DOGGY DISCRIMINATION – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The TSA uses about 1200 dogs at airports to screen passengers and baggage. These dogs are from seven breeds, two of which have pointy ears, including German Shepherds. But four out of five of the recent additions to the canine corps have droopy ears. Why?

Because the TSA decided, purely anecdotally, that people generally view floppy-eared dogs as more docile and friendly and pointy-eared dogs as more aggressive.

Allegedly, floppy-eared dogs don’t scare children but the pointy-eared dogs do.

Floppy-eared Golden Retriever

There is some research that supports the idea that people view pointy-eared dogs as more intimidating. This is a totally unsupported prejudice and it’s unfair to dogs because many dogs with pointy ears have had their naturally floppy ears cropped as puppies. Others have been genetically engineered by breeders to look that way.

Let’s be clear – pointy ears do not indicate an aggressive or dominant temperament. Ear configuration has no relationship to a dog’s disposition. This fear of pointy-eared dogs has been called ‘canine racism.’

Pointy-eared German Shepard at airport

I know a lot about doggie discrimination.

My daughter, Sarah, works with a Pit Bull rescue group in LA called Angel City Pit Bulls. One of their missions is to fight breed discrimination, like breed specific legislation which prohibits Pits from certain buildings and even certain cities. London had a Pit Bull ban and Montreal is trying to enact one. This forces people to choose between living where they want and giving up their beloved pet or finding somewhere else to live with their dog.

Pit Bulls are the canine ‘bad guys’ du jour. In the past, German Shepherds were shunned as aggressive and dangerous but now are used as companions and seeing-eye dogs. Then Rottweilers became the ‘bad dog’ du jour — and they don’t even have pointy ears!

Rottweiler

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Pit Bulls were used as the ‘nanny’ dog – to protect children and be their early companions. They were considered the ideal family pet and many family photos from the period include young children with their Pit Bulls.

Old photo of Pit Bull with his child

What’s even more galling about Pit Bull discrimination is that ‘Pit Bull’ isn’t even a legitimate breed. It’s an umbrella label that encompasses dogs from at least four different breeds, including Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog.

In shelters, dogs are labeled ‘Pit Bull’ if someone thinks they have some Pit Bull in them. The designation is totally arbitrary and subjective. And there are more Pits in shelters than any other breed and they are euthanized at a higher rate than any other breed.

Modern Pit and baby

To add insult to injury, the breeds that make up the faux category ‘Pit Bull’, are smack in the middle of the ratings for aggressiveness by breed. They are rated between Labs and Golden Retrievers! Clearly, these dogs are nowhere near being the most aggressive dogs.

In fact, the two most aggressive breeds are Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. But no one lodges complaints when attacked by a Chihuahua, probably because it would be embarrassing.

Sweet-faced Pit Bull

The most dominant traits in Pit Bull breeds are their gentleness and sweetness, their friendliness and their desire to please their humans. They got a bad reputation decades ago when dog fight promoters started training Pit Bulls to fight.

Remember, any dog can be trained to be aggressive and fight. And Pits are especially trainable because of their desire to please. Many Pits who have been rescued from dog fighting rings have been successfully rehabilitated and have been adopted as family pets – even after being trained to be aggressive.

So there is no basis for the widespread perception that Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other breeds. There is also no basis for the perception that pointy-eared dogs should be feared more than floppy eared dogs.

People seem to need to discriminate. They discriminate against people and dogs. We should fight prejudice and discrimination wherever we find it, even when it’s dogs. Mostly, dogs are nicer than people anyway.

Support dogs!

MUSINGS ON TIME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Recently I’ve been more aware of the passage of time in several different ways. Since quarantine began, every morning when I look in the mirror and start brushing my teeth, I think, “I remember yesterday morning when I did the exact same thing. Here we go again, another day.”

I also think of the classic scenes in the movie “All That Jazz when the actor playing Bob Fosse looks in the mirror every morning, does “Jazz Hands” and says, “It’s showtime!” as he takes his morning dose of heavy drugs to get through the day.

These aren’t deep, philosophical moments for me, they are more like a passing recognition of the passage of time.

Oddly enough, my diet has also made me more aware of time. I just lost over ten pounds on the Jenny Craig Diet (which I highly recommend) and one of the features I like about the program is that you’re supposed to eat something roughly every three hours. That way you’re never starving and your metabolic rate stays at a steady level throughout the day. Because of this, I look at my watch frequently to mark off three-hour intervals with a snack or a meal.

When I’m busy and occupied, the time flies by and I often miss my three-hour mark. But when I’m restless or bored, the time crawls by and I end up counting down the minutes. I’ve always known that “time flies when you’re having fun”, but I never documented it so graphically and consistently.

Something else happened recently that made me think about the passage of time. I reconnected on Facebook with a former au pair from Germany, Heike, who lived with my family for two years between 1987 and 1989. She was 24-26, I was 38-40, my son was 7-9 and my daughter was 2-4 years old. Heike and I stayed in touch till around 1994 before losing touch completely.

Once we found each other again on Facebook, we immediately talked on the phone for an hour and a half, catching up on whole lifetimes. She’s now 56 and has grown kids. But we have so much in common and we still have such a strong connection, that it felt like almost no time had passed since we had been embedded in each other’s lives.

Some connections are deeper than others and can survive both time and distance. Heike and I are going to stay in touch through phone, text, and Zoom and we’ll meet up in person once people can travel again (she lives near Seattle, Washington). We’re both excited to be back in each other’s lives again, this time as co-equal friends, not employer and employee – although there was always an underlying friendship between us.

Our lives were at very different stages in the 1980s but now we both have adult children and long-term marriages. And several of my best friends today are her age, 14 years or more my junior. My parents were 26 years apart in age so age differences don’t mean much to me.

I’ve increased my awareness of hours, days, and decades in interesting ways. I think being in quarantine has warped many people’s perceptions of time. It’s a running joke that no one knows the date or the day of the week anymore; the days just blur together into an amorphous blob. Maybe that’s why I’m more sensitive to time – it’s just another side effect of the Coronavirus pandemic.

HOW THE DISCOVERY OF GERMS CHANGED SOCIETY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In ancient societies, people thought diseases were caused by an imbalance of body fluids or by angry Gods. Centuries later, scientists suspected that illnesses might be transmitted through air or water but they weren’t sure how. Then, in the mid-19th century, Germ Theory proved that tiny microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses, definitively caused disease. This discovery had a profound effect on almost all aspects of human behavior.

