Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spielberg's Lincoln: A great character study (even if the history is flawed)

Spielberg's Lincoln

I finally saw Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  It’s a great movie, with fantastic acting, as everyone in the world knows. I love Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of the president. So compelling and moving, almost eerie.

On one hand, I can see why many historians, like the Pulitzer prize- winning scholar Eric Foner, have taken issue with the film. It's not considered "great history," or even "good history."

On the other hand, I see it as a great character study, a masterpiece. Millions of people have seen the film, commercially very successful even though it is heavier on dialogue than action. These are viewers who for the most part don't read Eric Foner or the hundreds of history books written about the Civil War, a vast historiography over time.  

With this in mind, and coming into the picture a little late, as it were, I'd like to add a few points to the story. First of all, president Lincoln in reality was not as singly focused on the 13th amendment at the time as the movie portrays. He brought all his oratorical and persuasive skills to bear on its behalf, but military strategy took precedence.

Afterall, Sherman was marching through the South destroying everything in his path, a "total war" strategy approved by Lincoln.  Slaves followed Sherman in droves across Georgia to the sea, hoping for "40 acres and a mule," their dream of freedom.   Events were fast moving toward Appomattox, with General Ulysses Grant planning his final battle and preparing for Robert E. Lee's surrender, the friends from West Point in a scenario they could not have imagined as young men.  Slaves were fleeing plantations or taking them over, declaring their own freedom, not waiting for the president or Congress to act. Congress was in a lame-duck session, a sideshow really to more important events, playing political games that were more limited in their scope than they seemed, but providing a colorful cast of characters (all men) for a movie.   

I understand. Speilberg's Lincoln doesn't attempt to present a history of the 13th amendment, or the Civil War. It's a study of political leadership under the most trying of times. It focuses on the meaning of the Civil War, which was about freedom.  On this level, it's a brilliant and fascinating study.     .

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The real social history is equally fascinating. Lincoln was not the author of the 13th amendment, or even its chief advocate. That honor belongs to women abolitionists such as Lucy Stone, the Grimke sisters, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in cahoots with Senator Charles Sumner, who introduced the anti-slavery amendment into Congress in 1863.  

The women didn't stop there. They founded the National Women's Loyal League to organize a petition campaign to ensure its passage. Imagine! Under the leadership of the indefatiguable Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two of America' greatest civil rights reformers, intellects, and activists, the Loyal League gathered 400,000 signatures in 15 months, an incredible feat then, as now.  If anyone has tried to get names on a petition, pre-internet age, you''ll know what this means!

On February 9, 1864, according to Eleanor Flexner in Century of Struggle, her classic study of women's suffrage, two freemen, tall and stately, symbolic figures, "carried enormous bundles made up of petition rolls into the Senate Chamber and placed them on the desk of the Senator from Massachusetts."  It was a dramatic moment. The women who did the work for the 13th amendment, who did not even have the vote at the time, watched silently.  Sumner rose to speak 
"Mr. President, I offer a petition which is now lying on the desk before me.  It is too bulky for me to take up.  I need not add that it is too bulky for any of the pages of this body to carry....It will be perceived that the petition is in rolls.  Each roll represents a state.  For instance here is New York, with a list of 17,000...and Massachusetts with 11,700....These petitions are from all parts of the country and every condition of life....Here they are, representing a mighty army...the advance guard of a yet larger army.” (Flexner, 104)

And, indeed, the "larger army" is the real story:    
*An army of abolitionists and reformers who spoke out before, during and after the War.
*An army of women who fought for freedom for slaves and discovered they needed to fight for their own as well, creating a women's suffrage movement.
*An army of slaves who defied servitude, joined the Union army, put freedom on the war's agenda, fled farms and plantations to seek out family members, and played a central role in their own emancipation.
*The larger army of people, movements, and grassroots reform that together created the multi-layered process necessary for social change.
*The mighty army, including 4 million freed people in the South, that then carried the process forward, beyond the turbulent Reconstruction years, beyond the Black Codes and massive injustice, and into the 20th century and the rebirth of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. 

