Sunday, May 31, 2009


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On a gorgeous, sunny, breezy spring day, I was doing laundry in the basement and opened the basement door to this scene. In the wind, the tree branches were dancing and making dappled patterns on the concrete next to the stair well that goes to the basement door. The hostas were in their bright green and white dresses ----and all was right with the world.

(Since the spell checker didn't seem to like "hostas" I checked the dictionary just to make sure I was spelling it correctly. The dictionary told me that "hosta" is an eastern Asian plant cultivated in the West for its shade-tolerant foliage and loose clusters of tubular mauve or white flowers. Also called "plantain lily.")

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 4 - Short Fiction

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word challenge.

Ten-word challenge:
parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

This is a continuation of previous entries:  STORMY WEATHER Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


        After the fire department pumped water from Miss Cowpepper’s basement and a crew of volunteers moved her furniture and removed her soaked carpets, several of the volunteers and I scrubbed her floors with disinfectant and cleaned the legs of her furniture. At its high point the water had filled the basement and left an inch of water on her first floor.
        Her living and dining rooms held everything but the kitchen sink, old books and magazines, piles of papers and photographs, old lamps, vases, knickknacks, stacks of china plates,  antique guns, framed shredded flags, military photographs. I wasn’t sure if it was all junk that ought to be on sale at a flea market or museum-quality goods. Luckily Miss Cowpepper had been able to move all but the large furniture from the floor before the water rose.
        We arranged for someone to pressure-wash the basement the next morning, so I would have to be there to let them in. It seemed that I was the only person who had laid eyes on Miss Cowpepper in more than fifty years. She was a diminutive, elderly and reclusive albino who fled upstairs when the other volunteers arrived.
        After they left, I gave her several gallons of bottled water and made sure she had enough food. Miss Cowpepper normally received Meals on Wheels deliveries, but they had been suspended for a few days due to the flood. Her pantry held cereal and several dozen cans of soup. She had milk and cheese in the refrigerator, bread in the bread box, and bananas in a basket beside the sink. She told me her neighbors, the Jennings, delivered groceries each week.
        Miss Cowpepper might have been a recluse, but she seemed to have enough common sense to take care of herself and ask for help for the things she couldn’t do.
        I was not used to so much physical work. Late in the afternoon, I couldn’t wait to get home for a hot shower.
        Parker arrived home a few minutes after I did. We talked a bit about the damage at the homes to which we had been assigned. The Jennings were a little closer to the creek than Miss Cowpepper so they had about 3 inches of water on their first floor.
        I described the enormous amount of old stuff at Miss Cowpepper’s home. “There were lots of military memorabilia, swords, Civil War photos. An ancestor must have been in the military,” I concluded.
        “Maybe Miss Cowpepper is a military aficionado or simply full of patriotism,” Parker said, steering me toward the bathroom.
        Then, the love of my life and I stepped into the hot shower together. We seemed to be doing that a lot lately. I just wanted to scrub off every microbe, parasite, contaminate, bacteria, spore, contagion, infection, or germ that might have crept into Miss Cowpepper’s home with water from the overflowing sewers. I had worn rubber gloves and a mask, but still, I felt like things were crawling on my skin.
        After dinner, we grabbed our library cards and strolled the half mile to the local branch to return books that had been due the day of the flood. All fines were forgiven.
        As we crawled into bed, I said, “You can’t tell anyone anything that I’ve told you about Miss Cowpepper. The neighbors have been speculating about her for years. She wants to be left alone.”
        Then I suddenly remembered 'the key thing,' as Miss Cowpepper had called it, hanging on her wall. I closed my eyes and saw it in my head. I described it to Parker. The top was a round disk with a cylinder about two feet long below that and rod-like things at the bottom.
        “I can’t picture it,” said Parker.
        “I’ll draw you a sketch,” I said, grabbing a pad of post it notes and a pen from the night stand. “What could it be?”
        “Well, in a way, it does look like some kind of key, but what could be that long?"
        "It looks almost medieval, doesn’t it, like it might unlock a large iron door to a cell? But still it’s awfully big.”
        Parker scrunched up his eyes, like he always did when he thought, emphasizing the crows’ feet that that I loved. “She didn’t say what it was for?”
        As Parker turned off his light, I said, “It’s my fault for not asking. I just stood there trying to figure it out. I was about to ask when the firemen arrived and she scooted up the stairs so they wouldn’t see her. But she did say it was the most valuable thing she owned. Isn’t it odd she would have something so valuable hanging on her wall?”
        “Mmmmm,” Parker hummed. That was the sign that he was trying to listen but was drifting off to sleep.
        As I set my alarm and turned off my light, I thought, “But then no one is ever in her home to see anything, valuable or not.”

