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Zinnias for My Grandmother


NOTE:  Since I posted a new essay about my maternal grandfather last week, I decided, for this week’s post, to slightly revise a piece which I posted about my maternal grandmother and which I first posted on WORDWALK on September 25, 2013–the 130th anniversary of her birth.  To my amazement, I realized that today–October 10, 2018–is the 40th anniversary of Grandma Store’s passing.


Zinnias for My Grandma on the 40th Anniversary of Her Passing


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Even before my memory began, my one set of grandparents became known as “Grandma and Grandpa Farm” and my maternal grandmother as “Grandma Store.”  You guessed correctly:  My grandparents lived on a small farm; and my grandmother, whose husband died long before I was born, owned and operated a grocery store.  Thinking of my Grandma Store on this 40th anniversary of her passing on October 10, 1978—I am astonished that in my youth, I spent so much time with someone who was born in 1883.


My memories begin to fade in when I was five and my grandmother was already 72 years of age (amazingly, just one year older than my sister is now).  Of course, to me, as a very young child, my grandma always seemed very old.  Nevertheless, as she had done for so many years, she was still working in the store—waiting on longtime customers.  Unlike most women of her era, Grandma Store was a businesswoman.  I can picture her behind the oak counter, beside the adding machine—which she never used because she preferred to add up the items of a bill in her head.  She was always wearing a mid-calf dress of black or gray print, with what appeared to me as the oldest-fashioned shoes to be made in the 1950s and 1960s.  The only other color I ever remember her wearing was a dark green sweater—except for the ever-present white, starched apron.  Throughout all these years of my memory of her, her long black hair, streaked with gray, was woven into one long braid and then twisted into a bun at the nape of her neck.  Large tortoise-shell pins held her bun in place at the back of her head.  I do not think she ever wore make-up, but she had few wrinkles and often had naturally rosy cheeks.  At that time, most older people I knew had false teeth; and I knew my grandma did also.  Dark-framed glasses covered her dark brown eyes so that she could clearly read all the obituaries in The Daily Clintonian.


On September 25, 1883, in the northern Italian village of Levone, Stefano and Lidia named their baby Domenica Marianna Allice.  Almost 67 years later, my parents named me after my maternal grandmother’s maiden name:  thus, the Italian surname “Allice” became my first name “Alice.”  I have always thought that, perhaps, I am the only “Alice” named after the Italian surname “Allice” because this surname is not at all common in the United States.


Sadly, I know little of my grandmother’s young life in Italy.  When she was twenty years of age, my grandfather, who had been in the United states from 1896 to 1903, returned to Italy to marry Domenica.  Then, the young married couple set sail from Le Havre, France, on the ship La Touraine, for America and arrived in New York on August 28, 1903.  When Domenica Mariana went through Ellis Island, she became “Minnie.”  Upon landing in the United States, the young couple had $80.


After leaving their homeland—Levone and Cuneo, located in northern Italy—Domenica (Minnie) and Martino (Martin) first settled in Clinton, Indiana, and later created their home and businesses in the small rural town of Blanford, Indiana.  After the early deaths of their first two sons (one who died in infancy and one who died at age five), my grandparents were blessed with four healthy children—all of whom lived long lives.  In 1908, my grandmother gave birth to Zita; then, Peter (1910), Lydia (1912), and Mary (1914) followed.  In addition to the joy of these four children, my grandmother must have enjoyed music because my grandfather played a brass instrument in a local (Clinton) band.


After establishing the grocery store in the early 1900s, my grandparents started an Italian bakery in 1914, the year of my mother’s birth.  My grandfather was the baker, in charge of the large, brick oven from where he took the crusty loaves of Italian bread and long, crispy breadsticks.  Despite the sudden loss of this husband, father, and baker in 1935—the family went on with the bakery until 1942.  At that time, my grandmother and her son Pete continued operating only the grocery store for the next four decades.  In March of 1982, Uncle Pete closed the grocery store for the final time.  Throughout all those years of having the family business, my grandparents helped numerous neighbors and extended credit to so many people—long before a credit card was even imagined.


Since my grandfather was not only the bread baker, but also placed other main meals in the brick oven, my grandmother was not really known for her cooking skills.  Nevertheless, I remember many family members gathered around her big oak table for Thanksgiving dinner.  I distinctly recall so much lively talking that I thought I, as a young child, would never get a word into the conversation.


