Sunday, October 20, 2019

226 Oct. 31--Still a Celebration!

OCTOBER 31 – Still A Celebration! 

Yes, I am probably rushing the holiday a bit, but I admit Hallowe’en is one of my favorite celebrations. Although many schools and churches no longer acknowledge Hallowe’en as an activity for children, pumpkins seem to work their way into teaching about fall and, thus, a few orange and black Crayons see extra duty in school, and spooky stories might get included. I do believe every child who ever set foot in a public elementary school brought home at least one orange pumpkin picture to be hung on the refrigerator.

From www.gardner’snet.com, a site that tells me when to prune the trees and shrubs that grow around our house, I found some interesting pumpkin facts. I think maybe I knew some of them, but here are a few: 


· Pumpkins originated in Central America 

· Pumpkins are really squash 

· Pumpkins are fruit – they have seeds 

· Pumpkins should not be called Jack-O-Lanterns until they are carved (eye roll here)

· Pumpkins are gluten-free

· Pumpkins are grown all over the world except in Antarctica

· Never handle a pumpkin by its stem

For those of you, dear friends and readers, I thought I would also refresh my memory and yours about Hallowe’en. Bless Google’s heart! The first site that appeared was www.holidayspot.com --a site that gives a nice variety of facts for almost all occasions. So, taking from their website, I have relearned that the custom of trick-or-treating originated in the Middle Ages. 

An age of superstition for sure, but the poor dressed in costumes and went door-to-door on what was called “Hallowmas” to beg for food or money. Some of the poor got only a prayer while luckier beggars got a coin or a Soul Cake. (Wikipedia defines a Soul Cake as a small round cake which, when eaten, means a soul would be released from purgatory. Also, popping up, were recipes for Soul Cake. Those I did not open--no need to turn on the oven--now is there?!)
Back to Medieval Europe. The black cat and the owl were and are popular images for Hallowe’en says the holidayspot.com website. Black cats were the familiars of the witches, and owls were thought to be witches themselves. The owl’s hoot on October 31 meant someone would die soon. 

From reading historical fiction and binge-watching the Celts on Amazon Prime, I do know that the last day of October is the last day of the Celtic calendar and it honors the dead. The Celtic tradition uses the term Samhain, meaning “end of summer.” I also learned that it is pronounced “sow-in.” (Not exactly English phonics, is it?)

Now, let’s jump forward to the 1930s and modern Hallowe’en when the National Communication Association (a somewhat scholarly association that has been around since the 1920s) said that over 90% of all American children celebrated Hallowe’en with parties, costumes, and/or trick-or-treating. But in the 1930s, with the Depression, urban gangs, and backwoods’ good-ole-boys, trick-or-treating turned a bit nasty with considerable theft and property damage. Local authorities then began setting limits on what was legal and what was not. Hours for trick-or-treating were established community by community.

I remember my first Hallowe’en. It was a party at the Episcopal parish hall. I was four-years-old and a “beautiful ballet dancer” with a tutu and a wand. I won first place for the prettiest costume. (Don’t think I have won anything since! and I don’t remember the prize so it must not have been anything particularly noteworthy.) 

Then there were the years of herding my two younger sisters from house-to-house with the caveat that I got part of their candy. In high school, the custom was for groups to go out as a covey? flock? gathering? of ghosts. I used the same sheet for three years. In my junior year, we got stopped by the local sheriff who told us to “go on home and let the little ones get the candy.” Nope, didn’t stop us until we had a sufficient supply of sugar in our brown paper bags. We were so cool, weren’t we? One of our ghostly gang members’ grandparents lived at and were the caretakers of the local cemetery. It was a grand place to play flashlight tag and hide’n’seek in our ghostly sheets.

Now Dear Husband and I, since we get no “trick-or-treaters” in the country, buy a bag of our favorite candy and munch away on the 31st with no thought of sugar or calories!!

Here’s a tip or two for candy-buying. According to www.sunny98.1sd.radio.com, the most popular candies are: Twix, Kit Kat, M&Ms, Nerds, Butterfingers, Sour Patch Kids, and Hershey Bar miniatures. (I was a little surprised--where are the Reese’s Cups and the Snickers?) 


