How did we get through winter without continuous reports? – February 6, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

I am retired and no longer have to battle the elements to get to work when the weather is bad, so I don’t mean to trivialize winter weather. But this is nothing new. We had cold weather when I was growing up. But we did not have hourly reports about wind chill, polar vortex, etc. We just knew it was cold out there.

When I was growing up, we had no central heating. A “parlor” furnace in the living room and a wood-burning range in the kitchen were our sources of heat. The kitchen was always the warmest room in the house and was the “family” room in those days. We played cards on the kitchen table, put puzzles together there and popped corn on the kitchen range in an iron skillet over the open fire by removing the stove lid. The walk to school with a northwest wind blowing into our scarf-covered faces was no picnic. We had not heard of the wind-chill factor although we most certainly were experiencing it.

How did we survive in the old days without the hourly reports of how cold we were?

What kind of tree are you? – February 6, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

A rumor has persisted that Barbara Walters once asked Katharine Hepburn, if she were a tree, which kind of tree would that be?
In Walters’ autobiography, ”Auditions,” she relates:
“I asked [Hepburn] why she thought she had become sort of a legend. She replied, ‘I’m like a tree,’”
So Walters asked her what kind of tree.
If I were asked that question, I would say, a pine tree, or any others commonly used at Christmas. Think of being brought inside a warm house and decorated with all those pretty lights and various keepsake ornaments. I’d be surrounded by happy, expectant children waiting for Santa and the gifts he would bring. I’d be a part of a very joyous occasion.
You might say, but that is short-lived.
But it won’t necessarily end there. A recent article stated that 93 percent of Christmas trees are recycled. They also may be used in gardens.
You also can decorate a growing tree outside your home. After Christmas, it would be a place for birds to build nests. You could hear their chirping all day long and then see the baby birds being sent out to fly for the first time.
The ubiquitous squirrels would be scampering among the branches the year round, too. You’d be providing a haven for many of God’s little creatures.
What tree would you like to be?

JANUARY BLAHS – January 19, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

Once Christmas and New Year observances are over, a let-down feeling sets in. Gone are the lovely multi-colored lights on the Christmas trees and various outdoor decorations. All the joy and anticipation of expected gifts and reunions are over, and we feel sad.

We should adjust our attitude and instead of sadness be happy about the memories we just created. Without our memories, life would be bleak.

What would it be like to suffer from amnesia? Just think of how it would be not to be able to remember your wedding day, the birth of a child, its first word or step. You can think of many other events and instances in your life that you like to relive over and over again in your mind.

So instead of being sad that something is over, be glad it happened at all.
While it is sad to think of the holiday season being over, concentrate instead on the new memories we will create in the coming months.

Fashion Repeat – January 7, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

I saw an ad in the Chicago Tribune recently for a pair of ladies’ hose with a seam down the back.

Stocking seams were always a problem to keep straight and made us look poorly-groomed when they shifted as we wore them. Younger women of today won’t know what I am talking about.

Back in the pre-panty hose days, we women wore two separate stockings that were kept on by attaching them to a girdle or garter belt with fasteners. During WWII when nylon was reserved for making parachutes, we sometimes wore leg makeup and painted the seams on the backs of legs to make them look like real stockings.

Don’t tell me, please, that we are going back to those days? What’s next? Hoop skirts?

There’s always an air of joyous anticipation during this season-December 23, 2014-Chicago Tribune

People my age have observed Christmas many, many times over the years. The gifts may have been meager at times during the Great Depression, but I still have fond memories.

Some Yuletides were happier than others. In 1941, with the recent bombing of Pearl Harbor on everyone’s minds, that was a very sad time. The following year was even sadder when my three brothers, like many young men throughout the U.S., had been drafted for military duty.

But that was offset by 1945, when my brothers were all back with us, alive and well.

Sometimes Christmas memories blend into others and we may remember two years as one and the same. I recall one constant though. My father always said, “Don’t buy me anything. I don’t need anything.” And yet, he was always the first to ask, “When are we going to open presents?”

No matter how mature and blasé we may try to appear, there is always an air of joyous anticipation during this season.

We in the older generation anticipate the joy in the eyes of the younger generation, finding more pleasure in giving than receiving after so many years.

There were lean years of great disappointment growing up in the Depression and my anticipation often was not realized. A wished-for toy was not there and a flannel nightie might be in that wrapped package instead.

This is not a “poor me” piece, though, as I look back with great fondness on the simpler joys back then.

We may not always get what we want. But then, think of it this way: We don’t always get what we deserve either — I mean a punishment for wrongdoing.

May you find peace, joy and appreciation under your tree this year.

Have a blessed Christmas everyone.