Although my grandmother spoke English well, she naturally continued to speak Italian also.  We were equally embarrassed and amused by my grandmother’s shifting from English to Italian to tell a family member something about the customer who had just entered the store.


Despite some of her unusual ways, Grandma was quite tolerant of my cousin Carole and my making the store one of our favorite “playgrounds”—a place where we played many imaginary games, ate orange push-ups and penny candy, investigated new and old merchandise, and giggled through girlhood.  Rarely reprimanding us, Grandma was either quite patient or managed to overlook our antics.


Grandma’s two-story building was not only a playground for me, it was also a refuge during thunderstorms.  When my dad was working an overnight shift as a firefighter, my mother took my older sister and me to Grandma’s building each time an electrical storm popped up in the middle of the night.  I could never understand why we left our cozy house in the midst of a storm to go to Grandma’s big building.  Whether we slept in Grandma’s bed or on the roll-away bed in the living room, her very tall windows supplied a panoramic view of the lightning-streaked sky.  However, Grandma never complained about the midnight guests nor her adult daughter’s unusual fear of thunderstorms.  Grandma just quietly and calmly welcomed us into her home behind the store.


Before I was born, the four bedrooms on the second story had been used, along with a spacious dance hall.  Throughout my early youth, the only upstairs bedroom which was occasionally used was the first room at the right of the top of the extremely long stairway; the three other large bedrooms and the dance hall were only used for storing some items and for our exploring.  During the years I knew Grandma, her bedroom (which had once been a parlor) was always on the main floor—in a room off the kitchen/living area.


As my Grandma Store aged and my cousin Carole and I became an age of double digits, we thought that we should be waiting on customers.  We tried to urge Grandma to sit in the back of the store—beside the large, wooden refrigerator—or in her own living area.  Waiting on customers was much easier than convincing Grandma to stay aside while we turned our well-practiced “playing store” into real transactions.


The store was my grandmother’s life.  After traveling all the way from Italy to Indiana, she never returned to “the old country.”  Only once did she take a long road trip:  after the death of her brother, my dad (her son-in-law) drove her to Pennsylvania so that she could attend the funeral.  Otherwise, she only left the store building to go to the homes of nearby relatives—but not often.


Once when my mother was driving my grandmother, my cousin Carole, and me back home from a visit to the farm of Grandma’s second daughter, the local deputy sheriff of St. Bernice decided that my mother was driving too fast for Highway 71.  I was astonished that my mother was pulled over by a law enforcement officer, but Grandma Store quickly converted into an award-winning actress to save her youngest daughter from receiving a ticket.  With a fine mixture of Italian and English, my grandmother very dramatically intoned: “Oh, my!  Oh, my!  I am so sick—so sick.  What a bad headache I have!  Oh, Marina, I need to go home.”  Well, that deputy took one look at my seemingly sick grandmother and gave my speedy mother only a quick verbal warning.  As soon as we drove away from the St. Bernice official, my cousin and I could no longer contain our laughter.  To the dismay of my mother and the grand-actress, my cousin and I laughed uproariously.


On summer evenings, Grandma would sit on a metal lawn chair on the lawn between the store building and her son’s home.  She watch the cars go by, neighbors walk by, and cars park in the lot of her eldest daughter’s Italian restaurant.  During spring and summer days, she sometimes left her store and residence to tend to her zinnias that grew in two flower beds bordered by diagonally placed upright bricks.  One bed of zinnias was to the east of the water pump, and one was to the west of the pump.  Besides the larger zinnias, Grandma had nurtured some zinnias of a smaller variety; her flowers were a myriad of autumn colors.  I have always equated these sturdy flowers with my grandmother.


During the seasons of giving, Grandma’s gift-giving policy was strict:  whatever she gave to one adult child, she gave to all.  The same held true for all the grandchildren.  For example, all her daughters and her daughter-in-law were given Hudson Bay blankets; then, there was the time when each received an electric mixer and then a mangle (large appliance for ironing).  While Grandma Store gave much, she guarded much also:  although cash was at easy access in the store’s wooden cash register and in the large safe in the storage room, Grandma always kept a close watch on her purse.  On many birthdays, each grandchild’s gift was a savings bond.


While in the final two decades of her life, Grandma Store did not want any of us to divulge her age.  If one of us began to mention Grandmother’s age, she would bring her index finger to her mouth and hush any comment about her specific age with a shake of her head.