You would be appalled by some of the common practices before people understood that germs cause disease. Families shared toothbrushes as well as dinner utensils and public drinking fountains had a single cup that was shared by everyone. Lodgers in inns routinely shared beds with same-sex strangers and families often had several members sharing beds at home.

Customs changed and laws were passed rapidly to adapt to the new scientific knowledge about infectious diseases. Sharing beds and silverware was suddenly unacceptable and restaurants began making male waiters shave their large beards and mustaches. Long skirts for women and heavy Victorian draperies for windows went out of style because all the heavy folds of fabric were thought to harbor germs. Laws were passed to outlaw public spitting, a very common practice among men. An entire industry came into being producing sanitary products and disinfectants, which is how Listerine was born.

Wicker was believed to be germ-resistant so it became the material of choice for seating. The invention of plastic wrap (by the Cellophane Company) in the 1920s was touted as a major sanitary innovation because it could keep food and other personal items germ-free. Refrigerators and vacuum cleaners became necessities for keeping a clean, hygienic house, the new primary goal of all women.

Another esoteric custom came into being. Have you ever wondered why sheets are folded down over the blanket at the head of the bed? We didn’t always do that. Once germs were discovered, sheets were lengthened so that they could protect the blanket from human touch. Therefore the blankets stayed germ-free and could be reused and needed to be washed less frequently than the sheets. Who’d have guessed that one?

The adoption of sanitary practices had some wonderful effects. For example, the frightening levels of infant mortality were greatly reduced. In 1870, 175 of every thousand infants died within the first year of life but by 1930, that number was down to 75. Unfortunately, there was also a serious negative effect on children, as child-rearing practices took an ominous turn.

By the end of the 19th Century, mothers and child givers were warned against cuddling or even touching children for fear of spreading deadly infections. Chilly, aloof, and almost totally non-physical relationships with children were encouraged by doctors and even the government. Parents were told they would do psychological damage as well as physical harm to their children by ‘spoiling’ them if they showed any kind of physical affection. It was this hands-off approach that did serious damage to generations of children because it goes against the inherent need for physical affection that all primate share.

This awful period of child-rearing didn’t end until WWII. That’s when John Bowlby developed attachment theory after observing the damaging effects of children being separated from their parents when they were sent away to ‘safer’ areas during the Blitz in England. Bowlby believed that the attachment between a child and its parents is one of the most important factors in determining a child’s mental and even physical health. He believed that anything that damages the formation of that attachment, like the absence of physical contact and emotional warmth, would have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional and cognitive development.

Around the same time as Bowlby, an American psychologist named Harry Harlow did world-famous studies with monkeys that proved that all primates have an instinctual need for touch and affection. He also found that baby monkeys who were deprived of physical contact exhibited abnormal and even pathological behavior. His work bolstered Bowlby’s and helped initiate a new era of child-centered and emotionally as well as physically connected parenting. My father was a prominent psychoanalyst and anthropologist who wrote in the 1940s and 1950s about the importance of parental intimacy, stimulation, and affection for their kids, especially in the first, critical three years of life.

I always find it fascinating to unravel the connections between seemingly unrelated events in history. There was a wonderful PBS show years ago, aptly called “Connections” that did precisely that. The concept is similar to the “butterfly effect.” I never would have thought that the discovery of germs would influence child-rearing for several generations.

Maybe our experience with the Coronavirus pandemic will have similar, unpredictable effects in all different areas of life. We can guess that more people will work from home from now on, that many people may eat out less frequently and maybe that shopping online will supplant in-person shopping for most things. But what else will change? Only time will tell.

INTRODUCING THE POTATO – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When we celebrate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day, we should also be celebrating Columbus’s discovery of the potato. More accurately, Columbus’s introduction of the potato from the New World to the Old World. This introduction of New World foods to Europe and the east is known as the “Columbian Exchange”.

Christopher Columbus

The potato, and other native American plants “…transformed cultures, reshuffled politics and spawned new economic systems that then, in a globalizing feedback loop, took root back in the New World as well.” This quote is from an article in the Washington Post on October 8, 2018, titled “Christopher Columbus and the Potato that Changed the World.” The article is by Steve Hendrix.

An example of the potato’s earth-shattering impact is that it helped eliminate famines and fueled a population boom in parts of northern Europe. This made urbanization possible which, in turn, fueled the Industrial Revolution. This population explosion also helped several European nations assert dominion over the world from 1750 to 1950. Thus the potato is also responsible for the rise of Western Europe and its colonies, including America.

But let’s get back to the initial introduction of the potato to skeptical Europeans. The potato spread slowly. At first, it was viewed with suspicion and plagued by misinformation. Initially, some people claimed that the potato was an aphrodisiac. Others believed that it could cause leprosy. When Sir Walter Raleigh brought potatoes into the Elizabethan court, the courtiers tried to smoke the leaves!

Sir Walter Raleigh

It took a while for people to realize what a nutritional bonanza the potato is. It’s filled with complex carbohydrates, amino acids, and vitamins. It is a nutritionally complete diet when paired with milk. It also took time for people to take advantage of the superior productivity and sturdiness of the potato over other agricultural products, like grains.

In the 1600’s, Europeans finally figured out how to successfully cultivate potatoes. The effect was dramatic – the population of places like Ireland, Scandinavia, and other northern regions, increased up to 30%. In a 1744 famine in Prussia, King Frederick the Great ordered his farmers to grow potatoes and ordered the peasants to eat them!

Famines were prevalent in Europe. France had 40 nationwide famines between 1500 and 1800 as well as hundreds and hundreds of local famines. England suffered 17 national and regional famines just between 1523 and 1623. The world could not reliably feed itself.

Enter the potato. Because potatoes are so productive, once everyone started planting them, they became a diet staple. In terms of calories, they effectively doubled Europe’s food supply. For the first time in Western European history, the food problem was solved. By the end of the 18th century, famines almost disappeared in potato country. Before the potato, European living and eating standards were equivalent to today’s Cameroon or Bangladesh.

Another benefit of the potato is that it is easily portable and stays edible for a relatively long time. So potatoes could easily be transported to the cities, fostering their growth. This created an urban factory workforce. Hence, the Industrial Revolution.

In the mid-1700’s, a French man named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier took it upon himself to launch a PR campaign on behalf of the potato. He created publicity stunts to draw attention to his miracle product. For example, he presented an all potato dinner to high society guests. One of them, it is claimed, was Thomas Jefferson. Parmentier also convinced the King and Queen to be seen wearing potato blossoms. His biggest stunt was to plant 40 acres of potatoes at the edge of Paris, knowing that the starving population would steal and eat them.

