Category Archives: Book of Me

Book of Me – Prompt 25: Love

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty five’s prompt is Love.

  • Love comes in varying shapes and sizes
    • I love you
    • I love ice cream
    • I love the smell of rain, Spring, toast
    • I love my (insert your family member, pet etc)
  • There is no right or wrong way to love….or is there?
  • Define what love means to you

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I believe love is un-definable. There are certainly people I love (my family), objects that I love (chocolate comes to mind), things I love to do (another seemingly endless list) and places I love to visit. Do we love these things because they appeal to our senses, in one way or another? Do we love people because they conform (or not conform) to our expectations? How does one put such strong feelings into words? I am certainly not the best writer or poet in the world. Since the dawn of literature, writers have been using words to express how they feel and see the world, and to define love. Artists and craftsmen have been creating masterpieces which appeal to all our senses. Love is an emotion that can be triggered by memories from long ago. It can resurface, evolve and change. In many respects, I believe love defines a person, not the other way around.

Here are some of the things I love that define me.

All photographs are from the private collection of Deborah Sweeney.

© Deborah Sweeney, 2014.
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/03/23/book-of-me-prompt-25-love/

Book of Me – Prompt 23: Memory Board (part 1)

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty three’s prompt is a Memory Board.

To read more about the concept of the memory board, go to Julie’s blog: http://www.anglersrest.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/prompt-23-memory-board.html

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UMASS (Part 1) – Freshmen Year

During my senior year of high school, I applied to three universities: Boston University, Clark University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While I was accepted by all three, I really only had one choice, and it was purely based upon economics. While Boston University and Clark University offered moderate financial aid and scholarships, the offers were not enough to make the schools viable choices. As much as I wanted to attend Boston University, I could not afford it. At that time, my mother was an employee for the state of Massachusetts at the UMASS Medical Center in Worcester. The state workers’ unions had done some excellent bargaining in the 1980s. Any employee of the state of Massachusetts or their dependent children could attend any of the state universities tuition free. We were still required to pay all fees and room & board, but free tuition was free tuition.

UMASS - Main Campus View

Postcard of UMASS from the 1980s (Photograph by Larry Molczyk)

UMASS - LA

My roommate freshman year

During the summer of 1986, all freshmen were required to attend an orientation before the fall term started in September. We stayed on campus for a few days, ate at the dining halls, pre-registered for classes and took placement tests for math and foreign languages. My five years of French from 7th through 11th grade fulfilled my college foreign language requirement and I earned 3 free credits by taking a test. I was also required to take a math placement test. I passed and earned a waiver for the Tier I General Education math requirement. Because of my grades in high school, I was placed in the Honors track at the University.  I had already decided to be a History major. Because I was an “Honors” student, I had special priority for housing in Orchard Hill. The University had set aside some of their housing for students who were more academically motivated, and needed quieter living conditions. (Can you hear me laughing?) I met my future roommate during orientation and we signed up to room together. Our floor assignment was 5 North – Grayson Hall. I ended up living in the same room for three years.

I had a full course load my first semester.

UMASS - Schedule, 1986 (Fall)

After receiving one’s schedule for the semester, the first campus field trip was generally to the textbook annex. Conveniently, the annex was on the opposite end of campus so everyone got their exercise.

UMASS - Book receipt, 1986 (Fall)

UMASS campus map

Map courtesy of the UMASS website

All freshmen were required to take College Writing. I was able to sign up for a new offering of the course which took place in the computer lab. We were able type all papers in the computer lab. An additional two hours per week (outside of classtime) were required in the lab. I remember a few late evenings walking home after dark across campus. In the course of the semester, we wrote seven formal essays. We also keep an online writing journal.

My first journal entry answered the question “What I missed most about home?”:

UMASS - 1986, English 112 Journal, p. 1 (excerpt)

“9/24 What I miss the most at home. What a question! I’m not really sure. I know I miss my cat a lot. He’s getting old, almost ten years, though I’m not really sure exactly how old ‘he’ is. He’s a funny animal which we got under both slightly humorous and tragic circumstances. ‘He”…

A few days later, I wrote about my roommate:

UMASS - 1986, English 112 Journal, p. 2 (excerpt)

“Living with a roommate is a new experience for me. I never had to share a room with anyone because it is only my brother and I at home. I met my roommate at orientation which was good. I didn’t really know anyone from home that was coming here. I know a lot of kids from my school did come because I see them every now and then but no one I could call a friend. L – – was living down the hall from me for those few days. I didn’t really get to know her then at all, but now after a month it seems almost as if I’ve always shared a room with her. We get along really well together, and I think that’s very fortunate because I know several people who are having trouble adjusting to life with their new roomies.”