When in the ‘60s and ‘70s, shouts of women’s liberation rang through the land, I was not too affected because my grandmother and all of my aunts (from both sides of the family) had always been prime examples of “working women,” of women who were modern before the more turbulent eras.  My grandmother was a strong woman who raised three very strong daughters who were extraordinarily close with each other and their one brother.  In the final years of my Grandmother’s life, her four surviving children cared for their mother.  Although my mother had a full-time job, she rarely missed driving fifteen minutes (over a road with one lane of gravel and the other of bricks) to the nursing home to visit her mother.


Shortly after my Grandmother’s 95th birthday, she passed away on October 10, 1978.  I only wish I had asked her many more questions about her young life in Italy and her early years in America.


Residing in Wisconsin since 1991, I wish I could return to Indiana more often.  When my sister and I returned to Indiana in July of 2013 (among other times), we went to the cemetery to pay our respects at my grandparents’ graves.  Although we placed a bouquet of silk flowers on Grandma Store’s grave, I wish we had placed there for her a bouquet of

fresh-cut zinnias.  With this essay about my Grandma Store, I send to her a bouquet of “virtual” zinnias.


POST-SCRIPT:  In my mother’s address book, we have found much more than addresses, birthdates, and anniversaries—we have found some dates and information that I have used in this essay and in some of my other writings.  Although my mother did not keep a diary nor a journal, I do appreciate all the family information which she did diligently record over many years.


From trying to write personal narratives about my family tree, I have learned again and again one very important lesson which I want to impress upon each reader:  ask your oldest family members all the questions that you can about your family’s history; and in whatever mediums possible, record those family memories.  As you enjoy the present, keep in touch with the precious moments of the past!


Wishing you happy memories and time to record them,

Alice (one of eight grandchildren of Grandma Store) and Leader Dog Willow


October 10, 2018, Wednesday




Zinnias for My Grandmother

Grandpa Store



Remembering My Grandpa Store on the 142nd Anniversary of His Birth


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



One hundred and forty-two years ago, my maternal grandfather was born in Levone, Italy, on October 6, 1876.  Although I sadly know very little of his life in Northern Italy, I do know that at age twenty, he left Italy for the United States of America at Le Havre, France, aboard the ship La Touraine, on November 14, 1896.  After going through Ellis Island and then staying for a while in Pennsylvania, Martino Lanzone arrived in Indiana in 1897; his brother Domenic joined Martino a year later.


Both brothers were interested in the grocery business.  Martino was also adept at baking the long, crusty loaves of bread, as from his homeland.  Having worked in Clinton, Indiana for five years, Martino was able to return to Italy and marry Domenica Alice (“Alice” was my grandmother’s surname.)  Then, once again on the Ship LaTouraine, the newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Lanzone set sail from La Havre, France, to make their dreams come true in the new homeland of Blanford, Indiana (in west-central Indiana’s Vermillion County).  On August 28, 1903, the young couple arrived at Ellis Island with eighty dollars and plans for establishing a grocery store and bakery in the small, rural town of Blanford (seven miles from Clinton).


While we believe the store business began around 1904, the Italian bakery was in operation from 1914 until 1942.  My grandfather made excellent loaves of “Italian” bread in his brick oven and was very particular about the qualities of the loaves he made.  Instead of my grandmother’s doing the cooking for the family, most often the dinner meals were baked in the brick oven by my Grandpa Store.  (Yes, we always called my maternal grandparents “Grandma Store” and “Grandpa Store” while we referred to my paternal grandparents, who lived on a farm, as “Grandma Farm” and “Grandpa Farm.”)


The first baby of my maternal grandparents, a son named Stephen, died at a very young age.  Their second son, Martin, passed away around age seven, most likely from meningitis.  (Upstairs in my townhouse, on the wall above my green desk, I have an old, uniquely designed, wooden frame which measures twenty by twenty-four inches and which contains a photo of my very young Uncle Martin:  I am honored to have this family keepsake.)


Happily, four healthy children arrived:  Zita, in 1908; Peter, in 1910; Lydia, in 1912; and Mary (my mother), in 1914.  Eventually, each of the growing children had a certain job at the grocery store and bakery.  While my Aunt Zita delivered the bread by means of a horse and wagon, Uncle Pete helped at the bakery and store.  Eventually, Aunt Lydia helped with making breadsticks while my mother was the bookkeeper.  Nevertheless, I am sure that each helped wherever needed.  Amazing to me, even my mother was adept at the butcher block with cutting and trimming the raw meat.


