Thursday, October 29, 2015


A few months ago we explored Billboard Wisdom—lots of good thoughts right out there in the open air for all to read.

Sometimes Wisdom arrives unexpectedly. A chance remark by a stranger . . . an old saying pops into mind . . . a half-remembered quotation that I have to look up to get the proper wording.

Many folks go to the Bible for words to live by. They have favorite verses, favorite psalms committed to memory; or perhaps favorite hymns from their worship services. These bring comfort in times of distress or sadness. Brick-and-mortar bookstores have shelves sagging from the weight of such books—whatever direction your faith has taken you, there’ll be something for you to read if you want to. Or try the public library, or the library of your faith community.

Then there’s the Wisdom—or what passed for Wisdom—that we grew up with. Such as:

Waste not, want not!  How often did we hear that one in our youth? Folks who grew up in the Depression  (roughly, 1929 to 1941) would understand this one all too well. And they passed along the message to their children.

A penny saved is a penny earned. Well, not really, not in today’s financial climate; but there’s no denying, a penny saved is a penny saved.

See a pin, pick it up, All the day you’ll have good luck. Offering us good luck was one way to keep pins off the floor where little kids and pets might come to harm. Or barefoot adults. A good reminder for safety. And the corollary worked the same way: See a pin and let it lay, Bad luck you’ll have all the day.

If your nose itches, company’s coming. This was one of several dozen my mother quoted—if it wasn’t an itchy nose, it was dropping silverware, each type indicating the gender of the company to come. Later on I heard it another way: If your nose itches, you’re going to kiss a fool! Hmm, not a very exciting prospect. I’d prefer company coming.

My mother also told me about itchy hands—and to this day, I can’t get this one out of my head. If your left hand itches, you’re going to receive money. (Yay!) If your right hand itches, you’re going to shake hands with somebody. (Meet someone new.)

Another one about money: Foam on the top of a cup of coffee or tea was called “Money on your cup.” (I don’t think this includes cappuccino, though. Just bubbles that form when you pour the liquid into the cup. Sorry about that.)

Some sayings had honest-to-goodness sense behind them. 

Take this one: As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. That was about more than bending your young tree into an interesting shape; it was meant to warn us how to rear our children (twigs) is such a way that they would grow up into the type of adults (trees) we would like them to be.

Or, The apple never falls far from the tree. Seems obvious, if you’ve ever had/seen an apple tree. After all, the tree doesn’t fling the apples around, even in a windstorm, and the fruit is heavy enough to fall pretty much under the tree it grew on. This was another metaphorical piece of wisdom: Don’t expect your children to be much different from the parents. (I seem to recall the children so described were usually budding delinquents.) In the Nature vs. Nurture debate, this one seems to straddle the fence.

From what I’ve observed, what we glean from old sayings, proverbs, and family wisdom depends on our family’s history and experience. We were pretty much Midwestern agrarian—hence the practical nature of the quick pieces of advice I learned from childhood on up.

Dig around in your memory bank for those words to live by that your family treasured. Bet you haven’t heard them recently. But they’ll still resonate with you.

If you don’t think they’re especially wise, see if you can file them under Advice. Or Insight. Or, Old Sayings.

Here’s my current favorite saying (on a whiteboard at the Y)—hope it says something good to you:


Thursday, October 22, 2015


This week is Anniversary Week—Thursday’s Child is two years old now. We began our exploration of Things to Celebrate on October 24, 2013. By the way, all the old posts are still around if you want to see what we talked about, celebrated, and lifted up ‘way back when.

Autumn is the natural time for me to begin anything—school begins in Autumn, Sunday School begins in Autumn after a summer rest, the choir starts singing after Labor Day; cooler weather arrives (usually) with the autumnal equinox, and we comment to our neighbors how wonderful it is not to run the air conditioning or the furnace. (Though I have to confess, I have run both in the same day recently, night having dipped down into the low 40s and daytime temps soaring to the 80s. Next year, after insulating my house, I hope to live a more temperate life. We’ll see how that goes.)

What else comes with Autumn? The end of the garden—really, truly fresh veggies become a novelty once more: that last humongous red tomato, three more little eggplants, tiny bell peppers masquerading as Christmas ornaments. And with the end of gardening, comes the end of canning/freezing/preserving for another year.

And now that the garden is over, we can devote our energies to cleaning up the landscaping, blowing or raking leaves to the curb for the city vacuum truck, and hacking down dead peony bushes and done-bloomin’ hostas. Some days, when the weather chills out and I’m out there in layers and layers of clothes plus gloves, mask, and hoodie, I envy my friends in condos. While I’m freezing my phalanges, they’re reading the newest best-seller or having tea with a friend who bakes or hiking the park trails. They’re definitely not raking leaves.

Yes, Autumn is a time for beginnings, as well as endings. Hence, Thursday’s Child was born in Autumn and continues to grow and prosper.

