I’m a person trying to figure out meaning in the numerous pieces of my life. I wonder if there is coherence.

Although I am not an avid quilter, I do go to quilt group meetings. I like to trace the whole, see meaning in the whole, rather than get too involved with all the pieces. The same thing with life. Some like me have a preference for the whole. However in preferring to look at the whole, I am aware that any quilt, or other sewing project, depends upon the joining of all the small pieces and all the tiny threads that make the fabric in the first place.

I’ll begin by tracing my little pieces of involvement with fabric. I first tried to draw dresses on women as a very young child. I watched my mother make clothes for us, and household items as well.

We were quite poor—a farm family living on the revenue from the sale of milk from a few cows that were housed on the farm where my grandparents lived, a fifth of a mile down the road.

My mother sewed on a treadle sewing machine, and she let me make clothes for my dolls on her sewing machine. I didn’t get very proficient, but I remember the effort. Then in junior high, the girls got to take home economics. For me, it was a privilege—a happy break from academics. There I could sew, or rather learn how to make first a gathered skirt and then one from a pattern. I still drew women, by then more their faces, and less clothing.

Feeling somewhat deprived in matters of wardrobe, I discovered I could have more clothes if I sewed. So I did. I made a good portion of the clothing I owned in high school, deriving great satisfaction from the effort. I made my graduation dress, and later adapted the white dress into my wedding dress. This was also from necessity since I did not have money for more expensive wedding attire or a large wedding. The wedding, then, was very simple. Barely eighteen, I walked down the aisle of my small town church on the arm of my father in my homemade wedding dress in front of immediate family and the people who stood up with us.

Then I sewed for awhile some outfits for my four children all born before I was twenty-five. That became more difficult as pins on the floor and the chaos from children competed with sewing chaos. Family duties won.

I , slowly, a little at a time, found my sewing efforts diminishing. It was a valiant effort that I made to continue. I went to classes at the Cooperative Extension, and learned how to make a pattern sloper that could be used for designing clothing. I adapted some old clothing renewing them by remaking them, and I made and designed a vest of my own design. Then somehow that stopped. I still did some sewing as my daughter went into high school, but it is the last clothing I remember doing during that time and until recently. However, my mom and I made some log cabin quilts for both my daughter and oldest son as they went to college after that.

But it was as if a portion of me got lost in the quilt of life as I went to work full time in an attorney’s office. I became a writer over time rather than a seamstress. Recently now that I am retired from my career at the Department of Social Services, I made a dress like the pioneers would have worn for my youngest granddaughter. It was the first sewing effort made in years. I loved doing it, and had to get a new sewing machine in the middle of the process so I could finish it.

In 2014, I got my story about my wedding dress published in The Good Old Days Magazine as a nostalgia story. I’ve been playing around with the quilt group on the edges, but saying always how much I am not really into it.

It is because quilting is not where my greatest interest in cloth lies.  Since I love fabric, I will keep up with it. I am perhaps more interested in the quilt of life, rather than quilting per se. I may go back to the dress-making rather than quilts.

However, I’ve found myself back to working on some old quilts I started a long time ago. It is mostly as a nostalgic trip back to viewing old fabrics that I had once loved enough to make into clothing for myself and my children. Scraps of these were made into blocks of a couple of old quilts I started but had not finished. It’s the wanting to have my hands on those old memories that drives me now to want to finish them.

Whatever I do with cloth needs to be thought out more deliberately now. I need to explore what it is I really want in this piece of life. It becomes more important as less years stretch ahead than behind to determine which things matter and which don’t so much. Otherwise, it may make a crazy quilt of life rather than one planned and well-executed.

I find that I am also weaving into my current novel, my first real novel (although I have begun others), threads of sewing and fashion that existed in the time in the early 1800’s.  My female characters have an interest in the fashion of the day and in working with fabric, though they live in humble circumstances.

The trick is to look at it all and pull it together in a novel and in life.


              Often is the time that a creative person is tempted to get off course from her creative work.  I am speaking mainly about women who want a creative life. I think it is most often women who can get waylaid by other demands of life, though certainly not only women who can let this happen.  However, women primarily because we have, either by nature or nurture, learned to think of others first.  In practical terms that can mean our children’s demands, our husband’s or lover’s needs, our community’s needs so often cause us to put aside our creative callings.