In addition to being an outstanding baker and entrepreneur, my grandfather was a musician in a marching band.  Even though we no longer have his brass instrument (not shaped like a brass instrument of today), I do distinctly remember this brass instrument which was in my Aunt Zita’s bedroom closet for many years.  In a closet with my dad’s Army uniform, my sister still has the attractive, double-breasted  band uniform of my grandfather.  This ornate , black and purple, wool  uniform has the clothing label which reads “Henderson Company of Philadelphia.”


On my grandfather’s Certificate of Naturalization, he was noted as being 5’6″ (perhaps, about the same height of my grandmother).  His four surviving children became taller than their father.  Also, the certificate listed Grandpa Store’s hair as being gray in 1923.  Like my eyes, his eyes were brown.  On the south wall of my living room, between the large window and the grandfather clock, I display a framed photo of my grandfather behind the counter of his grocery store while my mother, as a girl of around ten, is standing nearby.  The eight-by-ten photo is in sepia tones, and neither relative was smiling.


In 1933, when my mother was graduated from Clinton High School–the first in her family to achieve this milestone–my grandfather gave his youngest daughter an Underwood typewriter, on which I first typed and which my sister still has in her home in Colorado.  My mother continued her education at Terre Haute Business College, a two-year program.  I know my mother loved her father very much.  Sadly, in May of 1935, Martino Lanzone died of a cerebral hemorrhage.


For one full year, as was the custom at that time, my maternal grandmother and her four adult children wore black to demonstrate their mourning.


After my grandfather’s passing, my Uncle Pete and grandmother managed the business.  For the next seven years, my uncle took over the baking duties.  Then, during World War II, the family business continued in 1942, only with the grocery store on Highway 71 in Blanford.  For four more decades, the grocery store remained open until March of 1982.


Although my grandfather died fifteen years before I was born, I grew up in the house which he had built for rental property in 1914; I played and grew under the large and beautiful maple trees which he had planted in the yard of what became my family’s home.  Thus, with our home’s connection with my grandfather and with spending so much time at the huge building which included the store, bakery, storage room, and residence of Martino and Domenica–I did feel a connection with my maternal grandfather.  I do wish I could have met my Grandfather Store, had the opportunity to taste his bread, and asked more about his adventuresome life that brought him to a new country with his bride to establish a store and bakery and to raise a fine family.


I always encourage people–young and old–to ask questions of their oldest family members to preserve family history.  Besides names and dates on a family tree and besides the photographs in albums or on a computer, we need to save the word portraits and family stories of our dear ancestors.


Happy October!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 3, 2018, Wednesday


Unexpected Consequences


From the Soapbox or Tide PODium:


Unexpected Consequences


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



NOTE:  This blog post is NOT about grammar and punctuation, but concerns travel with my guide dog in a city which is now less “walkable.”


* * *


After I posted  “How to Become a Connoisseur of Pronouns” on this WORDWALK blog last Wednesday, my sister wrote a comment which ended with “I’ll get off my soapbox now ….”


My reply was:  “Mary–Thanks for sharing your observation on the state of grammar and punctuation today.  Nowadays, I think you would not be on a soapbox, but on a Tide Pod [registered trademark]–or a Tide PODium!”


Well, I feel I must bring out the soapbox or Tide PODium to share some thoughts about unexpected consequences which have nothing to do with last week’s topic of grammar and punctuation.


Shortly after Labor Day of 2015, the preparatory work for the streetcar project began and began to impact the lives of those of us who live and/or work in downtown Milwaukee.  At that time, unbeknownst to me, I was also beginning the final seven months of working with my third guide dog–the beautiful Golden Retriever/Black Labrador Zoe.  Throughout those final months of her too-brief life, we dealt with the initial stages of construction.


After Zoe’s sudden and unexpected passing on March 16, 2016, I brought Willow, my fourth guide dog, home with me to Milwaukee in June of 2016.  Here, at her new home, my British Black Lab has only known working in an area that has been greatly impacted by the various construction stages of the streetcar project.


