Museum of Me

Museum of Me: May 2022

It's the second Friday in May, and that means it's time for a new exhibit in the . . . 

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When I was a kid, I loved doing pretty much all the same stuff I do now: making things, drawing and coloring, listening to music, and reading. (I also did quite a lot of "taking charge" of the neighborhood kids, convincing them to take part in my various schemes. Which I still kinda do, I suppose.) (I only hope I'm less bossy and more inclusive now. . . )

Anyway.

This month's exhibit is about one of those things I loved doing: Reading. 
C'mon in!
Let's talk books!

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(Me, just out of third grade, reading to my sister.)

I learned to read well before I went to school. (My school district didn't have public school kindergarten, so I didn't step foot into a classroom until I was a first grader.) We did a lot of reading when I was little, and my childhood was filled with trips to the library. My mom used to tell me that I taught myself to read, which actually might be true. I have a very vague memory of just . . . suddenly . . . being able to decipher the words that I saw around me on signs, in the grocery store, in books. It was magic! By the time I actually got to school, I was such an advanced reader that my teacher didn't quite know what to do with me. She used to allow me time to read on my own, which I loved. It didn't take long, though, before lots of other kids in my class caught up with me, so my time as a "special" reader ended.

I always had a book nearby to read when I was a kid. I kept them in my desk as school for those times when I finished my work early and was allowed to "read quietly at my desk." I read in the car whenever we drove somewhere. I read waiting for dance class to begin. I read at the table (when I could get away with it, which wasn't often but I did try all the time; sometimes I wore my mom down). I read with a flashlight under the covers (my mom turned a blind eye). Sometimes I even read while wandering the aisles at the grocery store with my mom. I read and I read and I read!

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(Me, just about to head into sixth grade, with my personal "library.")

Although I dreamed of having a big, "storybook" kind of library, most of the books I read were library loans. (I adored the library.) As you can see from my photo, I didn't own many books at all. And most of the books you see on my shelf had belonged to my mom when she was a little girl. But I did have a few of my own. I usually got a book at Christmas, and I lived for the Scholastic book orders at school. Still, my personal childhood library was very limited, and didn't include most of my very favorite books . . . 

Misty of Chincoteague. Across Five Aprils. The Island of Blue Dolphins. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Caddie Woodlawn. All the Ramona Quimby books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Little House on the Prairie books. A Wrinkle in Time. The Phantom Tollbooth. The Narnia series. Nancy Drew. The Hardy Boys, too. The Childhood-of-Famous-Americans series.  The Betsy-Tacy books. The Bobbsey Twins. Charlotte's Web.  

My favorite, though? 

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In third grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Hermann. (I've written about her before. She's the teacher who first introduced me to the wonders of poetry, and I will be forever grateful.) One day, I got finished with my school work quickly and realized I had forgotten to bring a book to read. I asked to go to the library, but Mrs. Hermann said no -- because another class was scheduled for library time right then. I almost cried. Wise Mrs. Hermann understood, though. She pulled a book out of her desk drawer and asked me, "Have you met Pippi yet?"

I had not.

She lent me her book, right there. I was immediately captivated by Pippi. Mrs. Hermann let me keep reading, right through recess. She even let me borrow her book -- and take it home! -- until I finished. (I guarded it like it was a precious jewel.) 

And how I loved Pippi! She was Swedish, just like me. She ate pepparkakor, just like me! And she did so many other silly and fantastical things that were not like me at all. I loved every page. I wanted to hang out with her and Tommy and Annika at Villa Villekulla. (Although Annika did kinda bug me. Too prissy. Too perfect. Too clean.) I read the book (and the others in the series) over and over and over again. (I read it to my own kids, too. They were not quite as charmed as I had been. It's hard to top "Captain Underpants," y'know?)

As I was thinking about this exhibit, I realized that . . . as much as I had loved Pippi Longstocking as a child, I had never owned a copy of the book. So I went out and bought a copy for myself. (I read it again, too. It's really silly.) It was actually harder to find than I expected. It was buried on the back shelf of the children's bookstore we have in town . . . deep in the "classics" section. But now, Pippi has a place in my old childhood library. I've managed to keep most of those old books over the years, and they live happily together in a shelf in one of my living room curio cabinets.

