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Features (Good Living)

Unique charity helps locals adopt a child and support a widow

      Kadee Corley waits for her phone to ring. The call she expects will change her life, and the lives of her husband Bryan and their seven-year-old son Bryce. Forever.
       They are waiting to hear if the next member of their family is ready to come home. To Odenton. From Bulgaria.
      “We struggled trying to get pregnant with our first child, and after three miscarriages we finally had our beautiful son,” says Kadee.
      Two years later, they discovered Kadee had premature ovarian failure.
       The Corleys began the arduous process of adoption over a year ago.
“We decided to adopt from ­Bulgaria since the process is pretty quick compared to domestic adoptions,” Kadee explained. “Once a match is made, it is just a month or two later that we get to bring a child home.”
       Still, piles of paperwork stand between the Corleys and their new child.
“We have done the home study, filled out all the papers, but now we are dealing with lots of tiny technicalities in the records,” Kadee says.
       On top of the waiting, the Corleys are also feeling adoption’s financial pinch.       They have spent nearly $40,000, refinanced their house, then turned to their community for help.
      “This is our journey as a family,” Kadee says. “It felt really strange to be asking people for money to bring our child home to us.”
       The family wanted to raise money by doing something with a purpose. Online, they found a nonprofit organization called The Both Hands Project. 
      “It was a perfect fit,” Kadee says. 
      Both Hands helps adoptive families raise funds to cover expenses; the familes, in turn, agree to help a widow in need. A family gathers a team of volunteers and Both Hands coaches them to coordinate a service project fixing up a widow’s home. The family and their team also send letters out to raise sponsorship for their day of service. Those funds support the adoption.
       Once the Corleys had their how, they had to find a who.
       “A lot of people thought it was a scam. They couldn’t believe that someone was volunteering to do all this hard work for them for nothing in return,” Kadee says.
       Eventually they found Mary ­Hellman of Deale. 
      “She was under our nose the whole time,” Kadee says. “We initially asked her daughter, who is also a widow, if we could help her, and she sent us straight to her mother instead.”
      The Corleys gathered a group of 25 volunteers, donated supplies and all the elbow grease they could muster to spend 12 hours on an April Saturday working on Hellman’s house and yard.
       Kadee enumerates a long list of projects:
      “We repainted her living room, foyer and dining room; put new shingles on the roof, which was damaged from a recent wind storm; built a ramp and added electricity to her shed; built a new front porch, replaced deck railing and painted the entire back porch; repainted the exterior trim of the house and shed; weeded, mulched and planted an entire garden in front of the house, cleaned out planter boxes and filled them with donated flowers and plants.
      “We filled an entire dumpster of debris,” she says. “We even repurposed some of her late waterman husband’s belongings into décor so she could keep those memories of him.”
       Hellman has, in turn, grown close to the Corley family.
      The Corleys still need to raise $12,000 to completely cover the adoption costs, so their project is still seeking donations: www.bothhands.org/corley-403.

Like their owners, wooden boats don’t live forever. But the 1948 Trumpy yacht Counterpoint survives piece by salvaged piece

      The Trumpy yacht Counterpoint waited dry-docked at Herrington Harbor North for the right person to come along and shine her up, clean her decks and splash her into the water again. That person would have to match the dedication and vision of her former owner, William Watkins, who passed away in 2015.
      As wooden boat enthusiasts know, caring for a ship like this is equal parts passion, grueling work and money. They agree, nonetheless, that wooden boats deserve a second chance at life. Not all can be returned to their original state, but all deserve to be repurposed and reimagined to earn a new kind of glory.
       Wooden boats seem to have a soul, a passion of their own that infects their keepers. Maybe it’s the way the hull groans and hums when it races through changing waters. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing the clouds reflected in a perfectly varnished piece of teak. Whatever it is, wooden boats embody nostalgia.
      With their unmistakable flared bows that gently pull the water away from the boat as they glide along the Bay, Trumpy yachts are remarkable examples of desire for another time. Or, in the case of the Watkins family and Counterpoint, more time. 
 
Another Time
     John J. Trumpy & Sons moved from Gloucester City, N.J., to Annapolis in 1947. The Trumpy yacht yard sat where Charthouse Restaurant now serves its fare on Second Street in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.
       Originally built for Francis V. DuPont in 1948, Counterpoint featured the flared bow of Trumpy yachts that allowed for a smoother ride through choppy waters. Its double-hull construction promised both longevity and durability. Teak decking and mahogany planking combined with brass hardware and chrome instruments made this stylish boat fit for the family that commissioned it and a worthy dream for a lover of the Bay. 
      Eventually the 58-foot yacht was purchased by William Watkins, a Marylander whose life always seemed to lead him back to the water. As a young boy, Watkins would head down to the Colchester section of Baltimore and watch the ships. 
      At 17, Watkins convinced his parents to let him join the Navy. In World War II’s Pacific theater, he served on the destroyer escort Abercrombie, which provided support during attacks on the Philippines and Okinawa.
      Returning from the war, Watkins went on to be a mariner for Standard Oil. Later he owned the Forest Inn in Reisterstown, a restaurant renowned for its crab cakes. Patrons could charter the restaurant’s boat, Freedom II. This 46-foot fishing boat with central air soon became a favorite of industry leaders in East Baltimore and reinvigorated Watkins’ passion for being on the water. 
 
Soul Mate
      Counterpoint joined Watkins’s small fleet in 1974. Berthing her at the Trumpy yacht house in Annapolis, he managed to keep the purchase a secret from his wife for nearly two years, before Charlie Satchell, who ran the boathouse, let the truth slip during a phone call. When Watkins’ wife Barbara answered and denied that the boat was theirs, the jig was up.
      “Counterpoint was his mistress,” explained son Scott Watkins in a phone interview. “She was representative of a time when things were done with style and beauty and had a story. Boats have a soul, and she was my father’s soulmate.”
      Diagnosed with leukemia, Barbara died when she was 43. Her passing left Watkins responsible for the restaurant and raising the kids. Counterpoint became a refuge. 
      As the years passed, time took its toll on boat and owner. Watkins continued to work on the boat for as long as he was able, but when the maintenance grew too difficult and costly, Watkins decided to haul the boat out, still holding on to the hope that he — or someone — might restore her. 
       Counterpoint was towed from her berth with her 83-year-old master on a misty, bitter March morning in 2012. “It was like seeing two old institutions,” Scott said, “sailing for the last time together.” It took nearly 24 hours to deliver the boat to its new home at Herrington Harbour North Marina. 
       Watkins died in 2015 at the age of 85. Counterpoint decayed in place.
       “Over the years, the Watkins family and Herrington Harbour North pursued virtually every avenue to find someone who wanted to restore Counterpoint,” said Herrington’s Hamilton Chaney. 
 
One More Time
      Salvage became the best and, Chaney says, “the only option to save a part of this important piece of maritime history.”
      Piece by piece, Watkins’ Counterpoint has been dismantled. Thus far, nearly all of the mahogany planking from the hull’s stern and starboard has been salvaged as well as 25 pounds of screws, two five-blade propellers, both rudders and a companionway in need of a little cleaning. 
     “It’s a good compromise,” said Scott Watkins of the fate of his father’s beloved Counterpoint. “Boats like her are a representation of the soul and history of the region. It’s so necessary that they aren’t forgotten.”

Our heritage, our legacy

      Anne Arundel County’s celebration of Maryland Day, officially March 25, shifts to a hopefully sunnier, warmer weekend this year.
      April 6 thru 8, we celebrate our shared stake in the territory and body politic planted 384 years ago on March 25, 1634, when Lord Baltimore’s colonists made land on a tiny island in a big river in an unknown world: Maryland Day.
      Friday thru Sunday, honor the anniversary of our state by visiting historical and cultural sites in the Four Rivers Heritage Area and across Anne Arundel County. Many activities are free or only $1. 
 
Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps 
at Susan Campbell Park
Start off Maryland Day with a spirit-lifting flag raising ceremony by the award-winning USNA League Cadets of the Training Ship Mercedes, with music by the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps.
Saturday, April 7, 10am, City Dock, Annapolis
 
Annapolis in 100 Memorials
Celebrate Maryland Day with a 2.1-mile walk thru the Historic District with lifelong Annapolitan and experienced Watermark guide Squire Richard. Today’s journey, highlighting 11 local monuments, was inspired by a 1997 conference that brought conservators of outdoor monuments to Annapolis. Tour follows flag ceremony.
Saturday, April 7, 10:30am, Susan Campbell Park, City Dock
 
Annapolis Maritime Museum
Many of the oysters we eat are Made in Maryland. Learn how oysters go from creek to plate with hands-on activities, crafts for kids and Chesapeake critters. 
April 6-8, 11am-3pm, 723 Second St.
 
