Archive for September, 2010

Fun for four generations

On Saturday daughter Patti brought her daughter Melissa, Melissa’s daughters Aly and Lilly, and son Patrick’s fiancee Juliet for an afternoon and evening in Baltimore.


From left to right—Melissa, me, Aly, Patti, Lilly, and Juliet.

We started our get-together with lunch at Charlestown, followed by a stop at the model train layout here.


It’s quite an elaborate layout, but due for a major renovation in a few months.


From there we stopped at Charlestown’s employee flea market where Melissa and Juliet found some excellent acquisitions: Melissa got a nice upholstered foot rest for $10.00 and Juliet got a good-looking garment bag for free! After those successes, we then headed into Baltimore to the B & O Railroad Museum.


On the way, we stopped at the house my sons had built for me in 1980.

I was an urban homesteader who bought an abandoned house for a dollar and rebuilt it.


The back of the house.

It was one room wide with four floors. The back room on the top floor was my bathroom. The wall on the left side was glass block. With light pouring in from two sides, this was my greenhouse, filled with plants and a cushioned rattan chair. The house is looking a bit run down now.

The railroad museum was a big hit with the girls.


The 40-acre site, the birthplace of American railroading, comprises architecturally and historically significant buildings, actual engines and cars from all eras, and splendid exhibits. Aly and Lilly especially enjoyed running through the cars and pushing levers in engines.


In-laws to be, Juliet and me in front of the outdoor small-scale model layout. Yea, another woman in my family!


Like mother, like daughter;

From the museum we headed for the Inner Harbor, passing on the way the house where Ernie and I had lived in Federal Hill. Melissa remembered visits there and we reminisced about them.

Some boats docked at one of the marinas around the harbor.


An addition since I was last there, a playing fountain at the Inner Harbor, dedicated to Walter Sondheim, the visionary civic leader who spearheaded the development of the then desolate, slummy and pretty much unused Baltimore harbor into a major tourist destination. It led the rebuilding of Baltimore’s downtown thirty years ago.

Then the Inner Harbor was an upscale venue with classy shops, restaurants, ethnic and specialty food purveyors, and light-filled, spacious pavilions. It’s still a beautiful location, but it caters to tourists and has become more like malls everywhere.

Inside a pavilion:

Lots of junky stuff and fast foods on offer now.

Daughter-in-law-to-be Juliet and mother-in-law-to-be Patti.

These are additions to the Inner Harbor since I was last there about 2o years ago:

From the Inner Harbor we went east to an old Baltimore establishment, Obrycki’s Crab House.

Where, of course, we ate steamed hard crabs. This was Juliet’s mission–to eat the Baltimore steamed crabs her beloved Patrick raved about.

The tables are covered with sheets of brown paper and the steaming hot crabs are slid from a tray onto the table. Everyone has a mallet and a knife and a pile of paper napkins.

Then you go to work with your hands. Aly and Lilly had a great good time smashing the claws with their mallets.

When we’d demolished 18 crabs, Aly challenged me to a stare down.

She won, two out of three.

Back home through the city:

For good-byes at Charlestown.

G-g JoWynn hugging Lilly

And Aly

Oh, what a good day!

Thanks to Juliet and Patti for allowing me to use some of their photos.

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I’m running!

At age 73 I am training to run my first 5K race in the Baltimore Running Festival on October 16th. I will be running as part of the FUNd Run team in support of Baltimore Christian School. Ernie and I have been supporting this school since we learned about it in 2007. When the call came for runners for this year’s fund-raising, I decided to participate. When I registered and sent in my $38.00, I didn’t know if I could even run. I didn’t know whether my shoes would fit. I began training the last week of July, when temperatures were over 100 degrees, by running for a few minutes at a time in our air-conditioned hallway. On August 19th I ran/walked three miles around our perimeter road, and I’ve been running three miles three days a week ever since. I’m ready for the 5K.


Why am I doing this? Because I believe passionately in the work being done and the results being achieved by Baltimore Christian School. At a time when the high school drop-out rate of Baltimore City public schools is 65%, 80% of BCS graduates are attending college. The other 20% are employed. The school comprises grade levels pre-K to 5th. The average 5th grade student scores on the 6th grade level for math and on the 7th grade level for language arts. Fourth and fifth graders participate in the Baltimore Urban Debate League where they debate middle schoolers. Last year the BCS team won. Moreover, one of the judges commented that if character had been one of the criteria, BCS would have scored highest.

Founded and supported by this church, the school uses a classical curriculum and Latin is required of all students. The student-teacher ratio is 16:1, and 50% of the teachers have post-baccalaureate degrees. The extended day program offers a variety of enrichment classes in music, dance, art, sports, and drama. Free tutoring is available

The school’s motto is: Developing Servant Leaders for the 21st Century. They aim to see some of the most disadvantaged kids in Baltimore make successful transitions into adulthood and to pursue their callings. They are succeeding. I visit the school. I have attended performances by the students. I have a 5th grade pen pal. The poise, intelligent conversation, discipline, and maturity of these students is truly impressive.

Since 2007, Ernie and I have donated $4500 to BCS. So far this year, I have sent $100 to support the FUNd Run t-shirts expense. By running, I expect to be able to generate much more money for the school than Ernie and I can give from our bank account.

