Taking Census

by Cynthia on September 18, 2017

If you ever have a few minutes to kill, try digging around in the U.S. Census. It forces you to really think about what went before us, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

When I was writing Switch,* I needed to know how it would feel to search for someone’s history via the handwritten journals that were the census in the beginning. When the census began in 1790, it wanted each household broken down into the number of: free white males 16 and over, free white males under 16, free white females, other free persons, and slaves.

According to that first census, there were 3,929,328** people living in the U.S. 697,697 of them were slaves. That’s about 18% of the population.

By 1860, more territories had become states. The population had grown to 31,443,323 and 3,953,760*** (13%) of those people were slaves (Something I read indicated that number included both Black and Native American people). At that point, many of the northern states had greatly reduced or eliminated the number of slaves they reported. The southern states had the largest percentages with South Carolina (57%) and Mississippi (55%) reporting the highest numbers.

By that time, the census had added more questions and it’s clear from the report for that year, they were cross-referencing the information in a multitude of ways. The actual census pages held all the address-type information on the left. The columns to the right noted the number of people in the house, their names and relationships, gender, and race (which was now split between, Free White, Free Black (including Black and “Mulatto” peoples, Free “Civilized Indians,” and “Slaves.” There was a notation that almost 40,000 “Asiatics” had been included in the Free White category.)

Each person’s occupation was recorded in a column.**** Whether or not they owned the home they were living in was noted in another. It was clear that some families were farming on land that was rented. Some childrens’ occupations were listed as “Farm Labor,” some as “School.” My eyes automatically calculated the difference between children birthed and children living.

I introduced myself to some of those families on the pages of the census. I thought about them, wondered what it must have been like to walk in their shoes, or their bare feet. That put me in the perfect place to write Switch.

Talk to you soon.

*A portion of Switch takes place in 1915.
**Not that this is at all important but, just so you know, I found a 2 person addition error.
*** That’s more than the entire 1790 U.S. population.
****I was surprised to see that the list of California occupations began with Actors and Agents. There were Brokers, too, and something called a Daguerreotypist. I looked it up. It’s some kind of early photographer/developer person that uses a special silver technique.

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A Change That Will Stick

by Cynthia on July 27, 2017

This year, I’m having a really big birthday. Can you keep a secret? I’m gonna be older than I’ve been in my entire life. But this birthday’s got me, wondering: Have I made a difference?
At home, I have this sign by my door that says, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I look at it every morning as I leave for work. But nothing about my job makes the world a better place. I count money for a living. At work, if someone says the word CHANGE, they mean the green, silver, and copper kind.
But the kind of change I need comes with growth and new knowledge, and sometimes, lots of chocolate and maybe a little too much wine.
Change has always terrified me.
Right before I graduated from High School, Granny told me, “Cynthia, sugar. All life is is a bunch of changes all strung together. You can’t be afraid. It’s like a box in pretty paper all tied up with a bow. In that box could be the best thing that ever happened to you. OR it could be the worst. If you never look, you’ll never know. But if you hear somethin’ hissin’ and rattling in there, don’t open it. Could be a snake.”

After that, I decided I’d rather help others change than open that box myself. Just seemed like a better plan. That’s when I started writing plays & novels. All these years, I’ve been waiting for my words to make it out into the world, to make a difference. And here they are. Still waiting. It’s not my fault. I did my part. I wrote the words. Do I have to sell them too? I can’t do everything. Unless, I quit my job.Yes!
I am a mess. It’s this gargantuan birthday looming.
I realized last week that if I plan to be the change that sign by my door is talking about, I have to hurry. Somehow, I have to move to the express lane of difference-making.
So I consulted Ms. Google. When I asked her about “Women changing the world,” she had an answer right away.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that a woman invented the Pooper scooper. Or the bra. Somebody had to get us out of the corset, right? But Monopoly? The circular saw? Women invented so many important things and often someone else, usually a man, received credit for their work. That makes the next statement extra sweet. Eat your heart out guys. A WOMAN invented DUCT TAPE! 
Her name was Vesta Stoudt.
It was WWII. Vesta was doing her part packing and inspecting boxes of rifle grenade cartridges. One day she found out that the paper tape they sealed the boxes with was breaking when soldiers tried to pull it off. So there they were, under enemy fire, having to scramble and claw to open those boxes.
Vesta had an idea: A cloth based, water proof tape. She went to her supervisor, and his supervisor, and his supervisor and his supervisor. Everybody kept saying, “The war department’s not going to change the tape.”
So Vesta wrote a letter to President Roosevelt.
I’ll bet those supervisors were surprised when Johnson and Johnson started making army green Duck Tape (When they started making it in silver to close ducts during installation, they began calling it DUCT tape.)
That’s the very same tape astronauts used to repair Apollo 13 and 17.
Did you know, duct tape can double the trade in value of a rusty car. And it removes unwanted hair. And warts. The silver makes an unforgettable prom dress. You can even use it as a strapless bra. Just make sure you have some of that medical tape remover on hand. Okay? OR, ouch.
These days it comes in hundreds of colors and patterns and you can do amazing things with it.

Lexus snack dish

My favorite is a decorative snack dish that fits right into the drink carrier of your Lexus.

I know Vesta would have been so proud, but I wanted to use her tape in a way that would honor the spirit in which she created it; in a way that could be my express lane to difference making, and I found it.

The Vesta Stoudt commemorative war prevention kit.

It includes a 5-inch piece of duct tape that, when strategically placed (in a timely manner), can prevent any argument. In the interest of peace, please pick up a kit today.