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Even though Pippi doesn't technically belong with all my old books . . . I think she fits right in. Don't you?

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How about you? What are your favorite childhood books?

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of monthly prompts) and we can tell our stories together. 

 


Museum of Me: April 2022

Another month, another exhibit in the . . . 

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I've had a bunch of jobs in my life. A bunch. I've been a copy editor, a newspaper "dummier" (seriously; it's a job), a 5th grade teacher, a receptionist, a bookkeeper, a CPA. I've worked as the head of a private foundation, the VP of communications for a symphony, and I've been a self-employed grant writer. At one time, I even handled personal finances for a very wealthy family (Erin called them "the Richie Richs'). If you tried to draw a line through that mess of jobs, you'd never find a "career path!" 

How did that even happen?

Well. That's a long (and winding) story that's . . . not part of today's exhibit. Today's exhibit takes us back in time . . . to the very beginning of my work life!

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When I was in 8th grade, a new family moved in a couple of doors down from my family. They had two sweet little girls, not even in school yet. I was the perfect age to become their babysitter. And . . . what a great babysitting gig that turned into! The mom and dad owned a bowling alley in town (The Bowlerama. Seriously.), and they did a lot of bowling. They played on leagues together, and had frequent evening events at the bowling alley. I was babysitting 3 or 4 nights a week, on the regular. And they paid Really Well. They also . . . had friends in need of a reliable, well-behaved babysitter. I developed a huge clientele - a real Babysitting Dynasty. I was so "in demand" that I often had to turn jobs over to friends in the neighborhood.

In no time at all, I'd saved up enough to buy that 10-speed bike in the photo, above. I loved having my own money! Mostly, I bought record albums and fabric and lip gloss with my babysitting money. But I saved a little of it, too.

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Then . . . I turned 16 and got my driver's license. My social life was picking up. I had a (horrible) car. I was more involved in school activities and friends, so I gave up the babysitting (my lucky little sister "inherited" my "empire" in a seamless babysitter transition) . . . and I got a summer job at Dairy Queen.

Which. I. Hated.

I lasted the summer, but let's just say . . . food service was not for me. I mean, there were perks. I got to eat as many hot fudge sundaes as I wanted (they get old, though). I got to keep tabs on who was dating who (because they all came in for ice cream after the movies) (even Tom -- who was dating an airhead a friend from the cheerleading squad that summer). 

But I had to wear a hairnet under my bandana. And a cheesy little red apron (with dribbles and chocolate stains down the front; so chic!). And sturdy shoes with socks (in the summer; it was a nightmare for someone who despises shoes and socks). Plus friends from school were always trying to get me to give them free Mr. Misty Freezes. (I didn't. Even to the cute boys.) The hours were terrible - because Dairy Queen was open late in the summer. Let's just say . . . I was happy when school started and I didn't have the time for that job.

But I did like making my own money -- and DQ paid better than my babysitting gigs.

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The next summer . . . I landed my high school dream job . . . at SoFro Fabrics! Talk about perks!!! I got discounts on patterns and fabrics. They let me make (free) samples for the store . . . that I could keep (eventually, after a suitable "display" period). I got to see all the new fabrics fresh off the trucks. It was heavenly! (Although I did miss out on seeing who was dating who. Not many couples hanging out in the fabric store .  .  .) Even better, the hours were flexible and the store didn't stay open late on summer nights (so I could balance working AND my teenage social life).

I'm really happy I had good, early work experiences as a teenager. I learned a lot about responsibility and perseverance (even when the job was Not Fun and the shoes were gross), integrity, and budgeting (at least a little bit). I got a taste for independence, and I loved having my own money to spend. All of these lessons served me well . . . as I zigged and zagged along my ultimate (winding) career "path." (Which might be an exhibit for the future? Who knows?)