On the third day after arriving home from our training at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan), I told Willow to “Find the curb” at a major intersection near my home.  She did.  As we were standing at the curb and waiting for the signal to change, a gust of wind knocked over a construction sign directly in front of us.  My new guide dog did not even flinch although I jumped.  I praised my perfectly steady Leader Dog.  Yes, the trainers at Leader Dogs for the Blind did select the right dog as a “match” for me.  I thought this incident was a “sign” that my Leader Dog would work especially well in the construction area and in the frequent windy conditions.  Nevertheless, I tried and continue to try to choose the paths or routes of least resistance–of least challenge for the safety and well-being of my guide dog and me.  For example, after this “sign” incident and another at a different location on State Street, I requested that sandbags be placed to secure these construction signs during high winds or gusty conditions.


In inclement or wonderful weather, can I ever explain to you or even thoroughly understand myself how much trust I have had in my four magnificent guide dogs?  Throughout the numerous stages of construction over the past three years and one month, both the guiding of Zoe and then Willow have been impeccable.  I trusted in their top-notch training at Leader Dogs for the Blind; I trusted in what I had learned well from my first two Leader Dogs, Keller and Heather–lessons that made working with Zoe and then Willow so much easier.  None of the four gave me a reason not to trust in her guiding abilities.  Trust in a guide dog is a wonderful, magical gift for which I am most grateful.  This level of trust is as much a part of me as is my heart:  the trust functions automatically, without my giving a thought to it.  The trust does work like the beating of my heart.  Although I was not blessed with “normal” vision, I have been blessed with the trust in treasured guide dogs.


When family members, friends, or strangers tell me, “Your dog is amazing.”  I often respond, “Yes, after working with guide dogs for over twenty-eight years, I am still amazed at my guide dog’s work.”  Somehow, with their amazing ways, Zoe and then Willow did guide me safely through these past three challenging years of unnecessary construction.  I keep telling people that the mayor should give Willow, my current guide, a blue ribbon for all of her impressive work during the construction of the streetcar project.  Although she has not received a blue ribbon or the key-to-the-city (in the shape of a Nylabone (registered trademark) yet, Willow is presently my “Best-of-Show.”  As with my prior Leader Dogs, each night when I put Willow to bed, I thank her for her work of the day.  She deserves all of the praise she receives each day and night from me.  Her devotion to me is enormously appreciated.


In late June of this past summer, just before the kick-off of Summerfest, the worst of the construction era  and the streetcar project seemed to be over.  While I was grateful and almost in a state of disbelief, I was not celebrating as much as I thought I should have.  Willow and I still had to learn the “curbless” curbs with only tactile markings (rather than an actual curb); we could then learn to cross over the tracks in other locations in our East Town area.  Some places, some curbless curbs were easier to learn than others.  We did re-learn all of our usual routes with their modifications.


Earlier, a couple of years ago and since, one of my worries was that the streetcar (or “trolley”) would be too quiet; however, I was told that the streetcar would emit the same level of noise as a typical car.  No one mentioned what I first experienced two weeks ago.  During this testing phase of the six streetcars, I experienced the “unexpected consequence” of the trolley’s making a high-pitched screeching sound when the streetcar progresses through a turn.  I never expected this type of painful sound.  I am told that after the “routine dynamic testing” (testing of the brakes), a lubrication may be applied (by hand) to the tracks to reduce the screeching sound.  Further, I am told that time will also help to diminish the high-pitched noise–although no one seems to know how much time such a reduction will take.  Currently, Willow and I are trying our very best to avoid being at an intersection or near an intersection with a turn of the tracks when the trolley rolls by.  (As you probably know, a dog’s hearing is much more acute than a human’s.)  Believe me, Judy Garland would not be singing happily about this trolley!


As I told a city official today, “That high-pitched noise from the streetcar impedes my making a street-crossing with my guide dog, as much as an old-fashioned curb impeded the street-crossing of a person in a wheelchair.”


Thus, the most unnecessary streetcar continues to impact our lives negatively.  As I do what I can to improve conditions, Willow remains ever calm and steady at my side and in the lead.  Our “walkable” city is certainly not as easily walkable now, but Willow and I continue to try to walk forty to fifty-plus blocks each day.


What unexpected consequence will arise next?  What unexpected consequence will materialize with the onset of hard and persistent winter?


Thanks for “listening” to the message from my soapbox–or Tide PODium!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 26, 2018, Wednesday


How to Become a Connoisseur of Pronouns


NOTE:  The following 1498-word essay is not just for students:  it is for all lifelong learners.  Since you may also know a younger or older student whom may benefit from this piece about pronouns, you are welcome to share the following essay with others.  Of course, I would appreciate your giving the address of my blog, as well as including my byline.  Thanks!