Since October 2014, my life has been full (or, rather, status quo). Thanksgiving in Ohio with some of my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Christmas in two places—Wabash, Indiana, and rural Ohio.

Then came January 2015. Oh. My. Goodness. Sub-zero temps. Wind. Snow. Ice. Days on end in the old log cabin. (Well, my ranch-style 1950s house, but there’s a reason it’s called cabin fever.) Cancelled exercise classes, church services, my knitting/sewing group at church. Some days, the driveway was called a skating rink. My heavy Buick doesn’t skate.

February turned out better because I had something great to look forward to—a trip to Phoenix to visit my oldest daughter. Ummmmmmm! Warm air, gentle breezes, sunshine!! (The trip home was a bummer, coming north into unstable weather, but I got here. Eventually.) Even better than the weather was visiting with my daughter in her space and viewing life from her perspective in the desert Southwest.

March brightened my world—Spring did, indeed, arrive, and bring all her treasures. Days appeared longer, because sunrise was earlier and sunset a little later. Friends began traveling (I like to hear about their trips) and neighbors started gardens. We moved toward Easter in April, then in a rush, school was out.

My summer was very, very good. And I’m not a fan of summer. This past year’s was not too hot. Not too rainy (that was spring: rain rain rain). My youngest daughter came for a couple of long weekends to visit (long weekends, too-short visits). I played the organ at church in June and July, part of August.

Then September—we arranged an alternate-Sunday schedule for organists; I practiced with soloists and duets for special music. The sewing/knitting group, who had given up their machines and needles for a couple of months to let their fingers rest, started up again in early September.

And now it’s October again. Before you ask, I did not get another dog. That subject still touches a tender spot for me.

But I did have work done on my house, work that has needed doing for a long time. And I bought myself some garden/lawn equipment—nothing like a gift to oneself to help with morale—I bought a long-handled pruner, a hand-held pruner that looks like a wicked pair of pliers, and an electric leaf blower. (I’ll get hooted about that; never thought I’d get one. Will see how it goes. If I don’t like it, I can always give it away.)

The past two weeks I seem to have been in one doctor’s office after another. I now know: My teeth are fine; my eyes are fine; and the rest of me is fine, too. They all say, “Lookin’ good. Come back in six months.” How all these appointments got schedule in the same couple of weeks is beyond me. Well, not really beyond me, since I'm the one doing the scheduling. Have to work on that.

Exercise classes keep me limber and strong for dealing with the leaf blower and for pruning bushes that have developed a mind of their own.

And I’ve had a ball finding fabrics for big-guy quilts—the great-grands have been growing up while I was out doing yoga and tai chi, so now the little guys are bigger guys and ready for more grown-up quilts.

Outside my window I see trees waving their branches at me. Lawns are turning tawny gold, carpeted with the hundreds and thousands of leaves drifting down.

People are walking dogs. My neighbor is out on the patio with her six-month-old daughter and their little dog.

Life was more even-keel this past year, and for that I am grateful.

I celebrate a good year gone by, and welcome the year to come.

Hope you do, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Noun     1. spare time - time available for hobbies and other activities that you enjoy;
time off - a time period when you are not required to work; "he requested time off to attend his grandmother's funeral"
              2. spare time - time that is free from duties or responsibilities; free time
leisure, leisure time - time available for ease and relaxation; "his job left him little leisure"
              Also: odd moments, time to kill, time on your hands
Whatever it’s called, I don’t think I have any.

With retirement, “hobbies and other activities” expanded to fill the time once devoted to a job away from home. I have no particular periods when I am “required to work” so apparently everything I do is a hobby or other activity.

That is an illusion, however. Just as there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as free time/time off/spare time/or whatever you want to call it for the retiree.

To give you a picture of what happens in my life, here’s a typical week:

MONDAY – 6 AM: walk at the Y; 6:30 AM: home, make coffee, change from walking shoes, take my blood pressure, write in my journal; 7:30 AM: check email, play a couple games of solitaire to get my brain out of first gear, fix breakfast and eat it, clean up, dress in the day’s outfit; 9:30 AM: go to my friend Jane’s to sew, home by noon. Fix lunch. Nap. Wake up around 2:30 PM: make a cup of tea to get myself awake, read a little while, look at my Today List . . . .

TUESDAY – Much like Monday, except I do my shopping instead of sewing with Jane and I knit at noon with my friend Emily.

WEDNESDAY – No walk; 10 AM: yoga. Lunch with a friend. Nap. Etc. etc.

THURSDAY – Walk, 10 AM: tai chi. Knit with Emily at noon. And so on.

FRIDAY – Walk. Leave at 9:30, drive about 20 miles to church where we knit and sew for the NeoNatal ICU at one of the hospitals; once or twice a month, stay for rehearsal with musicians for Sunday services; home for lunch, etc. etc. etc.