(To be continued.)
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Friday, May 29, 2009


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        This photo was taken several months ago on the hiking/biking trail at Moraine State Park (PA). Note the black specks just to the right of center. (You probably need to click on the image to see them in a larger view.) They are birds, probably Canadian geese who live at the nearby lake.
        My husband and I usually walk in the late afternoon. Just before reaching the parking lot on the way back, the path curves up a hill and the sun is immediately in front of us. I particularly liked this view with the contrast of the dark clouds rolling in and the sun fighting to peek through.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


©2009 C.J. Peiffer
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        This photo was taken near the boat house at North Park Lake (Allegheny County, PA) on 5/17/09. It was a beautiful day, but there was a sharp cold wind.  However, there were many people fishing, cycling, jogging, and walking that afternoon.
        The scene reminds me of a lake in the mountains.

Monday, May 25, 2009


(Click on images for larger versions.)
 My series "The Creative Process" explains how a
particular piece of art or a group of works were created.
This post is, in part, a response to
Click on the link to add your own
creative endeavor, or see what others have posted.

The Photo
        Occasionally I submit photos to Sky Watch Fridays, so I have been paying attention to skies and taking photos of them for several months. One day when I was walking, my lower back was bothering me, so I stopped to lean back against a fence beside the walking trail.  In front of me were two trees with a beautiful sky between them. I snapped a few pictures.
        Now, when I walk on that trail, I always stop at that spot to take additional photos, planning to create a future post for Sky Watch Friday marking how the sky and the trees change through the seasons.
        One of the earlier photos I took was when the tree branches were still bare during the winter. 

The Process
        When I started to work with this photo, I wasn't sure where I was going with it. I just experimented a bit and ended up with something surprising. I had thought I might just enhance the blue sky and perhaps give it the look of a pastel drawing. 

        1. In Photoshop, I selected a branch with the magic wand, then chose "similar". In this way, I was able to select all of the branches and copy them to a separate layer.

        2. By selecting the branches and choosing "inverse" I was able to select everything except the branches (in this case, the sky) and put it on a separate layer.  I "turned off" the layer with the branches & allowed the white background layer to be visible in the holes where the branches would be.  I also played with the color balance and saturation on the sky.

        3. Simply to see how it would look, I inverted the color of the sky. It became an orange shade, which I again enhanced with more red and stronger saturation. By inverting the colors, the white of the clouds had also turned dark.  It reminded me of videos I have seen of massive fires, with the sly filled with billowing orange and black smoke.
            I liked this, the white tree branches looking like they were covered with snow or ice and the sky resembling fire. Immediately I thought of the title "Fire & Ice." At this point, the white branches were really still the white background layer showing through, but the plain white trees looked too flat to me.

        4. So I took the black tree outlines and made 2 more copies and changed one to white. I had three layers of black tree branches, plus one white.
     I placed a copy of the black tree branches on three separate layers over the orange sky and then placed the white tree branches on top.
            On each of the three layers with black branches, I nudged one slightly left, one slightly right and one slightly up, to make it look like black outlines around the white.

The image at the top of this post is my final completed "Fire & Ice"  Several years ago I created an abstract work called "Fire and Ice." Since I had used "and" in that one, I used an "&" in this one.