That fall I took an introductory level Anthropology course. Three guys from my floor were also in the class. They were all sophomores. Apparently they must have put me down quite a bit because I wrote about our final exam in my journal:

UMASS - 1986, English 112 Journal, p. 8 (excerpt)

“12/12 The fact overwhelmed her. She had done better than them all. They had all put her down, time after time. But she had showed them. She had taken the exam and won. It was a boost for her confidence. A boost that she badly needed. It could have been better, but a 4.2 out of 5 was not bad, an 84. But L – – had gotten a 3.8, and she had beat him of all people. He had called her all sorts of names from lazy to stupid to basically clueless. It made her somewhat elated to know that know [sic now] he was feeling the same way about himself, and that she had beat him. M – – wasn’t as bad, he didn’t put her down as much, and he really hadn’t tried on the assignment. But still the fact that she had done better just made her afternoon. J – – didn’t count, he didn’t even do the assignment. He never studied for the class, and he was taking it pass/fail. He did the best out of the four on the midterm exam which was sad. The more she thought about it, the less important it seemed. So what she had beaten L – -, she had probably spent more time on the assignment anyway.”

During the fall semester, I took History 102 Honors course with disastrous results. The professor was merciless and hateful. It was the first time I ever failed a class in my life (and the last time!) One of the bright spots in my semester was Theater 100 taught by Professor Harry Mahnken. Like most introductory classes, it was taught in a large lecture hall at the end of the day. We spent most of the semester watching Westerns and hearing Harry talk about the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One requirement of the class was to attend the fall productions of the Theater Department. The two plays in the Rand Theater that semester were Sam Shepard’s Angel City and Eugene Ionesco’s Amedee or How to Get Rid of It.

The spring semester began in late January. The university had a long break between fall and spring semester to allow for a short four week winter term. I returned a History major, but had begun to have doubts about my choice. I continued with taking two more courses in my chosen major: European History 1500-1815 and American History to 1876.

UMASS - Schedule, 1987 (Spring)

I signed up for several courses that fulfilled more of my general education requirements. I took a class in Astronomy. The professor was fabulous and he made learning fun. He enjoyed placing a banana in liquid nitrogen, then dropping it on the floor to watch it shatter. Another course that I enjoyed was English 143: Science Fiction Masterworks. This was one of those courses that has always stayed with me. We read several classic novels and watched several classic movies. The only movies I can remember are Zardoz and Fahrenheit 451. We probably watched some classic Star Trek episodes and maybe Star Wars.

UMASS - 1987, Science Fiction Masterworks

After my first exposure to the Theater Department, I continued to see the department’s productions (even though I was no longer required to). The ticket prices were greatly reduced for students. Most shows were only $2 or $3.

By the Spring of 1987, all the money I had earned from my high school job was running low. It was time for me to go back to work as I had not had a job my first semester. I found a job at the Franklin Dining Hall where I ate daily. I started  working on the assembly line washing trays and dishes. It was messy work but a lot of fun. I worked there for 7 semesters and averaged about 20 hours a week. I eventually became a student supervisor.

UMASS - Franklin Dining Hall

Franklin Dining Hall, circa 2013

UMASS - 1987, pay stub

One of my first pay stubs from 1987

My freshman year had a lot of ups and downs. When I left high school (I readily admit in retrospect), I was very naïve and sheltered. University life opened my eyes and life to a lot of new experiences as well as knowledge. Up until then, I had not known homosexuality existed. One of the other residents on my floor was from New York. Her father lived in Greenwich Village with his partner. In the 1980s being out and LBGT was not easy. Most people were still in the closet. Living a sheltered life prior to college, I did not recognize my own life had been spent in a very large closet, though not one of my own making. I began to recognize the lie that had been created around me. I understand on many levels that the lie was for my own protection as well as being just the wrong generation and time for the truth.

My father was very good about continuing to write to me while I was away at college. He also sent some killer care packages. Here is a letter that he wrote early on during freshman year. He also enclosed some pictures and a news clipping about Doctor Who. The story is a bit of a metaphor for my first experiences with alcohol. My relationship with my father was strong enough that I could tell him that I had gotten drunk for the first time while at college. Perhaps you can read between the lines about some of the other aspects of our family?

