Viola Sourbeer Stickell’s Jewelry Box

Aunt Mary you’ve done so much work, writing and making notes, and wrapping and securing. Thank you so much for your generosity. In this post, I’ve got photos of Viola Frances Sourbeer Stickell’s sewing box with jewelry.

Ms. Viola was born on March 22nd, 1889 in Harrisburg, PA. She married Ira Guy Stickell, born October 5th, 1890, in Williamson PA. They were married August 13th, 1913 in Harrisburg, PA. (For those of you doing the math — I know I do — She was a little bit older than him and got married at age 23.)

An aside, let’s be clear that when Viola married Ira, women were not yet allowed to vote. That didn’t happen until August 18th, 1920 with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but even then it was only white women. Black women (Viola was white, but this is important) were not allowed to vote in some states until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Here’s the unveiling of Viola’s sewing box:



Here’s a better view.


With the markings inside… Some googling tells me that these Standard Specialty Company products are from the 40’s and 50’s. I’ll have to ask Aunt Mary what she knows about the container. Viola passed in 1942, so there is more to this story! Nonetheless, this box holds some really special things.


This is amazing:


And this:




And this:


And have you EVER seen anything this beautiful? (You had great taste, Viola!)


And this beauty of a bracelet that actually fits my wrist:


And what on earth is this? Dare I post this publicly? It comes apart.


Lemme know if you recognize this ^ thing, okay? Also, I clearly need a manicure.


Biographical Sketch of Father, 1886

Henry Theodore Myers was my great great grandfather, also born on January 15th, but in 1836. Here is a bit about him, as recorded by Laura Myers Latsbaugh in 1886.

Where it says “1865 he at once located in Centerville”, that’s the house I grew up in on Walnut Bottom Road near Newville, PA. He was a tanner! An entreprenuer. And a lifelong Democrat.


New project: The Sea Chest

[Aside:, the website (this one), is a hybrid space where I document my life. Personal, professional, thoughts, gratitudes, in-between. For the purely professional, a research profile is here or visit these two websites. For the purely personal, call me.]

Eric and I went to Maine in June 2016 after we got married. It was a post-PhD-graduation trip and also a honeymoon. We spent several wonderfully quiet days with my Aunt Mary (Myers) and Uncle Rick Bury in Machiasport, along the Machias River. It. was. glorious.

The tiny stones I (sorry) gathered at Jasper Beach are perched on the kitchen counter as a reminder of our trip. Even Mint in Algeria has one of them because apparently smooth stones like the ones from Jasper Beach, in the absence of water, can be used for ablution prior to prayer.

During our visit I got to see first hand the “Sea Chest”, a wooden trunk with rope handles and two secret drawers, safely kept by my Aunt Mary until it was time for the chest to be passed to me.

Now, I have the trunk. Eric and I drove to Winchester, Virginia last weekend to retrieve it from the garage of a family friend who so generously hauled it from Machiasport south. We rented a black Dodge Grand Caravan with Stow-N-Go seats and booked ourselves a room at the Hampton Inn.

Here’s the trunk, properly secured thanks to Mr. Vandervort:




The Sea Chest has been passed down through the women on my Dad’s side of the family – I can call them “the Myers women” – but that isn’t the full story. The Sea Chest comes to me from the Myers, Stickell, Sourbier, and Wells women. Here is the possession of the trunk, if we were a chain letter:

  1. Allison Elizabeth Myers, born 1978
  2. Mary Lee Myers Bury, born 1949
  3. Mary Elizabeth Stickell, born 1914 (who, by the way, was 32 when she married)
  4. Viola Francis Sourbier, born 1889
  5. Mary Elizabeth Wells, born 1859

I can’t wait to learn more about these women! Here is the first treat:



Parrots, anyone?


This is amazing:



And here are two pins, with a note to “Mr. Jacob Sourbeer & Wife” (her name was Mary Elizabeth Wells but times were different then – she was born 157 years before this writing).


And these beauties:


So far I have only opened up two boxes. There is so much to treasure! Stay tuned.







Set up to fail? Reverse is also true.

I am grateful to see this truth telling about what it can mean to have an idea and start a nonprofit. The gist of the story is that a talented well-intentioned person had an idea, won a pitch contest and secured $1 Million in seed funding, and now, three years later, is closing down the nonprofit they started because they have “been unable to identify a sustainable financial model for (the) broad vision”.

I totally get it.


We launched Counter Tools in 2012 with an idea and an opportunity: A $50,000 contract with a nonprofit organization in one midwestern state. Months later we secured 501c(3) status on a fee-for-service educational services contracting model.

Over the years we fixed software bugs, added software functionality, tweaked our training materials, revamped our training materials, revitalized our software… all the time alternately disappointing and delighting ourselves and our loyal and growing tribe.  We almost sank. We swam. We worried about sinking. We swam harder. Today we keep swimming.

Today we work in 18 states. Our FY16 tax return will show $1.1 Million in revenue. We aim each day to never lose sight of the value of the partnerships we have created. We have people who believe in us, and they show it by navigating bureaucracy to secure contracts and book training schedules.

What’s the difference between Counter Tools and any other fledgling nonprofit? One could say we are all set up to fail from the start. One could also say we are all set up to succeed from the start.

I’m going with the latter. And, I’m going back to work now. Today is the day I settle on a pricing strategy for our newest software tool: asking our tribe to support what it really costs to break new ground and make an impact.

Onward for health!





“Racism is not a personal moral failing”

It’s completely unacceptable that Eric and I can drive around with a burned out tail light (as we are right now), and not fear being pulled over by police, not fear being mistreated, not fear being assumed a “problem”, because we are white. I even spoke those words out loud a few days ago, in a moment of disgusting (to myself), unfiltered, and sadly truthful jest —  “Don’t worry about the tail light, we are white people so we won’t die because of that.”

What I would like everyone (EVERYONE!) to please give space to, is that we are all part of a larger system. This is about each of us, personally, only in the sense that we must collectively fix the system that creates unfair advantage for some, and unfair disadvantage for others.

That means, white people, if you think you got to where you are (comparatively rich, educated, “law abiding”, with a sense of control over your life) because you did it all by yourself — without any help from “the system” — you know, you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps — you are woefully uninformed. Sure you worked hard; I know you did. My Papa went from orphan son of a drunk tobacco sharecropper (named Allison) to the senior most Captain in the US Navy, when he retired in the 1980’s. He worked hard! And the system helped him up, just like the system helped to keep others down.

I welcome a conversation with anyone who’d like to talk, in love and truth and theory and evidence. Just watch this first:

With love from Asheville,


Charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent

RuPaul is my shero.

RuPaul and the Drag Race girls give each of us permission, and encouragement, to be whatever or whomever we’d like to be. Whether you’d like padded hips or pink heart-shaped lips, HUGE orange hair, a boy chest, towering heels, madonna realness or whatever… Use your charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to make the world more beautiful.


Why do you do what you do?

Y’all remember this?

Yesterday, at the request of a stranger with a fancy title and a PhD, I took a half hour meeting with a company that I have partnered with on one past project.

I will never get that time back.

In the 20 minutes we were together (the requester was 10 minutes late to their own call), I got slimed. The person announced they were new to the company (obv). Asked me to talk about my work (If you don’t know who I am, why did you ask to meet with me?). Interrupted and didn’t listen to the answers (Spiraling the drain here!). Urged me to “get back to them either way” if I am, or am not, interested in engaging their for-profit company.

Those are not my people.

May our evaluation metrics show that we give back more value than we take.