Goodnight Who?

Goodnight Who

Have you ever read a book so many times that it literally starts to fall apart? As you can see in the photo, such is the case with my children’s copy of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

First published in September 1947, total sales have reached over 48 million copies. It’s identified as a calming story to get very young children ready to go to sleep. Having a routine of looking around the bedroom, seeing beloved objects, and saying goodnight to each one is reassuring to a child.

But did you know that this book goes against many of the current recommendations given for writing a best-selling children’s picture book?

  • Have a likeable main character that children can identify with. The main character is the young bunny, but we’re never told what the bunny is thinking or feeling.
  • Make the characters identifiable. The two characters have no names, unless you count “a quiet old lady” as a name.
  • Have an easy-to-follow plot with plenty of action. There is no plot, no sequence of action. The bunny is in bed from the first page to the last.
  • Choose strong verbs! Here are the verbs used: was, were, jumping, sitting, and whispering.
  • Change the scenery often. The entire story takes place in one room during about an hour’s time.

So against all odds, young children love this book. Mine both did. When we took long car trips and the children got restless, I would turn to the back seat and tell it from memory. I guess that’s why I can still recite it word for word.

In our copy of the book, on the “Goodnight nobody” page, we taped a photo of my daughter Laura’s favorite stuffed monkey named Georgie. He’s “hanging” from a bunch of bananas at Longwood Gardens. (You can see me in the background holding baby Laura.) So when we reached this part of the story, instead of saying, “Goodnight nobody,” we said, “Goodnight Georgie.”

When I was doing research for this article, I came across some opinions about the book that were a tad unsettling. One writer feels this book is about a bunny that is AFRAID to go to bed and so is stalling by naming things in the room. How dare you?!

Another author brought up the safety issue of an open fireplace without so much as a screen in the bunny child’s room. One guy wondered why a bunny would have a tiger pelt rug in the room when tigers EAT bunnies.

Someone else wondered why the bunny is sleeping in the mother’s room. She believed that to be true because there is a phone on the nightstand and a rack with laundry drying; who would have that in a child’s bedroom? And some wondered just who that old lady is? Grandma? A babysitter? A nanny? One minute the chair is empty, the next minute, there she is. And then she’s gone again, with just her knitting left behind.

It just goes to show that you can pick anything apart and find fault or at least put forth comments or questions to stir the pot.

Speaking of stirring the pot, I wonder if that bowl of uneaten mush will go bad before morning? Maybe the mouse in the story eats the entire bowl and then falls to sleep while resolving to get back on its diet in the morning.

 

Tap Tap Tap

tap tap tap

My friend Ken shared this story of his five-year-old great-niece Eloise:

The occasion was the funeral of Ken’s elderly mother (Eloise’s great-grandmother). As the family made their way to the front of the church, there was a bit of concern as to how Eloise would react to the solemn service.

Once seated, one of Eloise’s other great-uncles turned around and sweetly told her, “Listen, honey. If at some point during the service you feel as though you’ve had enough, just tap me on the shoulder and say you’re ready to go, and I’ll take you out. OK?”

Eloise, precocious for her age, solemnly nodded her understanding of his offer.

A few minutes later, the organist began playing the first hymn. The great-uncle felt a tap-tap-tap on his shoulder, and Eloise announced, “I’m ready.”

“I’m ready.” What a strong and definitive statement. I’m ready so let’s get going! Oh, how many instances in conversations with myself do I waffle about completing something?

Tomorrow. Or maybe next week. What the heck; February is half over already? Well, the first of next month for sure. Just as soon as I get that other project done, I’ll work on this one. Really. I mean it.

Currently, I have a project that has a deadline. I’ve been working on it for, well, a long time. I’m still piddling around, not making much headway. And it’s what I term a “happy” project so it’s not as if I’m dreading the work.

After some soul searching, here’s what is holding me up: I’m at the point where I need to ask other people for some help, for guidance. Why do I dread asking for help? I’m positive that the people will say yes. And if they say no, it will be because they know someone else who is better equipped to help, and I’ll get a referral.

I often help other people, so I know how good it feels just to be asked to share expertise and it feels even better to provide help. So what’s the deal?

Eloise, you’ve inspired me. I’m ready. I’m ready to make those phone calls asking for help.