        As usual, I always have some other variations. These may have been steps along the way that I sort of liked, but rejected for the final product. However, because different people have different tastes, some may like these better than my final choice.

        Variation 1. I cloned parts of the trees to create a third tree in the middle. Also, I put the black over the white in this one.  My only objection to this is that most of the sky, which I think looks dramatic in my final pick, is hidden. I do like the black over the white, but because I liked the title "Fire & Ice" I thought the white over black worked better, creating more contrast between the hot orange and cold white.

        Variations 2 & 3: These are exactly like the one I chose except that I did not invert the sky colors. Instead, I enhanced the sky with some magenta (left) and cyan (right). 

        There are, of course, a zillion other possibilities of ways to modify, change, or enhance a digital photo with software.

(photos, art, and text ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Sunday, May 24, 2009


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        Several weeks ago, while my husband and I walked in a popular park, I snapped this shot of tables under the roof of a picnic shelter. It was a bright, sunny day, but the temperature was still in the 40s, way too cold for a picnic.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 3 - Short Fiction

This short story is in response to

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word challenge. Click on the link to join the fun or to read others' entries.

Mega challenge - all fifteen words:
albino, trench, marble, assistant, Indian, What's that supposed to mean?, sound first principles, the key thing, moat, curtain, under the surface, doomed, grand design, temple, aspirin (Challenge words appear in bold face in the text.)

This is a continuation of previous entries:  STORMY WEATHER Part 1 and Part 2


        The day after Maple Creek overflowed, the water had receded but it was still a foot deep at our end of the street, deeper toward the creek, as if we were surrounded by a moat.
        Our house sat on a small rise, but our lower neighbors had gotten the worst of the flood. I hoped their homes would not be doomed to a wrecking ball. From our windows they looked fine, but who knew what damage was hidden under the surface.
        In my basement office, Parker helped me set up the computer equipment I had moved from harm’s way. After the electricity came on midmorning, I completed my grand design for Clarence Bubbler, the bubble gum king. He was an annoying man who had turned The Big Bubbler into a small fortune. After making back up copies and preparing a priority mail folder for him, I popped two aspirin tablets.
        That evening, pulling back the curtain, I saw that the street was finally free of water. Parker and I walked to the car two blocks away, dropped Bubbler’s package in the mail, and drove to a megamarket where we purchased a ton of cleaning products, cases of bottled water and cartons of protein bars. We spent half of Bubbler’s expected fee, but we were happy our home had been spared and felt empathy for neighbors with damaged homes.
        The next morning we drove to the corner of Aurora and Washington to donate supplies and offer our services.
        The police chief gave us an overview of our duties. “We have several sound first principles for such a situation,” he said. “Protect yourself, clean everything thoroughly, and clean yourself when you are done for the day. Wear masks and rubber gloves. Use bleach where you can. Go home and take a hot shower.”
        Parker headed toward the Jennings, a delightful retired couple to whom he had been assigned.
        The police chief called me aside. “I hope Miss Cowpepper will let you in. I talked to her through the door this morning. She said she might talk to a woman.”
        “What’s wrong with her, I asked?” It was a question the neighbors speculated upon constantly.
        “I hope you’re going to find out.”
        With a face mask hanging around my neck and a dozen pair of rubber gloves in my pockets, I climbed ten steps onto Miss Cowpepper’s porch. It was damp and muddy, so the water had probably reached her first floor. I knocked lightly and called, “Miss Cowpepper? Are you there?”
        Of course she was. The chief told me she hadn’t left home, nor had anyone laid eyes on her, in fifty years.
        “Who’re you?” asked a shaky voice from the other side of the closed door.
        “I’m Rosemary, from the last house at the dead end. I’ve been assigned to be your cleanup assistant.”
        “What's that supposed to mean?” she asked.
       “I will see what kind of damage you have and help you clean.”
        “It’ll dry,” she said.
        “The sewers overflowed, so the water was full of microbes. We have to clean everything so you don’t get ill. You might have to go to the hospital if you get infected by the water.”
        She didn’t respond to that.
        “Please, can I just come in to see what needs to be done?”
        The door creaked on its hinges and I saw an eye, barely at the level of my waist, peeking through the tiny slit.
        “You won’t look at me, will you?”
        “Not if you don’t want me to,” I said.
        Hiding behind the door, she opened it. I stepped into what looked like the dusty storage room of a museum. I think it always looked that way, but Miss Cowpepper had obviously moved everything she could from the floor to the tops of furniture and the marble mantle in her living room. Almost every square inch of wall space was covered with sepia photos. In the corner stood a cigar store Indian. Floor lamps with stained glass shades sat on a table. End tables were stacked on a worn couch. The rugs were soaked and smelled like sewer water but it looked like the water had been only an inch deep.
        “What about the basement? What’s down there?”
        “Nothing?” I asked.
        “Just water, I guess. Once when it flooded, my nephew closed in the back porch and put a new furnace and water heater there and a washing machine in the kitchen. I haven’t been in the basement for years.”
        I nodded. We’d still have to inspect it and pressure wash it with a disinfectant. “Can your nephew or anyone else help?”
       “My nephew’s been dead for years. There’s no one else.”
        “Oh. I’m sorry.” It felt odd, not looking at her when I spoke. “We’re going to have to bring a crew in here to pump out your basement and move your furniture so we can remove your rugs,” I said.
        “No one can see me.”
        With my back toward her, I suggested, “How about, when they come in, you go upstairs and they can work down here?”
        “They’ll take my things.”
        “I’ll make sure they don’t take anything,” I assured her. “Miss Cowpepper, I dislike talking to you when you are behind me. Can I turn around?”
        “If you promise not to laugh,” she said.
        I promised. I didn’t know what to expect. I steeled myself to show no expression of horror. I turned slowly. Miss Cowpepper slowly moved from behind the door.
        When I saw her, I smiled. Miss Cowpepper had the palest skin I had even seen. Her hair was white, her eyes light blue with pink rims. I realized she was an albino and not more than four feet tall. She must have been in her eighties, yet she was an oddly cute little person, like a chubby china doll. She wore a gray sweater over a brown dress and leaned on a cane.

