Fond Memories of Past Thanksgivings – November 20, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are two days that make me think of home more often than other holidays.  I would not be surprised to learn that that this is true for many people —  even if we left our parental homes years, ago, we remember our hearth and home from our childhood.

I always liked the old Norman Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post around Thanksgiving depicting a grandmotherly type carrying in a beautifully roasted turkey ready to be carved.

When I was young, I did not think of what an amazing feat it was when my aunts and mother prepared the Thanksgiving meal and how they managed to have the turkey, dressing and all the side dishes ready at the same time.

The meal was cooked on a wood-burning range in the kitchen, which meant keeping the fire going throughout the roasting of the turkey and dressing in the oven plus the side dishes on top of the range.            Pumpkin pie was made from a home grown pumpkin.  Whipped cream from cream from a home grown cow and whipped into a fluffy white delight.

No refrigerator or microwave oven to aid in hurrying things along.

Today’s mental image for me is crowded airports with long lines of people waiting to board a homeward bound flight.  When I was growing up, this was not the case as people did not live that far apart and there were no crowded airports because commercial airlines were a thing of the future.

Our mothers and aunts did not have to compete with football games on television.   A friend once complained about having to time the meal to coincide with half-time so the men could gobble down the meal in twenty minutes that had taken hours planning and preparing so they could return to the family room for the 2nd  half.

Pumpkin pie was often eaten in the family room competing with the postgame show with the losing team explaining what went wrong to contribute to the defeat.

While we give thanks for the important things in life, don’t forget the little things too.

My favorite Thanksgiving anecdote is about a little girl who had just had her first turkey.  When asked how she liked the turkey, she replied, “I didn’t like the meat but I loved the bread it ate.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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A Powerful Weapon – November 2, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

As children, we were sometimes subjected to teasing and unwanted cruelty.  We tried to console ourselves with a short poem:

Sticks and stones may break my bones,

But words can never hurt me.

Sadly, this did not help as it was a fallacy.  Words can and do hurt.

The recent headlines of someone being accused of rape comes to mind. Even if the person is found not guilty of the charge, he will bear the stigma of the charge the rest of his life. There will always be doubters who are willing to believe the worst of the accused.

It’s well to remember that what you think of yourself is far more important than what others think of you.

Words are a secret, concealed weapon we carry for which we need no permit.

Human nature being what it is, who doesn’t like to gossip at times?     Alice Roosevelt Longworth, known for her tart tongue, was reported to have a pillow on her divan with the needlepoint message,  “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, come sit by me.”

It saddens me when I hear about a child bullied with words as well as physical abuse is driven – driven to suicide, despite a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt – “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  A nice thought but hard to live up to.

Character assassination can be deadly as a gun too when it lowers a person’s self-esteem and self-worth.

In the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Shultz, poor Charlie Brown is maligned and berated in several panels by all he meets.  In the last panel, Lucy Van Pelt, his nemesis, remarks, “I hardly ever see Charlie Brown smile.”

We are drawn to people who make us feel good about ourselves.  It’s not what we see in others but what they make us see in ourselves that uplifts our spirits.

A casual, flippant remark can cut deeply some times and we may not be aware how we have hurt someone.  We may apologize but once the words are out there, we can’t erase them.  They are like a kite caught in the branches of a tree.

Before speaking, keep in mind, “We are the masters of words never spoken and slaves of the ones we have uttered.”

 

Thoughts While Under the Hair Dryer –     October 20, 2018 – Daily Chronicle  

During my weekly visit to the hair salon, as I lived in my own private world under the hair dryer, I got to thinking that it’s like going to a silent movie with no subtitles as I watch the various patrons conversing with their hair stylist. Maybe I should take up lip reading.

Every now and then, it’s refreshing to shut out the world with all its cataclysmic events. The roar of the dryer precludes any conversation with someone sitting next to me undergoing the enjoying the solitude.

I recalled when home permanents were first introduced on the market. It was said, at that time, it spelled the demise of hair salons.  The writers of that ad campaign forgot that hair salons provide other services as well as permanents, such as weekly shampoos and sets, manicures, facials and other pampering, etc. It was reminiscent of Mark Twain’s quote “The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Each week, we leave the salon looking better than when we entered. We return in another week for the transformation once again. Do hair dressers think about Sisyphus from Greek mythology? If they do, they must see a similarity in the futility of what they do for us each week.

Sisyphus offended one of the gods and was punished for the sin of self-aggrandizement and craftiness and condemned for all eternity to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down when it neared the top and he had to repeat the task forever.

