This year we all get a bonus day – January 12, 2016 – Daily Chronicle

We have 366 days this year because of the leap year. It takes the Earth 365.2422 days to orbit around the sun according to the Internet. We can thank Julius Caesar who in A.D. 45 stipulated that an extra day be added in February every four years to make this adjustment.

What to do with this bonus day?

How many women propose to men as was the custom years ago? We could resolve to improve something in our lives like we do when we make New Year’s resolutions. I did not make any though because like most of us, I don’t do well with them.  It’s sort of like going on a diet.  They say the second day of a diet is the easiest because by that time, we are off of it.

There is plenty of time for us to think of doing something we’ve never done before.  Sort of like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in the movie “The Bucket List.” They meet in a hospital with each having a terminal illness.

They do all sorts of things, before “kicking the bucket.” One of the things they do is skydive, but that’s not for me. The thought of stepping out into the wild blue yonder at 30,000 feet would paralyze me even more than being strapped in a metal tube for the flight.  Claustrophobia, you know.

Then there is painting, as Grandma Moses did in her advanced years, but I can’t even draw a stick man.  So that’s out, too.

How about self-improvement. But we usually do that during Lent.  So I will save that for then.

I’ve always envied tap dancers.  But my arthritic knees could not tolerate that.

When I was a little girl, my father would sometimes give me a nickel for being good, with the admonition, “Now don’t spend it all at once.”

That extra day is like winning the lottery, or that nickel. It begs to be spent on something frivolous. But there is a finite quality when it comes to time, so we should not spend it recklessly as I did that nickel (most likely on a candy bar or jawbreakers).

I could work on my autobiography. So far, I’ve only written the title, “Mil’s Grim Progress.”   Remember “The Pilgrim’s Progress” that we read in school? Think it would sell?

Nah, too dull. Who’d read it?

Of Simple Christmases Past – December 24, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

The Christmas season is once again upon us, …too soon for adults and not soon enough for the young.

Some greet this wonderful holiday with sadness as they remember those who are no longer with us. I recall Christmases with joy, gratitude and blessed to experience so many.

During the Depression, if Santa came at all, he did so while we were in church on Christmas Eve, telling the story of Jesus’ birth in song and Bible verses.

I shudder when I think of the few times we had a Christmas tree. We decorated it with lighted candles (what a fire hazard that was). Of course, the trees were not shipped from the north in September, so were not as dry as today’s trees. No fancy store-bought globes or electric lights. No artificial trees, either. So we were able to enjoy the pine scent from a freshly cut tree.

Popcorn was used to decorate the tree – that is, if there was enough left over and we did not eat it all before we strung it together.

The lean years stand out when Santa did not come to our house. But you can’t miss what you never had, so most of the time we did not feel underprivileged. Hardships are character builders.

If there were gifts at all, there was nothing lavish. I doubt today’s youngsters are any happier with their gifts than we were with our rare, paltry ones, although often disappointed with long underwear, socks or other practical items. Frivolous items in the Wish Books (Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs) were not forthcoming.

But one Christmas was more memorable and especially happy, when we received two little kittens. What enjoyment to watch them frolic! Better entertainment than anything on television now.

We were not aware or dazzled by all the toys and games advertised on TV now. Many parents did not have the wherewithal to purchase them anyway. Disappointing, true – but parents did the best they could.

Christmas used to have a special meaning that seems lacking in modern times. How sad that we have lost so much with the rampant commercialism now. “Happy Holidays” does not do it for me, and I always respond with the more meaningful “Merry Christmas.”

A simple, blessed Christmas to everyone and I hope this one stands out for you from all the rest.

Celebration Chorale Concert Rings in Holidays – December 9, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

If you did not attend the Celebration Chorale concert over the weekend, you missed a wonderful, entertaining program. The theme was “Fear Not,” and so appropriate for these troubled times. For this Christmas concert, rehearsals began in September every week until the performance in December.

I don’t know how many members have ever had voice lessons or formal training, but together they sound wonderful.