The least favorite treats are: candy corn, Mary Jane taffy, Necco Wafers, Tootsie Rolls, Good&Plenty, and licorice. 








Also, predicted for most popular costumes this year: Pennywise (the awful, scary clown from IT), other clown costumes, Spiderman, dinosaurs, and pretty little princesses.

I have my coupon for CVS buy-one-get-one-free Hallowe’en candy. I can’t go too far ahead of time, though, as my will power is not great. So, here’s to Happy Hallowe’en, or Samhain and to lots of good chocolate!

Savvy Glenne

p.s. this just struck my warped sense of humor as really funny: 













Sunday, October 13, 2019

225 Do it now!


Do it now!

How many times have we heard or have we said--let’s get together, give me a call, let’s have lunch soon!

Probably too many to count. Most people let loose with these comments without ever planning on making good on them or following up.

Well, it is time, people, to do just that. Make that call, set that visit, reconnect with an old friend, or any similar activity.

It seems lately that many dear friends have left the planet. While contact has been made in many of these cases, not so in some of the others.

A friend of mine for more than 50 years recently passed away and the accolades were numerous--a great person, wonderful teacher, and many other exclamations of love and friendship. If only she had been there to hear them-she would have been thrilled.

Why do we wait to honor those we care about! Death is not the time. Reach out to someone you have been meaning to contact. It really isn’t that hard. Social media makes it very convenient. In most cases, it is also free. On Facebook, a person can send a message, like a comment, love a post, or say something about what is posted. It only takes a few seconds. Likewise, Instagram, Twitter, and other similar platforms provided the opportunity to keep up and even make an initial contact.

Several years ago, my high school classmates started a Facebook page, 
and since then, my husband and I have communicated with dear friends whom we had not seen in decades. It has been a blessing to reconnect especially since we moved away many years ago. Also, there have been a few trips that brought back so many memories. 




Now sometimes these reunions will not always be successful. You may realize the person is not who you remember and may disagree completely with you on many topics. I actually had a classmate unfriend a few of us after some decided differences in philosophy. But don’t let this discourage--it didn’t me.




In addition, through social media we now keep up with cousins we grew up with but lost touch due to moving miles away and letting life events get in the way. It has been equally rewarding to communicate with them and visit in some cases. 

None of this would have happened without modern methods of communication. So there is no excuse! Reach out and find out what is going on in their lives and share yours before it is too late. If you are not technologically savvy, ask a younger person for help or even a grandchild--they definitely know how to communicate.

In a recent novel by John Grisham, The Rooster Bar, one of the characters laments that he hates funerals. “What purpose did they serve? There were far better ways to console the loved ones than gathering in a packed church to talk about the deceased and have a good cry.” Many people will disagree with this, but it does encourage us to communicate before it is too late. Funerals are for the ones left behind not the one who is gone.

We shouldn’t wait until it is too late to make the contact and let others know how we feel. If only my friend could have heard the wonderful things her former students and colleagues were saying about her. It would have made her day.

Go ahead – do it. Make someone’s day.

Frances               

Sunday, October 6, 2019

224 The Ultimate Whistleblower

The Ultimate Whistleblower: A Guest Blog 

I blew the whistle long and hard, and in seconds, 200 pairs of eyes looked my way. A scrum of hot, sweaty, red-faced children began lining up, some fighting to be first in line, others slowly straggling in.

As usual, some of the older students stood defiant, doing their best to ignore me. After all, I’m the playground monitor, and in the pecking order of authority, I’m somewhere between the lunch lady and the janitor in the minds of most school children. Or so they thought.

I accepted the job 20 years ago because I thought it would be a fun way to see my children and experience a typical day at an elementary school in Dallas, TX. And for the first week or two, that’s exactly what it was.

But after a month of watching hundreds of children test the limits, my calm, steady personae took a hard right turn toward authoritarianism. Whistle ready and not afraid to use it, I quickly learned that I was the absolute arbiter of all social behavior on the playground and needed to draw a line in the sandbox of control. 

Children, in their free-thinking exuberance, look at objects entirely differently from the adults who created them. Kindergarteners will gleefully run up the slide, rather than down, or belly flop on a swing intended for their backside. Perfect whistle-worthy moments!