Of course, the complex history of the transition from slavery to freedom cannot be told in a two-hour commercial movie.  Ken Burns tried to tell it in an 11-hours documentary series, which took 6 years to make, aired on public television for five consecutive nights in 1990, was viewed by 40 million people (the largest audience ever for a PBS program), and led to hundreds of educational programs. The Burns documentary, moreover, was based on the latest scholarship available, making it a remarkable achievement in bringing historical scholarship to large public audiences.  

Spielberg's character study of Lincoln compliments Burns' documentary.

Sometimes it’s better to get history in small doses, and in popular formats.   It reaches more people.  Historians can use the opportunities to add their voices.  In that sense, Lincoln the film is an important slice of history that provides insight into the character of a great president. Viewers can't help but come away from this movie with a sense of the meaning of the Civil War--a heroic struggle for freedom on many levels--and a grand model of the kind of president America needs, then, now, and always.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rutherford B. Hayes House and Museum & Maumee Bay State Park: More Food for Seniors' Souls

The Hayes house and grounds; signage and educational panels feature issues like native Americans, the Civil War, and the War of 1812 (also a temporary exhibit is up now); a tattered flag of the 23rd Ohio Civil War Regiment; cameo of Hayes.   
A group of devotees of the Lourdes University Lifelong Learning program took a two-hour bus trip to the Rutherford B. Hayes House and Museum in Fremont, Ohio, then went to Maumee Bay State Park for lunch and a visit to the Nature Center.  They are both beautiful natural environments. The threat of rain and cloudy skies did not diminish the adventure. 

I’m an historian but I never paid much attention to the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes.  I knew the 1877 presidential election was hotly contested and that Hayes became president by one vote of a select Electorial Commission in exchange for withdrawing federal troops from the defeated South, thereby ending Reconstruction and strangling the hopes of 4 million newly freed people.  The former slaves were left to their own mercies under the gross unmitigated injustices and cruelties of Southern white losers and haters, the consequences of which were felt for over 100 years and are still felt to this day in spite of changes in race relations and laws. 

But I learned that Hayes, an Ohio-born lawyer, was an honest and decent man, anti-slavery, a Civil War veteran, a friend of Abe Lincoln’s.  He married Lucy Hayes, an advocate for women’s education (not suffrage, however) and fervent prohibitionist (no liquor at the White House, to the dismay of contemporaries at the time). They had eight children, two of whom died early and others who lived to further the Hayes' legacy, founding the first presidential Museum in the country.  Hayes' heirs remain active in keeping his memory alive; several have served on the museum board of trustees, and do to this day.  The museum houses collections of significant leaders of Fremont, Sandusky, Lake Erie Islands and area; manuscripts and research papers of historians like Roger Long and Charles E. Frohman; hundreds of photographs, artifacts and memorabilia (including a pair of Lincoln's slippers replicated for Stephen Spielburg's  Lincoln   (  It’s a great museum.  

The house, "Spiegel Grove," which the Hayes expanded to 31 rooms over the years and which has been restored to its former Gilded Age splendor in every detail, was interesting, reflecting its owners’ special interests and also the times. The parlors and dining room are grand.  The old-fashioned floor-to-ceiling library holds hard-covered series and precious collected works of Shakespeare, Thackery, Twain, European and American classics, presidential papers.  "They don't have libraries like this anymore," we murmured to each other in awe.  I must say the wallpaper and furnishings are also amazing.  

"I would like to think that if President and Mrs Hayes surprised us and returned to Spiegel Grove, they would find their rooms just as they left them 125 years ago," said Gail Caskey Winkler, the project consultant on the restoration (2012 Annual Report). 

Rutherford Hayes had said he would serve one term as president; he held to that promise. Actually, after four years he was more eager than ever to leave the distasteful political arena to others  “He serves his party best, who serves the nation,” he said in his inaugural addresses.  And he meant it.  He was sick at heart of the partisan politics that ruled Washington, at least as bad as today, maybe worse.  He favored civil service reform, fairness for former slaves, assimilation of native Americans; he was a moderate in all things.  He didn’t get very far in accomplishing his agenda.  