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How about you? What early jobs did you have . . . and what did you learn?

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can tell our stories together. 

 

 


Museum of Me: March 2022

Another month, another exhibit in the . . . 

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This month's exhibit . . . is an interesting one. There are no actual, owned-by-me "relics" to share, but if you follow me, I'll show you how a childhood obsession plays out in the day-to-day life of a 60+ year old woman.

When I was . . . oh, about this age . . . 

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My most prized possession was this (although this isn't my set, mine was exactly like this one) . . . 

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A box of 72 Crayola crayons - with sharpener! I'd had crayons before, of course -- nothing thrilled me more than a fresh, new box of crayons. But this particular set - all laid out with "holders" for each individual crayon (plus a crayon sharpener!) - was something I coveted for a long, long time before I finally received it as a birthday present. Anyway. I absolutely loved this set of crayons. Being able to see all the colors laid out like that? It was thrilling! I spent a lot of time coloring and drawing when I was a kid.

Back then, in the late 1960s, life was pretty boring when it came to making marks on paper. There were pencils. (And I really did love pencils.) And pens. And that was . . . pretty much it. There were crappy little colored pencil sets, but they weren't very "juicy" when it came to making marks on paper. I never had access to markers as a child.  School/office supplies back then? Not a lot of variety or selection.

Still. I managed to amass a small collection of colored pens. My beloved Spirograph set came with colored pens (green! red!), for example. And one Christmas, I received a pen like this in my stocking. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! FOUR colors of ink! And so easy to choose which color!

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Then . . . came Flair pens. Back then, in 1970, they were sold individually. I saved my pennies to buy them - one-by-one - in all the colors of the rainbow. (Back then, even Flair pens were pretty limited when it came to color offerings.) These markers - the first markers I'd ever seen that you could write and draw with - were game changers for me! Although teachers wouldn't allow them in school ("blue or black pen ONLY"), I used them for all my . . . personal correspondence (notes to friends, letters to my grandmother, diary entries), and I drew with them all the time.

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So . . . crayons, colored pens, markers . . . these things were pretty much my favorite things as a kid, and I built myself a fine collection . . . for the times. I would have been Over. The. Moon. to see the selection of pens, pencils, and markers available these days! (I'd have been absolutely gaga over the entire concept of "gel pens. . . ")

But, wait!

I'm Over.The.Moon. about them NOW.
As an adult.
As a full grown, 60+ year old woman!

Just look at this . . . 

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Some things never change. 

Crayons, colored pens, and markers? They've been my most favorite indulgence . . . all my life. I still like having options and variety and inspiration . . . and color! . . .  at my fingertips.

Some of my friends love . . . shopping for shoes. Or earrings. Handbags. Furniture. But me? You'll find me geeking out in the pen aisle of any office supply store!

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can tell our stories together. 

 


Museum of Me: February 2022

A new month . . . means a new Museum of Me exhibit.

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This month's exhibit is all about . . . Valentine's Day. Which is actually not my most favorite "holiday" on the calendar. But I did enjoy it is a child (because a classroom party - complete with Valentine mailboxes, cupcakes, and a rousing game of Heads-Up-7-Up - was a Very Big Deal for this 1960s child).

C'mon in.
Maybe there'll be chocolate. . . 

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Kym 3rd Grade 1968

(1967-me thought Valentine's Day was fun!) (That cowlick, though.)

When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was just that - fun, and not a big deal at all. We had a classroom party, of course, with treats and Valentines for our classmates. I slaved over my Valentines in the days leading up to the party, trying to match up the Just Right Valentine for each kid in my class. I signed every one carefully, with a red pen if I could find one. I took it all Very Seriously! (You didn't want to send the wrong message, y'know?) And I never opened the cards delivered to my mailbox until I got home, where I could do it in private. (In case someone sent ME a message, of course.)

It was all very simple. And completely uncomplicated.

The best part of Valentine's Day, though? 
Oh, that was Cupid . . . visiting our house and turning our milk pink on Valentine's Day!

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What?
Didn't this happen at your house?

Here's the story.