Spare tire--good thing to have--
might save time, right?
Are you awake? I said—oh, you are. Were you bored by the end of Monday? Sorry about that. But you can see--my routine is pretty well set, and there’s darned little free time. Even my reading is done with a purpose—to see what’s being published nowadays, or try a new author recommended to me, or learn how to structure memoir/make a curtain for my new bedroom window/trim bushes for autumn. . . . And because I live alone, I can read while I eat meals. Saves time. Though, now I think about it, what am I saving time for? And where the heck is it when I want it?

Things start getting sticky, time-wise, during certain seasons. Such as: This is autumn, right? Leaves come down, right? If you live in a city (or even a small town or village) you may have leaves vacuumed up by the municipal trucks. My leaf pick-up starts next Monday, so I’ll soon be out with my rake, fighting the wind for control of the leaves so I can get them to the curb for the big city vacuum cleaner. That’s an extra chore I don’t have other seasons.

Today is what?!?
About the time the leaves play out their last act, I catch a glimpse of the calendar and gasp at how few weeks (or maybe only days!) are left before Christmas, and panic sets in because quilts have yet to be finished (or started!) and holiday music needs to be prepared for the church services coming up, and . . . and . . . .

I could use some of that spare time about then.

Here’s a question: Did we ever have spare time?

I recall my mother working a 7-4 job, leaving at 6:30 AM Monday through Friday, getting home at 4:30 PM, and working every minute until she went to bed, sometime after I did, probably before midnight, though. She cleaned the house, cooked, did laundry (sometimes this was done on Saturdays so I could help), wrote letters to her sisters, and ironed the shirts and so on, then mended whatever needed doing. All at night, after working all day.

Let me say right here in public—I did not inherit my mother’s store of energy. Nor my father’s; he worked the same way, built other people’s houses during the day, worked on our house after his job ended at 4 PM, and went to bed by 9 o’clock so he could be up at 6, eat breakfast, start work at 7.

Maybe other people had spare time. We never had household help, not even a neighbor girl or a handy niece to come in and give a hand with the heavy work.

But I do remember times we went to visit relatives—my mother’s sisters, my grandmother—and the ladies sat around and talked for hours (or so it seemed to my young mind). They drank coffee and maybe ate something good that had just come out of the oven. And talked and laughed. Was that spare time?

Those times were rare, though. Maybe that’s why I remember them.

I don’t think our lives are busier than when my parents were young. But we have made what used to be leisure activities—whether hobbies or watching kids play sports or keeping fit—into regular, disciplined parts of our lives. I exercise four mornings and two classes per week. Sewing and knitting and learning new music have regular slots, depending on the week or season.

Things have progressed to the point that I now have to decide if a new activity will be a good thing—the question always is: What will I have to give up to make time for the new thing?

If you have any extra, spare, or leftover time hanging around, not being used, could you send some my way? I think I’m going to need it pretty soon. After all, Christmas is only—egads!—10 weeks away. And I’ll pay the shipping—out of my spare change, of course.

Gotta go! Lots to do!!
Spare change

Thursday, October 8, 2015


There’s a phrase that I like—good people. As in, “She’s good people.” “He’s good people.”

The phrase probably has no logic for non-English speaking folks; but this isn’t about logic. This is about some people in my life who all, without collaboration, did something nice for me lately.

Take Dave: Dave is a home-grown contractor whose work is always excellent. You can depend on that. His workers recently finished a job for me, and Dave himself came to inspect the work, ask me if it was what I wanted, and while he was here, I wrote him a check for the work. Same amount as the estimate. We talked a little while—even though I’m not a native, I know quite a few of the folks he does—and before he left, I walked him around to see some further work I’d like done, probably next year. He inspected the pull-down attic steps, discovered a loose bolt, and said he’d come back with another one the next day. And he did. Spent less than 10 minutes tightening up the other fastenings and replacing the nut-and-bolt combo. No charge. Just a smile and a promise to see me again sometime.

Or Teri. Teri runs a home business as a quilter and does long-arm machine quilting for those of us who struggle with bed-size quilts and are afraid to tackle the actual quilting—or if we’re not afraid, we’re just not strong enough to lift and shift the layers while our home machines do the work. I took Teri a bed-size quilt I’m making for a friend’s retirement, had it all bagged up in two or three bags. Got to her house, a 20-minute drive from mine, and discovered I’d left part of it at home! Besides feeling stupid, I was irritated at myself for causing another trip to deliver what I’d forgotten. But I didn’t let Teri see that. On her own she said, “I’ll pick it up. I’m in your town several times a week for banking and errands. Give me your address.”

Another one is a young woman who remains anonymous to me. She answers the phone in Teri’s city’s library, and gave me the information I needed about a meeting in a friendly, happy, eager-to-help way. I hope I get to meet her someday and thank her for her upbeat telephone voice.

