Friday, November 22, 2019

Still Struggling with Finding a Bestie

With the passing of Charlie Cat, I'm once again thinking about how much I miss Carin, and how hard it is to make friends. I don't know if the challenge is my age, my stage, or life in general.

When Ariel Cat and Sandy Dragon died, I reached out to Carin, who expressed just the right amount of sympathy and compassion. With her death over a year ago, there is still that hole.

A couple of days later I told our cat sitter, who was sympathetic. I told a couple of other people (one who still has not gotten back to me), but there is no ONE person I wanted to reach out to talk about my feelings. Don and Ashley were also mourning, and we talked about Charlie. I long for someone fresh to talk to.

As we go through the struggles of the college search, I keep thinking about how Carin and I should be going through this together. Reminding each other about deadlines. Encouraging each other to look in new directions or at different schools. I don't necessarily need a friend whose child is at the same stage (though that would be nice), I'm really looking for a friend who always replies to my messages and who opens herself up to share bits and pieces of her life with me. Husbands, daughters, and parents can't always be my emotional support. There is nothing like having a best friend.

Writing this helps. I've been bottling up my feelings for too long. I continue to pray for a new best friend. 

Reach out if you are seeking one, too.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

RIP Charlie Cat

This summer
A week ago Charlie Cat passed away. It still seems a bit unbelievable. As much as I enjoy writing, I've been struggling with what to say. 

About 13 years ago we adopted Charles II (Charles I had a bad habit of sleeping in the street and did not last a year). We guess he was about a year old at the time. 

From the start, he was Don's cat. He had no interest in me, except towards the end of his life when he was always hungry and begging me for lunchtime food. Not long before he died he snuggled. It is a trait I notice our pets do not long before they die -- they suddenly become my best friend and my heart melts.

The night before he died he was on the step where we found Ariel Cat a few years ago. His claw was stuck in the carpet and he couldn't free himself. Don untangled him and put him on the carpet in the bathroom under the heating vent with some food. Poor dude could not even support his back legs and ate the tiniest amount of food. Before going to bed I petted him and told him he was a good cat. I didn't think he would make it to the morning. 

By 2 AM he was dead.

The "Mighty, Mighty Moosa" had faded into skin and bones. It was a conscious decision to not take him to the vet and let him die gracefully. He hung in longer than I thought he would. When I left for Israel in June, I thought he would be gone before I came home. Thankfully I was wrong.

He was doing great until last winter when the neighbor insisted he stay inside because he was always in her yard and always pooping in her garden. While I sympathize with her, she first said the black and white cat was the one causing trouble (so we kept her in the house), then a few months later called animal control saying it was the orange cat. Nice neighbor. Ugh. Charlie enjoyed roaming our yard. We never once saw him come from her direction, let alone sit on her front porch. I suspect there was a different orange cat, but to keep the peace we kept him inside and put up with his complaints. The neighbor "thanked" us by ignoring us anytime we waved hello. 

This is the first time I'm publicly expressing my annoyance, which brings me to the deeper part of this post: I miss having a close friend. The friend you can always kvetch to without fear of it turning into gossip, or having your feelings belittled. More importantly, being that friend who always listens and supports (at least I hope I was that friend).

Meanwhile, Lucy, our 7-year old kitty, has become affectionate, spends more time with us as a family, snuggles, and eats more. So I guess one good thing has come out of Charlie's passing.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Alpha Phil Omega's 5K Race for Suicide Prevention

Last year a friend's son committed suicide. He was a student at The College of New Jersey (our alma mater) and seemed to have his entire life ahead of him. Last week would have been his birthday. His parents wanted to organize a 5K in his memory, but it just didn't happen. Last weekend they went on a walk for Suicide Prevention about two hours north of us. Today Don and I walked in Ewing in his memory.

Turns out there were three suicides at TCNJ in the past year (or so the person from the co-ed fraternity I spoke with could remember). No matter the number, it is too many.

The 5K started 20 minutes late (readers of the PillsPress know this is an annoyance of mine, hence the reason for mentioning). It was a perfect fall day with temperatures around 50 degrees and no breeze. A super flat course with two loops of about 1.55 miles (it measured very short -- my GPS said 2.83 miles, giving everyone a PR). 

The fraternity provided fabulous support and encouragement. The event reminded us just how picture perfect and friendly the campus is. If only they offered a Tech Theater major (they are talking about having one) then Ashley would apply.

Really glad the track team did not participate,

or we would have been crushed.

Love the Class of 2019's gift of a swing.

 Totally off-topic, but the new "Trenton State College Park" next to the old TSC Roscoe L. West Library highlights how frequently the alma mater has changed names since 1855. The "new name" is 23-years old, which is turning into one of the longer times the college has had the same name. Perhaps it is time for me to adjust to the new name before someone decides to change it again?


Notre Dame's Pink Out

Last night was baseball weather, not football weather, but I'll take it. A 60 degree evening in New Jersey in October is a rare treat.

For the past 11 years Ashley's high school has raised money for breast cancer by hosting a Pink Out football game. They honor the "heroes and angels" who are surviving breast cancer, and those who lost their lives to this disease during their extended halftime. They also line up people to quickly donate 8-10 inches of hair, which will be turned into wigs.
A before shot from Thursday

Ashley and some of her friends were among the 45 women donating their hair. 

They line the women up into nine groups. Each hairdresser quickly snips 5 sets of ponytails. The actual snipping is done very quickly -- hard to get good pictures, though we all line up and try. Doesn't help that they all look alike from the back with their pink shirts and long, straight hair. I think I did pretty well.

Seven months until prom, let's see how long it will grow.

(After picture to be posted after work, the haircut has taken place.)