In the past several months, I have too often noted the great need to share this essay on WORDWALK so that the “Grammar Police” and the “Pronoun Squad” do not have to turn on the siren quite so frequently.



PRONOUNcements about Pronouns


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



“Ouch!  Ouch!” are my sentiments when I hear on a television or radio program an object pronoun used when a subject pronoun is needed.  I have the same painful reaction when I hear a subject pronoun used when an object pronoun is correct.  Yes, I have an allergic reaction to the poor use of pronouns.  KA-CHOOse your pronouns wisely.  With a little play-on-words, five PRONOUNcements will follow.


As you remember from your grade-school days, a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.  We, as writers, realize that using pronouns is one simple way of adding variety to our writing.  Clarity is of utmost importance to all writing.  To be certain that each pronoun is clear, the antecedent of the pronoun must be perfectly clear.  The “antecedent” is the noun to which the pronoun refers.  To achieve perfect clarity, the antecedent must be the closest prior noun which agrees in both gender and number with the pronoun.  Additionally, the pronoun must be the proper type.  Your choices of pronouns are subject, object, possessive, and reflexive.


PRONOUNcement Number One:  Watch ‘It’!


In my article “Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment” (posted on my blog on January 26, 2013), the first and second points focus on the use of pronouns.  Number one on my list and other such lists for writing courses is to be careful with the use of the pronoun “it.”  While “it” can be a subject pronoun or an object pronoun, the problems usually stem from “it” used as a subject pronoun.  When I was teaching essay writing at the technical college level for many years, I told my students that I was planning to have made a t-shirt with “IT” printed on the shirt in bold letters.  Although to many people I would look as if I were working for the Department of Information Technology, I would actually be wearing the shirt to remind my students to consider carefully the use of each “it” in an essay or other piece of writing.  I always advise the avoidance of beginning an essay, short story, novel, letter, or e-mail with the pronoun “it.”  Using “It” as your first word can temporarily confuse, permanently confuse, or delay clarity for your reader.  Certainly, “It” as your first word most often will not lead into a first sentence that will be attention-grabbing nor creative.


Example 1.  It was the first day of autumn.  Zoe and I walked to the lakefront.

Revision 1.  On the first day of autumn, Zoe and I finally walked to the lakefront.


PRONOUNcement Number Two:  This and That


Secondly, check each use of “this” or “that” as a subject pronoun.  Using these words as adjectives is not problematic, as the next two examples demonstrate.


Example 2.  This book is available through the National Library Service.

Example 3.  That guide dog is a golden retriever.


While the above sample sentences are correct, consider revising the following sentence in which “This” or “That” may refer to the entire previous sentence, passage, or paragraph—rather than a noun.


Example 4.  This will help us to achieve our goals.

Revision 4.  Completing successfully these three steps will help us to achieve our goals.


PRONOUNcement Number Three:  Subject to Subject and Object to Object


Third, may the “Logical Force” be with you:  use a subject pronoun in the subject position, and use an object pronoun in the object position.  In recent years, too many people are skipping this very easy rule.  In a recent tournament on my favorite television program Jeopardy, one of the brilliant, young contestants told Alex Trebek and the massive audience: “Me and my brother went to Iceland.”  (To protect the identity of this superb contestant, the latter part of the sentence has been changed.)  Well, my immediate thought was:  “Alex, press that button to open the funny trap door in the floor and zap the contestant right off the stage!”  Of course, the subject pronoun should have been used; and the order of subjects should be arranged so that the first-person pronoun is listed last.  (Putting the first-person pronoun last in a list is polite and appropriate—but not technically a rule.)


Revision 5.  My brother and I went to Iceland.


To determine the subject of a sentence, place “Who” or “What” in front of the verb and the remainder of the sentence (the predicate).  Your answer will be the subject.  Who went to Iceland?  My brother and I.  Thus, in the compound subject, the subject pronoun “I” is correct.


SUBJECT PRONOUNS:  I, you (singular), she, he, it, we, you (plural), they


OBJECT PRONOUNS:  me, you (singular), her, him, it, us, you (plural), them


When you need a pronoun as a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition—use an object pronoun.


Example 6.  The committee nominated Fred, Evelyn, and me.