One year (I think I was probably in first grade; early elementary school at any rate), I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the bottle of milk for my breakfast cereal (because back then we had bottles of milk delivered to our house a couple of times a week) . . . and IT WAS PINK!

Bright pink. The whole bottle. I was absoluted gobsmacked! 

Mom! Mom! Something is wrong with the milk!!! It's PINK!!!
My mom came running to check it out, (apparently) just as mystified as I was.

I thought something magical had happened, for sure! And then my mom explained that MAYBE, just maybe . . . those mischievous Valentine Cupids had come in the night and shot their arrows into our milk, turning it pink. And weren't we lucky?

I fell for it, because . . . of course I did! It was special and magical and such a surprise.

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The Cupids continued to visit our house each Valentine's Day throughout my elementary years, turning the milk in our refrigerator pink. 

Despite it being pink (looking teasingly strawberry-like), the milk tasted like plain old regular milk . . . but I knew it was laced with LOVE!

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 

 

 

 


Museum of Me: January 2022

A new month . . . means a new Museum of Me exhibit!

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This month, we enter the deep, dark, cobwebby back hallway of my museum . . . to discover something that set me apart from my peers in my childhood.

C'mon . . . 
Follow me.
(I have a flashlight.)

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When I was a kid, I was good at lots of things. I was an excellent speller, for example. I was a good reader. I knew how to behave in school. I had really great ideas and could get people to follow along with them most of the time. I could jump double-dutch at recess with the best of 'em. I was creative. I had a big imagination.

But lots of kids I knew shared those skills; they weren't all that special.

I did have one thing, though, that I was really good at that most other kids I knew were not: I . . . was a dancer.

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And a good one, too!

I started taking ballet when I was 4. My mom had danced as a girl, and she thought I might like it, too, so she started me early. We headed out each week to Miss Olsen's School of Dance for my lessons. Back then (and for almost all of my childhood dance years), we had a piano accompanist for our ballet classes. (That cracks me up now; so old school.) I loved dancing right from the start -- every thing about it.

Here I am, ready for my first dance recital. I was 5 by then, but just barely.

Kym 1964 first ballet recital

I also took tap and jazz classes, and some sort of "tumbling" that I can barely remember now, but it involved doing tumbling maneuvers through hula hoops (I can only imagine a really basic Cirque-du-Soleil-for-children kind of thing?). (I didn't stick with the tumbling.)

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Kym 1968 recital tumbling of some sort

Dancing . . . was definitely my Best Thing as a child. 

At the end of second grade, my ballet teacher - Miss Olsen - pulled my mom and I aside after a ballet class and asked my mom if she might consider allowing me to take private ballet classes . . .  because she saw some "natural talent" in me. Now, I'll tell you  . . . this was The Most Special Thing that had ever happened to me at that particular point in my life. (Back in the 60s, kids were definitely not coddled.) It was a Big Deal for my parents to add private ballet classes for me, but they did. My dad (who was absolutely ambivalent about the whole dance thing) installed a little "ballet barre" under the stairs in our basement for me to practice at home. And the whole family tolerated my arabesques, glissades, and pas de bourrées through the living room and down the hallway (for the most part).

In third grade, I landed my first ballet solo . . . as Snow White. 

Kym 1968 Snow White solo

By the time I was in sixth grade, I was only taking ballet, having dropped the tapping and the jazzing (and the "tumbling"). I really did love ballet -- the dancing, the costumes, the performance. I even liked the discipline of practice. If you'd have asked me what I "wanted to be when I grew up" at that stage of my life, I probably would have told you "a ballerina" (or maybe an astronaut; it tended to be a toss-up).

Then, as I've revealed in previous exhibits here in the Museum of Me, my family moved across the country just as I was finishing up sixth grade. I was promised dance classes in our new location, but there were . . . ummm, let's just say . . . family complications following that move. And dance classes for me were simply not a priority. (And, to be fair, I had moved to a city with no actual ballet options anyway. . . ) I continued to dance . . . on the junior high dance team and (sort of dance) as a cheerleader in high school. In college I finally got back to ballet classes again when I discovered I could take them to fulfill my gym credit requirements.