Yesterday I visited with Jan, a friend of, um, several decades who now lives in Florida. She comes north to visit family three or four times a year and always makes time for us to get together. This time we had lunch out and then drove through Chain-O-Lakes State Park to peep at the leaves. Yes, there’s email, snail mail, texting, telephoning . . . but nothing quite like a face-to-face.

Finally, there’s my neighbor across the alley, Peggy, who shares her garden produce with me. She knows I’m a sucker for eggplant, so she brought me three baby eggplants (she didn’t have a very big harvest this year, due to weather weirdness). She told me she likes to put them in pasta with a little olive oil and sprinkle grated cheese on top. I used rice pasta and ate a meal fit for a queen.

Good people. They’re everywhere. Sometimes you have to look for them. Sometimes they’re right under your nose, so familiar you forget to see them properly.

Good people make life easier, and happier; they lift you up if your mood is down around your ankles; they do something for you at no charge or share their surplus.

I hope you have good people in your life. If you do, celebrate them!

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Without getting into metaphysics, let’s agree that we have five senses: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. Okay with you?

One of the most basic tenets of writing—essay, story, poem, letter, note to your kid's teacher, whatever—is that the author include sensory detail. Helps the reader get in on the act--communication takes place.

Some sensory detail is pretty easy to do—sight is probably the easiest, if your eyes are reasonably dependable. You can describe a purple iris, orange Mini Cooper with a missing headlight, green tee-shirt with holes all over; a tiny seed to be planted, a dog big as a small house; a wagon with one wheel missing; porch steps that sag to starboard. . . .

Hearing also seems to be doable. We have tons of words for types of sounds—whispers of leaves, crunch of snow underfoot, snap of bonfire flames, roar of the football fans at the school game.

Taste and Touch are both friendly with simile—something tastes smooth like ice cream, has the feel of rough wool.

That leaves the sense of Smell. This one is much more difficult to pinpoint. We can use comparison—the air smells like fresh spring rain. But then, we have to know how fresh spring rain smells. Or, Grandma’s kitchen smells like the cinnamon and nutmeg she uses in her apple pies. Works for me, but does it work for you?
The sense of Smell is thought to be the most evocative of the senses.

Marcel Proust wrote seven large volumes of a novel, Search for Lost Time (also called Remembrance of Things Past) in which he wrote about the fragrance and taste of a madeleine he’d eaten as a boy, which evoked such a strong memory that he explored it in great depth.

Proust’s method was to describe the immediate pastry he’s eating, to realize the intensity of the sudden memory that appeared to him, and then to recall the memory itself in detail—a madeleine he was given, as a young boy, by his aunt when he went to say good morning to her in her boudoir.

(The madeleine is a type of sponge cake, baked in a special pan that produces shell-shaped pastries. It is often flavored with lemon and contains ground nuts, usually almonds.)

I know people who say they love the smell of coffee perking, but they never drink it because they don’t like the taste!

Then there’s bacon frying. Nowadays so many of us have given up eating fried foods, I don’t know how anybody can wake up on time, even if they don’t imbibe.

Toast—now there’s a nose tickler. But only if it doesn’t get to the charred point. (I recall being told as a child that eating burnt toast would make my hair curly. Then a few years later my mom gave me a home perm. Hmmm. . . . Apparently the amount of burnt toast has something to do with the amount of curliness.)
How do you describe smell to a child?

I recall saying, “Doesn’t that smell good?” when cookies were baking.

Or, “That rose has such a sweet smell.”

Or, “Empty the cat pan before it begins to smell.” (They knew what that meant, all right.)

We talked about the smell of burning oil in a car that needed service. Or rather, was ‘way beyond needing service. We sniffed the air and said rain was coming; there was something that triggered the memory of rain. Or after a rain—what we later learned was ozone that seemed to bring a freshness we’d been missing.
In the 1960s we were exhorted to “stop and smell the roses on the way.” Not literal roses, necessarily, but a reminder to slow down, pay attention, notice what’s around you. May be good. May be not so good. But notice it anyway.
Now that Autumn has arrived and I’m smiling a lot, I begin to notice autumnal fragrances—fresh crop apples, dry leaves (already quite a few on the ground), last-chance grilling sessions (hot dogs cooking wafts through the neighborhood). If you go to bonfires, you’ll catch the sweet smell of marshmallows, if they haven’t gone too far and give off a carbonized odor; a chili cook-off will fill your olfactory sense with hot spices; and if you’re very, very lucky, somebody dear to you will bake an apple pie with the new fruit just on the market, and your mouth will water at the anticipation of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Celebrate your sense of Smell today. Autumn is a great time to celebrate. But don’t forget Winter’s evergreen trees and holiday cookies and fruit cakes and spiced cider and hot chocolate . . . .