misdirected emails.

  

Until I started getting misdirected emails a few years ago I never knew there was a Ms. Senior America pageant.

Yes seriously, the objectification of women now goes into our golden years. Is this what we have to look forward to?

Sorry but I think it is ridiculous.

Anyway all of a sudden a few years ago I ended up, or my email address ended up on a Ms. Senior America Pageant list for their Oklahoma chapter. And here I thought Oklahoma was reserved for Ree Drummond the Pioneer Woman. But it’s not. There are also pageant queens from 3 to 99. Who knew?

Anyway, for the past few years I’ve been getting these emails. I alternately go through phases of I contact the sender and say please take me off your email list I’m not who you think I am, to blocking their email addresses, to just deleting the emails.  These emails are like a bad case of poison ivy they just endure.

So yesterday I got this email:

I see that you have two new contestants for the 2016 pageant. I am

so excited about that. We will have a good fun pageant. Senior

ladies that are still active impresses me. You are a beautiful

woman that still cares about your appearance. I think that is so

good.

As you know I was able to arrange a nice facility for our 2016

pageant. I did that by phone and email while I am in Palms

Springs. Carol and I are in touch often making plans for the 2016

pageant.

I would love to see contestants go to National for the finals even

if they aren’t crowned Queen. I have been able to go to most of

the National Finals since 2008 to support our Queen. I was a

contestant in Palms Springs, Calif., then a volunteer. I am a

Cameo member here as well as Oklahoma. Calif. Cameo Club inspires

me. They are so active.

Best regards,

Ladell



Eyes rolling.

Cameo Club? I Googled it. Came up with an odd You Tube video or two (watch one HERE and another one HERE.)

OMG.

I kept Googling. Ms. Senior America is Serious Business. Check out this article I just found in Colorado where they are presently seeking contestants to compete in the national pageant in (of course) Atlantic City.

Supposedly they exist to make senior women feel better about themselves?  I have never *understood* beauty pageants so I definitely do not get this. I look at my mother who quite stylish as a “senior” and try to imagine her doing something like that. Oh my how her eyes would roll at the concept.

Anyway, this time the beauty queens got crabby me. How hard is it to correct an email list after all?  I told them this has been going on for years  at this point.

This is what I got back from “national”:

This is not coming directly from our organization. Each states is independently run. I will reach out to the Oklahoma Admin. and relate this issue to her. I apologize for any inconvenience but I would imagine it is a computer error and I will ask her to please rectify the error ASAP. Thank You for your patience and understanding,

Umm yes. Patience and understanding? Ok but seriously lady, this has been a computer error of a few years duration.

It’s frustrating and it’s also like receiving  someone else’s personal mail left opened in your mailbox. I would just rather not.

My friends find this hysterical and somewhat unbelievable. I don’t think that is what the pageant goddesses are going for.

 I predict some day we will see Sarah Palin in Ms. Senior Alaska…that I would pay good money to see. Caribou Barbie and all that jazz.  But what would be her talent portion of the pageants? (But I digress.)

Anyway, here’s hoping the geriatric Barbies finally remove me from their pageant list. I am just not the tiara type.

Oh and FYI from the Miss Senior Pennsylvania Facebook Page:

Ms. Senior PA Pageant is a pageant to emphasize honor women who have reached the “Age of Elegance.” It is a search for the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity, maturity and inner beauty of all senior Americans, the foundation of America.

And the bannner of the page is a lady of a certain age in sweats, a tiara, sneakers….in front of farm animals.

Sorry I just can’t get my head wrapped around this. It is like observing a parallel universe.

The moral of this story is watch where your emails go AND you never know where a misdirected email will end up.

women to women: a puzzle for the ages

Godey-april-1861As I begin this post it has no real form yet.  A quasi flowing stream of consciousness. I figure by the end of the post the title will find me.

I have written many times before about my transition from being a Main Liner to a Chester County gal. And I am going to do it again. So if you don’t want to hear anymore about this or don’t like a flowing stream of consciousness, turn away from the blog now and visit again tomorrow.

Yesterday my friend Alene wrote about in essence adolescence and David Bowie.  She was part of a group of girls I was and am to this day still friends with.  Our 13 and 14 year old selves were quite different from a lot of our classmates at the time. And wow what we were subjected to from a pack of mean girls before they called them mean girls.

godeycovers-featured-270x290I have written about those girls from back in the day before.  And middle age hasn’t changed or softened a lot of them, and at the end of the day they are still just stuck in the 7th grade hallways with their tight jeans, bad perms and crimping irons…sneaking cigarettes and oh yes stumbling in their Candies.

We  (Alene and I) had a bit of a conversation about what she had written on her blog and in part she said

It’s interesting to me that you got a chance to witness what became of those people, whom I have long since forgotten.” I haven’t forgotten how it felt, though. It is sad. Now people talk openly about bullying behavior in the schools and the psychological effects on kids, but it seems to be universal and timeless.”

I had told her that on some level I felt sorry for these people. I actually do.

american-womens-fashion-1864-11-Nov-1024x683

These girls affected all of us in different ways but a similarity my friends and I share to this day is those silly girls made us realize what we don’t want in friends. For years after it also affected how I trusted or accepted people, which translated more simply is in a lot of cases I didn’t trust, I didn’t accept.

I worked to change that.  Sometimes I still work at it.