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier

The potato took such firm root in Europe that by the end of the 18th century, roughly 40% of the Irish people ate no solid food other than potatoes. That was also true of 10-30% of other countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Prussia, and Poland.

In the mid-1800’s, catastrophe struck. Blights started wiping out the potato crops. In 1845, in Ireland alone, one half to three-quarters of a million acres of potatoes were wiped out. The following years, up until 1852, were even worse. The Great Potato Famine was one of the worst in history in terms of percentage of population lost. Over a million Irish died. A similar famine in the U.S. today would kill 40 million people!

Potato blight

Within a decade, over two million people fled Ireland, over three-quarters of whom came to the United States. That changed the history and demographics of the U.S. And it began the phenomenon of the Melting Pot.

A major commemoration of the potato exists in Germany. A statue of Sir Francis Drake was erected in 1853, although Drake did not, in fact, introduce the potato into Europe. The statue depicts Drake with his right hand on his sword and his left hand holding a potato plant. On the base is the following inscription:


Sir Francis Drake

Dissemination of the potato in Europe
In the year of our Lord 1586.
Millions of people
Who cultivate the earth
Bless his immortal memory.


Drake statue in Germany

So, as Steve Hendrix said in the Washington Post, “…a small round object sent around the planet … changed the course of human history.”

PRO-LIFERS ARE NOW PRO DEATH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There are certain hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the Right Wing credo. I have trouble wrapping my head around it. I remember a George Carlin’s joke about the so-called Pro-Life crusade against abortion. Carlin said that their position is that “every life is sacred” as long as it’s still in the womb. Once it’s out, their attitude is “Fuck you! You’re on your own! No government aid or programs to help you thrive or even survive. It’s sink or swim, kid! And if you sink, it’s your own fault!”

I recently saw a Right-Wing sign that blew my mind. It was at one of those protests against the state-mandated shutdowns in place to protect people from contracting the Coronavirus. One issue that the Right has glommed onto is their constitutional ‘right’ to ignore state rules that require them to wear face masks when outside. The scientific rationale behind these requirements is the protection of OTHER people from possible infection from YOU. It is meant to be a selfless act to show support and consideration to others in your community.

The Trumpettes don’t care about others in the community. They claim that these regulations violate their freedom of choice.

The sign that set me off was carried by an unmasked, gun-toting libertarian. It said “My body, my choice”! Isn’t that the slogan of the pro-abortion advocates? It’s their position that women get to choose what happens in their own bodies. What am I missing here? That this freedom doesn’t apply to pregnant women unless the pregnant women are advocating for the right to choose not to wear a face mask to protect others?

There is now an extreme manifestation of the pro-death views of the alleged Pro-Lifers. Trump and his followers are now pressing for the opening up of state economies when the infection and death rate curves have not yet flattened and begun to go down. Which all scientists say is required for any reopening to succeed without unacceptable death rates.

Their stated philosophy is that it’s okay to have many more Coronavirus deaths as long as the economy gets going again. Some have literally said that older people should be willing to die to help the economy recover. Can you imagine thinking that, let alone saying that out loud? What happened to “every life is sacred”?

Carlin was right. The right to life only applies in utero.

Republicans/Trumpers seem to be willing to accept an out-of-control death rate from the virus in order to get the economy out of the recession/depression it is now in. What about MY right to life? I don’t understand how they envision a healthy economy with large numbers of workers out sick and larger numbers of people afraid to go out and continue to shelter at home. But that’s another issue.

Why is it that these people can’t see the total hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of their positions? Some say the Trumpers are just too mentally challenged (read: stupid). But there are also psychological elements involved in the adoption of their political views. Trump supporters seem to believe that they are the moral ‘right’ and on the side of ‘good.’ Anyone opposing them is evil and morally corrupt. They are so certain of their righteousness they can’t even see the possibility of a legitimate opposing view. They ignore or deny facts that don’t fit in with their mindset.

In addition, they seem to have no problem imposing their will on everyone else and taking other people’s freedoms away. The Pro-Choice (pro-abortion) position has always been that if you want to follow your beliefs and NOT have an abortion, you’re free to abstain. Just don’t interfere with my right to do what I believe is right for me.

Freedom of choice is unacceptable to the Pro-Lifer/Pro Trumper.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the psychological pathology of Donald Trump. His malign narcissism is legendary. No one and nothing else matters but him and what he wants and he can pursue his own interests no matter who or what he destroys in the process.

He has also been labeled a toddler emotionally, with no impulse control or understanding of other people’s needs or of the good of society at large. It’s “Me!, Me!, Me!, Now !, Now!, Now!” all the time. I’ve concluded most of his followers suffer from the same psychopathy. They are incapable of seeing the world from the perspective of a compassionate, cooperative member of society. All they do is have tantrums when they don’t get what they want when they want it. The Toddler-In-Chief presides over a movement made up entirely of other toddlers.

 

It’s scary to think that one-third of our country consists of these psychologically damaged, intellectually. and morally limited people. Nonetheless, we have to move forward assuming this is the case. We need to focus on getting the nonright wing two-thirds of the population voting and engaged in the political process. That is the only way we can keep the infantile, selfish, autocratic. and compassionless minority from continuing to control our political system.

Hopefully, demographics are on our side over time. As the older Trump die-hards die off (and without masks, this isn’t pie in the sky). and the young and the minorities make up more of the population, the pendulum should swing back towards a more equitable, inclusive, open-minded. and socially responsible electoral majority.


At least this fantasy of the future will help get me through the next six months of the Trump Show until the election. And it’s only my optimistic belief that he can’t win reelection that allows me to sleep at all. If he does win in November and the fanatical toddlers continue to rule, I literally don’t know how I’ll get through the next four years. I’ll start by reading “Lord Of The Flies.”

HOMEBODIES ON LOCKDOWN – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never thought that being a homebody would uniquely qualify me to withstand a worldwide crisis, but it has. My “happy place” or “safe place” has always been at home. Growing up, my parents and I always tried to stay at home in pajamas together on Sundays and I cherished this weekly ritual. In the summer, at our country house, we often stayed home for days on end and usually only ventured out to shop once a week. A day when I didn’t have to leave the house (or the property in the summer), was a great day.

For most of my adult life, staying home was just not an option and I adjusted to a busy life out in the world. But whenever I had to leave home for a trip, I would get anxious. I would obsess over packing and arrangements for taking care of the kids, dogs and/or house while I was away. The anxiety didn’t keep me home, but it made the prepping and planning for a trip anxiety-ridden and difficult. I still feel anxious when leaving and I start planning what to take weeks in advance to make sure that I take everything I could possibly need.

