Words in the Dictionary are Available to all of Us – September 4, 2014 – Chicago Tribune

You’ve probably heard that writing is a lonely profession, and I’m sure there are many other professions equally lonely.

With computers being so readily available, we have spawned a growing crop of would-be writers. The popularity of Twitter and Facebook and the space in newspapers devoted to letters to the editor are examples of the ease with which we can voice our opinions.

A documentary about Mark Twain amazed me that he wrote so many pieces in longhand without a typewriter, let alone a computer. He was one of the first writers to use a typewriter once it was invented. With a mind like he had, imagine what he could do were he alive today.

Goes to show you that equipment is not a prerequisite for success in the writing field. All it takes to be successful is to have a creative mind like Twain had.

Besides his writing skill, he was very successful on the lecture circuit and who hasn’t heard at least several of his witticisms that have survived through the ages?

When you come right down to it, all the words in the dictionary are available to all of us. It’s just that some people manage to put them together in a more entertaining and interesting way than others.

I once read about an exhibit of someone’s photography. One viewer remarked, “You must have a wonderful camera.”

The photographer asked her what she did for a living. When she told him she was a successful, best-selling author, he replied, “You must have a wonderful typewriter.”

Might not be a true story but makes a lot of sense.


Grocery Shopping, Then and Now-September 4, 2014-Daily Chronicle

Shopping for groceries recently with my daughter, I recalled accompanying my mother as she shopped in the pre-supermarket era.  

There were no multiple checkout aisles with computers beeping as they scanned bar codes. What would she think if she could shop at a supermarket?  

The family-owned store of yesteryear was much smaller. Upon entering, you were faced with a counter barring your entrance to the shelves behind it. 

Back then, one handed the grocery list to the owner’s wife and she’d walk back and pick up the various items, bringing them to us. We would then move to the back of the store to the meat department where her husband worked, cutting meat and filling customers’ orders. 

You shopped for pharmaceuticals at the drug store. Snow shovels and garden tools were at the hardware store. Now all these items can be purchased under one roof.

Once all Mom’s items were supplied, the grocer tallied up the purchases on one of the brown paper bags (no plastic) with a pencil she pulled from behind her ear. (I wonder how many mistakes were made in addition.)

I jotted down some prices I found in a book (don’t have the title). During the Depression, bread cost 5 cents a loaf, eggs 29 cents a dozen and milk 10 cents a quart – to cite a few examples.

I must have been about 5 years old as I remember one time when we returned, I heard Mom tell my father, “I spent almost $5 and the bag wasn’t even full.” Now we spend 10 times that much and the bag, like as not, is often not full either.

My daughter keeps our purchases separate and whisks them across the scanner in the self-checkout aisle. I glanced over at the next self-checkout aisle where a store employee was helping another elderly woman check out.

She looked as confused about what was going on as I used to be when I shopped with my mother so long ago.

Leaving the store, my daughter took my hand as we walked to her car … as I used to take hers and as my mother did mine so long ago.

Even though the locale, times and roles have changed, some things have not, and I am thankful.  

Endings and Beginnings – August 20, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Fall. Some may look at it as an ending to summer while others think of it as a beginning and looking ahead instead of back.

Summer ends and youngsters go back to school. For some, it’s a beginning as they enter kindergarten. They will be exposed to different youngsters than they have known in their neighborhood. It is so wrenching watching the last little one leave the nest.

In a very short time they will return and at times call you “Miss something” and you will learn they may have called their teacher “mommy” at times.

You soon get adjusted to that as it is just another rite of passage.

But I found the most difficult farewell is when they set off for college. You miss the loud stereo you complained about. The laundry seems lighter and it’s so quiet with the phone not as busy as it once was. (Maybe I’m behind the times on this latter point as everyone has their own cellphone by now).

You lie awake at night wondering if they’re eating properly, about their choice of friends.  

You recall a saying “Water seeks its own level,” and trust this holds true with their new-found friends. Do they miss you as much as you miss the sound of their laughter throughout the house?

You remember when they passed their driving test and received their first license and how you worried when they went solo the first time. You didn’t sleep until they were safely home. 

They pooh-pooh your concerns and will never know what it’s like until they have children.

You think of the robin that built a nest in a tree outside your back door. Do they think as you do when they let them fly for the first time?  

There are many fine programs on television where researchers try to probe what is going on in animals’ and birds’ minds. We don’t really know and can’t begin to know the heartache they also suffer when their babies leave the nest.