Does my hair dresser, Jill, think of him as she sends me home, perfectly coiffed, only to see me return a week later and repeat the process again? Do space aliens ever look down on us and wonder about the futility of rolling our hair in rollers and then removing them 30 to 40 minutes later. They must wonder, “Why do it in the first place?” They just don’t get it.

Much like an old anecdote I once read about an Amish man who went to town with his young son. He saw an old woman enter a building through a revolving door and then see a young woman emerge right after that leaving the store. He told his son, “Go get your mother.”

It’s all about understanding the concept.

One’s mind does wander when under the dryer.

 

Interview in MidWeek – October 11, 2018

DeKALB – Mil Misic has always been a writer.

From writing letters to her husband before they were married to penning more than 300 letters to the editor for the Chicago Tribune’s section “The Observer,” writing has been Misic’s lifelong passion.

Misic currently is a guest writer twice a month for the Daily Chronicle.

MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton met with Misic to discuss her articles, inspiration and longtime involvement in newspapers.

Milton: What do you write about?

Misic: I write about the passing scene, nothing controversial. There’s enough of those kinds of articles out there. I write about everyday happenings, nostalgic topics and the old days. I also like to entertain my audience. I’d like to think I have a good sense of humor. I like dry, British-kind of humor the most. I write about topics people talk about. I try to be upbeat. I’m no Pollyanna, but I try to look on the bright side.

Milton: How do you think of your article topics?

Misic: I think of ideas as I’m eating breakfast or as I’m sitting in the parking lot of Jewel [Osco] watching people coming and going. When something comes in my mind, I write it down. … I never know what my next topic is going to be. I guess I’d say it’s whatever will pop into my head, and I start writing from there. I write like I talk to people. I never use an outline, even though some people do.

Milton: Who are some of your favorite writers?

Misic: I’m a great admirer of the founders of our nation, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, for who they were and all they wrote. They were statesmen, not politicians. I like David McCullough because he brings history alive. I also like David Brinkley, especially his “Everyone’s Entitled to My Opinion.” I also admire Barbara Walters, I think she’s one of the best interviewers.

Milton: Can you tell me more about yourself?

Misic: I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. It’s the old story of the traveling salesman and the secretary: I met my husband [Donald] when he was in Minnesota, but he was from Chicago. When he returned home, we wrote each other letters. It was a good way to get acquainted. I moved to Chicago and we got married. He was a good logical thinker, great at math and science. I was always more literary. We just gelled, he had such a great sense of humor. They say that a happy home is like an early heaven. He passed away eight years ago in 2010.

Milton: How and when did you first start working for the newspaper?

Misic: I was young, 14 to 16 years old, and I worked once a week for our small-town weekly newspaper’s editor and his wife. I did some of the office’s housework and helped with the printing mechanism. On Thursday mornings at 3 a.m., I went to the office and folded the newspaper. They were either four or six pages. We would then tie the papers up and take them to the post office by 7 a.m. At that time, nothing else was open in town. People would be waiting for the paper to see what food was for sale that week in the ads. That job got me into a love of newspapers. There’s nothing like the printed word.

Milton: How did you become a journalist?

Misic: I wrote my first piece in 1982. It was my first venture of returning to work after raising my two kids, and I wrote about that. They both went away to college, and I had empty nest syndrome. The Chicago Tribune used to have a feature section called “The Observer.” I wrote in relative obscurity, nobody knew who I was, just a guest writer. Later, when I spoke to the paper’s editor, I was told that I was probably the section’s most frequent writer. I had between 300 and 400 letters published.

Milton: How would you describe the type of articles that you write?

Misic: I’m not a columnist, I write a letter to the editor about two times a month. You name it, I’ve written about it. I write about any topic at all. I like writing articles that people can relate to. I know when I wrote about a dress I wore as a girl that was made out of a flour sack, I had a lot of positive feedback and comments. People like to read about things that are nostalgic, things that are reminiscent of their own childhood.

Milton: How has your method of writing changed through the years?

Misic: When I was in high school, I took a course on shorthand. When I worked as a secretary in the 1950s, there were no copy machines. You had to run your paper through chemicals to make five copies. I think that just made more work for us to do. My very first typewriter was a Royal Underwood. In the 1980s, I had a typewriter that was electric, a Smith Corona. When we started using computers, we had about four different types of word processing. Back then, dot matrix and punch cards seemed very complex and modern, and they were. It’s sort of like Model T cars. What was once extraordinary has become ordinary.