Anne Arundel County Farmers Market
Anne Arundel County’s oldest farmers market is year round. Browse and buy products that local farmers and producers grow, make or produce: fruit, veggies, meats, cheese, eggs, plants, soap, honey, flowers, baked goods, jams, jelly, herbs, furniture, milk, yogurt, butter, ready-made food and more — all Made in Maryland. 
April 7-8, Sa 7am-noon, Su 10am-1pm, 275 Truman Pkwy., Annapolis
 
Banneker Douglass Museum
Learn how African Americans throughout Maryland from 1633 to the present made lasting changes for all in the exhibit Deep Roots, Rising Waters. Also new at the museum: artist Ulysses Marshall’s exhibit Bent But Not Broken: An Artistic Celebration of the Spirit and Legacy of Frederick Douglass.
April 6-8, 10am-4pm, 84 Franklin St., Annapolis
 
Brewer Hill Cemetery
Take guided tours and learn more about the people interred here, including city and county founders, casualties of the Revolutionary and Civil wars and members of the African-American community. Learn about research and preservation efforts. Descendants please bring photos, Bible records and oral histories for a memorial website.
Saturday, April 7, tours on the hour 11am-4pm, 802 West St., Annapolis
 
Charles Carroll House 
Explore this grand old home, an essentially intact 18th-century property in the historic district. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the most famous of the many generations of Carrolls who resided here. The family played a major role in the framing of the governance of Maryland and the emerging United States. Charles was one of four Marylanders to sign the Declaration of Independence and was the only Roman Catholic signer. He and wife Mary ‘Molly’ Darnall were given ownership of the house as a wedding present. Charles lived to be 96, leaving the house to his daughter Mary Caton and four Caton granddaughters.
April 7-8, noon-4pm, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis
 
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Tour the Phillip Merrill Environmental Center, the world’s first LEED Platinum building and home to state offices, an educational center and a popular event venue. 
Saturday, April 7, 11am, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis
 
Chesapeake Children’s Museum
Play all day in the museum and meet live animals, travel the seven seas on a 10-foot boat, dress up and perform on stage, shop at a Columbian street market or take a stroll on the creekside nature trail (10am-4pm). Saturday, hear the Fantasy Players, a group of young touring musicians playing covers of rock classics as well as original music (2-4pm). Sunday, bring a picnic for the outdoor setting of a retelling of the traditional west African tale of Leopard’s Drum (6pm); make a drum or shaker or bring your own to join the rhythm circle with the Performing Arts Center of African Cultures.
April 7-8, 10am-4pm, 25 Silopanna Rd., Annapolis, $1
 
Deale Area Historical Society
Get a glimpse into rural life in the late 1800s to early 1900s by visiting a two-room home, one-room schoolhouse, an African-American beneficial society building, an outhouse, a tobacco barn, a Russian Orthodox chapel and other smaller buildings essential to life in the country. Docents on hand to answer questions about the time period. 
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 389 Deale Dr., Tracy’s Landing
 
Galesville Heritage Society
Over 350 years of history of colonists, slaves, mariners and merchants enrich this seaside village. John Murray Colhoun — a direct descendent of the village’s Puritan founders, 12th generation farmer and owner of Ivy Neck Farm — presents the Freeing of the Ivy Neck and Tulip Hill Slaves at Memorial Hall (2pm, 952 Main St). Learn about the court battle that followed Colhoun’s great-great-great-grandfather James Cheston Sr.’s will, in 1843,which freed 77 slaves upon his death. Light refreshments served at the Galesville Heritage Museum follow the presentation.
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 988 Main St., Galesville
 
Greenstreet Gardens
Join a seminar on planting and growing Maryland Native Plants with special guest Tony Dove. Special discounts on native plants. 
Saturday, April 7, 11am, 391 Bay Front Rd., Lothian
 
Hammond-Harwood House
The 1774 house is a fine example of Anglo-Palladian architecture. The museum collection features paintings, furniture and decorative arts from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Social history of the time covers family life, the enslaved people who worked at the house and Annapolis traditions. 30-minute guided Mansion tours, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm, limited to 20 guests (first come, first served); gardens open for free.
Saturday, April 7, noon-4pm, 19 Maryland Ave., ­Annapolis, $1 tours
 
Historic Annapolis Museum
Explore the exhibit Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake, an exhibit of videos, audios, historic artifacts, runaway advertisements from 1728 to 1864 and hands-on activities to convey the defeats and triumphs nine real men and women experienced in their struggle for freedom.
April 7-8, Sa 10am-4pm, Su noon-4pm, 999 Main St.
 
Historic Annapolis Hogshead 
Consider the working class life of 18th century Annapolis with historic interpreters and hands-on activities.
April 7-8, noon-4pm, 43 Pinkney St., Annapolis
 
Historic Annapolis William Paca House & Garden
Saturday, make and take Made in Maryland crafts. Sunday, celebrate the marriage of Julianna Jennings and James Brice in 1781 and meet living history interpreters.
April 7-8, Sa 10am-4pm, Su noon-4pm, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis, $1
 
Historic London Town & Gardens
Friday, enjoy a special Hard Cider talk and tasting with Faulkner Branch Cidery & Distilling Co. (7pm, $45 w/discounts). Saturday and Sunday, try your hand at chopping wood and making rope and talk old times with costumed interpreters, smell fresh hearth colonial-style cooking, buy handmade furniture from a master carpenter and explore the gardens; kids dress up in colonial-style clothes. 
April 6-8, 10ama-4:30pm, Edgewater, $1
 
Homestead Gardens
Learn the ins and outs of raising backyard chickens in Maryland, from space and time requirements to the needed supplies. Take a coop tour and watch the Me & My Chicken Photo contest prize presentation with the Anne Arundel County Poultry Princess Olivia Velthuis; kids play in the open corral.
Saturday, April 7, 10am-3pm, Davidsonville & Severna Park
 
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
The 9th annual ArtFest Open House brings creative fun to all ages with performances, art demonstrations, hands-on projects, community art and gallery events. Events include children’s drama and theater showcase, monoprinting, digital photo booth, pottery wheel demo, glass fusing demo, printmaking demos, drawing and painting demos, Ballet Theater of Maryland showcase, belly dancing showcase and workshops, woodturning demo, yoga and tai chi demos, hip hop/tap and ballroom dancing demos, food trucks and free ice cream, cow tails, caramel creams and popcorn.
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 801 Chase St., Annapolis
 
Maryland State House
Tour the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, explore the history made here and see exhibits, including historical portraits and paintings by Charles Willson Peale. Maryland is the only statehouse ever to have served as the nation’s capitol. The General Assembly is in session Saturday; view the proceedings, space permitting.
April 6-8, 9am-5pm, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, (bring photo ID)
 
Scenic Rivers Land Trust
Take a 2.5- to 4-mile hike through the history-rich setting of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area to discover how humans and nature have interacted to create this landscape, while enjoying the beauty of a 900+ acre protected forest; unpaved wooded trail, leashed dogs welcome. 
Saturday, April 7, 12:30pm (rsvp: www.srlt.org), Hawkins Rd. trailhead (south of I-97 overpass), Crownsville
 
Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel Co.
Get expert help and maps for your Maryland Day adventures.
April 6-8, 9am-5pm, 26 West St. and City Dock 
Information Booth, Annapolis
 
Shuttle ’round Annapolis, Free
April 6-8: The Annapolis Circulator bus runs every 20 minutes, making a loop on West St., Duke of Gloucester St., Compromise St., Main St. and Church Circle. Flag down the bus or look for designated stops along the route. This service stops at all city parking garages. 
Saturday April 7: Ride site to site on Towne Transport’s shuttle. From 10am to 5pm, the trolley makes an hour-long loop from Visit Annapolis at 26 West St. to the Maryland State House Lawyer’s Mall at College Ave., and back, stopping at nine sites along the way. 
https://marylandday.org/free-transportation-schedules

Pysanky, the jewel-like Ukrainian eggs, keep the world in balance

     As an American of Ukrainian heritage, Coreen Weilminster cherishes the Easter traditions with which she was raised. Especially when it comes to the ancient art of pysanky, eggs decorated using a wax-resist method similar to batik. In design, in legend and in Christian tradition, these eggs have kept alive a gentle folk art reflecting the Ukrainian nation.
     “I grew up in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania, in a one-horse town called Nesquehoning,” explains Weilminster, 47, of her legacy. “Immigrants flocked to the area just before World War I to work the mines, among them my grandmother’s family.” With them came pysanky.
       The term pysanka (in its plural form, pysanky) is derived from the Ukrainian words pysaty, meaning to write, and kraska, meaning color. The process is delicate, the product dazzling. A special tool called a kitska — basically, a funnel attached to a stick — is first heated over a candle flame and then filled with beeswax, which quickly melts. Using the molten wax as ink, one writes (as Ukrainians say) a design on a raw egg, then dips the egg in dye. The dying can be repeated in darker colors, each round of wax sealing a different color on the shell. In the final stage, the wax is removed to reveal the finished pysanka.
      Weilminster’s grandmother came from a family of 13 children. During the Lenten weeks prior to Easter, three of her sisters (Weilminster’s great-aunts) spent evenings in the kitchen crafting jewel-like pysanky. It was a magical time. From watching these women, Weilminster learned the process. At the age of 16, she was ready. She picked up a kitska and created her first egg. 
      A pysanky artist was born.
 
