Column 27: Disconnecting

This column appeared in the Times Leader on Sunday, May 24, 2015

From the Latin words “dis” (apart) + “com” (together) + “nectere” (to tie,) the concept of “disconnect” has apparently become a bad thing. I wonder why.

That’s not to say that there aren’t negative forms of disconnection—sudden or prolonged withdrawal from friends and family or a winter power outage during an ice storm for instance. But I’m far more overwhelmed by too much connection than by pulling the plug or temporarily loosening the ties. For other people, it seems there is no such thing as down time.

I’m connected to my computer, phone and television, as are most people these days and as guilty of fidgety glances looking for notifications. My smart phone dings when new emails arrive in four different accounts. It tells me if I’ve missed a call and which contact in my list of several hundred was trying to reach me.  A little camera icon appears when someone likes one of my Instagram photos, and a talking bubble icon shows up if one of my friends sends me an instant message or text. I have websites and blogs to be updated, and don’t get me started on keeping up with my friends’ activities on Facebook.

Yes, there’s something kind of cool about someone in Australia following your posts or getting “likes” from the UK and Malaysia and keeping in touch with friends throughout the world, but there is also something a little creepy about people from your past that you’d rather forget or people that you don’t know at all repeatedly sending requests to be in your network on LinkedIn.

Companies that develop the apps constantly badger me to update their products, some of which require an increasing list of “permissions” to access my phone’s history, camera, contacts, location, etc. I usually opt for “No. I’ll keep the old version, thank you.” What is disconcerting, though, is that I just scanned through some of the out-dated apps, and they now “require no new permissions.” This means that (probably) Google has taken care of that and upgraded me with some sort of system update that handed over all of my information to Amazon, Facebook, Google Play, Motorola and YouTube whether I want them to have it or not. Very disturbing to have them connecting to my life without my knowledge or my approval. It is, after all, my phone service for which I pay an exorbitant amount of money every month.

For many years, going back to the Dark Ages when I had a land line at home, I have shut the phone ringer off on Sundays. Now it’s usually because I’m writing (working) on Sunday afternoons, but then it was to disconnect and spend time reading, watching old movies and hanging out with my dog to recharge.  I do it when I need to spend a few hours of quiet time away from the world at large. Voice mail is a wonderful thing.

I disconnect when I’m working, too--no TV, no radio or Pandora. For the most part, the only sounds are usually the breeze in the trees and Zsa Zsa snoring while I write. Maybe it’s my little pea brain, but I have to concentrate without distractions. I zone in on my research and computer screen. I sound out the words in my head as I type. I read what I’ve written out loud. I can’t hear myself while Dr. Phil interrogates his guests or Ellen dances or contestants price appliances.  But that’s just the way I roll.

A commercial for a morning show says, “You don’t want to be the one who doesn’t know.” Frankly, I don’t care about “knowing” everything. I glance through the headlines later, and if something interests me I read or watch the story. What I REALLY “don’t want” is to be bombarded with bad news and commercials first thing in the morning.  I’ve mentioned this before.

I recently forgot my phone when I went to Pittsburgh with a school field trip. A little anxiety set in at first because I was waiting for an email. How would I return calls? I’d planned to do my Instagram post from the museum—what now? My friend offered her phone to check emails and snap photos, and I stopped myself. What was the big deal? I had my regular camera for taking photos, and I would still have time once back at home to return the necessary messages. No need to panic. Breathe, reset, relax and simply enjoy the opportunity to see the art and artifacts.

How have we become so nervous about stepping out of the loop? What is that need to check the phone for flashing icons or the number of “likes?” When did the human web become so tightly woven that there is no privacy and so much extraneous thread? We’ve become afraid to be quiet and alone and untied even just for a little while. Is it because “the truth is out there,” and we want to be the first to post it? Or is it because we know the truth lies within us, and we are uncomfortable with what we’ll find? 


5-Day Black & White Photo Challenge, Day 5

I would be remiss in listing local “must sees” if I did not mention one of my favorite places on the PLANET: Oglebay Park on the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia. The park began with a moneyed family’s summer home (now on the National Historic Register) and has become a premier park system, unique in the United States. Its 1600+ acres sprawl across hills and valleys, ponds and a lake.  

Everyone and anyone can find something to do at Oglebay. There are three golf courses (a Par 3, a nine-hole and a championship 18-hole;) the Mansion Museum; a pool; tennis courts; Schrader Environmental Education Center; Good Zoo; a planetarium; a ski slope; Schenk Lake with paddle boats and fishing; picnic areas; an amphitheater; and miles of trails around the lake and all over the hills.

Wilson Lodge Resort & Conference Center has more than 270 rooms, a spa, conference center and two restaurants. There are also various sized cottages for rent.  