With the triumph of an exhuberant capitalism after the Civil War, the divisions in America grew worse not better as the 19th century turned into the 20th.   Hayes came to believe that the major issue confronting the nation was the growing gap between the very rich and the poor.  Until his death in 1893, he feared this gap would destroy the country if it was not acknowledged and addressed.  We all know how long this took, how reform efforts grew to tinker with it, how, in fact, it is still for many Americans a number 1 issue.  I have a renewed respect for President Rutherford Hayes.  


Maumee Bay State Park.
After reflecting on such somber issues, we headed to the Maumee Bay State Park. The skies turned  dark, the rain fell, but the park looked lovely in a misty haze.  The birds were in their glory. I loved the nature center; it reminded me of my brother Loren and all the nature centers we had visited together over the years: in Tallahassee and all over Florida; from Florida to upstate New York and New England, and dozens of local, state and national parks in between; those in Amsterdam and Costa Rica; in the American southwest, the Grand Canyon, and Utah.  America the Beautiful, through Loren's eyes.  The America Loren loved and fought all his life to preserve and conserve. I stopped to read about the Great Blue Herons, the flowers and trees, the monarch butterflies (threatened), even swamp snakes that Loren (not me or Andy) found fascinating.  Loren was with me.

Then I saw the quote from an Indian chief, Big Thunder: "The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is Our Mother."  Loren nudged me.  Truth is, he said, "The Great Spirit is our Mother, and the Earth is our mother."  

I walked through Maumee Bay State Park with Loren and it restored my soul.

So do these excursions and adventures sponsored by Lourdes' Lifelong Learning, ably organized and led by acting director Lynda Hoffman. There is so much to explore, so much to learn. It's like the quote about aging that says: "Add life to your years, not years to your life!"  Yep, this is the way to go, Loren agreed.  He died while hiking with the Florida Trail Association, along the Aucilla River and nature preserve, died doing what he loved, one with nature every step of the way.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

From large canvases to small ones: My Gardens

Pots on back steps (top left); front garden, porch, pots on front steps; those hearty purple pansies made it through the winter; back garden, back porch (lower half). 

Last week it was art and history; this week it’s my garden.  From funereal statuary and monuments, to archival collections, to Spanish-style architecture and art, to my little gardens. From large canvases to smaller ones.  

I’ve been weeding, digging and planting for weeks.  Most flowers are now in pots or in the ground, mostly perennials--lilies, daisies and hosta, some wild red grasses and pastel Columbine--with some annuals for color.  I start with large pansies in early spring and keep them going as long as possible. Some make it through the summer.  My cheerful purple pansies in the front garden even made it through winter.  I’ve added petunias, geraniums, marigolds, and a few other flowering plants in shades of red, patches of white (which I love in any garden), and also ivy, vines and plants that spill over hanging baskets.  I add whatever large stones I can find around the yard, pieces of pottery, tile and glass, angels and garden art.  Loren's spirit is here too.

Now I am weeding, care-taking, and watering, carefully.  Rain is forecast, and we need it.  There are a few bare spots that need some tall perennials, along the house especially.  Another reason to do one of my favorite things, shopping for plants!  My neighbor Judi and I decided not to grow vegetables this year, so I’ve planted about 1/3rd of that garden plot in back of the house. I might throw wild flower seeds in the rest, see what happens. Maybe they'll bloom next year.  

For now I'm awaiting this year's daisies, day lilies and roses, a variety of them, which are budding and abundant. They'll surprise and delight! Touches of beauty wherever I can sow them. My own little canvases. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

If only: May 22, the day my brother left us

A few memorial blogs for my brother on the 3rd anniversary of his
death, the day of his departure to parts unknown, somewhere in the heavens maybe, out in the cosmos, way out, where it is beautiful and peaceful and loving.  A star in the sky, a moon watcher, a dreamer.  The angel who was always with us, maybe still is if he can be.   

If Only.... (Dec 2012)

If my brother Loren were here, he’d be spending every holiday with us in Sylvania.  I’d make sure of it.  He wouldn't mind driving down to St. Petersburg, stopping at some of his favorite nature preserves, spending a few days visiting with our friend Sandie, then taking that great Allegiant Air flight direct to Toledo.  He’d still have his cranberry red Kia.  I’d be overjoyed to see him, to hug him, to hear him.  We’d talk about things that mattered, about politics, the environment, patriarchy, family stories, sports, his book and new books.

