Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hopewell (Ohio) Mounds

Over the past few years often on our last day someone (Uncle Tom or Heidi, usually) would remind us we wanted to visit the Mounds. The what?  The Native American burial sites located around Ohio.

There was our first problem. There are so many mounds, and they are not that close to each other, that much time is spent figuring out which mound. There the National Park Service ones in Hopewell, or the large cone-shaped one in Miamisburg, or Serpent Mound in Peebles (an internationally known National Historic Landmark), or Story Mound in Chillicothe. Now I have the official Passport to Your Ohio History book, so maybe we can use this to check off historic sites? 

We went with the Hopewell Mound (I think you already figured that out by the title of this post). 

There are actually a few mounds in the area we could have visited on the same trip, but between the late start and the plans to go to a concert that night, we ran out of time. 

The loop around the Hopewell Mound is about a mile. We walked half-way on the outer loop, before cutting into the center and walking around the inner part, careful to not walk on the mounds themselves.

Pole posts left to indicate where the ceremonial hut was built.

The Mounds were created by Native Americans about 2,000 years ago when they gathered for religious rituals and ceremonies. Here they buried or cremated their deceased; they did not live here. Which means, they traveled with their loved one(s) and the materials needed to give the loved one(s) a proper burial. How often did they gather? Research shows they lived in small groups with immediate families. When they gathered for these ceremonies multiple groups gathered together. As Heidi pointed out, this was the time to find a mate. 

The Hopewell Mounds was about 130 acres, and had a earthen wall that was about two miles long. 

Two thousand years ago. That would be when Jesus and Julius Caesar lived. Sometimes it helps to put life in a greater context.

The Native Americans hauled the materials needed for these mounds -- dirt, clay, sand, copper, etc. -- over many miles without modern equipment. While many Mounds were used for a couple of hundred years, there is evidence this one was used for at least 400 years. Archaeologists have been studying since 1820 -- two hundred years -- when the field of archaeology was new.

We chose this Mound over the others because it is a National Park Service Mound, and because it has a Visitor's Center with a movie (which sadly I slept through) and a small museum with reproductions of what was found. Seems I have to travel to England in order to see the originals. They were sold in the 19th century to help fund the expedition. Archaeology has come a long way. This summer we were told our finds had to stay in stay in Israel where they will be studied.

Over the years the Mounds were flattened by farmers plowing the fields. During World War I this site was used to house soldiers training to become soldiers. A lot can change in 2,000 years, especially in a country as young as ours.

After I came home I was talking to Debbi about these. She has seen others along the Mississippi River. They still look like piles of grass to me.

Ohio Village

Growing up we would make regular trips to Columbus, Ohio to see my aunt Debra. I remember we stayed with her on Indianola Avenue in 1977 when Melissa was an infant. We learned on our most recent trip that a few years ago her now-grown daughter nearly rented that same apartment with a girlfriend. 

That gives you a sense of what a small-town feel Columbus has for a city with a population of 880,000. 

We would tend to visit Ohio during the Ohio State Fair, and often visit the Ohio Village. Aunt Debra used to work in the doctor's house. I loved running around pretending it was the year 1860. 
The Ohio Village, as with many historic sites, ran into some financial troubles. I think our last visit was on July 4. 2009. 

How does 10 years fly by that quickly?

Part of the issue was we were under the impression it was all-but-closed. July 4th was one of those rare days it was open. For a few years we looked at their website, only to see they were not open. We simply fell out of habit.

Labor Day weekend we found ourselves in Columbus with some free time. We met my cousin Allie and Doug's 2-month old daughter. 

Our friend Heidi mentioned the Ohio Village was having a old-time base ball (two words in those days) game. We saw they were open on Friday, too (actually, this year they were open all summer). Don and I went. Though the place was extremely quiet, we had a great time talking to the volunteers.

In the decade since our last visit 38 years had passed. 


As it had since it opened in the 1970s, in 2009 the Village was representing the year 1860 -- Civil War era. A few years ago they decided to bump it up to 1898 -- Thomas Edison's era, bicycles, inventions, more colorful clothing. To hear one volunteer talk about it, a whole new world.

