Reflections on Writing Letters to the Editor – February 14, 2019 – Daily Chronicle

            As I began this piece, I wondered who wrote the very first letter to an editor.

            Ever since early cave dwellers scratched pictures on cave walls, people have felt the urge to communicate with others or to leave a mark that they once existed.             

            I often think of how quickly the newspaper that contains our meager offering ends up being used to house-break puppies. 

            And yet, those of us who enjoy sharing our views keep at it.       

            My son and daughter saved my early submissions and I then continued saving them since 1982 when I began writing them.

            I guess we save them as a legacy for our children even though they may end up in the trash heap once we are gone.

            We might even include graffiti artists in the same category as writers or in the same category as early cave dwellers as they feel the need to express themselves and leave something behind.  I remember reading an example of graffiti a long time ago that said. “Tommy Smith likes grils.”  Beneath it, someone had added, ”That’s girls, stupid.”  Another entry below that went, “But what about us grils?”

            Coal miners trapped below in coal mines have left notes behind as they faced death.  When there is time, everyone wants to leave a legacy of some sort so people will know they were here at one time.  

            We might even include epitaphs on tombstones.  I can’t verify this but I remember reading that Oscar Levant, a noted hypochondriac, wanted this on his tombstone:  “I told you I was sick.”

            It had been reported that W. C. Fields’ tombstone reads, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

            What would you leave as your final words?

            I realize this is not great literature and won’t withstand the test of time as perhaps Lincoln’s short Gettysburg address in which he said, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.”  He could not have been more wrong. 

            Besides being used to house-break puppies or lining the bottom of a pet bird cage, everyone knows that a rolled-up newspaper makes an excellent fly swatter.

            How long will I keep writing letters?  I keep in mind a poem I read years ago about a preacher who wrote in the margin of his sermon,  “Oh Lord, fill my mouth with useful stuff and make me stop when I’ve said enough.”

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Taking a Cruise with Unpleasant Ports of Call – January 31, 2019 – Daily Chronicle

When I was a senior in high school many years ago, I wrote a column for our high school newspaper.

I once wrote a similar piece to the one below as I recuperated from the flu.

I did not keep a copy, but I scratched a similar one together recently and am submitting it to see if you find it worthy.

It was submitted by my teacher to the International Honor Society for High School Journalists.

Did you ever hear of it? I was awarded a membership for it, and still have the lapel pin for it:

THE USS INFLUENZA

Before flu shots were available, we could count on coming down with a bout of the flu at least once each winter. Recuperating one time, I lay there thinking it was like going on a cruise. We’d set sail on the USS Influenza from the Port of Wellness and cruise for several days until we reached the shores of Queasy Stomach.

Gamely, we’d go ashore and visit shops and partake of the local cuisine. The next day, as we again set sail, we’d alight at the next port of call Wobbly Knees. We were told not to miss the inactive volcano called Regurgitate, but the locals named it with the more common sobriquet that begins with the letter V.

Unfortunately, we were forced to go there, too.

We took a few days to get our strength back and then set sail for the twin peaks, Chills and Headache.

Two valleys below were called Achoo and Coughing Canyon. Some destinations were more fun than others, and we started longing for home but the cruise was not yet over.

Did I forget the one we skipped?

It was called Sore Throat, and that was next to Chills and Headache. Fever was very warm, and those of us used to northern climes did not care for it either.

Once we were homeward bound, we looked forward to getting past Myalgia to nurse our muscle tenderness, and we did not get off the ship to learn about its scenic splendor.

Being from the Midwest, we are landlubbers and do not take to the high seas very well.

Even if you don’t like needles, most of us are happy to take the shot in the arm, now, as it is the lesser of two evils and is over much more quickly and better than experiencing the ocean voyage. Coincidentally, I received a telemarketing call the other day saying I had won a Caribbean cruise (I did not register for it, as the caller implied).

I said, “No, thanks,” and hung up.

Random Acts of Kindness – January 24, 2019 – Daily Chronicle

When I recently opened my front door, I found a lovely rattan basket there with a note attached that read:  “I thought you might like this.”  It was signed by a person who is not what we would call “a bosom buddy,” but an acquaintance, I often meet and greet.   I was touched.

