On the occasion of Jer’s 21st Birthday

March 7, 2014 by

Going through boxes of memorabilia, I found these two cards, given on the occasion of Jer’s 21st birthday:

From Grandma Ruth Underwood:


Message inside:


And from Jer’s Mother and Dad:


Message inside:


Lest you wax eloquent about the joys of the good old days, consider this anecdote: a few years later, when Jer showed up at his brother’s wedding with a beard, his grandmother took him aside and read him the riot act (i.e. she gave him hell). And when he said to her, “But grandma, you said ‘to thine own self be true’” there was a serious question about whether she would smack him or walk pointedly away. She chose the latter. His mother, who felt the family honor besmirched, merely broke into tears.

I myself would allow as how he fulfilled all the rules, just not in the way they envisioned. Be warned, those of you with small children.

New Analysis of Hockney’s Drawings

March 4, 2014 by

On Ragged Cloth Cafe, one of my old haunts.




Notions: Letter from Mom, Jan 17, 1974

March 3, 2014 by

From Ann Oechler, [June's Mom] Thursday Jan. 17, ’74. The reference to oil and gasoline at the end is probably a reference to the shortages at that time, with lines at gas stations, etc.

Dear June, Jerry, & Jan, Cats, kittens, Rats, and mice, cockroaches and cooties–

I could spend the next two pages — trying to explain — apologize and condone my neglect of all youse — Please understand that you aren’t the only ones. My poor Christmas turkey is still languishing in the freezer –!

Here’s a rundown on what’s been going on — Al [Mom's older brother] came in alone Dec. 19th — we saw all 2 of his kids Sunday evening. Mon. he took Blazer [car] and saw friends in WMsport — I put up Xmas tree and walked down town — for nothing — just looking for Christmas? Christmas day Al & I got up, poked around and started out — to the Wyants [daughter, son-in-law, 3 grand-children] — all was joy & excitement — ate a bit of turkey etc. Carol had dinner like I’ve been having, Nothing served — but lots to eat. We left there and went to Pine. The O. Jr’s [son, daughter-in-law, 3 grandchildren] had a beautiful tree & mostly everything they wished for — warm –well fed and happy. Took off for Betty’s [niece], spent a couple of hours. Over to Doris’ [Betty's sister]– they had a fine Christmas then home & bed. Wed we went to Wmsport to Mary’s [daughter] for a couple of hours. then down town to pick up Al’s big suitcase (he came by bus and it got sidetracked someplace). Saw May [Mom and Uncle Al's sister] and home. Friday Al and I went to camp [Cedar Pines, 35 miles up winding country road] — there an hr. and a call from Carol rushed us back to Avis — Al came too so that he could keep the Blazer. Jonathan Michael Wyant arrived at 4:45 — 1/2 hr after admittance. From then on I stayed in Avis. Sun AM Denise got up with the mumps and Grammy [Mom] was busy [she was taking care of Carol's other three children]. New year’s eve. Chip [Carol's husband] & I celebrated by taking down Christmas Tree etc. etc. Tues we cleaned house (mostly Chip did). Al came down from Camp and ate saurkraut and went to visit his kids. Wed. Carol came home — Al & Carl [Dad] up there for supper and then home — I stayed in Avis of course — Thurs Carl took AL to bus at midnight — took him 20 hrs to get home (due to snow, etc) Sat A.M. I went to camp and cooked our noon meal in my Christmas present — an electronic oven — it’s a fabulous gadget and if I ever get to use it right –?– I’m going to like it. Sun. noon I was on my way to Avis — Chip had to go to work and I didn’t want Carol heaving “2 ton tessy” (Denise [Carol and Chip's toddler]) around just yet. — Mon back home & a usual week (Carol’s & home sog-out). Then Piper (Bangor Putnam, Chris Craft) cracked down — Carl started working 12 hr days (7 t0 7) — a bit much but Finn Estelick is working right beside him so —-. On Sat Jan 12th Denise went into the hospital with an infected gland in her neck. So I cooked Sun. dinner (noon) in my oven — a big flop after such a big success the first try — and ran for Avis to keep kids [two older one and new-born] while Carol went to see Denise (Chip worked). Since then I’ve taken down my sick-looking tree & decorations — cleaning a bit and going up each evening to keep Carol’s kids while she goes to see Denise each evening. Chip goes down for a half hour in the afternoon before he goes to work. Denise is having a ball — her infection has tapered off. It never did bother her much but it refuses to dissipate completely and they’re keeping her there –expecting it to flare up again — meanwhile the nurses are spoiling her — she’s so _dear_ no one can help it and they’re not too busy at present. They’re feeding her too much — which is worrying Carol — she tend to be fat (is fat) and will eat on and on– so they feed her on and on!

I haven’t sneaked in yet — we have our usual ban on mid-winter visitors at JS [hospital] and — I’m not sure I can take it. She is a darling kid!

Master Jonathan is really doing fine. Carol is breast-feeding him and he’s gaining weight like crazy — sleeps good — not fussy — and of course cute & cuddly & adorable. The other two are happy about having a new brother and very co-operative.