A single snowflake has a beauty of its own, but when snowflakes stick together, what a beautiful winter scene they produce. That is what I think when I hear the voices blending in the chorale concert.

Hats off, also, to the director, Christine Monteiro, who selects the music that will be presented.

I confess to having tears in my eyes during the rendition as I thought of the dedication of all concerned to commit their time and efforts for so many weeks to give us such a delightful program.

A Patriotic Cantata will be presented June 24, 25 and 26 at Boutell Memorial Music Hall on the NIU Campus. Don’t miss it. Bless each and every one of you.  May your Christmas be as merry as you have made ours.

 

Memories of a Long Ago Blizzard – November 10, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

Years ago, this date was called Armistice Day and coincided with a huge blizzard that struck the Midwest.

It may not be a date that will live in Infamy as FDR proclaimed a little over a year later about December 7, 1941, but to those of us who were alive at the time, it still looms large on the memorable scale.

There were no hourly updates on impending disasters.  No television and we had only one small radio.

My father awoke us that morning, saying “You won’t be going to school today.  There’s a blizzard out there.”  Of course my three brothers and I jumped right out of bed to look.            We not only did not go to school that day but schools were closed for a whole week!  Most of the pupils who attended our one-room school lived on farms that surrounded the small Minnesota town where I grew up.   Roads were impassable.

We lived on the main street leading to the business section and there was no traffic at all that morning.  The frost-covered storm windows made it impossible to see much outside except where we blew our hot breath on them to melt the frost and expose a small opening.  But we did not have to actually see anything as we heard the howling wind.

With no advance warning of the storm, the grocer’s shelves were not ransacked ahead of the approaching storm.  We had a huge garden each year and my mother always canned a lot of vegetables from that, home grown potatoes were stored in the basement.  She also canned meat.  The only item missing was milk as the milkman could not make deliveries either.

Once the storm subsided and we could step outside to see what it had wrought, a beautiful pristine sight greeted us:  huge wind-driven sculpted snowdrifts, — no foot prints, auto traffic or plows marred the vast whiteness.

Wind chill?   Never heard of it.  Polar Vortex?  Likewise.

Memory dims pertinent details of how we endured in the ensuing week, but survive we did and lived to tell about it, unlike the 59 people in Minnesota who perished because of the storm.

How blessed we were and thankful in not needing medical attention or enduring other emergencies during that perilous week.

Historians record what happened but people who lived it tell how it felt.

 

Thankful for What I Do Not Have – November 25, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

It’s traditional that we take time out on this holiday to be thankful for all of life’s bounty that has been bestowed upon us.

Space does not permit me to list all the things I am thankful for that I don’t have, like terminal illness for one.

During the recent snowfall, I was thankful I did not have to battle my way to work as I so often did years ago.  I was also thankful that my son and daughter were not in the increasing snowfall.

There are also many intangible things for which we can be grateful.

One of those that I treasure outside of family is the friendships I enjoyed in the past and now making new friends.

An old example comes to mind.  If you can buy a friend for a dollar, keep the dollar.  If you can sell a friend for a million dollars, keep the friend.

I am thankful I do not have to battle crowds in malls to do my Christmas shopping, thanks to online shopping.  I am thankful I don’t have to wait in long lines at the checkout counter.

I am thankful (though I may forget something now and then) it’s not serious, but just a “senior moment.”

I gave up my driving privilege some years ago and I am thankful I no longer am at the mercy of someone saying yes I may obtain another license nor do I have the expense of buying a license or city sticker, to say nothing of the expense of buying gas, repairs, parking fees, etc.

I am thankful I don’t live in a mansion that requires outside help to maintain.

I am thankful I don’t crave the bright city lights.  The only bright light I need is when I read.

I am thankful I do not have fame and fortune and all that it entails.

I am thankful I no longer worry what people think of me. I know they seldom do.  People are too preoccupied with their own lives.