Later, several forceful blows from my trusty whistle and a fierce middle-age glare will convince several 5th graders to cease their game of kicking the soccer ball over the school fence. Recognizing the error of their ways, they give up the game…for today anyway.

As every parent knows: children are nonstop energy. And when they only have 30 minutes of unstructured time on the playground, their vitality goes into hyper speed.

Balls, jump ropes, chalk, and other toys are grabbed up and carted off with a frenzy usually reserved for Black Friday sales. Constant motion, thunderous shouting, and occasional bullying are all being monitored by just a few parents and teachers, who often exhibit a Zen-master ability to handle stress.

With my trusty whistle, I could stop a bully in his/her tracks, determine which group got the soccer ball, and prevent an errant child from climbing the downspout to the roof.

Often, middle-school soccer games were the most trying moments. A flying ball, swinging legs, groups of running boys and goalies on either end with no padding…what could possibly go wrong? I was responsible that no teeth were knocked out or body parts broken. It was often a daunting responsibility, and one that I never took for granted, being a mother myself.
Sometimes I think back on those days and wonder if we all wouldn’t be better off with a playground monitor in our heads. Thinking about running that red light? The squeal of a whistle will get you to stop. Pulling into a designated handicap parking spot without a proper tag? The piercing tone in your ear will get you to move on. Texting while driving? Get the bullhorn out for this one!

All of us should live as if our conscience holds a whistle, and even the thought of a misdeed will bring the shrill sound of shame bearing down on our behavior.

I look back on those days with fond memories. No broken bones, chipped teeth or lost children on my watch--just a sense of pride in a job well done. And of course, I still have my trusty whistle.

Teri S. Merrill           

Sunday, September 29, 2019

223 Topic Selection


Topic Selection

I have recently been doing research and writing on a variety of topics. It occurred to me that very narrow subjects are my topics of choice.

I was an English major in college and went on to get a master's in English literature after I had my master's degree in library science. 

For the English degree, I was required to write a thesis. I loved Shakespeare. I have been obsessed with his work since junior high school when we studied MacBeth and Julius Caesar. In class, we read each play aloud--maybe not the entire play--but a substantial portion. 

So I thought, I'll write my thesis on Shakespeare! I had several ideas for a topic. But since I was a librarian, I soon discovered there was no way I could locate and read all the previous research on any Shakespearean topic. There is much written in English and as well as a huge amount in many other languages.



The World Shakespeare Bibliography, a searchable database from Texas A&M University, provides a comprehensive database of Shakespeare scholarship from 1960 to the present. It contains 146,000 entries! 









So I wrote my thesis on John Updike--much more manageable, but he is no Shakespeare!

I am working on a book about Judge Richard Parker, the judge who sentenced John Brown to death. That was his main claim to fame, and I now have hundreds of pages of information about his life. Much of it comes from avid manuscript collectors who tried to locate all the documents about and by him. However, only one person has written in any detail about his life so he meets my criteria!

In fact, I have an article coming out soon in the Journal of the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War Era, a Shenandoah University publication that is the brainchild of Jonathan Noyalas. The article concentrates on a week in Judge Parker's life. You can't get much more narrow than that!

These are the six; I found images of five.

I have spoken several times on another Civil War topic, one piece of graffiti in the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum in Winchester. It features the names of about twelve Union officers, but I talk about only six! I have found hundreds of pages of information about these men as well--perhaps a future blog!

And we can't forget one of my most infamous blogs--the one on dryer lint!

You Can't Get Too Narrow Trish              





Sunday, September 22, 2019

222 Reunion redux

Reunion Redux 

Hello, Readers, for me--nostalgia kicks in the fall – football games, crunching the fallen leaves, favorite sweaters for the evenings, and the new notebooks, pens, and pencils for the new school year.
 


This year is my 55th high school class reunion. I am getting older! I hate to face it, but I am.
On October 20, 2014, my blog was titled “REUNION.” I sentimentally wrote about the whole process from getting together a committee, to finding out where everyone lived for a database for communication, to selecting venues, sending out invitations, setting up events, creating decorations, etc., etc., etc. 

Then, I wrote about how important it was to recall the old memories of our emerging selves. The 50th was such a success that the 55th (which we did not anticipate having) will be held on October 5! (yes, our high school colors were orange and blue!)

