Are these the best of times? – August 6, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” wrote Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities.”

These words, written so long ago are still appropriate today.

When you consider the heinous events we hear and read about daily, it definitely would make one think these are the worst.

But through the ages, there has always been so much violence. Great strides in health care, science, technology, etc., have been made that prompt one to think these are the best of times.

The best of times and worst of times have always co-existed.

Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” The same is true of cataclysmic events: We will always have them. Yet, we always find a way to soldier on.

Maintaining a positive attitude can be very difficult, if not impossible, in the worst of times.

The TV series “America The Story of US,”” is a good example of our fortitude.

I admire the indomitable spirit of the people who settled our country as well as our present citizens.

We have witnessed such unspeakable tragedies and catastrophes and yet we are like that inflated clown balloon one can punch down and it always pops right up again.

It was heart-breaking watching the series with all the death and destruction in our history and the present time as well. Through it all, we prevailed.

Standing on the shoulders and remembering those who gave their lives for the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy today is heart-breaking.

After the Twin Towers in New York came down, I came across a remarkable editorial broadcast by Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian TV commentator.

He said we are always alone, blamed for everything and never get a thank you for the things we do.

Sinclair mentioned the times that America came to the aid of others, all the tragedies where we pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, without help.

He closed with this statement: “”Stand proud, America!””

The editorial is too lengthy to quote all of it. It was also printed in our Congressional Record.

Americans are always so generous in aiding others. It brings out the goodness in people.

I’m no Pollyanna who thinks these are the best of times.  But I have not given up hope that things some day will be better.

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Remembering a July of Long Ago – July 18, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

This month has many significant life-changing dates in my lifetime that occurred after graduation from high school.

Many of us, who grew up in small towns, left to seek employment in larger metropolitan cities where career opportunities were better than our small town.

I left my parental home on a July 5 many years ago.  Before leaving, however, I was offered several jobs by local businesses.

One was to run the projector in our local theater.

Another was to learn to operate the Linotype machine at our weekly newspaper.

Also, in the pre-dial phone era I was to be “Central” and learn to connect people by telephone.

Refusing these offers turned out to be wise, youthful decisions, leaving me to pursue my ambition to be a secretary.  It was difficult to gain employment because I had no experience and also did not attend a Commercial College having learned to type and take shorthand in high school.

Some of the local townspeople left behind resented those of us who left to seek employment elsewhere.   They felt rebuffed, but that was not the case.  We just wanted to see what was on “the other side of the mountain.”

Remember my career opportunities I mentioned above?     With the invention of television, the local theater closed due to lack of business when people stayed home to watch this wonderful, new invention instead.

During WWII, lead, necessary for the manufacture of ammunition, as well as for the Linotype machine, became unavailable to us.

“Central” was no longer necessary when the dial system replaced her.  So I would have been unemployed.

When I returned to my home town the first time after leaving home, the first three people I met, did not remember me and five others did not know I had left!

Remember the old saying about how much you will be missed?  Put your hand in a bucket of water and then pull it out and observe how much water you have displaced and what a hole you leave behind!

Those were wise, life-changing decisions in my young life.

With no regret, I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen to stay where I was and accepted those offers.

Many of us could pause like that and dream what might have been.  A fun thing to do on a hot, sultry day in July.

 

The Ubiquitous Credit Cards – June 25, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

Waiting in line to pay for my groceries, I noticed the absence of cash.  Everyone used a credit card, including me.  Those born after 1980 are not familiar with the fact that credit cards were not always so readily available.

In 1949 a man (Frank McNamara) was out dining with his wife.  He had left his wallet home so his wife picked up the check.  This oversight gave birth to the Diners Club credit card.  (Not sure how this would help though – wouldn’t he carry the credit card in his wallet?)  It was soon followed by the American Express card, Master Card, etc.

Years ago, in my small home town, there was one grocery store, owned by a father and son. People paid cash or the grocer ran a tab which the shopper paid up at the end of the month. Sometimes the store “carried” the debt when someone was unable to pay it in full.

Not sure if the “lay-away” plan is still in use.  As a single bachelorette working gal, I often used it when I found apparel I could not afford with my meager salary.  I’d make a down payment to hold it until I paid in full and only then could I take it home.

These days, with credit cards the norm, I’ve encountered cashiers unable to handle a cash transaction.

