Trying the Rule of Five

I just read an article about how clutter affects women and can cause depression. Although I don’t think I’m depressed, I do have clutter. I know that my clutter sometimes makes me feel overwhelmed and pressured.

Here’s one suggestion that I want to try. They said: Adopt the Rule of Five.
5 five pixabay

How the Rule of Five works:

“Every time you get up from your desk or walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour.”
Since my desk is one of my worst clutter spots, I’m going to try applying the rule of five to it. I’m ready for a break and want to go get a late evening snack in the kitchen. First, I’ll look for 5 things on my desk to take care of. Then I can have my snack.
How about you? Do you have a favorite clutter-busting technique?
Other articles by Virginia Allain on decluttering:

I Love Cemeteries

I’ve always found old cemeteries fascinating. You never know what you’ll find there. Perhaps I inherited this interest from my mother. Gail Lee Martin spent many hours in graveyards while tracking down ancestors and looking for birth and death dates to add to the family tree.

Pause for a minute to scan the moss-covered stones and trace a finger over the engraved lettering.

longmeadow cemetery

I visited this cemetery in Longmeadow, Massachusetts some years ago.

Who was this person that lies beneath this gravestone? What was his life like and why did he die? Sometimes you find family groupings and can piece together the family’s story. Perhaps the father died in the war, leaving a young widow. Nearby is a stone for their child who died too young. Was it an accident, an epidemic or other misfortune?

child grave ky

A child’s grave in Frankfort, KY.

I’m always intrigued by the long-lived ones, octogenarians and even ones who lived into their nineties. It’s particularly striking when the stone is for someone who lived in the 1700s or the 1800s. In those days, the life span was much shorter, but you find some who were remarkably long-lived.

As a genealogist, I’m usually looking for specific ancestors as I wander through a cemetery. Still, I can’t resist checking out other people’s dead relatives while I’m there.

There’s something timeless and soothing about a sunny day of wending ones way among the marble markers that represent lives of those long gone. Here’s an old graveyard that I discovered in New Hampshire called the Perkins Hill Cemetery. You can read about the interesting graves I found there.

I’ve even stopped by a cemetery on a snowy day. This photo is from Ohio where I lived in the 1970s. The sky was threatening more snow and I couldn’t resist stopping to capture it with my camera. I wish I’d had a better camera back then.

ohio cemetery

A cemetery in winter near Chardon, Ohio.

Do you find graveyards scenic and interesting?

 

(all photos by Virginia Allain)

Coping with Reading Addiction

How to Cope with Reading Addiction

If you love to read, do you know when reading becomes more than just a pastime or hobby? Has your reading crossed the line into addiction? Here are steps to assess this and also to help you cope with your reading addiction.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate
Step 1

Answer these questions to see if you are addicted to reading.

  1. Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut back on your reading?
  2. Are you preoccupied with thoughts of the book when you are away from it?
  3. Does reading help you escape from your problems?

These are similar to questions used in surveys by the American Psychological Association to determine internet addiction and gambling addiction.

Addicted to reading? Here’s a stack of books for you.

Step 2

Actually, being a book addict isn’t the worst thing in the world. I, personally, would like to see more “book addicts”. Wouldn’t you rather have addictive personalities turned onto reading rather than to drugs? Just imagine, if teenagers after school couldn’t wait to get a book instead of seeking out their local drug dealer.

If they were reading addicts, few people would try to change their behavior or ask them to get therapy. Reading, even in large amounts, is generally viewed as a positive activity. Everyone would admire such a wide background gained through reading.

Step 3

At what point does an addiction become a problem? When an addiction disrupts a relationship or leads people to commit illegal acts or to spend too much money, then it definitely is a social problem. Some people try to hide their addictions. They realize their behavior, whether it is excessive drinking or drug use, is not socially acceptable. Addictions are a problem if they affect your health or keep you from performing your job.

Here’s a self-test to take: Make a list of problems associated with your reading. Do you still recognize your family members when you pull yourself out of a book? Have you gone into debt buying books? Does it make you anxious when you don’t have an unread book on hand? Do you sneak out of work to visit a bookstore or library, just so you can be surrounded by books? How many book groups do you belong to? Do you resist switching to an e-reader because you crave the smell of paper as you read?

Step 4

I probably would be classified as a binge reader. Sometimes I go weeks without reading, while at other times I devour several books in a row. I might read late into the night, not able to put the book down until the very end. I know I’ll be sorry in the morning when it is hard to get out of bed. A novel is sometimes so compelling that I just can’t tear myself away. Reading a really good book creates the desire to read more.

How would you classify your reading? Can you stop if you want to? Is it just social reading so you can discuss the book with friends and the book club? Is it compulsive reading that you can’t stop doing? Do you escape into a book then have a hard time coming back to the real world? Is it hard for you to go to sleep at night if you don’t read for a while first?

Step 5

I hope therapists never label it as a psychological disorder. Libraries would become those dens of iniquity where the reading addicts get their fix. Librarians would face prison terms for providing books to addicts. Books would carry labels warning “CAUTION: this book could lead to addictive reading”.