Bridget, Ashley, Sarah, Rose
Sarah, Bridget, Ashley, Rose

The cut

Ashley, Bridget, Rose

The middle (after comes after seeing a hairdresser to even it out)

Ashley, Bridget, Rose

My parents with Diane, the coordinator of the event

Ashley's favorite teacher from middle school --Casey


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Archaeology in New Jersey

While at the Spirit of the Jerseys State History Fair a couple of weeks ago I stopped by the booth for the booth for the Archaeology Society of New Jersey (ASNJ) and learned two weeks later they were hosting an archaeological dig open to the public.


The dig was at the Jonathan Dunham House in Woodbridge, NJ on Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, from 8 am-4 pm. The days were divided into two four-hour shifts with slots for up to eight volunteers.

The "tool box" of finds.

Both professional and volunteer archaeologists were encouraged to participate. Experience ranged from a professional archaeologist from Pennsylvania to someone who was walking by and got swept up by the fun -- it was something she always wanted to do. I fell someplace in-between having gone on small local digs and a month in Israel.

It was fun.

This reminded me of the pictures they took at Tel Keisan.

Unlike my experience in Israel, I felt more than qualified and strong enough to do the work. It did help that the shift was four hours instead of four weeks, and that I could sleep in my own bed instead of in a dorm on the other side of the globe.
But it was more than that.

It was also the type of work done. The squares were 5 foot by 5 foot, instead of 10 meter by 10 meter, plus everything was sifted -- my favorite part.

As we sifted off the loose dirt, we have a treasure hunt looking for finds. Children were visiting the site and helping us look through the dirt for treasures. Their parents were also totally engaged. 

We used small tools -- not the giant tureens and pick axes, but trowels and smaller shovels. I brought my own trowel and put it to work. There were plenty of strong bodies to lift buckets of dirt, and much appreciation for our efforts. 

Also a lot of education about a time period I understand.

Jonathan Dunham, the original owner of the house, was President Barack Obama's 8th great-grandfather. It was built in 1717 (which is more relatable than 7th-9th century BCE in my head).

As for what we found, some bones (which I did recognize from Israel), lots of brick, mortar, nails, oyster shells, and charcoal, some sherds of pottery (different from Israel), and a thimble.

Pig foot on the right
I met someone who is a student at my alma mater, Trenton State College/The College of New Jersey. TSC is where I took my first archaeology class, which was my favorite class. They are still digging around the William Green Farm House. I met a woman who runs galas at her school in North Jersey. It was a neat assortment of people.

This is an annual event. Now that I know about it, I hope to hear about more digs. Have trowel ... will dig.

Shutting down for the day

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mascot Mini Marathon (5k)

Last weekend I participated in Hopewell Borough's Fall Harvest's Find Freddy contest. Boy, that is a mouthful. My friend Heidi was running the event and needed a few more people to walk around wearing a "costume" while enjoying the nice day.

There were no parameters to the definition of "character" or "costume," so I created the character of Disney Runner. The next challenge was to create a clue so people could figure out what I was trying to be. My clue was "willing to pay lots of money to run in circles."

After I handed in my clue, I realized the better clue was "willing to pay lots of money to run around parking lots."

I thought about this five days later when I participated in RunBucks Mascot Mini Marathon

The race was originally scheduled for June 17 (to tie into National Mascot Day -- yes, there is a day for everything) and later rescheduled for September 26. The original date had a massive downpour. Not good running weather in the first place, but really bad for the mascots adorning the route. Personally it fell a few days before I was leaving for Israel and didn't have the time to spare to drive to Philadelphia.

No flag in sight, so some mascots saluted
this man wearing a flag shirt instead.
I didn't have the time on a Thursday night in September, either. Traffic was a mess. I skipped Back to School Night at my new school. I stayed late to work on a grant application. But the weather was wonderful -- 70 and no hint of rain.

Lots and lots of prizes!

And we are off!

 The course was extremely boring -- literally we ran around a parking lot where Veterans Stadium used to stand. There were cones set up, but not many volunteers. As the race took place in the dark (start time 7 pm, but that time of year it is dark by 7:10 pm). You couldn't tell where the cones were (or at least I couldn't tell with my 50-year old eyes). We kept turning to each other and asking "where should we turn?" On the plus, the course was pancake flat and well lit.

There was very low turn out. I feel bad for anyone who left without a prize (the only categories that had competition were women's 35-39 and men's 19 and under). I guessed 30 participants, but looking at the results there were 51, but only 46 finished. Because there were so few people, and it was dark, I had troubles pacing myself. I'll admit I looked at any woman near me and near my age and made it a point to be ahead of her. Turns out I didn't need to even put that much effort into it.
Age has its benefits. 

38433Jacquelyn PillsburyFLawrence TownshipNJUS36:07.536:03.011:385021
Overall Female

Forgot my hat and my lit up shoes
I was also the only woman in my age category to finish. Yay me for making a new age category! May this be the first of many prizes.

I can run faster than that, and should have run faster. I found not seeing other runners made it tough mentally -- more like a training run than a real race.

There were about a half dozen mascots at the start. They hung out for us at the .75 mile mark, which then became the 1 mile mark after the turn around. Some were there at the end (though it was dark and hard to tell).

Don ran the race, too. We both won top bragging rights in our age category. 

Betty the inspirational runner

I saw Betty for the first time in years. Betty is a running inspiration. She is in her 70s (older than the official top age category) and keeps coming out and doing it.

The official photographer grabbed lots of good pictures of us. He offered to hold my camera (in addition to the two he was using) because he couldn't believe I was running with my "big" camera (which was much smaller than both of his cameras). I declined so I could take pictures. I really miss my "little" camera, which was destroyed in the Dead Sea.

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.