Whenever possible, I try to plan my life so that I do most of my errands on one or two days so I can have several days in a row when I don’t have to leave the house. Sometimes I even stock up enough supplies so I only have to shop every ten days to two weeks.

Flash forward to the Coronavirus pandemic and the stay at home, shelter in place orders we have been living with for close to two months now. I realized that by nature, I am well suited to get through this crisis with flying colors. I’m being ordered by my Governor to stay home. No problem! The rest of the world is now afraid to leave their homes – so now everyone is living my dream of staying home all the time. I’m no longer an outlier – my slightly neurotic behavior patterns are now the norm and I’m no longer quirky, I’m just a good citizen. This is my finest hour! I’m a pro at going out as little as possible.

This crisis has created a planet full of agoraphobics. I’ve read numerous articles about how long it will take for people to feel comfortable again going out to restaurants or theaters or any place where they are closely exposed to strangers. Even when governors open up parts of the economy, there’s no guarantee that people will come out and leave their safety zones until they’re very sure that it’s safe. That may require levels of testing that we just don’t have right now. Several of my friends have literally not left their houses for over six weeks and get everything delivered to the house. Even I have been going out once a week to shop and get mail. These friends will certainly not jump back into their previous routines of shopping, socializing, and eating out any time soon.

I feel lucky that I’m not ‘suffering’ from being cooped up at home as many people are. I don’t feel ‘trapped’ and I don’t have cabin fever. But I’m sheltering at home with my husband and two dogs so I’m not alone. On the other hand, I don’t have to deal with children and their homeschooling and/or working from home. So adjusting to the new reality has not been stressful for me. We’ve been using Zoom and Facetime to ‘socialize’ with friends and family several times a week so I still feel connected with loved ones.

My husband and I also retired before the virus struck so we weren’t going to work every day anyway. As a result, our daily routines have not been altered dramatically. We both get up at our usual time and get dressed every day – no pajamas during the day. However, I don’t curl my hair or put on makeup and I do wear my furry Uggs instead of real shoes. We mostly miss dinners with friends on the weekends (most of our friends are younger and still working during the week). We will miss entertaining people on the boat when it gets into the water and spending leisurely days hanging out on the dock with others.

Because of our stage of life and my basic nature, we’re surviving the total disruption of life on earth better than most. I’m now part of the mainstream of worldwide agoraphobics who won’t leave our homes until Dr. Fauci tells us it’s safe out there!

NUCLEAR VERSUS EXTENDED FAMILIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Most people assume that the nuclear family is the natural and best environment for bringing up children. We probably also assume that it’s been the norm forever. But both assumptions are wrong. Both historically and cross-culturally the extended family – multiple generations living together and sharing responsibilities – is in fact the most common social arrangement. Remember the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”?

The nuclear family only became widespread after the Industrial Revolution created a factory based, centralized economy. This type of economy favored the smaller, nuclear family unit because it could more easily pick up and move to wherever the work was. In the scenario that gave birth to the nuclear family, husbands’ incomes alone could support the whole family. For the first time in history, wives were able to stay home and run the household and care for the children full time, on their own.

The problem with this family structure today is that one income can no longer support most households and most wives also have to work outside of the home. However, children and aging parents still have to be cared for and this creates a vicious circle. Parents have to pay a big chunk of their income to caregivers for their children (nannies or au pairs, daycare centers, etc.) and must also often help their parents afford retirement communities, home health care, or nursing homes. Then the people caring for YOUR children and parents have to pay people to take care of THEIR children and parents, and so on.

In 1940, 25% of Americans lived in multi-generational homes, with grandparents helping to care for young children and later older kids helping to care for the aging grandparents. By 1980, only 12% of Americans lived in inter-generational homes. But after the Great Recession of 2008, economic necessity brought that number back to 18%.

The current Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the fact that our society today farms out and isolates our older population and puts unrealistic pressures on the nuclear family unit. Maybe now is a good time for another resurgence of the interdependence of the generations.

We have idealized ‘independence’ for a long time; the independence of the parent-child unit despite huge logistical and economic hurdles and the independence of the older generation who are proud to be able to make it on their own, despite loneliness, isolation, and often a huge price tag. It seems clearer now how dysfunctional the separation of the generations can be for a vast number of families.

Multi-generational living

With good childcare hard to find and prohibitively expensive, it’s a no brainer that willing and able grandparents could be invaluable to cut costs and increase the quality of their grandchildren’s care, at least part-time, while their children work. This may not always be feasible. I would not have let my in-laws spend that much time with my kids unless they promised to pay all the psychiatric bills that that would have engendered. And my mother was too busy living her own life to even occasionally babysit for my kids (she ‘visited’ with them at her convenience).

On the other hand, I have a friend whose daughter has three kids ages six, four, and two-and-a-half. She normally helps her daughter out a few days a week, but since the shelter in place order in Connecticut, my friend and her husband have been spending all day, every day helping their totally overwhelmed, home-bound daughter. Another friend moved down the street from their daughter so they could help out regularly with her special needs daughter. My husband and I were lucky enough to have had grandparents as a big part of our lives growing up and in turn, we helped care for them when they got older. It was a win, win for everyone involved, and enriched all of our lives.

It might take a while to trend back to extended families living together, or at least close by, on a larger scale. First, attitudes have to change back to valuing the extended family lifestyle. That may begin to happen seeing how both young families and seniors are struggling with financial and emotional stress today. Inter-generational families may be seen as a solution to today’s problems for future generations. Instead of the ‘sandwich generation’, balancing children and aging parents separately but at the same time, the extended family brings everyone together to help each other through all stages of life.

In the meantime, the government can ease the situation for younger parents by guaranteeing paid parental leave and also access to high-quality child care for everyone. That still leaves older people alone with their children helping with their care as best they can. But at least it could give young families a breather while we all figure out what type of family structure works best for everyone in today’s world.

CORONAVIRUS TRENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Most of the United States, and much of the rest of the world, are ‘sheltering in place’ because of the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the globe. This means that vast numbers of people are cooped up at home, looking for ways to stay entertained, upbeat and sane. I’ve been curious to see what trends in behavior are discernible in this period of mass self quarantine.

I’ve read that online dance parties have been organized with Zoom and other Face-Time style technology. This is a creative and fun way to get exercise as well as a sense of community for people who miss being able to ‘party.’ Pilates and Yoga classes are also continuing on Zoom and other platforms. I have a friend in London who is a Pilates teacher and she says that she’s never been busier – all online! So this trend is not just an American phenomenon, it’s worldwide.