        I removed my trench coat and hung it on an empty clothes tree.
        I stepped into the dining room, which too was filled with junk. On a low buffet, Miss Cowpepper had set up what looked like a temple shrine with candles which gave the room a golden glow. A brass object, circular at the top with a cylinder at least two feet long with short rods sticking out of the bottom, hung on the wall above the flames. Miss Cowpepper saw me staring at it.
        “Don’t let them take the key thing,” she said. “It’s the most valuable object I own.”

(To be continued.)

(Text ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, May 21, 2009


This image & poem are in response to






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Click on image for larger view.


Each day brings feet

Across my planks

Transporting hordes 

Between the banks.

They stroll and tramp,

They jog and hike

Across the stream,

They walk and bike.

Foliage peeks through

My rustic rails

To greet my guests 

On walking trails.

Fresh leaves invite

Folks to slow down

To view the day

In her green gown.

        This footbridge crosses a stream along the walking/biking trail around North Park Lake (Allegheny County, PA) where we often do Nordic Walking.

(photo & poem ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009



This image is in response to
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        A few weeks ago, I took this photo of a tool shed at Moraine State Park (PA) where we do Nordic Walking several times a week. 
        The rustic shed reminded me of something I might see in a western movie (except for the green stain), so I thought it would look great as a Sepia Shot. (Original photo, below.)

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 2 - Short Fiction

This short story is in response to

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word challenge.