There is a radio commercial advising of a program whereby we can negotiate and lower our tax bill or wipe out some of our credit charges without paying the full amount.  It reminds me of a line in Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade:  “Honor the charge they made.”  I realize Tennyson meant a different type of “charge,” but you get my drift.  How do people feel about this who “honor” their charges?

I once knew an elderly couple who never owned a credit card.  When purchasing a new car, they saved their money until they could pay cash.  I  convinced them to take advantage of a store offering 90-days to pay for something without finance charges.  They were erroneously billed a finance charge until I got it straightened out for them.   They went back to paying cash from then on.

The financier, Dave Ramsey once said, “Only in America do we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

 

Ode to June – June 6, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

June is the month we associate with graduations, class reunions and weddings, to mention only a few annual observations. Of course, there is also D-Day, Flag Day and Father’s Day.

The month of June, was named after a goddess named Juno, the protector of women in all aspects and especially in marriage and child-bearing.

It was customary for people to wed this month because of the abundance of flowers everywhere to mask the odor emanating from nonbathing people in early times. Hard to imagine that – with our ritual in modern times of daily showers. Perhaps the phrase “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” had not been coined yet.

Bathing was not as simple back then as it is now with running hot water and no need to heat a tub of water on the stove. This story tests one’s credulity: A man on a flight who had not bathed for days and the pungent odor coming from him caused people to vomit and faint until he was removed from the flight.

And, lest we forget, the first day of summer is in June. At least it says so on our calendars.

We in the Midwest have been more fortunate with our winter than other parts of the country where snow has been falling almost nonstop. But we greet the first warm days of spring just as gladly as those who have been buried under a record-breaking snowfall this past winter.

You might be familiar with these quotes from one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

The second quote goes: “If it weren’t for the weather, 90 percent of the population couldn’t begin a conversation.”

As a child, we were happy because June meant the end of another school year, and we looked forward to carefree days in the sun.

June also used to mean invitations to class reunions as well as weddings. You may have heard what the late comedienne Phyllis Diller once remarked, “When I went to my class reunion, everyone there had gotten so old and over-weight they did not recognize me!”

Happy wedding day to all June brides.

Spring, Oh Spring, Wherefore Art Thou? – May 23, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

          When Spring keeps flirting with us like the coquette she can be, I composed an imaginary want ad in my head as follows:

WANTED:  SPRING

          Subject has been missing for some time.  Sightings have been reported but none conclusive thus far.  When approached, she scampers off.   Anyone having knowledge of Spring’s whereabouts should report to the nearest radio or television station so sightings may be confirmed.

          March 20, the calendar’s first day of Spring, comes and goes many years.  We foolishly believe (and hope) it is true, but alas, it rarely is.    It has been said that Spring is when Mother Nature begins to liquidate her frozen assets.  – From an Anonymous source.

          I liken waiting for Spring to truly arrive to wishing for something we don’t have.  The longer the wait, the more the appreciation.

          When Spring seems to finally arrives, we are once more children. Then she skips merrily away with no sign she will return.

          Perhaps wind is the culprit that causes Spring to hide as it is a strong adversary of Spring.  Ol’ Sol can shine ever so brightly in a cloudless blue sky, but the cold wind always wins out and causes Spring to run skulking off into the woods.

          She reminds me of Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip as she promises Charlie Brown she will hold the football for him to kick and then whisks it away at the last moment, leaving him lying on the grass with egg on his face again.

          There were multiple clues indicating she has not completely disappeared.  Forsythia blooms and crocus is peeking through the ground.

          Another clue that Spring is near, birds foolishly find the dryer vent is a warm place to build nests, affecting efficiency and must be destroyed.

          Aroma of freshly-turned earth abounds as gardeners and farmers prepare the soil for planting.

          Golfers are also in evidence as they prepare to tee off instead of being teed off about the gloomy Spring.

          The roar of lawn mowers has replaced the scrape of shovels and snowplows on streets and walks.

          We can take heart that soon the weather will actually feel like Spring even though Mother Nature reminds us she is still in charge.

          No Winter lasts forever and no Spring skips its turn.

          And finally, Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

Rambling thoughts about Mothers Day – Then and Now – May 11, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

 

It seems like more people than ever before are into physical fitness.   Due to our many labor saving devices, we no longer work hard as we once did.

My mom never set foot in a Y to work out, lifting weights, walking and other exercises to stay in shape.  There was no need for her to exercise as her daily tasks kept her in shape.