If my brother Loren were here, I think he would seriously consider moving up to Ohio.  As much as he had grown to love Florida, especially its natural environment, its parks and rivers, its flora and fauna, he always said he wanted to return “home to Rochester.” I think he would have considered Ohio,  too, because we are all here, my kids and grandkids and great grandson Philip.  He would help them put up his old train set, and he would love being a kid again with them. He'd love experiencing the four seasons again.

If Loren were here, I wouldn’t feel such loss. I go to bed thinking about him and wake up thinking about him.  He is a memory, a spirit somewhere, but we will never see each other again.  I can’t seem to believe what he believed, that when you die it’s a new beginning, that you are one with the goddess, reborn forever into a peaceful beautiful world. If only wishes came true.  If only...

Missing Loren  (October 2011)
Life gets better, but grieving doesn’t. Or maybe it takes more time, or more than time.

I miss my brother Loren. I want to talk with him, see him, hear him. My sister and I have lost our favorite political
Costa Rica, Arenal volcano,
guru and ranter. We could say things to each other that we wouldn’t say out loud to any other living soul, and be forgiven, understood, even encouraged! We could say the most outrageous things that came into our heads, without screening. We laughed a lot as we went over the top on our favorite demons.

How I wish my spiritual twin was here with me in real time. Is he with the angels? Conversing with the goddess he worshipped? I want to believe it, but I have my doubts. I can almost hear Loren correcting me as I say this. "There are no ends in nature" he is saying. "Only beginnings."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Remembering Loren

It's been three years since my brother Loren's sudden death on a hiking trip with the Florida Trail Association. It seems like yesterday.  I think of him every day.  Miss him every day.  Still weep at his absence.  Yes, I love his spirit. I feel it.  But how I miss his enormous knowledge of the environment, the planet, goddess spirituality, Rochester and western New York state, history in general.  I miss watching the NBA playoffs with him.  I miss his intensity and dedication to peace and justice.  I always remember. I remember his hopes and dreams.  Now I add to his altars in my apartment to the point of their overflowing, things I know he treasured. I hope he knew how much he was treasured.  I hope he knows.  Life is not the same without Loren in it.  I wrote the blog below last year, remembering Loren, and it's still the same.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My brother, My Don Quixote

In memory of my dear brother,
 12 November 1947 to 22 May 2010.
My brother fought windmills of injustice with passion and compassion until the end of his short life.  He loved the idea of Don Quixote, translating it from the Cervantes novel to his daily life, this Spanish symbol of change and hope.

Loren was an environmentalist, a progressive, a justice crusader to the end.  He struggled bravely to find himself and his purpose in life.  He wrote his autobiography, An Asperger Journey, about growing up with "a problem that had no name" until he was in his mid-50s. He embraced the goddess and transcendent spirituality, knew all the literature, taught me and others. He was our mother's best friend and caregiver.

He died of a heart attack, suddenly, while on an arduous hike along the Aucilla river in northern Florida. May 22, 2010.  I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine when I got the call and had to make the sad trip to Tallahasssee for his memorial service.  His book came out a few months later.  Andy struggled with it, struggled with the memory of police at her door on a Saturday afternoon, stepped up to celebrate his book and comfort his friends.

When I was in San Miguel this winter I thought about how much Loren would have loved Mexico, like he loved being in Costa Rica, a special journey we took together.  I had planned to share time with him in San Miguel, too, when I got out of the Peace Corps, but it was not meant to be.

Some people say he's here with me.  I hope so, but I doubt it.  I wish I could talk with him, walk with him from the Instituto to the Jardin, from the Parroquia to the Artisans Mercado.  He could tell me so much about it; he would know and understand.  I wish he could visit me and my kids and grandkids here in Sylvania.  He'd love walking with us around the neighborhood and in the metro parks, and holding Chase. We'd be watching some NBA games together now, Loren filling me in on the biographies of every player and the statistics of the game.

