Sunday, September 27, 2015




“I have heard people talk about their childhoods. Rating on a scale of 1 to 10, my childhood was an 11.” When I read these opening lines, I correctly suspected that Kathleen Blake Shields had a memoir well worth reading.

I started transcribing and editing Kathy’s memoir, based on her nearly idyllic childhood, at the same time I was finishing reading another memoir, The Tears from My Soul, by Sharon Lane, detailing Sharon’s heart-rending early years. The contrast could hardly be more stark: Kathy’s working-class parents were loyal to each other and devoted to their children. Her life in her small town---Maybrook, NY--seventy miles north of New York City, was nearly heaven. Lane’s African-American, lower-class life, down South and then in the MidWest, was hell, with booze, incest, infidelity, child and spouse abuse rampant. The difference was not due to racial discrimination or income but to culture.

Kathy’s upbeat memoir is a reminder of how well some parents have succeeded in providing for their children here in America. Her stories from her wonderful childhood rival those familiar to fans of Little House on the Prairie.

Often, grim, down-beat childhoods spawn up-from-the-muck memoirs that are stories of efforts to overcome adversity. This memoir reassures us that there are happy childhoods and excellent outcomes.

You will be entertained and uplifted.

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D. 
264 East Drive 
Walden, NY 12586


I had always wanted to write down my memories of our childhood, but I kept putting it off. It wasn’t until I got sick, starting in 2006, and I went to my family doctor and was told I had allergies, and then, no, not that, maybe a sinus infection. I was still sick when in 2008 I found another doctor who sent me to a lung doctor, after a biopsy.

That pulmonologist told me I had pulmonary fibrosis and only three to five more years to live. I went away with this, but I didn’t accept it. This doctor was about three hours away from where I live, so my own Dr. Granger found me one closer.

In November 2013, after my first visit, my new doctor asked,

"Who told you that you have pulmonary fibrosis.?

I told her it was Dr. J.

She replied, “I don’t think so.”

I went for a C. T. Scan. At my next appointment, my new doctor told me she herself was right: it was hyper-something and no death sentence; this gave me the will to write this memoir for my grandsons, my sisters, my daughter, and my son.


I have heard people talk about their childhoods. Rating on a scale of 1 to 10, my childhood was an 11.

I was one of three girls each born to our mom and dad two years apart. First, in April 1946, was Doreen. Next, in 1948, again in April, came me, Kathleen. Like clock-work two years later, in April 1950, came Nancy, the baby. We always heard that our dad wanted to try again for a son, but Mom said no.

Another story we heard was that after Nancy was born, my mom got very sick, close to death, and Dad and Mom considered letting Mom’s brother and his wife adopt Nancy. They had no children and were not able to have them. After this idea came to light, our Grandma Blake put an end to it, saying that in the event Mom died, she would raise Nancy Lee (whom she named), Doreen and me, with Dad by themselves. Of course this wasn’t to be, because Mom recovered.

I still get a special feeling in my heart when I think of my childhood. Whenever I am asked this question, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” my answer is always the same, “Oh, this is easy: to go back in time to when I was little, about five years old and grow up again.”

Growing up again would give me another chance to spend time with my mom, dad, grandma, and other relatives, to talk to them and learn about them. We never had enough time back then, as there was always tomorrow, but as we all know, we run out of tomorrows, and then it’s too late.

Now that I’m a grandmother with two grandsons, if I could teach them one thing I’ve learned, it would be to take time to get to know all of your family before it’s too late. I hope that when they read this, they will know me a little better.

I have learned, in the years since everyone has passed away, more things about my Blake family, through research done by our second cousin Cheree Conklin Cardone. Her father was the son of our aunt Lila, my father’s sister.

Cheree has researched the Blake family and has written it all down. One of the things she learned was that my grandmother’s father was named Charles Eugene Siegman, and he was a Confederate soldier, who fought in the Civil War, from Virginia.

On my father’s side was John P. M. Blake. He married Elsie Eager, the daughter of William and Sarah Wells. He was involved in politics. In 1793, he was elected deputy sheriff and five years later he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was reelected sheriff and served from 1800 to 1805. He served several years as an assemblyman, and for two years as a member of the House of Representatives and Judge of the New York Common Pleas Court. No one since has held so many positions on both the state and federal levels.

They built the homestead in 1794 and added an addition afterwards. Every summer there is held, in the nearby town of Campbell Hall, the annual Bull family picnic.

My great-grandfather Charles Siegman’s family had a big farm in Montgomery, and once in a while we would see relatives there. To this day the city of Middletown has a Sarah Wells Road.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Abuse by Parents" from KIDNAPPED TWICE

As the days and weeks go by since my sister Marlene’s husband died, we talk a lot via the phone. She has reminded me of so many things that I must have blocked out.

There was an incident where our father hit Ann’s son. A very big fight between Ann and my father took place. She told him that he was never to hit her son again. He told her that she was never to hit me again. He never hit Norman again. As for me, you know that story.