She would have been too tired to lift weights, as she did that when she lifted wet sheets out of the washer, fed them through the ringer and then sloshed them around as she rinsed them in a galvanized tub of cold water and repeated the ringer thing.    More weight lifting as she carried them outdoors to peg them on the clothesline strung between two giant cotton-wood trees.

Wash Day was an all-day job.  She never owned an automatic washer.

Today that sounds pretty primitive, doesn’t it?   This will be long-forgotten once I and other people my age are gone.

Of course she did not do all the things modern mothers do like driving their children to school and other activities like mothers today.  She was too busy baking bread, cinnamon rolls, scrubbing floors, ironing.  No permanent press garments back then.

Mothers are a pretty much alike though through the ages.  They would never dream of taking the last piece of cake or last cookie – leaving them for their children, pretending they don’t want them.

To illustrate the self-sacrifice mothers often make (partly personal, as the late Paul Harvey used to say to preface his stories), we have a personal joke in our family.  “How many mothers does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer:  “None, I’ll just sit here in the dark.”

When I refuse help or a kind gesture from my son and daughter, they always say “Oh, you’re just going to sit in the dark, eh?”

Those of us who no longer have our mothers with us would give anything to tell them how much we appreciate all they did for us.

If you still have a mother, tell her how much you appreciate everything she did for you.

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone,” quoted by London-born writer, G. B. Stern.

Don’t forget to say “Thanks, Mom,” as often as possible while you still can.

Happy Mother’s Day.

These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls* – April 20, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

 

The term, “keeping a stiff upper lip” is difficult these days with the world-wide turmoil that is the norm.   I attempt to cheer myself up with some of the platitudes and quotes I have amassed over the years but they don’t help much when we are rocked with a new catastrophe every day.

I was curious, nevertheless, where this term about a stiff upper lip emanated so I looked it up on the Internet.   Whatever did we do without that service?  So much easier than lifting a heavy tome like the encyclopedia from a bookshelf.

Stiff upper lip is attributed to the British in “remaining resolute and unemotional, not showing feelings when upset.  Keeping one’s composure and being tough, repressing emotion through adversity.”

Just how do you keep a stiff upper lip stiff without doing the same to the lower one and why just the upper lip?  Try it in front of a mirror and laugh at your silly facial contortions.

By trying to maintain a cheerful demeanor, no matter what happens around you, it’s sort of like self-hypnotizing yourself.

How we deal with what life forces us to bear is important.  Viktor Frankl wrote in “Man’s search for meaning:

Everything can be taken away from a man, but one thing, the last human freedom:  to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one’s own way.”
When we are faced with hard times, tragedy, etc., it’s difficult to keep from letting it get us down. We have to adjust our attitude and deal with what life deals us.

The difficulties of life are intended to make us better not bitter.

When bad things happen to good people, I’ve heard people ask, how can God let that happen?

Remember Blaise Pascal, a religious thinker living in the 17th century?  He did question the existence of God.   According to my source, he figured what did he have to lose if he pretended to believe. “Since little can be lost if there is no God, and eternal happiness can be gained if there is one.”

Isn’t that self-hypnosis?  If you believe you can do something long enough and hard enough, maybe you can actually do it.

Remember the lyrics in the Frank Sinatra hit. “High Hopes?” about the ant and the rubber tree plant?  Anything is possible if you believe.

*From Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

Living in the modern era – April 27, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

 

While I did not exactly grow up in the horse and buggy era, I have witnessed many

innovations in my lifetime that absolutely thrill me.  You have to have gone without to appreciate what we now have.

I love the instant communication that is available through email.  I’m not denigrating

the U.S. Postal Service.  Think of being able to mail first class letters for 3 cents.  THREE CENTS!

And let’s not forget the penny postcards!  V-mail during WWII was how we wrote to our military in distant lands.

Take cars, for example.  I remember a time when cars did not include heaters.  You had to specify that option and pay extra for it.

No turn signals.  I don’t know about other parts of the U.S., but in Minnesota, a driver would open the door on his left to signal a left turn.  Too cold to crank down the window and the operative word is “crank.”  No push button to open one.

Of course no air conditioning either and we’d open all the windows to catch a breeze.  You can picture what it did to a woman’s hairdo!

One also purchased seat covers to protect the front seat so it would remain in pristine

condition when it was traded in.