The Power of the Egg
       Since pagan times, the tradition of decorating eggs with beeswax and dyes was widespread in Europe, especially among Slavic peoples. Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating back to 1,300bce. Many pysanky made today feature motifs adapted from the pottery designs of an ancient tribe of people, the Trypillians, who lived in Eastern Europe from roughly 5,200 to 3,500bce. References to pysanky abound in their art, poetry, music and folklore.
      Trypillians led peaceful lives as farmers and artisans. Like most early humans, they worshipped the sun as the source of all life. In the land that is now Ukraine, eggs decorated with symbols from nature became central to spring rituals and sun-worship ceremonies. The logic was simple. The yolk of an egg symbolized the sun and its white the moon. In winter, the landscape appears lifeless, as does an egg. As an egg hatches a living thing, so the sun awakens dormant fields in spring. Thus the egg was considered a benevolent talisman with magical powers, able to protect and bring good fortune. 
      Legend says the first pysanky came from the sky. A bitter winter had swept across the land before migrating birds were able to fly southward. They began to fall to the ground and were in danger of freezing. The peasants gathered the birds, brought them into their homes and nurtured them throughout the winter. Come spring, the peasants set the birds free. The birds returned bearing pysanky as gifts for the humans who saved their lives.
     In early Ukraine, a veil of superstition enshrouded pysanky. They protected from fire, lightning, illness and the evil eye. To ensure a good crop, a farmer coated an egg in green oats and buried it in his field. For a good harvest of honey, he placed eggs beneath his beehives. For a plentiful fruit harvest, he hung blown eggs in his orchards and in trees surrounding his home. When building a new home, he marked its corners with eggs, then buried them in the ground as a form of protection. 
     “An early legend said the fate of the world hinged upon pysanky,” Weilminster says. “Evil, in the guise of a monster was kept chained to a cliff. Each year in the spring, the foul creature sent his minions to encircle the globe and tally up the number of pysanky made. If the count was low, the creature’s bonds would be loosened, unleashing all manner of evils.”
 
Writing in Symbols
       At the root of all pysanky is symbolism. Every color, every symbol has meaning, many echoing pagan respect for nature and life. Late in the 10th century ce, however, their interpretation changed as Christianity gained acceptance in Ukraine. Ancient pagan motifs and Christian elements blended. Pysanky lost their connection to sun worship. Once tied to the sun god Dazhboh, motifs featuring the sun, star, cross and horse came to represent the Christian God. Grapes, a harvest motif, came to represent the growing Church and the wine of communion. The fish, formerly a mystical action figure, came to symbolize Christ. Triangles that signified the trinities of air, fire and water or the heavens, earth and air now honor the Holy Trinity. 
        Still, lurking behind the Christian symbolism are traces of magical thinking. Take, as an example, the 19th and 20th century burial customs observed in Christian families when a child died during the Easter season. For food to eat and a toy to play with, the child was buried with pysanky. Even today, lines written on pysanky should remain unbroken so as to not break the thread of life. 
 
Keeping the Tradition Alive
       As the most important religious holiday in Ukraine is Easter, pysanky has become linked with its observance. With the arrival of the Lenten season, the women in traditional Russian Orthodox families often get down to waxing. 
      As a wife, mother, professional and pysanky artist, Coreen Weilminster has come a distance from her Pennsylvania roots. Living in Arnold, she enjoys the Chesapeake life with husband Eric and their two teenage daughters, Brooke and Braelyn. On weekdays, she works in Annapolis, coordinating educational programs for the Chesapeake Bay National Research Reserve in Maryland. Somehow, though, on evenings and weekends, she finds time for pysanky. Now with 31 years of pysanky experience, she happily shares her love of the craft with others, teaching workshops in her home and at the Jug Bay Center Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.
       At this year’s Jug Bay workshop in late February, Weilminster spoke with nostalgia about her family’s mystical late-night egg decorating sessions.
     “In the weeks before Easter, my great-aunts Helen, Irene and Elizabeth began making pysanky by the dozen,” she said. 
     Attention was paid to color, rhythm, symbolism, harmony and the unwritten rules of technique. 
     By Ukrainian tradition, making pysanky is a holy ritual for the women of the family. No one else is supposed to peek. After the children are put to bed in the evening, the fun begins. 
     “In pagan days, the pysanka was considered a vessel. It held life,” said Weilminster. “Even today, the purpose of making pysanky is to transfer goodness from one’s household into the designs. You’re to put an intention into your eggs and then give them away as gifts. We gave them to celebrate births, weddings, funerals and religious holidays. Especially on Easter Sunday.” 
      As members of a Russian Orthodox congregation, Weilminster’s family observed all the old Easter traditions. 
      “On Easter morning, we brought the food for our Easter feast to the church for the Blessing of the Baskets,” Weilminster recalls. “We’d line a basket with hand-stitched towels. In went pysanky, ham, horseradish, butter molded into the shape of a lamb and a loaf of Paska bread, a yeast bread enriched with eggs and melted butter. Pussy willows might be tossed in for effect.” 
      Back stood the parishioners as the priest and altar boys made a joyous procession. The priest sprinkled holy water and blessed the baskets.
     “It was impressive. But all I wanted was the ham in that basket,” sighs Weilminster.
 
The Moment of Truth
     When the class got down to business, Weilminster instructed on waxing and using the aniline dyes she had mixed — all while reminding her students to be forgiving of themselves. 
      “Keep in mind that this takes time and practice. Your egg will look like it’s your first egg,” she said. “It is. Still, when the wax is removed, I promise you, you’ll love it.”
     At first, students worked in silent focus. Gradually, confidence grew. At the end of the waxing and dyeing process, Weilminster helped each student blow the egg out of its shell. Then came wax removal.
     “Traditionally, wax was removed by holding the egg over a candle flame,” Weilminster said. “Me, I believe in modern hacks. I use the microwave.”
     Loud squeals emanated from the kitchen as one anxious student after another wiped the softened wax off their pysanky. All he or she wanted to do was make one more, and another after that. 
     That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Dr. Joan Gaither’s quilts document lives and history

      Mention quilts, and people often share memories of grandmothers or great aunts working with needle and thread, joining pieces of fabric with precise stitching.
      Dr. Joan Gaither, who documents history with cloth and thread, describes herself as “a quilter who breaks all the rules.” Her quilts are covered with images, words and objects: buttons, ribbons, pieces of jewelry, shells — anything that can be sewn to fabric and symbolizes an aspect of the story she tells.
       She stitched her first quilt after the death of an aunt whose story and family history she wanted to memorialize. As she added text and photos to represent the lives and careers of seven generations of her family, the quilt grew to an impressive 10-by-12 feet. It includes the colorful and imaginative embellishments that now characterize her work and features brilliant Maryland state flag colors representing her family’s ties to Baltimore.
       That experience 18 years ago launched the Maryland Institute College of Art professor into fiber arts and three-dimensional collage. Gaither has since made over 200 quilts, telling her stories and those of black Americans. Many have themes of identity, racism and social justice. Others honor the lives of individuals who have influenced national politics, education and the arts.
       Through this month, you can see her quilts in Baltimore in the exhibit Freedom: Emancipation Quilted & Stitched at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which celebrates the contributions and legacies of people of color in Maryland.
       Each image, object, fabric and color, she explains, has symbolism. Most quilts are edged in African mud cloth. A strip of blue stands for the ocean passage. Red, white and blue fabric represents America. Pieces with railroad tracks are the Underground Railway and the flight to freedom. 
      “The strips are often held together by safety pins, some still open,” she explains, “to symbolize the pain of slavery, oppression and injustice.”
       The topics of the quilts on exhibit range from Gaither’s personal history to broad topics of national interest. Laid out in a pattern like the Maryland flag, her Sesquicentennial 1864 Slave Emancipation Quilt has blocks that represent all of the counties in the state, plus Baltimore City. Each block focuses on events and people associated with emancipation. More than 400 people across the state helped in creating this quilt, which will continue its travels throughout Maryland when the exhibit closes at month’s end.
        Collaboration is a hallmark of Gaither’s work. She brings together local communities, school children and church groups to create and construct quilts. One of her largest quilts (10 by 14 feet) depicts the entire Chesapeake Bay and celebrates the lives of its black watermen. That inspiration was, she says, “my discovery that there was very little record of the contributions of African Americans to Bay-oriented industries.” Individuals from towns all around the Bay contributed information, family photographs and objects to make the history come alive.
       No experience required is the message at Gaither’s quilt-making workshops. People come with words, photographs and mementos. She brings ink jet printers, scissors, markers, boxes of embellishments and inspires her quilters to capture memories and stories on fabric. Sewing is done with large needles and simple stitches.
        A group of young children who swarmed into her exhibit the day she and I visited were drawn to details on the quilts, calling out to one another as they noticed yet another fascinating or unusual embellishment: strings of beads, a political button, a plastic crab. She answered some questions, then encouraged the kids to talk with their families and elders: “Ask them questions about their lives,” she said, “about what they remember from when they were young.” 
        “Memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses” are our stories, author and journalist Aleks Krotoski says. Gaither’s quilts are just that, capturing history, documenting and honoring lives, describing their lessons about the past and their calls for justice and equality.
       Follow Gaither on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanMEGaither.

