Thursday, May 26, 2016


Yesterday I finished reading the second volume of a humongous time travel book by Connie Willis, action set in World War II.

After my sojourn through London in the Blitz, countryside manors where evacuated city children were sent, rescues at Dunkirk, St. Paul's Cathedral and other landmarks damaged during bombings . . . after all that, I had no option but to believe that I, too, like the characters in the book, had time traveled back to the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1940s. 

Well-written books, fiction or nonfiction, stay with me a long time. Naturally, I woke up this morning thinking about time travel. Would I want to do it, if it were available? If so, where would I go--what part of history could I experience?

Speculation is fun, especially if you know it's safe. You won't, obviously, get stuck back in 1492 if you're just speculating about how the world around you was operating when Columbus struck off to find the Orient--taking a little detour because of the continent in his way--and bumped into America.

Reading isn't the only way I can travel to other times and climes--all I have to do is open a drawer crammed with photographs (we used to have them printed out on Kodak paper downtown at the drug store--anybody remember that?). Right there, in my hand, is the image of my grandparents, my mother and her sisters, my dad and two of his sisters. My own children (were they ever that young?). Cousins, friends, neighbors. The house behind them may be gone now, but I remember it when . . . .

If I want a truly first-hand account of a period before I was born, I only have to find someone older than I am. (Note: This gets harder and harder each year. Imagine that.)

One of the best sources for local history was a man I used to walk with at the Y. He died recently, just before his 95th birthday, so his store of information is gone. But he left me with wonderful memories of people he'd known when he first lived here in the 1940s, and a deep respect for the stories people can tell. All I have to do is listen.

I'll time travel us back to three times in my own life, just for fun:

First - 1878 and 1882. These were the years my maternal grandparents were born. The War Between the States had ended in 1865. In 1879 Thomas Edison's first functioning electric light bulb lit up. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was created.

Next - 1933. My parents were married in September that year. Not a very good year in many ways: The Great Depression was in full swing. The Dust Bowl was being created as topsoil took to the air and left nothing much for crops to grow in; the devastation was further enhanced by drought. In the cities, unemployment reached 25+%. In Germany, Adolph Hitler was named chancellor. Food prices were low, compared to current costs: Bread, 7 cents a loaf; hamburger, 11 cents a pound; gasoline was 10 cents a gallon. 

Last - America in the 1950s. The era of the tract house, made necessary by so many returning GIs and the need for a lot of cheap housing immediately. We called it peace time, but there was unrest--civil rights began to gear up; the Cold War continued. But we also got Elvis and rock 'n' roll. (I'm sorry, folks, but both Elvis and the RnR were too chaotic for me. I believe I've mentioned before that I'm a dinosaur.)

Today--this era we live in--allows access to so much information. If you have a computer, you have, literally, the whole world at your fingertips. Google will get you there--and out of the 15 million sites it offers, you'll only have to choose what you want.

See you soon. Bon voyage!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


There’s a line in The Golden Spiders, by Rex Stout, that I really like:

Archie Goodwin is badgering Nero Wolfe to do some work:

“You’ve always said it’s not enough to earn your money—you have to feel like you’ve earned your money. So let’s earn our money.”

[Note: This post is not about making money. Sorry. You really don't want to get advice from me on making money. Trust me on this.]

A couple of months ago I had a day when I did several things, and accomplished a lot, for me. By the end of that day I had the satisfaction time well spent. I felt—emotionally—as if I’d accomplished a lot. Some of that satisfaction came from knowing I’d finished something: a task, one large part of a task, or even a small step.

I won’t tell you what all I did—I do hate to see your eyes glaze over. But I say proudly, I wiped out, completely, my Today List. And it wasn't a short list either.

Sometime back a blog post by Writer/Teacher Louise De Salvo entitled “Little by Little” explored what it means to make progress on a project when you have a debilitating disease or condition. Louise De Salvo never knows ahead of time how much energy she will have the next day—maybe none. Maybe only a short time to do a little writing. If it’s 10 minutes, then she uses those 10 minutes. If it’s an hour, then she writes for an hour. And the work gets done, “little by little.”

I found her blog post inspiring. Too often I sigh and ignore the little bits of time that could be used to move a project forward.

Do I really have to wait for two hours of free time? Isn’t there something I can do in whatever time slot I have available?