Gingerbreading was added to some of the buildings, as was running water in some businesses, and electricity. 

Turns out (according to one volunteer) the plan in the 1970s was to always be about 100 years in the past. With that logic, they should be up to 1919 and The Great War (World War I), but that means cars and everyone having electricity, and other advances they were not ready to make. Still 1898 is an exciting time. They are not talking about war (as they had been in 1860, and would be again in the 1910s) and the future looks exciting. There is always the possibility of seeing a moving picture, or maybe even going to the Chicago World's Fair. Plus you can dream about the bright, beautiful future.

As you can see in the pictures, there were not many people there that day. We spoke to a volunteer in the toy shop, who then went with us to the funeral parlor -- yes, and odd juxtaposition of businesses and expertise. We tried to talk to the volunteer in the Women's Study Club, but she wasn't interested in having a conversation. On the other hand, the teacher nearly kept us after school. We barely had time to visit the Ohio History Center next door.

Here I enjoyed their version of a Levitt home from the 1950s: Lustron. The museum manager wanted to make sure we saw LeBron James' shirt, which was currently on loan from the Smithsonian. I still remember when he was in high school and buzz when he played at a tournament in Trenton. I'd be embarrassed to see how long ago that was.

Yup, time flies by in a blink of an eye. Now I really sound old.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Perth 5 Mile Kilt Race

We absolutely fell in love with Perth, Ontario. 

The excuse for visiting Perth was their 10th anniversary 5-mile kilt race. While there we picked up their Things to do booklet. They have something to do, multiple somethings to do, every single weekend. Their main street is filled with local restaurants and shops. The visitors center has a staff of people willing to help you. 

If the town was in New Jersey, and the property taxes were reasonable, we would move there in a heartbeat. 

Enough about the charming town of Perth, this post is about their kilt race.

We can't remember how we heard about this race, which is too bad because the friendly people of Perth genuinely wanted to know. We have done other kilt races -- including the 2016 race in a field in Mercer County Park and a two-mile race down the shore two years earlier where they were trying to earn a Guinness World Record.

The Perth race had them beat.

Sue the race organizer

First of all, it was five miles (what did I sign up for?), and had over 1,000 participants. There was also the Royal Mile option, which I'm assuming was a mile long. Prior to the adult races, there were races for the wee little ones. It was absolutely adorable watching them run in their kilts. I was laughing too hard to take any pictures.

 Secondly, they added a third of a mile March to the Start with the Caledonian Highland Band, which I skipped to take pictures.

Thirdly, they added a Warrior Challenge section, which I am still trying to figure out. Fifty of the runners started in the front and stopped at various points to throw logs and do other sorts of physical challenges. I don't know what was involved with signing up for that.

We gathered at the civilized hour of 4:45 pm. Also happening this weekend was Freedom Festival, a Christian-music festival. Almost as if they were tying the two events together, the Kilt Race began with someone playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. This was followed by the third of a mile walk (according to Don's GPS) through the park. The race began at 5:15 pm with very little pomp. Once we all made it to the star line, we started our race. I caught up to Don and we started about 2.5 minutes later because of the crowd.

I was surprised both by the variety of kilts (long, short, different plaids, different weights, sports kilts, dress kilts, etc.) and how many groups wore the same pattern. Don and I wore what we had -- mine was from the 2014 Kilt Race, which I sometimes wear to work in the fall, and his is a sports kilt with pockets. Yes, I am jealous of the pockets, I wore shorts under mine with pockets. You need to keep the car keys someplace.

The race took us past many of the historic sites we had walked past that day. 

The weather was lovely. It had rained earlier in the day, and though a little muggy by Canadian standards, not bad for this Jersey girl.

Love seeing French!

Along the race we met Wendy and Heather. Their goal was not to FDL (Finish Dead Last), they can correct the acronym if they actually do read this blog. We gave them our email address. We managed to finish a few people ahead of them, but there were still a couple of hundred people behind them, so they met their goal.

As for us, Don and I managed to stay together. My GPS stopped working (fortunately it worked today), and I hadn't trained, so I took it easy and took many photographs. Decided to go for fun instead of a PR. It is also a challenge running in a kilt not meant for racing.  Our overall time was about 67 minutes (ouch). 

