Tag Archives: East Lansing Michigan

Anniversary

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

This is not how I wanted this quick post to look but the cursor gets stuck at the end of the label so I have to start here. The rose will end up at the bottom. Sorry!

The roses seemed appropiate. On 9 May 1953, my mother Elizabeth Faye Powers (Anderson, divorced from) married Allen E. Conrad in a beautiful Episcopal ceremony at the Chapel of the Incarnation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, on Ottawa Street, in Lansing, Michigan. The bride wore a ballerina length pink tulle and satin dress with a matching pillbox hat, pearls and gloves and shoes. The groom wore a dark suit. Their families were present and absolutely everyone smiled with love, happiness and best wishes.

My brother wore a dark suit with short pants (he was 6) and lucked out, along with future film director and producer John(ny) Hughes. (Yes, the same “Pretty in Pink” guy. No, the title does not refer to my mother that day.) It was sweltering, almost 90 degrees and, being Michigan, humid.

I had a pale blue organdy dress with white embroidery and a smocked bodice, custom made for me. I wore some artificial flowers in my hair, white anklet socks and white shoes. Guess what? I looked oh-so-adorable and felt oh-so-miserable! Organdy does not exactly breathe and someone forgot to line the dress, so the gathers inside scratched my all day long. In the pictures taken that day, I look like I want to burst into tears, and I probably did, but it was because of the heat, humidity and the dress. Otherwise, I was really happy because–FINALLY!!!–I would have what everyone else in my neighborhood had–a father! (My actual father, Mr. Anderson, was quite alive, and married by then to someone else.) Worse, we were living at the time in a really  nice (pretty, well-kept-up) CATHOLIC neighborhood. Everyone else had fathers. My brother and I did not, and in 1953, that just was not cool.

The wonderful reception afterward was at the Lansing Country Club and I won’t get into the details about it here. It was fun, though. My brother REO, me, Crickie (Christine) Hughes, her brother Johnny, their father (great guy!) and their mother (my mother’s matron of honor), plus many Anderson cousins (their parents were friends of my mother’s, regardless of the divorce) and meeting new Conrad cousins running loose in the well-manicured grounds of the club, plus food and I think we (as children) had ice cream. We had to have something–the heat was toasting us. Grown-ups had champagne. There was a buffet and then the wedding ccake was cut and served. There was dancing. Photos were taken.

Eventually, the newlyweds disappeared into someplace inside the club (don’t ask me where) and changed clothes. Then the entire wedding party with reception piled into those lovely huge 1950s cars (mostly Oldsmobiles, as Lansing was the number one “factory outlet”) and went off to Lansing’s Capital City Airport. The newlyweds were going to San Francisco for their honeymoon, flying from Lansing to Chicago on Capitol Airlines (“the Blue Goose”) to catch the flight west. I do remember Mom wearing an orchid corsage on her suit’s jacket. We all threw rice at the couple (and anyone who happened to be in range) as they left the terminal and walked to the DC-3 about 20 feet from the terminal. They waved from the door and the wedding photographer got that shot, too. (It’s in the album.)

No, REO and I were not abandoned in our new house in East Lansing. Mom’s mother and sister were with us, although my aunt had to return to her job in Houston after a few days. Nana stayed until Mom and our new Dad got back from San Francisco, bringing some interesting souvenirs.

By the time of my 8th birthday, 5 June, we had settled into life at 621 Rosewood. It was summer and we were a family. That was very cool.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All rights reserved.

 

Rose Tondo #1 ('97)

This rose tondo is the first of two, with the flowers in oil and the surround in acrylic.

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This is not happening. Yes, it is.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved

On Becoming a Bum

I sat on the nice couch yesterday in a nice apartment in Chapinero, and burst into tears. I felt deeply embarrassed, humiliated and shrinking into nothingness. Across from me sat Martha, a friend since 1968, and we were discussing my options for survival, which are almost nil.

Martha’s summation of events leading to my current situation was concise and balanced. No Social Security, no welfare, no job, no husband, no children. Living in a hostal at USD 15/night, little food, my dogs cared for by others, my personal property (including clothes) locked up by someone who simply got mad at me.

Once upon a time, I lived in nice apartments in Chapinero, a now-classic residential-but-going-too-commercial neighborhood in Bogota. I had nice clothes. I had plans and hopes for the future. I had friends. I wrote my mother twice a month, my father once a month, and they wrote back. This was years before direct long distance dialing although we kept writing regardless of phone service. I was writing and in the Seventies began to start painting and take my photography more seriously. I was beginning to become an artist.

In the US, my brother and sisters went to college, got married, had children, etc. I went to REO’s first wedding because his fiancee asked me to be a bridesmaid. That was in 1967, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Lansing, Michigan, on a warm July evening.