              By nature’s design, we bear the children, and that very fact does satisfy a very strong creative urge.  Our child or children are the most wondrous creations of all.  Because we held them in our bodies, and then in our arms, we think of these creations as our own.  Whether or not this is wholly true is certainly debatable.  That we have contributed is not. In any case, this creates in most of us, a strong sense of responsibility, which is sometimes but not always shared by the father.  He did not grow this child in his own body thus his responsibility comes from another source—other ways that his own child bonds with him.  He contributed half of the biological make-up of that child but he did not give birth.  He comes to his recognition of his part of the creative process inherent in being a parent in less obvious ways. 

              In this, he is able to disentangle himself more easily when it comes to developing his other creative urges.  For a woman to disentangle from her children in favor of other creative urges is not so easily done. She is predisposed to hear the call of her children for all of her life and theirs.

              So she brings to the table her sense of connectedness.  She’s been trained from the beginning to do so. Whether this is the call of nature or whether she learns it is the subject of many who would debate it.  I just know how strongly it satisfies much of our creative urge.

              And so does the nesting.  We care about the homes we live in because our children live there and when they are grown we go on caring in the way that most men do not.  Even if we never had children we still nest.  It extends to our communities, too.  We want a better, safe community for all the people we love to live in.

              When or how with all these callings do we also find time to create art, music, books, poems and myriads of other forms of creativity?

                The answer to this is focus.  Anyone who produces creatively is going to have to focus and refocus over and over again.  This pertains to everyone, male or female.

              My thought is that it is much easier for men to do this, but certainly not impossible for women.

              I’m writing a book, a novel, and I have strayed so often from my purpose.  I come back to it always, with renewed plans to finish, but acknowledge the distractions that so often lie in my path. I’m almost finished with my first draft and I will keep the focus I need to in order to complete what I have started.  It has taken years, but I do not give up. I will not.

Tender is the Night

Tender Is the Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Charlotte Dickens‘s review

Jul 09, 2016  ·  edit
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Read on July 09, 2016

My reactions to TENDER IS THE NIGHT are mixed. It took me a very long time to feel involved with the story. I was reading it as a selection from a book club so I persevered. Truthfully, I might not have otherwise even though I knew the author F. Scott Fitzgerald to be a highly thought of author. Though I never truly liked any of the characters, I finally became involved enough to want to keep reading.

Dick Divers and his wife, Nicole, were the central characters. The version I read began with the viewpoint young movie star, Rosemary Hoyt who seemed to me to be quite foolish in her infatuation with Richard Diver. She seemed a vapid, young woman of eighteen, who was overly attached to her mother and who actively pursued him until he finally succumbed to her beauty. Later his relationship with his wife was explained. His wife was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she had been hospitalized. She came under Dick Diver’s care and his interest in her quickly became other than professional. She is very rich, but it seemed that it was her great beauty that attracted him most. His entire life was subsumed by his need to take care of her. Eventually his promising career goes by the wayside and he becomes more and more alcohol dependent as his attachment to Rosemary became more important to him. What seemed most dominant in the story was Fitzgerald’s knowledge of the life style of the very wealthy in Europe at the time, and the lack of substance in his character’s lives. I read afterwards that much in this story was autobiographical including the insane wife–his own wife died in a mental institution and was a diagnosed schizophrenic. His character in the book fares better than his own wife did and one has to wonder in the light of more recent knowledge of the disease if his character could really have been schizophrenic. But once I suspended my doubts about the diagnosis, I found her to be the most interesting character in the novel.