The 50th was a three-day event; this one is a one event casual dinner. To our surprise, the response has been very good. We were originally a class of 75. We have lost 18 members over the years. We have 45 signed up to attend on October 5. Some of that number includes spouses, but we are pleased with the response. 

We’ve gone from an elegant venue with open bar to the Baptist Church social hall, from salmon and filets to fried chicken and country ham. We’ve gone from a documentary film some of our masterful committee members created to a paid entertainer.

Yes, this year we are going back to our rural county roots: a non-alcoholic social hour, a good home cooked and catered meal, and for our entertainment--hold your hats! We have hired an Elvis impersonator. The fellow, as I read his bio, is a hit in the tri-state area and we would never have been able to book him were it not for a committee member’s connections.  

Some of us may hit a local “watering hole” for drinks later. 

(Wonder if classmates are coming to see each other or to see Elvis? I know why dear husband said YES very quickly.)
Now, I will take the liberty of quoting myself from that blog of five years ago: 

GO to your reunion. It will be worth it. We are senior citizens even if we don’t feel like it. When I look in the mirror, I wonder how all years slipped away. 

My senior picture--1964!
We may not see these old classmates or recall the old memories ever again. It is a scary truth, but some of us might not be here for the next reunion. While we may not be exactly the same as we were in high school, this is where we got our start, where intellectual seeds were sown, and basic principles learned. So, please, Go! Celebrate life! Give homage to your past. Share your memories!

Regards from older (and maybe a bit savvier) 

         Glenne


Sunday, September 15, 2019

221 Reality reno!

Reality reno! 

The era of gutting a house and turning it into a gorgeous place to live is definitely upon us. Various TV channels host programs that demolish and rebuild countless homes. Sometimes it is as if they love the thought of tearing things down more than redoing them.

It is amazing the foresight and vision these people have when they see a rather drab, tired, beat-up property that definitely needs a total reno. How do they do it?

Walls are moved, kitchens are completely rearranged, bathrooms are destroyed and rebuilt—nothing is sacred—anything is fair game and can be moved, replaced, and realigned.

I definitely live vicariously through the programs that continually remodel and remake homes that blow your mind. Thank you HGTV for many of them!
“Property Brothers” (Drew and Jonathan Scott) is a favorite show where one twin does the remake and the other helps the family find the diamond in the rough that will make the family’s dreams come true. Banter back and forth with the two is good-humored and seems to work well for them. The families are thrilled with what these two can accomplish. While from Canada, the brothers film the programs in many other locations.
Another favorite is the “Fixer Upper” show with Joanna and Chip Gaines of Waco, Texas. They help a family find a home that needs a massive overhaul. Joanna designs and Chip does the reno with lots of good-natured kidding. The decorating that follows all the physical structure changes is massive. She says that is her favorite part and it shows with touches that cover the dishes to the towels--a true makeover. I still wonder about expenses and what if the family doesn’t really like the decorating touches.

One aspect of these shows that is a little perplexing is the amazing decorating that finishes off the remake. Gorgeous furniture with pillows and collectibles that add breath-taking moments when the reveal takes place. It really is over the top on so many of the shows. Who pays for all of this--the budget is often discussed but it doesn’t seem like enough for the features added to all the rooms.

I really would love to see these houses in a few years to determine if the upkeep is maintained. For some of the houses, it seems massive but maybe not!

Another show “Good Bones” that I recently started watching is a mother-daughter duo, Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak. They tackle disgusting houses in the area near where they live in Indianapolis. Their goal is to improve the neighborhood and help families find affordable housing. They don’t seem to make a huge profit, but they are usually pleased with salvaging another inner-city property. Again, the decorating is amazing with subtle touches that truly make the house a home by using items they can often reclaim for another purpose. The duo also salvages many of the items, which is a real bonus!
I look around my house and fantasize what would I do. Definitely, I would move the laundry to the second floor from the basement but that takes major change, especially when water lines and electricity are involved. I can keep on dreaming but you never know--maybe someday.

We did reno a tiny bathroom in our landing, heading to the basement. I was pleased with a corner sink the plumber found for us that really makes the room functional.

For now, I have to be satisfied with new pillows, rugs, flowers, or other easy to move objects. 

