October 28, 2014

Keeping One Colored Object in a Black & White World





 141013 IMG_0659 b&w

I’m about to enter an imaginary world in which everything is devoid of color, akin to the early photography tintype photographs and prints produced in glorious shades of white, gray and black.

However, in my imaginary world I’ll take one object in featuring a single color.  I assume that, aside from being devoid of their color, objects maintain their innate characteristics.

While I travel in eastern Pennsylvania I ponder what object I could take: One object. One color. What will that  object and its color be?

Scattered about in my regular world, before the color disappears, I discover a typical garden hose with a spray attachment, water, and a colorless triangular object about 12 inches long.

And I know my single object has to be (more…)

October 21, 2014

Finite Creatures We Are




Cemetery in East Lamoine, Maine

I’m eyeing the stone of Louis and Mary Googins des Isles, circa 1794-1825

Interesting this WordPress prompt, finite creatures, appeared the day I after I did research on deaths and funerals in Downeast Maine in the 1790s-1800s. Lest you think I’m strange for picking this topic I’d better inform you that I was researching it for my novel, in which one character, Mary, must deal with having her husband Louis sail for France in 1812 and never being heard from again (oops—there is a surprise in this true life story that mimics the later well-known epoch written by Tennyson, Enoch Ardon).

Thus, mortality has been on my mind these days.

The prompt asks At what age did you realize you were a finite creature, that you not immortal? How did you react to that discovery?

Two of my earliest memories are of death.

Our family dog, a cocker spaniel named Buffy, died after being hit by a car.


The man whose car hit him made a pine box for his burial. Buffy was buried under what is now an addition to 29 Spring Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I don’t recall my age but I might have been 5 or 6 years old. During a burial “service” I ran about the yard laughing. Was this an apartness from death or a (more…)

September 23, 2014

Autumn Leaf Masquerade Ball



Almost every time my husband and I travel to New England in the autumn I’m asked Are you going to leaf peep?

I ask them back Why would I go to New England to leaf peep? I live in the Ligonier Valley, in Pennsylvania, at the northern end of the Appalachian mountains, which is one of the best leaf-peeping regions in the country.

untitled 6e

(Photo taken in Boston in autumn, 2013)

This is not to say that, when traveling home from New England, I don’t enjoy following the north-to-south progression of autumn’s brilliant foliage. I can simulate the leaf-change progression locally by traveling into the Ligonier Valley from atop Laurel Mountain, close to 3,000 foot elevation. Truly, I agree with George Eliot who wrote Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns, and Albert Camu, who wrote Autumn is a second spring when every leaf’s a flower.

Accordingly, autumn is the time at the green-theme Autumn Leaf Masquerade Ball, when deciduous tree leaves gradually remove their masks and show their true colors. Their mask is created by a green pigment, chlorophyll—a biomolecule essential for converting sunlight into energy during a process known as photosynthesis. Once this green mask is shed the true colors that have remained hidden, yellow and orange (called carotenoids), amaze all whose eyes view them.

Autumn in the hills of Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania

Autumn in the hills of Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania

Red and purple pigments (anthocyanins) are also buried under the green mask. These colors are revealed only when the sugar in leaves breaks down in late summer. The more prevalent the anthocyanins the more fiery the leaves will be…think red maples, red oaks, dogwood and sweet gum trees.


As autumn leaves unmask

A population of thousands

Caps their host trees in (more…)

September 11, 2014

9/11: 13 Years Later—2014




Today we pause to remember the 9/11/2001 events that altered so many aspects of the United States. My husband Monte and I live about 20 miles from where Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County. Below is a list of articles I’ve posted through the years since the tragedy. I hope you take time to read some of them on this day of remembrance. Click on the titles to access the complete articles.

All of the following articles are posted on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS except LMB RESIDENT’S SEPT. 11, 2001 STORY: Part 1 of 2 and The Twin Towers 

NOTE: The Westmoreland County Historical Society magazine being released later this month contains an in depth article on Flight of Valor, the music composition commissioned by the Somerset County Community Band. It ties in the roles many Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, residents took following the crash of Flight 93 in the adjacent county of Somerset.