Last family wedding I ever attended. I was invited to Debbie’s wedding, received an announcement about Katrina’s, and was openly excluded from my niece Heather’s hippie-dippie-in-a-field wedding in the 1980s. My mother had a fit about that, but by then, exclusion from family events had become standard practice. I was out of sight, therefore out of mind. Only letters from Mom or Dad let me know about family events.

Flash forward – 2003.  My father died around noon on Friday, 21 February 2003. My brother REO lived about 80 miles away. He was notified with a message left on his answering machine at 6 p.m. on Saturday, 22 Feb., which he heard at 11 p.m. that night. According to his second wife, he went so ballistic that he was still incoherent on Sunday morning when she called me in Houston, Texas. I was there to help my mother whose sister had died two weeks earlier.

The memorial service for Dad was scheduled for the following Tuesday morning. I was there, with REO and his family, to everyone’s obvious surprise. He and I, as Episcopalians and as Olds Anderson’s oldest children, made sure we were first in line to take communion at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, where Dad had sung in the choir. (His widow and their daughters were/are Christian Scientists.) The British minister emphasized how well-liked and respected Mr. Anderson was at the church.

Later we learned Dad had almost cut us out of his Will, in favor of his widow and their daughters. The provisions, according to his lawyer (so embarrassed he could barely look me in the eye), were very specific. 1. Mr. Anderson left a small fixed amount to each child. 2.The bulk of his estate went to his wife and their daughters. 3. Any claim against the estate protesting this distribution would automatically exclude the protester from future distribution of said estate.

May 2006 — REO calls to say, “Just thought you should know Mom died yesterday and I had her cremated. She didn’t leave any written instructions about her things so–” he snickered “I can do what I want.” And he did.

Flash Forward and Backward — When Doris Berkey Davis became Mrs. R E Olds Anderson, she acquired me and REO as stepchildren, like it or not. We had been born during his marriage to Elizabeth Faye Powers between 1943 and 1948. None of the parties involved may have liked the situation, but being a “step-something” is a legality. No big deal.

Doris had a daughter, Diane, by her first marriage, who was legally adopted by the new husband. Then they had two more daughters.

November 2012 — Doris B. Anderson dies of natural causes (age 92).

Mid-year 2014 — Metta Jane Anderson, out of curiosity, stumbles across the tidbit that the woman who had been such a part of her life since 1946, had died on November 25, 2012. In an obituary in The Lansing State Journal, Metta Jane is listed as a surviving stepdaughter (and REO as a surviving stepson).

I sent a short and nasty note to REO–“I guess you were so overcome with grief over Doris’s death that you forgot to tell me.”

His reply–“Diane said she was going to tell you.”

Yeah? Since when are these two such close and trusting friends?

Meanwhile, and since 2012, I have been having serious financial trouble. I have asked for help from “the family.” There are four of them. One of me. I suggested that any economic aid be divided among the four, e.g., USD 250.00 per person per month.

Nothin’ doin’.

Instead of help, I get a sadistic and very unrealistic version of “tough love.”  In synthesis– Proposition Number 1. I get rid of everything–dogs, books, bed (an inherited antique), photo equipment, art materials, etc. I will be given a one-way economy class ticket to wherever I want to live IN THE US. REO and Diane will support me while I get a job paying roughly USD 3000 to USD 5000/month or til I qualify for welfare. (The figures for my support come from the US Consulate in Bogota. They feel the wiser plan would be to leave me here and pay my rent. Total Cost per month–USD 1500 to USD 2500/month. This is rent, utilities and some food. The rest would come from teaching and selling my art.)

Proposition Number 2.  Now in effect. No one sends me anything. So far, REO has had no problems with that. Diane relented somewhat–she sent money to cover the replacements for my visa and my Colombian ID (called a cedula), but not the passport. The US Consulate informed her that the passport is required for the other documents. She refused to change her mind so I had to find someone else to pay for it (USD 135.00).  And since I’m living in a hostal, I used the rest to keep a roof over my head.

Diane also sent some money at Christmas. It went to the hostal as well.

So I have come down to this–I am a beggar. I used to have clean clothes, decent food, live in a decent apartment with my dogs.  Now, USD 15/night separates me from sleeping in the street and not smelling. USD 20 (that’s five dollars for food per day) feeds me.

I do not qualify for Social Security, but that’s another story for another day.

I do not qualify for welfare either in Colombia or in the US. They use identical qualifying systems. I have a college degree, I do not have any handicaps and I do not have minor children. I am not a caretaker (caregiver?) for handicapped children or adults.

My family’s supposed “tough love” approach puts my entire life in serious jeopardy and is also illegal in the US as well as in Colombia. It’s called “abandonment of a senior citizen” (rough translation).

What my family is doing is to reject the educated adult artist and writer I am while attempting to exercise a control that has never been in their power before. That this causes me enormous emotional and physical pain as well as psychological damage does not interest them in the slightest. It also leaves them blind to other consequences–e.g., if they refuse to help me where I am now, how can I trust them to help me in the US?