Holidays are inspiring family activities in large numbers. Families are having ‘costume days’, when everyone dresses up for Xmas or Halloween, etc. and they take family photos to send out to friends and family. Along these lines, many bored families are pulling out all the holiday decorations and festooning the house with Xmas lights and Halloween décor. Neighborhoods are organizing holiday ‘parties’ and people are driving around and admiring what their neighbors have done to liven up their homes. This is a great way to create fun, cheer and humor in depressing times.

Online tutors are seeing a surge in demand as are liquor delivery services. Weed stores in California have been deemed ‘essential’ businesses and have also seen an uptick in business. No surprise there!

Liquor deliveries are trending

One trend that brightens my heart is the increase in shelter pet fostering and adopting around the States. Many shelters had to close down their facilities during the pandemic so they put out emergency calls for foster parents to step up and take pets out of the shelters and into their homes on a temporary basis. Some animal shelters in New York City are running out of pets due to a huge surge in applications. One shelter in Bakersfield, CA, had 200 foster applications in 48 hours! They set up a drive-through service to adhere to social distancing rules. Matches between pets and fosters and adopters were made online and then the approved families drove up to the shelter and their dogs or cats were brought out to their cars. Drive through pet adoption! How cool!

Drive through dog fostering

Maybe it’s an increased sense of humanity and compassion today or that people are stuck at home and are bored and want something fun in their lives, like a new pet. Whichever it is, this is a wonderful trend and I hope it continues after people go back to their busy lives.

One way to tell what people are doing at home is to see what they’re buying in large quantities– like flour, yeast, and eggs. Shortages in all these items have been reported recently because there’s been a big boom in home baking and bread making. People can suddenly do time-consuming activities like proofing yeast, monitoring rising dough and meticulously navigating complex cake recipes. Baking is also something parents can do with kids and many families are turning daily baking into a family ritual. There is a therapeutic element to baking; the mindfulness required to bake is soothing and relaxing and stress baking is a healthy way to deal with today’s high level of anxiety. It supposedly gives people a sense of control in a time when we seem to have little control over anything in our lives.

People in large numbers are also turning to puzzles to occupy their time and puzzle makers suddenly can’t keep up with the surge in demand for puzzles. Their sales are more than tenfold what they were before and there is a backlog of orders. It’s beyond what they call ‘Christmas volume.

Another item that is flying off the shelves in record numbers is vegetable seed packets. Seed companies are being swamped by an onslaught of orders from backyard gardeners. People may suddenly see the value of growing their own food in times of potential shortages and in reaching some level of food independence. Or, like with baking, people are looking for productive activities to occupy their time and their children’s time.

This consumer frenzy is focused on vegetables high in nutrients, like kale, spinach, and other quick-growing, leafy greens. All kinds of beans are also big sellers because they’re healthy, easy to grow and versatile in cooking.

So people are getting very creative in the ways that they are choosing to occupy their enforced downtime. It’s encouraging to see some of these quarantine trends and I hope that when social distancing is in the distant past, people will continue to spend family time doing some of these emergency hobbies that popped into their lives in this odd time of crisis.

HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER, PART II – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about the history of toilet paper and the response was so enthusiastic, I decided to look further into the subject.

Before toilet paper came into existence in 1857, people used leaves, moss, stones, corncobs or whatever was handy. The Romans used a sponge on a stick which doesn’t sound too bad. Except that Romans had communal lavatories and after using the sponge, they would dip it in a pail of water and then pass it onto the next guy. Ugh! Parts of the world today don’t even wipe, they use water from a jug or a bidet.

When cheap paper became easily available in the 19th century, people used newspapers and magazines as well as the giant Sears Roebuck Catalogue, which was a favorite in American bathrooms. In 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty started manufacturing “Paper for the water closet” and sold it in a package of sheets.

It wasn’t until 1871 when Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY, came up with the design that we are familiar with today. He invented the concept of perforating a roll of paper so it could be conveniently torn off in small squares. He then patented the cardboard tube at the center of the roll and a holder for this new contraption.

While we see this invention as brilliant and practical, it was apparently not easy to convince early 20th century Americans to buy this new, miraculous, disposable product. People wondered why they should pay for this fancy paper when they had so much paper available for free that could be put to the same use.

Well into the 1940s, toilet paper was a luxury because most Americans still used outhouses. These were basically a hole in the ground, so it didn’t matter what, or how much, you threw down that hole.

Outhouse

But another invention came to the rescue and made toilet paper a necessity in every American household – the flush toilet. Around this same time, many cities began building sewers and municipal water supplies which allowed more and more homes to acquire a hallmark of modern civilization, the indoor bathroom.

Flush toilets connect to sewers with an S-shaped trap to keep sewer gases from backing up into bathrooms. This piece of plumbing can get easily blocked up. Therefore, flush toilets are much more particular about what they can digest.

Newspapers and catalogs were no longer viable for modern bathroom duty.

Companies began to use modern advertising to compete with each other over the booming toilet paper market. Softer, “splinter-free,” and the multi-ply paper was touted as more comfortable and more absorbent. Colored toilet paper came out to match bathroom décor.

Toilet paper is now a 2.5 billion dollar industry and is considered to be enough of a daily necessity to cause the Coronavirus panic buying and resultant shortages in stores.

This is not the first time toilet paper shortages have made the headlines in recent history. In 1971, a July dock strike wiped out the toilet paper supply in Hawaii, which imports everything. That shortage lasted months and caused some interesting social phenomena. People stole toilet paper from the restrooms in bars, so some bar owners took control of the toilet paper supply and assigned a “poop manager” to ration out six squares to anyone who needed the restroom. To avoid similar pilfering, some hotels posted security guards in their restrooms.

Having toilet paper became a status symbol and a wealthy heiress received toilet paper rolls as a housewarming gift. When radio stations had contests, the winner got toilet paper – in one case the toilet paper was delivered in a Rolls Royce! In 1999 the threat of another strike caused another run on toilet paper in Hawaii.

After that, Hawaiians stockpiled supplies so they never had to panic about shortages again.

The good news today is that the current toilet paper shortage should be short-lived. Most of the paper industry is local and there are ample supplies of the raw materials used in its production: wood pulp and recycled paper. There are no overseas supply chains to get disrupted by Coronavirus so long term toilet paper shortages shouldn’t be something we need to worry about.

At least that’s what I read. We all know that sometimes what you read isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on!