Take my moving to Chester County.  Moving and starting a new life no matter how exciting is very different when you’re an adult and middle-aged woman versus young and single. And this move in particular made me feel once again like that uncertain 12 year old who was thrust into a new and rather large school and area without much in the way of life skills to make the transition easy.

Maybe that sounds silly, but when I first moved to Chester County it is how I felt. Excited to be here yet so uncertain.

I have been lucky with this move that over the first years here I have discovered that many people I was friends with for years and years live not too far from me, and I have met a lot of really nice and genuine an amazing new people.14583203070_afc32dff39_o

But (there is always a but isn’t there?)….some people you take a chance on are just fated to disappoint.  And I have met some disappointing individuals.  Not too many, but a few.

No matter what age you are, you will always meet people who will just be uncomfortable because they can’t fit you into one of their boxes of pre-conceived notions.

But today I was faced with a situation that I not only did not know where to go with but definitely at first hurt then ultimately offended me.  Not disappointed.  Disappointed would have been on the short list of emotions when I was 12 but not now. I was emphatically offended.

Someone I had met over the last year basically told me today we couldn’t be friends because I was…wait for it….a blogger.

Initially I had reached out to her after we met as many of us do today, via social media. Right or wrong it is how we do a lot of our modern connecting. (Maybe we should bring back the calling card?)  But anyway.. I never got anything back. So I wondered if I had said or done something. I wasn’t sure what because this isn’t someone I run into (for example) every time I go to the grocery store. So I sent her a note. And what I got back basically made me just sort of sit back momentarily stunned:

 

Sorry if I offended you. Not my intention. But when I thought about giving a blogger access to my “personal” life, I got concerned…..I thought we got along well, as a public “voice,” you are in a different category.

 

O.k. so right now a certain group of equally disappointing “grown ups” some of whom reside in West Vincent are cheering at this post. Why? Because I have never been a human being to them, just a target to attempt to pummel into the ground. (But I digress.)

1206204introI do not think this woman intended to be deliberately hurtful. But there is no accounting for the accidental ignorance in human beings, especially women.  It was hurtful but mostly it was simply outrageously offensive to hear. I had thought I had made an initial friend connection with this person. But apparently I merely (I guess) had a use for a brief period of time?

But to say essentially you can’t be friends with me because I write?  Wow so very Puritan New England. Is being a blogger like wearing a proverbial scarlet letter or being branded a witch?

I have blogged for I would say about 15 years at this point.  When I first started my blogging was 100% based in political activism. That was deliberate. I had discovered I had a few opinions on politics and things like eminent domain for private gain.

So 15 years ago I would have said o.k. I can understand the fear of knowing a blogger because well blogging was new. But today, in 2016? It’s more like who doesn’t have a blog or online journal?  Lordy people there is even a Friendship Blog  – seriously – it is written by a published off the Internet PhD named Irene S. Levine about friendships. The author welcomes you to her site thusly:

Friendships are among the most complex but meaningful relationships in our lives. These unique bonds often run deeper than family ties, and sometimes last longer than our relationships with spouses or lovers. Yet there are few agreed-upon ground rules or roadmaps…..Dramatic changes in the ways women live, work and communicate have made navigating the terrain of female friendships even more daunting. This website aims to help readers navigate the awkward misunderstandings and disappointments—as well as the long silences and distance—that often crops up among friends.

I read this website once in a while because it’s interesting and not sugary sweetly and fakely cloying.

I was surfing the site just now looking for pearls of wisdom about making new friends after a certain age and I found this post on this site by a blogger (shock and horrors) named Cathy Chester who writes on her own site called “An Empowered Spirit” :

First-Person: Friendship lessons after 50

……Friendships have always been an important part of my life. I tend to them like a cat to her kittens, nurturing each one as best as I can….

Over the years I’ve tried to learn the difference between friends and acquaintances. I’ve been bruised a few times because I’m sensitive and sentimental, and always try to see the best in people.

During adolescence everyone experiences disappointment of one kind or another. When you are an adult, does this continue to happen?

The difference between friends and acquaintances is this: Friends stand by you through good times and bad. Acquaintances keep you at an arms length, remaining casually friendly at a safe distance.

In my fifties, I am trying to better understand human nature, to learn more about people and why they act and behave the way they do….We all think friendships get easier during midlife, and in some ways they do. We are more self-assured, and less likely to tolerate bad behavior. Yet in other ways we are striving to find ourselves….

There may be people you meet and there’s an instant connection. You form a close bond, and if you’re lucky it lasts a lifetime. Hold on tight; this is worth nurturing.

Tend to them. It’s worth the effort.

There are those you meet for a time and, when life moves on, so do they….

It’s time to let go and move on.

There are those you meet, and for some unknown reason they never feel a connection to you……The situation will never change.

Move on. It was never meant to be….

I am no authority on friendship. I am not a relationship expert, nor am I perfect in any way. But I know what I know from years of trying to be all things to all people as a child. As an adult, and after many disappointments, I’ve become more protective of my heart. And I’ve become truer to myself.

I love my friends, I’ve let go of past ones, and I thoroughly enjoy my new ones.

 

O.k. wow. Talk about someone just sort of reaching me where I am feeling today. I am going to pay more attention to An Empowered Spirit and Cathy Chester.