But, basically . . . my dance career ended in sixth grade.

Of course, I never would have had a "dance career" in the first place. Being singled out at Miss Olsen's School of Dance was a great childhood ego boost, but it was no real sign of overwhelming talent, y'know? (It's not like the Chicago youth ballet was knocking down my door at the time or anything.) Still . . . having something that I could do well . . . that not just anyone could do well . . . made me feel special as kid -- back in a time when kids were, generally, not made to feel special at all. 

Looking back on it all now, I'm really happy I had the opportunity to dance - and to take it relatively seriously - as a child. It made me feel special to have a "talent" that none of my friends shared. I was proud of being a "ballerina," and for other kids to think of me as a "ballerina" (who also happened to be a good speller).  And I learned so much more than just dance steps and barre exercises, too. I developed habits and practices that have served me well throughout my life -- the value of discipline, the benefits of daily practice, the joy of moving my body, the confidence that comes with mastering something difficult -- and a lifelong appreciation for the arts. 

My ballet "career" may have ended earlier than I'd have liked back when I was an 11-year-old, but I think things worked out Just Right in the end.

[Cue curtain call.]

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 

 

 


Museum of Me: The Holiday Exhibit

Welcome to the latest exhibit in my . . . 

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Today, I'm pleased to bring out a very special artifact for you -- one that only makes an appearance once each year during my museum's Holiday Show.

C'mon.
Take a look!

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When I was a little girl, I always looked forward to Friday nights. My dad was a model railroader, and on Friday nights, he and his fellow "train buddies" would get together to "play trains." It was a weekly thing. And you know what that meant? It was Just Us Girls (my mom, my sister, and I) every Friday night at home! It felt sort of . . . Girls Clubby, y'know? My sister and I loved the Friday night TV lineup . . . Brady Bunch, Here Come the Brides (Bobby Sherman. . . swoon), Love American Style. And my mom usually had some sort of treat for us -- maybe something she'd baked, or maybe popcorn or an ice cream pop. Something tasty for sure, but most importantly . . . something that was not part of our typical evenings at home. And often, my mom would engage us in some sort of craft or activity -- things that could be easily done while watching TV, often on TV trays set up in our living room.

During the run-up to Christmas, my mom used to get us busy making ornaments for the tree on Friday nights. Often she found kits of some sort for us to work on. Over the years, I remember doing paint-by-number on wooden cutouts, painting ceramic figures, and creating beaded monstrosities that looked like mini satellites.

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(I found this page from a  1960s-era Lee Wards craft catalog on Pinterest and took a screen shot. We made several of those very ornament kits there in that bottom row. The red one on the right? That was a favorite -- we also made the green, gold, and blue versions. We loved those . . . )

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. In the years before we got hold of those beaded kits, my mom gathered styrofoam balls, rickrack, sequins, and beads . . . and we used our imaginations to create our own ornaments. There were no patterns or instructions to follow, and the resulting ornaments were not so "fancy" and ended up looking much more "homespun" than those beaded kits in the catalog. But my mom had a good eye, and she put together many charming little styrofoam ball ornaments. One of my all-time favorites was this one . . . 

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My mom divided the ball into quarters with rickrack, and then placed the first initial of each member of our family in a quarter. I loved it! It made me feel like a Christmas "squad" with all of us represented that way! (It didn't take much to impress a 1960s kid.) I always tried to make sure it was placed on the tree so the "K" was facing out into the room, for all to see. But my sister? Well, of course she liked to turn it so the "D" was facing out into the room.  We moved that ornament a lot. (We drove my mom nuts.)

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I loved playing with the beads and the sequins and coming up with designs for my own ornaments. As an 8-year-old, I had the manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination to make a fairly good stab at things (whereas my sister, at 5, lost interest rather more quickly), but my attempts were pretty random. Here's one . . . 