Ten-word challenge:
green goddess, shampoo, filibuster, please and thank you, Operation Marigold, throw pillows, up the creek without a paddle, spandex, ubiquitous, wedding ring
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

This is a continuation of  last week's entry:  STORMY WEATHER Part 1


Short Fiction

        It was barely light enough to see my way around the house. We should have kept a flashlight in a set location, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. I was on the verge of panic, feeling like I was up the creek without a paddle. In a way I was. Hurricane Ruth had caused Maple Creek to overflow and it was coming my way.

        The last thing I had seen on  TV before the power went out was a wall of water sweeping a news reporter off her feet. Sirens blared. Through the window, I saw flashing lights from emergency vehicles reflected in the windows of houses closer to the creek. Aurora Lane rose slightly at our end, so I hoped the water would not rise enough to reach the house. It was still raining hard.  

        I plowed through every drawer and closet in the house, eventually finding two  huge scented candles in glass containers. I never used candles because I thought they were fire hazards, but I had received several as gifts ---useless I thought, until I needed them. The apple pie aroma would have been great under different circumstances.

        I hadn’t heard from Parker. I tried my own cell phone. It worked, but I couldn’t get through to my husband.

        I called my sister Marigold. Parker always referred to Mari as the Green Goddess, because while he and I had black thumbs, Marigold could make a palm tree grow at the north pole.  She was scheduled to fly in the following week to visit and help me plant an herb garden. Parker called her annual garden-project visit Operation Marigold

        Mari lived 500 miles to the west. The storm was just a gentle rain in her area. My sister worked for a cell phone company and assured me towers have back-up generators and batteries, but, she explained, each tower can hold only so many calls. During a major storm, they can't accommodate the overload.  We finalized our plans for the next week, provided we weren’t under water.   

        I swear my sister would make a good senator. She could single-handedly keep a filibuster going for a week. Our  phone conversations usually ran for hours, but I rang off after thirty minutes, explaining I needed to move things to higher ground.

        Our home sat on a hill. The water would have to rise five feet above the street to enter the basement, but if it did the computer equipment I used as a freelance graphic artist in our family room would be ruined.  By the light of my two candles, I unplugged the computers, scanners, monitors, and printers, placing them on the highest steps I could reach. I gathered all the small items, the mouse, keyboard, wires, papers, backup disks and external drives into a large box and carried it upstairs. 

        Every few minutes, I looked to see what was happening outside while I tried to reach Parker. Each time, the water seemed closer than the last time, but since there were no street lights, it was difficult to tell.  By then, water was probably more than a foot deep where Aurora met Washington, the only way to drive to our house which sat at the dead end of Aurora. I tried calling my husband again. The call went to voice mail. I hit the redial, saying to myself, “Please answer, please, please, please” and “Thank you,” when he finally picked up.  He had just pulled into the school parking lot two blocks from home.

        “What’s going on out there?” I asked.

        “Traffic was crazy. They have Washington blocked off.”

        “I thought they would. Did you hear anything about that the reporter?”

        “The radio said she broke her wrist. Except for a few other bruises, she'll be okay."

        I waited at the window until I saw a flashlight bouncing up the street.  I opened the garage door to find Parker, soaked trench coat over trousers folded to his knees, his shoes, socks, and the flashlight from the car in hand. 

        “Come see,” he said, setting his shoes on the garage floor. I rolled up the legs of the pajamas that I had put on after being soaked in the rain earlier. I pulled on Parker’s high rubber boots and the rain slicker I had hung in the garage to dry. 

        The water had reached the bottom of our driveway. We waded down the street until the ubiquitous water reached mid-calf.  We could hear the distant motor of a generator. By flashlight, we saw the creek had flooded basements and was inching up porch steps. It looked like everyone close to the creek had evacuated. I could only imagine the messes they would return to after the storm. I wanted to cry.

        “Let’s get inside,” I said. “I’m freezing.” On the way back to the house, the rain died to a drizzle, but we knew that water from the surrounding hills would still flow into the creek which might continue to rise for hours. 

        Parker had been walking through water that might have overflowed from sewers, so he wanted to shower. He dumped his wet clothes on the garage floor and pulled me toward the bathroom where I peeled off my PJs and jumped into the shower with him. Quickly, we soaped and applied shampoo, then rinsed before the warm water ran out. 