It’s funny but when this crap happens in life, you feel like you are experiencing it all alone.  But thanks to my actual friends and other bloggers in my age group no less I can put this into perspective. And jettison what happened to the invisible list  yet lengthy list of life experience.godey9-1861

But the whole thing about you can’t be friends with a blogger? What is that about? Blogging is something I do, it has never defined who I am. It’s a creative outlet for my voice, my writing, my photography.

And somehow I don’t think that is a bad thing. For the most part, I am happy to walk at the beat of my own drummer.  Now sometimes I doubt all that and wish I could be more like a lot of women my age.  Until I don’t.  Today was one of those times.  I realized the…well limitations of being limited in perspective.

Am I angry? No, but offended, yes.  It will pass and writing about it helps it dissipate in a game of mental catch and release.

In an era when women are corporate leaders and heads of state what does it do to the sisterhood metaphorically when you tell someone you really can’t be friends with them because they are a blogger? Oy vey.   I guess to some blogging is like a communicable disease. That is kind of funny if you think about it. Or sad.

Oh well!

Live and learn and let go. (And my post title just came to me as I predicted it would!)

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Been down one time
Been down two times
I’m never going back again

You don’t know what it means to win
Come down and see me again

~ Fleetwood Mac

 

P.S. If you want to read a really funny blog post  check out  What Not to Wear After Age 50: The Final Say by Michelle Combs.

Godey-1880

 

 

here we go again…will easttown have it’s “waterloo”?

Former Waterloo Gardens…sad from any angle now

Once upon a time there was Waterloo Gardens. Then it went bust and development plans grew instead.  The initial development plans and news of a development tore the Devon Horse Show apart and neighbors have been on guard ever since, haven’t they?

 Stark in black and white is Waterloo's former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Stark in black and white is Waterloo’s former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Of course the former Waterloo site in Devon would be a target for development. It is just too juicy to let alone.  It’s Chester County but considered the Main Line and well, infill development is at a premium…not to residents of course. Developers just lick their chops at the prospect of such a site.

It’s been quiet around the proposed “Devon Yards“…but no more because up has cropped a public meeting notice…

NOTICE IS GIVEN that the Board of Supervisors of Easttown Township will conduct a public hearing and special public meeting on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., prevailing time at the Beaumont Elementary School located at 575 Beaumont Road, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333

Surprise and happy 2016! For your pleasure Tredyffrin and Easttown residents you have a public hearing to have developer designed zoning shoved down your throats because what is a developer worth his salt with out a custom designed bad ass zoning overlay?  Devon Center Overlay DRAFT Ordinance – January 2016  (Yes indeedy! hot off the presses!)

So this developer seems to literally want to citify Chester County from Devon to Downingtown (and in between.) You have 20 Moores Rd Malvern , Charlestown “Village” Malvern , Clover Mill Exton, 120 Pennsylvania Ave Malvern, and who knows what else in the pipeline.

The behemoth of King Street Eastside Flats. Still a fair bit of empty retail space and unknown true occupancy. These buildings tower over the tiny Borough of Malvern and traditional houses and store fronts. There are some terrific businesses there for now but will they stay? Only time will tell. This development is out of character with a tiny town.

This project is brought to you by Eli Kahn who brought Eastside Flats to the tiny borough of Malvern (and sold). Now Eastside Flats when built was such a jarring square peg in a round hole that the next election in Malvern saw not only a change in Mayor

It's all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

It’s all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

but also quite a few borough council members .

So now in the new year as nouveau neighbors at Devon Horse show flex their muscles across the way “Devon Yards” is heating up again. And as predicted quietly by many, the other shoe is already dropping.  Hence the public hearing.

A letter came out from Easttown Neighbors that I received today.   EasttownNeighborsletter(00147310).  Not surprising and I can’t blame them. If I was staring down the barrel of the prospect of a area altering project like this I would not be at ease or happy.

We hadn’t heard much about this whole “Devon Yards” since Easttown Planning approved the plan in November, 2015. At the time Easttown Manager Dan Fox assured a reporter everyone has a voice in the process but when it comes to developer vs. real people is that true?

Only time will tell.

I am a realist and this land was never going to be a park. You knew it would get developed given the location.  But it’s all about the density and why can’t it be a project compatible but that won’t crush the surrounding area?

This project has gotten a lot of press and will continue to. (You can check out what it was imagined as in April 2015 in Philadelphia Magazine).  And way back in 2013 there was going to be a small hotel and some retail. Now it’s leaning towards density and a towering structure TALLER than Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough? Yikes.

I do not have to see this from my window and for that I am grateful.  I am totally concerned however that yet another custom zoning overlay designed by a developer is up for consideration in yet another municipality.

These custom zoning overlays are just designed (and designed often by the developers themselves) to give developers what they need at the expense of residents. (Sorry that is my opinion and am I wrong?)  After all just look at the drawings a developer will bring into a township meeting…any township meeting.  Like the Elysian Fields sit their pet projects with no actual reality of true perspective or human scale involved.  A resident will go to the meetings and wonder if it’s Logan’s Run and existing residents are being erased because well…you never ever see any kind of rendering that shows what these grand plans and Elysian Fields will actually look like next to everyone else who has the misfortune of kind of sort of being in their way. And setbacks? Forgeddaboutit you might as well be in a city.

So now Easttown residents are stuck with the same conundrum as residents in municipalities before them have struggled with.  What do they want their futures to look like and does it really matter because will their local government actually listen to them?