Love stories from Chesapeake Country

When Susan Met Anthony …
Susan and Anthony Nolan
 
Playing Cupid gave me opportunity to talk with him outside work
 
       Newly single in her late 30s, my friend Lisa lamented the absence of single men. “How does anyone find someone?”
      Then it happened. She had met someone, and he was kind, funny, smart and handsome.
      “How did you meet?” I wondered, after all her disappointment.
      “Penitentiary pen-pal program,” she answered.
      Stunned into silence, I did not want to know more.
      But the question stayed with me. 
      IF I were looking for love, where would I find it?
      My mother suggested church. “Single men do not go to church,” I told her — “unless they live with their mothers.”
       Another relative had a bold idea. “You go downtown to that Senate Office Building and introduce yourself to Lindsey Graham. He’s single and he’s a South Carolinian.” I rolled my eyes, remembering Gerald O’Hara telling Scarlett, “It matters not who you marry, daughter. Just as long as he is a southerner and thinks like you.”
        My friend Melissa pulled dating websites up on her computer. “See? See? Hundreds of thousands of available men looking for someone. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be compatible with at least one of them.”
       I was asking, but I wasn’t looking. I enjoyed being single.
      Yet friends and co-workers kept trying to set me up. Happily married colleague Ed whispered, “Our new assistant division chief is single.” 
       “I am never, ever dating anyone I meet at work. That’s just so inappropriate,” I told him.
      “You have so many other appropriate ways to meet men?”
       I changed the subject. I was getting good at that.
       Cathy, my supervisor, also told me about our new division chief. She came back from a meeting singing his praises. “Anthony’s a good listener. Don’t you find that an unusual and appealing quality in a man?”
      Finally, to prove I would “never, ever date anyone I meet at work,” I plotted to find him another woman.
      Mary seemed a likely candidate. Like Anthony, she was in her 40s, never married, Roman Catholic, with a large extended family including many adored nieces and nephews. They both enjoyed travel and the outdoors. I could introduce them at the art gallery she managed. 
      He agreed. Mary agreed and offered the bonus of inviting a single guy for me to meet. “There’s less pressure in a larger group,” she said.
      It went off beautifully. Everybody liked everybody. But there wasn’t any chemistry.
      I continued my efforts to find a match for our assistant division chief. Playing Cupid gave me opportunity to talk with him outside work. Our friendship grew.    But no matter whom I introduced, Anthony was uninterested.
       Eventually, he explained why.
      One evening after a workshop together, I found the following message on my answering machine:
      “I want you to know I am an intelligent person. I’m well-educated. I’m well-read. I’m well-traveled. Yet when I am in your presence, I am speechless. Why is that?”
       I swooned, realizing I would never find a suitable match for this man because he was smitten with me. It could have been a scene from a Jane Austen novel — had Emma Woodhouse an answering machine.
      Our courtship was brief. We married a few months later. We’ve shared 11 action-packed years in which we have treated the traditional wedding vows of for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health like a to-do list, checking off each item a dozen times over. Our failures and successes have brought us closer together and more in love.
       Friends and family still rib me about how I swore I would “never, ever date someone I meet at work,” and I laugh at how close-minded I once was. Now, I say yes to love wherever you find it — be it at church, a bar, the Senate or an online dating app. 
       As for Lisa and the guy she found via the penitentiary pen-pal program, she was right. He is kind, funny, smart handsome and — fortunately — reformed.    They, too, will be celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary this year.
 

When Elisavietta Met Clyde …
Elisavietta Ritchie and Clyde Farnsworth
 
The wooing of a brilliant loner 
     Dissident Russian artists was my topic toward an M.A. at American University, so when Norton Dodge, professor of Russian economics and collector of Russian dissidents’ paintings, held a conference at his Cremona estate, where several émigré artists and their canvases would be present, I was delighted. 
      Guests included New York Times journalist Clyde Farnsworth, recently back from Paris. Guessing that Clyde had surely met the existentialist novelist Albert Camus, I settled next to him. Conversation revealed that Camus’ The Exile and the Kingdom reflected Clyde’s situation as a brilliant loner.
      He scribbled his phone number on a matchbook. A month later I called: On my own after 24 years of a mostly good marriage, I didn’t suffer for lack of diversion. Nor did Clyde. 
       I could bring an escort to dinner at my father’s friend Dr. George Mishtowt’s. An evening of brilliant conversation and Russian songs, and Clyde was a baritone. He also practiced his violin daily …
       Our respective children asked, “Why don’t you two get married?”
       My answer: “He hasn’t asked me.”
       Summer 1992, on the cusp of his transfer to Canada (I assumed another romance over), I drove him to a knee operation. Afterward I settled him in our guest bed while I slept on the couch, at midnight back to the ER, then home again to his bed of pain. 
       Suddenly at 2am he asked, “Why don’t we mosey down to the Prince Frederick courthouse tomorrow and pick up a license?”
       I phoned Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, my doctor daughter, then a captain at a military hospital in South Korea. Her answer zoomed across the Pacific: “Do so quickly before the anesthesia wears off!”
       Around the world and all these years later, we still have a cottage at Broomes Island and are settling in at Asbury Solomons.

When Amanda Met John …
Amanda Bowen and John Barnett
 
Which of the brothers would it be?
       It was a time in my life where I was in this phase of do I go to college? Do I stick with the job I have? 
      A friend talks me into going with him to hunter safety classes at Meyers Station Nature Park in Odenton.
      In class he leans over and says sorry that I don’t see any guys you would like here. I was a little confused because I didn’t know I was there to pick up a guy. Little did I know I would.
      Night two, in the middle of discussing safety precautions in hunting turkey, I scan the room. In the back are two younger guys, arms folded, sitting low in their chairs. 
      Day three, we are out practicing loading our firearms and shooting at targets. That was my chance to approach the men, who I figured were brothers. Instead, the taller brother introduces himself to me. I’m not going to lie; as we talked, my eyes are elsewhere. Especially because as we talked, he is steadily texting an ex, who, he says, won’t leave him be.
       Ummmmm thanks for the honesty ... moving on from Jeremiah.
       That evening, we’re invited to their house for a bonfire. The shorter brother, John Barnett, is off sitting by himself. I pull up a chair — and the rest is history. 
       Nine years and two beautiful babies later, at 27 we live in Galesville and are still having bonfires and enjoying the few chances we get to hunt together.

 
When Blair Met Jay …
Blair Dawson and Jay Weaver
 
The sandwich that stole my heart
 
       We have been together ever since he posted a picture of a sandwich on Facebook three years ago. 
       In 2014, I lost my parents and decided I was going to live for me for once. I had gastric sleeve surgery, lost a lot of weight, started to go to the gym and enjoy myself. Well, he posted the picture of that sandwich, and I just had to comment on it. We met three days later, and we’ve been together ever since.
      The sandwich is called a Wedgy, and it’s from a little place in Knox, Pennsylvania. We’ve gone and had it three times. It’s one of my favorite things. 
      I am 35, and Jay is 51 and we have been together three years and are now engaged. 
 

When Diana Met Gary …
Diana and Gary Dinsick
 
Sure that our romance was over, I wrote him a formal goodbye
 
      We met at a college dance at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Union. Our reasons for being there were as divergent as our personalities. He was an outgoing and focused sophomore preparing for an Army career. I was a starry-eyed 17-year-old, uncertain what I wanted in life but knowing I wanted to share it with someone. 
      At first glance upon meeting him, I saw only brownness. Jeans, sweater, shoes, eyes, hair — everything was brown. Framing his sun-bronzed face were the worst eyeglasses I’d ever seen. Later on, once we knew each other better, he told me he’d hated the pantsuit I was wearing that night.
      From the beginning, ours was a push-pull relationship. I was the student, the introvert; he thrived on running with the guys. Three years later, after his graduation, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army and left for a three-year assignment in Germany. Sure that our romance was over, I even wrote him a formal goodbye.
      It was a lonely time, my senior year without him. I got down. Even my sociology professor remarked on the change in me. When I confided my situation, my prof informed me that my soldier would find someone else.
       I know, I whispered back.
       His reply: “Why don’t you find a man and spend your life making him happy?”
       Still, my erstwhile beau kept writing. Nine months later, I married him in beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Forty-three years, three children and a long Army career later, we’re still together. He’s still my Valentine.
 