How I wish I could hear him talk about what's going on the the world today, in America, in all the faraway places he had studied. I wish we could look up at the sky and see the moon together.  I miss his rants and his perspective.  I miss my brother, my Don Quixote.  The world is not the same without Loren in it.   

Travels with Franciscan Sisters

A few buildings, tile murals and mosaics on the Franciscan Sisters'
Lourdes campus. Lynda Hoffman, Lifelong Learning (lower left)
 introduces Sister Ann Carmen Barone, art teacher, artist, 
institution builder. I love the depiction of the prayer of St. Francis, 
"Lord make me an instrument of your Peace," in bright tiles (at top). 

It's been art and history week for me, in beautiful settings: A stroll through Historic Woodlawn Cemetery; a Sylvania Historical Society lecture on the Ward M. Canaday Archives at the University of Toledo, our collector's corner for history; and then a powerpoint presentation by Sister Ann Carmen Barone about the fabulous art of the Lourdes college campus created by the Franciscan Sisters, my favorite group of nuns on earth. What a cultural feast! Where am I?
My mind wanders.  As it does these days.  I'm strolling through a quaint Mexican town sparkling with graceful fountains, bright red and yellow flowers, intricate tile work, murals and statuary on every corner. The architecture is delightful: bell towers, graceful archways and loggias, red tiled roofs, richly tiled stairways, ceilings, walls, doors and windows. The sun shines brightly in a cobalt blue sky, bouncing off golden mosaics, blue and white decorative paintings, exquisite stonework and woodwork. The joys of travel.
Franciscan Center, side tiled panels.

But wait! I’m not abroad. I’m right here at home, in Sylvania, Ohio.  I’m on the stunning Spanish-mission style campus of Lourdes University, founded by the brilliant, talented, and peace-loving Franciscan Sisters. They came to teach, to serve, to glorify, from the 1930s to the present.  And I’m listening with almost 100 other seniors to Sister Ann Carmen Barone, who’s been here forever and witnessed the campus’ evolution, tell us about the “Art Treasures of Lourdes,” accompanied by ample photo slides. This beauty is right here in my own backyard!  

The art on this campus was inspired by the first director, the famed Sister Adelaide, a Renaissance woman par excellence. Visionary, thoughtful, compassionate, a lover of nature, music, the humanities, math and science, the world and everything in it, she inspired the growth of the campus until her death in 1964, symbolically on July 4, like our early and enlightened presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. In her day and in her way, Sister Adelaide paid attention to every detail, every building, every walkway, every piece of statuary, every work of art, as Jefferson did at Monticello and the University of Virginia.

But Sister Adelaide’s model for the campus was not classical Greece or Rome, but a Spanish Franciscan mission in California. All the Sisters  who came here were motivated by and shared her vision; they made it happen, tile by tile. Sister Adelaide’s legacy lives on in a lovely natural setting enhanced by beautiful arts and crafts.  The Lourdes campus embodies her spirit, her dream for beauty in the world, for love and peace, for sharing the blessings of the creator of all things and all of us. 
Mural of tiles, front of Franciscan Center.

“It’s been a great life,” Sister Ann tells us, “to feel the energy and beauty of our campus, to share it, to ensure it radiates outward to others, to the community."

"This is our philosophy, the Franciscan philosophy."  Above all, the Franciscan sisters believe "God is love," and that it is his love that shows in every work of art on the campus, as well as in its natural beauty. 

So we traveled with Sister Ann on a virtual tour of Lourdes, from one fabulous building to another, from one beautiful piece of art to another: The Franciscan Center, the Portiuncola Shrine, Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel, the Duns Scotus Library, the statues of St. Francis with his beloved animals, and other Spanish-style buildings replete with creative decorative features.

After the virtual tour I took an actual walk around the campus.  Always a pleasure.  Always more to see, to feel. And after Sister Ann Carmen's talk I saw more than ever.  Serenity.  Beauty.  Peace.  Love.  They filled up my senses "like a night in the forest, like a fountain in springtime." My mind wandered. The John Denver song carried me home on the wings of a dove surrounded by golden mosaics.      

