Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stecher Family Album

Finally got around to photographing images from an album that I believe was assembled by my grandfather. He identifies his mother, his aunts and uncles and cousins who lived in and around Boston and in New York state. His mother (my great-grandmother) was one of 11 children of Melchoir and Helene (Roethler) Stecher of Achern, Germany. After Helene died, Melchior decided to come to America with his younger children. His oldest daughter, Jacobine, remained in Germany.

Above is a photo of my great-grandmother who was born in Achern, Germany, in 1836. Her firstborn son died during a cholera epidemic in Boston. As far as my grandfather knew, his father simply disappeared. Below is a photo of my great-grandmother's younger sister, Caroline. Caroline died at age 34 in 1879. My great-grandmother died at age 59 in 1895. Her death certificate said that she was married (rather than widowed or divorced or separated) at the time of her death. I found a record on that showed evidence of separation papers, but I was unable to obtain those records as they had been lost somehow. My great-grandmother looks world-weary compared to her younger sister, and no wonder. Family secrets and tragedy must have weighed heavily on her. I keep thinking that something will turn up on the internet some day to solve the mystery of my great-grandfather's disappearance. I was shocked to find on the internet that my missing great-grandfather's father, a retired weaver, committed suicide by hanging, at age 93, in 1891.

There are no photos of my grandfather in the old album, but here is a photo of him in 1916, the year my mother was born, before he served in the Army as a doctor in World War I, and another with my grandmother in 1920:

I've added a Flickr badge with photos from the album my side bar on the right with photos of descendants and in-laws of Melchior and Helene Stecher from Achern. Still have more photos to take from the album.

Late in the day, as I was working on this, I looked up and saw a rainbow:

Update: Oh dear. I can't believe I spelled descendant as "descendent" on the URL for my Flickr page for the Stecher family photos.

As a dear person once said to me, "Welcome to the human race."

As a former medical transcriptionist, I have lived for many years with the expectation that my spelling be perfect. Little room for mistakes in that field. It feels very strange to realize that I can make spelling mistakes like everyone else now without taking a cut financially! I've been amazed again and again that not all people work at jobs where there is such a pronounced expectation of perfection.

You mean I don't have to be perfect?

What a relief!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Drawing while eating in the hospital cafeteria / A different way of thinking

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them."

-- Albert Einstein

Interesting to try to draw an oil painting with pencil on paper. "Aguas Verdes" is a large diptych (53" x 68") painted in oil on linen by Caryn Friedlander. It hangs in the St. Joseph Medical Center cafeteria in Bellingham, Washington, and is a renewing presence in a hospital setting.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Drawing what is in front of me

Woke up at 2 a.m. this morning and found this. Thank you to R. L. Bourges, a writer and photographer living in France.

Still awake at 5:49 a.m.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birdsong and slow moving clouds / Early evening

Looking from my porch to the east:

Looking southeast. Listen:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PTSD (All Over Again) / Alex and Toggle


We're all in this together.

We can send love and encouragement as well as experience, strength and hope, to the newest generation affected by American wars, represented in part by Alex and Toggle in Doonesbury in the last several days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We do what we can, when we can

With Occupy Wall Street in mind, I challenged the small corporation I have been working for, at home, since March 2010. About a week ago, they asked me and my co-workers to re-do work that we had lost due to problems with their software, without compensation for the time we spent on the work that was lost.

When the news came down, I was so angry that I cried what can only be called tears of rage. As it is, we are not paid for at least 30 minutes a day for work we do because this is a "production-oriented work environment," where we are only paid for the lines of dictation we produce (picture farmworkers being paid for how much lettuce they can pick in a day). There is a long list of tasks we do that are considered part of the job but which don't produce lines and for which we are not compensated.

Who, you ask, would work under those conditions? This was the only job I was able to get at age 60, and until last week I considered myself fortunate to be working in a time when many people my age will never be hired again. From what I know of my recent co-workers, they are generally young women with children, women near retirement age who have lost their well-paying hospital jobs due to hospitals outsourcing to companies like this one in order to save money, and disabled people who cannot easily work outside the home. These are desperate times. It is not easy to get a job.

When I calmed down enough, I emailed the Human Resources Director and the Vice-President of the company, saying that I was not going produce lines without compensation, that their request was likely illegal, and that I was not going to fill out my time sheet until they compensated me for my time. It is my guess that they must have talked with their lawyers because it took several days before they responded to my email. The Human Resources Director told me that I would hear from the Vice-President with the company's decision. The Vice-President emailed me saying that I would be given what is basically a $3.25 credit for my time, but said nothing about changing their policy, which means that every time their software fails, I have to use unpaid time to get credit for time worked in good faith, while making less than $10/hour.

