Writer, photographer and lover of the overlooked and forgotten

Photo compliments of author

What would you like to know? I’m guessing you would like to know my slant, my background, what I bring to the party, what makes me tick. Not too much information, just enough. So here goes –

First, my last name is Greek. My grandfather immigrated from Greece in the early 1900s. A fellow immigrant helpfully translated our last name into (sort of) English. “Helentjaris” looks more complicated than it is: the “t” is silent, and, like most Greek names, the accent is on the next to last syllable. Helen — JAR — Us. As a result of the unique…

In a win-win, the colorful fabric bags made life better during dark times

George Reier. Photo by author.

Ninety-year-old George Reier is ready. Always. His car is gassed up, his frig full, and his garden weeds pulled. As a farm boy in Cranberry Prairie, Ohio, he learned to take care of things. Later, in the Marines, George was in charge of supplies. I was not surprised this week that when I mentioned flour sacks to George, he ferreted out one from the bottom of his cedar chest in five minutes flat. Pristine and clean as the day it was made, the red, white, and blue…

A lasting legacy from the ‘60s

Tie-dye fabric, Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“The heepies lived here.” My Russian landlord paused to make sure I understood.

“What? Oh, the hippies.”

“Yes, the heepies. Crazy colors on everything when we bought this. Psychedelic. My brothers and my father and I had to paint it all.”

The Russians had done a good job of returning the San Francisco Victorian to its original elegance. Three-stories high, the Haight Street apartment building opened to views of Buena Vista Park on the north. The views from the south, where my dining room bay window was, looked out over the city, Golden Gate…

Never underestimate the potential of a child to touch the world

By Sally Alger, Mary Balch’s School, Providence Rhode Island, 1782. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Girl power! What can giggle-box girls do? Turns out, a lot.

Growing up in Ohio, at four, I embroidered. My mother taught me. I outline stitched orange poppies with black French-knot anthers atop stamens. At around the same age, up north in Detroit, Carol Huber also learned to embroider. A favorite treat for Carol was a trip to Kresge’s topped off with the reward of an embroidery kit. Once home, she’d embroider the blue lines of the pattern stamped on the heavy fabric. I grew up to use my…

Author Linda Sittig’s passionate quest

The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas. Wikimedia Commons

As a child, author Linda Harris Sittig sometimes wore homemade clothing. Her friends in her northern New Jersey neighborhood also wore cotton dresses, corduroy pants, and pajamas sewn by their mothers. Although those other moms might have been excellent seamstresses, none could compete with Mrs. Harris’s tales of her grandfather’s Philadelphia fabric mill. They didn’t know which Irish towns wove the best linen. None rivaled the care she took to assure her daughter wore quality fabric.

A classic choice with a rich backstory

Photo compliments of author

Riding the sea of black robes, the killer whale sparkled a message of inclusion and heritage. Created from pearl buttons, scarlet, and black cloth, the whale was the central motif of the button blanket draped over Christina Gray’s shoulders. It proclaimed the young woman’s membership in the whale clan of the Tsimshian indigenous people. Atop her head, a woven cedar bark hat served as an exclamation point. No other lawyer called to the Ontario bar that June day in 2015 wore such dramatic garb.

At first, the Law Society of Upper Canada refused Gray’s request to wear the traditional outfit…

An eighteen-year-old immigrant reaches the Port of New York in 1910

S.S. Themmistocles Photo in public domain

The first crossing

over the choppy gray Atlantic

was with his father

to work.

The second crossing,

they took their American money


The third crossing,

the last time,

the final journey,

he sailed alone,

abandoning Greece for America’s glitter,

enchanted and

lured by sirens his father ignored.

He gambled aboard the ship

and docked without a drachma

or a penny

or the required twenty dollars.

He was officially a pauper

facing deportation.

His dream beckoned at the end of the gangplank,

drawing him off the ship.

He grabbed…

Kathie Ratcliffe creates gem-like art from bits of cloth

Kathie Ratcliffe with a quilt. Photo compliments of author

With an air of tranquility, the village in Virginia sprawls along the Catoctin Creek. To the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains rise. Less than fifty miles to the east, bureaucrats and powermongers elbow each other in Washington, DC. Yet Waterford exudes peace as if recalling its Quaker roots. Historic homes — brick, clapboard, stone, and log — string along the few streets in an array dating to the 1700s. Sprinkled among the houses nestle a one-room African American schoolhouse, a button-size grocery with sheep grazing out back, churches, and an old-fashioned…

This vibrant remnant of an Irish cottage industry survives in our digital age

Photo compliments of author

Coming up with gift ideas for men, according to groupthink, stretches our imagination. Ties, golf balls, and button-down shirts pile up over the years. Gift buying is a bit easier if the fellow, like my special man, happens to be bald. Hats. Hats to not only keep warm, but to protect the top of his head. Being bald is like being a cat without whiskers — a bald man never knows exactly how close his noggin is to the undercarriage of the car he’s working on. Or…

Create your own writing prompts with ease

Photo compliments of author

Blank pages come in myriad forms. Ghostly rectangles on desktop screens. College-lined blue on white cheap paper. Yellow schoolchild tablets. Heavy pebbly stationary with a monogram. Yet they have a commonality: blank pages beg to be filled. With writing.

I prefer the blank white of my desktop. My fingers can fill a page up in no time at all, except when they can’t. When I’ve hit a wall and don’t know what to write next or what to write at all. Those are the times I need a prod, a prompt, a reset.

Diane Helentjaris

Virginia writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of Diaspora, a poetry chapbook. www.DianeHelentjaris.com

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