When Amy Met Michael …
Amy Stielper and Michael Malone
 
We met when I took his job
 
       During the early 1990s, Michael Malone clerked for a judge in Leonardtown. At the end of the one-year position, the judge hired me, and Michael spent the next few weeks training me. 
       The odds were against us, as he was returning home to Anne Arundel County to practice law, and we both were seeing other people.
      But after two weeks together, poring over law books and dissecting trials, Michael asked me out.
      “No, I’m going shopping with my mother,” I answered — but followed up that lame but true excuse with “I’m free the next night.”
      We married a year later. Now I joke that Michael learned early that his chocolate is mine, his bedcovers are mine and his job was mine.
      The irony? I now work for Michael in his law practice. He is also a delegate representing central Anne Arundel County.
 
 
 
 
 

 
When Esperison Met Gladys …
Marty and Gladys Martinez
 
He had pawned his watch so he could pay for a cab that night
 
       My grandparents, Esperison “Marty” Martinez and Gladys Bradley, met a few weeks before Valentine’s Day on a bitter January night in 1952. At 18 years old, he was a newly capped seaman duce sailor, stationed at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. She was a much more mature 20-year-old, living in a little house with her parents and two younger sisters and working a steady job for an insurance company. 
      Their meeting should have been highly unlikely given that his base was some 20 miles away, he was without a car, and he had very little cash. But that Saturday night brought them together at a Polish community dance hall, a popular spot for locals to dance the polka. 
       She was there with six other girls, sitting at a table having drinks, when he and his friend showed up. He got up the nerve to approach and ask one of the girls for a dance. She said no. Never the type to be easily defeated, he moved on to the next girl, my grandmother. She was also a hard sell; she looked him up and down and said, Well, okay.
      On the dance floor they swayed to Eddie Fisher’s Anytime, and ended up talking late into the night.
       When it was time to leave, he offered to take her home. Earlier he had pawned his watch for the evening’s cash so he had enough to pay for a cab. It must have impressed my grandmother, for they arranged for a second date, which evolved into many more slow dances and a dinner to meet her folks, all before a church wedding on October 11 of that same year.
       Some said their marriage would never last due to the mere nine months of dating, but two kids, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and 65 years of marriage later, the Annapolitans have given up on the time clock and now do “Whatever it is that may move us to contentment.”
–Ariel Martinez-Brumbaugh
 

When Ariel Met Pat …
Ariel Martinez-Brumbaugh and Patrick Beall
 
At my recommendation, we got friendlier
 
      We were friends of friends first, then just friends and then friends who sometimes kissed under a starry sky when we got caught up in the moment.   Then, one June day in 2006, we made plans to go kayaking with friends, but only Pat and I showed up. We paddled across Herring Bay and then back into a marsh. Sensing that tension in the air that only comes with new romance, we opted for a bit of adventure and tied our boats to a tree in favor of marsh  mucking. We picked around submerged logs and sank up to our knees. We emerged on the shore muddy and laughing. I remember stretching out on a bed of marsh grasses and talking until the sun began to set. 
        A few weeks later, at my recommendation, we went on our first date. In the following years, we endured international separations, moved in and out of apartments together, traveled with friends and have since settled into a world of “I have to work late tonight” and “Whose turn is it to take out the trash?”
       Eleven years after that June day, at my recommendation, Pat proposed.
 

 
When Brad Met Linda …
Brad Wells and Linda Eversfield Wells
 
We shared a room before we fell in love
 
        We met in the Tampa airport in June of 2005. We were both going to a mutual friend’s wedding and the younger sibling Jane convinced us to all share the same room to save money for partying. Everything was PG, and we had a great time. 
       Leaving Tampa was pretty awkward because we both knew the situation was a long shot. The only thing I could think to do was mock her dimples by poking my inflated cheeks and twisting my fingers into them, saying “Bye, Dimples.” Game on point! 
        She claims that she fell for me because I’m a dork.
We remained friends for three years while talking long-distance every day.
Eventually I decided she was never leaving Maryland so decided to pull up my roots from Kentucky and replant on the Bay. Those roots have now grown into a six-year marriage and two beautiful children. 
 

 
When Michelle Met Leisha …
Michelle Farley and Leisha Suggs
 
Coffee with a hint
 
       When I moved to College Park in the fall of 2006 to start graduate school, I quickly fell into a habit of getting coffee at the student union coffee shop on my way to class. One of the baristas always remembered my drink, and we started chatting for a few minutes when it wasn’t too busy. 
      In early November, after I had been gone for a week for a conference, the barista handed me a folded piece of receipt tape with my drink. She had written her social media contact in the giant black crayon they used to mark the cups.
      The first time we hung out, I was swamped with coursework, and she offered to come with me to photograph my assigned site for a paper. That led to more hanging out.
      We’ve now been together for over 11 years, married for almost five. We married the day the law changed in Minnesota, where we moved after I graduated in 2008.
      Leisha was born and raised in Saint Mary’s County, where most of her Suggs family still lives. She taught me the importance of Old Bay seasoning, stuffed ham, and how to properly pick a blue crab. She now works as a therapist to homeless youth and receives a lot of compliments on her Maryland Terrapins lanyard.
 

 
When Jessica Met Steve …
Jessica and Steve Grzybowski 
 
At senior week, I fell for the ­person who drove me absolutely crazy in high school 
 
        Our story starts in first grade at Lothian Elementary, where we went to school together and had numerous classes with one another. Those classes continued through middle and high school. Though we went to the same school, we never really noticed each other. I was a spirited cheerleader, and Steve was an old country boy who couldn’t have cared less about school.
       Our senior year, our good mutual friend’s mom worked in the office, and I was her assistant for one of my classes. Her son and Steve came in to bother me every day, but there was no romance between us. I used to tell her I felt sorry for whatever girl married either one of them.
       After graduation I headed to Ocean City for a week with my girls, while Steve headed to Florida with a buddy. They arrived just before a hurricane, so turned around and drove to Ocean City. As we had mutual friends, Steve ended up at our condo for parties and sorts.
      Back home, I asked a mutual friend for his number because we had had a pretty good time at the beach. After two weeks of him blowing me off, we have been together ever since. We tied the knot on May 16, 2009, at the young ages of 21 and 20. 
      We have three beautiful children and will be married for nine years on our anniversary and together 12 years total in July. We both are South County-born and raised and now raising our own family in South County as well.
Never thought I would go to senior week and find a husband let alone one I’d known all my life.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

When Julia Met Robbo …

Julia and Robert Howes
 
I loved his truck
 
        I knew Robbo through our dads, who both were into classic cars. I had seen him a few times here and there, thought he was cute, but never really considered him like that. In 2012, my mom and I were at 7-Eleven in Deale when he pulled in. He was driving his lifted 1984 Chevy Scottsdale, and I loved the truck. I said hi to him, and we had small talk. I asked him about the two girls in his truck (who turned out to be his cousin and her friend), and he said if I went out with him, he would leave them there. I gave him my number but didn’t go with him.
      Less than a month later we were dating. He was 18, and I was 15. Everyone said we were too young, but we got married anyway and have been married for 121⁄2 years now. We have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter, bought the house he grew up in and his parents built, both work in South County and own a commercial crabbing business.
 
 

 
When Pam Met Billy …
Pamela and Bill Krug
 
A glimpse into the future
       We grew up seven houses apart and have been best friends since fourth grade. We became official when we were 19 years old. 
      When we were little, I was on a bike ride with my dad, and little Billy Krug came peddling up the street and said to my dad, “You know what, Mr. Gunnell? I love your daughter, and I’m going to marry her one day,” and then pedaled off. I was nine or 10 and remember being so embarrassed. 
      We are now 37 and have been married for 13 years but have been together forever. We have three children, ages 14, 11 and 8.
 

 
When Paula Met Ernest …
Paula Taylor Tillich and Ernest Willoughby
 
And vice versa
 
       “Professor Willoughby would swipe the breakfast sweet roll I’d put on the far side of my desk in the corridor of the building where he had his office,” Paula recalls. “I was a graduate student in biology at Syracuse University where he was a biology professor.” 
      Ernest’s retelling of that time at St. Mary’s College is a little different. “She ate a sweet roll every morning for breakfast and began leaving a fresh one on the edge of her desk, knowing I would pass every morning on my way to my office.”
       This mute communication continued until one day …
       Forty-five years later they are retired, having raised three children, living at Asbury Solomons.
 

 
When Jessica Met Michael …
Jessica and Michael Hickman
 
He rolled down the window and hollered … then Love Story
 
       We met at the stoplight in Edgewater on Solomons Island Road by Lee Airport.
       I was 17, and he was 22. I was in my truck, and he was in his. 
       I was sitting at the red light with my hair down and window down, looking all fabulous in my big truck and jamming out. He was turning in by Ledo’s to go to the gas station. 
        As he pulled up to the pump, I decided to show off and rolled down my other window as I pulled in after him. He ran up and asked for my number. Thank God I gave him the right one.
      That was September 2009. We’ve been married for over four years now and have two kiddos and a house in South County. 
 