Because I am 62 now and can collect early Social Security, I made a decision on October 11 to retire rather than continue to fight a daily exhausting losing battle for near poverty wages. Medical transcriptionists who work at home need a Caesar Chavez. What was once a profession where a person could make a decent living has become something like being a farmworker before Caesar Chavez. I'm no Caesar Chavez, although I wish I were.

My Social Security benefits will put me below the poverty line. My challenge now is to find a way to make a living for the rest of my working life, which may be the rest of my life. I'm feeling shell-shocked. And relieved to have made a good decision.

I do what I can, when I can.

From The Novice: A Story of True Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

...We began with what we knew and the few resources that we had. We did not expect anything from the government, because if you wait for the government, you will wait a long time.

...Sister Tri Hai practiced walking meditation all night so she could keep herself together and not lose herself in the fire. She went back to her true home within herself. Her true home is not in Paris, London or Tra Loc, because that home can be bombarded or taken away. Your true home is within yourself. The Buddha said, "Go home to the island within yourself. There is a safe island of self inside. Every time you suffer, every time you are lost, go back to your true home. Nobody can take that true home away from you." This was the ultimate teaching the Buddha gave to his disciples when he was eighty years old and on the verge of passing away..."

I read a mixed and somewhat sarcastic review of this book in Tricycle magazine. This is not going to be a bestseller. This is a story from Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, retold by Thich Nhat Hanh. The Dalai Lama says, "He shows us the connection between personal, inner peace, and peace on earth." I agree.

(At the top of this post is "The Typist," by Dubuffet. These days everyone is a typist)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Human Rights Campaign / Rivers and Roads

A young woman and a young man were standing near the two entrances to Bellingham's Community Co-op today, educating the public on the Human Rights Campaign. While I was eating my lunch on a tall stool at one of the window seats, I drew a picture of the young woman. What you can't see is the steady stream of people who stopped to talk with her in solidarity, to give their support and encouragement. I was just one of many witnesses to the dignity and courage of those two young people today, and one of many witnesses to the goodness of human beings.

Listen. You can thank my nephew, as I do, for sending us in the direction of these musicians and singers based in Seattle. His Facebook page has The Head and the Heart under favorite music. It's been a while since I've been so deeply moved by new music. Listen especially for when the woman starts singing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

With immense gratitude to Steve Jobs

Listen to "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" from 1964:

"... I gazed down in the river's mirror
And watched its winding strum
The water smooth ran like a hymn
And like a harp did hum

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song your strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum"

In 1979, when I was 29 years old (and had a different name), and personal computers were just coming up on the horizon, and I didn't want anything to do with them, I made the above linocut, inspired by a photo of Bob Dylan on the Basement Tapes album, never dreaming that Steve Jobs (another serious fan of Bob Dylan) would design a computer that would open up a world of creativity for me, including allowing me to compose a book of my art work and poetry and to self-publish it.

While I was out walking on the South Bay Trail along Bellingham Bay this morning, it occurred to me that the creative energy and gratitude in this song likely spoke to Steve Jobs.

If you have time, listen to this. I had heard this once before. It's worth listening to again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Delayed reactions / Coincidence?/ "Tug on anything at all.."

I just watched the movie below with the voices in American English. Wonderful to find this beautiful film in many languages!

I have to say, though, that I was startled by the scene in the bath in this film, given that in American culture it is not a typical scene except perhaps in early childhood when the mother is absent, as in this movie where the mother is ill and in a hospital. I am not sure of the ages of the two girls, but the older girl appears to be about 10 years old. I do realize that this is traditional in Japanese culture, although I don't know much about this tradition, and the traditional personal boundaries that must be connected with it.

I do know that when I expressed concern in confidence to a mental health counselor on a crisis line that a 10-year-old was still taking showers with a parent of the opposite sex (I later learned that both parents thought this would be fine until the child was 12), the Mandatory Reporting Laws in the State of Washington required the crisis line mental health counselor to contact Child Protective Services, and there was an investigation and a confidential Educational Intervention to ensure that the parent stopped taking showers with the 10-year-old of the opposite sex and that she understood that what she was doing was not appropriate in American culture and not in the best interests of her child growing up in the context of American culture. The showers with the parent stopped, although the mother was, of course, angry about the intervention and argued that she had done nothing wrong. The child has grown up and is excelling in everything he does. Still, I do not like to think what would have happened had the showering continued until the boy was 12.