ANXIETY AND THE CORONAVIRUS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would worry about everything and was afraid of almost everything. My mother, a trained child psychologist, tried to give me a form of cognitive therapy by pointing out to me every time I was ‘awfullizing’ or ‘what iffing.’ She tried to make me realize that my anxieties were irrational and always told me “Don’t bleed until you’re cut!” It actually helped me and by my teen years, I had managed to control the worst and most paralyzing aspects of my daily anxieties, for the most part.

Prozac was the first commonly used anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to burst onto the market in 1989. I was 40 and my psyche and my life changed dramatically as my anxiety and depression miraculously receded into the background. I still have flare-ups of anxiety and some ongoing anxiety issues, but they usually don’t keep me from being a basically upbeat, positive and relaxed person.

However, I would have thought that the Coronavirus crisis would have triggered my anxieties and thrown them into overdrive. I should have been in the first wave of panic buyers and I should have a closet full of toilet paper, paper towels and pasta. But I don’t. When the first stories came out early on about possible food shortages, a friend convinced me to order 40 cans of Progresso soup. I felt silly afterward and regretted that I had let my anxieties overtake me, but now I’m glad I have several cartons of canned goods in the basement – just in case.

Toilet paper aisles in most stores in New York and CT

Since then, I’ve been relatively calm in the face of the horrific health crisis that is getting worse day by day – and I am only 50 miles from the epicenter in NYC. At 70, I’m also in the higher risk population but I still go out once a week to shop and once a week to get mail at the post office. But that’s it for my forays into the potential virus-infected world.

I’m being careful and ‘sheltering in place’. Surprisingly, I’m not kept up at night by visions of worst-case scenarios swirling around uncontrollably in my head.

I’ve wondered why I’m not more anxiety-riddled than I am and I think the answer is that I’m only consumed with anxiety that reflects my irrational fears. I’m actually pretty good at dealing with real-world crises. I’m better dealing with a scary reality than with my inner demons.

My method of coping is staying up to date with what’s going on and acting accordingly to protect myself and my husband. I’ve read studies that show that people who read and listen to Coronavirus news regularly tend to be more agitated than those who don’t check the news as much. I find that the more I know, the safer I feel. Knowledge is power. So I’m keeping track of cases in my immediate area so when that number goes up dramatically, I can reassess my strategy and maybe place orders for pick up at the supermarket and get my prescriptions delivered by mail.

I believe that I’m doing what’s needed to limit my exposure so I feel relatively safe. I’m healthy and rarely get colds or flu so chances are good if I get it, it will be mild. I’m not consumed with worry that my husband or I will get seriously ill – or that I’ll run out of toilet paper before the stores can restock. Just in case, we also have a bidet!

If one of us gets sick, I’ll deal with it as best I can. I won’t bleed until I’m cut.

So, despite my propensity for anxiety, I seem to be dealing pretty well, psychologically speaking, with this very real, worldwide pandemic.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The panic buying spurred by the Coronavirus has highlighted the products that Americans feel are most essential to their wellbeing. Apparently toilet paper leads the pack since most stores initially reported that they were completely out of toilet paper.

Toilet paper hoarding has become a national joke, with people buying carts full of the stuff in anticipation of long periods of ‘sheltering in place.’

I was surprised to discover that toilet paper has only been around since 1857, which means that humans spent centuries and centuries without this basic item of civilized life. So what did people do before this life-changing invention? Sailors used the frayed end of a rope dipped in saltwater. The Romans used a sponge on the end of a stick. Rural areas used corn cobs hung in outhouses.

Stones and moss were also used as were all kinds of printed paper, which were put to double use. People wiped indiscriminately with everything from newspapers and catalogs to almanacs and literature and even government proclamations.

Then around 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty invented the first commercial toilet paper called “Gayettey’s Medicated Paper.” It was made of hemp, had the inventor’s name watermarked on each sheet and claimed that its four medications combined with the paper pulp prevented and cured hemorrhoids. It was clearly a luxury item only for the rich because it sold for $30 in today’s money for 1000 sheets.

Gayettey’s product was sold only in sheets, as were the other brands that popped up, but it continued to be sold into the 1920s. It wasn’t until 1890 that Irvin and Clarence Scott of Philadelphia’s Scott Paper Company revolutionized the world of toilet paper by selling it on rolls. If you look at the original patent, you can see that the roll was designed to be placed with the sheets coming OVER the roll, NOT UNDER!

Original patent showing OVER was the intended way to position each roll

A later patent tried to address the problem of finding the ‘end’ sheet if it’s not hanging down. It was not successful, nor were the others that subsequently tried to tackle that pressing issue. Later improvements on the toilet paper roll addressed the problem of waste – too many sheets unraveled with each use. In 1891 a patent was granted for a roll of toilet paper with perforations to separate sheets so that only one sheet of paper came off the roll at a time.

Another welcome improvement in quality came in the early 1900s when a company boasted of its super-refined, “splinter-free” toilet paper. Ouch! Before this time, minute wood pulp splinters were a common residue from the papermaking process. By 1943, toilet paper was advertised as “soft and oh so gentle” for the first time!

Toilet paper has also been used as a political tool and numerous American politicians have appeared on rolls, including George Bush and Donald Trump. Prior to World War II, some British toilet paper was made with pictures of Adolph Hitler and other Nazi leaders printed on the sheets. One such roll from the 1930s was recently found in a barn in England. It was thin, war issue paper and was only twenty sheets, but it showed Hitler giving the Nazi salute. It sold for $240!

Are we going to face prices like that for Charmin in the near future? If it had pictures of Donald Trump on it, it might be worth it.

The toilet paper of my childhood came in colors and colorful patterns

MY OLD HOUSE AS B&B – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In 1933, my father bought 40 acres of farmland in Easton, Connecticut for around $10,000. In 1934, he built a beautiful, stone Tudor house on a hill overlooking a field. The house was built by stonemasons from Italy who had been working on church projects in Italy when the depression hit and they were put out of work.

There was also a stone garage on the other side of a large circular driveway and a beautiful stone retaining wall edging the front and side lawns. My dad also dug a pond in the field at the bottom of the hill that could be seen from the house.

In 1948 my father married my mother and I was born the next year. We all spent winters in New York City where my parents were both therapists and I went to school, but we spent three months every summer on this idyllic property. (In my teen years, we started to go to the CT house on weekends in the fall and spring as well.)

Porch, other side of house and lawn

My grandparents wanted to be with me as much as possible, so after I was born, they moved across the street from us in NYC and spent summers in my parents’ house in CT. This did not work out too well for my mother. My grandmother (her mother) was critical and intrusive and she drove Mom crazy. So when I was two, my mom convinced my dad to build another house on the property for her parents, to get them out of her house and her hair.

