sister I never met

Years ago I visited Mt. Zion Cemetery in Pottstown to try, on a whim, to find the grave of Ginette Stong. She was my sister, born November 7, 1946. She died a week later, on November 14. I know there had been several disappointing miscarriages but this death — of a one-week old infant — must have been devastating for the 29 year old mother.

On the day of my visit I located the cemetery office, found it staffed, and was given these three photocopies so that I could locate Ginette’s plot. With the maps, it was easy and I had a meaningful visit. The last two times in Pottstown I couldn’t find these documents, nor could I find anyone staffing the cemetery office. I was disappointed and wandered about in the cemetery for an hour or so. Later, in a thoughtful mood, I did manage to visit the graves of a good friend’s parents and place stones on their markers. They are in the Congregation Hesed Shel Emet cemetery on Hanover Street in Pottstown.

Did you catch that I misplaced the documents twice? I’d actually found them at one point, put them in a secure place, then lost them again. Different car, different apartment, aging memory, it all adds up. Well, hopefully the internet will give me regular access via this post. Larger versions are available but these images should be enough.

The family tree information may be of interest. Ginette, (here with a completely expected misspelled last name) is in plot eight, directly next to my great-grandfather, Henry Mack in plot nine. On Ginette’s other side is Harold Leh in plot seven, the husband of my grandmother Hannah’s sister Florence. Hannah’s other sister is listed here as Ella, but I’ve seen it also as Elli. On Henry’s other side is his wife, here as Mary Mack, but I’ve seen her name also as Maria [Smith] Mack. In the one document, it’s written first as Maria, then corrected as Mary. Maybe at some point, I’ll get back to Pottstown.

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John on his '55 Harley Panhead.

My brother, John. This is a photo I took in July of 1976. John liked the image. I hadn’t seen him since 2010, then on May 8, I had a phone call from a friend of his letting me know John had been discovered dead on April 19. He was born on February 11, 1948. He left a wife, Marsha, and a daughter, Erin. A son, Bob, predeceased him.

Edit, May 28: My daughter added this:

Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Section C-7, Row A, Site 9 id 189985729

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sense of humor gone missing

Solo, a Star Wars Movie poster with a solo cup in space.

On May 4, generally recognized as Star Wars Day, I posted this image on Twitter with a line about Disney taking humor in their comic book movies just a bit too far- beer pong?

It fell flat as most of my attempts at humor do, but this time it seemed a particularly resounding silence. Not one comment. Not a single like. Geez. I pulled it at the end of the day, sad and defeated. The knock-off wasn’t a ton of work, I did get some satisfaction from completing it, but still. I was sad and defeated.

A photo like one published in a foodie blog, of red solo cups with movie tie-in.
A few days later, a tweet from a food blog I follow showed this image and congratulated solo cups on the savvy of their movie tie-in. I’d had no idea. So I pointed out the obvious. Not funny at all. There really was a Star Wars connection with the classic red solo cups and I’m a dummy. Maybe there’ll be a barroom scene in the movie with Han throwing his ping pong ball first/

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thirtytwo and almost four

Mother and child drawn in pencil.

Wow, I love this drawing so much. “There’s mommy. I’ll put me over here. And I’ll give me pigtails. Maybe mommy, too.” The cheeks and eyelashes are an addition I’ve never seen when she does me and her. Crazy. No training that I’m aware of- purely her own.

Mother and child working on school work.

When I first showed this digital file to my granddaughter, she recognized her mom, then herself. The floor she didn’t understand. When she saw the actual printed card, she smiled and said, “That’s my mommy!” Then she recognized herself and the juicebox. This time she said, “It’s at home! See the squares?” (Meaning the pattern in the rug) Fun stuff.

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Swings at the park

Granddaughter on the swing with an imaginary character.

Forgot to include this here. Sheesh. Sorry.

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end of elife

Back in the mid-1990s I was relatively young, fast, clear-sighted, and happily riding a wave of innovation. Work was designing web pages, crafting illustrations, developing any sort of visual educational resource. Design work was often interrupted by people needing help with graphics related issues: I can’t see the changes. I can’t open a file. It won’t print. I don’t have that menu… Even after some co-workers retired, they’d call for a reminder or guidance through new issues. I had old versions of most of my software that I could run from disk so we could use the same tools while trouble shooting together. It was part of the work, but undeniably satisfying. What usually ran through my mind behind the voice I tried to keep calm and non-judgemental were muttered questions: “why don’t you upgrade your system? Why don’t you upgrade your software? Why don’t you just use the current, recommended browser?”

A classic sick Mac in a walker.As I got ready for retirement in 2012 I bought a large, powerful laptop and a Wacom tablet to steer it with. For software, I went with the recently released Adobe CS6 Master Suite. It included apps I didn’t need, like DreamWeaver; others that I hadn’t used quite yet, like After Effects; and my workhorses, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and InDesign. I always picked up the newest release of those apps as soon as they were available and I was determined to continue updating. Life was good, I did personal work, launched my domain, and continued to read extensively to stay in touch. A few months after my departure I read the news that Adobe was going to change from their 18-month numbered release cycle of boxed software to a Creative Cloud model requiring monthly internet verification and constant updating. I’d just relocated, was able to buy fast internet access for the first time, and I realized how fleeting that access could be. Access to authorize CC software on what might become a desktop computer would be impossible. Unavailable. Unaffordable. I opted out. CS6∞

Life was great and everything worked really well. Apple released an OS update — Mavericks? the car that blew up? —  and the word was that CS6 apps didn’t all function perfectly. I couldn’t take the risk; I held off updating till I could be sure. Everything was still great. Then Yosemite was released and about that time I started to get “Service Battery” warnings. Everything seemed fine, but Apple Care, still my umbrella for a few more months, suggested I take my laptop to a local Mac-Approved service center. I did and they were great. Their diagnosis condemned my practice of fully discharging then recharging my laptop’s battery every day. It had unnecessarily taken my laptop battery to its 1000-charge end. I was told I didn’t have to do that with mac batteries anymore, got a new battery (and keyboard!), and was offered an OS upgrade, too. I explained about my software and the tech told me he understood — he was running an iMac on Snow Leopard.