Birthing a Story

I am spending some time in Florida right now, trying to find time to write Finding Rachel (working title), but the setting is so different from the one in which my character Rachel lived. When we were in New York we live on the same property where she lived nearly two hundred years ago. We are just down in Florida for a while. This change in locale has me thinking about the relative importance of our own personal locales, or experiences in life, with those of our characters. How important might these things be? Locale or love of the place in the Finger Lakes area, my own connection with the land, is what made me want to find about people who lived there before me on that particular property. After living there for many years in an old house, I finally decided to do the research. I found the woman upon whom I have loosely based my Rachel. I found she was the mother of many children, and the wife of a man who had been insane after they lost property. Then I found that this property was purchased in her name in an era when women did not normally own property in their own names. Someone was rumored to have been chained in the house that was part of two houses

on the property. In time I found documentation about her husband’s insanity. The pieces fit and it had to have been him. So a story is being born, and it is nearly finished. I have to believe they have spoken to

me, or are speaking through me. Otherwise I might never have become so obsessed with writing the story. I went back to college so that I might write it better. I got my Masters Degree in Liberal Studies, with the beginning of the book as my final project. I have floundered. I have procrastinated. I have persisted. I’ve never stopped. I am driven, knowing that I must finish. Yet I get older. This is a long process. I sometimes wonder why I cannot do this more quickly. Yet something makes me wait until going ahead feels right and then I write some more. Almost always, it feels so right. Is the story good? I don’t know that I can judge. But I love her and I am birthing her story. The labor is long. It is hard. When it is done, it will feel worth it to me. She lives again some nearly two hundred years later. I have found Rachel, and in so doing, I find myself.

Help for the Unorganized Person

I am working on being organized, and my best tool has been the book, Mirror Reflections by Marla Cilley, best known as the Flylady. I’ve been using her suggested techniques for about a month now and have found them wonderfully helpful. First, I must say that I have never been an organized

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person. My personality type is ENFP and people with that personality type are not born organized people. In fact, they are not like most people in many ways since ENFP’s make up about 5% or less of the population. The P signifies that we are not schedulers and we typically resist being tied to schedules and organizational type of activities. ENFP’s are a category of personality types as determined by Meyers-Briggs personality tests. They are an extroverted type of idealist who are considered to be generic cialis online champions of causes and/or people and have a strong drive to order viagra online canada advocate for them. After twenty some years of working outside the home, being a returning student, an earnest writer, leader of a writing group during that time, home organization has been on the bottom of my list. But I reached a point, generic viagra in looking around, and seeing a lot of clutter around me, that I needed to do something to pharmacy in canada change. So the Flylady entered my life. I’ve read many things about organization—the women’s magazines are filled with articles about it. The topic is obviously of great concern to people. However, the Flylady’s method appeals to someone cialis 30 like me—the not naturally organized person. I’ve been working at this for more than a month, establishing some routines, going against my basic nature, but am now finding the idea of getting rid of items every day, ideally 27 items, that I don’t really need or use or love, quite appealing. It might be almost addicting, but in the meantime, the excess items are disappearing and my house is beginning to look neater. The basic premise is: You can’t organize clutter. Once that idea becomes ingrained, then the whole idea becomes appealing. My suggestion is: read her book, adopt her methods, it may just work for you.

Writing that Novel and Creative Flow

People can say that gluing yourself to a chair is a most important

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factor in novel writing. “Write an outline, force yourself to write for a certain number of hours”, they may say. Teachers often like the concept of students putting themselves in boxes and staying within the proscribed outlines. For some writers this may work. For others, staying within the outline is akin to coloring within the lines. For these folks and I include myself in this group, it is a constraint that hampers the creative experience. It is the wonder of the process that keeps me going —keeps me in awe, keeps the story living. Sometimes I think I know the direction the story will take. I think I am going to write a scene a certain way, but then it does not follow the path I thought it would. I sit down, begin typing and something entirely different happens. Over time I have learned to expect this and I now welcome it. The term for it is flow. A writer begins to know when it is happening, and it is one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced. I put it up there with giving birth. Well, somewhere near. In a very real sense, writing in creative flow is akin

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to giving birth. Fortunately, men may also experience creative flow despite the obvious biological inability to give actual birth to a child. Creative birth is open to all, including people who doubt that they have any creativity within them. We are all potentially creative creatures and it is only our own impediments, beliefs, and teachings occurring often in our educational experiences or in our own minds that prevent the realization. A small example of creative flow from the experience I am currently having with the writing of my novel is as follows: The rescue of my character Rachel from her captor has not been planned but is evolving as I write. This is what I love—how the unplanned evolves into something. It comes out of what has happened previously in the story or out of the character of my protagonist and I have to feel my way. My working title has been Finding Rachel since the beginning, yet I had thought that “finding” her had something to do with finding herself, not with others in the story needing to find her and rescue her. She can also find something in herself, but right now she is being “found “in a very physical sense. I don’t even know why I gave the story that particular working title, but tend to think I was channeling something larger than something within myself when the name came to me.

