November 21, 2013

Friendships Help Prevent Alzheimer’s



Hug for Pat


Sitting in front of me is an AARP article titled Strategies to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s. Much of it is redundant of healthy living—exercise, eat smart, watch your waistline, cut bad habits—smoking, too much television, stress, take safety precautions (seatbelts, helmets)—all messages heard repetitively until they have become almost meaningless.

They listed one prevention method that caught my eye: FRIENDSHIPS. Keep friends close.

790px-Friend_or_Foe_(1230030259)I just contacted my only remaining high school friend, Pat. She is about a month younger than I am, and I try to call her each year. For us, this is a special birthday year. Due to circumstances, however, I still have her special-year birthday gift here—she’ll receive it before my birthday.

Growing up I didn’t learn how to make or maintain relationships. That’s just the kind of typically dysfunctional family I grew up in. I worked two jobs in college, and that left me little time to develop friendships. Michael is my one friend from the technical school I attended. I wonder sometimes that I had no meaningful (more…)

July 24, 2012

Surprise 50th Birthday Party Aborted



Paulette’s fiftieth birthday was coming in two weeks, on a Sunday.

She expressed a desire to have a surprise birthday party based on five-year-old activities—creatively reversing the number 50 to 05. I’d asked her if she liked the local Chinese buffet, which she did.

I called a couple of people I believed were willing to come, and arranged a time to meet at the Chinese restaurant. Then I called Paulette and told her I would drive across the county, pick her up, take her to church, and then take her out to lunch afterwards.

Paulette was excited about the invitation. However, there was a caveat: a relative might invite her to visit.

“OK,” I said. “I understand that. Just let me know if you are leaving town.”

A few days later she told me she didn’t want to go to church on her birthday. She would go, as usual, on Saturday evening. Then she stated that a day of church and lunch was boring.

“What would you like to do?”

“I want to (more…)

May 2, 2011

Are My Friends in Huntsville, Alabama, Safe After the 4/27/2011 Tornadoes?





May 1, 2011,10:00 a. m.

Network difficulties. Call cannot be completed at this time.

      My attempt to contact my good friend, Phredfred, and his wife Grace, who live in Huntsville, Alabama, were thus thwarted. As I expected it would be.

     Huntsville, in Madison County, was not directly hit by the tornadoes that ravaged its state and other areas. However, services were severely cut, as I learned from a local neighbor’s husband who had just left this area to work on a project outside Huntsville. After the tornadoes hit, he returned to this area and will probably not return until the end of this week. When he leaves, he will be taking a generator.

     He reassured me that Huntsville itself (more…)

November 11, 2010

My People



Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

     During her lifetime, my late mother worked as a secretary for a psychiatrist. Below are vignettes of a few patients who touched this season of her life.


   He enters the waiting room quietly, slides into a chair and sits, body slumped, eyes downcast, a rumpled, unwashed, unshaven, disheveled appearance. My greeting to him goes unanswered and he glances at me surreptitiously from under lowered lids. He is early for his appointment and the magazines on the table hold no interest for him. Nor does he converse with any of the others in the room. His posture projects dejection, sadness, loneliness, the very burden of life itself. At long last it is his turn and he shuffles slowly into the doctor’s office for an hour of therapy, and medication that appears to relieve nothing. He returns to me, and, without comment, accepts the card for his next appointment, tears close to the surface. My “Goodbye, see you next week” goes unanswered.


     He enters my line of vision, snowy white hair, incredibly blue eyes, a man in his late seventies who for all intents and purposes may well be old St. Nick himself. His smile and gracious greeting could melt the heart of a stone. It is only his trembling hands and the slight list as he walks that betrays the (more…)

November 8, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 4



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

     I interviewed David at the end of his year 2000 stay as an exchange student from Germany.

     “My reason for coming to the United States was to learn the language, to speak it fluently. I think I met that goal,” David said. “I also came to get to know a different people and their culture.

     “My biggest impression is that the United States is big. I didn’t really expect it. You can drive twenty hours in one direction and still be in the same country with the same language. In the same driving time in Germany you would pass through four to five countries.”

     There are not so many churches in Germany as there are here, “where on one street there are ten churches and two are the United Methodist. Church…People go to church in Germany but not really that often like here.”

     According to David, almost everyone in Germany is in the church, “I am, but I go once a year, on Christmas Eve.” He said he is still at work at 10:00 a.m., or he doesn’t go because “I am just tired.”