I am thankful I don’t have to concern myself about being a good parent.  That ship sailed years go and I have two useful citizens in my grown son and daughter.

I am thankful I don’t live somewhere else and call the United States my home.  God bless America.

See Something, Say Something Nice – October 12, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

If you see something, say something.

That is what the police ask of us if we see something suspicious.

Who knows how many somethings turn out to be nothing alarming? By the same token, we also don’t know how many reports turned out to be helpful in preventing a crime?

I believe in saying something nice whenever possible. When reading newspapers or watching television, listening to radio news programs, one can easily come to the conclusion that there is nothing good happening at all these days.

The media has a saying, if it bleeds, it leads. There is a gossip gene in many people, who enjoy hearing something bad about anyone.

A kind word or compliment from a stranger can make a person’s day at times.

A bus boy in a café where we often dine is a fine example of the good old Puritan work ethic. I observe him as he quickly and efficiently does his job with little or no supervision. He is always busy, bussing tables, setting up tables and chairs for large groups, offering us more coffee  – all on his own.

He may go unnoticed by most of the patrons, but my eyes are constantly drawn to him.  I told him once that I would not be surprised to learn some day that he will either manage or own that establishment where he is presently employed.  He just smiles modestly and says a simple thank you.

No braggadocio whatever, “just doing my job,” he adds.

I am not slighting the rest of the fine staff. I merely wanted to give recognition to someone we sometimes overlook because he is not directly involved with bringing our meals to us.

It also is my small contribution to saying something good for a change instead of highlighting the horrible events and man’s injustice to his fellow man that is so prevalent in the news these days.

There isn’t much we can do about all the daily calamities in the world, but just as a single step begins the longest journey, we could all make a difference in our little corner of the world by saying something good to, or about someone.  Watch the good feelings spread like ripples in a stream when you toss in a pebble.

As the late Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

The bar code, ATM machine and a little girl – September 26, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

Try as I may, I’ll never get used to this modern age.  Best I have been able to do is learn a fraction of what is necessary to use my computer, send and receive emails, learn how to view what’s on Netflix.

The elevator still puzzles me, but I know enough to press the right button to reach the floor I want, but what makes that box move up and down is unknown to me.

I was recently in a time warp while shopping with my daughter in one of our local supermarkets. Waiting, I watched her use the self-checkout aisle.

The beeping, as purchases were scanned, made me wonder how many transactions are accomplished without cash exchanging hands these days. I suppose some people still use legal tender, but I have not seen many lately.

What would my Mom think if she could suddenly spring to life and enter one of these supermarkets now?

The bar code mystifies me no end. Is there a limit to the way those bars can be arranged? My daughter showed me an emblem on an item that is another way to identify it.  How does that work? Who had the moxie to invent it?

Another mystery was revealed when we returned to her car.  She doesn’t have to use a key, as long as she has it with her. She just pressed a button on the door and it unlocked. Imagine that!

Inside there is a perfect view on a screen on the dashboard that indicates if there is a car or pedestrian behind us.

As we were leaving the store, I saw a little girl accompanied by her father, having a wonderful time playing with the buttons on an ATM machine.  I thought, ”Have fun, little one, heaven only knows what there will be when you are old enough to know what it’s for.”

What sort of world will it be when she is my age?

I told her father, “she is certainly starting early learning about automation, and I know she had no idea what she was doing.”

I have to admit, I don’t understand what is happening either, just as she knows not.

The difference being that I know I don’t know.

Early Campaigning for Office in 2016 – September 12, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

If you think the political campaigns begin earlier each year, you will find a lot of people agreeing with you.  Reading a book by the late David Brinkley, I find that he wrote on this subject back on February 6, 1983.  So early campaigning is not that new.

It’s hard to imagine for a non-political person (as I am) that anyone could stand the grueling months ahead, making all those boring speeches, shaking hands, etc. Do they still kiss babies too?  I doubt it in this modern world of germs-conscientiousness, hand sanitizers, etc.