How a Frosted Vintage Ruffle day lily brings a new dimension

Two friends and I went to Bakers Acres near Ithaca, NY for our annual trek. It is more than the usual greenhouse and garden supply place due to the great numbers of perennial flowering plants available and the gardens surrounding it. I try to connect the various areas of my life and this trip was no exception to this. I took my garden hat which had begun as an unadorned straw hat. I added a navy blue satin bow. The hat was made to match my navy dress that I wore to the Petersburg, VA arts and crafts festival we attended earlier in the month. The hat connects me to my new chapbook, “Garden and Sun,” which we took to the festival along with a book, My Florida Years, by Paul Dudley Bishop which was making its debut there. While my friends and I perused the goodies at Bakers Acres, I found a day lily that I fell in love with. The name of this lily was Frosted Vintage Ruffle. Since my historical novel that I am writing is set in 1823, the delicate vintage lily seemed the perfect new lily for this year’s garden, with its concerta canada pharmacy delicate pink, yellow and white hues. By buying and then planting this lily in the ground where my historical character lived, I am paying homage to her. It is then almost as if she is right here blooming in my garden. Not only is she existing in my first draft of my novel, the plant is a visual reminder of the woman on whom I am loosely basing my story and who once lived here long before me. A garden hat, my “Garden and Sun”chapbook, the vintage day lily, my character, Rachel all intersect and somewhere in this there is a wholeness in the making. In the process, I am finding new life and so is Rachel as she reaches out to me from the past. When the book is done, I hope she will also reach others.




In the Shadow of the Dickens House

In the Shadow By Charlotte Jane (White) Dickens For shadow there must be two things present. First, the light, there must always be sunlight. Then there must be something blocking the light so that it is darkened as it reaches the ground. In the accompanying illustration the Dickens’ house blocks the light. It is the standing house that blocks the light. This house has stood for at least 150 years, and has blocked the light in just the same way as it does today. Little has changed with it since it first stood. The house is nearly the same. The people who occupy it are different. Different families, different backgrounds, but essentially we are the same. How do I know? Partly I know this from historical research—partly from intuition. We came here for solace, as a place to lick our wounds, a place to start again. In providing this for us, the house also throws shadows. We found enough light to grow, even to thrive sometimes, and other times to live in the shadows. pharmacy in canada First to live here and to build this house were the Browns. As far as I can determine, they were the first family to live here although

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they were not the first owners. It was previously owned. Maybe the land was temporarily lived on prior to the Browns, but the owner left and did not reside here when it was sold to the Richard Manning in 1827 and later ownership was passed to Richard’s sister-in-law Rhoda Brown in 1828. The Browns were a troubled family. They came here to start again, after they lost their lands in the township of Dryden, the last being their farm there in August of 1823. In 1825, I pick up the family’s residence in the Town of Hector from census records. Whether they came directly here, or lived somewhere else for a time I have not determined. I have found that the farm was purchased in her name,