Keep one in the dash of your car for family trips. Keep one in the pantry for quick dinner table access. And if you’re under the impression that your family doesn’t need a kit, send some out into the world.
Use them wherever you think they’ll make the most difference.
Join me in seizing this opportunity to be that change in the world. Let’s make a change that will stick.

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Write on

November 2, 2015

The show I told you about in my last blog was a wonderful success. I got to know my character so well it took me about three weeks to completely shake her shadow. If you watch the show in the link provided, you will see that Darla Thompson’s depression didn’t creep in “on little cat […]

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Shaped by Experience

December 29, 2012

  Cynthia Rogan will perform her new play, Cat-a-tonic. Okay,  so the director made me take the photo up there as promo for Cat-a-tonic. I was a bit resistant. But . . . here it is, just the same.  And here’s some more about the entire show. We’re in for some fun nights and if […]

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Smiling in the face of fear

August 21, 2012

Raising my girls is the scariest, most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. Publishing Symphony of Dreams is probably second on the list. I must admit it’s neck and neck  with being part of a live improv show which I did last Saturday. However, in an improv show, you work with others in the crew and […]

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Too busy to breathe

July 31, 2012

Lately, I’ve been stuck. Somehow, I over-committed. It was out of love, as usual. Love of words, love of writing, love of friends. Between work, trying to market Symphony of Dreams, helping a friend with his manuscript, working on a solo-performance, and trying to get The Courier ready for publication, I lost “something.” First, my […]

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Marketing, Schmarketing

July 16, 2012

So I say to myself, “Now, Cynthia. How hard can it be to get a little attention for your book? I mean Symphony of Dreams is a great story. The people who’ve read it, love it. You love it. And we’ve all been in Symphony’s position at one time or another. So . . . […]

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June 23, 2012

One glance at my garden used to leave me gnashing my teeth. Weeds were everywhere. If one of my plants wasn’t doing well, it was usually sharing its little plot of the world with a healthy green squatter. From experience, I can assure you that no amount of cursing will kill a weed. I have […]

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Lies, Lies, Lies

April 11, 2012

Mr. Rogers died. Then came the story about how he was a Navy Seal and a sniper in Vietnam with 25 confirmed kills to his credit. And . . . the reason he always wore a sweater was to cover up his tattoos. I was shocked. I always saw him as a sort of bland […]

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We must believe

April 7, 2012

Marie Curie said: “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” So . . . that’s why I spend my spare time writing, editing and, […]

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Going places

October 31, 2011

Mama used to tell this story about how I came home from first grade in hysterics. The teacher said we were going to read the next day and I was horrified. How was I supposed to read? I didn’t know how. I insisted Mama teach me that very night so I’d be ready. She tried […]

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No pain, no gain?

October 27, 2011

Generally, I’m not the girly type. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis. In fact, I’m sure I’ve gone years without mascara. I don’t own a pair of heels. I wear my hair goopless, shiny, and straight. I’m not opposed to showing a little cleavage now and then, but my breasts occurred naturally. They […]

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On this day, I write

October 26, 2011

Robert Dugoni opened the Surrey conference I just attended. “On this day, I write,” was the ending phrase of his speech. If you’d like to hear it, please click here. It is inspirational. Thanks to Robert Dugoni, I began the conference reminded of why I write. Thanks to Robert McCammon, and Robynn Sheahan, and Russell […]

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I have my reasons and you have yours.

September 16, 2011

We all do what we feel we have to at any given moment and those actions we cannot justify, we rationalize. Notice I didn’t say we always do what we feel is right. There’s a big difference. BESIDES . . . what’s right for you could easily wrong someone else (see my post  What’s your […]

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Mares do eat oats, right?

September 12, 2011

Mare-zee dotes and doe-zee dotes and little lam-zee diveys.  A diddly divey doo, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you what??? I never understood this song. I sang it anyway – as it is written above. It has such a catchy tune . . .but the words? Oh well, I figured. Nothing is perfect. But I could never […]

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Checking on the sisters

September 9, 2011

The Himalayas The twins, the ladies, the girls, the sisters, the Himalayas: Whatever you call them, you want to keep them as safe as possible. I went for a mammogram on Wednesday morning. First thing I did was sit down with the intake person. I had to fill out some forms, answer a few questions. […]

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For the good of us all

September 7, 2011

I was in the mall the other day looking for back to school clothes for an eight-year-old. I’m surprised they haven’t added a make-up counter in the girl’s section. Do they make spike heels for children? The dresses I’ve posted can be found right now in back to school sections in malls across the country. […]

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The last night of summer

September 5, 2011

The door squeaked opened. Footsteps approached. “Someone else is in here,” I thought, scrambling up from the cool tile, clunking my head against the bottom of the stall wall. Mama would have been mortified had she seen my pale face resting against that bathroom floor. But where else could I calm my stomach? I wasn’t […]

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Where does the dream stop and the story begin?

August 30, 2011

I awoke this morning in the middle of a dream. I had been re-hired by a firm I worked for fifteen years ago. It was my first day back. Scrambled eggs, sausage links, and hash browns were being served on the over-polished, walnut conference table. Hmmm. Family breakfasts weren’t company policy when I worked there […]

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What’s your point . . . of view?

August 27, 2011

Nothing is black and white… really. All things are shaded by point of view. Most of us have experienced this by the time we’re out of diapers.  You think you should have a toy, another baby is sure they need it, and whoever ends up with the prize ultimately believes they deserved it. By the […]

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