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Collector's Corner: University of Toledo Ward M. Canaday Archives

CAPTION:  Exhibit catalogs promote the Ward M. Canaday's archival collections. Medicine and health in northwest Ohio is a major focus, as is business and industry, which include the records of Libby-Owens-Ford, Toledo Scale, and the Toledo, Angola & Western Railroad.  I'd like to explore the women's social history collection.  

TEXT begins here:
The Ward M.Canaday Center of the University of Toledo, located on the 5th floor of the main library, houses some great collections that tell the multifaceted story of Toledo, Ohio, and the growth of Northwest Ohio

Barbara Floyd, director of the Ward M. Canaday center, shared her knowledge of these collections at the May program of the Sylvania Area Historical Society. An attentive audience of history lovers took it all in and asked good questions throughout the presentation. 

“The collections support the research of UT’s faculty and students as well as scholars from around the world,” professor Floyd noted.  They include a fabulous rare book collection (Ward Canaday's special interest) and materials about women’s social history, African-American literature and Southern literature, Toledo’s business history and, of course, the University’s history. “And this is just the beginning.”  The archives’ holdings include nearly 50,000 volumes, 4000 linear feet of manuscript collections, and over 5000 feet of UT’s archival material.  The archives are online at Toledo’s Attic,

To publicize its efforts, the Center has produced several exhibitions built around its collections. These  exhibits have covered such topics as Toledo imprints, Henry David Thoreau, Eudora Welty, Ezra Pound and the Imagists poets, UT architecture, 19th century medicine, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the business and industry that shaped the city. 

In the fall, the Center is mounting an exhibit called "Letters of Luminaries," mining its collections for the letters of some of America's and the Toledo area's major novelists, authors, and political, business and social leaders. Toledo's Canaday Center, our collector's corner, is a treasure trove for scholars, local history researchers, and community members.   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

History, Art and Nature Come Alive at Woodlawn Cemetery

Grounds and sample mausoleum; a Harroun
family in-ground plaque; pink-flowered
horse chestnut; the Ottawa river; a
home for ducklings. 
Where can you find a perfect balance of history, art and nature in one place?  Here in Toledo, it’s the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery, established in 1876 as part of “the rural cemetery movement.”   Built 3 miles outside of the city center on 160 acres of farmland, the cemetery was considered a model for the time, a final resting place for Civil War veterans, local families and, at the turn of the 20th century, for wealthy elites of growing metropolises. Cemeteries like Woodlawn still exist all over the US, now "peaceful oases among modern urban sprawl" (www.historic-, and fantastic cultural resources for their communities.  These cemeteries, in fact, I only just learned, served as models for the National Park system!

My friend Teddy and I had a lovely stroll through the park-like setting this morning, up with the birds, lots of them.  We needed a "birder" to identify them, and in fact the Cemetery does offer "birder tours," among many others.  These programs keep hope alive.

To this day, Woodlawn embodies and reflects the vision of its founders and its first superintendent, horticulturalist Frank Eurich.

Teddy with assistant director
Patty Toneff in front of
unique Gothic administration
building with famed bell tower,
which still tolls the arrival of
funeral processions.
That's why the cemetery is also an arboretum and a park.  It has over 200 species of trees, gorgeous trees, among them the Buckeye, the Ohio state tree, a chestnut with large white flowers that look like giant lilacs (Kaston in Russian, and plentiful in Ukraine, too) and the horse chestnut, which has large reddish pink rather than white flowers.

Graceful monuments, in-ground plaques, elegant statuary and loving memorials rest peacefully along flowering paths, gently rolling hills, on lakes and along an Ottawa river tributary.

There are 42 mausoleums of many designs, many classical with Greek and Roman columns and flourishes, many with original Tiffany windows (which the Toledo Art Museum will exhibit in June), most built by wealthy Toledoans in the early 20th century. Most are family plots, so historians and genealogists can trace family and community histories. 

Woodlawn abounds in wonderful funereal art and architecture.  Some memorials are unique, like the cement tree stumps popular in their day (Teddy is viewing one at left), or the large pyramid of stones from around the world built to honor John Gunckle, founder of the Toledo Newsboys Association.   