Sept 7, 1986
NYC
Hello Debbie!
Here are some photos to introduce you to a new member of our household, Laverne the flamingo. David P. brought her back from his trip to Palm Beach. Picture #1 shows her with David upon their return. The boys (photo #2) accepted her with open arms – left to right: Franklin Sebastian The Panda, Jeffery Bear (blue vest) and Snuggles the polar bear. Actually, it was Jeffery Bear who met Laverne at pool side at the hotel in Palm Beach. I guess that’s why she’s sitting on his knee. Laverne, however, has proved to be somewhat of a disruptive influence. We found her drunk (photo #3) when we got home one evening. Joey had left the beer in our refrigerator. After recovering a certain degree of sobriety the next day Laverne stretched out on our window greenery for something like the Florida sun (photo #4)
The rest of the photos need no explanation(!)
Upon reading through the NYT [New York Times] the other day I came across an article I thought might be of interest to you – on Dr. You – Know- Who. Enclosed.
Let me know how much you want me to send for the books, i.e. exact $ figure.
Love Papa

My roommate (and my floor mates) exposed me to lots of great music. One group that my roommate introduced me to was the Irish band Clannad. And thus began my love of Irish music. We also spent a lot of time listening to the two hottest new musicals on Broadway.

By the end of my freshman year, I was no longer happy with my major. I did better in the two history courses I took spring term, and passed them both. But they had made history boring. I didn’t want to know about sweeping political movements (although I know they are important in History). I wanted to know about the lives of people who lived and what life was like for them on a daily basis. I started looking around for a new major. I had two choices that interested me: English and Theater. I really would have liked to minor in Theater but the department did not have that option, so Theater major is what I became. I was a little nervous about telling my parents, but neither one objected. Theater had always been a part of my life up to that point so the choice wasn’t very surprising.

Although my freshman roommate and I are still good friends, we had a rough spot during the spring semester. There was the infamous incident over the M & M’s that probably played a major roll in the decision to not room together during sophomore year.

UMASS - M&Ms

At the end of freshman year, I headed back to Worcester. I spent the summer working a boring temp job, typing forms at an insurance agency with a chain smoking co-worker. I had really wanted to work abroad that summer with my roommate. There was a great university work exchange program that allowed students to work in Britain on a student visa. It was not the summer I had planned, nor did I particularly enjoy it. It was the last summer I ever spent in Worcester. I was happy to return to Amherst in the fall of 1987 as a sophomore.

UMASS - 1986

In my dorm room during my freshman year, 1986-1987

You can learn more about the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on their website: http://www.umass.edu/

©2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/02/16/book-of-me-pro…y-board-part-1/

 

Book Of Me – Prompt 24: Favorite Color

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty four’s prompt is Favorite Color.

  • Do you have a favorite color? And if so why?
  • Do you like vibrant colors or darker colors?
  • Do you associate anyone with a particular color? If so who and why?
  • Does your favorite color reflect your personality?

Since I am an elementary school teacher by day, I am often asked what my favorite color is. I generally tell my students that I don’t have one. I have a hard time choosing because I love color in general. I have colors that I wear more than others.  Some colors just do not belong in my wardrobe as my coloring does not agree with them. I love vibrant colors, dark colors, jewel tones, pastels, etc. I enjoy seeing colors in the world around me.

A good friend of mine, who was my maid of honor, is partial to the color purple. My daughter loves turquoise. When I worked actively in theater as a stage crew member, I wore a lot of black. I tend to associate my theatre friends with black as a result.  When I used to design costumes, color was often used symbolically to convey a deeper meaning about a character’s personality or motives.

Instead of colors reflecting my personality, I sometimes feel that they convey my mood (or not). Sometimes it just depends what items are clean and not down at the bottom of the laundry pile.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/02/15/book-of-me-pro…favorite-color/

Book of Me – Prompt 22: Daily Routines

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty two’s prompt is Daily routines.

Do you have a daily routine?

  • Did your parents? Grandparents?
  • Why did they (or you ) have this routine?
  • Where did this routine take place?
  • Structure – Is this important to you? or your family?

Cup of teaLife IS routine and humans are creatures of habit. We thrive on routine. It is amazing how one little thing can upset a person’s routine. The sun hurls its way around the Milky Way. The earth spins on its axis around the sun. The moon waxes and wanes. Our ancestors lived, died, and continued the species. But if I don’t have my cup of tea in the morning, things just aren’t the same.