When I saw her later, I thanked her and asked for the reason for her kindness.   She had overheard a conversation I had with someone some time ago when I said I liked baskets.  I did not even recall the conversation!  How kind of her.

That made me recall another instance when I used to bowl years ago.  The bowling center provided free coffee to league bowlers.  One wintry January morning I arrived to find there was no coffee for us.  I remarked to no one in particular that I could not bowl without my “caffeine fix.”

As I was throwing a few practice balls, someone who had overheard me, handed me a cup of steaming hot black coffee she had picked up at a nearby restaurant.  Again, I was touched and decided then I would keep a record of all the small random acts of kindness shown me that year — as well as others I might witness or learn about.

I soon had to give it up — not because there was a dearth of such acts, but that there were so many.  The record became too unwieldy and lengthy, restoring my faith in humanity.

Someone holding a door open for me — just small acts of kindness.  I remembered a quote attributed to Yogi Berra:  “A person can observe a lot by just watching.”

With all the death and destruction that abounds, it’s easy to forget that kindness lives in the world and we do not have to look very far or hard to find examples.  I have a small, daily spiral note pad with a thought for each day.

A recent quote by F. F.  Jones, (I have no idea who he is) reads, “Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”   Just substitute the word, “love,” with “kindness.”

Keep in mind that “Kindness can be seen by the blind and heard by the deaf.”

Random Acts of Kindness

January 24, 2019               Daily Chronicle

When I recently opened my front door, I found a lovely rattan basket there with a note attached that read:  “I thought you might like this.”  It was signed by a person who is not what we would call “a bosom buddy,” but an acquaintance, I often meet and greet.   I was touched.

When I saw her later, I thanked her and asked for the reason for her kindness.   She had overheard a conversation I had with someone some time ago when I said I liked baskets.  I did not even recall the conversation!  How kind of her.

That made me recall another instance when I used to bowl years ago.  The bowling center provided free coffee to league bowlers.  One wintry January morning I arrived to find there was no coffee for us.  I remarked to no one in particular that I could not bowl without my “caffeine fix.”

As I was throwing a few practice balls, someone who had overheard me, handed me a cup of steaming hot black coffee she had picked up at a nearby restaurant.  Again, I was touched and decided then I would keep a record of all the small random acts of kindness shown me that year — as well as others I might witness or learn about.

I soon had to give it up — not because there was a dearth of such acts, but that there were so many.  The record became too unwieldy and lengthy, restoring my faith in humanity.

Someone holding a door open for me — just small acts of kindness.  I remembered a quote attributed to Yogi Berra:  “A person can observe a lot by just watching.”

With all the death and destruction that abounds, it’s easy to forget that kindness lives in the world and we do not have to look very far or hard to find examples.  I have a small, daily spiral note pad with a thought for each day.

A recent quote by F. F.  Jones, (I have no idea who he is) reads, “Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”   Just substitute the word, “love,” with “kindness.”

Keep in mind that “Kindness can be seen by the blind and heard by the deaf.”

Has the One-room Schoolhouse Become Extinct Like the Dodo Bird? – January 16, 2019 – Daily Chronicle  

The first eight years of my formal education were in a one-room schoolhouse. I hated it!  But in retrospect I am pleased my parents sent me there.  According to today’s teaching methods, it was the wrong way to teach.  We were taught by rote and at times by intimidation and other methods.  But learn we did.

The school was situated on the outskirts of the small Minnesota town where we lived.  Three older brothers had attended the same school for eight years and often came home with tales about the mean teacher.  Not true.  But he was a stern taskmaster.

He probably would not have endured today for as long as he did.   He knew (or thought he did) when a student feigned the need to go to the bathroom (euphemism for outhouse) and would often tell him to wait until recess.  It was ludicrous to believe anyone would fake it in our cold winter climate.  It was not what one did.  There were two gender-specific outhouses behind the school and the cold northwest winds made them less than a desirable destination.