I had hoped that Adobe would publish an early version of the CC software on disk. Something less than current, something not updatable, but available for sale. Something that I could buy and replenish my system. I didn’t have the hope anymore.

Things start to get fuzzy for me about this time; I was lightheaded and disoriented. El Capitan appeared and it was too much for Adobe. Adobe stopped all CS6 updates and bug fixes and I stopped reading everything from Adobe. Safari had been my internet lifeline, but my websites started putting up notices when I landed on their pages: my version of Safari was not going to be supported anymore, please upgrade. I stopped reading anything from Apple. Twitter would only show me the mobile version of my page. Videos wouldn’t load. I switched to Chrome as my default but pretty soon, a banner appeared telling me my version of Chrome would soon be unsupported. Amazon Prime told me only Safari would work for video. Firefox was the last browser standing, then Firefox, too, upgraded beyond my ability to follow. No upgrade was available for any browser I had still running on Mountain Lion; video windows winked out all over the internet.

Today, this from Apple:

Dear David,

On June 30, 2018, Apple will implement changes to continue to ensure your financial data is protected when you make purchases on the iTunes Store or App Store.

Our records show that you may be accessing the store from an older version of iOS, macOS, or Apple TV software:

iOS 4.3.5 or earlier; macOS 10.8.5 or earlier; Apple TV Software 4.4.4 or earlier

To be able to change your payment information with devices running the software listed above, you’ll need to update to a more recent software version.

And finally in these last days, if I stay off of the internet, if I launch my creative applications and immerse myself in digital work, everything is responsive again, effective and stable. I am young, fast and life is good.

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Granddaughter in a snow fort surrounded by imaginary characters.

A fun time for me in both participating in the encampment and doing the final photo illustration.

We went to the field across the street, dragging our sled, looking for bad guys to throw snowballs at. The “CDA” was the latest bunch of baddies, straight out of Monsters, Inc. Sledding was rough, though. Even walking was difficult. The four inches of powder had an inch of icy crust on top that broke apart and snagged our feet. Instead of throwing powdery snowballs, we discovered that we could use the broken chunks of ice to build a wall. The wall soon became three walls, and that became our fort. As we worked, my granddaughter pointed out the characters that were helping. “There’s Judy Hop. She’ll help us” or “There goes George. We have to shave him.” All her regulars showed up, many didn’t make it into the picture. Maybe they will another time. Anna and Elsa were just off-camera playing with Pongo and all of the Dalmatian puppies. Later, on seeing the photo, my granddaughter said, “Why isn’t Bat Pat on my head?” and “Why does Sully have your coffee?” Good questions.

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candle light

Toasting marshmallows by candle.

I had to share this holiday-ish image. We use mini marshmallows on toothpicks. I’m always within reach and blow out the candle if I have to get up. It’s lots of fun, and I think most of that comes from close participation.

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another coloring page

Black and white drawing of child reaching through a mail slot to pet a cat.

Again, I took way too long; started in June. I guess this was faster than the first, but still. The little guy is Skullboy. Known as “My spooky guy,” the folks at Jabebo let my granddaughter pick him out for her birthday. She loves him and loves to color- We’ll see how the two work out.

The Jabebo Studio is owned by some wonderful people!

Edit added:
Apparently while I was finishing this post, my granddaughter rendered her own version of Spooky Guy. Her mom just sent it to me; I love it!

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Pumpkin with a molded face.

I started making pumpkins with painted clay faces back in 1991. In several of those twenty-some years, I made as many as six for friends and colleagues. I thought faces on inanimate objects would be an interesting way to make a photo illustration. My first was an apple with a surprised look as it fell from a tree. Pumpkins were a natural follow-up; I made them at Halloween for clients and for the bar at the restaurant I cooked for. Then Photoshop happened. Continuing to try to use the illustration idea in a world suddenly filled with easy digital perfection seemed silly, but the idea of a realistic pumpkin was still a lot of fun. The pumpkins rot away, leaving their painted clay faces. I think the impermanence of the piece adds to the fun. This is my return after several years of being too busy and I thought to take a few snapshots during the process. Not many. I hate taking pictures. But making the pumpkins is a lot of fun. I think I’ll enter this one in the Library’s pumpkin carving contest.

The process is straightforward: I push modeling clay onto a pumpkin and sculpt it into the shape I want. The clay gets finished with acrylic paint. Pretty simple. The faces have evolved, of course. I paint the eyes and teeth naturally for no reason other than I think they look good that way. They get finished with acrylic gloss medium. Everything else is painted with orange that’s mixed to match the pumpkin.

Edit added Nov 3:

It was a good fight, and we won! A tad worse for the battle, but folks usually poke and prod. Totally expected, though always a bit disheartening.

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