I honestly don’t know much about the routines of my parents and grandparents. I know my dad writes in his journal every day. My mom is very religious so she attends church every week. When I was younger and visiting my grandparents, my grandfathers always seemed to take a nap after lunch. The daily ins and outs of my grandparents’ lives are pretty much a mystery to me. I haven’t cohabitated with my parents for a very long time or lived significantly close enough to them to really know the intricate details of their daily lives either.

My routines have evolved and changed over the years. When I was in school, my routines were different than they are now. I am not sure when my morning tea habit began but it was probably during my college years. Now my daily routines revolve around my children and their school schedules as well as my own school employment. We are slaves to the education system. There are times when I really want to rebel from the daily grind but I don’t. I just look forward to the next vacation (which is in April by the way!) when we can sleep in and eat as we please.

Presently, I think of routine and structure as the same thing. On many levels, our routines and structured activities are important aspects of our lives. Is there an alternative? Being late to school or skipping work, incomplete homework or bad grades, lack of sleep, dirty laundry or dishes, going hungry because you didn’t cook a meal? There are consequences for not following the routine. As long as the sun keeps rising and setting every day, routines are inescapable. But they do change and evolve, so there is hope that we won’t always be stuck with the same old routines. Just stay away from my tea though.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/02/10/book-of-me-pro…daily-routines/

Book of Me – Prompt 21: Hobbies

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty one’s prompt is Hobbies.

  • Childhood hobbies & collections
  • Did you share a “passion” with a family member or friend?
  • Tell us about it – How, why, where
  • Do you still have any old hobbies – the ones that have been with you since childhood?
  • Do you still have those childhood collections?

I have a few hobbies and they have pretty much been lifelong. They are 1) books and reading, 2) sewing and knitting, and 3) genealogy. All three activities have been passed down to me by my elders and have developed or evolved over many decades. Some of my lesser hobbies are subsets of the larger three categories. For example, I have always been a fan of the science fiction and fantasy genre.  I have read lots of books as well as enjoyed many science fiction television shows and movies over the years. One of my oldest friends (from Jr. high) can be credited with introducing me to science fiction literature. We had already bonded over Doctor Who and Star Trek. One series we read was the Dune books by Frank Herbert. I still have my copy of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin which she gave me for my birthday or Christmas many years ago.

Doctor Who books

Some of my Doctor Who books

So the major, sometimes overwhelming, collection in my life is my books. Some of my books, I have owned since childhood. The collection is always changing but I have thousands of books in my house. I have a collection of Doctor Who novels from my high school days. My first job was at the Worcester (Massachusetts) Public library’s main branch. Across the street from the library was an independent book store (whose name escapes me at present). The store no longer exists. However, they sold many of the Doctor Who books I own. They were the only place in town that sold them at the time. I used to go across the street during my break to buy the newest novelization or I would go to the store after I left work on my way home. I have contemplated selling these books at times, but they really aren’t worth much so I have just held onto them. Several years ago my daughter picked up a few of them to read and that was definitely fun for me to see.

Vintage patterns

Vintage patterns from 1900-1940

As a knitter and seamstress, I have collections of yarn and fabric. My workroom is filled with buckets full. I also collect old paper patterns. I have some that survive from the 1910s and 1920s. Of course, there are lots of knitting and sewing themed books in my library. There are a few vintage sewing books from the 1950s and 1960s. These are the types of books that were used in high school home economic courses to teach girls to be happy little homemakers.

At this point, genealogy is more than just a hobby; it has turned into a profession. (Sewing was my profession at one point but has now returned to the hobby status). Currently, I have boxes of family ephemera and artifacts that need to be sorted through, preserved and catalogued. I spend much of my spare time every day learning and working in this field. There are a few hundred books that go with this specialty as well.

Most of my friends and family share a passion for one (or more) of the above and I can’t imagine it being otherwise. A world without books is inconceivable!

© 2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/02/08/book-of-me-prompt-21-hobbies/

Book of Me – Prompt 20: The Feeling of Home

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twenty’s prompt is – The Feeling of Home.

Home means different things to different people, so this week we are going to explore what it means to us:

  • What does it feel like?
  • How do you recognize it?
  • What makes it home? People? Place? Time?