At Thanksgiving when they return, do we recognize them? They have changed so much in a very short time. Can this be the sweet, innocent person who left a few short months ago or is it a stranger, slightly familiar but more mature, who has returned?

But we adjust … life goes on. A new chapter in our Book of Life writes itself.


Remembering V-J Day – August 4, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Sixty-nine years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 80,000 people instantly.

When I heard the report on the radio, I sat on the back steps of our home and shed tears of joy. I did not realize the enormity or the horror of the event at the time. To me, it meant my three brothers, who had served in the military, would soon return after an absence of over three years. (We dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki days later.)

Our neighbor’s precocious 5-year-old boy came running toward me, excitedly waving his little arms in the air. “We dropped a bomb on Japan and now my Daddy is coming home and everybody!”

The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, and papers were later signed in September to make it official.

My parents and I did not know back then that one of my brothers, who had fought on Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands of the south Pacific, was on his way back to the United States to be discharged from the U.S. Army because his feet were so swollen he could not walk. He had contracted “Jungle Rot,” from wearing Army boots and socks in foxholes for weeks without bathing.

He told us how fiercely the Japanese fought throughout the many battles he fought, and he said they would have never surrendered. It has been argued ever since whether it was the right thing to drop those bombs. I am not trivializing the catastrophic fact that so many innocent lives were lost.

I simply don’t know if it was right. I leave that subject to the experts. In a recent obituary of the last crewman who was aboard the Enola Gay that dropped the historic bomb, it was said that “he thought he did his job.”

We have so few World War II veterans remaining today (my three brothers are all gone) and their number keeps dwindling. If you see or know any veterans still alive from any of our wars, be sure to tell them, before it’s too late, how much you appreciate what they did for all of us.

I’m sorry I did not say it when I had the chance. Blame it on my youth. I regret I did not show my gratitude to them often enough.

A Love of Paper – July 20, 2014- Chicago Tribune

          I’m a big fan of personal computers and enjoy mine with its access to the Internet and the ability to keep in touch with distant friends via e-mail, but my first love was always paper.

          A clean, white 8-1/2 X 11 inch sheet of paper begged me to fill it with words. 

          I was content with my Smith Corona typewriter.  I’d roll a sheet of paper into it and think of the possibilities before me to write something, anything.  Not great literature, I know, as I am not that gifted. 

          A personal letter to someone, my thoughts on current events, memories from my childhood, etc., was the usual result. 

After marriage, I worked a few years and then took time out to raise a daughter and son.  I was pretty much in the dark what was going on in the world of technology while I dealt with domestic chores.

When I resumed my secretarial career, I was fascinated by the changes in technology that had transpired during my absence.

          I loved learning about all the new gadgets that were now part of office equipment.  Copiers that collated and stapled the results had replaced the old mimeograph and Ditto machines (the one with the purple ink that stained your fingers and clothes). Imagine that!

          Instead of wand keys on typewriters that used to jam up if we typed too quickly, there was that little ball on a Selectric typewriter spinning around, typing letters on paper…but that was soon replaced with personal computers.

          Earlier, direct long distance dialing was only done by a long distance telephone operator.  I remember placing a call for my boss to Seattle and he was amazed at how quickly we had a connection.  If he were alive today, I wonder what he’d think.

          A Girl Friday, (secretary) became an Administrative Assistant.  We still performed the same duties but with more gusto with that high-fallutin’ title.

We’ve come a long ways but we aren’t there yet. 

There was talk about a paperless world but it seems like more paper than ever can be found.

          These are only a few of the changes and these new developments came into being in the last fifty+ years.  How I loved being a part of it all.  I’m sorry I won’t be here to see what the next fifty years will bring. 

          But a sheet of paper still appeals to me.


A Happy Childhood Memory – July 9, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

When I see children at play I wonder what childhood memory will stand out for them when they reach adulthood.
My favorite is a series of spring and summer visits to a farm owned by friends of my parents in the 1930s. They did not realize what happy memories they created for me so long ago.
We usually awoke to the crowing of the barnyard rooster. Mondays were laundry day, without the modern conveniences of an automatic washer and dryer. The agitator in the washing machine was operated by a lever of some sort. The washed garments and linens were put through a ringer into a galvanized tub of cold water for rinsing and then the ringer process repeated once they had rinsed them by hand. I “helped” by following behind their daughters, handing them clothespins as they pegged the wash on the line.
When gathering eggs, I was taught to distract the sitting hen with one hand and quickly grab the freshly laid egg beneath with the other. I often got pecked until I mastered the deft art.
In the morning and late afternoon, I accompanied one of their daughters to a nearby pasture to bring the cows in for milking. One time I ran ahead and spread the two pieces of barbed wire fence apart for my companion to crawl through, she just stood there, mouth agape. I later found out that it was an electric fence and the reason I did not get a shock was because I was wearing crepe-soled shoes!
Milking time was a favorite time, when the cats and kittens gathered round waiting for a squirt of milk into their open mouths. I often was given a cup of milk, still warm from the cow. Today’s health nuts would be horrified at that!
Picked strawberries soon ended up in shortcake, but many more strawberries found their way into my mouth than into the container I was to use.
The family never made me feel I was a nuisance and always praised me for my efforts.
I came across the following quote recently: “When you remember a past event, you are actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself.”
I do not agree. I remember it with great fondness and clarity.
I hope children of today will have such happy memories.