Special seasonal events include a huge Festival of Lights driving tour Nov to Jan; Fort Henry Days in Sept; OglebayFest in Oct (arts and crafts;) a Maple Syrup Festival in March.

When I was in college at nearby West Liberty, friends and I spent many a day picnicking and skiing and just hanging out in the sun at Oglebay. I love walking the trails around the lake, and it’s rare when I don’t see various kinds of wildlife: deer grazing, turtles sunning, Canadian geese paddling around a pond; ducks in the lake; dragonflies; cranes.

Regarding the next challenge nominee, one is not able to do it, and I should hear from another any time now.  Thanks so much for allowing me to participate—it was FUN!

Happy trails and safe travels…

5-Day Black & White Photo Challenge, Day 4 (already!)

These are Concord grapes grown at Georgetown Vineyards in Cambridge, Ohio—about 30 miles west of Barkcamp. Concord is a native grape that produces jelly and wine. Most of the time Concord wine is fairly sweet, though I’ve had some less sweet that is very good.  

Believe it or not, Ohio was the leading wine producer in America’s first 50 years. Land along the Ohio River east of Cincinnati was the prime spot. Blight destroyed most of the crop in the late 1850s, however, and the Civil War took the workforce. The industry didn’t “take root” again until the mid to late 20th century. Nearly all of today’s 110+ wineries are smaller and family-run, but Ohio ranks 10th in US wine production. Wineries and vineyards are located throughout the state from the Lake Erie shore to the banks of the Ohio River.

In Belmont County, Vino di Piccin is owned by six siblings who grew up with a wine-making father from Italy. They use his recipes and order grapes from Ohio and California to make some really nice Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as blends and whites.

Black Sheep Vineyards is on the border of Belmont and Jefferson Counties in Adena, Ohio. John and Becky Black bought an old sheep farm and planted several types of grapes. The tasting room is in the big, old barn, and the wine is made downstairs. They set high standards for their wines, and it’s quite good. They have music and dinner events regularly.

Georgetown Vineyards grows some estate grapes and orders grapes, juice and fruit from various sources to create some nice wines. Their Cranberry and Rhubarb wines are kind of fun. The site is beautiful—on top of a hill overlooking the town of Cambridge.

Beyond Cambridge, west on I-70 lies Terra Cotta Vineyards near New Concord. Their wines are hand-crafted, also, and they have a nice port called Hummingbird. North of Cambridge on I-77, you’ll find Ravens Glenn Winery in Newcomerstown just a few miles west of the freeway. This is a very popular tasting room with a restaurant, a large selection of wines to try and a sizeable gift shop. It sits right on the banks of the Tuscarawas River, and they host a lot of weddings and special dinners.  

5-Day Black & White Photo Challenge, Day 3

Some people may recognize this Candlewick from Imperial Glass. These are pieces from my mother’s collection—it was her wedding china pattern. Aside from steel mills and coal mines, this area was known for its quality glass like Imperial, Fostoria and Fenton, and there were many artisans crafting hand-blown and hand-painted pieces. Two of my grandfathers worked for Imperial, but the factory is gone now. However, the Imperial Glass Museum is located in Bellaire, Ohio, along the Ohio River. Zanesville Pottery and Roseville Pottery were located about 60 miles west.

In fact, Belmont County has been historically significant since before the Revolutionary War when it was considered the wilderness, a sort of no-man’s-land. Many of the settlers were soldiers and their families who received plots of land in exchange for their service. In Morristown (near Barkcamp) several soldiers’ remains rest in Pioneer Cemetery.  

Before, during and after the Civil War Belmont County was a gateway to points north for the Underground Railroad. A few miles from Morristown, in Flushing, Dr. John Mattox hosts visitors at the Underground Railroad Museum Foundation. The thousands of artifacts he has collected are fascinating, and he is a great storyteller.

In Barnesville, the Victorian Mansion Museum is the preserved and restored residence of one of the town’s prominent families. Beautiful  hand-crafted woodwork, furniture, period collections and special displays are well worth a look.

The county seat, St. Clairsville, has a new museum next to the County Courthouse. It’s a converted Sheriff’s Residence (and jail) with information on many of the local museums I’ve mentioned and on upcoming events.       

5-Day Black & White Photo Challenge, Day 2

Since I don’t have current camping photos, I thought I would share some of the local attractions that may be of interest to RVers in the event that you decide to visit this part of the Ohio Valley. I stopped at Barkcamp State Park yesterday, (a few miles north of my house) where my brother and sister-in-law set up their giant travel trailer when they bring it down from Michigan.