Curious to know if one-room schoolhouses still existed I did some research.  From 190,000 in 1919 , they have shrunk to fewer than 400 today — mostly in isolated western towns with some sprinkled across the U.S.

About 28 to 35 students enrolled as a rule. This gave them more individual attention from the teacher as opposed to later in public schools.  I was, however fortunate when I attended high school living in a small town, and classes were still relatively small.

When we missed a question in that small school, the teacher would make us write the correct answer ten times, increasing it by ten increments until we had the correct answer down pat.

I remember one occasion where a student sassed the teacher and he received a resounding slap across the mouth.  This frightened me so much I never did that.

My two happiest school days were the day I left that one-room school house in the spring and another when I began high school that fall.  The teacher in that one-room school often told us “Some day you’ll thank me.”  I did not believe it then but I do now.  To rule by fear and intimidation is frowned on in modern times but it was pretty effective in my early years.

A New Calendar – January 2, 2019 – Daily Chronicle                                                             

Have you ever thought of giving a friend a new calendar?  It is the perfect reminder throughout a year of your thoughtfulness.

Being a lexophile as I am, I love the one with 365 new words-a-year.  Were I to learn and use most of them though, people would think I was speaking gibberish, including myself.  Many or most of them are beyond my intellect.  But it’s fun learning them.

It’s tempting sometimes to show off what big words you know, but one of the first rules we were taught in writing was to write in a simple straight forward manner.  What good would it do to send the reader scrambling for a dictionary in order to learn what we are trying to say?                Peeking ahead to my birthday, I find “gerrymander.”  Means to divide an area into political units that give one group an unfair advantage.  Nope. Not one I’d use.

How about “haggard?”  Someone else may use it to describe me at my age.

Do you know what a “tittle” is? Neither did I.    We have all used that but did not realize it.  It’s the dot over a lower case “i” or “j.”

I also found twitter which means to “chirp continuously.” You probably can think of someone when you see this word.

I found this word pleasing – canorous. It means pleasant-sounding, melodious.

As I approached the end of 2018, it made me think “what if we knew we each had a finite number of words that were a gift to us when we were born?”  Once used. We’d have to shut up.

Would we choose our words more carefully so as not to use up any of them foolishly in idle or superficial chatter?  To criticize someone? Cursing situations over which we have no control?

Since we are allowed only 400 words in these pieces, I am going to be brief this time and save some for future use.  After all, 2019 is just beginning.

So many words.   So little space.

Happy New Year.

 

Keeping my Christmas Wish List Short –     December 18, 2018 – Daily Chronicle

When I was a little girl, the arrival of the Sears-Roebuck catalog was a source of great joy as we looked through it and made our lists.  How we would have been dazzled then if we could have envisioned the array of goods available these days.
We’d pore over the pages of the catalog and mark the items that we most preferred to find under the tree Christmas morning.  We were aware of the financial situation of our parents, but still listed everything in hopes of receiving at least one or two of the desired items.

Most likely in those days, we’d find one present that was our heart’s desire but mostly the gifts we received were practical ones, like shoes or long underwear for the cold winter nights.  We did not receive multiple gifts.

They say anticipation is greater than realization and that was never truer than when we made out our lists during the depression.

If you could ask for only one Christmas present, what would it be?  I suppose it would depend on your age and your circumstances.

After we have opened our gifts, perhaps some of us will feel like the little boy who told his mother he was writing thank you notes, asking her how to spell “disappointed.”

I imagine a person in a nursing home in poor health would ask for good health.
A person separated from a loved one due to military service or other reason, would wish for their safe return.
If you are unemployed, a job would be high on your list.

A deaf person might ask for hearing to be restored to be able to hear the beautiful Christmas songs.

We take many things for granted like the gift of sight so we can see all the beautiful decorations that surround us at this time.  One, in particular, that I am enjoying this year is the bay window across the street where a neighbor has several lighted candles.

Listing these things is easy and a natural assumption.  So if we have all the above mentioned things now, we should give thanks and forget about wishing for more, for we would be truly blessed.

Merry Christmas.

 

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.

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.