        Parker put on fresh jeans and T-shirt while I opted for spandex leggings and a turtleneck. We ate sandwiches at my work table in the family room.  Parker occasionally took the flashlight to the door to see the water creeping up the driveway. He lit a fire while I anxiously watched the water lapping at the sliding glass doors where the basement floor was at its lowest point. At first water seeped into the room only an inch from the doors, then three, then seven. After we moved the first three pieces of furniture upstairs, the water stopped inching forward and began to recede.

        The power was still off. With our hectic schedules, it was a rare treat to prop ourselves on throw pillows in front of the fire and talk for hours like we used to do. We sipped mugs of hot tea, made with water heated in the fireplace. 

        In front of the fire, my husband’s face looked soft and young. His clothes took on a warm glow. His wedding ring sparkled with orange light. When he looked at me, Parker’s eyes reflected flames as if they, too, were on fire. 

(2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, May 14, 2009


This post is in response
to a writing prompt at
Prompt: "I REMEMBER WHEN..."
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At the risk of revealing my age, all of these things happened in about the first half of my life.

In approximate chronological order,
I remember when...

We lived upstairs of my grandmother. At that time it was typical for young couples to move in with a parent, so my parents lived with my paternal grandmother for 11 years, until she died when I was 6. (I'm glad that tradition ended.)

Street cars were the main means of transportation in the city.

Our first TV was black and white with a 9-inch screen. We ran home from school to watch Howdy Doody.

I watched Mr. Rogers before he was “Mr. Rogers.” Fred Rogers was the puppeteer on the “Children’s Corner” broadcast live on WQED in Pittsburgh and he was never on screen. Daniel S. Tiger and King Friday XIII were among Fred's first puppets.

I usually took a packed lunch to elementary school, but occasionally I walked a block from school to a grocery store that had a lunch counter. I had a toasted cheese sandwich (10¢), a bowl of soup (15¢), and a glass of milk (5¢). My mother gave me 35¢ so I could buy 5 pieces of penny candy, too.

It was considered an honor to be chosen to clean the blackboard erasers for the teacher ---back when blackboards were black.

I played with the neighborhood kids outside for hours without supervision. We rode bikes, played softball, rode sleds and built forts in the snow, played cowboys and Indians, roamed the woods, and built dams in the creek ----all day long and no one seemed to worry about our safety. Each day was filled with great learning experiences. We had disagreements, but we learned to resolve differences without adult interference and also how to make our own fun.

I walked to school every day with my friends. In my school district, one had to live more than 2 miles from the school to ride a bus. I lived less than one-half mile from every elementary, Jr or Sr High I attended.

A neckerchief was a popular fashion accessory. (Age 9.)

I was proud to be a girl scout when the fashion included ponytails and saddle oxfords. (Age 11.)

A few years later, we wore full skirts with a dozen petticoats under them, bobby socks, penny loafers, pointy bras, men’s white shirts with long tails hanging out, jeans with the cuffs folded to below our knees, white lipstick and fingernail polish. We teased our hair and sprayed it so it would stand about five inches higher than our heads.

I received my first kiss on the step of the North Park (Allegheny County, PA) boat house. (See photo.) My first boyfriend was 6'3", while I was 5'7" so he asked me to stand on the step to equalize our heights. It was after dark, just a month before I turned 16, so instead of being "sweet sixteen and never been kissed" I could say I was "sweet sixteen and never been missed." The romance lasted about 3 months.

Everyone dressed up to go clothes shopping at department stores downtown. There were few shopping malls. I wore a “Sunday”dress, a fashionable hat, heels (with a matching purse), stockings, my best coat (in season) and white gloves. Department stores would deliver purchases to our home. (Age 16 ---my mother would have been mortified if I'd forgotten my white gloves.)

