Monthly Archives: February 2020

Molasses Cookies

Makes approximately 24 cookies

  • 12 T. Sweet Butter
  • ¼ c. Molasses
  • 1¾ c. Flour
  • ½ t. Ground Ginger
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ t. Ground Cloves
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ½ t. Baking Soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350° (F)
  2. Melt butter
  3. Add sugar and molasses and mix
  4. Thoroughly beat egg and add to butter mixture, blend well
  5. Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, add to mixture, mix. (Batter will be wet)
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or alumunium foil and drop a tablespoon of batter on lined cookie sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies. They will spread.
  7. Bake cookies until they start to darken, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven while soft.
  8. Let cool on parchment paper or foil

When Dean and I first moved to Alexandria we rented a house in the Beverly Hills neighborhood. Shortly after moving in, Ken and Pam, neighbors from across the street brought us a plate of delicious molasses cookies. This is their recipe. It’s good!

Four Dreams

Dream 1: In which I adopt a dog

I am not a dog person. I am a cat person, but we’ve decided to have no more pets. This might change, but at the moment we are pet-free. Therefore, it is odd that I dreamed last night that I adopted a big, yellow, happy, friendly dog and immediately wondered why I’d not done this earlier. In the dream Dean was out of town, but I was sure that he would love this new addition to our family too.

Dream 2: In which Alan Rickman* kidnaps me but doesn’t murder me

In this dream my family was in a sort of indoor hiking facility and accidently chose the most difficult path that would eventually include some near rock-climbing abilities. I knew I could not handle this so when an employee offered to lead me to the lobby I said yes. He told me his name was Dag and then told me about all the people he’d killed at the facility, including a young boy whose photo he gave me. I escaped and was back on the difficult hike with my family, only this time I was stooping down, covering my eyes and hoping another employee would help me to the lobby.

This time the owner of the facility came by and offered to lead me to the lobby. As I stood up, he noticed the photograph of the young boy the other employee had given me. He asked, “Where did you get a photograph of my son?” I told him about the first employee and how he’d killed people there, but not that his son was one of them. He asked what the employee’s name was and I couldn’t remember. As we walked to the lobby through a labyrinth of narrow khaki colored halls, I remembered that the homicidal employee’s name was Dag. The owner said that no one employed by him was named Dag.

Here the owner of the facility led me into an auditorium where the manager was about to give an orientation speech. I saw that the doors to the lobby were just behind her, so I walked through them and waited for my family.

Dream 3: In which I tell Maryellen** about my dog (sequel to dream #1)

I stopped by Maryellen’s house to tell her about my dog. She asked what I was going to name it. I didn’t have a name.

Dream 4: In which I try tell my family the rest of the story (sequel to dream #2)

Since I couldn’t find my family in the lobby of the facility, I walked to the parking lot where they were waiting in the car. I asked them if they wanted to know the rest of the story, but they said they’d seen it since they finished the hike. I told them I doubted they knew the real ending.

Then I woke up.

*I didn’t realize that the murderous employee, Dag, was Alan Rickman until after I awoke.

**Maryellen is the mother of a student I taught many years ago. We’re friends on Facebook.

An annotated list of my jobs

Note, this is not in chronological order.


  • Babysitter
  • sales clerk
  • waitress
  • bakery clerk
  • substitute teacher
  • teacher
  • web accessibility specialist

Child care

Elgin, Illinois 1969 – 1977

I started earning money by babysitting. First for my brother, then for children of family friends and even a relative or two. It was fine, but I definately tired of it after a while. I didn’t have a set charge and let the folks whose kids I babysat give me what they thought right. It usually was about a dollar an hour if I recall correctly.


Ben Franklin, Elgin Illinois 1973 – 1974

My first “real” job was as a sales clerk at Ben Franklin in Elgin. I wanted to go to England as an exchange student and needed to earn half of the cost of the trip. I worked after school and on weekends. It was fine. I learned how to count change. I met some interesting people. I was someone’s son’s birthday present one night. I quit before I went to England and the assistant manager, a woman who could be nice, but often chose to not be, told me, “fine, shop girls were a dime a dozen.” I think the most I made there was $1.70 an hour even though minimum wage was at least $2.00 an hour in 1974. I remember the manager telling us that he knew that minimum wage had increased but he could not afford to pay us that.

Zayre, Elgin Illinois 1975 – 1976

I am not positive about the years I worked at Zayre, but I know I worked there for a while when I was in community college. I think it was only until I got enough money to go to England. Zayre was a discount department store like K-Mart. I worked at the jewelry department. I didn’t like this job much at all, but I guess I didn’t hate it. I did end up with a lot of hours though because the manager often called me in when I was not scheduled because she didn’t like to work or something (she ended up being fired for stealing money from the register, so that must be how she made money). I probably made $2.30 an hour which was minimum wage.

Work Study

Elgin Community College, Elgin Illinois Spring 1977

Looking back, this was a perfect job for me. I spent my time shelving books in the school library. I was paid to hang out in a library! I wish that I didn’t have my mind so damn set on teaching, because I think I would have made a really good librarian. I assume I was paid minimum wage which was $2.30 an hour.

