Reading List
What a pleasure to look through the Summer Reading Special Edition in Sunday’s paper. The selections were a treat: heroics, thrillers, memoir, celebrity memoirs, new reads, gift books, poetry and adaptations. The thought of any one of them with a comfy chair, in warm weather, made me smile. Thank you, USA Today Network.
A Way With Words
Business coach George Kao has such a way with words. In his May post, he wrote about accepting being exactly where you are, not upset about your level of success. He used the example of a white-belt martial artist not being ready to compete with a black-belt martial artist. Right.
Newbery-Award-winning books have taken me around the world. The preface of Elizabeth Borton de Trevino’s I, Juan de Pareja, hooked me right in, as did her narrator’s voice of a black slave, who grew up in one household in Sevilla, Spain, in the early 1600s. After his master’s death, Juan was willed to a family in Madrid, and endured horrendous hardships on the way. It took decades for the events to unfold between Spain, Italy and back, and the eventual death of the new master, Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. Although this story was fictional, the settings and relationships were believable and satisfying.
Piles of Books
Despite getting most of my books from the library and donating my favorite books regularly, I still live in a house with bookshelves that have no space for new books, and piles of books in almost every room. Recently, I pulled out one that had been on my bedroom night table and wondered why it was still there? It was my friend Paula Weld-Cary’s My Origami Mother: Reclaiming My Life After an Abusive Childhood (2022). Ends up, I had finished her moving memoir, but hadn’t read parts two and three on stories and ways to heal in which she referred to The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk (2014).
So Many Stories
While traveling a few weeks ago, we picked up Women’s History: Distinguished Women of Pennsylvania put out by Pennsylvania State Senator Carolyn Comitta. This free magazine had over two dozen biographies of women artists, athletes, government workers, writers, scientists, and social reformers. Women included some born in the state like Marian Anderson and Louisa May Alcott, and others with strong connections, like Hannah Callowhill Penn and Lucretia Mott. Most had a picture, and a good bio. It was a pleasure to learn about this impressive selection of women, in such an attractive format. Its large print and enough white space made it easy on the eyes.
The idea that once I got back on track after surgery, I’d go back to what set me up for a bypass in the first place, has been upsetting. No, I don’t miss running around like a squirrel burying its stash. As I’ve returned to a few regular activities, I’ve have to consider why I’m doing them when my energy level is still low? During the pandemic, posting a blog was one way to overcome the intense loneliness. Now that certain conditions have eased while other world problems seem to have worsened, what makes sense?
If you were to divide 8 billion people by 365 days of the year, you’d get millions of people having the same birthday. It blew my mind to think of so many people feeling special on the same day. Today is to be the birthday of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), a most remarkable man.
The Slow Lane
Friendship, soups and cards have kept my morale up since major surgery three weeks ago. Even so, being in the slow lane can be a humbling, upsetting experience.
My head has been filled with thoughts and my heart with feelings, but putting pencil to paper and sitting at a computer have been beyond my grasp since double bypass surgery two weeks ago. How did that happen? No matter now. I brought several books with me to fill the hours at the hospital and was grateful beyond words for being able to read them.
The first one, a freebie from a neighborhood Little Free Library, even though it was so-so, filled in gaps while waiting. Squirrels in the School (1996) by Ben Baglio told of the dilemma of Mandy and James, two students whose props for the school play got chewed up by squirrels. The story had a good blend of conflict, pro-animal rights and small-town busy bodies. Mandy’s drive to relocate the squirrels was strong.
I brought home the prescription packet for two medications this week, and decided I might as well read the printouts that came with them. The list of side effects for the statin was enough to trigger a panic attack and the caution that it could have more side effects for those over 65 was depressing. The print out for nitroglycerin was just as cheerless and the caution about those over 65 made me cringe. Next I read the 40-page heart surgery information booklet I had received on Monday and by the time I finished it, wanted to crawl into a hole. How is one supposed to process this generic information and disclaimer? Fortunately, I have a very kind and caring doctor at Highland Family Medicine, who helped me out.
A friend who has stents dropped by this week to give me a copy of Time Health “The Latest Scoop on Statins.” The editorial on cholesterol was generally good. I’m not sure why the first article was on gene editing solutions for recurring cancers, but maybe that option will become available for heart disease. The brief on deaths from alcohol was sobering. The brief on sleep was useful. The brief on fitness and exercise was good. Finally the centerfold on statins. While it had good explanations, what caught my attention was a “non-statin cholesterol option that may resolve muscle problems.” I like the sound of that.
Heavy Heart, Happy Heart
Word was this past week, that our part of western New York had 49 days without sun. Yikes. I don’t know if dealing with seasonal affective disorder ever gets easier, but January was a doozy. Well, it ends up I have more than. This week, I learned that I have a clogged left artery. It was with a heavy heart that I faced several medical appointments and dealt with the waiting by finishing All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ((1986) by Robert Fulghum.
Stardust and Stuff
I brought Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ((1986) with me to an appointment where I knew I would be waiting for a while. What a treat to reread his popular essay about sharing, not hitting others, playing fair, putting things back, cleaning up after yourself, not taking other’s things, saying sorry, washing your hands before eating, taking a nap every afternoon and more. Beyond that one are more, mostly short reads, perfect pick-me ups.
What a pleasure to read about “The art of "Louise's Daughter" by Rochester neighbors Cheryl and Don Olney, that is on display at the Central Library’s Arts & Literature Division (Rundel Building). “Local artists Cheryl and Don Olney expertly craft colorful, upbeat, wooden figures of dancers and other joyful designs. They also make a variety of jewelry, note cards, and mechanical/kinetic pieces. Their business, named “Louise’s Daughter” in honor of Cheryl’s mother, was established in 1995.” I am so proud to know them!
My Happy Place
I am prone to intense bouts of cabin fever and one way I work them out is to go to my happy place piecing together PowerPoints. I have several stored in my computer files along with dozens of images about neighborhood and local history. I remember years ago thinking there must be a way to use them and share some of what I’ve learned. Happily, the other day I got the idea to convert them to eBooks, and saw that it is supposedly not that hard to do.
In no order in particular, I would like to give thanks for:
My decision on the first day of 2022, when I chose once again to study the workbook daily lessons in A Course in Miracles. The ending lesson of the year includes the following: “And if I need a word to help me, He will give it to me. If I need a thought, that will He also give.” As an eclectic type, this year I combined ACIM’s daily lesson, with online daily sacred cards from The Source Cards, and then added “The Inner Child Meditation” and Ho’oponopono Hawaiian forgiveness prayer from YouTube. What a wonderful blend.
Happy All of It!
As the year draws to a close, I have to look back on the gifts that I have received from many books, magazines and newspaper articles. Thank you to all the writers who connect us to each other. Happy All of It to Everyone!
On a bright note, I was thrilled to receive a reply from noted scholar, Celeste-Marie Bernier. Among other kind words, she shared this about my 2nd edition of Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad: “My heartfelt congratulations to you on your breathtakingly beautiful book!!!!!!!!!! Thank you ever so ever so ever so ever so much for wonderfully giving me a copy ! I read it the first minute I got on the train from Rochester to Boston and absolutely loved loved loved loved it - absolutely magnificent!!!!! A tour de force of sparkly brilliance!! Wow wow wow!!”