________________________________________

For me, I have two homes: the geographical location where I was born and grew up, and where I live now.

Former movie theatre (Image via Google)

Former movie theatre (Image via Google)

The first, where I was born, is Massachusetts and the surrounding New England states. No one in my family lives there now so I do not have a family house to return to for a visit. Where one comes from shapes many aspects of one’s psychology. I still think of myself as a New Englander. The landscape and the attitudes of the people from a place stay with you when you move away. There is a sense of familiarity when you return and it is not necessarily something you can put into words. When I returned to New England last summer, I did experience the feeling of coming home. It was my first visit in over 15 years. Many things had changed physically. The downtown area of my city has been remodeled extensively since I lived there. The movie theatre where my husband and I went on our first date is no longer a movie theatre, but the building still stands. My graduating high school class purchased a stone monument to adorn the front walk of the campus. The stone endures but is now covered by overgrown shrubs and flowers. Time moves on but the connection remains.

Graduating class gift

Graduating class gift

My second and present home is where I live with my family: my husband and my children. I do not think it would matter where we lived specifically as long as we were together. On the surface, I think of home as the place where I can put my feet up and relax at the end of the day, and where I keep my stuff. But for me, the expression “Home is where the heart is” says it all. And that goes for both my homes.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/01/17/book-of-me-pro…eeling-of-home/

Book of Me – Prompt 19: Who Do You Miss?

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week nineteen’s prompt is – Who Do You Miss Most?

Having just gone through the holiday season our thoughts turn to those not with us.

  • People who live elsewhere and who we will not see over the holiday season
  • People that have passed away
  • Who do you miss?
  • Why do you miss them?
    • Them as an individual
    • Something specific to them

___________________________________________

Most of the responses I have read so far to this prompt revolve around beloved family members who are deceased. I personally know people who are devastated by the death of a parent or other loved one. I have never felt the death of a family member to this extent. Each of my grandparents lived long, full lives so by the time they were gone, it was easy to accept their deaths and move on. Do I wish they were here on occasion? Of course, but I do not particularly miss them.

David with Deborah, circa 1978, Mt. Wachusett

David with Deborah, circa 1978, Mt. Wachusett

Growing up, I never lived physically close to any of my family. Our closest relatives were my great grandmother and her second husband who lived over an hour away. While they were alive, we visited them a few times a year. The rest of my relatives lived in Indiana or overseas. Overall, my relationships with my relatives were conducted through the mail, over the telephone and by long car trips during school vacations. Visits were few and far between. When I was six going on seven, my parents divorced. Instead of having my father around all the time, I only saw him on weekends at first. Then when I was ten, he moved to New York City.  We still connected through letters, telephone calls, and his monthly visit. We also took trips to New York City throughout the year. Today, my extended family is completely far-flung and we are lucky if we see each other once a year. As I child, I really missed my father, and at times, it was much harder to cope with the distance between us. Thank goodness for modern technology and the ability to communicate via emails, texts and Facebook.

As a young adult, I moved to California with my soon-to-be husband. While I love my adopted state and cannot imagine moving away, there is something that I miss, especially as I have gotten older, and that is the friendships of my youth. If you have always lived relatively close to where you grew up, you may not understand this loss. Many of the people I consider my friends today do not compare to the friends of my youth. They lack the bond of a shared history. Relationships that are built from childhood and up through young adulthood have a way of staying with you. These are friendships forged in fire as you discover who you truly are, whether it is from shared teenage angst or college aged explorations. Often, those very relationships are why you are who you are today. As I see many of my current friends or co-workers celebrating their high school reunions or getting together to hang out with old friends, I recognize that I don’t have the same support system that they do. They live closer to their roots and those bonds. As an introvert, I find it much harder to make new, lasting friendships. While as a middle-aged adult, it becomes harder to find new, truly close friends. Most people already have their support systems in place. Our lives are so filled up with work and families that finding time to explore new friendships is limited.

1985 - Suzanne's birthday #1While many of my friends from my youth are among my current Facebook friends, there are times I really want to just hang out and have our children play together but the distance makes impromptu visits impossible. I have several friends who are performing artists and I would love to watch them perform.   My trip to visit family and friends on the east coast this summer was wonderful and it reminded how much I really miss my friends. So even though “true friends are always together in spirit“ (L. M. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley), it is nice to actually see them in person from time to time.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at: https://genealogylady.net/2014/01/10/book-of-me-pro…ho-do-you-miss/