Barkcamp is a local favorite for hikers, fisherman, and hunters. It has horse trails and equestrian camping areas, an archery range and miniature golf, playgrounds, a stony beach, picnic areas throughout, and, I believe, family movies are shown during the summer in one area. This is the “quintessential Barkcamp photo” of the lake that everyone would recognize. One of the boat launches and a dock are just out of the photo, to the left.

Sites seem to go quickly since it’s a state park. I do know that locals camp here because I’ve walked there as training for a 5k (a combination of hills and flat roads with limited traffic) and chatted with people from nearby towns. There is also a popular and difficult trail run every fall called--wait for it--the Barkcamp Race founded by a friend of mine. Sometimes I take a chair and book and my pup Zsa Zsa on summer Sunday afternoons and sit in a quiet picnic area under the trees. I’ve been here in all four seasons, and it’s always beautiful.   

5-Day Black & White Photo Challenge, Day 1

Thank you, Chris Hughes of for naming me in this challenge and for your kind words. I’ve really enjoyed your black & whites this week, and I always like reading posts from the RV Happiness community.

As Chris noted, I’m not currently an "RVer,” but my family began camping in a 17’ Scotty (?) when I was around 10 years old and moved to larger campers from there. We stayed mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania but did travel up through New England to Maine one summer. In my teens, my parents decided to lease a “permanent” space in PA’s Allegheny National Forest/Kinzua area, and they kept that location until after they retired.

I was thinking about Chris’s challenge standing at my kitchen window this morning getting breakfast when I had a flashback of my camping mornings. I would be the first up (of my parents and brother) so I could get ready and dressed and out of the way. I would make a cup of tea and sit outside in the quiet, cool, fresh morning air. In the high forest it was often a bit misty, but that burned off by mid-morning. I always enjoyed the sounds of birds singing, the breath of a breeze rustling tree leaves and other campers stirring. So I'll start at the beginning with this first photo of my morning coffee on the deck. It takes me back to those days and has me considering the possibility of experiencing those simple pleasures again. 


Cutting Class for a Cure--Barnesville Middle School Benefit

(This feature article appeared in the Times Leader on Saturday, May 9.)

BARNESVILLE—“We want to help kids and families with what we’ve been through. We want to give back,” says Alayna Willis, eighth grade.  She is one of many students whose life has been affected by cancer, and she and her friends are volunteering time and energy to make Barnesville’s annual “Cutting Class for a Cure” another successful event.  This year Friday, May 15 is the big day.

For seven years Barnesville Middle School has held a spring fundraiser with all proceeds donated to the local 3 Cs Cancer Support Group. In 2009 teachers Lori Witchey and Bev McConnell organized “Coins for a Cure” a fund drive that passed coffee cans around classrooms and netted $489.34.

In 2012 Witchey, a cancer survivor who also lost her father to the disease, and McConnell, who lost her husband and a brother to cancer, stepped it up with the first “Cutting Class for a Cure” cancer walk. Their stories provided a connection with students dealing with cancer in their own families and a shared interest in helping local support groups. Students purchased passes to get out of class and spend the periods walking laps in the gymnasium. That year the school raised over $4,000, and each year the “Cutting Class” event has grown.  

“It’s always an amazing day,” says Denise Adkins-Leach, Barnesville Middle School language arts teacher. “The whole building is into it.” 

Adkins-Leach has taken on the project this year after Witchey’s and McConnell’s retirements. She explains that small events and fundraisers earlier in the year provide seed money for the “Cutting Class” day. For instance, a “Kiss Cancer Goodbye” campaign sold packages of Hershey Kisses for 50 cents to help purchase materials for other “Cutting Class” fundraisers, as did a “March Madness” basketball tournament that raised $400 toward the cause.

Fifth grade math students held a Math-a-Thon to help out. Seventh and eighth graders have been making signs to post throughout the community and in the school. Students have provided feedback and input on ideas for fundraising, activities and designs for signs and t-shirts, according to Adkins-Leach. She commended their hard work and efforts during study halls and learning lab times even around the testing schedule.

“The kids are learning to give back to the community,” Adkins-Leach explains. “That is something that we try to instill in them.” 

Students like Willis, Casey Betts and Alle Sinisgalli are gathering family members and other donors to participate in “Cutting Class” and will be helping out during the activities.

“My brother Grayson has been an inspiration,” Willis notes. Grayson, 19, battled cancer most of his life, but is now clear. “He pushes me to do what we can.” 

Sinisgalli, also in eighth grade, has been busy making support ribbons, and her group plans to have 1,000 ready to sell. Her mother had cancer when she was pregnant, and her aunt is a cancer patient now.

“I know it was hard for my mother,” she says. “I want to help people going through the same things.”

The cause is important to eighth grader Betts, too. Cancer took both of her grandmothers.