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Toward the end of one of our beading sessions, I got an idea -- a kind of elaborate and glorious idea! Inspired, I planned to create an ornament featuring my sister's and my Christmas stockings -- in beads! -- one on the front, one on the back. It took a long time for me to create a stocking in beads. I was painstakingly careful about matching and lining everything up, eventually getting that first stocking ("mine," of course) . . . just right.

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As I remember it, my mom was ready to put things away for the night, but I was still busy working on my stocking ornament. I'm not sure if we had run out of rickrack, or if my mom had already put it away, but I needed to improvise a hanger with pipe cleaners. I thought the first stocking was Fabulous -- far exceeding my expectations. But I was tired. And it was time for treats. I ran out of steam when it came for that second stocking ("my sister's," after all). 

So I regrouped and did this on the back instead . . . 

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A sad and quick little MC.
You know.
For Merry Christmas!

(Don't worry if you didn't get what MC meant. No one has. Ever.)

My mom didn't blink an eye when I hung my funny little MC ornament right at the front of the tree that year (stocking side out, you can be sure). In fact, you can see it straight up from my sister's head in this picture from that very Christmas in 1967. (If you look closely, you can identify it by the wonky pipe cleaner hanger.) I really did think it was a masterpiece.

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But as my sister and I grew older, we laughed a lot about MC. I wanted to throw it away - or at least relegate it to the bottom of the ornament box, but my mom insisted we hang it. As a teenager, I always hung it toward the back of the tree so no one could see it. And then when I wasn't looking, my sister would move it right up front so she could continue to mock me. (While she was also busy flipping the "K" to the back and the "D" to the front.) Those elaborate beaded ornaments from the kits (the Lee Wards concoctions) were "retired" over the years -- but MC was a stalwart, and managed to hold its place on my mom's tree for the rest of her Christmases.

And now I have it.

MC.

I haven't put up a tree in my house for years now (since my mom died, actually), but I do get a few of my favorite ornaments out each year . . . just to look at them and let the nostalgia wash over me. I unwrap MC - and that ornament with our initials that my mom made - each year.

MC . . . will always remind me of crafting with my mom and my sister, the excitement of those special Friday nights, and the magic of Christmas.

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 

 

 

 


Museum of Me: Collectors Corner

Welcome to the latest exhibit in my . . . 

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This month let's visit my . . . Collector's Corner.

I was nearly 3 when my sister was born. When my mom was in the hospital recovering (back then . . . for nearly a full week!) and my dad was at work, I stayed at my grandmother's house. I'm sure this was pretty distruptive for their household (and my grandmother wasn't big on sustained one-on-one time with her grandchildren, generally), but I had my grandma and my great grandma to hang out with during the day, and my uncle (who was still in high school) to entertain me after he came home in the afternoons. My mom, being a loving and organized sort of mom, did a lot of advance planning so my time away from home would be a fun adventure. She had little "surprises" prepared for me to open each day. . . little toys I could play with, special little treats to keep me occupied.

I don't remember any of this, of course. But I do remember the stories my mom told me. And I remember one of my "surprises" very well . . . because I loved it so, and it remained one of my very favorite toys throughout the rest of my childhood.

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It was a child-sized Blue Willow tea set! And it came with a little black wooden cupboard for storage and display.

It might seem strange now-days . . . to think about giving a 3-year-old a porcelain tea set. But, remember. These were the days before plastic! Our toys back then were . . . wood, porcelain, metal. They were substantial. They broke sometimes. They had sharp edges and lead paint. We were taught to be careful.

And I was!

Apparently, I played with that tea set constantly while my mom was in the hospital with my new sister. I set up tea parties all day long. I had tea parties with my grandmother and my great grandma. I had tea parties with my uncle. I had tea parties with my dad. I had tea parties all by myself. I loved setting them up. I loved putting the tea set back in its little storage cupboard. Over and over and over again!