Anyway, I hope residents and lots and lots of media turn out for this hearing. And I hope for once with a ginormous new development what residents want will matter.  But the jaded realist in me doesn’t hold out much hope.

Maybe it’s finally time to change the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Just a thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

devon 1

devon 2

 

 

january  stroll down memory lane 

 In the early morning twilight I can hear them. Just before dawn I still remember what they sound like and see them in my mind’s eye.

Who?

My favorite relatives who are no longer on this earth. It sounds creepy but it’s really not. They were very happy part of my growing up.

Maybe it’s a reflection of my 51 years or my inner child needs to let loose once in a while, I don’t know. But when I think of my favorite great aunts and uncles and grandparents and even my father it’s always at those predawn times when I am just waking up.

This morning I heard my Great Uncle Carl talking to his dog Lancelot. When I was little Lancelot was this absolutely gorgeous German Shepherd. He was my uncle’s pride and joy.

I rarely hear or can summon mental images of my maternal grandparents my paternal grandfather. They were the first to die when I was very young, so my memories of them are more faint. 

My paternal grandfather, Pop Pop helped me along with my father plant my first tomato plants and our garden’s first rosebush when I was little – the hybrid tea rose John F. Kennedy. That rose was one of the most spectacular white roses. It’s a shame you don’t see that rose very often anymore.

My Mumma, my mother’s mother, was Pennsylvania German from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was blonde and blue-eyed and always wore her hair in a French twist. I swear I never saw that woman in a robe and bedroom slippers. She was always dressed with her make up on. She was a great cook, especially when it came to baking. I remember as a little girl she used to make those lemon and blueberry meringue pies with the diner-high meringue. It is also because of her that I learned how to do needlework. She did the most beautiful embroidery. As a matter fact, my mother recently gave me a whole bunch of now antique linens that were made by her and the women in her family.

My Mumma unfortunately slid into horrible Alzheimer’s or dementia when my maternal grandfather, my Poppy died. As a matter fact the last memory I have of Mumma speaking and acting clearly was when she called our house to tell my mother that my grandfather ( this one I called Poppy) had had a heart attack and died.  

Poppy had been older than Mumma. He was little and Irish and had been among other things, a carpenter. He made some of the toys my sister and I played with when we were little. Poppy was very sweet. I think I was in eighth grade when he died. When he got tired of too much women’s nattering he would turn his hearing aids off.

When my Pop Pop (my father’s father) died I think I might’ve been six or eight years old I don’t even remember I was that little. I remember the long ride to the church in North Philadelphia where he was buried out of and putting a little bunch of violets in his coffin. And then an even longer ride to the cemetery he is buried in.

But back to my Uncle Carl. My Uncle Carl was a pharmacist. He owned Trooper Pharmacy in Trooper, Pennsylvania. And I still have the mortar and pestle he gave my father. It’s still the best thing for making pesto. He had started out with his brother at another pharmacy they owned that was on the corner of 12th and Ritner in South Philadelphia.

My Uncle Carl and Aunt Rose lived in Collegeville. They lived up Ridge Pike when it was still country, and my grandmother and great aunts would refer to where they lived as the “country”. They lived in a big house and they never actually use the second floor it was so big. They had one child, my father’s cousin Carl who had gone to Annapolis to the Naval Academy and been in the Navy. He and his then wife Linda were so very glamorous to me when I was a little girl – they were quite the striking couple. I loved when we would go to visit them in Maryland. The second house they lived in was this fabulous Victorian in Ellicott City. I think at that time their dog was a Dalmatian.

My Great Aunt Josie used to do her big summer vegetable garden at Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl’s. She would go out there for extended periods of time in the summer and I still remember her tending the garden. Of course she also had a garden in the back of her house in South Philadelphia, and a giant grapefruit tree she grew from seed. The shame of where my Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl used to live is now everything around there is developed. Driving by today you would never believe there was a farm behind them with horses that would eat the apples from their Apple trees and so on.

My great aunt and uncle’s favorite place to get dressed up to go out to dinner was The Lakeside Inn. I believe that is actually in Limerick and I think it’s still open today. I remember one time my father’s family was all gathered there at the Lakeside Inn was for either a birthday for my great aunt or a wedding anniversary celebration.

We were all dressed up and gathered for this party that took over a good portion of the inn. Even my father’s brother was in town with his first wife and however many children they had popped out at the time. My father’s sister, my aunt was there with her daughters and husband.

We never saw my father’s brother and sister terribly much after a certain point growing up. They really didn’t get along with my father and they really weren’t nice to my mother… and they really showed little interest in my sister and I. 

I remember a family party at the Lakeside Inn vividly. When I was a little girl it was a very pretty place and I always felt very grown up being there. I remember at the party my father’s brother took all the children downstairs to the gift shop. Only he only bought little trinkets and presents for his children and my father’s sister’s children. It was at that point in time that I really decided I did not care for my uncle even if he was my father’s brother. There my then very little sister and I stood while everyone else were given little gifts purchased by my late father’s brother. It was just kind of mean.

My Uncle Carl, who was always the sweetest and kindest of men somehow got wind of what was going on and he took my sister and I downstairs again and let us pick out gifts from the gift shop so we weren’t left out of being treated. I had that little stuffed owl he bought me that someone had made by hand until it literally fell apart threadbare.