     “Here, Sunday is just about church. In Germany, Sunday is to (more…)

November 4, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 3



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

      He didn’t like Alex, the exchange program coordinator, and he didn’t feel he could respect the rules.

     “I can do what I want,” he said.

     Back at our house, he demonstrated some skate board moves, showed me a skate board magazine and showed me his paint ball gun.

     “I’m against war, but paintball is a game,” he said.


     One of the rules was that David had to do his own laundry. After all, my kids had done theirs since age 13 (albeit by their choice). He seemed surprised at this.

     “I didn’t do theirs, and I’m not doing yours,” I stated.

     On Thursday, David said he was ready to do his laundry.

     “I’ve never done it before,” he said, using his magnetic smile, I am sure, to convince me I should do his for him.

     I couldn’t be cajoled into doing it for him, but I would teach him.

     “I hate you but (more…)

October 11, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 2



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

    We laid some ground rules—basically, we weren’t going to do things for him we didn’t do for our own children. We wouldn’t play a wake-up game with him. He would have to get himself up in the mornings. We presented him with an alarm clock.

     Neither would we drive him to school. As my children learned, if they didn’t get ready on time, they would have to go without a note the next day.


     It was Wednesday when Jared knocked on our door. It was dinnertime at his house, and David was expected. David was sleeping, so we had to awaken him, and he doesn’t wake up easily.

     I walked across the street to the neighbor’s house later that evening.

     Rene and Tom said David spoke about getting a driver’s license during dinner. Rene seemed in favor of the idea, and was encouraging Tom to take him out for practice. I was less enthusiastic, wondering if he could get a Social Security card.

     Jared, David and I played Uno for a while. David asked if he could spend the night at the neighbor’s house, since there was no school the next day due to an ice storm. He told me Rhonda said he could, and I responded sarcastically (in fun) that I was in charge. He replied that sometimes old people think (more…)

October 4, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1



     Perhaps if I’d retired to my porch rocking chair, spending my hours catching up on all the old magazines and books piled in my study “for future use,” I wouldn’t have had a teenager living in my house. But then, David, our German exchange student, brought much excitement into my life.

     My husband, Monte, and I, had just returned from a visit to Germany, where our son, Nolan, held a post-doctoral position at the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (German: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften Eingetragener Verein).

     My teeange neighbor, Ryan, a junior high school student, was studying German. When I handed him a pile of fliers and thick newspapers he could use for (more…)

September 20, 2010




Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

     The following post was written by my late mother. 

     For me, the word friendship is synonymous with the name Edith.

     Twenty-three years ago I met Edith quite by chance at a Sunday school picnic. Both of us were accompanied by our children—Edith’s three girls, the oldest about twelve and the youngest about seven—and my four, the oldest a girl of five and the youngest a girl almost two.

     I suspect neither of us really remembers what drew us into conversation but, suddenly, there we were, bursting with an eager exchange of ideas, both of us basking in the opportunity to engage in adult conversation. That was the beginning. Although we did not see each other very often in the ensuing months, we were drawn together occasionally at worship services and church activities, through which we developed a genuine liking for one another. Still, with both of us working full time and raising our families there remained little time for socializing and so the development of our relationship was put on hold.

     One needs to know a bit about both of us to understand the need we had for one another’s company, how our personalities blended and complemented each other, as well as the differences that drew us together.


     Edith is a solid citizen, both feet on the ground, faces reality head on: I am a dreamer, an idealist with a tendency to, at times, back off from reality. At the time I met Edith she seemed painfully shy, projected little self-confidence, felt comfortable blending into the background, and almost successfully covered up her leadership qualities. I, on the other hand, athough somewhat shy, am a bit more (more…)

October 1, 2009

Mystery in St. Francis Cemetery in Minersville (PA)



      Genealogy research involves exploring sites that some persons might consider macabre—or peaceful and rewarding. One of the rewards: cemetery stories.

     In 1996, I stopped in Minersville, Pennsylvania, while traveling home from New England. I was seeking information on my grandfather’s family, the Borinsky clan—and the clues were in the Catholic cemetery where they would likely to be buried.

     I finally located the Catholic cemetery. To my dismay, I learned that their cemeteries in Minersville are individualized by culture. I didn’t need to locate just the Catholic cemetery, but the (more…)

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