Food Service

Manor Pancake House, Elgin Illinois 1977 – 1979

Once again, in order to make money for a trip to England I had to find a job. I probably started waiting tables at the Manor sometime after Jeremy’s visit in the summer of 1977. I am sure my journals will tell me, but they are in a box in a closet filled with crap and I don’t feel like going down that rabbit hole this morning. Anyway, I worked at the Manor while I was attending Northern Illinois University (living at home, commuting three days a week). My hours were long — sometimes working the night shift. I worked almost 40 hours a week while going to school full-time. I was a better waitress than I was a student. I don’t know what I made an hour, but tips in a pancake house in the 1970s in a midwestern town were not something to write home about. The restaurant was my social life, so there was that.

Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1981 – 1982

I don’t know if working in a bakery in a grocery store is considered food service, but let’s say it is. I supplemented my substitute teaching income by selling cookies, cupcakes and croissants to citizens of the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I liked my workmates enough. One of them had a day job working on the crew of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I sold a croissant to Willie Stargell, but didn’t know who he was until someone told me, later. All I remember was that he was very nice and wore a fur coat and fancy brimmed hat, and that everyone stared at him. I probably made minimum wage ($3.35 an hour).


Bartlett Learning Center, Bartlett Illinois 1979 – 1981

After trying to get a teaching job with the Elgin school district, I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing. I continued working as a waitress until one evening my cousin called and said that there was a private school for special needs kids who needed a temporary substitute teacher. I interviewed and got the job. The school was in a convent (actually an “old nuns’ home”) and run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis and I quickly became best friends with several of the Sisters who worked there. When Sister Jane, for whom I was substituting, returned from medical leave the school asked me to stay on as a co-teacher to help Sister Jane. The next year they offered me my own classroom. I might be teaching there still if Dean and I had not moved to Pittsburgh. I think my salary was somewhere in the low teens.

Substitute Teacher, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1981-1982

While working on getting a teaching certificate in Pennsylvania I taught kids with special needs as a substitute teacher. I got called a lot. I was supposed to be up and ready to go in the mornings but I never was and was often late to the school. I didn’t know Pittsburgh that well and often got lost trying to find a school. I think I was a failure at substitute teaching. I also hated it. Pay was not too bad.

Teacher, Pace School, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1982- 1985

I interviewed at a few private schools as well as for the Pittsburgh school system and finally landed a teacher’s assistant position at a private school in East Liberty. After a couple of months they asked if I was interested in applying for a teaching position at the school when one of the teachers left. I was game and got the job. Pace was a school for students with learning and emotional disabilities (it is still around, although not in East Liberty and I don’t know what population it serves). When I was there it was funded by the school districts in and around Pittsburgh for students that the school districts had no programs for. I received quite an education at Pace. I taught a whole lot of angry children. I was punched a number of times, had chairs thrown at me, I was tackled once from behind. I was not prepared to teach such children, but I tried. Pay was probably low 20K

Teacher, St. Ann School, Arlington Virginia 1986 – 1991

After we moved to the DC area I took a break from teaching to work on getting a Virginia teaching certificate and to look for a job. I was hired by a company called Seton Centers that put special ed teachers in Catholic schools in the area. They sent me to St. Ann School. It may have been love at first sight. My years at St. Ann were definitely the best of any job I have ever had. The whole school was welcoming, from the principal (Sister Joan),to the fellow teachers, to the parents. The kids were well-behaved. I am still friends with the mother of one of the students I taught. The only problem was the pay (probably mid-20K).

Teacher, Rose Hill School, Fairfax County 1991 – 1998

I interviewed at several schools when I was trying to break into public schools. Some in Alexandria and some in Fairfax County. I was offered a position at a school in Alexandria, but the school was going through some issues and I didn’t want a bunch of drama in my worklife. My favorite interview was along what was called the Route 1 corridor — known for being a low-income area. I know I would have gotten that job if the county didn’t have a policy that an existing employee of the county had first dibs. The principal told me as much when he called to say he was sorry he could not offer me the job. I ended up being hired by an outgoing principal for a resource teacher position. Apparently his exit caused the exit of a number of teachers. The new principal seemed fine the first year — very granola, but over the next summer she got divorced, started dating the cluster supervisor, cut off her curly hair (rumor has it with a Flowbee), and exchanged “just left the farmer’s market dresses” with corporate professional clothes. She also lost her sense of humor and any shred of kindness she possessed. She was the one who asked me if I’d planned my pregnancy. Despite her, I liked the job enough to stick around for 7 years. I left when got into grad school. Salary — I don’t remember. Probably double what I made at St. Ann’s.

Information Technology

Web Accessibility Specialist, Caliber/ICF*, Fairfax Virginia 2001 to present

After graduate school I decided to change careers and interviewed at consulting companies to work on websites. I was hired by Caliber as a web content manager, but they quickly encouraged me to learn about web accessibility. A new law was about to come into effect that mandated that all government websites must be accessible. I was a quick learner and that’s what I am doing for this company, over 19 years later — evaluating websites for accessibility and remediating electronic documents so they can be used by people with disabilities. I have mostly enjoyed this job and I feel good about what I do for a living. And I have worked from home since 2003. Salary — let’s just say I will REALLY miss it when I retire.