 

 
When Heather Met Bobby …
Heather and Bobby Lamb
 
Some said we’d never last, and some may not have wanted us to
 
       I was good friends with his sister, and he would be at the house when I would hang out there. 
       One night the three of us were supposed to go to the movies, but she backed out. I wasn’t sure about it but we decided to still go. Glad we did. 
       Things moved kind of fast. He eventually moved in with me, and not long after I became pregnant with our son. There were some that said we’d never last, and some that may not have wanted us to. Now he is 47, I am 46, and we celebrated 21 years of marriage in November. We live in Galesville with our son Justin, 21, and daughter Emily, 19.
 
 
 
 

 
When Tricia Met James …
Tricia and James Huffman
 
Workplace romance works out
      My husband was one of our contractors at work. We’d had friendly conversation and joked around, but he was super shy. One day he insulted me by saying all I do is sit there and look pretty. It went from there.
I am 30, James is 35. We have been married four years and have four kids.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
When Leigh Met Nick …
Leigh Glenn and Nick Beschen
 
A decade of gentle nudges
 
       We met in January of 2008 through his older brother, a cheeky fellow, to whom I free-cycled a couple of gardening books and women’s overalls for his wife. 
       Older brother and younger drove together to a niece’s wedding in Florida in May 2008 and got to talking women. Nick had not been in a relationship for a while and his brother told him he knew “this woman” but wasn’t sure how to connect us. “You can just give me her number,” Nick said.
       We spoke by phone. I loved his voice (Bay Weekly readers who have frequented community theaters may know that voice, too, as Nick has been in many productions over the years). 
      Our first date, he drove to Tysons, and we walked to Clyde’s. The second date, a week later, I drove to Annapolis. We were fortunate that, despite a storm, the power came back on in time to prepare and enjoy scallops, rice and broccoli before heading to Rams Head to hear Last Train Home. After the concert, we talked. All. Night. (Not since college had I stayed up all night talking with anyone.)
      It’s nearly a decade later, and I love him more than ever.
 
 

 
 
When Tracy Met Chris …
Tracy and Chris Roy
 
We found each other on CB radio — twice
 
      We didn’t have internet back in the day. I stole my dad’s CB radio because it fascinated me (and to be in touch with a boyfriend). In my travels and meeting new people on the radio, I hit it off as friends with one guy who was then engaged.
       After his marriage didn’t work out, he came looking for me just as my CB radio fad was coming to a close. We met back up and started hanging out together, and one thing led to another.
      Thirty-two years later we are still friends, married for 25 years this ­September.
 
 
 

 
When Kim Met BJ …
Kim and BJ Welch
 
A match made in a music-lovers chat room
 
      We met in 2004 in a chat room on AOL. He was a musician looking for local support for his band. I was a newly graduated 18-year-old ready to leave my home in Baltimore.  
      We officially started dating on July 2, 2004, and quickly got pregnant (whoops!). We married October 22, 2005, and now have five children. Four boys: Corey, Josh, Billy and Austin. Then our miracle girl Dixie who was born April 2016, at just 27 weeks, weighing one pound. Almost 14 years later, this young marriage is still going strong.

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Is cursive an evolutionary dodo?
       Can you sign your name in cursive?
       For much of American history, handwriting was a hallmark of education and character, taught in classrooms as part of the triumvirate of reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic. Students who persevered through eight grades took as much pride in their penmanship as John Hancock, whose graceful cursive on the Declaration of Independence made his name a synonym for signature, as in sign your John Hancock on the dotted line.
      Into the 20th century, handwriting was so foundational a part of the public school curriculum that educators devoted themselves to perfecting a system good for one and all, just as modern educators have with Common Core. From letterforms and linkages standardized in the mid-1800s by bookseller and abolitionist Platt Rogers Spencer — and not so different from many Hancock used — the American cursive handwriting style evolved.
      Spencerian descendants — about whom we’ll have more to say — were so successful that by the mid-20th century, Americans from coast to coast could write — and read — one another’s handwriting, as well as John Hancock’s.
Yet just about then (does Sputnik ring a bell?) states began de-emphasizing handwriting to allow more classroom time for the curriculum we know today as STEM. 
       Does cursive have a future? That’s the question we ask in honor of National Handwriting Day, which falls on January 23, the birthday of the Massachusetts’ patriot John Hancock. No longer can every graduate of our public schools read Hancock’s signature — or, for that matter, the handwritten document itself.
      Can you?
 
A Pillar of Civilization
       Through the four- or five-thousand-year span of recorded history, handwriting has evolved, influenced and reflected every aspect of culture. This art of forming visible, readable characters has evolved in many styles, from cuneiform and hieroglyphics to unconnected block letters to flowing cursive.
      About the time the Egyptians were developing hieroglyphics, Sumerian merchants were codifying their transactions into cuneiform script. Ever since, handwritten documents have recorded births, marriages and deaths but also started and ended wars. They’ve bought and sold land and slaves, and guaranteed — or challenged — our voting rights.
      By about 1500 BCE, the Phoenicians had an alphabet of 22 phonetic symbols. This marvelous invention spread to Greece, Persia, India and Egypt.
      Like any new technology, handwriting brought on tidal waves of change. Socrates feared a written language would destroy memory, according to Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting. To a degree, he was right; the old oral tradition that gave rise to Homer is obsolete. On the other hand, as French philosopher Jacques Derrida noted, we only know what Socrates thought about anything because someone recorded his ideas.
        In the second century BCE, the Roman Empire conquered Greece, adopting its then 23-letter alphabet. The alphabet spread throughout the Roman empire. More letters were adopted over the centuries until, by the 15th century, the Roman alphabet consisted of 26 letters.
       By then, handwriting had become a specialized skill, practiced by the scribes and monks who saw their livelihood threatened when Gutenberg developed a printing press capable of assembly line-style production of books. Despite their worries, handwriting remained for many centuries the dominant medium for recording and sharing information.
         The Renaissance development of copperplate engraving brought the fanciful flourishes to script writing. This script evolved into the italics from which cursive and basic lowercase letters derive.
        In early America — as in so many cultures over the millennia — handwriting was a skill that could earn a craftsman a living. By the 1700s, master clerks were doing the actual penning of many of our historic documents. The United States Constitution was drafted by James Madison, penned by Jacob Shallus, assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly and signed, more or less elegantly, by 56 colonial gentlemen, for whom fine handwriting was a mark of education and cultivation. 
       In 1786, George Fisher published The Instructor, or American Young Man’s Best Companion Containing Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetick.
         “The capitals must bear the same Proportion one to another,” wrote Fisher. He directed that upstrokes be fine, and downward strokes fuller and blacker. “And when you are in Joining,” he instructed, “take not off the Pen in writing, especially in running or mixed hands.” His words may ring familiar to 60- and 70-somethings who learned Palmer cursive in school. 
        In the mid-18th century Platt Rogers Spencer developed a utilitarian writing system uniting aspects of several popular writing systems. During the late 1880s, the Spencerian method evolved into the Palmer system, which emphasized writing with arm movements rather than with the fingers. With variants, Palmer remained the school standard of penmanship through the 1950s.
        Meanwhile, other technologies were changing the world. As early as 1947, when TIME magazine was already bemoaning the “day of typewriters, shorthand, telephones and Dictaphones,” educators and the media were complaining that schools were neglecting penmanship instruction. In 1955, the Saturday Evening Post pronounced us a “nation of scrawlers.” By the 1980s, some public school students were receiving little or no formal handwriting training.
 
Cursive Uncommon in ­Common Core 
        Since 2010, to many teens and young graduates of Maryland’s public schools, the swirls and twirls of cursive are as unreadable as ancient Sanskrit.
       Trace it back to Maryland’s adoption that year of Common Core State Standards in reading, English/Language Arts and mathematics, known 
as the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards. Later, pre-K standards were added. 
       State education standards have been around since the early 1990s, varying from state to state. In 2009, most states, the District of Columbia and a couple of territories voted to develop Common Core State Standards. Maryland was among the first of many states to adopt the new, voluntary standards. 
       Common Core put our nation “one step closer,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation that bankrolled the initiative, “to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students.” 
       Often Common Core pushed cursive aside for keyboarding and computer skills, math and sciences.
 
How Important are ­Connected Letters?
        Does the loss of our common heritage of handwriting matter? Opinions are divided.
        Juli Folk, 37, is reading handwritten Calvert County Census documents for the Center for the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland Archives while studying for her masters degree in Library Information Science at the University of Maryland ISchool. 
       Her volunteer project depends on her ability to read cursive in many hands over many decades. “I had fun learning it in elementary school,” she says.
      Yet for today’s students, she’d be happy to see it “offered as an art class. Or teachers could show students what cursive letters look like, then let them learn it on their own.”
      “What matters,” she says, “is that handwriting, whether printed or cursive, is legible.”
      The American Bar Association seems to agree. Printed signatures are just as legal as are cursive — or electronic ones,” according to University of Missouri law professor David English.
       Other benefits may make cursive fit enough to survive the keyboard era.
       Some researchers say learning cursive benefits brain development and fine motor skills in children, leading to improved writing skills and reading comprehension — skills critical across the Common Core. 
        Dr. William R. Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M, says learning cursive helps train the brain to function more effectively, increasing hand-eye coordination and reading speed. Thus, he concludes that schools that drop cursive are depriving students of an important developmental tool.
        Whatever learning cursive may do for our hands, eyes and brains, losing it certainly cuts us off from our past. A generation illiterate in cursive will be unable to read historic documents, including Grandma’s letters. 
       “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly,” says actor Steve Carell. “My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. There’s something visceral about opening a letter. I see her in handwriting.”
       At the Maryland State Archives, Emily Oland Squires hears complaints from researchers, especially students, struggling to read with cursive. 
       Archives staff tries to bridge the gap by helping research teachers create lesson plans that include both primary source documents written in cursive and their transcriptions. Online transcriptions have been made of many documents pertaining to state and African American history.
        “Still, we ask teachers to let students try to work from the manuscripts before giving them transcriptions,” says Squires. “It helps them learn.”
 