Each kilometer had bagpipers to encourage us. One had dueling bagpipers playing as they faced each other. Love a race with kilometers are markers, makes the experience feel faster.

The crowd support was awesome. I lost count of the number of water stations, most manned by local churches. Easily at least eight -- one per kilometer.

We then headed across the street for dinner. We asked for a seat where they wouldn't mind us being too smelly and they put us on an enclosed porch with others who completed the same race. Meanwhile, inside people dressed up for dinner dined without being offended by our aroma.

See why I love Perth?

Look Who's Almost 5-0

Life has been a whirlwind lately. Rather, more of a whirlwind than usual. 
Four weeks ago I returned from spending five weeks in Israel. I'm only starting to feel as if I am returning to myself, and partly because my plans for today were cancelled when a friend asked to postpone lunch.

I returned to the news Ashley's school bus situation was changing. Instead of taking her to her high school, the bus would pick her up with the public school kids, gather them together at the public school, then drive another mile to the Catholic School to drop them off. Fortunately we were already thinking about buying me a fun car for my 50th next month, and letting her take over the Corolla for her senior year in high school. This news just sped up the process.

The narrowing down process began last winter when Don suggested for my 50th he would buy me a used Saturn Sky (apologies for the Wikipedia link, the car ad links would likely disappear). The Sky is a 2-door, 2-seater, Roadster convertible about the size and trunk space of a car found at Disneyland's Autopia. 

I test drove it on a wintry day and, yes, it was a lot of fun to drive.

Completely impractical, but fun.

Next I returned to my first favorite car and test drove a 1995 Saturn 2-door, 4-seater coupe. Also fun to drive, but oh so low to the ground and not much of a back seat, plus hard to find a nearly 20-year old car in really good shape.

Meanwhile driving down the highway was a 2-door Toyota Solara convertible that caught my eye. I told Don THAT was the car I wanted for my 50th birthday.

I set the parameters very tight -- must be light blue with a tan roof and interior, under 100,000 miles, within a reasonable driving distance, not too scuffed up. Ideally a 2008 (since that was the last year they made this model).

I figured this would take the rest of the summer to find, but that was okay. I was not in a rush.

Within a few days he found one in North Jersey with a black top and interior, and only 57,000 miles. Thought about it, but the salesman would not let me take it 15 miles away to have a Firestone mechanic check it out. I test drove it and loved the ride, but it was very scuffed, and the shady salesman turned me off.

Saw one with a tan interior, but someone else put a deposit on it to make sure the car was still there when he arrived from Florida (or was in Maine, the story kept changing).

Less than a week later one with a tan interior became available in Maryland and we took a day off from work to pick it up. We also learned our lesson and put a deposit on it so no one else could buy it out from under us.

The car does not have a scratch on it. Car Fax says the original owner took very good care of it. The other two owners not such great care (not bad care, but did not baby it).

I smiled the entire 2.5 hour drive home with the top down. The next day we took it to our mechanic, who said it was fine. Could use new struts, but that's normal for a car with this many miles on it. The car came with a three-day return policy, and a 30-day mechanical warranty.

Two weeks later I still think it is a very fun car drive. I'm enjoying the heated seats on cool nights with the top down. However, I have been told the back seat is not fun on the highways. Probably a good thing we waited until long past the car seat days.

Ashley has offered to go with me on road trips. Maybe the car will be good for some mother-daughter bonding experiences during her senior year. I'd like that.

PS: For my 50th I'm asking for donations to The Bridge Academy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What a year!

A year ago my best friend Carin died.

What a year it has been!

A year ago yesterday we returned from our 25th anniversary cruise, during which time I learned Carin was in hospice. She died the next morning. 

A year ago today I had a job interview with an organization where I was a volunteer. I did not get the job. 

Life quickly started changing for me after Carin died. 

Later that week I interviewed and landed a six-week temp job with Princeton University. It was exactly what I needed to show me while I was not ready for a full-time position, I was ready to return to a steady job.

That lead to becoming the Director of Development at The Bridge Academy.

I ran my first gala. I ran my first community event. I proved to myself I really can do more than dream about working.