*Caliber was purchased by ICF around 2005

Ten things I like about me

…in no particular order…

  1. My sense of humor — it is quirky and sometimes dark.
  2. I can still see the world through a child’s eyes and can be childlike (more often than adultlike, I fear)
  3. My cooking. I really like the food I make, at least most of the time
  4. My writing. While not as good as some, I feel that I write well and it is something I love to do.
  5. I like how I set out to ensure my kids became readers and they did. I have no doubt it had a lot to do with seeing me read, having me read to them and talking about books with them from a young age.
  6. The Illinois-shaped birthmark on my inner right calf.
  7. I treasure my values and the fact that I continue to strive to be a better person, morally and ethically, all the time.
  8. I like that I have an open mind about many things, except maybe certain foods — like I don’t want to ever (knowingly) eat a bug.
  9. I like that I can identify more birds than the average human.
  10. I like that I raised (okay, helped raise) two outstanding humans. When I dismiss it as genetics, they both assure me that it was much more than that.

Old Lovers

I spent a few weeks last summer on a river boat cruise. It was the romantic Danube tour but I was with my husband’s sister and six of her closest friends. There was nothing in their way to prevent turning the cruise into an episode of The Loveboat, but being the only non-single one of the bunch, that was not an option.

The night we were docked in Vienna the seven friends chose to go to a classical concert in town, but I was tired after having gone on a morning tour of Vienna in the pouring rain, then a raft trip after lunch. I was also coming down with a cold, although I was convinced it was allergies at the time so I opted out of the music and sat in the lingboat’s lounge drinking a cocktail and reading on my Kindle.

When I looked up from my book I noticed a tiny woman with snow-white hair sitting across from me, drinking her own cocktail. I smiled and she smiled and before long I knew everything there was to know about Katherine Ashe aka Katherine Ann Wynne. She worked for a company that closed down or something so decided to write. She published books on an obscure Englishman called Simon de Montfort who apparently founded Parliament.

She must have sensed that I was not going to read the books about the founder of Parliament so she said she self-published a book about Fairies. This might or might not have been after I mentioned my daughter was a big believer in the wee folk.

After an hour or so her husband, Peter, joined us. When he learned that my husband worked for NIH he said that my husband probably knew someone he went to school with. Sure enough, Dean knew Peter’s classmate, Tony Fauchi.

I had such a delightful time speaking with this fascinating couple that I asked them if they would mind posing with Rupert. They said they’d be delighted to and anyone who would not want to pose with Rupert was not worth knowing.

Katherine and Peter holding Rupert in the lounge of a cruise ship.
Katherine, Peter and Rupert

Their love for each other was apparent in the way they spoke to each other, the way they looked at each other, the way they spoke of their past life in New York City and their current life in rural Pennsylvania. Throughout the rest of the tour I saw them quite often and while we didn’t have any more long talks, I could still see their love for each other, even at a distance.

They seemed like such a happy, intelligent couple that I think about them often. I still need to read The Fairy Garden though.

My first crime

When I was around 6 years old I was friends with two sisters, Devin and Kathy, who lived on my street. We used to play in their basement where they had such wonderful toys as a mini kitchen with a sink with real running water and a washer that really washed doll clothes along with matching dryer that whose drum you could spin with a crank on the side.

They also had a doll house with lamps and ceiling fixtures that really lit up via hidden batteries and wires. In addition to dollhouse-sized furniture, this dollhouse had dollhouse-sized residents: A mother, a father, a son and a daughter. It even had tiny plastic babies (the kind that one might find in a King Cake) that took long naps in dollhouse-sized cribs.

While I desperately coveted everything they had, I really wanted one of those tiny babies so one day, when the sisters were briefly elsewhere, I secretly slid one of the tiny dolls in the small pocket on the lower thigh of my turquoise pedal pushers. They had many tiny babies and I had none, I said to myself to justify the crime.

Photograph of three tiny dolls. Front, back and side.
Exhibit A

Not long after that day I was playing with my Barbie in my living room, having her hold her tiny new baby. My mom must have been watching me play and asked me where I got the tiny baby. At first I said that Devin and Kathy gave it to me because they had lots and lots, but when she pressed me (maybe threatened to ask their mother) I admitted that I’d taken it. She made me promise to give it back to them and apologize.

I kept half of that promise. I did give Devin and Kathy the stolen tiny baby, but I did not apologize. In fact I lied and told them that I had my own stash of tiny baby dolls and they were welcome to one of mine. They thanked me with hugs.

Dona turns 7. Eight girls at a birthday party.
This photo was taken around the time of the crime. The criminal is sitting in the front row, second from left and the victims are in the front row third from left (Kathy) and back row middle — making the silly face(Devin)

***Note that I did not attempt any wordplay so don’t strain yourself trying to find some.***