This is a picture of my grandmother, Ceil with her three siblings and another relative at the graveside of my great-grandmother, Bessie Shapiro. My grandmother is the one with her head against the stone. This picture is so sad since Bessie died in 1914, aged 36, and left four children. The youngest, the little boy in the picture, was five.

For about four years I have been searching for that little boy whom family stories said died around the same time as his mother. Growing up, I was never told his name and none of my remaining relatives knew it either.

I first started by using Ancestry to try to find the family in census data. The Shapiros are in the 1910 Census. One problem was that Ancestry read the little boy’s name as Olive. Of course I knew his name was not Olive since it is a non-Jewish girl’s name. Because Ancestry  coded him as Olive, it made it very difficult to search  for him in other databases on the site.

Although I had the picture of the family at the grave when I began my search I didn’t know where Bessie was buried.   My working hypotheses was that the little boy would be buried where his mother was, especially if he died soon after her.

It turns he didn’t died right after Bessie but lived to be twelve years old. I spent a lot of time looking at the handwriting in the 1910 census and eventually decided the child’s name was Abie.

In the 1920 Census there is a Shapiro family  with my great-grandfather Sam, his second wife, her children and my grandmother’s three siblings including Abie.

By the time I figured this out I had found out that Bessie was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens.  There was an Abe there also but Shapiro was spelt Schapiro. Eventually I found that both Bessie and Abe were buried in the section of the cemetery for the United Mazirer Society which was one of many Jewish burial societies.

After all that I was able to get Abe’s death certificate which listed his mother Bessie and his father Sam. He died of encephalitis with a secondary or contributory cause being respiratory failure. He spent eleven days at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City and died on Feb.21, 1922.

A moth ago, I was able to go to Mount Zion Cemetery and visit both Bessie and Abie.  I was very glad to both name and claim Abe as my relative.



There are 81 days left to 2018. Since the beginning of the summer I feel time has sped up and I have been very busy. Blogging once a week has continued to be difficult . At the same time, it is the one writing commitment that I have kept so it is important to me to post something, anything, every week.

I haven’t really worked on my book since early September.  I am not completely satisfied with the chapter I recently completed but I think I have to let it go for awhile and work on something else.

Politics, genealogy and family have filled the vacuum created by not working on my book. I am still staffing the Take Back the House office and I am helping Jacqueline Maidana run for a seat on the newly created Amherst Town Council.

The genealogical research I have been doing uncovered some things I had been searching for for a long time. I hope to write a post about my findings in the near future.

My family is basically okay but I had to go to see a relative unexpectedly last week.  We were also away for a week in Kansas City attending the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting. This is another thing I plan to write  about in a post.

The next few weeks should be a little calmer but I  think things won’t completely settle down until after Election Day. Please remember to register and please VOTE.


A few months ago, I bought a Fitbit Charge HR2 because I wanted to see how hard I was exercising when I skated. I have had pedometers in the past and they are bad at capturing the stroking you do while skating. I had hoped that the Fitbit would be different but it is a pedometer like every other one I have had. It works best if you are walking.

The heart monitor is also not very accurate. I never get into the peak range when skating even though I know I am really exerting myself by how  out of breath I am. A couple of times when I have done strength training or circuits I have gotten into the peak range.

Fitbit has you set goals. The default is five days of of exercise and 30 minutes daily activity. I don’t really understand why those are two different things. If I do two hours of Tai Chi I don’t get any activity minutes. If I used one of the device’s preset categories like “workout” maybe then I would get both the day of exercise and the activity minutes.

The Fitbit also monitors your sleep. I thought I would hate this feature but I don’t mind it at all. Of course, it is quirky as well. If you are lying down but fully awake it often counts that as sleeping time. It has been interesting to see the different sleep cycles. Sometimes it calculates that you got more sleep than you would have thought based on how much you were tossing and turning. Sometimes it is less than you would have thought.

When I first had the Fitbit, I was motivated to tailor my activity and exercise to its parameters. That has mostly faded. Now I just use it to monitor my goal which is 300 minutes of exercise a week. I try to skate 3 days a week and do Tai Chi one day. Often that is it for the week so I don’t get the five days and Tai Chi doesn’t count as activity so that day I don’t get the thirty minutes of activity.