Norman was a monster to my sister and me. He was his mother’s son!

My sister told me about her wedding. She and Don had rented cabins upstate to have a small ceremony and have a few of their friends stay in the cabins for a few days. Her mother, Ann, was not wanted there, as my sister knew she would ruin it, and she did.

In my eyes, how could my father not know that Ann was beating my sister, his daughter? My prayer is not that my father and Ann now rest in peace.  My prayer is that they see what they have done to us and feel shame.

Some of the things that my sister reminded me of I cannot write down. I want to think that my sister, brother, and I are damaged but not broken.

My brother Todd and I had an intense conversation just last week where he finally started telling me some of his “wonderful” memories. His pain is real. He has taken that pain and has made himself to be a excellent father to his son. That makes me smile! So my brother, my son, and I broke certain cycles, keeping them from continuing. For that I am grateful.

My sister told me a story about her working as a social worker. She was employed at a certain hospital that had a special unit for drug and alcohol abuse. Her boss told her that our father was in the unit and that she should go and see him. After much thought, she did. She walked into the room, and my father and another man were sitting there. She said hello, and the man said, “Is that the daughter that you said drove you to drink?”

Our father said nothing. My sister left. At other times in her life, people told her that she should talk to her father. She would respond that she could not. She told them that they did not know the circumstances. She was so right.

Recently, I finally took the time to write to a Bureau of Vital Records to ask for any and all records that they can find relating to my mother, my father, and myself. Maybe they can bring me some closure on some parts of my life.

Talking more and more to my sister, I am coming to believe that Ann hated us both. We were not children of her first husband, whom she had still loved, as she stated many times. Other than her getting pregnant with my sister and thus needing to get married, she married my father because of the money my family had, I have always believed.

The emotional abuse of my sister by Ann went on much longer than did Ann’s abuse of me. Ann was her mother, not mine. I pushed the abuse far back in my life, and I did what I could not to let it rule my life. My sister had many more years of contact with this evil woman.

I still have not told my brother nor my sister about my writing this. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have changed. The days of allowing anyone to hurt me are now over. No one gets a second chance. Maybe I’ll soften up a little at some point. I don’t know.

Years ago my father asked me where the little girl who used to love her daddy had gone. Well, here I am, Dad, the little girl whom you hurt and betrayed for many years. I have lived my life letting other people hurt and betray me, feeling somewhere inside me that such is all that I deserved.


We have been serializing the memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE: Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press,
available through OP and on-line booksellers like and 

My coaching, writing, editing site is

Saturday, September 19, 2015


I think all of us, as we get older and I hope wiser, think about our what-if’s.

What if my mother had not left me? What if she had not come back and kidnapped me?

What if my father had not come and kidnapped me back? What if my father had never met Ann? What if he had prevented Ann from abusing me, instead of joining her in doing so?

What if my paternal grandmother had not gotten sick and died when she did?

Before she died, I was not allowed to be alone with my paternal grandmother from the day my father and Ann married. If my grandmother had found out what Ann and my father were doing to me, she would have gotten me away from them. Of that I am sure!

What if my maternal grandparents had become involved in my life, a grand-daughter living only a few miles from them?

What if I had not left  Aunt Jennie when my father told Aunt Jennie that Ann and he wanted me to come back home because Ann “had changed“? I was happy at Aunt Jennie’s house. Within 24 hours my father’s house burned, starting in my closet. Why did I not then go back to Aunt Jennie’s house? I had my dog and clothes on my back. Why did I not go back? It’s not like I had a lot of things to pack!

What if I had not married my first husband? My son would not have been born, and my son was and is the light in my life.

What if I had not wasted 13 years with Bruce? I don’t know. There were two very good men who entered my life during off-times with Bruce. I never gave them a chance to be anything other than friends. Now the one of them who was the closest to me has passed away. I miss him.

I worked every day for 20 years in the packing house, packing fruit. When I finished, I had to do paperwork and payroll. I lost one-half of my finger in a bagging machine. This injury took a long time to heal, due to my diabetes. My paycheck was next to nothing, so now my Social Security income is also next to nothing. What if I had insisted on a different arrangement?

I believe that my biggest what-if is about saving Alan’s daughter from the abusive life she had with her mother. It took years of going through the court system and years off our lives! It cost over $130,000, of which we could only pay $25,000 so far. Meanwhile, the daughter has become just like her mother. She has been diagnosed with a mental illness but does not think she has a mental illness, so she refuses to take her medicines. She feels that everyone else has problems, but not she. She has done some terrible things to me and to her father. Her father is not strong enough to stand up to her, but after the last heartache she caused me, I am done.