The cemetery was run down and neglected for a while, threatened with ruin, until a group of dedicated citizens organized to fight for its life.  It was a fitting effort, and the cemetery is now a National Historic site run by a private nonprofit dedicated to its maintenance, restoration and preservation.  Its trustees are doing a conscientious job of preserving the beauty and historic significance of this special place. They offer many programs, tours, and of course funeral services. They are considering a green burial area.  We the citizens of the Toledo area, and wherever in the US the rural cemetery movement came to life, are grateful beneficiaries.  History, art and nature: the beauty of our lives here and beyond.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust: Are Small Businesses on America's Main Streets Doomed?

Another one bites the dust.

It sounds harsh.  I'm talking about another one of my favorite places on Main Street in Sylvania. First it was Dragonfly.  It's gone. A nice candle shop has moved in.

Now we learn that The Pink Door, formerly called Juni's, is also going down, going out of business.  The "For Rent" sign is up.

Darn. This is a women's clothing boutigue with pretty and fun clothes for young and older women, too.  A great place to get blouses and pants, dresses and jackets, scarves and accessories.

I guess it's just too difficult to keep these independently-owned small businesses going.  Too costly, too exhausting, too all-consuming to the point of infringing on personal and family life, and on personal finances.

I thought business was picking up at the Pink Door.  My daughter Elissa, who works there part-time, filling in here and there for owner Shannon, did, too, although she does say  how hard it is to keep a small shop going, to attract more people to do more shopping and more buying.

"It's such a neat store, with such beautiful things," I replied. "I thought it would go on,  It seemed like it has a growing clientele, too," people who came in regularly to get clothes and gifts.

"Regulars are good, but more is better," Elissa said, or something to that effect.

Are small businesses along historic Main Street in Sylvania doomed?

Are small businesses along all of America's Main Streets in old downtowns of small towns doomed?  It kind of looks that way from here.

What can be done? Those of us who live in old downtowns "shop local," as much as possible, and we become attached.  But I guess it's not enough, sad to say.  We talk and speculate.  What is the market? What would work? A used clothes store or second-hand store?  An antique shop or antique mall? A used furniture and household items consignment store?

"No endings in nature, only beginnings," my dear brother always reminded me.  A new door will open when the Pink Door closes.

We wish Shannon good luck, and a thank you for the Pink Door experience!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

facebook hazards: Is it really that bad?

Several people have warned me about posting my blogs on facebook.  “You talk about your family, your friends, putting them in a kind of social media jeopardy” one said.  With the way facebook and yahoo are now interfaced, and other online outlets, “it’s TMI, too much information.”  Every darn advertiser in the book gets your name and every other name, and next thing you know you are hacked, your spam file overflows, everybody knows what you like, what you do, who you know. 

“I’ve stopped using facebook at all,” another said.  “I feel like my privacy is invaded, even if I can “control” who sees what.  

I’m aware of this side of social media, but is it so bad that it’s dangerous to post my blogs?

I love to write. I write everyday. Most things don’t get posted. The things I do post are, yes, about what I am doing, some about family, about kids and grandkids or friends. Sometimes I reflect on political issues, or about culture, community and place. 

I like sharing ideas, and I enjoy getting comments. Not that I get that many.  Once I had comments from two dentists who replied to my post about daydreaming in the dentist chair.  

On the good side, it’s a great way to communicate, stay in touch with friends around the US and the world, stay connected.  It’s a great way to unite people on a huge platform, even a way to bring change.  It's an integral part of life now.   

But there’s the other side, the negative side that I’ve been reminded about recently: the lack of privacy, the sharing of information with third parties, the interface with other programs and social media, making information available for commercial use.  In this context, posting my blogs on facebooks might be “TMI” to put out there.  I certainly don’t want to put anyone in danger, or to alert the wrong people for the wrong reasons, including advertisers and products and connections that are unwanted.  Is it really this bad?

For now, I’ve decided to develop an email blog list, ask folks if they want to be on it, and send them the link to my blog.  

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