I got a Fitbit because SuperTracker and the President’s Challenge went out of existence. That and a paper calendar was how I used to track my exercise. I still use a paper calendar to keep track of how many hours I skate so I know when to get my skates sharpened. I really liked SuperTracker better and working on my platinum medal was more motivating.

If you have had experiences with Fibit or other exercise and heart trackers, let me know. If you use something other than a tracker for recording your exercise, I would love to know what that is.




Second time around

Looking over my last few posts I thought I would revisit some of the topics. In Summer I outlined what I was doing during this season. The Take Back the House (TBTH) opening was a huge success. You can see a video about it here. I am still working there and I feel, now more than ever, it is critical to turn the house Democratic.

Skating Camp, which I talked about in Summer and Off to Camp, was terrific. There were only nine of us and the coaches and assistant coaches were so helpful and supportive. It really improved my skating, making me more adventuresome and less fearful. I plan to start some off ice work which should further strengthen my skating.

I am still having trouble sleeping. At least once a week I have a bout of insomnia. My latest thought is to try hypnosis to change my sleeping habits. If anybody has tried that, please me know.

It has been two weeks and I  have watched two  Youtube videos that were on Feedly. I am also reducing my watching of Reality TV since it feels very connected to the rise of Donald Trump, something I fervently wish had never happened. I do not want to be complicit with his fascism in any way,

Several of the posts reference how hard it has been to do weekly posts. That remains true. I put all of the potential changes to my website which I discussed in Half Year Update out of my mind but  it is probably time to start thinking about them again.

Finally in the last month my most viewed post was the one on Methylated Spirits which I wrote five years ago. It had 229 views in 30 days. I average about 20 reads a day. The day I post is not always the day with the most readership which is a bit of a puzzle to me. I am  still thinking about ways to increase readership. If you have any ideas, let me know.

If these more personal posts are not your taste, let me know that as well.


I got rid of YouTube

Wednesday, I removed YouTube from my phone, blocked it on my computer using LeechBlock, and removed the app from my Vizio Smart TV. Why, you might ask.

In general most of the internet and the world-wide web is a total time sink. Most people probably find social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram the most egregious but recently YouTube – particularly makeup videos has taken over my life.

YouTube makeup videos function in exactly the same way as all forms of advertisements. Generate anxiety about a physical characteristic, a social or economic status or the lack of some possession and then provide the solution to the problem the video created in the first place.

As a women of a certain age, YouTube videos about “makeup for mature skin” have sucked me in. Many of the women producing these videos are in their 30s and 40s. The fact that the skin of women of this relatively young age is “mature” seems inherently misogynistic.

For most of my life I was thin and wore little to no makeup. To be honest, menopause changed all that so I was a ripe candidate for the anxiety and advice of YouTube videos.

Ironically many of the women who are in their 60s and even 70 who are making these videos seem to be sincere about helping other women but makeup videos on YouTube is big business and these women are part of it. The production values of the video with professional lighting and filters that remove all wrinkles are the same techniques that television advertisers use.

Makeup videos on YouTube and Instagram  have changed the makeup industry. There are now a set of people, mostly women and mostly makeup artists, who are “influencers”. Makeup companies send them products to review; the subsequent videos are part of the company’s marketing campaign. Thus, your average YouTube makeup video, even if it is a women in her 60s, presents as unreal and unattainable a vision as any Revlon or Maybelline commercial on TV does.

The degree of anxiety and self-dissatisfaction that watching a lot of these videos generate is immense, deeply distracting and even addicting. I therefore did a self-intervention and am going cold turkey. I’ll let you know whether I stay on the wagon or not.


As I have said before, this year it has been difficult for me to find time to blog once a week. Because I don’t have a lot of time. finding topics is harder. Unless I am writing a more personal post like this one, I do have to spend some time  researching and preparing the topic.

Already this summer I have been to New York a couple of times for Yankee games, stayed over for a few days once, gone to a  Jewish retreat and next weekend I am going to an adult skating camp. I also work one day a week at the Take Back the House office in Northampton where I am the office manager. Besides all this, there have been social engagements, regularly scheduled meetings as well as a demonstration against Trump’s immigration policies. I have been making slow but steady progress on my book which is good. In other words I have been living my life rather fulsomely.

Aleph sponsored the Kallah which I went to last weekend. Aleph is one of the branches of Judaism in the United States. It is Jewish Renewal which is a mixture of Kabbalistic or mystical and Hasidic traditions with music and dancing thrown in. The Kallah was a week-long but I only went for Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. Spending Shabbat at Kallah was really a unique and very lively experience.