NOTE: September 11 is also the birthday of my late nephew Todd James Jay. Keep my sister in your prayers today, too.

LMB RESIDENT’S SEPT. 11, 2001 STORY: Part 1 of 2

NOTE: This story is posted on the Laurel Mountain Borough newsletter site.

LMB resident John was working in one of the twin towers in New York City the morning of September 11, 2001. His story will be posted in the LMBoroLMPark Newsletter in three parts. To view photo illustrations taken by John, click on: September 11, 2001, John was in New York City working as a freelance sound recordist/video engineer. He had many clients in downtown New York, where he found most of his jobs. He also worked in Philadelphia and other places, but the New York work was most challenging.This Tuesday he was working at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (Company), a very large financial consultant company similar to J. P. Morgan. He’s worked there a half dozen times. They had a television studio they’d just built, completed in December 2000.They had called me to (more…)

August 28, 2014

A Glossary of 1800s Fabrics



When Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden of Eden God had compassion on them, and offered them garments made of fig leaves. Ouch! The underside of the leaves were like rough sandpaper. Later they made garments from something more sturdy: animal skins.

Fast-forward to the early 1700s. One of my ancestors, Patrick Googins, tradition says, came from Ireland at an early age, about 1720 A woolen weaver by trade he entered the service of William Pepperrell, at Kittery, Maine.

Fast-forward again to the late 18th century and early 19th century. By this time the assortment of garment fabrics had proliferated.

The Diary of Martha Ballard, 1785-1812* mentions many of the fabrics used in Maine during this time period. A glossary at the end of a modern-day reproduction of Martha Ballard’s diary lists many—if not all—the different fabrics Mrs. Ballard mentioned in the 27 years of her written history. How many of these fabrics have names that are foreign to you? I was surprised to find 15 fabric names I never heard of, even through my many years of sewing.

The terms below, most frequently used by Mrs. Ballard, was compiled through a variety of printed sources.


August 26, 2014

Which Shade of Green???? Advise me…




My husband Monte and I have procrastinated about painting our house for too long. However, over time I’ve picked up paint chips of many colors.

Our house is mostly covered with cedar shakes stained a shade of redwood.

140809 IMG_9757E1The cedar shakes are very New England. My daughter Sandy’s house is also covered in cedar shakes. Not the thin shakes you find in the department stores, but thick shakes it is difficult to find in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Thus, when Monte and I traveled to New England in 2008 we visited a shake-maker in Corinth, Maine, northwest of Bangor. We loaded our car with four large bundles of these shakes. It was great fun to open our car door each morning to be assaulted by the odor, which in small amounts is pleasant, but in concentrated doses…well, think of skunk—almost. We transported four bundles over many miles and many days to our Southwestern Pennsylvania home.

But I digress. The starting point in picking a paint color is the cedar shakes. The continuing point is the use of two shades of the chosen color, or two different colors, one of primary use and the other an accent.

Take into consideration that we live in a cottage home in a park-like setting. To me, some colors just don’t fit this setting. A good example is (more…)

June 19, 2014

Bride’s Name at Marriage is a Choice



Baby Jane born to Mary Jones and Tom Smith…

Being of a curious nature a statement such as this raises many questions, since in today’s society media announcements of newborns are not restricted to wedded parents.

So I wonder:

  • Are they  married but Mary kept her maiden name after the wedding?
  • Are Mary and Tom married?
  • Are they living together, as is the trend today?

Today a bride often questions whether she should adopt my groom’s family name or should I keep my own family name?’s most recently compiled statistics (2010) on this issue shows that 86% of brides adopt their husband’s last names on the day of their marriage.

This is the norm of all (more…)

May 13, 2014

Miss America: Marilyn Van Derbur’s Incest Story


Carolyn’s Online Magazine (COMe) in January 2015.

I invite you to visit the new site.





One in three adult women is a victims of child sex abuse. Among their ranks is Marilyn Van Der Bur Atler, Miss America 1958. As such, her life was/is defined by 13 years of incest.

Marilyn Van Der Bur Atler, Miss America 1958 and incest survivor, was guest speaker at the Fourth Annual Awards Dinner of the former Safe & Sound, Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse. I attended the event as director and representative of the Family Support Program of Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Board member Jennifer Johnson also attended.