Does Cursive Have a Future?
         Some states have legislated a future for cursive. In 2016, Alabama and Louisiana — not states earning top educational ratings — became the latest of 14 states that now require cursive in school.
        Maryland does not require cursive be taught. 
        “There are currently no standards for cursive,” says Walter Lee, of the office of the Curriculum Coordinator and Instruction at Anne Arundel County Public Schools. “But Maryland created a framework in which cursive does appear.” 
       Lee explains that Maryland decided to include cursive as part of the framework for interpreting the state standards for the Commonwealth of Maryland. “There are no policies governing cursive,” he says, “but there are practices. It is up to local education agencies.”
        In Anne Arundel County, he says “incorporating cursive into reading time during the school day is a school-based decision, meaning that it is up to the principal.”
      In the bigger picture, it may be, as Trubek says, that the decline in our use of handwriting in our daily lives is only the next stage in the evolution of communication. Where we’ll be next, who knows.
        While we wait to see what the next wave of change brings, we might all heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” He did both.
       In honor of National Handwriting Day, pick up a pen or pencil and put it to use.
 
What is Cursive?
       Cursive derives from the Latin word currere, meaning to run. Cursive writing has a more comfortable flow than early Roman square block printing or the more rounded uncial writing of early Latin literature. In handwriting history, forerunners of cursive appear as far back as ancient Roman times. Due to its speed and efficiency, many languages since the ancients have cursive forms. 
       In America, cursive has subtypes such as ligature, in which letters within words are connected with lines. There’s also cursive italic penmanship, which combines joins and pen lifts within words. Looped cursive is the style taught in American schools since the late 1800s. If you learned cursive, it may well have been this style. 
 

 

 

Rich or poor, Owensville ­Primary Care turns no one away

Over $10,000. That’s what the average American spent for health care in 2016, and up is where that number is heading.
     “My wife’s health insurance jumped 38.9 percent,” laments a friend recently retired. “My pension is disappearing.”
     Across the age spectrum, you hear endless variationa of the same story.
Last year, 11.9 percent of Anne Arundel County residents couldn’t afford to see a doctor, according to the county’s Report Card of Community Health Indicators. Seventeen percent didn’t have a primary care physician.
     In a culture where health and wealth are inextricably linked, Owensville Primary Care is a haven. It welcomes all with these words: This Health Center serves all patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
     It is an oddly placed haven.
     If you wanted to show off southern Anne Arundel County’s pastoral ideal, you couldn’t do better than take a drive down Owensville Road, the east-west link between Rt. 2 and Galesville. Amid imposing white homes set back on yards rolling into farm fields, the modernistic stucco building might, if noticed, raise a question. 
     Its placement tells a truer story of Southern Maryland life than the scenery. It’s a story in many ways little changed since Owensville Primary Care was founded in 1974 to, in CEO Sylvia Jennings’ words, “address the needs of a very low-income, rural, minority population that did not have access to health care.”
     Over four decades, Jennings has seen need persist and — for many of those years — overseen Owensville Primary Care’s ability to deliver care regardless of race, age or income.
      “We pledge to provide quality health care to our entire, diverse community at a responsible cost,” Jennings says. “That’s our mission.”
     Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, that pledge has included helping people, patients or not, find qualified health care programs. Nowadays, people losing their subsidies are welcome for advice and alternatives.
 
A Melting Pot
     In the utilitarian waiting room, you find yourself in a microcosm of the larger Southern Anne Arundel County community, where homes — and with them wealth — run the full range from mansions to shanties. Here, your neighbors — black and white, young and old, more and less affluent — visit as they wait. You might find — as I did on this day — a kid sucking a lollipop. Two elderly women, black and white. A tattooed hipster with an ear gauge in his lobe. A workingman in an Orioles cap. Yourself.

Owensville Primary Care outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, retiring after more than 20 years.

       Owensville Primary Care has become, over the years, an American melting pot. 
     “I came in one morning to find a Jaguar in the parking lot next to a jalopy,” says Jennings, the white-topped dynamo who for two decades has been CEO of this federally qualified Community Health Center, one of 16 in Maryland and some 1,400 nationwide.
      The numbers support the impression of diversity. Of October’s 1,156 patient visits, 38 percent were paid by commercial insurance, 32 percent by Medicare and 28 percent by Medicaid, with two percent self-paid.
 
Walking Into a Nightmare
       Jennings, 82 and days from retirement, works behind the scenes, in an office stocked with tall jars of Hershey’s Kisses. Jolly, direct and demanding, she does not want a visit to her sanctum to feel like “a walk down the hall to the principal.”
      For the office she is now dismantling has been the scene of many hard decisions.
      “I walked into a nightmare,” Jennings recalls.
      In 1981, the well-intentioned, six-year-old South County Family Health had descended into bankruptcy. With $1.5 million owed, court administrators threatened to “nail doors shut and walk away,” Jennings remembers. That’s when she joined the board, deputized by her boss, Virginia Clagett, then South County’s councilwoman.
      Paying off that debt took eight years.
      A second round of troubles in the mid 1990s brought Jennings back on the board to captain “a sinking ship.” First she laughed at entreaties; finally she accepted. That was 1997. She spent the next two years cleaning up the mess.
 
The Team
      Jennings has been the force that kept Owensville Primary Care on track.
      But hers is not the face you’re likely to know if you happen to be one of its 3,400 patients, from birth to geriatrics. 
      First you meet the reception crew, who, Jennings says and experience proves, are “welcoming and treat you not as a stranger but as a friend.” 

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Back, doctors Thomas Sheesley, Jonathan Hennessee and Wayne Bierbaum. Front, nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, behavioral health director Dr. Jana Raup and physicians assistant Ann Hendon.

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Rebecca Woolwine, Judy Bracken, Amber Snay and Billie Aisquith in back row. Keri Mahan and Brittany Galloway, seated.

      Many, like office manager Billie Aisquith, have been here as long as Jennings. Increasingly, they are “cross-trained in multiple functions,” like Vickie Payne, who is also a fire department EMT just certified as a medical assistant through Anne Arundel Community College’s online program.
       “When they expand their skills, they expand their incomes,” Jennings says.
       Next, you enter into the hands of nurses — among them nurse supervisor Vanessa Greenwell, Owensville Primary’s longest serving staffer at over 30 years — who’ll take your weight and height, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen readings.
       They turn you over to health care providers, who range from doctors to nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, retired from the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, to physician assistant Ann Hendon.
       At 28 years in, chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum calls his egalitarian work at Owensville Primary “what I’ve wanted to do since I decided to go into medicine: helping people manage in difficult circumstances.”
       Doctors Jonathan Hennessee and Thomas Sheesley are National Health Service Corps Scholars, who repay their medical education by working in communities with limited access to care, in their cases for a term of five years.
      Behavioral Health Director Jana Raup or Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jen Thornton offer counseling and therapy.
 
Right People for the Job
       From the bottom up and top down, salaries are a priority with Jennings, who brings her medical experience as a nurse along with administrative experience alongside a state legislator.
      “I really focused on getting people a decent wage,” she said. “Even then, $7 an hour for nurses was ridiculous.”
        “The money wasn’t there so it was a long process,” says Sharon Widemann, Jennings’ long-time colleague and now successor as CEO.
      Nowadays, Jennings calls “our salaries very competitive,” good enough to draw expertise from outside South County. 
       “Young physicians fresh out of school are paid a very good entry-level wage that appreciates the fact that family-care physicians are difficult to recruit,” she notes. 
      For five years, Jennings and Widemann, who came on in 1994 as an accountant, “got our hands dirty with work to make sure we had the right hiring.”
        Computerization brought the next challenge. 
      “When IT hit us all with electronic records, we were able to draw the best staff among community health centers, who are doing wonders for our record keeping,” Widemann says.
 