We have nearly finished serializing here our book Kidnapped Twice: Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and Douglas Winslow Cooper, available in paperback and ebook formats from its publisher, Outskirts Press, as well as from other online sellers, such as and

Friday, September 11, 2015

Diana Winslow Cooper, R.I.P

A Tribute to Diana Cooper
By Phil and Ginny Nodhturft
Two Friends Who Loved Diana

Read at Her Burial Ceremony September 5, 2015

Indeed, this is a sad day for all who knew and loved Diana. The pain and sadness we all feel today is hard to describe. We cannot begin to comprehend the extreme loss Diana’s family are experiencing now. Diana’s passing has fallen heavily on the hearts of all who loved her. We have abandoned ourselves to an overwhelming state of grief, but we write this tribute today to honor a great woman named Diana and to offer our comfort to the Cooper Family.

Her loss is such a deep shock to us. Ginny just spoke to her on the phone the day before she passed on. She called to let us know that Russell her beloved Beagle had taken a few steps, and she felt so encouraged that he was healing. She also thanked us profusely for the food package we sent to cheer her up. She was so appreciative of cards and packages sent her way.

Diana was an extraordinary woman in so many ways. She was a warm, loving person who had a heart of gold. She would do whatever she could for anyone in need.  She loved her family and they loved her. She has led family and friends into a kinder, loving, more compassionate world.

Every time we see a precious moment or a “knick-knack” in a store or catalog we think of Diana. When we see them, we pause and think of the precious moments that we both shared with Diana.

What is it we remember when we think of Diana? I think everyone who knows her well would agree with us on this. It was her understated outlook on life, her warm heart, her sense of humor, her desire to do nice things for others, her air of dignity and her joy of being around people.

We both have such fond memories of Diana dating back to the 1970’s.

We visit the Coopers every year on our fall foliage trips in October. Visits in October were always filled with laughter and reminiscing about fond memories. One of the treats Diana had on the table were her Klondike Ice Cream Bars. How we laughed like children when biting into them. Diana also had special cheese that Ginny liked to put on crackers.

Her love of her dog, Russell, that led to her giving into his voracious eating habits was a big concern for her, but she gave fed him freely because, as she said, “It’s one the few things that makes him happy.”

Her appreciation and sheer joy bubbled over when we sent her cards of encouragement, along with holiday and birthday cards.

She has left a void that no one can fill. Every time we see the bright sun beaming down or a bright star in the sky, we will think of Diana. She was our sunshine and our bright shining star.

It’s all over: the strife, anxiety, the pain, the turmoil of worrying about Mom, Russell, and her future is over. Henceforth, her life will be remembered with fondness and love forever. She will truly be missed by all her family and friends. She has left behind numerous memories that we will never forget. When someone you love becomes a memory they leave behind a treasure. Diana has left many wonderful treasured memories for her family and for all of us who knew and loved her.

This is our time to celebrate her life. So, this is the moment we should all be thankful that we were given a chance to have known a wonderful woman, Diana. She meant something to each and every one of you. And this is the time to cherish those memories we each have of Diana. 

Diana’s life was filled with enthusiasm, courage, and love. Her journey was a great one surrounded by loving family members and her faithful dog Russell.

She lives on in each of us with her warm, loving spirit.  The power of God has allowed Diana to resurrect her spirit within each of us. She has given us restoration and hope to move forward. We need to make our lives purposeful and infuse Diana’s spirit in others. We need to tap into Diana’s pure gold and inoculate others with her warm, loving spirit to give strength to others in need, so they can lead a giving, loving life as Diana did. In Diana’s legacy we must bring hope, joy and peace to others.

Doug, there is a special spot in heaven for you. There is a saying that says “how we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time.” You have handled your tough time with grace, dignity, sacrifice, commitment, and put your needs on the back burner to stand by Diana, offering comfort, love, and support, to keep her spirits up.  You have done everything humanly possible to care for Diana. You provided her with laughter, joy, and fun. She loved you more than you realize. You were the best brother any person could hope to have. You have been an extraordinary inspiration to all of us.

Phil and Ginny would like to share a poem.

Life is but a stopping place
A pause in what’s to be
A resting place along the road,
To sweet eternity
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We all were meant to learn some things,
But never meant to stay
Our destination is a place
Far greater than we know
For some the journey’s quicker.
For some the journey’s slow,
And when the journey finally ends,
We’ll claim a great reward,
And find an everlasting peace,
Together with the lord.
Author Unknown

We pray for comfort, peace, encouragement for the Cooper Family. We pray that God will carry you through this difficult time.

Dear Lord, Diana is at your side and in your hands now, please take good care of her. And, please help Diana’s family find the courage, strength, and self-confidence to cope with this extraordinary loss.  


Our best friends for over half a century, Phil and Ginny wrote this, and it was read by Ginny's brother Charles Lohmann, at my sister's burial service on 5 September 2015. 

Many people spoke at the service, and the unifying theme was Diana's kind-heartedness, a nurse who really nurtured, a sister who was at the center of her family, a good-natured, happy woman, "Witty to talk with, pretty to walk with," a kind heart so very rare. She was interred with the ashes of her beloved dog, Russell Beagle Cooper.