Mary and family are perking along nicely. I talk to her each morning and see them now and then. She is looking forward to spring. Just waiting to see her tulip bulbs etc come up. I’ve news for her — they won’t even peek thru until about mid-March or early April.

I’ve finally gotten time to read my New Yorkers — had been nibbling here and there — now I know what I want to read first etc. Love the thing from the jokes to the dumb parts I only read because they’re there.

Mike [youngest son] is really serious about his European out (12 mo extension on his fare home after discharge). I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for him — if he can support himself in the duration but it will be so much longer ’till I get to see him!! Whatever he decides I’m for — and I hope it will be the best for him. I’d kind of like him to come home — get more education and started on “life” — but then he’s only 21 years old and when will he get another chance? As far as I can see and feel — he’s still the same brat he ever was! I have a beautiful album of pictures that he has sent home — the Alps (I hate to admit) seem much more impressive than the Am west! –Don’t hit me! –The few pictures I’ve gotten of him seem to get more and more German each time — old Kaiser mustache and so forth. He really seems to be having the best of his overseas tour. Played and sang for 2 kindergartens — an orphanage — and the U. S. service children over Christmas — right up his alley — kids — guitar– etc. He wrote about his ears — says they’re no worse than they’ve been — he’s just smarter than their electronic testing machines that got him out of field work — big ordinance and riding in transports that are big and noisy. I don’t know if he’s snowing _me_ or not –? Any way he’s got 9 months to go — 1/2 of his overseas are behind him and 1 and 1/4 of his draft time — without it getting him down.

We just can’t believe the weather you have been having 60 degrees — 70 degrees oh no! You’re sposed to be cold & miserable. We had about 6″ of snow — in two falls. a lot of melting –now it’s dirty ice and black mud — a bit of sunshine and a lot of overcast. Typical Pa. January thaw!

Our apt is quite comfortable — 72 degrees to 74 degrees. Camp has lots of oil. Gas can be bought anyplace — most any time. Everyone is relaxing — I’m afraid we’re going to get clobbered later or is it only a scare? I’m pessimistic — as usual — not scared! I’ve done without before and with Carl’s ability & ingenuity I’m sure we won’t be suffering — just inconvenienced. He talks more and more about retireing at 62 and I’m with him (much as I like money). I’ve always been willing to go along with him and I’m getting much too old to change– you’ll never believe I’ve reached 112 lbs. don’t look like a war orphan anymore –just like a badly put together old lady — I’m beginning to try camouflage (loose blouses –etc) the first step toward acceptance–! “Old Rocking Chair’s got me”

Well, I’ve spent the whole Today show sitting here scribbling when there’s lot to be done — Today I want to go to the P.O. with your pkg — mike’s big envelope that has to be weighed. Get check cashed — take Cora to Wmsport & be back by 2 — Mary’s coming up — Thurs is her day. –poor Mary — she’ getting a call saying — sit tight — I’ll get there eventually. Then supper cooked and read for dishing up & off for Carol’s at 6 pm until 8 — outside of that I just might flop on the bed and take a nap — “You come too”

Love Mom

11:30 Hi again — your 1973–74–75–? pkg. will go out same time as this letter if USPO will accept the Rube Goldberg packing.

Not too many people get gifts for Ground Hog Day — but have a happy — Me.

Sent to the Underwoods, Laramie Wyoming, from Jersey Shore Pennsylvania, and found in a box of memorabilia that had been untouched for 30 years. Mom was 60 years old.


Ann Oechler, Christopher Oechler (on her lap). Odd family members all ’round. Perhaps 1983.

Notions: Children — Employees/ Employers

February 18, 2014 by

In the NY Times book review of Feb 2, 2014, a review of Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun had one of those insights that left me gasping: today’s children are “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

Think about (as Senior has) the language differences between “housewife” and “stay-at-home Mom”. Those are job descriptions, the first from the 1950s, the second used right now. In the olden days (and still in many countries) children were essential employees, supervised (in both senses of the word) by their parents; today in the US, they are employers, using parents to attend to their needs — taking them to day care, after school skating and chess lessons, attendance at soccer games, cooking dinner for them, doing homework with them. Children used to be employees of the parents, now they are employers.

I grew up in the 40s and 50s and was on the cusp of the change. My parents’ families saw men and women as contributors’ to the family’s income, contributor’s to the world’s well-being. My daughter was never seen by us as vital to our family’s economic health and well-being. And she was of the new generation, being a good employee of our grandchild (although I must say, she had good boundaries about that role).  She has, also, been an ongoing joy to know and be attached to. And that, says Senior, is the joy of contemporary parenting.

Copy of MsWillardManagesW

Senior describes what parents no longer do: they no longer teach kids math, give them medical treatment, sew their clothes, grow their food, provide vocational training or essential home maintenance skills. What they do do is nurture the child, constructing a life narrative that includes delighting in the child’s development as human beings, their growth into kindness and generosity.