The Take Back the House office is a coordinated campaign which a coalition of groups is sponsoring. The groups include Swing Left and Indivisible. We are focusing on two races in nearby states: NH2 where there is a Democratic incumbent, Annie Kuster and we are trying to help her hold her seat.

The other race is NY19 where there is a Republican incumbent, John Faso who it would be great to defeat. His opponent is Anthony Delgado. The TBTH office is having its grand opening, July 19 from 5-6:30. It is at 18 Center Street, Northampton. It would be great if any of my local readers  showed up.

The Adult Skating Camp will also be a rather intense experience since I will be doing hours of both on and off ice work. I’ll write more about it after I get back.


What’s the Point?

Recently someone asked me, what is the theme of your blog? It is a good question and one that I am not sure how to answer. I started this blog as part of my attempts to publicize my book, Brewing Battles. At first I kept it strictly focused on beer and brewing history. Then, partly because I didn’t think there was anyone reading it and partly because I have varied interests, I started writing about other stuff.

Friends told me I would get more readers if I stuck to one topic. Lots of people who write about getting more blog readership agree. I guess I felt like it was my personal thing and I could write about whatever  I wanted to.

When I changed my hosting from Network Solutions to Bluehost, I did want the website to reflect that I write about more than just beer. That is why the tagline line is beer, history, women, and nursing. These past two years I have written on a variety of topics and that is probably what I will continue to do.

At the same time I am interested in getting more readers and I am still thinking about how to do that. Recently I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos, mostly about makeup application. Besides being a major waste of time, it has made me think about having a YouTube channel. Not about makeup, which would be ridiculous for many reasons, but about beer. More specifically beer history. My husband’s idea is for me to taste a beer and then talk about its history. I don’t know who would watch but it is a pretty amusing concept.

If I did have a YouTube channel, it is entirely possible that the same thing could happen. I would start by talking about beer but eventually move onto other topics. I guess if someone asks me  what is your blog about that I would answer it is about me, me and all my varied interests and thoughts about the world.

Short Week

We were away over the Memorial Day weekend and then went home for two days to New York. I therefore didn’t have time or enough internet access to produce a blog post on any meaningful topic.

Here is a picture of the scenery  on the long hike we took in Newfane, Vermont.

We also went to Hildene in Manchester, Vermont. Hildene was the summer home of Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son. It was a big house but not ostentatious. It is large property and the views were beautiful.

My favorite room in the house was Mary Lincoln’s study. She was Robert’s wife; the room had a small desk,  a seating area and large windows. The windows looked out on a formal garden. Each square had peonies that were just about to bloom.

On the way home from Brooklyn where we had been visiting our son, we drove past the hospital where I was born. I had never seen the building so it was great to do that. It has been converted into apartments.

Walk to Defeat ALS

On Saturday I will be participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS MA. I am on a team of a local person, Lee Shumway who has the disease. His team is Casey’s Cruisers. I don’t know Lee personally but I found out about his situation on Facebook.

In December 2013, my brother, Fred died from ALS. He was 67. May his memory be for a blessing.

I don’t want anyone else to suffer and die from this disease. There needs to be a cure and that is why I am walking tomorrow. If you want to donate click here.


I often have trouble sleeping. More accurately I have trouble falling asleep. Once I am asleep I can often sleep for a long time; sometimes ten hours. Over the years I have tried a variety of things to help me fall asleep. A few years ago I took an online sleeping course, CBT for Insomnia ,and did well for a while. Then I slipped back.

I have noticed that when I am away, in a hotel or visiting family, I have more of a bedtime routine. That is, I don’t stay up watching TV or looking at my computer. I am more likely to take my evening pills, brush my teeth and go to bed.

In March I went to Florida and did the above night-time routine. When I came home, I tried to continue that. It worked for a while. The stress of daily living intruded and I slipped again. For the last two nights I have decided to go to sleep, proceeded to take my pills, brushed my teeth and gotten into bed. I have then written for a little bit, listened to a sleep meditation on Insight Timer and fallen asleep. It has worked for two nights and I am hoping this will do the trick.

If you have trouble with insomnia, let me know what you have done to solve it. Also if you think I am sharing too much, let me know that.

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