The date was April 7, 1993. However, Marilyn’s story is as relevant today as it was 21 years ago.

Teal is the official color representing sexual violence awareness and prevention

Teal is the official color representing sexual violence awareness and prevention

 ..the greatest accomplishment of my life—surviving incest.”***

How does a person survive being sexually violated as a child?

  • The feelings of abuse of this kind, or any kind, are “too intense for a child to absorb; that’s why children split their minds”, explains Van Derbur.*

Marilyn’s survival was enabled by her ability to “split into a day child and a night child…Until I was 24-years-old I had absolutely no conscious knowledge of the traumas or the terrors of the night child. The more the night child came, the more the day child needed to excel.”

  • People ask me why I didn’t tell what was happening to me. It was because I perceived no way out. A young child tells on her father and what happens? She’s taken away from her family. Her father goes to jail. The family is destroyed, and the message is, “It’s all your fault.”***


May 11, 2014

The Worth of a Mother



Carolyn’s Online Magazine


Drawing by my daughter Sandy when she was 4 1/2

Drawing by my daughter Sandy when she was 4 1/2

I wrote the above article on Friday, February 7, 1986, in response to a 20/20 show aired out of Youngstown, Ohio, on the previous day. At the time I was leading a parenting group and had spent eight years as a family day care home proprietor, which allowed me to be at home with my children and enjoy their growing up years. We (who are not employed out of the home and having children in child day care) are intelligent adults who made a decision to invest in our nation’s most valuable resource.

Trilium growing in our woods

Trilium growing in our woods

Something troubled me about a show, Working Mothers, aired on 20/20. I finally got it—there was a contradiction expressed in statements by two separate persons:

  • The psychological need to be a breadwinner
  • Children are our most important resource

It implies that a person not receiving a paycheck is not contributing his/her share. It is too bad that a mother’s worth is defined only in terms of the paycheck they bring home and not in their overall contribution to the good of society.

Another contradiction:

  • Parents not earning a paycheck are not pulling their weight
  • Parents (or others) caring for non-custodial children have more worth because they earn a paycheck


March 16, 2014

Iodine Deficiency: My Story



Hug for Fran



How do I begin telling my story? I have numerous choices:

  • Everything that is healthy for you is bad for you
  • I can’t share my symptoms with my family, friends, or doctors.
  • A simple test clarified my physical and mental symptoms.
  • I’m one of the estimated 40% of Americans experiencing this.
  • My three-day miracle.

Whenever someone tells me they don’t know how begin telling their story I tell them to “just start.” So I guess that’s what I’ll do.


The annual stress of the year-end triple holiday can be exhausting, even depressing.

During December 2013, however, the feelings I experienced were intensified. How I celebrated my 70th birthday didn’t matter. Preparing for Christmas was a true chore. I wanted to escape, go to the New England coast with my husband Monte, and experience Christmas on the beach. I didn’t care—about anything.

I excused the feelings. It’s just the stress of the season. Depression isn’t uncommon.

There was a settled layer of pea soup fog between my conscious and subconscious mind.

I excused it. It must be a result of my almost debilitating cataract which makes reading challenging.

I was overwhelmed with diminished cognition skills. If you told me something, I couldn’t recall it several seconds later. I had to struggle with writing and other tasks. It was a weird feeling.

Perhaps it’s the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s.


I didn’t tell anyone about what I was experiencing. I didn’t want to be told the obvious: I was depressed. For some instinctive reason I knew it wasn’t depression. It just didn’t seem to fit. I also didn’t want to hear that I was just experiencing the effects of aging, something I couldn’t dismiss, something very frightening.

After the holidays I shared my concerns with a friend I trusted, telling her how I felt, not expecting her to do anything but knowing she would at least listen and hear me.

“Try something,” she said.

What she instructed me to do sounded like an old wives tale, something taken from mythical and ancient medical remedies. But I trusted her. As long as I’ve known her, her information has been reliable and well-researched.

“Purchase a bottle of tincture of iodine,” she said. “Swab a quarter-sized spot on your wrist. If the color (more…)

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