Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Betsy Ross, you have entered the Twilight Zone...Redux 2009 story with 2016 twist!


In 1991, when my daughter was in 4th grade, her class took a field trip to the local library. Each student was to borrow a book about a Revolutionary War era character, read the book, and write up a book report. Meredith, seeing a book about a woman with the same name as her mother, chose a biography titled “Betsy Ross and the Flag.”

Not one to hop all over an assignment, Meredith didn’t look at the book for several days. When she finally decided to get busy on the book, she came crying and shrieking into the kitchen.

“Mom, this is a library book!”

“I know.”

“I’m going to be in horrible trouble at school! You’re not supposed to write in library books, Mom! Why did you write in the book?”

“I didn’t write in the book, Meredith.”

“Yes you did! See, it says it right here. And you wrote it in ink, so I can’t even try to erase it!”

“I didn’t write in the book,” I repeated as she handed me “Betsy Ross and the Flag,” opened to the flyleaf.

There, in ink, the book had been signed, “To Lissa Southwick from Betsy McMillan, Christmas 1959.”

“See!” Meredith insisted.

I stared at the book. The writing was indeed mine or an incredible facsimile! A chill came over me and every hair on my body stood on end.

“Meredith, I didn’t write this,” I said. “You see here, where it says Christmas 1959? I was younger in 1959 than you are right now. My last name wasn’t McMillan in 1959. I didn’t become a McMillan until I married your father.”

“Then who wrote in the book?” she asked, still teary-eyed.

“Evidently someone named Betsy McMillan, but many, many years ago. Don’t worry, Meredith. You won’t get into trouble for this.”

She headed back to her bedroom, somewhat placated. I kept the book in the kitchen until my husband got home. After he settled in, I said, “Take a look at this.”

He picked up the book, looked at it and said, “Why did you write in the book?”

“I didn’t!”

“It’s your writing,” he said.

“Exactly. But look at the date!”

He read it again. “1959? How did you sign this in 1959?”

“I didn’t! I never wrote in the book at all! How weird it that?”

After the book report was finished, I took Meredith and the book in question back to the library. I went to the desk and asked the librarian about the inscription.

“Many of the older books we have were donated from people’s personal collections,” she replied.

“Do you mind if I make copies of the flyleaf?” I asked.

“Not at all.”

I made a dozen photocopies, then went back to the desk. “May I ask a favor?”


“I know from past years that the library sells off the old books in an annual sale. If the time comes that this book is ready for the sale table, can you call me? I would really love to have this copy.”

I explained to her the bizarre coincidence of my name in my handwriting being in the book. She agreed. I gave her my name and phone number and we headed home.

For several months I sent inquiries to every Southwick and McMillan that I could find in the local phone books, but I received no replies. Eventually I put thoughts of “Betsy Ross and the Flag” behind me.

About ten years later, I got a call from the library. They had set “Betsy Ross and the Flag” aside for me. I raced up to the library and picked up the book. I opened it to the flyleaf and looked at the inscription. It still made my hair stand on end. I took it home and put it on a shelf where it remains to this day…another strange and unexplained occurrence in my lifetime of experiences!


Fast forward to 2016 and a story twist 25 years in the making. Let me start by saying that in my early career as a writer, I used the pen name Elizabeth Blackstone for my first two books, then, deciding it was too much trouble, began using M.E. Betsy McMillan (easier to remember when doing book signing events).

Yesterday morning, I turned on my computer, which is my normal practice, as I was getting ready to head off to work. Normally I click on the email and do a general delete, delete, delete, unless I recognize a sender or know it's something of importance. As I was doing my delete, delete, delete, I barely stopped myself from hitting the button when a subject line with the words "Betsy Ross" caught my eye. The email was as follows.

"Hello.  I just read the story of Betsy Ross and the Flag posted in 2009. This is the Lissa Southwick from the flyleaf.  Let me know if you still have the book. Are you in Ohio?"  Of course, it was signed with her married name and a phone number, so I decided to give the lady a call. 

After the requisite introductions, she asked what I wanted to know, and offered to tell me how the book had come into her possession.  It seems that her mother's best friend, Elizabeth Stone, married Charles McMillan.  They had a daughter, who they named Elizabeth Stone McMillan, but they called her Betsy. Lissa and Betsy were best friends, and Lissa gave her the book for Christmas.