A recent addition to the TV room was a hassock that was actually called a pouf. It is amazing how you can look online and have the item at your house in a matter of days. Make sure you like it--I hate to think about returns.

Frances              

Sunday, September 8, 2019

220 You can go back

You can go back!

After I retired from Handley Regional Library, many people asked me if I was going to volunteer there. My answer was an emphatic NO! I thought my presence might be uncomfortable for the new director--and for me.

But then, when I go to Florida, I have no desire to volunteer at a library there.

However, I have found a library volunteer job that I am enjoying greatly--starting a library from scratch.

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation had a large collection in the basement of its headquarters building in New Market. The foundation owns books, artwork, manuscripts, relics, and books that have been donated over time.

Craig Morin, a member of the SVBF Board, was concerned about the health of the collection since the basement was damp and occasionally flooded. He solicited my help and that of other volunteers to find a better solution.

The board, led by Executive Director Keven Walker, purchased a home a few blocks away that had been a church parsonage and was in good condition.

Voila! We had a library & archives! Actually, a lot of work went into checking that we could maintain good security, temperature, and humidity before anything that could be moved. Shelves and boxes of books had to be moved from several locations. The books were placed on the shelves by the donated collection from which they came--not a good way to figure out what you have.

We sorted the books into rough categories to search for duplicates. It seems that almost every old-time collector had to have all the basic books by Catton, Nevins, etc., from the Civil War Centennial. 


Huge numbers of magazines were donated and one volunteer has devoted himself to putting them in order and pulling out the duplicates. We had a huge book and magazine sale in August that was quite successful.


Meanwhile, we were inventorying the collection using a telephone app. When the person who was listing all the books changed from an android to an Apple phone, she had to find a new app. Other lists of donations came to us on Excel spreadsheets.

Right now we are working on merging several formats of lists. So far I have pulled together four different lists into one and we have a total of 1,015 books listed with many more lists to add in--a very tedious job! When we are close to a list of everything, we will inventory and then place the books in order by call number. Eventually, we will have full cataloging information but we will be happy just to have one master list!

We have three to four volunteers that actually work but we are having fun. Sometimes Tootsie comes to provide entertainment to the group. I enjoy everything--the manual labor of unpacking and packing books, shelving books, shifting collections of books from room to room, and alphabetizing titles in each book collection. We can now find most books by figuring out what category we placed it in and then finding it alphabetically--this helps until we have the collection fully classified.

The building is not yet handicapped accessible so the books collection is available to only staff and board members. There is no deadline to finish the library, but we have to get it in order before we begin on the archives collection, which will be a MUCH bigger task.

I have become much more knowledgeable about the bibliography of the Civil War. Our collection is somewhat haphazard since all the books are donated, but some of the donors had amazing collections, which we are lucky to have.

One reason that the work is fun is that as the only librarian, everyone assumes I know what I am doing--which is true most of the time. Plus, I work just one day per week!

So you can go back again and enjoy it--if you set your own schedule and are your own boss! 
Library Savvy Trish          

Sunday, September 1, 2019

219 Let's talk phones


Let's Talk Phones

Greetings! Can’t believe it is September already. Thought I would take stock of the fall projects. Closets to clean out always. We have a mouse which we are chasing down along with the dogs’ help. (No luck yet!)
One major thing I have noticed this summer while I was hiding in the house out of the heat and humidity is that we use our landline phones less and less and our cell phones more and more. We are not yet ready to give up a landline because we live in a “dead spot.” 










Our house does not help cell service either. It’s an 1808 brick with thick plaster walls--which holds the heat in the winter and stays relatively cool in the summer with no air conditioning. That aside, it takes forever to load something on the phone when we are inside. In fact, we have been known to walk up the hill and hold the phone up to the sky and hope for the best.

The landline phone has 48 messages on it. I scrolled through them. Only four were from real people I might have liked to hear from. The others, some of which even read “spam? [name of city, state]. Erase, erase, erase. Only one of the four left a message. What a waste of time. 

I need to get more pro-active about getting rid of these callers. There is an app listed on Google called robokiller.com. Read about it if you’ve time. I am not sure about this particular site as it suggests ways to “get even with the robots.” Interesting reading though. At FFC.gov you will find the phone number for the national “do not call list” (1-888-382-1222). I have done this. Wonder how many calls we would have gotten had I NOT called this number? GOOD GRIEF. 