I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had expressed my concerns to the parents only. I do not have children of my own and, within 12 hours (delayed reaction) of learning of the situation with the showers, woke up in the morning with a sick feeling inside, and talked with a mental health counselor on a crisis line because I wanted professional clarification of my instinctive concern. The mother may never talk to me again, thinking that I was the one who called in Child Protective Services, and "tried to destroy her family."

My delayed reaction that morning, upon awakening and calling the crisis line, was that I did know that I couldn't imagine myself taking a shower or bath with my father when I was 10 years old.

And I do know that when I was 4 years old, when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my youngest sister, my other sister and I were left for a week with a younger couple who were friends of my parents and who had two adopted sons close to my age, and that I was in the bathroom with my sister and with the man without his wife present. All I remember clearly is being in the bathtub without water, with my sister, and being angry at the man. I can see the 4-inch square bathtub tiles in my mind, and the man sitting on the floor next to the bathtub. This is one of my early childhood memories.

Many years later, a few months after Richard and I separated, I was in a department store at the customer service desk, and the woman who was helping me recognized my name. She was the wife who wasn't present when my sister and I were in the bathtub. She asked me about my life. I told her that I had just separated from my boyfriend who had just returned from Vietnam, and that the relationship had ended in violence. She said that she had just gotten a divorce from her husband who had become severely mentally ill and had been locking her in a closet when he would leave the house.

I get a chill today, this morning, just thinking of that. I have no memory of being hurt by that man, just of being angry at him. Now I am wondering again what happened in that bathroom that day in 1954 when I was 4 years old.

Coincidence or not, I am only beginning to thrive at age 62. It is never too late to heal.

(The painting at the top of the post is "Calendar Series: 15th Month/Night." I had it removed from its frame and scanned recently. The Calendar Series began with the 14th Month, inspired by the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Calendar of 1970, to which they had added a 13th Month. Richard was in Vietnam in 1970. The 13th Month was the month we were to be together again. I felt that I was lost in the 13th month for years. Now I am recalling that I starting the Calendar Series as a way of healing in the same way that I started this blog. Yesterday was the birthday of John Lennon and Sean Lennon, by the way)

"Tug on anything at all, and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe."
(John Muir)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Born during the same 24 hours in 1949 / Coincidence?

Yesterday was my birthday, and today would have been my old friend Richard's 62nd birthday. I have one other photo of us together, but that one is in silhouette as we are walking hand in hand in the direction of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. If it weren't for Richard, I wouldn't have any photos of us at all. For both photos, he set up the camera and stepped into the picture.

Today when I was getting groceries, I ran into a man that Richard worked for as a carpenter in California a long long time ago. I don't see him around that often. What are the chances that some years ago, I would get out of my car to deliver some paintings to an art gallery and that a man would get out of the car next to me and offer to help and that it would turn out that Richard had worked for him? And that as he and his wife were in the grocery store parking lot today, he would recognize me and stop to talk on Richard's 62nd birthday?

Then, this morning, I was talking with Richard's sister, Dorothy, who had left a message yesterday for my birthday. She said she was driving on a back road in the coast hills on the San Francisco Peninsula and saw a solitary crow skipping along the road. She knows that whenever I see a crow skipping I think of Richard. I even wrote a poem featuring a skipping crow and innocence and forgiveness when Richard and I were both 50 years old.


All desire. No forgiveness.
Years later it was early spring
with Red-Winged Blackbird,
Goldfinch, faithful Canada Goose on the trail
and return of the Tree Swallows.

Then I remembered.
He was sitting close to me.
Mr. Solitary Crow skipped by us like a child.
We laughed until we were children again.
This was how I experienced love.
I was innocent of forgiveness.

If you have time, listen to something that spoke to Richard's heart and which speaks to mine.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Distinguished yet youthful ..."

It's my 62nd birthday today.
I'm keeping it simple, as always.
This made me laugh in delight:

Inside the card, it says:

A look not everyone
can pull off.

Happy Birthday

"Woman With Hands Full," pastel drawing from 1986 by am, inspired by the "Basement Tapes" album cover photograph with Bob Dylan pictured below. Every drawing has to start somewhere...