Another thing I remember about my Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl was that was where I first became aware of the sounds of summer on their front porch. 

It’s funny I used to look at my friends with big holiday gatherings of their families and wonder what that would be like. I remember it from when I was very very little but then it all stopped and eventually families went their separate ways. It got to the point where we would only see everyone at special family parties, weddings, and funerals. But I hated when I was really little being sent to the Antartica of the “children’s table” so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.  

I remember one holiday children’s table in particular – I was really little and my father’s sister and husband and family were living in a rambling white house in Paoli at the time. It was I think Thanksgiving and the children’s table was a card table with a cloth thrown over it near the front stairs. One of the vegetables was black eyed peas. And that is literally all I remember. Other than my one cousin looking irritated all through dinner to be stuck at a table with the little kids.

It’s funny, you always think you forget things and then there are just these odd quiet times when you remember. Another person I think of sometimes during these quiet times is my mother’s niece Suzy. Suzy died of cancer the same day as my father a couple of years later.

Suzy was like a big sister more than a cousin she was in and out of her house so much when I was little. I remember before she got married she worked at a very cool clothes store Philadelphia on Chestnut Street. She always had the best outfits! Her wedding to her first husband was celebrated at our parish church old St. Joseph’s on Willings Alley. Her wedding reception was actually held at my parents’ house in Society Hill. 

I remember during her wedding sitting in the breakfast room off the kitchen on the bottom step where the back stairs up to the second floor of the house were with my cousin Carol eating water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. I also remember the wedding photographer doing my cousin Suzy’s portraits before the wedding in my parents’ bedroom and other places in the house when she was getting ready.

When I was in my 20s my cousin Suzy lived in Newtown Bucks County with her first husband and three daughters. It was always such a big treat to go spend the weekend with my cousin Suzy and her family. We always had so much fun. 

Suzy and I spend a lot of our time going to flea markets like Rices in New Hope. We would also explore antique shop after antique shop throughout Bucks County and in New Jersey across from New Hope.

I also think of Suzy sometimes when  I put my Fiestaware away. It was with Suzy that I saw Fiestaware for the first time. We were exploring on the other side of the river in New Jersey. We were not in Lambertville I forget where we were. But there was this antique store that almost exclusively sold vintage Fiestaware and they also in a section of the store sold imported Russian nesting dolls. Don’t know if the store still exists but I remember it vividly. I remember row after row of the happy colors of Fiestaware.

I have a lot of memories of my father obviously and him I miss at certain times a great deal. I always think of him a lot at Christmas because he loved Christmas and he was the most perfectionist of perfectionists when it came to decorating the Christmas tree. And my father’s tree was always silver and gold. It was a minor miracle when you could sneak a color on it. I have some of his ornaments still in the original boxes with his handwriting identifying what they are written on the box. 

And I had to laugh the other day as I looked at my Christmas tree and Christmas decorations which are still not all put away yet. I thought of him because one year everyone argued over who was taking down what and putting away which Christmas decorations and basically the Christmas tree stayed up until almost Valentine’s Day. That memory still makes me laugh.

I’m glad I have these memories of people who have gone before me. My friends always tell me to write things down when I remember them, but half the time I just forget – it’s sort of like my recipes. I’m thinking and 2016 I should make more of an effort to write these memories down while I still have them.

Thanks for stopping by.

2015 draws to a close…year in a blog review

1909703_1103110143035269_5097884919631902045_n2015 has been quite the year.  I have had plenty of moments where I wondered if being me on the Internet was worth it. But then today I received a note.

Every now and again people contact me with things that I think are beyond my capacity to help – and it is never about money (heck I don’t have a silver spoon in my mouth so that isn’t happening)- it’s people seeking information.  Today someone sent me a note. To say thank you for providing them with a necessary connection for their family.

It was just fate that helped me show them a good direction (nothing more) , and I did it because paying it forward in this world with no strings attached is what being human is supposed to be about. It’s not about money or status, it’s about caring.  And fate. Maybe even to an extent the kindness of friends and strangers.

And that simple thank you, privately said and heart felt? That was awesome. As opposed to others I have met in this journey called life for whom “paying it forward” comes with strings and strands of personal gain, that is not how I operate.

Human kindness.

How quickly we can all get caught up and forget about being human and being kind.

2015 was a bit of a crazy year in one part of Chester County. West Vincent, to be precise. Those folks have survived a toxic election season and as of their final meeting last night can hopefully close the door on Tammany Hall style politics….at least until their Lower Merion refugee decides to run for re-election or not.

West Vincent and their election season reminded me once again how awful human beings and purported adults can be towards one and other. It was actually nastier than a Main Line election season and that is saying something.

In 2015 I learned to shed fake friends with less regret or “what ifs”. I also learned about people not meant to be in my life for long and it was o.k. People have to choose within their own comfort level. And learning to let go of people who are wrong for your life without feeling guilty is actually hard. But I am learning.

One person who had once claimed I was a  friend was indeed a disappointing learning curve.  They deliberately lied and tried to hurt me to raise their own shall we say “sympathy” profile on social media? The irony is, I had quietly let that person go when I sadly realized the only thing they were true to was whatever anyone else could do for them. I figured it was easier to let go after a couple of years then to allow them further in. Trust after all is everything, and at least for me if the trust is broken, it’s a hard road. But Karma is real, isn’t it?