Step 6

Maybe a ten-step program could be developed. People would attend the weekly meetings, stand up and say, “My name is ___, and I am a compulsive reader.” When they felt the urge to read, they could call another member who would help talk them out of it.

Until that time, enjoy reading as much as you want.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try setting a timer when you start to read. Force yourself to put the book down and spend an equal amount of time with the family.
  • Consider dropping subscriptions to book-of-the-month clubs. Get library cards instead at all the libraries within a 50-mile radius.
  • Addiction to books and reading can start at a very early age. Be alert for signs of it in your toddler and young children.
  • Write book reviews for Amazon or other sites. It serves as a way to keep track of your reading. Also when you reach Top 100 Reviewer status, authors will send you free books to read and review. Family and friends may accept your excessive reading as it has a purpose (beyond entertaining yourself).

Resources

Find a library near you

(Written by Virginia Allain, former library director)

The Christmas Quilt

My 1880s Silk Quilt by Virginia Allain

Over the past 40 years, I collected vintage quilts. Most of these were found at antique markets in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I haven’t added to the collection since moving to Florida.

A few years ago, I took one quilt to the Davenport Quilt show for appraisal. I opted for the quickie appraisal, not wishing to spend the $40 for the written one that would have included an estimate of value for the quilt.

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An 1880s silk quilt in a poinsettia pattern (8-pointed star)

Here’s what I learned about it. The pattern is a star block. It appears to have been made from a grey silk dress as there are tucks in some of the pieces. Due to the iron content used in dyes for silk, those pieces are likely to suffer some disintegration over the years. A few small pieces show this with the silk shredding. The appraiser said there is nothing that can be done to prevent this since the harm was done at the time the fabric was made.

The red parts are not silk, but linen. The backing is a paisley that looks to be of 1880s vintage.

The batting is very thin and it is probable that this was never intended for use on a bed for warmth. More likely it was for show or for a lap robe.

Rather than being quilted, it is a tied quilt with red and green ribbons. The green ones have faded to a yellow over the last 130 years, but in a few places, the original color could be detected. With the red and green ribbons plus the poinsettia look of the stars, this might be a Christmas quilt.

 

Birthday Wishes for Gail’s Middle Daughter

Our guest blogger today is Gail’s daughter, Karen Kolavalli. This is a post that she wrote a few years ago on the Bubblews site.

“Today is my sister, Virginia’s birthday! Yesterday was the death anniversary of our youngest sister, Shannon, so it’s hard to switch gears from grieving to celebrating. As hard as it is for me, I know its much harder for her.

She’s a very kind and generous person and has written many tributes to others. This is my tribute to her.

In trying to think back to special times together throughout our lives, it’s hard to separate out times with her from the overall family experience of being part of a large family. She and my oldest sister Susan were the “Big Girls” and shared a bedroom, while Cindy and I were the “Little Girls” and shared another bedroom. Brother Owen was the oldest and the only boy, so he got his own room. Baby sister Shannon didn’t come along until the rest of us were all in school, so she was always the baby to us.

I do remember when Ginger came back from 4-H camp one summer, with exciting tales of adventures away from home. She taught us all sorts of novelty camp songs. My favorite was the long and involved (and hilarious) Little Bunny Foo-Foo. It was just the first of many times that she brought a wider world back home to me.

She was also the first to move away from our hometown to attend college. I felt very grown up to be invited to spend Homecoming weekend with her when I was an awkward high school student. We attended the football game, saw a performance of the Harkness Ballet, and went to The Cowsills concert. I still remember the new pair of brown Levi cords (corduroy jeans) I got to buy for the weekend.

 

ginger opening gift college age

Virginia (Ginger) Martin – College Years

Later on, when I was a college student living out of state in Missouri, she stopped by on her way back from Kansas to where she lived in Ohio. She was driving a brand-new gold Camaro. Very cool! She was in her first job as a children’s librarian, which I thought was just a wonderful profession. Much later, I, too, worked as a children’s librarian.

 

ginger williamsburg

Ginger Martin in Williamsburg, VA

Years passed and I visited her on the east coast, where we went to Colonial Williamsburg, Ephrata Cloisters, and the Edgar Allen Poe Home. She visited me when I was training at the FBI Academy and we toured the Civil War battlefield at Manassas together. We also drove into Washington, D.C. for a concert of Irish music at the Smithsonian.

When we were still single, we traveled together internationally. Our first trip was to the British Isles and later we traveled to Canada. Dream trips, both of them.

There were many years of physical separation when she married and moved to Australia, while I moved to India with my new husband. Her frequent letters during those years were a lifeline to this homesick expatriate. I also have a collection of the very special hand-crafted Valentines she sent to me through those years.

There are many, many other things I could share, but these are what I’m remembering tonight on her birthday. She was the sister who boldly left home for college and then made her home in distant places. She’s the sister who shares a love of books, history and Irish music with me.