View of pond and fields from house

My parents and grandparents hired an architect and designed a two-family house that was built onto the back of the garage – close enough but not on top of each other. The structure was completed in 1953, commemorated by my handprint in cement next to the front door. One side of the house contained a one-bedroom ‘cottage’ for my grandparents and the other side of the building, but not connected to my grandparents’ house, was another, smaller one-bedroom house for caretakers of the property to live in full time.

Garage and 2nd house

Around the same time, my parents built a swimming pool, next to the pond at the bottom of the hill. That became an endless source of fun for me and my friends and later for my own kids.

Pool

Everyone who came to visit fell in love with the house and the grounds. We always knew we had something special and other people’s enthusiasm confirmed our own, biased opinions.

I loved summers growing up, in part because I could walk back and forth to my grandparents’ house whenever I wanted, which was a lot. I watched Grandma cook and bake and in the fall, my Grandfather and I would pick concord grapes that grew wild near the pond and then I’d help Grandma make them into delicious jam. I also played cards with my Grandparents, watched TV with them and talked endlessly, particularly to my Grandmother.

My Grandfather, unlike my parents, loved to be outdoors. So he and I went on adventures together – we dug for worms and went fishing in the canoe on the pond, we caught frogs, hiked through the woods and explored the stream and waterfall that I look at every day now from my kitchen window. Our dog loved to tag along with us and I’d often find the dog hanging out with my Grandfather on his patio. Grandpa also had a small garden (my mother had a bigger one) and I happily ‘helped’ him with his tomatoes and beans. We also spent hours together in the pool since Grandpa was a great swimmer.

View from pool to house

My grandparents’ house was very simple. It had rote iron furniture on the screened-in porch and standard patio furniture on the patio outside – you know, the kind that had plastic slats on the chairs and lounges. The round plastic table had a hole in the middle for the large umbrella that shaded the table. There was no air conditioning – my Grandmother just opened the windows at night and closed them first thing in the morning. That was the one thing I didn’t like.

The kitchen had the Formica counters of the day and a bright yellow Formica and metal folding table we couldn’t open all the way because the kitchen was too small. The floor was linoleum, changed many years later to a tacky indoor-outdoor carpet. The living room had grey and white stained wood built-in sofas, catty-corner, banquette style in an ugly orange fabric with brown dots. The beautiful wood floor was covered with a beige area rug which was later changed to an appalling wall to wall carpet with a brown background and large orange and beige flowers on it.

The downstairs bathroom tiles were blue-green and the tiny master bathroom had pink tiles with black trim around the room. None of this was particularly attractive in any design period.

My parents’ lawn with lawn furniture

My Grandfather died in 1972 when I was 22 and my Grandmother died in 1975 when I was 25 and had recently married. Before she died, it was decided that my husband and I would move into her house on my parents’ property as a weekend and vacation house. My Grandmother made me promise that I wouldn’t make any major changes to the house, but in truth, we didn’t have the money to redecorate anyway.

We stayed in that small house, as it was, for fourteen years, until our kids were four and nine. (We did add air conditioning but changed little else). At that point, the only living space in the house served as a living room, playroom, and kids’ bedroom. It was constantly cluttered with kids’ toys and was no longer a pleasant place to hang out for long periods. Fortunately, we finally had enough money, with my mother’s help (my father had died), to design and build a beautiful house in the woods behind my Mom’s house, on land that she gifted to us.

Even after the move, we all still spent a lot of time at my mom’s house, at the caretaker’s house (because he had become a dear friend over the 20 years he worked for my mom) and, of course, at the swimming pool, which my kids loved as much as I had growing up.

My mom’s porch and view to lawn

So I spent the first 53 years of my life passionately attached to my parents’ Connecticut property. As a child, I used to make my father promise that he would never sell the house so I could keep it forever. But forever ended in 2002 when my mother died and we had to sell the property to pay my mother’s estate taxes. It broke my heart. It’s the next house down the street from me and for years I would get choked up whenever I drove past my beloved property.

Skip ahead fifteen years. The people who bought my parents’ property had worked in the food industry and in marketing and they loved the property as much as I had. They combined the two halves of my grandparents’/caretaker’s house into one larger house and rented it out. Then they decided to redecorate the house and landscape the backyard/patio AND the pool and patio and turn it all into a B&B!

They created a zen-like garden in my grandparents’ backyard, complete with stone-filled walking paths and a fountain. The additional patio, as well as the plantings, sculptures, and landscaping around the new pool, make it look like an elegant spa or resort.

Patio area behind the house

Gardens on the old lawn of cottage

Now the whole place looks like it belongs in a magazine! It is beautiful, inside and out, classy and high end in every way.

My old living room now

My old bedroom as a room for up to three people

My old pink and black master bathroom

The couple established a catering company that provides breakfasts as well as other meals on request. They cater to banquets, weddings and all other kinds of events, large and small. Their impressive marketing expertise has put their “Fox Pond Farm” on the map. You can go to Fox Pond Farm online and their B&B marketing sites will pop up, complete with beautiful photos.

Catered events at Fox Pond Farm

I am so thrilled that the beautiful, peaceful property I grew up on has reached its full potential as a magnificent place that people can come to for relaxation and enjoyment of country life. It’s odd though to think that I can sleep in my old bedroom at the cottage if I’m willing to pay something like $600! But I’m so glad that lots of other people can get to experience and enjoy the property where I grew up.

CLASS OF ’69 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Going to a 50th High School Reunion can be an exciting prospect – if it’s yours. I recently went to my husband, Tom’s 50th Reunion in Schenectady, New York, and, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I’m shy in big groups and pictured myself following Tom around and having nothing to say to a room full of strangers.

Tom’s ID badge with his senior photo

I was pleasantly surprised. We met three of Tom’s high school friends and their spouses at a local tavern before the official opening cocktail party. Everyone was delightful and friendly and we had a great time. Tom’s high school best friend, Stewie was there with his wife, Mar-C.

In preparing for the reunion, Tom and Stewie discovered that they had been living an hour away from each other in Connecticut for over thirty years! We got together a few weeks before the reunion so I already knew two other people. And Mar-C and I had compared notes on what to wear to each of the reunion events so my comfort level was pretty good by the time we arrived in Schenectady.

Tom and me with Stewie and Mar-c

After our private dinner, we headed over to the party and mingled with the 130 members of the Linton High Class of 1969 who showed up. Everyone was easy going and so nice. I realized from attending 20th and 40th reunions of my own, that as we all get older, the whole high school dynamic changes.