Second, I speak “legalese” in two languages. How quickly do you think I’d get a lawyer in Michigan or any other part of the US and sue them for damages (pain and suffering caused by their negligence)?

Third, I am a very good writer. How would they feel about a tell-all novel making them look worse than they are?

So there I sat, crying on Martha’s shoulder, seriously talking about suicide as my only alternative. I’ve lived in Bogota for 48 years (49 in March). This is home. Even a first year psychiatric student could tell  you how damaging it would be to uproot me and force me into an environment so different from the one I’ve witnessed change from backward to futuristic in barely a generation.

I cried too because the woman sitting across from Martha is not the confident, nicely-dressed and relaxed woman she met years ago. That woman has become a bum, deprived of a decent place to live and work, deprived of decent food, deprived of her clothes and her dogs, deprived of her art materials (and therefore deprived of her ability to earn a living, which is a felony crime in Colombia), and deprived of tomorrow.

All this because a very well-educated and well-to-do family still lives in 1960 in East Lansing, Michigan, and insists that I do the same.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

 

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How Schools Might Work. . .

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

This is a variation on a topic proposed in The Daily Post last week, which was, “Name One Thing You Wish You Could Go Back and Change About Your Education?”

In my case, there are several thing I’d like to change, starting with my parents. I went to good schools, but between a couple of teachers totally unprepared for girls with brains (and  no modesty about that) and my parents’ uncontrolled neuroses, I really thought I’d gone to bad schools.

But then, I moved to a foreign country and was able to teach, which changed my perspective. Therefore, many years later, with the advent of digital whatever, as well as my memories and experiences, I’ve come to the following conclusions. Rest assured that my ideas and recommendations will never be incorporated into any curriculae, but at the very least, I’m hoping that parents of young children will think about what I’m saying. So, herewith, how schools [and parents] might work.

First of all, education and general culture start in the home. Turn off that damned TV and any other screen projecting movement. Leave on the radio, but tune it a classical music station. And then, depending on the age and abilities of the child(ren), teach them to read. My mother taught me to read when I was four, and never told me what I could or could not read. (Of course, we’re talking about 1949 to 1950-ish, long before Peyton Place and novels like it became “Must Read!”) Anyway, she did teach me, and when I got to kindergarten and first grade, she was harangued by misguided teachers (or rather, power-tripping teachers and principals) who insisted I was “too young” to be taught to read! (So be prepared for a lot of flack when you decide to help your intelligent child become more intelligent.)

Because of this, she did not teach my brother to read and therefore did not discover he was dyslexic til he was flunking out of third grade. She did, however, read to him (and to me; REO and I are 14 months apart), as did our grandmother GaGa (real name: Gladys Olds Anderson, but the “gla” was difficult for us to pronounce; hence, “GaGa.” More about her at a future date.). In both cases, these women would invent different voices to match the characters and the narrative.

Okay, Point #1–First the parents teach children, and then the school follows up and has teachers read to students, at least among the little kids.

Second–and so radically old-fashioned I’m anticipating a lot of protest–reinstate penmanship, starting in second grade.

Pencils and pens (and brushes) are not war clubs. Several years ago, I was in line at the check-out counter at a supermarket and watched a college girl (this was in East Lansing, home of the Michigan State Spartans) write a check. Gripping the pen was so difficult for her that she stood at the little shelf in front of her all hunched over, frowning in concentration, the pen in a kind of strangle-hold between three fingers and a thumb. She seemed to be in agony while writing out the sum of her purchase, to Goodrich’s (the supermarket) and then her own name.

In contrast, my penmanship was honed by my maternal grandmother and my mother who had been taught the Palmer method (advanced cursive script without flourishes). Yes, by the fifth grade I had learned to join letters together and the whole class labored over the exercises at least twice a week. Those who became doctors (and I know that one became a pediatric neurosurgeon in Seattle and the other a psychiatrist in California) have certainly forgotten those lessons by now, but ‘way back then, the future Dr. Westerman learned to write a complete book report legibly, by hand. In the meantime, I used to be asked to address invitations and these days, all my notetaking for my novels is done on lined notebook paper. I have tried to do all this on typewriters and computers, but mybrain freezes. I really need the pen in my hand and the movement of the two across the paper in order for the ideas to flow freely.

There have been innumerable neurological and educational studies that show over and over the importance of hand and eye coordination. These days, that’s been subverted to show that video games help soldiers become better and more accurate shooters. Cute. Too bad the long term results of learning to kill vicariously aren’t measured at the same time, because I doubt there’s a positive outcome to this training.