To determine the direct object of a verb, place the word “whom” or “what” after the verb.  The committee nominated whom?  Fred, Evelyn, and me.  Again, I used an example with a listing:  in this case, the verb has three direct objects.  The mistake of using the incorrect pronoun is more often made when the pronoun is part of a compound subject or compound object.


Example 7.  The park ranger will give a map to us.

prepositional phrase:  to us


In a prepositional phrase, place an object pronoun after a preposition.  In third grade, Mrs. Lenderman encouraged my classmates and me to memorize the list of prepositions.  I did as this wonderful teacher directed, and memorizing that list of prepositions has served me well ever since.  If you do not memorize the following list of prepositions, become very familiar with this list and keep it at your writing area.


PREPOSITIONS:  Aboard, about, above, according to, across, after, against, along, along with, among, apart from, around, as, as for, at, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, by, by means of, concerning, despite, down, during, except, except for, for, from, in, in addition to, in back of, in case of,

in favor of, in front of, in place of, inside, in spite of, instead of, into, like, near, of, off,

on, onto, on account of, on top of, out, out of, outside, over, past, regarding, since,

through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, unto, up, upon,

up to, with, within, without


PRONOUNcement Number Four:  Place a Possessive Pronoun before a Gerund


Fourth, if you think you use possessive pronouns well, you probably do.  My only advice for this group of pronouns is concerning their use with a gerund or gerund phrase.  A gerund is one of three verbals in the English language.  (Participles and infinitives are also verbals.)  A gerund is a verb that is acting like a noun in a sentence.  Although not all words that end with “ing” are gerunds, all gerunds do end with “ing.”  Verbals add variety to our writing.  If you need a pronoun before a gerund, be sure to use a possessive pronoun as in the next examples.


Example 7.  Their completing the construction by August 31 is a stipulation of the contract.


complete subject and gerund phrase:  Their completing the construction by August 31

gerund:  completing

possessive pronoun:  Their


Example 8.  Her speaking with more expression will help maintain the attention of the audience.


complete subject and gerund phrase:  Her speaking with more expression

gerund:  speaking

possessive pronoun:  Her


Example 9:  The student’s writing skills will improve by his memorizing the list of prepositions.


PRONOUNcement Number Five:  Relax with Your Use of Reflexive Pronouns


Fifth, in the past decade, more people are using reflexive pronouns incorrectly.  A reflexive pronoun must be used in conjunction with the corresponding subject pronoun.  The reflexive pronoun cannot replace a subject pronoun.



The reflexive pronoun “myself” must be used with the subject pronoun “I.”

The reflexive pronoun “yourself” must be used with the subject pronoun “you” (singular).

The reflexive pronoun “herself” must be used with the subject pronoun “she” or an appropriate noun.

The reflexive pronoun “himself” must be used with the subject pronoun “he” or an appropriate noun.

NOTE:  “Hisself” is NOT a word.

The reflexive pronoun “itself” must be used with the subject pronoun “it” or an appropriate noun.

The reflexive pronoun “oneself” must be used with the subject pronoun “one.”


The reflexive pronoun “ourselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “we” or with an appropriate noun(s) and “I.”

The reflexive pronoun “yourselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “you” (plural).

The reflexive pronoun “themselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “they” or an appropriate noun(s).

NOTE:  “Theirselves” is NOT a word.


Example 10:  The child emphasized, “I want to read this book by myself.”

Example 11.  He built the log cabin by himself.

Example 12.  Mrs. McKendry herself planted the entire garden.


If you have read and studied this entire article, you are a connoisseur of pronouns!



Congratulations!  Go forth, and write well!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 19, 2018, Wednesday



Wallpaper Dreams: A Poem


Wallpaper Dreams


poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Between Clinton,  Indiana’s Mulberry Cafe

and the Rockville Packing Company building

was the Smith-Alsop Paint Store,


when my dad was buying paint and/or brushes,

I thumbed through twenty-by-twenty-four-inch books

of wallpaper samples

in floral and geometric designs,

textured in various ways

to initiate

interior design dreams.


Five decades later,

I, once again

in the midst of wallpaper dreams,

wonder if I should wallpaper

one wall, one room,

or the small bathroom

with the poems

of my retirement years.


Surely, online, I should

be able to find

a “design-your-own-wallpaper” company

to whom I can send my poems.