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rather than the name of her husband, Israel, whom I later found reference to in a biographical sketch of their grandson, who lived in Michigan. There it said that the son, Anthony, gave up a legal career to assist the family in farming due to Israel Brown’s becoming insane as a result of viagra what is it their loss of the farm. Here they began again. Israel and Rhoda’s son, Nathan, acquired the farm in 1844 and apparently prospered. He had become the owner of several pieces of additional property in his lifetime. At his death, several people owed money in notes to him. In between their ownership and my family’s, several people owned the farm, including one of Nathan’s sons for a short time. A family by the name of Mulligan lived here for a viagra walmart time, before the next long-term residents, my family, the Whites. My grandparents had lost their fruit farm on Seneca Lake in default on an FHA loan in the later 1930’s, after weather ruined fruit crops in 1935 from the flood of that year, and a heavy frost in 1937. In the year 1938, they moved here to a hillside farm with a new note from FHA for a less expensive farm. Here the Frank White family, my grandparents, cheap generic viagra found their new beginning. My grandfather and grandmother, with help from two of their children, Anna White, and my father, Herbert White, were able to purchase and pay for this place. My father lived on his own farm, a purchased one room school house and a farm bought on quick claim deed from the County, claimed by the county for unpaid taxes. My aunt was deeded the place here by my grandfather. When my grandmother died and my aunt no longer able to live here, my ex-husband and I bought it from her in 1967. My husband and I parted eventually after dairy farming here beginning in 1978 through 1998. We split the farm property and there are again two homes here, as there were for a time in the Brown years of ownership. This house I still live in is the one that they made from the two houses, which both existed sometime after 1850, yet became one at some point before 1874. Light shines upon it and yet there are also many shadows. I have named my small press publishing company, Light and Shadow Publishing & Illustrating. This year we put out a chapbook of poetry by me called Garden and Sun, a poetry chapbook by my life partner, Paul Dudley Bishop, called Gathering the Sun and several others, but often sun and shadow are important themes in our publications. I am also writing a novel loosely based on Rhoda and Israel Brown’s lives here. I’m hoping that it will be published, once it is finished, and that the funds from it will help with the restoration and upkeep of this old, Greek Revival farmhouse. My hope is that it continues to have sunlight shine upon it and yet deflect the brightest rays to throw shadows. We need the shadows to show us how to appreciate the sun. Right now,

no one much cares about this old home like I do. But as a place of solace and welcome to people who come here, it needs to continue.

Poetry Chapbook Released and Other News

We at Light and Shadow Publishing & Illustrating have released my new chapbook of poetry, Garden and Sun, in early March. For its initial public presentation we took it to Elizabeth City, NC for the First Friday Art Walk in that city, where it was available at Studio 511. We sold our first copies to the public in a city where, on our first day there, temperatures were in the 70’s, a welcome change from the zero and subzero temperatures we had been experiencing at home. A new venue, warm temperatures, and the opportunity to talk about poetry to people we had never met was an opportunity we were glad to experience. At Light and Shadow Publishing & Illustrating, we are busily putting together a book by Paul Dudley Bishop called The Florida Years, a small book filled with color illustrations and his description of his experiences of his many years as a wild bird artist in Florida. The several color reprints of artwork included are, in his words, but “a sketch” of some of that art that sold by the thousands as etchings and prints in his years as a printmaker in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. However, they are a sampling and representative of his wild bird art and his accompanying descriptions tell of his knowledge and experience with wild bird art. In those years, he traveled throughout many of the eastern seaboard states to art shows selling these and many other works of bird art. Now, we will be taking our work on the road and doing arts & craft shows and sales with our books and art illustrations produced here at our publishing company. Both Garden and Sun and The Florida Years will be available for sale for $10.00 each in these venues. You may also contact us directly at: or through the company website at, where you may find author information about me. You may view Paul Dudley Bishop’s

website at for more biographical information about him. There will be more publishing efforts coming soon here at Light and Shadow. We will be posting future endeavors and events in addition to a blog on my website. If you wish to sign up for future e-mails please visit the website at to be added to our e-mail list. Phone—910-988-2268 cell phone Light and Shadow Publishing & Illustrating 4612 Kellogg Road Burdett, NY 14818 A sample poem from Garden and Sun— I AM A STALKER By Charlotte Jane Dickens Quietly I move— To evade discovery, I find myself hiding, Moving slowly, Deliberately, Every move calculated. You, my prey, seem to have seen, As you flit about, Here, there, everywhere, But you keep returning Back to the nectar, Drawn by its power, All the while elusive, But finally— I capture you on film For the world to see Diabolical activity As you drain from the lily Some of its life-force And deposit what you can. Seeing me you fly Somewhere else And I do not follow. Your mission done. I have an image, Proof of your deed, Black Butterfly.

Garden and Sun Chapbook and Chapbook Holder