A Look Back

This year I will have 49 posts, counting this one. Last year I had 51 but this year I was hacked which was one of many life events that cut into time for blogging. As I have said frequently this year, it was harder to post once a week.

I am on track to end the year with 3160 tweets. I will have tweeted 538 times this year which is well over once a day. The political situation makes it pretty easy to tweet frequently. I still can’t tweet my URL and I don’t think I will ever be able to again.

In my goals for 2018, I mentioned doing more on Instagram. That hasn’t really happened because many of my posts don’t have pictures. It is not really something I care that much about.

My main goal for the year that is ending was to make progress on my book. I finished the fourth chapter in October and I am about halfway through the fifth. I have almost 200 pages done. I wish I had been able to do more but it is what it is.

My other goals were around improving personal habits such as eating and sleeping. This was also a mixed bag. Last spring, my husband and I did the Slim Fast diet. I lost five pounds but  gained it all back. More recently I have tried to focus on healthy, anti-inflammatory eating and I have again lost some weight.

My sleeping has been hit or miss with at least one day of insomnia a week. I  haven’t figure out how to be a better sleeper yet but I will let you know when I do.

I now skate three days a week and I do feel I am improving. I have also started doing off ice training which is great.

This year was pretty much like other years . There was some really good stuff, like attending skating camp and some really bad stuff like my mother-in-law dying. That’s life.

Unforeseen Circumstances

I had every intention of writing a blog post this week. Yesterday around 11:30 a.m., I realized the power cord to my laptop was broken and I only had about 25 percent of the battery left.

The tip had broken and part of it was still in the port. It took a while to get it out. I googled replacement cords and found one on Amazon.  Amazon promised next day delivery so I bought it.

I then tried to see if  Asus would send me a new cord since the computer was under warranty. No luck. Cords are not covered under the warranty.

I feel that is a new thing because in the past I have gotten new cords. It is bad that they aren’t part of the warranty because power cords are always the first thing to break on a laptop. The tips are so flimsy and so is the port.

All of this drama with the cord prevented me from writing something. I didn’t get the new cord until around 2 today and I had an appointment for 2:30 . I didn’t get home until about 5:30.

There also won’t be a  post next week  since I will be away. I promise I will have a new post November 23. Happy Thanksgiving!



At the same time that I was doing genealogical research on my great-uncle, Abe, I was also researching another child. My grandmother, Celia and grandfather, Albert got married in October, 1918. My mother was born in August, 1921. However, I always knew they had had a son before my mother and that he died when he was a baby.

I didn’t know when the boy was born or how long he lived. This made searching for him very difficult. The window between his birth and my mother’s appeared to be between 2 and 3 years, if he was premature. The short life of the child  put him between census years.

At various times I thought I had found the baby but it turned out the dates were wrong or the infant wasn’t Jewish. I kept looking in the cemeteries where I knew my other relatives were buried but nothing panned out. Finally, after having rejected a baby named Benjamin, that child turned up in Ancestry with workable dates and a burial in the Hebrew Free Burial Association section of Mount Richmond Cemetery in Staten Island.

The records from the cemetery showed the baby lived at the same address as my grandparents. The only question was why did the record show him as being born in Russia? This turned out to be a scribners error. The name Benjamin made perfect sense since I was sure Celia would name her first child after her mother, Bessie.

When Benjamin died my grandmother worried she might never have another child. In August 1921, when my mother was born, Celia named her Beatrice, probably to honor both Benjamin and Bessie.

Benjamin’s death certificate confirmed he was my grandparent’s child. He was born Aug. 11 1919 and died four months later on Dec. 16, 1919. Benjamin died  from bronchopneumonia which seems to indicate his death was part of the flu pandemic. I plan to visit Benjamin’s grave in Staten Island so I will keep you posted.

It must have been so sad for my grandparents when Benjamin died. I feel very badly for them. I am glad that they weren’t victims of the flu since if they hadn’t I wouldn’t be here. My grandparents were wonderful people and terrific grandparents.  May their memories be for blessings.







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.




Reflection’s of a Professor’s Wife

I have continued working on my new book  about faculty wives and I am almost done with the fourth chapter which is about the socioeconomic status of academics. The chapter starts in the 1910s and ends with the effects of the Great Depression on college communities.

This is an excerpt from the chapter. The life of the anonymous writer is eerily similar to many experiences I have had as a woman with a Ph.D who is married to a college professor.

In 1882, 65 college-educated women from eight colleges founded the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. The ACA published a journal until it merged with the Southern Association of College Women, becoming the American Association of University Women.

In the January 1921 issue, an anonymous writer described her discontent being married to a professor. When the couple first married they were equals; both were teachers. After two years of marriage they both enrolled in graduate school, pursing the Ph.D. “Looking back upon those years, I think of them as the happiest in many respects that we have spent together. We were more truly comrades than we have been at any other time…. We were in every sense equals.”[1]

After graduate school, the husband got a job at a state university in a small town. Her plan was to teach but a roadblock emerged in the form of “a ruling which eliminated wives of members of the faculty from teaching in the university.”[2] The wife could not use her education in paid employment and absent a salary she had to keep house.

“I put on my apron and went into the kitchen where for six years I have cooked a professor’s meals and pondered over the policy of our university. Can it be in the divine order of things that one Ph.D. should wash dishes a whole lifetime for another Ph.D. just because one is a woman and the other a man.”[3]

Her duties as a professor’s wife did not stop at housework. Social obligations required a considerable amount of “unpaid service.” “Through faculty women’s clubs composed of the women of the faculty and wives of faculty members and wives of faculty members she (the wife) spends much energy helping arrange receptions, teas and picnics for the faculty group.”[4]

Being unable to progress in her career or pursue her scholarship created tensions in the marriage. “… There is no real companionship between a husband and wife who are not growing together and it is difficult for them to develop equally under existing conditions.”

The situation of this writer who was probably anonymous as to not jeopardize her husband’s career, was typical of many faculty wives throughout the twentieth century. The nepotism rules that prevented her from working were widespread in the early twentieth century, increased during the Depression and World War II and persisted into the 1970s.

[1] “Reflections of a Professor’s Wife,” The journal of the Association pf Collegiate Alumnae,” vol. 144, 1921, p. 90-92.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

© Amy Mittelman 2018

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.

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