You've got to admit, the whole 25-year saga is incredibly strange. My daughter brings home the book. My signature is in the book. The library gives me the book years later. I write a blog post about the book.  Then 25 years after first seeing the book, the woman who owned the book 60 years ago Googles her maiden name and somehow finds my blog post from 2009 and contacts me about it. And to make the story even more strange, her friend's name was Elizabeth (aka Betsy) Stone McMillan, and I'm Betsy McMillan aka Elizabeth Blackstone
You just can't make this stuff up!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Village Pub, Perry OH

Well I finally tried it...the newest eatery in town, Village Pub.  Co-owned by Chuck Beal and his restaurant partner(s), as well as Loreto Development, the pub opened around June 1st. This is not Chuck's first venture into the restaurant business.  He and his restaurant partner(s) also own Firehouse Grille and Pub in Willoughby Hills and Beal's Pickles & Pints in Willoughby. 

The menu at the pub is a combination of the best sellers from the other two establishments.  The restaurant took over three storefronts on Center Road in Perry, and the inside is clean, welcoming, and very nicely decorated.  There are plenty of TVs mounted up high for the sports-minder customer, but the place also has a strong family feel.  There were families with teens and families with younger children eating there when I arrived.

I was very pleased with the quality of the food, the excellent friendly service, and the reasonable prices.  I had a Pub Burger that was huge, and it was loaded with lettuce, tomato, provolone, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms all stacked on an fresh toasted artisan roll.  For my libation, I added a tasty glass of Leonard Kreusch Riesling.  I will definitely be going back for more. 

What really impressed me was watching Chuck as he greeted and served the customers whenever the waitress was busy with other tasks.  He even cleared tables and swept the floor.  You can tell he cares deeply about presenting a clean and well-kept establishment.  Chuck is definitely someone who loves his chosen profession!  I recommend giving Village Pub a try!

The Village Pub is open 7 days a week starting at 11 a.m.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nothing Like a Political Time Bomb

Well, once again, it’s been far too long since I posted here.  Work has been a prohibiting factor for the last several months.  These 9 to 10 hour days are taking a toll.  Also, I‘ve just been diagnosed with some pretty severe anemia, which is only exacerbating the whole fatigue situation.  My life has become a never-ending rolling wheel of work, eat, sleep, repeat.  No brain power seems to come forth when I place myself in front of this screen.  I need to get back to my creative self…soon!

So here it is, Mother’s Day.  I’m not planning anything of import.  Chris is not making it home from New Jersey.  Meredith is busily doing nothing as Gary and the kids provide her with her every need.  Jim went out to Mentor Headlands to conduct some walking pole business.  Although I truly enjoy being home alone, I decided a change of scenery would help dig up a bit of the creativity I’ve been missing of late.  As a result, I’m sitting here at Hundley Cellars, drinking a lovely Traminette, eating the best soft pretzels around, and listening to bluegrass background music as I type.

Now to what’s been happening while I’ve been living life in a zombie-like state.

Politically, could we be in any worse shape?  Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican candidate.  Only in America could such a complete travesty occur.  He is a candidate with zero political experience.  He is a businessman who has repeatedly declared bankruptcy to avoid paying business debts (he’s a whole lot better at playing the system for millions than the typical food stamp recipient…but then again, using the system is okay for him but not for anyone of lesser stature).  He riles his followers with extremely base and vile rhetoric.  He has no decency, no charm, no honesty.  He spews misogyny, profanity, vulgar innuendo, racism, and prejudice in all its forms, bringing out the worst in those who think he is some kind of savior.  Let me clue you in, Trump followers.  He has no clue what your problems are and he has no intention of solving them.  He seeks only his own power.  He is a narcissist who would be even happier if he could turn the presidency into a dictatorship.  He is the man who would be king.  Stop for a moment and listen to what he is actually saying about the issues…when asked a question, he can barely repeat the question back much less form a coherent response.  My mother, when she was in the throes of dementia, could answer any question in a more lucid fashion.

What is the answer?  Regardless of your political affiliation, the only way to keep Trump out of the White House is to vote for whichever Democrat comes out on top in the convention.  