There are people who throw around catchy Christian phrases about being “blessed”, but truly those are the people you not only forgive for their idiotic selfish trespasses, but pass a prayer along for because you actually feel sorry for them and their lack of realization of how their actions actually affect them. They think their little white lies and bald faced fibs won’t catch up with them, and unfortunately they should remove their blinders.

2015 was a year of learning more about myself as an adult.  It was about letting go and learning to be more accepting about what I can’t control.  It was about taking chances on people whether or not they ended up becoming part of my world, or were just a passing, pleasant  thought. It was therefore, about personal growth after a fashion. It was also about opening other doors and windows. It was about opening completely to love and having faith and finally not being afraid of either.

2015 was a difficult year for some of my friends. But they have faced it with grace and courage. Sometimes as adults, we yearn for the simplicity of childhood. For some, childhood wasn’t so simple and growing up freed them. Life is a complicated puddle of color and emotion and life circumstances never entirely predictable although to say we have a hand in our own fates is to an extent true because life is what we make of it.

2015 was about renewing more relationships time and distance had interrupted over the years.  One of the most marvelous things I have discovered about Chester County is  who lives here.  Not just the amazing new friends I have made since moving here, but people from all stages of my life I had lost track of through distance and life circumstance…who all live in Chester County now.

In 2015 I got to see the Duffy’s Cut site and get to know it’s patron saint, Dr. William Watson of Immaculata. What a marvelous educator. And just a super bight,  genuine human being.  A perennial student of history, I deeply appreciate what he is about.  I also met some other like minded souls who also find other things in Chester County that I find important of interest.  Loch Aeirie and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill.  I am also happy to discover there are many like minded people out here when it comes to historic preservation and preservation of Chester County’s amazing beauty and natural resources.

2015 was a year of super fun non-profit events. My favorites were Natural Lands Trust’s Stardust, Brandywine in White, and Main Line Animal Rescue’s Bark-O’Lounge (where I learned to wear my glasses while bidding on silent auction items!!)

2015 meant the loss of some family of my father’s and a dear family friend.  That was kind of hard. But they left wonderful legacies of their own.  And memories to keep us smiling for years to come. 2015 also marked a decade since my own father passed. Time passes so quickly.

2015 was also an amazing gardening year.  I expanded my gardens and they rewarded me. It is one the most fun things for me to just go dig in the dirt and it has been that way since I was a little girl.

2015 I became a cover girl when one of my photos graced the cover of County Lines Magazine. I also had my own photography show thanks to Christopher and Molly Todd of Christopher’s Restaurant in Malvern.

The last two months of 2015 have been a crazy kaleidoscope of everything.  Friends, family, and holidays.

This has possibly been one of the best Christmas seasons of my life and at four and one half years cancer free the emotion of the season and the joy is felt by me most profoundly. And somewhat humbly.

I am truly grateful to you my readers  and the insane numbers of people who visited according to WordPress .  As a blogger I am a writer and I have some amazing mentors and friends who are full-time writers. They inspire me daily.  I understand that not everyone appreciates my style, and that is ok.

My journey through Chester County and the second half of my life continues to evolve and grow.  It’s hard being a stranger in a new land, so I really appreciate those folks who have made me feel so welcome and shared experiences with me and pointed me in new directions. Intellectually as adults we have to continue to grow. It keeps us alive.

And as 2015 draws to a close a special note for my friends and family and especially my sweet man.  You are the bedrock of my life and the love your show me is almost indescribable. I am a fortunate woman indeed. To be loved and respected and valued as an individual just as you are is one of the greatest gifts in this world. Trust me when I say I love you all in return. To the moon and back.

Here is a wish and prayer for an amazing 2016 for all. There is no place like home, is there indeed, Dorothy?

Cheers!

 

Sit there with a blank expression

Say you can’t go on anymore

It’s not like me to come out and help you

Maybe I’ve been down this road before

 

Been living in the shadows

Now you come out slow

Now you’re in the saddle

Got to ride a long

Now your dream was shattered

These days are through

Maybe something mattered

It’s not just for you

 

Some are gonna go for broke

Some will lay down

I’ve been too long standing still

All I know is whenever you need me

You reach out and set me in motion

 

Looking out on that long valley

Telling me I’ve come so far

You’re the reason I finally got there

 

~Bruce Hornsby “Set Me in Motion”

 

our inconvenient history: duffy’s cut

DSC_1297I saw Duffy’s Cut today. It took my breath away. It is such a compelling story, and it is an eerie, silent,  almost sacred place. Yet it is also an inconvenient history, an inconvenient truth.

DSC_1171When I was little my one grandfather whom I called Poppy would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

My other grandfather, Pop Pop, would tell me of anti-Italian sentiment. Poppy’s wife, my grandmother (my Mumma), who was Pennsylvania German, would tell me tales of anti- German sentiment during both world wars.  And so did my own mother.  Yes, I am off on a slight tangent here, but for all that the United States was founded as a nation of immigrants, different sets of immigrants have been persecuted at different times throughout our history and even today. Considering the immigrant stock that runs through my veins I identify with this and am basically unapologetic about my views.

So maybe while Duffy’s Cut is one of Chester County’s most astounding and horrific pieces of history, can it also be said cruelty to various sets of immigrants is as much a part of this country’s inconvenient history as slavery and indentured servitude were?