Technology Has Come a Long Way – June 23, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

         On that date, Steve Jobs of Apple Computers and Stephen Wozniak, an electronics wizard, together created a personal home computer so that for the first time in history a character typed on a keyboard was displayed on a TV screen. (Please note that this is in regard to “home” computers.)

         I came by this information while reading Walter Issacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs.

         After struggling through 571 pages of this biography, I still don’t know anything about the inner workings of my personal computer.  But I don’t have to know.  I know how to drive a car but I don’t really know what’s going on under the hood either.

We have advanced beyond what might be thought of as “the horse and buggy” era when I began my work experience.   Back then, “electric” typewriters were not even found in offices where I was employed.

Many years later, when I retired from the workforce, the revolution in electronic technology had begun.

A search of the Internet (where would we be without that source?),  revealed that the first patent for the typewriter was issued in 1868,  to Christopher Sholes, G. Glidden and S.W. Soule.  They would be amazed to see how far we have come, much like Henry Ford would feel looking at our modern automobiles.

The “qwerty” keyboard has not changed since the first typewriters were invented.   With this keyboard arrangement, salesmen were able to type the word “typewriter” on a single row of keys during demonstrations.   Also, the letters of the alphabet were arranged to prevent the old-fashioned wand keys from getting tangled during typing.  Today’s computer-wise young might ask, “What are wand keys?”

         Listening in on conversations between our son and daughter when they were learning about computers in school, we thought they were speaking a foreign language.  Bytes, gigabytes, mega bytes, hard drives and floppy discs were all alien words.

 “Word processing” was what secretaries now did instead of “typing” letters.  I had not heard of e-mail.  

I haven’t even scratched the surface in the world of computers.   It has been said that “anyone born before 1960 will never know as much about them as those who were born after that year.” But we are never too old to learn.

My motto is, “Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to cast the old aside.”

Growing to a ripe old age is a privilege – June 7, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

          Sometimes you might hear people saying they hate the thought of growing old.  I think we should be grateful to have that privilege.

          During the Memorial Day observance, the programs on PBS honoring our fallen heroes, remembering the anniversary of D-Day, the Ken Burns TV series, “The War,” I thought about the fact that these brave young men and women did not have the luxury of reaching the age to be called a senior citizen.          

          “The War” should be viewed again and again by those who send our young men to other lands to fight and die for our country and maybe they’d stop settling differences in this inhumane manner.

          War does not seem to settle anything given how many we have had since the dawn of time. 

          One line spoken in “The War,” stands out in my mind.  A soldier cried out, “God help us; come yourself, don’t send Jesus.  This is no place for children.” And yet those doing the fighting were just children in the prime of their lives.

          In a few short weeks, we will be observing the anniversary of another war where young men died to give us our independence that we so often take for granted.

          Gray hair, wrinkles and faltering steps go with getting on in years but it’s better than not being able to walk at all because you left your legs on some battlefield, or you died too young to have your hair turn gray or wrinkles to form on your youthful face.

About aging, when I was twenty-three, a 16-year old waitress where I often dined, asked me how old I was.  When I told her, she asked,
How come you never got married?” 

          Imagine that! She considered me a has-been.  To the young, forty is old age but to those of us past that landmark, it is youth.

          This won’t come as news to anyone, but you can’t fight getting older.  Face lifts, cosmetics and other devices can make us appear younger, but the fact remains, we are what we are.  The sooner we accept aging, the happier we’ll be.

If you are in the sunset years of your life, thank a soldier for that privilege.

