An Amalgam of Nocturnal Ruminations – March 23, 2016 – Daily Chronicle

I’m a thinker and often engage in “wool gathering,”  i.e., to indulge in aimless reverie.  It sometimes occurs during  a sleepless night.

Perhaps I am just ill-informed but I think we don’t have any great thinkers or philosophers in modern times like we did centuries ago.   For examples, think of Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Voltaire, to mention just a few.

They were great thinkers because they weren’t distracted by television, radio and film and were able to sit around thinking deep thoughts.

Remember Newton, the English scientist and mathematician back in the 17th century?   What if he’d been watching House of Cards or Downton Abbey instead of sitting under a tree, watching that apple fall to the ground?  Gravity might still be a deep mystery to us and the laws of motion may never have been explained.

How about our forefathers in the pre-television era?  Would anyone have taken the time to write the Declaration of Independence?

I wonder if they all had sleepless nights and that is when they came up with their ideas.  Seriously, I find night time the most conducive to thinking though.  The darkness, the quiet, and no distractions of any kind are very thought-provoking.

Unfortunately, by morning, any brilliant nocturnal thoughts have eluded me and are never recorded.

I do recall some of my thoughts like the expression “mad as a wet hen.”  What’s she so mad about? I know I’d be pretty upset if someone doused me right after I’d been at the hairdresser.

I thought of the expression when we came upon a rancid odor.  We’d say, “it smelled like a wet goat standing next to a fire.”  Did he get wet from standing too close to said hen?

I often think of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the night too and their marvelous inventions like the Iphone, Ipad, text messaging, etc.

At the same time I do worry about the use of these inventions where the young seem to be so pre-occupied, using only their thumbs to communicate.  Will thumbs become obsolete from this over-use some day…their descendants thumb-less?

When Ma Bell controlled our telephone system, we let our fingers do the “walking.”  Now it’s thumbs that do our “talking.”

By the way, I didn’t say I was a GREAT thinker…only that I am a thinker.

 

Shopping, Then and Now – March 6, 2016 – Daily Chronicle

Waiting in the car as my daughter shopped, I people-watched in the store’s parking lot.

Vending machines, lined up outside the store, were doing a brisk business as people picked up and deposited rental movies.  Ice machines were not getting much play in the frigid temperatures.

I was pleased to see that containers provided for depositing litter were being used by the patrons. The parking lot was relatively free of litter, a testament to their diligence or could also be the result of the strong winds we were experiencing that blew away any carelessly tossed items.

My thoughts turned to how many transactions we now perform without human contact.  Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs were forerunners in merchandising in the early 20th century, which made it possible to shop from your home by using the U. S. Postal Service, and purchases were mailed to us, without person-to-person contact.

Watching the TV series “Selfridge,” I realized how radically things began to change. Buyers could now finger items to determine which item suited them as opposed to having someone reaching under the counter or behind them to show us things like gloves, scarves and hosiery, to mention a few.

Today, a housewife practically could wipe out the family’s fortune without setting foot outside the door, by the use of the telephone, computer and a credit card.  Perhaps that has happened more than we realize.

It may be difficult to believe in modern times when you can’t turn on your radio without hearing about a miracle pill to correct “E.D.”, that there once was a time when feminine hygiene items were discreetly wrapped in plain brown paper and hidden from sight.

As a young girl, I remember shopping and praying that a female clerk would wait on me.

A friend of mine, a young, naive girl, just out of high school and working in a drug store years ago, was approached by a young man asking for prophylactics in a hushed voice.  Unaware of what that was, she called out in a loud voice for all to hear, from the front of the store to the pharmacist in the back, “Do we sell prophylactics?”

The young man made a hasty exit without waiting for an answer or the item he was seeking.

Shopping and times certainly have changed.

Remembering Another Time – February 11, 2016 – Daily Chronicle

The saying “You can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy,” is very true.  In my personal case, it’s “you can take the gal out of the small town but not the small town out of the gal.”

Like many young people, I moved to Minneapolis from the small town where I was born and raised.  Minneapolis was mecca to many young persons as they sought, not fame and fortune, but career opportunities that were lacking in home towns.

I did, however, have career opportunities locally.  Fortunately or wisely, I declined them.  I was offered a position as a linotype operator at the local newspaper office.  Lead, necessary for typesetting, was needed in the production of ammunition during WWII, so the position would not have lasted.

The local theater offered me a position to run the projector for movies.  With the arrival of television, I’d soon be out of a job there too as the theater closed.

Before dial telephones, all calls were placed through a “Central” operator.  Another job opportunity that would have gone by the wayside quickly.

So I was fortunate in declining these and similar offers.

It was often said “Minneapolis is the largest small town in America,” because it was comprised of many persons like myself.

Because of my small town heritage, I love living in DeKalb, although it is much larger in population than mine was and is.

That is also why I like watching some of the reruns of TV programs like Mary Tyler Moore and Andy Griffith.  The Mary Tyler Moore show did not mirror my experience as she had a much more glamorous career than I had as a secretary.

The Andy Griffith show reminds me of my home town though and, call me a simpleton if you will, but I enjoy the homespun plots.

The folksy way Andy Griffith deals with problems, mostly caused by Barney, played so skillfully and annoyingly by the late Don Knotts, reminds me of the folksy people I knew back then.

My experience is not unique and was repeated by many others who forsook their small town upbringing but not their values.  I find the warmth and neighborliness here in DeKalb to be much the same as I knew back then.

Take a look at these old programs.  I think they will be uplifting and remind you of a simpler time.

 

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.

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