Milton: Who or what has been your writing inspiration through the years?

Misic: My husband always encouraged me. We used to write each other letters. Even when I was younger, my friends loved receiving my letters. They’d ask each other if anyone got a letter from Mil and they’d all read it together. I think that my support from my family and friends is what has kept me writing all these years. I’ve formed a great friendship with [fellow Daily Chronicle writer] Barry Schraeder, and he even included an interview with me in his book. Also, I would like to thank and mention my two children, Kristi and Mark. They are my rock, they’re great kids, and I’m extremely proud of them.

Milton: Will you continue to write?

Misic: I think I’ll be writing forever, as long as I can. Writing has always been my passion. I’ve always been a writer. I’m a self-admitted email addict. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my email. I also collect quotes. I think it all comes from a love of words, a love of reading and a love of writing.

 

Threshing in the Days of Old – October 2, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

Barry Schrader’s excellent column, Friday, Aug. 10, about the Steam Power Show, brought back memories for me.

What we elders now recall as the “good old days,” were anything but that for our parents. As children, we often were unaware of the hardships they faced during the Depression.

I remember the fun at threshing time as some of my good old days.

My father bought a threshing machine before I was born, but I do remember having seen the machine. Mainly, I remember the long belt that ran the length of it. I was always cautioned to keep my distance from it.

It’s been said, many of us don’t remember as much as we think we do – that it’s from hearing our elders speak about them. I believe this is true.

It was customary for neighboring farmers to help each other at threshing times. Wives and children also joined in and it was a festive time for us children.

Doesn’t it sound like a picnic? That was how we looked at it.

I remember the pain when we walked barefoot on the stubble-filled fields when we took lunch out to the men in the field to save time for them having to come to the farmhouse. We children helped carry the lunch and some of the paraphernalia necessary, while someone drove a pickup truck to transport the heavier items. A huge metal dishpan was lined with kitchen towels and filled it with sandwiches. Home-made lemonade made from real lemons and a huge pot of coffee, etc., were met with great enthusiasm by the workers. Sometimes home-made pies with apples grown by the host farmer were provided.

Most people associate the Depression with the Wall Street crash of 1929, but a severe drought had caused hard times for many farmers before that and also wiped out my father’s business when there were no crops to harvest.

After lunch was consumed, the wives and children would head back to the farmhouse to clean up the detritus and begin planning supper.

The evening meal (supper) was a much bigger spread made with pork or beef from animals raised right there. Corn on the cob and potatoes from the garden, etc.

When did the vernacular change to dinner? Don’t we still have supper clubs?

Looking back with my rose-tinted glasses, I now realize it was not the good old days for most.

 

The Many Changes in One Lifetime – September 17, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

We once lived in a Chicago suburb where our home was directly below one of the flight paths to O’Hare at the beginning of the jet age.

As planes carrying hundreds of passengers flew overhead several times an hour, our children, playing outside, took no notice of the roar of the noisy jets – a far cry from days of old when I attended a one-room schoolhouse.

Back then, when we heard a small plane flying overhead, we’d run outside, without permission, risking the wrath of the teacher, to see this marvel.  (No, neither Wilbur or Orville Wright was the pilot.)

I thought of a later time in 1961 when Alan Shepherd became the first astronaut to go up for a short ride.  I sat anxiously on the edge of my seat as I watched this wonder on television until he was safely back on earth.

Later, as more and more brave men took off for longer periods of time in space, I barely took note of it. We become blasé so quickly as modern inventions appear.

We once lived in a senior citizen development for people 55 and older.  The homes were pre-fab homes built in Indiana and then hauled to their location and put into place on the foundations.

We were “pioneers”  living there and it was cause for much excitement as another home was moved in and we’d dash out to watch as the home was jockeyed into place on the foundation.

After a while that, too, became mundane.  Hardly anyone bothered to watch as time went on and the development prospered.

Years ago, when Henry Ford drove by in his first models, people would laugh and point, horses would rear up on hind legs and whinny.

We quickly accept changes and the extraordinary soon becomes ordinary. We become sophisticates and no more child-like wonder about anything exists.  It’s almost as if to say, “What else have you got?”
I remember the late Jack Parr, former host of the Tonight show, telling of his travels to Africa where he showed the natives in the jungle a set of fake, chattering false teeth and also brought a radio, turning it on so they could hear voices speaking.   The natives were fascinated by the chattering teeth but not the radio.    “Small man in box,” was their explanation.

Conclusion:  We are intrigued by the new that we cannot easily explain.

 

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.

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.