I am horrified today when I think of how parents transported their toddlers in cars without seat

belts.  The little ones stood on the front seat beside the driver and if a sudden stop was necessary, the driver’s right arm shot out to keep them from falling forward.

In the pre-computer era, when I learned to type, the keyboard had no letters so we had to memorize the locations. No self-correcting ribbon, no spell check, no electricity.

No Dictaphones.  Secretaries took the letters down in shorthand, thus wasting two people’s time.

Long distance phone calls were handled by a telephone operator.  In my working days, direct dialing came into being, at first, by the telephone operator.  I recall working for a lumber broker and placed a call for my boss to a mill on the West Coast and he was amazed at the speed at which he was connected.

Now, we not only place the call but also can see the person to whom we are speaking.

These are only a few examples we take for granted.

Yesteryear’s luxuries have become today’s necessities.

 

To See Ourselves as Other See Us – April 11, 2018 – Daily Chronicle                

 

We all probably have a self-image that does not necessarily coincide with how others view us.

Someone once said to me, “Do you realize we have never seen our own face?  All we see is a reflection in a mirror.”       How we see ourselves in our mirror does not show how we look to the outside world.

As we age, fortunately, gradual changes, almost imperceptible, occur overnight.  What a blessing!  Imagine what a shock it would be to look in the mirror one day and suddenly from a visage of say, twenty years old, we are confronted with an 80-year old looking back at us.

This was brought home to me when my daughter resurrected an old photo of me when I was in my 20’s.

I once moved to a small town and as I walked to work, I was amazed at how friendly the people were, greeting me so warmly though I had not met them.  I later discovered that (to them), I resembled a receptionist in a popular doctor’s office.  We rarely see the resemblance though as I did not, once I met her.

How often have you met someone new, only to find they remind you of someone else or, likewise, you remind them of someone else?

Remember when we could take the stairs two steps at time with little thought or effort? When was the last time you were capable of doing that?  It’s a blessing to take them one at a time now.

In my younger days, I was often told by acquaintances and total strangers that I resembled a certain movie star (identity withheld to protect her privacy).  I didn’t see the resemblance and neither did my husband.

In her last years, she was photographed on a plane after she had had a stroke and was also slightly inebriated.  She looked AWFUL!  My late husband (ever the teaser), when he saw the photo said,   “I take it back, you do look like her.”

We have to learn to accept the aging process and adjust.

Our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, accepted his looks this way:

For beauty, I am not a star

There are others more handsome by far

But my face – I don’t mind it

For I am behind it

It’s the people in front that I jar.

Is Hand-Writing Out of Style – March 29, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

I miss the hand-written notes we used to send and receive via the U.S. Postal Service…those short “bread and butter” memos to thank a hostess for her hospitality.  They did not have the immediacy of email, but were so much more personal.

Reading in “The Astounding Power of Penmanship,” by Gerald Williams, he quotes best- selling author, Joyce Carol Oates, who writes all of her books in longhand, “keyboards are soulless…handwriting is personal – as unique as fingerprints.”

Hand-written communication is rare now.  Williams, tired of computerizing went back to teaching grades K to 12. He discovered that penmanship was no longer required and students did not write in longhand except to sign an attendance sheet.

I find that very sad.

Perhaps with home schooling, parents have stepped in and see that hand-writing is not a thing of the past. I hope so.

What about celebrities who are asked to give their autograph?  Do they hand out treats instead if they don’t know how to write?

I recall my early education in elementary school where we learned the Palmer method of hand-writing.  We got a lot of practice too when we did not know the correct answer to a question posed by the teacher when he told us to write it down ten times or more to reinforce our memory.

One of my brothers started school when left-handed was considered a handicap. He was forced to write with his right hand and did it beautifully, but did everything else later with his left hand.

My hand-writing deteriorated when I learned Gregg shorthand in high school.  It was so much faster taking notes in class.  Shorthand was based on using a portion of a hand written letter of the alphabet and making that stand for a word.

Authors long ago didn’t have typewriters or computers and wrote novels and plays in longhand.  In an interview I once heard an author saying he preferred to write his works with a pencil because it gave him time to think of what he wanted to say.  He’d sharpen his pencil, or stoke a pipe and stroll about the room while he was thinking.  The hum of an electric typewriter annoyed him and seemed to nag him to write.

Think of calligraphy – “the art of fine handwriting.”   Another fine example of a bygone era.  Is this progress or what?