Nancy Zieman, host of a long-running quilting/sewing TV show, Sewing with Nancy, believes that's possible. She published a book called 10-20-30 Minutes to Quilt. There’s another inspiration. For each quilt she lists the steps: what can be done in 10 minutes (choose fabrics, perhaps), 20 minutes (cut fabrics), and in 30 minutes (assemble quilt blocks).

My job: Look at my Today List and estimate how many minutes each task will take.

Besides tasks, I like to build in time to rest between, say, starting laundry and vacuuming the hall and bedrooms. This isn’t lying down for a nap kind of rest; this is doing something sitting down—writing checks, knitting a few rows of an afghan, looking through a music book for pieces I can learn. Then back on my feet for the next activity.


The true issue at hand, I believe, is perspective. Remember the old glass half-full vs. the glass half-empty? Time perceived as "too little to do much with" is still the same amount of time perceived as "just enough time to do one step of that task."

One of the most positive people I know is my family doctor. We discussed time one day--I think the subject was time to read--and she said two minutes might be all the time she had but she'd use those two minutes to skim an article.

Perspective--what you see from where you stand--has a lot to do with perception.

If you're standing in your own way, you won't see anything but your own reflection. If you get out of your own way, you might see something new--or something old in a new way--or something old that can be morphed into something new.

Perspective influences perception, which leads to possibilities.

There you go--three words that begin with P. Juggle them and see what you come up with.

And have a Perceptive week, developed by looking from where you stand, into a future of possibilities.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


I'm definitely not a sugar-and-spice gal, so I'll share with you some of my life on the snips-and-snails side.

Snips--Little things irritate me; nothing major, requiring a significant rant. Just little stuff, like: Why is it that drivers pull through a parking space into the one just ahead when the parking spaces are angled? Or, why is it that some people can’t talk on cell phones at anything near normal volumes? Do they think I want to hear about their latest fight with whoever? And the neighbors called the cops? (I get better stories on TV.) Or, what do you do with borrowers who fail to return borrowed property?

I don’t plan any kind of campaign to get these snips obliterated or outlawed or otherwise overthrown. It does help to have a minor rant from time to time. Thank you.

Snails—I nearly hyperventilate over erratic drivers. I don’t mean the ones who zip around me (when I'm going the 55-57 I allow myself on the county highway) and pass on curves/hills/bridges. The erratic drivers who mess with my breathing are the ones who can’t urge their vehicles up to 45 in the 55-mph zone. We’re talking: good weather, clear roads, daylight, not much traffic. I often suspect (1) they don’t have cruise control or (2) they have cruise control and don’t know how to use it.

Then there are life events that seem to take ‘way, ‘way too much time to arrive. This was of greater concern when I was younger—finishing high school, then finishing college (that 4-year degree took 10 years, but by gum, I did it); getting young children off to school for the whole day. Now that I’m at the other end of those events, I look back and wonder how I ever got through them, and by the bye, where did the time go anyway?

 I may have learned a little patience from these snails in my life, but there are times . . . .


Puppy Dog Tails—I have to confess—when I was a little kid and learned this nursery rhyme, I pictured little boys whose pockets bulged with puppy dog tails. I didn’t want to know what had happened to the puppy dogs. Maturity has blessedly allayed my fears, and I now picture a basket of puppies with all tails wagging, wagging, wagging. They are the embodiment of happiness! Spontaneity! Fun! Games! Joy!

What makes me happy enough to wag (if I had a tail to do so)?

Oh, my, the list goes on and on…. Here are a few: I think of a big pot of tea and a plate of homemade scones shared with a friend, and a dish of butter and another of strawberry preserves on the table. Knitting and sewing with women who share my interest in handmade gifts, and who also share their lives with me. Playing music written long ago, and feeling as if I have a friend in that century who approves. And driving through autumn leaves at the peak of their beauty. And . . . .

What about shifting the focus from snips and snails to wagging puppy dog tails? My life will be a lot more useful to others if I make the fun and spontaneity and joy part and parcel of what I do, don't you think?

Writing about these things—however insignificant, however tedious, however personal—helps me put them in perspective. Make a list of your own. You might surprise yourself.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


If you've been visiting Thursday's Child for a while, you may recognize the following post which appeared a year ago. When Mother's Day shows up on my calendar, I think about my mom and my mom-in-law, both long departed, and I give thanks for them. Whether it's your first time of reading or a repeat, I hope you enjoy it.