The cell phone seems to be a different matter of trash filling up space. I had 92 emails – YES, that is not an incorrect count from Friday evening until this morning. None was a scary mail. Amazon, Playbill, NY Times, Mental Floss, PND (grant announcements), our local newspaper, Chewy (dog food), Schwan’s, etc., etc. They are all sites from which I order or whose information I read regularly. BUT the algorithms used are fantastic. My cell phone and my email know more about me than I do. There are some tech geniuses at work somewhere!! 

And Facebook! Mixed emotions here. I do enjoy checking it about once a week. I rarely post anything. Are you, too, now getting friend suggestions every day? And some are people I thought were already friends?

Okay, here is an anecdote I think you will enjoy. Several years ago, I planned a tea party for about 40 older ladies. So, I looked up tea parties. Along with some lovely sites with suggestions for sweets and savories to accompany tea, how to make tea for a large number of guests, I also became the “sweetheart” for the political right-leaning TEA PARTY. 

Not just from the Virginia Tea Party but from Tea Parties all over the country. I had to unsubscribe one by one by one. Talk about how to make me a liberal! (Oh, guess that’s a different blog!) Just a warning to watch what you type when you search!! Taught me a lesson.

We’d love to hear your phone stories! Happy September to all. Thanks for reading.

Savvy Glenne                  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

218 Binge Watching


Binge-watching

I have found myself binge-watching various TV series made available through cable and special networks. Once I get started it is sometimes hard to stop. I will hurry to get started on the next episode when I really shouldn’t. I need to do other things but I can’t stop watching.

I believe this would be called an obsession, but I hate to call it that. Let’s just say it is excessive TV watching with a goal of finishing a series or several episodes with the same storyline.
Probably my first one was “The Crown.” A friend kept telling me I had to watch it so I did. It definitely did not disappoint. This series is a historical drama about the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. While much of it was familiar, so much more was new to me and very compelling. The actors were excellent and kept the action moving so I didn’t want it to end.

After watching all of this series, I have been anxiously awaiting the next part. That is one thing I have learned – once you binge all the episodes you can’t wait for the next one to begin. I am always left a little flat as I know I cannot continue with the story until a new series is finished. The one good part is when a series is ready it usually contains six to eight episodes so the bingeing can begin again.
Another series that kept me glued to the tube was “Grace and Frankie” -- Jane Fonda and Lily Tomblin portray the main characters who are involved in amazing plots and storylines. This one had several series so it took a while to catch up. Then when I reached the end, I was again lost for a while until another one was planned. A sixth season is due in 2020 – I can’t wait.

The issues in this series hit home to those of us in our sixties and seventies, dealing with health and other age-related situations. Also, the interaction with children and grandchildren is typical of most families – not all issues but most. 

I actually convinced my husband to join me in binge-watching a series I thought he might like. “Longmire” ended up being one we both could not get enough of. A sheriff who runs Absaroka County, Wyoming in a unique, wild west way. It is a modern-day western that continued for six seasons. The last episode is a little predictable, but we still did not want it to end. A little reminiscent of Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke,” Longmire endures many life-altering experiences but still prevails. It can be a little violent at times so don’t let the kids watch.

One series, “Tales of the City,” is one I kept watching but it isn’t one of my favorites. It details stories of the lives of residents in the same apartment building in San Francisco. There was so much left hanging at the end of each episode that I had to keep watching. The stories are based on works by Armistead Maupin.

The main draw for me was actress Olivia Dukakis who prevails as the landlord and whose past is revealed little by little throughout the series. There is actually a short series that shows how everything started in the 1970s but then the larger series continues years later.

The flashbacks reveal what has happened to these characters twenty years later. Some had remained there while others had departed and returned for a special event. No more hints on this one – you just have to watch but don’t let the kids stay in the room. You can imagine what life was like in the 1970s in San Francisco.

There have been a few that I started but did not finish due to lack of interest, but I continue to look for new ones. It is consuming but generally worth the time and effort. So if you decide to start binge-watching, remember it can consume you for days, depending on how many series and episodes have been released. So binge on.