The Paper Clip Caper – May 2014 – http://authors-bazaar.com

I am down to about three paper clips in my home office.
Where did they go? It brought back memories of when I
was employed. I was picking up supplies one day in the office
supply room when a co-worker walked by.
Seeing the box of paper clips in my hand, he remarked,
“Why do we ever have to replenish our supply of paper
clips? No one ever throws one away. They should be constantly
re-circulating throughout the office.”
“Good point, Bob,” I replied. “Why don’t you and I see if
we can unravel this mystery?”
“Nope, sorry,” was his smug reply. “I’m an old Army intelligence
officer, and I don’t work with amateurs.”
By Mil Misic
I whipped out my old IRS badge, bearing my secret code
name, “$.001. (Get it? My name is mil with a small “m,” —
it’s a tenth of a cent) and said, “With whom do you think
you’re dealing?”
I could see he was somewhat impressed, and though
not totally convinced of my sleuthing talents, he agreed to
meet me while the office staff was out to lunch.
At first, we found nothing amiss in the first cubicle, but,
as we were leaving, I observed, “Do you notice anything
strange about those framed snapshots on the wall, Bob?”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Those are the weirdest looking kids
I’ve ever seen.”
“No, no, you ninny,” I exclaimed. “I mean how crookedly
they are hung?”
Taking down one of the framed snapshots and turning
it over, we saw that crude picture hooks had been fashioned
from bent paper clips.
“There’s part of our answer,” I said. “Flagrant misuse of
five paper clips. They’ll never be used as paper clips again.”
Moving on to a secretary’s desk. Bob could find no violations,
but, as a fellow secretary, I knew just where to
look. I took out the removable tray in the middle drawer
and exposed an 18-inch necklace made out of linked paper
clips. By this time, Bob knew he was working with a real pro.
As we passed the photocopier in various stages of disassembly,
we heard the repairman cry out, “Why do people
always leave paper clips on the photocopier? There’s your
problem,” he said, pointing into the bowels of the machine.
Three twisted, almost-beyond-recognition paper clips
were stuck in the mechanism.
We continued our search of the cubicles, looking under
keyboards of the computers, file boxes, etc. “Don’t forget
the corners of the desk blotter holders, “I reminded Bob.
“Boy! You do know your stuff,” he grudgingly admitted.
About 12:55 p.m., we had accounted for a large
number of unorthodox uses of paper
clips. Just as we were tallying them up,
a co-worker came limping in with the
straps of her sandals held together
with (of all things) a paper clip.
Seconds later, Bob pointed excitedly at
an accountant returning to his desk, “Look,
there’s a man with a sterling silver toothpick.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I chided. “Take another
look. It’s a straightened paper clip.” (Another
paper clip that would never hold two pieces
of paper together.)
By now, he was so impressed that all he could murmur
was, “Wow!”
One cubicle remained to be searched. Everything looked
normal. Or was it? Why was the desk locked?
“Step back,” Bob said. “I’ll have that open in a second.”
“Bob,” I shouted, “what are you doing?”
“I’m picking the lock,” he calmly replied.
“But what are you using?” I shrieked.
“Oh, my gosh,” he moaned, “a paper clip.”
Case closed.

Being out in cold is for the birds – May 23, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Snow isn’t for the birds.

The joy at seeing the first snowfall is directly proportional to the age of the viewer. That is not an original quote, but to that I would add: “It also applies to the last snowfall.”

We hope the one that greeted us May 16 is our last one for this season. It reminded me of how quickly our weather can change. We are always so interested in having a White Christmas but snow loses its charm about mid February – or sooner, depending on whether you have to go out in it.    

Our furry and feathered friends need to adjust to these changes and, unless they have an inner radar, they don’t know how quickly things can change.

One February a few years ago I started thinking spring when a warm spell came through. I should have known that it was way too early. 

Old Man Winter returned and our bird feeder was swinging to and fro in the breeze.  What am I saying? A breeze? In the Midwest? A gale is more like it!

I saw a little bird, hunched on the perch, trying hard to hang on as it attempted to grab a few seeds to fill its little beak. I felt such sympathy for it.

What a life … depending on the largesse of people who put feeders out in the cold.  And then hang on desperately. 

Perhaps many people would not have a weight problem if they had to dine the same way.     

I looked at the miserable wretch clinging to its perch so precariously and was thankful we did not have to depend on other people’s generosity for food, especially in the cold weather. Or try to eat through the piled up snow on the bird feeder with the wind blowing it away before you can get a mouthful. 

Not only are the elements against them, other birds often shove them aside and take away their food. If you think this is a silly observation, how would you like it if you were dining out and someone sat down next to you, shoved you aside, and started eating your meal?

Think about that next time as your food is placed before you and don’t forget to say grace. 



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