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.

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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?

People Who Impact Our Lives – March 20, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

 

A wise, elderly friend once told me, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”

Whether we realize it or not, people we meet throughout our lives have an impact on us – sometimes good — sometimes bad.

Being retired is a good time to reflect on memorable, life-changing incidences in one’s life.   There are many people in my long life (too many to include here) who have made an impact on me by what they said or did and I often think of them along the way.

In my teens, I did housework to earn extra money for things my parents couldn’t afford.  One May day the woman for whom I was working, observed youngsters delivering May baskets. (Do children still do that?)   A capricious wind blew out the contents of one of their baskets made of construction paper, scattering it to the four winds.  My employer invited them inside and replaced what she could.   I was impressed by her kindness.

The smallest deed sometimes makes or breaks a person’s day.  I remember the happy look on the children’s faces over her kindness.       How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it – George Elliston. 1883-1946.

Other times it was something someone said.            They say we should live our lives in such a way that if someone makes a disparaging remark about us, no one will believe it. That’s difficult (if not impossible) to do.  We will always have naysayers.

An untrue, unkind remark was made about me where I worked.  Hurt, I mentioned it to an elderly co-worker.  He consoled me by saying, “Forget it — reputation is your standing in the community, but character is what you are.  Always remember what you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you.”    I never forgot that.

People may criticize us and that has an impact on us.   When I was about 19 years old, I once went to a different church with my cousin.  After the service, she introduced me to a member of the congregation.   I have forgotten who she was but I never forgot what she said to me:  “Oh, yes, the gum chewer!”   You just know I did not chew gum in church again.

I don’t always remember who said something to me, but I do remember what they said: “Always tell the truth.  That way you never have to remember what you said.”

When a Sack, is More Than a Sack – March 8, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

With spring just around the corner, it reminded me of another spring -eons ago when I was a little girl.

As a rule, little girls didn’t wear trousers back then.

I often inherited a dress from a cousin that she had outgrown.    So a new dress was a luxury.

When we had the wherewithal, my mother bought flour in a 50-lb cloth sack for her Saturday baking of bread, cinnamon rolls, and donuts.

The flour mill, on their anniversary, once imprinted the sack with yellow flowers and the name of the mill was not prominent.

Poverty is like a communicable disease – not to be mentioned until one is over it.

Do you remember the “sack” dresses that were in vogue years ago?  Not being boastful, but we were ahead of this fashion trend when we wore one as little girls.  I remember the dress with great fondness.

This is not a pity party or a plea for sympathy, as many people were no better off during the Depression (think Dust Bowl).  I’ve heard from people my age who also wore these “sack” dresses.

The flour sack had just enough material to make a dress for a little girl as small as I was.  I was so happy and gave no thought from whence the material had come.

I could hardly wait for the last stitch to be sewn so I could wear a brand new dress for a change and show it off to my friends.

“Pride goeth before a fall” is so true and I was not prepared for

the jeers and taunts I faced when some of my playmates knew the source of the material.

In the comic strip, Cathy, she once said, “Embarrassment is forever.”  I say “Cruelty is too.”  We bear the scars from our childhood throughout our lives.

My mother tried to console me, saying they were just jealous because they did not have a pretty dress like mine.

With tongue in cheek, I guess you could call me one of the original “flour” (flower) children, prevalent in the ‘60’s and 70’s — ahead of the times.

I still had to wear the “sack” dress.  Teasing died down, but I did not wear it with the joy I felt when my mother slipped it over my head that first time.

 

Reading the Encyclopedia Britannica – February 20, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

You’ve probably heard of the universal study aid called CliffsNotes. I’ve discovered the ultimate CliffsNotes in regard to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In a book, “The Know-It-All” by A. J. Jacobs, he describes it as “one man’s humble quest to become the smartest person in the world.”

Jacobs read the entire 2002 Encyclopedia Britannica from “a-ak” to “Zywiec.” EB contains 65,000 entries with 44 million words. It does not include all entries, of course, but he writes amusingly and informatively about many topics.

That little groove between your nose and upper lip is called a philtron – a great word when playing Scrabble.

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, and the hinny is from a female donkey and a male horse. Evidently, there are gaps in our educational system. I did not know this, and I hope to spring that on friends when there’s a gap in conversation.

I always liked the song “Blue Moon” but did not know a blue moon is caused by dust in the air after a forest fire.

In the British Isles, the Halloween jack-o-lantern is made from a turnip – not a pumpkin.

I can’t verify this entry, but if you wished to visit Queen Victoria, don’t knock. She insisted you gently scratch on her door.

She wore a bustle that played “God save the Queen.” Today’s whoopee cushion.

Did you know the graham cracker was invented by Sylvester Graham, an eccentric health guru?

I did know this: Raccoons wash their food before eating. How hygienic.

An English semicolon used to be an interrogation mark in Greek.

Early typewriters were the size of pianos and only had capital letters. Then came a double-keyboard machine – two keys for each letter, small and large. This was followed by the invention of the shift key.

Jacobs’ book is by my bedside, and I read it during bouts of hyposomnia. That’s when you don’t sleep well. Insomnia is when you can’t sleep at all. I didn’t know that, either. Maybe I’ll sleep better knowing this.

My personal ambition now is to read the entire dictionary from “aardvark” (a burrowing animal) to “zyzzyva” (various tropical American weevils). I have no idea how many words are in there, but it’s a lot!

Maybe I should wait for Reader’s Digest to publish a condensed version.

So many words, so little time.