“I’m going to be bringing family members and raise money to help,” Betts adds. “And give people hope.”

 Volunteers from 3 Cs Cancer Support Group will also be on hand again this year. Proceeds from this event provide assistance to patients and families not covered by health insurance. This often includes, but is not limited to, wigs for chemotherapy patients, gasoline cards, grocery gift cards, meals and hotel stays during treatments.  So far BMS has donated a total of $25,153.10 to the organization from their yearly “Cure” events.  

Adkins-Leach says this year’s special guests will include State Senator Lou Gentile, who has visited past “Cutting Class” events, and Stephanie Dodd from the Ohio State Board of Education.

Students and other participants can expect a full day of activities on May 15, beginning at 8 a.m. at Barnesville Middle School, 970 Shamrock Dr. The walk will take place in the gymnasium, as always. This year, in addition, staff and volunteers will be running a corn hole competition, Ultimate Frisbee, a photo booth and a volleyball tournament. Adkins-Leach also notes that some teachers have agreed to be targets in a “pie in the face” event.

There will be a memory and honor wall again, and two t-shirt styles are available for orders now and the day of the event. One is a solid kiwi green for $10 and the other is a tie-dyed Kelly green shirt for $15. Sponsor Ramcat Alley Sportswear in Bellaire has been a big help, according to Adkins-Leach.

Barnesville Middle School student volunteers, from left, Alle Sinisgalli, Casey Betts and Alayna Willis, accept two bicycles donated by Jeremy Detling, third from left, on behalf of Williams Field Services Group and their community support program. The bikes will be raffled as part of BMS’s annual “Cutting Class for a Cure” event to raise money for 3Cs Cancer Support Group. 

Barnesville Middle School student volunteers, from left, Alle Sinisgalli, Casey Betts and Alayna Willis, accept two bicycles donated by Jeremy Detling, third from left, on behalf of Williams Field Services Group and their community support program. The bikes will be raffled as part of BMS’s annual “Cutting Class for a Cure” event to raise money for 3Cs Cancer Support Group. 

 She points out that many individuals, agencies and businesses have contributed to this event and cause. Some of these include sponsors Barnesville Education Association; Barnesville Athletic Association; the math, language arts, music and social studies departments at BMS; Dairy Queen; Triple B Trucking; Bennoc, Inc.;  Allison Starr and Mandi Moore of Premier Jewelry; China One; VFW Post 168; Ohio Hills Health Services; Belmont Savings Bank; Martha Campbell; Eva Lynn; JoAnn Murphy; Dave Barker; Cline Road Custom Cakes; The Styling House; W.J. Plumly Trucking.

South Central Power and Convenient Food Mart are donating some bottled water, hot dogs and buns. Miller’s Bakery and My Pizza Place are donating food for event workers. Adkins-Leach says that food sponsor opportunities are available for Life Water or Gatorade and for sponsorships toward food and beverages for walk participants.

Merchandise and gift cards or gift certificates have been donated by the following contributors, among others, for door prizes and raffle prizes: Cincinnati Bengals; Cincinnati Reds; Washington Wildthings; Wheeling Nailers; Pennsylvania Rebellion; Undo’s; West Texas Roadhouse; Chel’s; J-Mo Meats; WesBanco; Belmont Carson Petroleum; Wendy’s; Reisbeck’s; McDonald’s; Avenues of Barnesville; Barnesville Football Parents; Barnesville Vision Consultants; Save-a-Lot; Braido Memorials; Bill Hunkler Insurance; District Superintendent Randy Lucas; Barnesville Library; Domino’s Pizza.  A complete list of donors and sponsors can be seen at the event’s Facebook page, “Barnesville Middle School Cutting Class for a Cure.”   

Students will be able to purchase all-day wristbands for $10 to get out of classes for the whole day’s activities. The fee also includes 12 tickets for prize drawings. They also have the option of purchasing tickets for individual class periods and drawings, says Adkins-Leach.  Prizes include signed sports memorabilia from the Cincinnati Bengals and The Ohio State University Buckeyes as well as jewelry and an iPod with an iTunes gift card. Contact Adkins-Leach through the school at (740)425-3116 or via the Facebook page regarding prize donations or sponsorships. Cash donations for the 3Cs will be accepted throughout the day of the event.  Last year the day’s activities brought in $13,076.36, and Adkins-Leach hopes to reach $14,000 this year.

“Everybody pitches in for this event,” she says. “Everything raised stays local. People give generously because they know where the money is going.”

The students are hoping for a big day this year, too, in support of cancer patients and their families and friends.

 “We want to show people that they don’t have to go through this alone,” Sinisgalli adds. “People can be here for them.”