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Apparently, when I finally met my baby sister for the first time, I forced her tiny baby hand into one of the tea cups . . . and was apparently quite put out that she wouldn't "play." (After all, for months I'd been promised a sibling who would "play with me". . . )

New Baby Little Kym Baby Di John Yvonne January 1962

There are no photos of me playing with the tea set. Or of the tea set at any point in my childhood. (Although I do have this photo . . . of the first time I met my sister, there with my mom and dad at my grandmother's house when they came to take me home.)

In fact, my tea set . . . is long gone! As a much loved toy made of porcelain . . . it became lost to me over my growing up years. Probably a piece at a time. A handle here, a lid there. Cracked plates, lost sugar bowl. Eventually, it was just . . . gone. 

But I never forgot it!

One day several years ago I was browsing in an antique store . . . and there it was!

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A child sized porcelain Blue Willow tea set -- just like the one I'd had as a child! 

I nearly cried from the nostalgia when I found it, and - of course - I bought it on the spot. I've picked up more pieces over the years whenever I find them, and I'm always on the lookout for a little black cupboard like the one I'd had with my set (although my dad thinks a great uncle might have made it for me; he can't recall exactly).

These days, I keep my little Blue Willow tea set on display in a china cabinet in my dining room . . . 

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right across from my grown-up sized Spode Blue Italian china collection . . . 

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Some things from childhood? They really stick, y'know?

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Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . each month on the 2nd Friday.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 

 


Museum of Me: On the Cusp of Adolescence

Last month I "opened" the Museum of Me. 

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And this month I'm back with another exhibit. . .  Growing Up: On the Cusp of Adolescence.

From the early 1990s until 2007, I worked as the Executive Director of a private women's foundation in Grand Rapids. (Best job EVER.) (The foundation has since "spent down" its assets and is no longer an active foundation.) Anyway, early in my tenure at the foundation, Harvard researcher Carol Gilligan had just published a groundbreaking piece on the developement of adolescent girls. Gilligan found that girls at age 11 were on top of the world. They were confident, sure, outspoken. They knew who they were. But. By age 16, those same girls were . . . not. Gilligan found that as they went through adolescence, girls quickly got the societal/cultural message that they should keep quiet and say nothing.

Back in 1991 - as a personal "survivor" of that very phenomenon AND as the mother of a 2-year-old daughter - I was deeply disturbed by Gilligan's findings. I made it my mission at the foundation to do whatever I could to change things for the girls of the 1990s. (Of course, recent research finds that not much has changed for girls in the past 30 years. It's hard to move the needle when it comes to social and cultural norms. But that's for another day.)

I used to keep this photo of myself in my office at the foundation.

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It's me. Age 11. 

I've always loved this picture of myself as a young girl. There aren't many photos of me at this age/stage of my life, so it feels . . . precious. It was taken in the summer of 1970 when I had just returned home from two weeks at my first-ever sleep-away camp experience. Although I had a great time at camp, I had also been terribly homesick, and I was thrilled to get back home to my family and my house and my own room . . . which had been totally transformed while I was away! So I'm posing here, fresh from camp (wearing my trusty camp sweatshirt) in my newly-painted and decked out room at home.

But there's more to this photo than just a welcome-home-from-camp memory. Because in this photo, I am on the cusp of adolescence. And I can see it.

I was an 11-year-old with Big Ideas! I knew what I liked, and I was pretty vocal about what I didn't. I was a ballet dancer and a swimmer. I was learning to play the flute. I loved to read and was proud to have been the school spelling bee champ for 3 years running. I liked to draw and make things. I liked to play games and had a big imagination. I bossed people around a lot. I had a crush on Donny Osmond. And David Cassidy. But I was also a Motown fan and loved listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. I dreamed about being an astronaut. Or an artist. Or a fashion designer . . . even though I wasn't worried about the clothes I wore. If you asked me then, I'd have told you I was was smart and fast and strong. 

Just like Carol Gilligan said . . . the "me" in that photo, age 11 . . . was confident, sure, and outspoken.