Finding Wherewithal
      Every step took money. 
      Community health centers are backed by tax dollars. Owensville Primary Care has a $4 million budget, with federal funding of about $1.5 million, supplemented by fees for service, donations from citizens and small government grants for targeted programs.
       Federal and private funding supported the construction of the building back in 1976, enabling Owensville Primary to move out of the old Owensville primary school. The building was county property until 2002, when it was surplussed to Owensville Primary. That same year, a state grant of $200,000 and a loan from the county paid for renovation. Later grants paid for better parking. This year, the behavioral health center moved into its own remodeled space, replacing the old post office that shared space with Owensville Primary.
      Grants enabled growth in services. In 2013 federal monies brought on behavioral health case managers, certified application counselors for Affordable Care and expanded Medicare, plus two more physicians. 
      A brand-new grant supports response to the opioid addiction crisis with mental health, public awareness and Narcan training.
      From Jennings’ years with Clagett as both councilwoman and delegate, she understood the levers of government. 
     “She has kept us in the minds of politicians who help our cause,” says chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum.
      Jennings retires with Owensville Primary Care “in the black.” But not without a touch of uncertainty. Federal funding for community health centers expired September 30, and Congress has yet to reauthorize it.
 
‘A’ For Accountabiliity
     Recovery from a troubled past has made accountability part of each day’s work.
     “We hold ourselves accountable with committees for quality care, insurance and improvement,” Widemann says. “Once a month, a group of clinical and administrative staff review incidents and look at how our patients are doing. If one provider is doing a great job, we see how to share those best practices.”
     Patients have two ways to rate their satisfactions, and a sign on the reception desk invites complaints if you’ve waited more than 20 minutes to be seen. Quality measures are posted on the front door and the website.
      Accountability is one of the hallmarks of Jennings’ tenure, according to Bierbaum who has worked beside her the whole time.
     “Our goals have been continually strengthened through her vision of what we should become, so that everyone knows that we stand for service delivered with compassion, accountability and professionalism, always trying to do better in our mission,” he says.
     On January 2, Jennings passed on title and responsibility to Widemann. She leaves with satisfaction, relief and confidence, in a transition that, she promises, “will be seamless.” Preparing Widemann to continue the mission has been Jennings’ final achievement. 
     That, and revisiting 22 years of history, paper, electronic and human. 
     Amid the sorting, preserving and trashing, there was reflecting.
     Jennings already had reached retirement age when she was persuaded to come to the rescue of Owensville Primary Care.
     “I thought I’d do it a couple years and get it straightened out,” she recalls. 
      But day after day, year after year, she returned.
      “What I do every day of my life is so satisfying that it has allowed me to work till 82,” she says.
 

Outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, left, and her successor, Sharon Widemann.

      Now, 20 years in, she allows herself to be “very personally pleased with myself for the job I have done here. Some people will call me smug, but you have to have some personal reward. I’m not talking about money but about feeling I have contributed something to my neighbors and friends.”
      Widemann’s mission is continuing a success she helped create.
     “We have a very fully equipped and functioning federal community health center, a strong executive staff, strong providers and a growing behavioral health component,” the new CEO says.
      Her plan is to reach into the community to bring affordable health care to people still unserved. Growing the behavioral health unit is a particular goal.
      She steps comfortably into Jennings’ big shoes.
     “We’re not a one-woman show anymore,” Widemann says. “We’re a team effort. Plus, I know where Sylvia lives.”

Beaches, marsh and mountains blaze with color

     Autumn can be a polarizing season, but I have become quite the enthusiast of this time of harvest, leaf peeping and ubiquitous festivals. I like the hot cider and apple fritters, but what I love most are the seasonal changes we can experience in the natural world.
     Chesapeake Country is a fine place to experience those changes. The watershed we call home is an enormous place — over 64,000 square miles stretched across six states and Washington, D.C. Within those miles are diverse physiographic regions: the ancient Appalachian Mountains, the rolling hills of the central piedmont plateau and the low-lying, marsh-encompassed Atlantic coastal plain. In each of these regions, birds are migrating and mammals are on the move as they forage for precious calories. Exquisite colors adorn the many species of deciduous trees. 
 
 
From the Beaches …
     Close to home, the tranquil, still wetlands of Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County give us a double image of autumn color: in the trees and reflected on Bay waters. As well as its namesake cliffs and fossilized shark teeth, the Bayside park also invites wildlife viewing. I have encountered wood ducks and muskrat as they swim through the season’s colorful double image. 
 
To the Marshes …
     At Calvert County’s Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, you’ll find an unexpected color transformation. An easy stroll on a boardwalk takes you into one of the northernmost naturally occurring stands of bald cypress trees in the lower 48 states. This cypress appears evergreen, but it is deciduous, and its needles change to beautiful fall colors before dropping. If you are lucky, you may be treated to the sight of a bald eagle or barred owl.  
     For a unique sighting of autumnal color, head to saltier marshes to search for patches of glasswort. The plant has simple or branched stems that resemble asparagus stalks. Beginning in late September, it transforms to a brilliant crimson red, making it simple to scan for and identify. Stunning to behold, it is in perfect contrast to the cordgrass, which is turning from green to brown. A great location for glasswort is the salt marshes of Assateague Island.
 
To the Mountains …
     Take in the bounty of autumn leaves in our mountain regions. Two of my favorite locations are Shenandoah National Park and Catoctin Mountain Park, both operated by the National Park Service.
     The famed skyline drive of Shenandoah is a 105-mile historic highway beginning in Front Royal, Virginia, and traversing the length of the park along the Blue Ridge Mountains. By mid-October the drive will be adorned with a kaleidoscope of autumn color. Additionally there are numerous trails in the park, including the Appalachian Trail, to take you farther into the woodlands.
     There’s a trail for everyone, from the novice hiker to the experienced backpacker, and varying levels of intensity. For an easy walk try the Limberlost trail, which is wheelchair accessible. The more intrepid might spend a day hiking Old Rag Mountain and its famed rock scramble. Be on that trailhead early, as the mountain’s popularity equates to large crowds and long lines on the rock scramble. Bring plenty of water and a backpack to clean up after yourself, and follow the adage to leave only your footprints behind.
     Shenandoah National Park holds a wide variety of wildlife, including whitetail deer, coyotes, bobcats and wild turkeys. Its most famous inhabitants are a thriving population of black bears, which will be active as they seek high-calorie acorns before winter sets in. Seeing a bear in the autumn woods is a real treat. A black bear is a rather timid animal and is more likely frightened by you than the other way around. For a safe as well as memorable encounter, always give the bear plenty of space and admire it from a distance.
     Catoctin Mountain Park in western Maryland is much smaller but no less breathtaking, with numerous trails and vistas. While there, make sure to look down at the leaf clutter and you may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the ruffed grouse, a chicken-like upland bird that blends in with the forest floor.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
November’s Whiteout
     By November, when the leaves have moved past peak color and the thought of Thanksgiving dinner is piquing our senses, another color not normally associated with autumn is just returning. The marshes and agricultural lands around the Bay will be sprinkled with the color white, signaling the return of snow geese and tundra swans to the Chesapeake.  
When thousands upon thousands of snow geese blast off in flight together in a cacophony of goose call, it is quite the sensory experience.  These birds flock to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, where another large white bird, the while pelican, is also just returning.
     I hope these ideas inspire you to experience autumn in the natural world.
 
 

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It all goes back to Hansel and Gretel

In one form or another, gingerbread has been popular since at least mediaeval times.
    “Gingerbread was a favorite treat at festivals and fairs in medieval Europe — often shaped and decorated to look like flowers, birds, animals or even armor,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. “Several cities in France and England hosted regular gingerbread fairs for centuries.”
    Gingerbread became especially popular in Germany, where monks baked the confection starting around the 14th century. Lay bakers then started making the treat and took their recipes extremely seriously, guarding them as family secrets.
    Building gingerbread houses likely started in Germany. Records of gingerbread houses start in the 1600s but became really popular after the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel was published in 1812, according to The History Kitchen.
    In the tale, a witch lives in a house made of delicious candy and cookies. The house is a trap she uses to lure children into her home and, eventually, her oven. Somehow the story inspired bakers to create their own baked houses, and people liked them, despite their terrifying associations. Gingerbread houses now range from the simple to the extreme.
    This year, the United Kingdom’s National Trust commissioned a gingerbread house that is astounding. Built by an English cookie making company, the mansion took 15 months and 500 hours to create. It was inspired by Waddesdon Manor and is made up of 66 pounds of butter, 240 eggs and 480 pounds of icing. It is six feet tall and has details that many of us would never imagine going into a gingerbread house, like paintings, beds, chairs and elaborate carpets, all made of confection. See the creation at https://waddesdon.org.uk/whats-on/biscuiteers-manor-in-gingerbread/
    Closer to home, a gingerbread White House is always part of the holiday decorations at The White House. This year’s house is constructed of 150 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of bread dough, 20 pounds of gum paste, 20 pounds of icing and 20 pounds of sculpted sugar pieces.
    Fifty-six more pseudo gingerbread houses, each actually made of Lego bricks, represent each state and territory
    If you have $78,000 to splurge, you can order an organic gingerbread house custom made to look like your own home, adorned with pearls and a five-carat ruby from veryfirstto.com.