Well, Bernie is a socialist, you say.  He has been in the senate for years, and although controversial, I believe he has the best interests of the American people at heart.  As we all know, without the backing of congress, the majority of his socialist programs will never come to fruition.
Well, Hillary is a criminal, you say.  And yet those charges have not been proven.  And unless she was selling secrets to the enemy in those emails, they likely had no impact on our security.  As for Benghazi, the republicans refused to increase funding for security at our foreign embassies, not to mention that, attacks on American diplomats at their homes, driving to their embassy, or at the actual embassy or consulate during the Bush administration totaled 39.  In 20 of those attacks, at least 1 person was killed, but saying that is misleading when the total number of fatalities was actually 87.  They were a blip on the radar.  Each of these attacks was labeled a tragedy and the blame was placed on those who precipitated the attacks, not on those in Washington.  Were mistakes made in Benghazi? Probably.  Was it a criminal offense on the part of Secretary of State Clinton?  So far no investigation in the many investigations that have been conducted has found any wrong doing.
Who is more qualified, Hillary or Bernie?  Hands down Hillary.  Former first lady, former senator, former Secretary of State, she has a huge amount of experience with foreign diplomats and government officials.  And I think she has proven that she can handle adversity and come out on top.
Like Hillary or don’t like her.  Like Bernie or don’t like him.  One or the other is the only viable option for keeping the Trump lunacy out of the White House.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Joey Martin Feek

4:16 a.m.  My computer is still with Joe, who is attempting to perform a miraculous resurrection after a bout with the vendu virus.  I have to say, it’s hell being computer-less for a week.  I haven’t succumbed to madness yet, but I’m close.  I was unable to sleep, so here I am, typing away on Jim’s machine in a desperate attempt to distract myself, but it’s not working.  All I can think about is Joey Feek, who passed away Friday afternoon. 

It’s been difficult for her family, friends, and fans to watch her struggle through the pain and incapacity of the last several months.  We watched as a beautiful, energetic, vivacious woman put up the fight of her life before cancer sucked that precious life away.  The strength and bravery of her story are undeniable.  By inviting us to share in her experience, and with Rory’s courage in documenting and posting not just the painful and heartbreaking moments, but the tender and joyful ones as well, we find we’ve been schooled in the art of living life to the fullest until the last possible moment…and then departing with peace, grace, and dignity.  I would like to think that Joey is riding horses and planting a garden in heaven, between performances with the choirs of angels.  And she is surely watching over Rory and Indy with unlimited and unconditional love.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Friday, well actually Saturday.

It's been a particularly busy week, both at work and at home. Yet, here I am, at almost 2 a.m., feeling like I'm not holding up my end of the agreement I made with myself...did I say it's 2 a.m? On a really positive note, I scheduled my private writing retreat at Steve Fitzgerald's "President's Cottage" on Middle Bass Island for September. We haven't made it to spring yet, and here I am gleefully anticipating fall!

I look forward to every writing trip, whether it's 24 hours or 5 days. In my opinion, having several consecutive days of uninterrupted time is a Godsend for any writer. I get huge sections of writing done when I remove myself from my normal surroundings. Planning and saving for these writing trips was one of the best ideas I've ever had.  I highly recommend it to all serious writers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tuesday, actually Wednesday...very early

Another long day...worked, then went to Cecil's house to record another conversation about his life.  Cecil is an old friend who has long since retired from our place of mutual employment.  He was the first African American hired by Diamond Alkali (later known as Diamond Shamrock) to fill a scientific position.  Cecil is a fabulous storyteller, and I am helping him compile the stories of his life into book form, so he can leave those stories for his family and friends and perhaps for a whole generation of young men and women who need to be inspired.  I stopped for half an hour at Words and Wine Poetry Night, run by Margie DeLong.  Then I headed home, ate some crock pot beef stew while watching some of the best 50 Super Bowl commercials.  At 10:00 I started a Morena Rum Cake to take to work and got everything ready to make 5 lbs of cheesy potatoes for technician appreciation lunch tomorrow.  Finally managed to get upstairs at 1:30.  I'd be in bed already, but I needed to write a blog!  Let's see how long I can keep this up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

Perhaps I should try for every other day?  The week is starting out in extremely busy mode.  Dentist appointment this morning, followed by work. a quick dinner, then off to choir practice.  I should be sitting down here again in about 15 hours.  Somehow I doubt I'll be feeling inspired, but one never knows...