My mother and I would go to town to look at prom dresses. I would choose the one I liked, then my mother would make a duplicate for me for about $5 while the store-bought one would run about $35. (Before she was married, my mother had worked as a seamstress at a dressmaker’s shop, sewing elegant gowns for society women.)

We could buy 2 or 3 bags of groceries for about $10.

Guidance counselors steered girls into being secretaries, teachers, nurses, or homemakers. I don’t remember anyone suggesting any other options

My second high school boyfriend worked at one of the first fast-food places in our area. Winky’s sold hamburgers for 15¢ each.

Almost every store or restaurant was a locally-owned business, so each was unique.

We were innocent, naive, optimistic, and believed (just like Superman) in truth, justice and the American way. That suddenly changed during my freshman year of college on 11/22/63.

In college we wore wool jumpers. cardigan sweaters, straight skirts or kilts (held closed with a huge decorative safety pin), knee socks or textured stockings, loafers or dress flats. We were not permitted to wear slacks, but I was an art major, so I often wore paint-splattered cut-off jeans hidden under my trench coat. I was notorious for my many pair of patterned knee socks.

At my state college, freshman girls had to be in their dorm rooms studying from 7-9:00pm. Weeknights we had to be in our rooms by 10:00pm, one-hour later on weekends. Girls had to live in dorms and eat in college dining halls ---were not allowed to have apartments off-campus. Boys had NO RULES whatsover. If a female student were caught in a boy’s apartment, she was suspended for a semester. Upon her return to school, if studying to be a teacher, had to move out of the education department because a morals charge had been placed on her permanent record, so she was unable to teach in our state. You guessed it, NO ACTION WAS TAKEN AGAINST THE MALE STUDENTS. (This is one of many reasons why I became a feminist.)

My first car, which I needed for student teaching, was a used Corvair which cost $300. (Age 21.) Ralph Nader later decided Corvairs were "unsafe at any speed."

Everyone worried about getting pregnant (before birth control pills) but no one had to worry about AIDS. In the years before abortion was legal, several high school and college friends had illegal ones.

When I graduated from college, the starting salary for teachers was $4500/year.

Idealistic college graduates joined the Peace Corps, although some were more motivated by a deferment from military duty during the Vietnam war than in saving the world. I served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil. (See my other blog: A Little "Peace" of Brazil)

After returning home from the Peace Corps, teachers’ salaries had jumped to $6300/year ---whoopee! It was one of the few jobs that paid the same for male and female workers. In most fields women earned about half of what men earned for the same job.

Soon, we were wearing tie-dyed shirts, peace signs, and bell bottoms just to feel “groovy.”  I am one of the few people I know who has never smoked marijuana, even though I was an artist and surrounded by hippies and flower children.

I paid $55/month rent for my first apartment.
The first two years I taught, female students and teachers were not allowed to wear slacks. Finally, the school board decided slacks were preferable to mini-skirts.

My first new car, a tan VW Beetle, cost $2000. (Age 24) Believe it or not, I still have that white hat ---forty years later.

My first husband and I paid $4 ($2 each) for our blood tests, $5 for our marriage license, and gave the JP $5. I wore a brown pants suit and he wore slacks and a turtleneck sweater. We had dinner for a total of $9 and then went to a very bad movie. I was 25.

Granny dresses were popular. My sister made me one to wear to the first two-person art gallery exhibit my ex and I had together. She added hand-made lace (to the sleeves and collar) that I had purchased from a local lacemaker while living in Brazil.

Fourteen years after I was married, I did my own divorce. Paper work, filing fees, and a registered letter to my ex cost a total of $38. (We had no children nor property, and had been separated for several years, so we had already divided everything and were still on friendly terms --- it wasn’t a difficult process.)

I paid $27,000 for my first home, a huge 13-room house with three full stories and a full basement; each floor was 1200 square feet.

A few years later, my life entered a new stage, when I met and married my second (& current) husband.

I've had a fantastic life. I hope you enjoyed remembering it with me.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)