I am asking you to join me in the FUNd Run by backing my run with your donation to the school. Any gift is welcome. No gift is too small. As I am soliciting support from a great many people, small donations can add up to a big total for the school. I hope you will decide to partner with me by giving whatever amount is comfortable for you, and by being as generous as you can afford to be.

You can donate online by clicking here: Support for JoWynn.

Or you can send a check payable to Baltimore Christian School. Please write on the memo line of your check “JoWynn Johns-FUNd Run” and mail it to the address below.

Baltimore Christian School

505 East 42nd Street

Baltimore, MD 21218

Thank you.



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This year the theme of Charlestown’s annual gala is “Masquerade Ball.” The invitation said, “No costumes. This is a black-tie event. Please wear a mask.” For those who  arrive without a mask, one will be provided for them.

I decided to make my own. Here’s the design.


The red motifs are from the top I beaded and wore to last year’s gala. I scanned the top, resized the elements I wanted to use, printed them, and cut them out. Funny how the S shape keeps recurring in my designs.

I chose a white and ivory print cotton as the ground fabric and found a dark red print that is almost identical to the motifs on the top from last year that  I will be wearing again.

After fusing the cotton fabric to Pellon fusible fleece, for body, I transferred the design and tacked it to a frame. For the motifs, I used Misty Fuse, which made them fusible to the ground fabric.

One eye

All the time I was using a practice cloth—for testing the fusibles, trying out threads and stitches. On the back, you can see the fusible fleece to which I then tested fusing the same print fabric to cover the back.

Practice back

I wasn’t sure how I could get a gold edge around the mask, so I tested that here as well. Also, I wanted to make sure the metallic threads wouldn’t melt during fusing.

Practice front

The work in progress. Unfortunately, you can’t see in the photo the seed beads that outline the motifs and the eye holes. The S shapes are heavy chain stitch, AKA braided chain stitch in Caron hand-dyed cotton.


And the finished mask:


Made entirely from materials found in my stash.

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Toni’s book

My friend Toni has written a book that was just published September 1st titled How to Be Sick. My copy arrived yesterday.

Toni's book

You may remember Toni. She hand-painted some silk squares for me some time ago. We have been corresponding for many years, across the continent from each other. We have shared a debilitating condition, from which I expected never to recover. Both of us housebound and severely limited in functioning when we met, we supported and comforted and commiserated with each other.

As Toni began to write what has become this valuable book, I was reading the first and second drafts, chapter by chapter. It was clear from the beginning that in telling her story and the ways in which she learned to live a rich and satisfying life with her limitations and suffering, she was creating a great resource for others. And I kept telling her so. Now it is such a joy to me to see this book published.

Not only published, but published by the distinguished publisher, Wisdom Publications and lauded by 25 widely-known and respected authors and teachers, on the back cover and the first four pages. The book has already been featured in the leading Buddhist magazine, Shambala Sun. You can read excerpts from the book and learn more about Toni at her website. And you’ll find a summary and reviews at amazon.com, which began accepting pre-orders months ago. She has been interviewed on radio and given book talks. My friend Toni has become a celebrity!

Since I just got the book late yesterday, I haven’t yet read it in its final form, but I know this about it. It is not only a treasure for those who suffer chronic illness or disability and for their caregivers; it is just as valuable for all of us, because all of us have to deal with various vicissitudes in our lives and the practices and insights Toni offers apply to any kind of struggle.

I live and work among the extremely elderly people here at Charlestown, especially in our care center. This book is for them, those who can still read. It’s going with me to the care center when I visit there.

Well done, Toni. I’m privileged to know you and to have watched your book come into fruition.

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Yesterday I finally got to see the dermatologist. The good news is that I have no disease that is causing this rash. The diagnosis is urticaria, which means hives—an allergic reaction exacerbated by stress.

I was given two prescriptions for much stronger medications than had been prescribed for me at our Medical Center—one to be taken orally and one to be applied to the rash. When I applied the cream to the rash, the itching intensified, so I called the doctor. He said this is a highly unusual response to this treatment. I may be having a paradoxical reaction, which I have had to medications in the past. He told me to take some doses of the Zyrtec, then, with that medication in my system, to try the cream again on a small test area.

Meanwhile, we search for the allergen. I have to stop using some things, use different things, and see what happens. One possible cause of the rash could be the bromine in the swimming pool water, so no swimming for a while. I learned from our Fitness Director that other residents have developed rashes due to bromine. If that turns out to be the culprit, not being able to swim would be a very significant loss for me. I hate to think about that.

So, the good news is that I’m having an allergic reaction. (I had already asked the doctor here whether I might be allergic to my life situation.) The bad news is that initially, at least, the medication hasn’t helped, and even worse—I may have to give up swimming. But maybe not.

I think I’m already doing all the things I can do to cope with the stress of living with Ernie, who had another brain attack on Tuesday that lasted all day and has further diminished his cognitive functioning.

I am working on the mask I will wear to the gala this year. Here’s a peek at the work in progress.


There will be lots more stitching, beads galore, and gold. Around the eye holes are glass seed bead “pearls” with white buttonhole stitching.

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