December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011



     Would I travel to Chicago (from Southwestern Pennsylvania) during the first weekend of March?

     No one in their right mind would attempt that…

     So the ongoing conversation went between my husband and I during December 2010 and into January 2011.

     Monte tried on numerous occasions to convince me that we should travel to Evanston, Illinois, that first weekend in March. There was a major wrestling match being held at Northwestern University in Evanston. He had graduated from that university in the mid-1950s, but had never revisited the campus. He felt drawn to return to the campus, and to attend the wrestling matches.

     The conversation took a serious turn on the evening of January 19, when I received three comments on my blog, Carolyn’s Compositions.  This was where Darlene connected with me—my sibling I wasn’t certain existed. After all, it was a well-kept secret that my mother had released a child for adoption. Only once was it mentioned in the family, a one sentence comment to my older sister by my uncle. But there was no denying Darlene was my mother’s child—all it took was one look at her picture—she was my mother reincarnated. Her birth certificate confirmed it.

     That January night Monte attained a Cheshire grin. He knew the weight of this additional event leaned heavily in the direction of his winning the argument when he heard Darlene lived twenty minutes from Northwestern University.

     And he was correct. With a caveat: we would not travel through any snowstorms. We had to leave travel time to layover if a storm should hit.

     So my new year—2011—began.


     I determined I would begin 2011 by copying all our slides onto the computer. In December, while shopping, I saw a slide-converter at a good price. I shoved it into Monte’s hands and told him to purchase it, wrap it, and put it under the tree. It could serve as a Christmas present from him to me.

     During the first two weeks I copied over 1600 slides. Mission accomplished.

     I had set my main writing goal for 2011: finish my novel. The intense work was scheduled for January 15. When the work was three-quarters completed, I would set up Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for publicity purposes. And Monte and I would plan a trip to New England.

      And so the work started, right on time. January 15.

     Then the call came.  

     Life has a way of interfering with one’s goals. How can one be intensely involved in a historical novel project while integrating a newly discovered sister in the family? I changed my writing goal to shorter writing, expecting to return to it later in the year.

     We traveled to Chicago. Enroute home we became ill, both of us. We didn’t hole up an extra night because of snow. We did so because of illness.

     Mine lasted seven weeks. Now I was delayed in any tasks due to travel plans and extended illness. I never did catch up. And I never managed to continue the novel. Life had thrown a double-whammy from which I couldn’t recover. Some things had to be delayed and let go.

     I stopped posting on the writer’s group magazine, and let the novel and short stories go. Summer came and went. All I wanted to do was sit in my rocking chair on the porch with a glass of iced tea, my camera (focused on the birds and wildlife), and a good book. I fought it but didn’t gain any ground. I only managed to maintain the minimum in my goals.

     We did attend some local events. We went to Addison, Pennsylvania, and followed the Nemacolin Indian Trail (or Braddock’s Road a. k. a. National Route 40) to explore the path a particular group of French persons used to travel to Scioto, Ohio (where they became the first settlers of Gallipolis). I’m writing about them in my novel.

     We also went to a festival in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on the Monongahela River near where Redstone Creek enters the river. We explored Nemacolin Castle while we were there. Again, the venture included travel to add understanding to my novel.

     We decided not to go to New England this year. Instead, we would take three short overnight trips. Monte could choose two, I would choose one. It was fortunate that I chose less, because my trip became a two-nighter. I wanted to visit Gallipolis and Marietta, both in Ohio. It was further away than I thought. The historical society worker opened the research room for us, although usually it was closed when we were there.

     We attended Monte’s family reunion in Northern New York, and stayed at Black Lake for a week.

     While returning, we stopped in Lancaster, New York, and I stayed overnight at my other daughter’s home, being entertained by her three children.

     Christmas was coming. At Thanksgiving time I discovered I could have calendars printed containing thirteen eight by ten photos. I quickly compiled four from the slides I’d copied (1962-1972), and decided to do another seven one-sheet calendars. All the photos were collages. Needless to say, it was too short a time to do such a project, and I had little time to do the annual Christmas card. Fortunately, there are twelve days of Christmas, so I have a few more days to mail my international cards out.

     In between these events I continued to facilitate the Beanery Writers Group, attend a few photography society meetings, arrange for a photography show at the local library, and help my neighbor with the family dogs.

     Also, in between events I said goodby to two friends. First was “Smokey Joe” Greshok (January), the iconic owner of the Eastwood Inn in Ligonier Township, Pennsylvania. In June a member of the Beanery Writers Group left us. At his final meeting he proudly showed everyone his new car. Then he was gone. Members still miss his dynamic personality and positive contributions.

     In January I began participating in the WordPress (my blog’s host site) challenge to post once a day. The challenge was to post once a day, not to write a post each day. I could prewrite and prepost the items. That helped me accomplish this goal.

    In November I attempted to participate in the National Novel Writing Month with the intention of laying out the third section of my novel. However, I misplaced my flas drive after three days. I still haven’t located it. Thus, I didn’t accomplish much.

     However, I did accomplish much. I discovered it’s profitable to just write—poor writing, redundancy, and all. It makes the novel move by forcing the writing to continue regardless of quality, and it provides a (very bady written) first draft to work from. 

     Now the year is closing. Sunday will birth 2012. What can I expect to accomplish in 2012? Will I be better able to accomplish the goals I set forth?

     But then, that is another post. Tune in…



The Market Street Arts Festival in Brownsville, PA.

A Mini-Vacation in Ohio

Mini-Vacation to Winchester, Virginia

Adoptee Finds Biological Family: Mine

My Mother’s Secret: An Adoption Story

Oprah and I: Adoption Reunion Experiences



  1. Last month I requested, and received from Massachusetts, a copy of my “non-certified” pre-adoption birth record naming Nancy Briskay Cornell as my birth mother. I was born December 30, 1948 at Mass. Memorial Hospital. The birth record shows Nancy was born in Quincy, MA, and was 26 and living in Readville at the time of my birth. No father is listed. Very much by accident I stumbled upon your blog while attempting to locate any information about Nancy. It’s taken some time to get off the emotional roller coaster and muster up the courage to write this. I will be more than happy to e-mail you a copy of this birth record, along with pictures. Viewing some of the photos on your blog, I can’t tell if Nancy and I – or you and I – bear any resemblance (except for the gray hair that for me started in my early to mid-30s, and for which I have always blamed my kids).

    Comment by Pam S — February 7, 2012 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

    • We were wondering when you would show up. Welcome to the craziest, goofiest, family ever. Please, call me at 724 238 3493.

      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Sorry, the phone number isn’t going through. I will email it to you.

      Comment by carolyncholland — February 7, 2012 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

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