What Goes Around . . .

             I never put much stock in reincarnation. Fooled around with the notion when I was in high school—made uneducated guesses about what I was “in my former life.” Always flattering, naturally. Princess in England. Avant garde writer in 1920s Paris. Celebrated musician/painter/sculptor in a civilized country like Italy, or Austria.
            The truth was never to be found; hard to “prove” what you once were, if indeed you once were. But—I secretly suspected my former life was less than exemplary, exciting, or celebrated. A boulder, perhaps. Or a stump. When I managed to convince myself I’d been a mammal, I could picture myself as a rabbit. You know, running like a scared rabbit? That was me.
            Recently I’ve had another look at reincarnation. It came about like this:
            In 2007 my daughter came to live with me, bringing her cat and dog. When she moved away in 2009 to go to graduate school, she took the cat. The cat was smaller, easier to handle on a plane, and would more likely adapt to Arizona’s desert climate.
            The dog stayed with me.
            During those two years we were a household of four, the dog, whose name is Joy, became attached to me. Well, who wouldn’t? I was the source of all that makes dog life wonderful: Walks! Food! Treats! Games! Snuggles on the sofa! We bonded well.
            Daughter and cat departed. Joy and I took up a life a deux. Then came the revelations.
            While I hunch over the keyboard and write, Joy sits in the hall and looks at me. I speak to her, smile at her, pet her if she comes by. This is repeated many times if I stay too long at the computer. I’ve explained that writing is work. I’m choosing words, making sentences, trying to follow a more-or-less logical thread to make a point. I’m working.
            Clearly, in the canine lexicon, writing does not equal work.
            By accident I discovered that when I set up the sewing machine in the living room (where the TV lives and I can listen to old movies while I sew), Joy approves. She lies in a chair directly in my sight—which means I’m directly in her sight. She likes to watch me work.
            Sewing is approved. So is cutting out pieces for a quilt. And ironing fabrics or table linens (or shirts when I get ambitious and want to look pressed). Running the sweeper is not quite at the top of the list, but it is work. Putting up the Christmas tree. Taking down the Christmas tree. Cooking.
            This scenario seemed quite familiar. Couldn’t think why. Then one day, when I had the Joy Seal of Approval for working, the light bulb over my head clicked on. Aha! I thought. Who does Joy remind me of? My mother!
            “Put that book away and come dry dishes.”
            “Why aren’t you dusting? You’re supposed to be dusting the living room.”
            “You’re daydreaming again. Stop daydreaming and do something worthwhile.” (Like dusting, I suppose.)
            Yes, Joy is on the same wavelength as my mother when she was young.
            Once I made that connection, I began to look for other characteristics. And I found them.
            Besides Work Is Good, there’s The Look.
            When I’m about to leave the house and can’t take the dog (grocery store, library, lunching out), Joy stands in the living room, four-footed—rooted—spine straight, head up, chin forward, eyes never wavering from mine. Why aren’t you taking me? Or maybe, What do you think you’re doing?
            That’s The Look.
            I tell her where I’m going, who I’ll be with, and about when I’ll be back. And I slink out the door.
            I took to calling Joy by my mother’s name—Doris Jenkins. A silly joke at first, but lately I’ve been uneasy.
            Doris Jenkins, my mother, wasn’t just a slave driver. Wasn’t only a nosy parker.
            Doris Jenkins, like my dog Joy, loved me with all her heart.
            Whenever I experience the unconditional love of my dog, I am reminded: love was part and parcel of my mother’s life. She died too young, of a now treatable disease, but she loved as long as she lived. She loved people. All people. All ages. All kinds and colors. She would have been a wonderful worker for volunteer organizations that help folks in trouble. She’d seen trouble all her life and knew how it felt to be down and out. She knew the meaning of compassion.
            Joy, a dog who came in out of the cold one autumn day, had been living rough. When she allowed herself to love my daughter and accept food and help, she turned into a dog who gave love, and now gives me love from her heart.
            Reincarnation? It doesn’t matter, really, does it? So long as the love keeps going around.
Sadly, Joy is no longer with us. At 17 1/2 years of age, she went to a well-deserved rest. But the love she had and gave lives on. May you be so blessed.