As a girl, I was lucky. My father didn’t have much faith in the female of the species and he wasn’t in charge of my  job skills or my training in car maintenance or sewage repair or basic electricity (he supervised my brothers in those respects). My mother wanted me to be “free”, and one of her mantras, when one of us girls failed to be the proper employee, was “I’d rather do it myself.” And indeed, she made my 8th grade home ec apron.

The change-over of children’s roles in the family has been a hundred years in the making.  Sometimes the change has been couched in pejorative terms: coddling children or allowing them to be irresponsible.

But do we want to go back to the days when we were employers, with all the crazy-making scripts that requires? Making sure the jobs are done as necessitated, and the employees (the children) do financially essential jobs before they are allowed to settle into homework or sleep?  Do we really want our kids to wake up at 4 AM to muck out the barn before they get ready for school? I didn’t have to do this, but I went to school with a number of kids who did. And the escapes that children used in those days — heading out for the territory, hiking through the wilderness alone — are no longer available to them.

Copy of WilliYearnsW

Senior doesn’t dwell on the employer style of parenting. Rather she points out the difficulties and joys of the new style: “Children may complicate our lives, but they also make them simpler — children’s needs are so overwhelming and their dependence on us so absolute that it’s impossible to misread our moral obligation to them… We bind ourselves… and through caring for them, grow to love them, grow to delight in them, grow to marvel at who they are.


The book is All Joy and No Fun, The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, by Jennifer Senior.

Notion: The Aggregate, The Personal

February 12, 2014 by

[These Notion blogs will be an erratic exercise in ruminating about those ideas that one gets while exercising or showering or running errands -- the thinking that is too long for FaceBook and too short for reliable reference searching. An indulgence, in other words, of people who don't have to think about childcare and cooking and budgeting too little money.]

Aggregate statistics and personal knowledge seem to me to be like liberal and tea party,  or union and business owners, or car owners and bicyclists. Seldom do the two parties meet and interact; or if they interact, they clash.

Both parties have legitimate points. And both, generally speaking, are working out of experience. That sounds contradictory, but speaking from my own understanding, if one (me, I mean) hasn’t got a dog in the fight or skin in the game, it’s easy to understand that, statistically speaking, the Affordable Care Act is working pretty well. If one (not me) is a small business owner, swamped with paper work already and now having to navigate a whole new set of rules and regulations, the ACA seems like just a bunch of hooey.

Newspapers aggravate this by beginning with the personal drama story followed up by the bad statistics, whatever they may be. Somewhere in the story the papers will, if decent, provide the statistical facts, which often contradict the tearful opening tale. But by that time, it’s hard for any of us except those who are committed to the other stance to see what the truth is. This is also the confirmation “error” — that we tend to believe what confirms what we already believe or know, but I think that’s a subset of the larger dichotomy.

The same kind of statistical evidence versus personal goes for things like exercise advice and the (younger) aged. I’m young enough to believe I’m one of the younger aged, but reading advice about exercise in our local papers’s Wednesday health section infuriates me. I can’t run five miles every other day, while weight-lifting and cross-country skiing on the alternative days. Heavens, I’m lucky that I have figured out a way to get on my exerbike for a 30 minutes of leisurely pedaling with lots of  days off for walks around the neighborhood. But of course, the health experts aren’t talking about all ages, however young. Their target  audience, according to the marketing statisticians, are relatively affluent 40-year-olds.

And don’t get me started on the question of “relatively affluent.” When I’m told that the middle class begins at about $500,000, I am infuriated, both statistically speaking (what does that mean about the majority of folks in our country?) and personally (never been there and not likely to get there in this lifetime).

In other words, if it isn’t meaningful to you personally, it’s really easy to believe the aggregate numbers. The ACA has made millions of people happier and safer in their personal lives, as has medicare. But some of my relatives are furious with what the ACA threatens to do with their paperwork pile as well as heightening their fears that this is the first step to a government takeover. They can see the personal effects of the impending disaster right on their desks. But I’m on medicare so I believe in the happiness of the aggregate.

And don’t get me started on the problem of home budgets versus government budgets.

And in general, I have never feared the bugaboo of socialism, while I have a deep-seated terror of fascism.  And so it goes.

One (me, I mean) thinks that if I, and the rest of the country, could adjust our personal experiences and weigh them along with the aggregate numbers, we might be better off. And if we (I, I mean) could remember that stack of paperwork and fear of (socialism/Fascism) those terrifying nightmares behind each tree, we might be better off. We might even get down to remembering each other in both the aggregate and the specifics — millions feeling safer because they won’t go bankrupt when their kid falls of the playground swings; paperwork drowning people who just want to do the work that is before them; — then we might be a better, more humane country.

Times up; personal notion explained, for the nonce. Feel free to throw out your own shower-driven ideas. Don’t send audio tapes, though.

I believe all blogs should have at least one visual so I will include at least one per post. Here’s today’s:  a self-portrait of David Hockney. It feels like a self-portrait.


David Hockney, Self=Portrait, from The Guardian Newspaper


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