But back to Duffy’s Cut. I heard about that from my Poppy as a little girl, yet we never learned about it in history class in school. Well one history teacher I had knew of it, but it wasn’t taught to us.

duffys cutI first wrote about Duffy’s Cut in 2013. I happened to be passing by the Duffy’s Cut historical marker at the time,  and stopped to photograph it.  Given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon was perfect. I also think that given the development occurring in Malvern (borough and East Whiteland) by developers who don’t truly give a rat’s fanny about the area, the history, or the current residents (they care about building and selling  projects) it is also appropriate to remember the history. You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have always thought the tale of Duffy’s Cut to be a huge part of the history of Malvern. The Duffy’s Cut Project is housed at Immaculata. You can go see it.

The Smithsonian Channel has a special about it – called the Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is a big deal.  What was Duffy’s Cut? Most simplistically the mass murder of Irish rail workers in 1832 around the time of a cholera outbreak they were blamed for but most say in actuality didn’t cause.

 

DSC_1184There had been a cholera outbreak.  People believed the Irish bought the disease with them. They didn’t as the records for the ship would later prove, but it didn’t matter. Those 57 men (and a woman) were immigrants who spoke mostly Gaelic and lived in the shanty town created to house them next to the railroad (Philadelphia and Columbia line) they were helping create in Malvern.DSC_1340

These immigrants were different. They were “dirty Irish” and locals at the time were suspect of them and threatened by them. I am sorry that sounds awful, but it is an unfortunate truth. I think that and the murder of at least some of these Irish rail workers is why this story has taken so long to unfold and is still continuing.

For example did you know that there is an edition of a paper that was a predecessor (I believe) of the Daily Local called the Village Record.

The October 3, 1832 edition of the paper had an accurate telling of what happened down at Duffy’s Cut earlier that year. The edition of the paper disappeared. The only thing that still exists is the November 8th correction article. The more palatable version of events (yet how was any of it ever palatable or acceptable?)

So my friend and I met with Dr. William Watson at Immaculata today, and he took us to the site. I will not disclose the exact location of the site because well, shall we say, Duffy’s Cut still makes people uncomfortable. And modern day residents who live near this piece of history deserve to NOT be pestered by amateur sleuths and ghost chasers.

DSC_1289Dr. Watson and his brother Reverend Frank Watson became intrigued by Duffy’s Cut when they were given a file that had been in the possession of their grandfather, Joseph F. Tripician.  Their grandfather had been a secretary to Martin Clement, the 11th president of The Pennsylvania Railroad. Their grandfather had Clement’s old file on Duffy’s Cut. (And it was Clement who put up the stone monument  at the edge of the tracks.)

Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy's Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

Photo courtesy or Rev Frank Watson and Dr William Watson –  Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy’s Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

In April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine had this amazing article on Duffy’s Cut. You can read it online today.

And articles keep being written . Especially because Dr. Watson and his brother and their team have actually gotten some of the remains returned to family descendants in Ireland to be buried with other family members.

The world has taken notice of Duffy’s Cut and what happened there. Perhaps more so than around here truth be told. However, in 2012 an Inquirer reporter named Kristin Holmes wrote a wonderful article about the Duffy’s Cut workers remains which were given burial space at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Long-forgotten dead of Duffy’s Cut get proper rites

POSTED: March 10, 2012

When the bodies of the 57 Irish immigrants were dumped into a mass grave in 1832, it was a secret, perhaps meant to shroud a violent end.

But 180 years later, in a ceremony to commemorate the railroad workers’ deaths, there was pomp and fanfare.

Bagpipes, a procession, and a regal, 10-foot high Celtic cross grave marker were part of a funeral service Friday meant to give five of the 57 the proper burial they never had.

The observance at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd was the culmination of a 10-year research project, known as Duffy’s Cut, to determine the fate of the workers who stepped off a boat from Ireland in June 1832 and were dead eight weeks later.

While most died of cholera in an epidemic that swept the region, researchers say some may have been slain in an act rooted in fear and prejudice….The investigation began in 2002 when the Watson brothers, 49, read a secret file that mentioned the workers and a mass grave. The papers were left to them by their grandfather, who worked as a secretary to the president of what was then the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, and is now part of SEPTA.

The brothers began research that would eventually involve geophysicist Timothy Bechtel; the Chester County Coroner’s Office; Earl Schandelmeier, an adjunct professor at Immaculata; Janet Monge, the keeper of skeletal collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; and others. Project researcher John Ahtes died of a heart attack in the midst of the investigation….

The men from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry Counties sailed to the United States and were promptly hired by railroad man Philip Duffy of Willistown. The mass of workers lived in a shanty near the tracks. The washerwoman served them. Within eight weeks, they were dead – of cholera and other causes.

Four skulls unearthed at the shanty site show signs of blunt trauma, investigators said. One has a hole that might be from a bullet.

The men probably were the victims of anti-Irish sentiment, the fear of cholera, and prejudice against immigrants, researchers say.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation,” Frank Watson said.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation.” How beautiful a sentiment is that?

In the spring of 2013, the New York Times continued with another part of the story: they covered the remains of young John Ruddy being returned to his descendants in Ireland:

With Shovels and Science, a Grim Story Is Told

The New York Times

Decades ago, just before the Pennsylvania Railroad was auctioned off, Watson’s grandfather — who worked for the company — saved key company records before they were destroyed. Among them were documents that hypothesized the location of the mass grave and reported the deaths of 57 workers.