Memories of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving – November 21, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

I have reached an age where I am not expected to prepare the traditional feast on Thanksgiving Day. As a bride though, I remember the first time I did it with much fear and trepidation. I had a hard act to follow as my own mother and mother-in-law did it with such ease.
Knowing the safest way to thaw a frozen bird was always a problem and managing to pry the heart, gizzard and neck out of the carcass in order to cook them and add them to the dressing always gave me fits too.
I wondered how mothers were able to get everything ready at the same time. But we learn by doing.
One advantage they had was that there was no football or television. I have heard of mothers complaining they had to time serving the meal to coincide with halftime only to see the family gobble up in ten minutes what took hours to prepare. Pumpkin pie waited for them at the end of the game.
Years ago Thanksgiving conjured up a vision for me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Mom is shown entering the dining room, carrying a platter, containing a perfectly roasted turkey, ready for the man of the house to carve. The happy family is seated at the table with grins on their upturned faces awaiting a drumstick, wing or other favorite piece.
Now, like as not, my vision is of crowded airports as passengers await their flights or possible delays and even cancellation as they head “home for the holidays.”
Gone is the memory of “over the river and through the woods,” as we sang in my youth.
If you have an old-fashioned mother, be thankful as you arrive home and are met with the wonderful aroma of the various dishes being prepared.
The world is in turmoil but there is still much to be thankful for on this yearly holiday. No matter how bleak things seem to be at times, one can always find something positive if we just look for it.
I love this anecdote. A little girl having had her first turkey dinner was asked how she liked it. She said “I didn’t like the turkey too much but I loved the bread it ate.”
Happy Thanksgiving.

Not all the ‘robins’ have gone south – October 12, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

It’s October and many of our migratory feathered friends have left for sunnier, warmer climes.

But take heart – we still have some of them in our midst. They are the Retired, Older, Busy, Imaginative, Neighborly, Seniors … R.O.B.I.N.S.

Retired from the workforce and the mainstream of life, some live in retirement homes like Oak Crest (to cite one example) while others reside in their own homes. Many are still very active and productive. A famous quote goes, “the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Join us at Oak Crest during our Christmas Tree Walk or our Arts and Crafts fair throughout the year and see for yourself.

To young readers: As you are, so once were we. As we are, soon you will be. Many beautiful items made by our residents can be purchased, such as knitted or crocheted afghans, quilts, jewelry and other hand crafted items … too numerous to mention. It is a money-raising venture for our Good Samaritan Club that aids those in need.

Artists abound who paint breathtaking scenes or take beautiful photos, sketch artists, wood carvers, poets, etc.

Each Saturday we are treated to a musical performance by local talent: the Oak Crest boys. Residents lend their voices to old favorite songs, a joke-teller now and then to provide a much needed laugh.

There are retired academicians formerly employed at NIU or high schools with whom we enjoy visiting. Listen to the laughter as we meet for coffee or play cards and other games.

Also residing here are retired farmers who once tended to dairy herds and planted the wonderful DeKalb corn, famous for its flying ear trademark.

Our historians work long and hard to preserve information and landmarks devoted to our heritage, assuring that we do not forget those who have gone before us.

On patriotic holidays, we honor war veterans who fought for our freedom in past wars.

Volunteers devote countless hours performing various services for those who can no longer do it.

This is not an attempt to paint an overly-bright picture of getting older because it “ain’t” for sissies. Some of us are in poor health, suffering from painful, debilitating ailments, but we learn to adjust.

Our white hair may look like winter to observers, but there is summer in our hearts.

A Lexophile’s Bit of Whimsy – September 29, 2014 – Daily Chronicle

Lexophile is a word used to describe those that have a love for words. That would describe me.

All the words in italics in this piece are from the August 2014 edition of Readers Digest page, “It pays to increase your word power.” I thought it would be fun to use them all in one piece. What follows is not apocryphal (doubtful authenticity).

In an attempt to teach our son and daughter new words, I used to clip it out and post it on the refrigerator when they still lived at home.

While in grade school my son told me the teacher once asked if anyone knew what the word “entrepreneur” meant. He was the only one who knew.

Without words, where would we be? Misunderstandings and hurt feelings can be avoided with communication. Words can hurt or glorify a person and give them a feeling of self worth or be deriding.

Cavemen expressed their feelings by carving or painting images on walls and ever since man has attempted to relate to fellow human beings with words and gestures.

The reader may consider this a study in futility and scoff at my attempt to do this but I forge ahead.

I am beginning this piece tentatively because it is indubitably a precarious undertaking.

There may be conjecture that I am trying to be a pseudo-intellectual. That, however, would be a spurious judgment. The Readers Digest gives spurious the definition as false or deceitful as in the case of Tom Sawyer playing hooky using a spurious note from the doctor. I am not being deceitful at any rate.

My intuition is that my true friends will surmise this.

It may be a nebulous decision at best, but I love the challenge.

Any allegations that I am a bona fide author, would be untrue. I am merely an amateur writer who dabbles in writing letters to the editor to our local newspapers. I rarely expound on serious subjects.

Neither do I waffle when I speak privately to friends. There may be some who say my remarks may be thought of as equivocal but that would be only their opinion.

If anyone wishes to corroborate that I have used all the fifteen words (in italics) on this page, see the August 2014 issue of the Readers Digest, pages 149-150.

Thanks for allowing me this bit of whimsy.

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.  

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