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A few weeks later  . . . I started middle school. And then several months after that, I moved half way across the country and started a whole new life in a new state in a new (and bigger) junior high school. A lot of my 11-year-old confidence and sure-footedness . . . evaporated. Some of it was puberty. Some of it was family turmoil. Some of it was moving and losing familiar people and childhood friends at a pivotal age. Most of it was just that mine field that is . . . adolescence. A lot it was the pervasive cultural and societal messages about who was "pretty" and how girls "ought" be. Those messages? They did me in. 

For a while.

Eventually, I found my footing again. I practiced things I was good at. I stopped feeling bad about being smart and "bookish" and an introvert. I started keeping a diary. I shed toxic relationships and dropped friends-who-weren't-really-friends. I went to college. Met Tom. I stopped trying to be someone I wasn't.

And gradually, I . . . found myself.

In the end, I "met up" with my 11-year-old self again . . . and became more like her.
(Turns out . . . we have a lot in common.)
And these two photos of me in my new purple bedroom - on the cusp of adolescence - are a perfect reminder to me. . .  of just that!

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Now that I've officially created The Museum of Me, you can watch for new exhibits . . . maybe once or twice a month. And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. (It might be fun?)

 


Introducing . . . The Museum of Me

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately . . . about blogging. Why do I do it? What might I have left to say after 12 years of doing it? Why does anyone read it anyway? Should I continue this blogging gig or give it a rest?

That kind of thing.

And I came to the conclusion that . . . I really don't have answers to any of those questions, but I think I'll keep showing up anyway. It's sort of weird to think about blogging. It's very . . . personal, really. It's all about . . . me. What I think. What I'm doing. What I'm thinking about doing. 

Me.
Me.
Me.

It's like I'm curating . . . a museum about myself.
Or something.

Ultimately, I decided . . . to just go with that. To continue on . . . talking about myself . . . in much the same manner as I have been for 12 years now. And to embrace that whole Museum of Me concept by . . . creating it. Like with actual, occasional EXHIBITS in the Museum of Me. You know . . . like in a real museum.

So. Welcome to  the . . . 

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And its inaugural exhibit:  The Oldest Thing From My Childhood Still In My Possession

Meet Billy Bear.

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He's the much-beloved, fur-loved-off-him teddy bear from my childhood.

I don't know much of his backstory. He was a gift, but I can't remember from who, and I have no idea when he arrived in my life. But he certainly became a favorite early on. Here he is, for example, at Easter in 1961. (I would have just turned 2.)

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I'm not sure when I started calling him "Billy." But I can tell you that I named everything "Billy" when I was a child, so it's not surprising. Many of my toys were "Billy." When I made up stories, "Billy" was often the main character. I even had an imaginary friend named "Billy" who worried the crap out of my mother. (Thankfully, Dr. Spock said it was "normal," which comforted her somewhat.) (Billy-the-imaginary-friend disappeared not long after my sister was old enough to play with me, by the way.)

Anyway. Billy Bear was a constant companion for me, and appears in many of my childhood photos. Here I am, in the fall of 1964. Still wearing the sweet coats. Still clutching Billy Bear in my arms. Now with an added pocketbook! (My obsession with bags began early in my life.)

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At one point, Billy Bear wore a satin yellow ribbon around his neck. And he has a music box inside. There was a little key in his back, and when you wound it, he played The Teddy Bear's Picnic. As you can see, I wound the key (lost for decades now) quite often . . . 

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As I grew older, I parted ways with most all of my toys - even other favorites like my Barbie dolls and my Liddle Kiddles collection. I'm not terribly nostalgic about my childhood toys, really. I don't need to have them in my possession; my memories are enough for me. But Billy Bear? He managed to avoid all my purges.

He even went to college with me! 

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My kids thought he was pretty creepy. He's very . . . flat. Kind of stiff. Not terribly cuddly in the ways "modern" stuffed animals are cuddly. And I'll admit . . . those eyes are super vacant. But he certainly had staying power for me.

These days, he sits atop a bookshelf in my sewing room . . . keeping an eye on things for me.

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That Billy Bear . . . he's seen it all!

==

Now that I've officially created The Museum of Me, you can watch for new exhibits . . . maybe once or twice a month. And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. (It might be fun?)