The documents also clearly stated that the information was intended to remain a secret.

It was a “crazy coincidence” that the railroad company’s records survived through his family, Watson said.

The papers confirmed fears of a cover up. If the men’s deaths were due to cholera, why weren’t they recorded in a local paper, like most cholera deaths were at that time? And why would some of the bodies have been brutalized?

The answers remain elusive.

 

Have you noticed when you mention Duffy’s Cut you get many reactions/opinions?  Ok I get it. Some day the entire truth will come out….and I wouldn’t want to be related to people who either took part in making these workers disappear or the cover up which ensued. It will be like saying you are related to Benedict Arnold. Or a slave owner. And it is something else historically wonky that basically happened in East Whiteland. (Dare I say it? Has the East Whiteland Historical Commission ever opined on this? Participated in research in any way? Or just erected a slightly historically inaccurate sign?)

But it is part of our history around here.  And for those of us with at least partial Irish lineage, well, don’t you just want to know? Will finally learning the truth be so bad? John Ruddy from Donegal and the woman Catherine Burns from Tyrone have been returned to their modern descendants and buried in Ireland. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to identify the remains of more workers so that they could be sent home to their modern day descendants and rest in peace?

Fresh research and searching for the truth is underway. That has gotten a lot of coverage the past few months in Ireland, incidentally:

Derry Journal: Duffy’s Cut: Hopes that the mass grave of Irish dead have been uncovered

IrishCentral.com: Further testing underway at Duffy’s Cut mass grave of 57 murdered Irish

Irish Echo:Work begins on Duffy’s Cut mass grave

And I can’t forget to mention the television piece done by CBS3’s Walt Hunter this fall as well: EXCLUSIVE: New Search Begins For Secret Main Line Grave Holding Irish Rail Workers

EW DCYou will notice in the Walt Hunter report the incorrect verbiage on the Duffy’s Cut sign by the stone monument – by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. I mean I guess they tried but they state the wrong year (1834 when the incidents occurred in 1832) and the well wrong cause of death – black diphtheria, and the disease was cholera. The text of the sign is “Burial Plot of Irish Railroad Workers. Died Summer of 1834 of Black Diptheria- East Whiteland Historical Commission.”

Core samples are being taken.  Amtrak seems to be cooperating a little more (I call that a true Christmas miracle – hopefully that continues.)

And oh yeah, thanks to the latest Walt Hunter story Duffy’s Cut has even made People Magazine.  So what of other local media? Since it was the paper that possibly eventually became the Daily Local (Village Record, West Chester, PA) had that article that disappeared from October 3rd, 1832 how about an in-depth update from our local paper or any of the other Chester County newspapers?

Dr. Watson took us to the little museum at Immaculata where we saw the artifacts and heard the tale.  I also find it fascinating how many songs and musical tributes to Duffy’s Cut exist. (You can buy a CD of songs on the Duffy’s Cut Project Website.) But it was when he took us to the site where it hit home ten days before Christmas.

DSC_1336The site feels almost sacred and is so quiet except for the occasional piercing whistle of a passing train or a hawk overhead. Dr. Watson told us not only the tale of the workers but his tale of his grandfather’s file and all the twists and turns it has taken to get this far.

DSC_1248And as his words floated in the air around us and I gazed at a stone monument and surrounding woods, could I heard in my imagination the sounds of the workers? Did they just sort of float in the air outside of our normal consciousness? I am not being fey or deliberately dotty but when you stand there and you hear what happened to them, you can almost see and hear the past…and feel it.

We need to put this right. We need to support this ongoing project as a community. It is part of our history on so many levels, like it or not. We can’t undo what happened, but we can help correct it on some level by finally getting the entire story told.

DSC_1246And finally we can learn from this. Every generation in this country founded by immigrants fleeing persecution, we somehow as a nation seem to persecute over and over different sets of NEW  immigrants to this country. How is that showing the religious and cultural tolerance on which this country was founded?

As a society, we can do better. We need to honor our dead locally whether at Duffy’s Cut or  the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road, or farther out towards Kennett Square and elsewhere where other bits of our history is disappearing whether it takes the form of old houses involved in the Underground Railroad, to all the abandoned graveyards that dot Chester County and the rest of the state.

We shouldn’t whitewash our history or pretend uncomfortable and horrific things didn’t happen. We learn from those mistakes. If you cover them up, as human beings we are then doomed to repeat them unless we break the cycle and face the past.

I have a bunch of photos from today from the site and the museum. I will get to them over the next day or so. You can visit the Duffy’s Cut Museum in the Library at Immaculata when the library is open. The actual Duffy’s Cut site is NOT open to the public it is impossibly located to do that, so kindly respect that fact because so many over the years have not.  People folly hunting for Duffy’s Cut only jeopardize the work that archeologists, geologists, and historians are trying to accomplish and that is not right.

Before I sign off, a big thank you to Dr. William Watson. He is kind of a big deal history professor and he took the time for us to show us Duffy’s Cut and tell us all about their work surrounding that. Educators like him make all the difference in how you learn and I think his students are so very lucky to have a professor with a passion for history like he has.

This has been a very long post….so thanks for reading through until the end and for stopping by.

DSC_1229