If any of the candidates are like the late billionaire, Howard Hughes who refused to shake hands, what will they do to ward off germs  —  especially during the cold and flu season?  I guess that shows a rather petty view on my part.  They have their eyes on loftier goals.

Telephone calls from politicians have already intruded during my afternoon siestas, mailbox is stuffed with literature, and television and radio ads cause me to reach for the mute button.

I think of all the worthwhile things on which campaign funds could be spent.

In a biography of Will Rogers, “Reflections and Observations,” I read about a Michigan man running for Congress in 1922, spending $195,000 on his campaign.

Today they probably spend that much in a day!  Congress collectively criticized him for doing so.

Though he was allowed to be seated, there was still so much public outrage ten months later, he resigned.

(I don’t know how true this is.  As Will Rogers always said, “I only know what I read in the newspaper,” I can only say I only know what I read in books and leave it to publishers to verify facts.)

Who will remember all the promises made so far ahead of when we go to the polls in November next year?

In order to vote intelligently, we should be informed but the brain’s capacity is finite. We will be subjected to so much verbiage before the election.  It will be difficult to absorb so much information.  The brain can only retain so much.

The following quote is not original but I read it some time ago. “An excess of information resists analysis and comprehension in much the same way a lack of it does.”

The months are “floating” by – August 3, 2015 – Daily Chronicle

There are many songs with time in their theme.

“It’s 3 o’clock In the Morning,” “Didn’t Know What Time it Was,” “As Time Goes By,” to mention a few.

In old movies, between scenes, they sometimes depicted the passage of time by showing the wind flipping rapidly through a calendar. I liken time passing as though I’m viewing a parade with floats bearing the names of the months disappearing all too quickly.

The June float, with its verdant decorations and robins chirping, is a distant memory. Before we knew it, the July float came along, with a marching band playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and cannons and bells emphasizing the multicolored fireworks display.

The dog days of summer in August are upon us. This float is not as beautiful as the first two floats. This one is occupied with glum-faced youngsters, clutching pencils and notebooks. School bells may be heard in the distance.

Where did summer go?

The September float’s nostalgic September song and its so-very-true lyrics, “And the days dwindle down to a precious few,” is another reminder that time is fleeting.

Bright orange pumpkins with carved smiling faces amid the gold, russet and brown floral background is next on the October float. That one will pass just ahead of November.

But not to worry. Floats are like street cars – another one will come along shortly.

November with pilgrims feasting on stuffed turkeys, followed by pumpkin pie for dessert is next. Anxious December jumps ahead in the line with Santa ho-ho-ing to wish us a Merry Christmas. What’s the big rush?

When the winter float comes along, do not fret. Remember, the spring float will soon follow.

Motifs for January, February, March, April and May floats are in the planning stages.

How will they look? Maybe we can all pitch in and think of different designs. How about if we skip the floral and holiday motifs and instead use as our motifs, kindness for January. fellowship for February, goodwill in March, friendship in April and charity for May.

I’d vote for a float for peace and happiness, and an end to violence and cruelty toward our fellow men.

But hasten with your ideas.  As the old song says, time waits for no one.”

Early Campaigning – July, 22, 2016 — Chicago Tribune On-Line

When I think of the grueling political campaigns that are beginning earlier and earlier each year, I wonder how the candidates have the stamina to handle them.

I’m already exhausted.  There will be tiresome articles in our nation’s newspapers, the television interviews, debates and the commentary after it for the media to tell us what the candidates meant.

The presidential election is still a year and several months away.  Who will remember what a candidate said by that time?

Who remembers the man who gave such a lengthy speech or what he said before Lincoln’s short Gettysburg address?  Yet we all remember Lincoln and what he said.  If brevity is the soul of wit, it’s also a good quality to remember when speaking.

We should be informed but the brain’s capacity is finite and who can absorb all we will hear in the months ahead?

The following quote from a book I read seems appropriate:  An excess of information resists analysis and comprehension in much the same way a lack of it does.

I hope the candidates will remember to count their words, as well as make their words count.

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