Essentially, the eye/hand coordination developed when learning penmanship also helps the eyes deal with three dimensions (“depth-of-field,” for photographers and the artistically-inclined drivers’ ed teachers), which is not a bad thing either. But mostly, on deeper levels, penmanship (writing cursively) helps the brain develop the ability to connect ideas. The letters in an alphabet are merely symbols. Each symbol represents one thing. When a word is printed, the brain sees a collection of symbols that represent just one thing in isolation. Cursive writing eliminates the isolation of ideas and the brain deals with complex ideas. In other words, cursive writing helps a person think, and even learn to think, as well as to see with his/her brain.

This raises a question–why don’t schools teach penmanship anymore? Usually the reason is economic, as well as cultural and even psychological. Schools believe that teaching penmanship will cost them more money; they might even have to hire someone with a master’s degree in this area. (Today, they might be right, considering how many people never learned to use a pencil correctly, much less a pen. On the other hand, this is confusing penmanship with calligraphy, which is a separate issue.) Culturally, it’s probably unheard-of now to compliment someone on his/her penmanship, so just the concept of cursive writing is no longer a “hot button” item. Psychologically, there’s nothing like envy to squash even the most modest educational ideas. A teacher who actually can teach penmanship and who has beautiful handwriting may hesitate to ruffle feathers in the teachers’ lounge because her teaching draws student acclaim.

So we’re back to the parents. Turn on the computer and/or go to the library and used book stores. Find the material and then sit down with your child(ren) at least one day a week to practice the lessons. This is even cheap–just a couple of pencils and some lined notebook paper. And then talk about what you’re doing and praise each other for going from boxy isolation to eventual elegance. To reinforce the idea, put on Baroque music in the background (Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann, etc.). Part of the brain will follow the music, and then the hand and the eyes will do the same over the paper.  Children learn something, parents get to spend time with their children. What better way is there to educate anyone?

So, to answer the question about how schools might work, the answer might be–encourage the parents to do some of the teaching. However, the schools should be prepared for the backlash–parents demanding better teaching in basic subjects.

Hm-m-m-m. . . Too radical?

(c) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

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Pre-Publication Jitters – Part One

I wrote a novel which will be published in June or July 2011 and be available on Amazon.com. The hardest part has been so far writing a synopsis of any kind for any reason, so I will launch one here. Those of you who are confused after reading it, please let me know. I try to be clear, but writing a synopsis only brings back a warning given to all his students by one of my art teachers at MSU–“Try not to discuss your work. You only sound ridiculous when you do.” By and large, he’s been correct. If I try to explain or have to explain a straight black and white photo or a non-abstract oil painting, I, too, sound pathetically obtuse. The same goes for me as a writer with the synopsis of a slightly complex story. So bear with me, please.

Grace Alice Adamson grows up in East Lansing, Michigan, but that leaves her little in common with her contemporaries. She’s pretty but her father rejects her and her mother always complains that she doesn’t look like one of the models in “Seventeen.” And that’s for starters.

At the same time, she is around very bright, well-educated people almost all the time, and reads constantly. She reads above her class level, which does not get applause from her teachers at East Lansing Junior and Senior High Schools.

She travels with her family quite a bit, and writes about the trips in her diary, which is the basis for the book. Her entries include drawings and photos, and the kind of sweetness one can expect from a bright girl who’s usually told she can’t do anything right or well. Her intellectual equals are few, and one is a nice psychiatrist to whom she is sent because her family (especially her mother) keeps trying to exert control over her for no understandable reason. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, keeps trying to make appointments with her parents, who refuse because they feel they are of sound mind and body, while the daughter is not.

Needless to say, Grace is really anxious to blow town, and eventually, she does. Having the means to do it helps a lot, and she goes to Bogotá, Colombia. Long before it became famous for drugs and kidnapping and a lot of other things.

And this is only the first part of a series. “NOVELESCO: A Woman’s Life as Fiction” starts in 1960, and Part I ends in March 1966. Part II will start there.

“NOVELESCO: A Woman’s Life as Fiction” is also an illustrated novel, because that’s what I grew up reading. I have no problem including little sketches or diagrams and some photos in the text. I think it helps the reader from time to time. Technologically, on a computer this is a piece of cake, compared to the offset processes previously required to add even one little drawing on the title page. (I even have some art books with a color plate tipped in (a person glues the image down along the top edge) on the title page.) However, the current publisher’s “design team” seems to have a problem with that, which makes me wonder about their cultural level. But since this is only one book, and since I spoke with an Argentine publisher last week, who thought the idea of illustrating the book was unique, I will try not to worry too much about the subject. There are 47 illustrations, in about 250 pages, but they’re small. Except one toward the end, which is a color photo of the Peruvian Andes I took in July 1965. That covers most of the page. You’ll have to buy the book to find out why.

I hope I’ve interested you in my book. I will keep you posted on the progress of the publication, along with an announcement of the publication.

Have a nice Mother’s Day!

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