Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


What We Like

Jul 08, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

As my family sorted books lately, a favorite surfaced: The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story by Jean Giono (1985/2005). To my amazement it was like reading it for the first time.  Most likely I skipped over the foreword by Wangari Maathi, skipped the afterword, and read only the touching story with magnificent wood engravings by Michael McCurdy. Now I know what a world changer Maathi was and eagerly read about reforestation. 

Summertime Reading

Jun 26, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Sitting in the shade with a lovely breeze blowing while reading Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle’s has to be one of life’s quiet pleasures. The paper had a good blend of articles on the Jazz Fest, Barack Obama, coverage of the local primaries, and the tragic fire at an adult home in Rockland that brought out the best and the bitterness in that community.

All That Stuff

Jun 23, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Although both of Margareta Magnusson’s books were satisfying, I enjoyed her second one more than her first, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (2017). In the first, her take was similar to Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2010) that I had also liked. The way Magnusson repeated that after your death, no one wants all your stuff, was straightforward without being mean.


Jun 17, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

When the first Frederick Douglass Monument and Wreath Laying Ceremony was held in downtown Rochester in 1899, 10,000 people attended. About 50 came to the 124th Commemoration on Jun 9, at Highland Park. Octogenarian Joan Coles Howard, who hadn’t missed a wreath laying since she was a girl, added to the occasion. I shared a program with people sitting near me who had never heard “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Singing it together was uplifting. The speakers and tributes were also uplifting, but the Frederick Douglass Steppers were fabulous!

Two Sides

Jun 10, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

The up side of finishing The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk (2014), is that I learned a lot about how people react differently to trauma. The down side is that some examples were stunning and triggering. The book showed me the importance of practicing how to relax.

What's It Like?

Jun 02, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Yesterday, I found out what I need to know to upload All Rights for All as an eBook, but coming up with its description is still a challenge.  I have to have a short clear answer to, what’s it like?

Acts of Kindness

May 30, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

In the article in Sunday’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, “A look back at the forgotten history of Memorial Day,” Richard Gardner wrote that the annual observance began in 1866 in Columbus, Georgia, where mourners, usually women, decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers.

Summer Reading List

May 24, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.  

Catch Up

May 18, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe
While in the process of updating my website, I came across this piece for the second edition of Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad. It appeared last July on NYS Almanack.

A Way With Words

May 07, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.

Remarkable Stories

May 01, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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

Apr 23, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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

Apr 18, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.

On Track

Apr 11, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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?

Strong Feelings

Apr 02, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe
While I don't have intense feelings of despair at how long the post surgery recovery is taking, I do have bouts of fatigue that override everything. Books to the rescue! This week I read three Newbery Award winning authors: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (1957), Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (1959), and The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (1961).


Mar 26, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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

Mar 17, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.

Beyond Words

Mar 12, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.

Required Reading

Feb 17, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.

While Waiting

Feb 12, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

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.