She’s always been an important person in my life and has been a wonderful mentor, advisor, and friend. Love you, Sis!”

Country School Memories

Memories of Attending a Country School – by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain

I attended a two-room school for three years. That sounds quaint and old-fashioned, but Kansas in the 1950s and early 1960s hadn’t yet consolidated the rural schools. West Branch School, east of El Dorado, Kansas was a square brick building with a spacious basement and on the main floor, the two classrooms.

 

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West Branch School – rural Butler County, Kansas

 

Mrs. West taught the first four grades, where my younger sisters, Cindy and Karen attended. I was in the upper grades, taught by Mrs. Mildred Waltman. While I was in 6th grade, my sister Susan was in the 7th grade, and my brother, Owen was in 8th grade, all in the same room. Mrs. Waltman taught all three grades plus the 5th graders.

Those four grades shared one good-sized room. The blackboard covered one wall with some large maps on a roller above it. Classes took turns being instructed at the sturdy table placed in front of the blackboard. The teacher divided her time four ways, switching from math to English to geography and from one grade level to another.

When it wasn’t our grade’s turn at the front of the room, we worked at our desks on assigned work. If we finished our assignment, we could always listen in on the class being taught at the table or we could choose a book to read. The bookshelves ran all across the longest wall under the windows. Being an avid reader, I’d hasten to finish my class work so I’d have time to read.

At the end of the school year reading awards were given. Gold embossed seals, each representing five books read, almost completely covered the inside of my reading certificate in its royal blue fake-velvet cover.

pencil-pixabay

It’s hard to imagine the workload for a teacher handling four grades at once, but Mrs. Waltman rose to the challenge. Each grade consisted of only two to four students, so essentially she customized the curriculum and we received individualized attention.

When West Branch students graduated from 8th grade, they took the bus into El Dorado Junior High to merge in with 400 students for 9th grade. The students from the country schools took placement tests and were assigned to math and English classes based on the results. I noticed that most of us ended up in the honors level classes.

The social adjustment of going from a small school to one so large was tough. Most of the town kids had attended grade schools together and had a two-year head start on Junior High when we arrived. The cliques and friendships formed over the years were not receptive to country kids. We felt like outsiders and I never overcame that feeling all through high school.

We missed the camaraderie of our cozy classroom and the freedom of the playground. In our country school, we knew everyone and they knew us. At recess, all ages from first grade through eighth grade played softball together or jumped rope or played running games. The school ground included a vintage merry-go-round that spun at dizzying speeds when the older boys pulled it round and round. You could sit on the splintery seat and grip the handrail or if you felt daring, you could stand on the seat and hold the upright pole. Sometimes centrifugal force took hold and your feet left the seat while you clung to the pole flying through the air.

When the weather was too bad, we could play in the basement of the school. I remember the 8th graders bringing a record player and we tried to learn the latest dances. This was just a few years before the Beatles took rock music by storm.

We rode the school bus to West Branch and brought our lunches in square metal lunch boxes. At our house fixing five lunches required an assembly line in the morning as we made sandwiches and packaged up homemade cookies. The school provided the square cartons of milk to go with our lunches. I think we had to bring “milk money” to pay for it, but I don’t remember how much it was.

Thank you, Mrs. Waltman, for making my years at a country school, ones that I remember so fondly.

(this has also been posted on the Our Echo website where people can share family stories)

Take Time to Really See Insects

It’s summer and it’s likely that we’ll have some insect encounters over the past few months and into the fall. Your first instinct might be to reach for a flyswatter or some insect spray. I have an alternate suggestion for you.

Not all insects are out to sting or bite you. All have a role to play in our environment, so if the small critter isn’t attacking you, leave it alone.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The picture above is a dragonfly. These are fun to watch as they zoom and swoop over a prairie or around a lake. They are catching and eating mosquitoes and other small insects. Please, don’t kill them.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The caterpillar above might seem a bit bizarre, but take time to view the unique clusters sprouting from its body and the burgundy colored racing stripe down its side. Don’t pick this one up, as the spikes have an irritating effect on human skin.

Read up on the little creatures you see in your yard and you’ll have a new respect for them. The caterpillar above transforms into a small silk moth called the Io Moth. The moth is fairly nondescript until it spreads its wings. The underwings have a large black dot on them with a colorful background.

Photo by Virginia Allain

So, this is an ant hill. Probably you’ve seen these hundreds of times but never really looked at one closely. Again, this is another chance to observe nature right in your backyard. Look at the textures and shape of this ant hill. I found it fascinating.

Our mother, Gail Lee Martin, taught her children to observe and respect nature. That’s a good legacy to pass along to your children. For the future of our planet, we can’t just kill off everything that isn’t human or isn’t a pet or isn’t something that serves as food for humans. All creatures perform a role in balancing nature.

I hope you’ll take a little time this summer to observe the insects around you. Yes, some are harmful to you or to your garden, but you want to adopt a live-and-let-live philosophy for the most part. Use the flyswatter and the bug spray sparingly.