You don’t have the cliques anymore or the high school rivalries. People are no longer trying to impress everyone with their job or professional accomplishments, or, as time went on, the jobs and professional accomplishments of their children.

The main topic of conversation was – are you retired yet? If so, good for you and what are you doing to have fun? Most of us had reached the stage of life when we can wake up whenever we feel like it and spend the day doing whatever we feel like doing.

Everyone I talked to seemed genuinely happy and fulfilled. No competition anymore. Just stories of hobbies and grandchildren. Some people still did projects for work but on their own terms and schedules. Some people were traveling and having a ball exploring the world.

Class of 1969 yearbook and 50th reunion yearbook update

At the dinner the second night, there were fun games with prizes for the winners. Who’s been married the longest? 50 years! Who has the most kids? Six. Whose kids are the oldest? 50! And the youngest? 23. I was thrilled that Tom tied for the coolest job – he was a CBS network news director and audio engineer and the other guy was a documentary filmmaker.

Tom was well known at his high school. He ran for student council every year against the guy who always won. So Tom’s campaign speeches were more of a stand-up comedy act, the comic relief. They were apparently greatly enjoyed and appreciated by the other students, so lots of people came up to Tom with big hugs and cheerful greetings. I was very proud of Tom, especially when he got up to introduce the three videos he created for the reunion. These were the centerpieces of the dinner presentations.

By the time we left, I knew lots of people by name and we had promised to get together again with the ones who live a reasonable car ride away. I really felt like I made new friends and Tom got to renew friendships from long ago.

Tom and Stewie

We left the reunion happy and wired – until our car died before we even got out of Schenectady. Luckily we broke down right at a service station on the NY State Thruway so it only took AAA a half hour to get a tow truck to us. We rode the 2-½ hours home in the back of a truck with zero suspension. It felt like we were driving over cobblestones for the entire ride.

We got home at 3 AM but even this unpleasant finale didn’t dampen our positive feelings about the weekend we spent in a time capsule. We captured time in a bottle and loved every minute of it!

JEWELRY AS HISTORY, PART 2 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about how the jewelry I’ve collected over the years from other family members can trace our family history through the decades. I can also trace my personal history the same way, starting with the baby bracelet my parents bought for me when I was born. I guess it couldn’t be customized, because it spells my name the traditional way, rather than the way I spell it.

I spell my name “ELLIN”

Below are some pendants my parents and grandparents gave me as a preteen. I still have them all and wear the watch all the time (even though it no longer works).

A very meaningful gift from my grandparents was the Jewish Star of David they gave me on my thirteenth birthday. Boys were Bar Mitzvahed at thirteen but in the early 60’s, girls still weren’t. So this gift was meant to reaffirm my Jewish identity from the grandparents who shaped that part of me. I have already passed this down to my daughter, Sarah, and it means a lot to her too.

Here are two of the many fun costume jewelry pieces my grandfather bought for me as a teenager. Sarah has both of them now, but I wore them for decades.

I managed to get my grandmother to give me one of her Art Deco necklaces when I was in high school because I loved it so much and begged so hard!

Grandma’s Deco necklace

Another kind of ‘jewelry’ that represents an important part of my life, are the political pins I proudly wore and lovingly kept for all these years. My first political ‘crush’ was Gene McCarthy but ironically, I took time off after college and actually worked full time for Ed Muskie in 1971-1972, but I don’t have a pin from his campaign.

Political pins from my first forays into politics

One of my favorite jewelry trends growing up was the choker. I loved them and wore them for years. I had everyday ones and dressy ones and had one to match almost everything I owned that had an open neck.

Two of my large collection of chokers for many years in my late teens and twenties.

One of the most important pieces of jewelry I wear, always, is my wedding band. The one below on the left was from my first marriage and I wore it for 25 years. I loved it so much, that when I went looking for a new band for my second marriage, I tried to find something like it. My daughter and I searched everywhere and only found one that even remotely mirrored the style of the first band. I’ve worn the one on the right now for 17 years and I love it (almost), as much as the first one.

My first wedding band on the left, from 1974, and my second, from 2002 on the right.

While I loved jewelry, the one type of jewelry I couldn’t wear for many years, was the earring. I didn’t have pierced ears and the clip on earrings hurt so much I could only wear them for an hour or so, so I usually just didn’t wear them at all. Then, at thirty-two, a friend convinced me to get my ears pierced. That started a lifelong romance with earrings, now my favorite piece of jewelry. I have so many, I have several drawers dedicated to the unusual collection I’ve amassed over the years.

Below, the top, small gold earring was one of my first earrings. Very quickly I moved on to the bigger and more colorful ‘statement’ earrings, like the other two. I really went wild with earrings, though I’m too small to wear the really giant ones that are popular today.

My first experiments with earrings in my 30’s.

For a while, I was into matched sets of earrings and necklaces.

Matched sets of earrings and necklaces

The most expensive jewelry I ever bought were genuine Indian-made sets below that my first husband got for me over two different trips we made out west in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I still have them and wear them often.

For many years, my mother, daughter and I loved Craft Shows and got much of our jewelry there. We all favor interesting and unusual pieces and obviously love color and texture in what we wear. I never bought a lot of ‘real’ gold or silver jewelry because I could only afford very small pieces and I liked a more dramatic statement from what I wear. When my mother died, she left me her collection of glass jewelry from the artist on the right. So I now have a lot of necklaces, in different lengths, colors and styles from this artist.

Below are some more of the Craft Show earrings (and pendant) I have collected over the years.

Some other pieces that I cherish are the ones below that I wore at my wedding to Tom in 2002. I went back to my love of chokers and wore simple pearl and crystal earrings that matched the neckpiece.

Choker and hairpins I wore at my second wedding, to Tom, in 2002

Some of my jewelry is actually made by talented family members. The necklace and bracelet on the left were made by my first mother-in-law, Dorothy (Nana to everyone). The piece on the right was made by my incredibly talented, first stepmother-in-law, Joy. She was a welder and made amazing metal sculptures that I have all through my home. She also made some pieces of jewelry that are beautiful and unique. This piece is actually two individual sculptural pieces that she suggested I wear together.

The pendants in the middle were made by Sarah, who took up jewelry making for a year or two and became really good at it. The pendant on the right is a beautiful green stone, but you can’t see the color in the photo.

So a lot of what I wear every day reminds me of my past and my family members. And whenever my daughter comes home to visit, we go through the drawers of jewelry from the past that I no longer wear and we reminisce about the people and the places and the times that are evoked by each piece. It’s a fun way to remember our family history.