Not sure how, but in September I spent 10 days in France and Belgium. I spent time with host families I lived with when I was 18-years old. I spoke French most of that time, and was understood.

Not sure how, but that led to five weeks in Israel. I proved to myself even though I can't read a word of Hebrew or Arabic, and can only speak less than five words of each, I could communicate with strangers and turn them into friends. I can still hold intelligent (and not-so intelligent) conversations with people.

Not sure how, but we adopted a new bearded dragon. I think how Glinda will never have one of Carin's Taco Tuesdays, like she made for Sandy, but I was willing to open my heart to a new dragon.

I don't run nearly as much as I did a year ago. And, that's okay. But I am keeping my nearly 1,000 day streak of 10,000 steps a day alive.

I now drive a snazzy light blue convertible. I wish I could take Carin for a spin in it.

I've made new friends, but none who will ever replace the hole left by Carin.

I still miss her and her daily encouragement. I still wish she was here. 

I still search for that friend who will send me daily texts/emails/smoke signals and share the ups and downs of senior year and the college search process with me.

It has been quite a year of changes. I wonder what the next year will bring.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Takeaways from Israeli Dig Experience

Now for my final post, at least until I add pictures and decide more posts are needed to fully tell the story of my adventures.

I'm often asked "what did I find?" My biggest find was stone stairs on my last day digging. With having (as Liz put it) "physical restraints" I could not lift the big pick ax or tureen, so I was sweeping floors and not finding items.

At the house I processed other people's finds.

My biggest takeaway (which I have alluded to in other posts) was how I felt. I often thought of the Bridge Kids who come to The Bridge Academy emotionally bruised by never feeling good enough -- if only they learned like the rest of the class, or like their siblings. They come to Bridge not able to trust adults. At Bridge they are filled with love and the tools to succeed.

That's what my time at the dig was like. In the field I felt I was never good enough -- never strong enough, never fast enough. Everyone else got it (I couldn't even hold my own with conversation topics) but me.

When I switched to being at the house I was filled with love and the tools to succeed. I won't say I was perfect in everything I did, but when I was wrong I was gently corrected and put on the right course. When they could see I needed a break, they made sure I took it. There were people who did not speak English, yet we found common ground through smiles and Google translate to communicate. I began to believe in myself again.

Another odd takeaway was how transient we were in general. I felt like it was a revolving door. People signed up for only two weeks (Julie and I were told that was not an option). People left early. Experts would pop in for a lecture then leave as quietly as they came. Others came towards the end (per their contract) and stayed until their work was done. Our bone expert said she has worked on many digs and has never seen anything like it.

Finally, I listen to music at work and think of the house staff. Each day we'd ask for music suggestions. Mostly fell into American music from the 50s-90s, but also Arabic pop and (most odd) Italian Techno Pop from the 80s. At work I stick to the Bs -- Beatles and Bill Joel.

Signing off for now. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Lohome Nights, as sung to Arabian Nights

This perhaps best sums up my month on the dig. It is sung to the tune "Arabian Nights" from Aladdin.

On a hill far away
There’s a tell named Keisan
Where the archaeologists play
Where you wonder about every culture and drought
It’s not free, but hey, it’s “fun”

When the sun’s from the east 
And it feels like a beast
And the shade cloth is down for the drone
Grab a pick and a hoe and some buckets to go
And hope to find sherds and “right” bones

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan days
More often than not are hotter than hot
And not in good ways

Tell Keisan days where we all skulk
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Right off of the baulk 

Oh I wake up at four and I crawl out the door
And ride in the bus down the road
To that hill on the plain
Where there’s knowledge to gain
About where ancients made their abode

The music that blares as you dig in the squares
In the haze of your filth and your grime
As you look for a pit 
Or some other old shit
From a segment of Iron Age time

Lohame nights 
Tell Keisan days
More often than not are hotter than hot
And not in good ways

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan blues
The directors demand
These layers of land
Reveal certain truths

And after you cuss and you leave for that bus
With your feet and your body in pain
You go back in herds
And you wash all the sherds
And tomorrow you’ll do it again

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan gains
They’re over for now
And yet, still somehow (thanks to Leann and Jon, and the lectures that went long)
The me-mor-eeee-y remains