Then, the company will send me

rolls of my poetry

so that someone with a straight-line concept

can decoratively paper my walls–

well, the walls of my small, mid-level bathroom

where house guests will be face-to-face

with my pasted poems–

flush against left margin,

sprinkled with coordinating art.

Guest readers will see

that these poems mirror my life:

as the house guests peer into the bathroom mirror,

more reflections of poetic creations

rush into view–

an usual  way to read the poems on the back wall.


Have I gone too far

with these wallpaper dreams?

You think the better placement

of my poems

is in a traditional book?


Later, Leader Dog Willow recommends

photos of herself

for the design-your-own-wallpaper company.

Well, I do already have

towels with a Black-Lab motif.


We will creatively compromise:

two walls of poetry

and two walls of Willow,

who will transfer better in mirror image.


Celebrating 68 years,

I happily and artistically

surmise an overview

of my dream-fresh life

in wallpapered

paws and poetry.


NOTE #1:  I wrote this 267-word poem on July 19, 2018, Thursday, to share at a critique session with our group of five writers who have now participated in a monthly critique session for more than two years.  Besides Wisconsin, the poetic homes of fellow writers are in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Wyoming.


NOTE #2:  Thanks to cousins Carole and Donald for  bringing back to mind the name of the “Rockville Packing Company” building, which I used in the first stanza of this poem.


Enjoy the poetic September days!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 12, 2018, Wednesday


Fiftieth Class Reunions


Fifty-year Circle of CHS


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



In 1983, when my high school Class of 1968 was enjoying being a young thirty-three years of age, my mother, Mary Lanzone Massa, and a few of her friends of the Clinton High School class of 1933 were planning their fiftieth class reunion.  The Class of ’33 has been remembered through the years because this class of the Depression Era initiated the Boyd-Lahti Award which is still being given each year to a honored graduate now of South Vermillion High School (Indiana).  As some of you may recall, Mr. Boyd and Ms. Lahti were the sponsors of the Class of ’33.


Knowing how much my mother enjoyed being on  the planning committee and attending the reunions, I was surprised to hear that the committee decided that their 50th class reunion would be their last.  Although I thought of my mother as being “old” during the year of her 50th class reunion, I encouraged her to convince the planning committee to have other reunions after the 50th because this CHS alumni group certainly seemed well enough to continue with their traditions.  However, for the Class of ’33, the fiftieth class reunion was the last although my mother lived on until July 3, 2001.


Remembering so distinctly the year of 1983, I am amazed to find my CHS Class of ’68 at the same landmark in our lives of a 50th class reunion.  Of course, from my current perspective, I have re-defined the term “old.”  No, we are not yet “old.”  Nevertheless, where have the past five decades gone?


For me, much of these past decades have gone to studying, teaching, and writing.  After earning a BA and MS at Indiana State University, I, at age forty, returned to school for a second master’s degree at Western Michigan University.  For the final twenty years of my teaching career, I was a full-time instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.  From chalkboards to Smartboards, so many changes occurred throughout my last fourteen years of teaching essay writing and public speaking.


Always at my side since March  21, 1990, have been my four guide dogs.  My Leader Dogs–Keller, a golden retriever; Heather, a Yellow Lab; Zoe, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever; and now Willow, a British Black Lab–have tremendously enhanced my life and have made so many accomplishments possible.  I am enormously grateful to Leader Dogs for the Blind (Rochester, Michigan) for these four greatest gifts of my life.


After retiring from teaching, I initiated this weekly blog entitled WORDWALK and continue to post a variety of pieces each Wednesday.


Another retirement adventure was writing the book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season–a collection of some of my short stories, memoirs, essays, and poetry.  A highlight of 2017 was having my print book made available in braille and audio.  To read more about my holiday book, please visit:


Through four years of working on our high school newspaper and being inspired by the wonderful CHS teachers, I know that Clinton High School gave me an important springboard to those upcoming decades that have now drifted by all too quickly.


My Class of ’68 celebrated its fiftieth class reunion this past Saturday during Clinton’s Little Italy Festival.  Unlike my mother’s high school class, my CHS Class of 1968 has already made plans to meet again next year for a luncheon during the Little Italy Festival.  All these 68-year-olds plan to continue celebrating high school memories and future gatherings.  Cheers for the CHS Class of 1968 and their future endeavors!


May all of your reunions be happy ones!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 5, 2018, Wednesday