Yes, I’m ready. Tap-Tap-Tap

~~~~~~

A wonderful story of a man who was ready to take action

 

A Brain Game That Doesn’t Require A Computer

brain game

A typical Virginia license plate consists of three letters and three numbers. As part of my never-ending quest to keep my brain active and my thinking skills sharp, when I’m driving I often play one of the games I created when my school-aged children (and later my grandsons) were with me for long-distance car trips.

One game involves just the letters on a license plate. As your turn arrives, you “get” the next car that passes you. If the car’s tags contain fewer than three letters, it doesn’t count, and you wait for the next car whose tag contains at least three letters. If it contains more than three letters, you get the first three letters.

The goal is to create the longest word you can come up with using the letters in the exact order from the tag.

Your score is tabulated by the total number of letters in your word. And if you use the letters consecutively, you get a three-point bonus. Here are some examples:

The tag reads CMT123. I can spell the word “placement” for a total of nine points.

UGL123 might prompt me to choose “ugly” for four points and the bonus of three points for using the letters UGL consecutively for a total of seven. It might be tempting to jump to the word “ugly,” but an extra moment of thinking leads me instead to the word “unglamorous” for a score of eleven.

You can boost your score by adding an “s” to pluralize nouns or “ed” or “ing” to verbs. Using the UGL example above, I could have added “ly” to change the adjective to an adverb and gain two more points.

If it’s your turn and you are unable to come up with any word, your opponent has the opportunity to steal your turn. I recall being soundly beaten in this game once when my turn presented a license tag with AAA as its letters. When I failed to produce a word, my car partner shouted, “ABRACADABRA!”  So remember that word with not just three As, or four, but five!

Some of the standard Scrabble rules apply: You aren’t allowed to spell proper nouns, abbreviations, hyphenated words, foreign words, or contractions.

This is a “just for fun” game. No official dictionary or online assistance is permitted! Timing can be as flexible or as rigid as you decide to make it. I’d suggest no more than a minute per turn.

The scorekeeper, of course, needs to be someone other than the driver. This is a fun and educational game that helps kids learn how to spell, to think, to be creative, to engage in language skills, and includes a math lesson for the scorekeeper. And it’s free.

So yes, I play this game in my head as I drive. And even though I’m the only player and there’s nothing to win, I still get upset when I get a tag with something like JXQ123. Hey, if you come up with a word using JXQ, be sure to let me know.

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Harvard Newsletter on brain games

 

What Language Are You Speaking?

language

Sometimes I’m yanked back to my Western Pennsylvania roots without warning. This occurred yesterday when I saw a Facebook post of a friend from my hometown and high school.

This friend must be one of the nicest men on God’s earth. I don’t believe he has a mean bone in his body. His posts center on his family, friends, nature, and history. But apparently some awful memories from high school caused him to post another guy’s profile picture with the label “jagoff” across it.

I knew the other guy since he was just a year older than we are and lived in the same town. But I had no idea he was a high school bully because he came from a nice family; his mom was a beautiful, gentle spirit.

Oh, and by the way, just what IS a jagoff? I was unfamiliar with the term and had to look up the definition before penning this post. It seems that many people consider it a “clean” version of a similar-sounding vulgar word, much like how some folks substitute friggin’ for the F-word.

But it appears the true origin is from the Scots-Irish verb jag, meaning to irritate another. The word appears to have originated in Western Pennsylvania (in particular Pittsburgh) but some websites note that Chicago claims the term as its own.

The Oxford English Dictionary added jagoff as a word in 2016, defining it as an “irritating or contemptible person.”

Barbara Johnstone, American Professor of rhetoric and linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, authored a book titled “Speaking Pittsburghese: The Story of a Dialect.” Johnstone became fascinated by the seemingly constant focus that Pittsburghers have on their own dialect.

She asserts that the early settlers in Pittsburgh were from Northern Ireland or Scotland and that had a profound effect on the development of the local language. For instance, the PA word yinz (rhymes with wins) is a perfect example. It means you in the plural version, as in, “Are yinz about tired of social distancing?”

English first-person pronouns are very clear as to meaning I / me / my / we / us / our. But second-person pronouns in English are less clear: you / your / yours Because YOU can mean one person or many. The Scots-Irish form for the second-person pronoun meaning multiple people was you ones or yous ones. That ended up being shortened to younz or yinz.

Johnstone maintains that most Pennsylvanians who use this term consider it a single word, not a contraction. Compare it to the Southern version of y’all, a contraction meaning “you all” or all of you people.

When I was 19, I moved temporarily to Santa Barbara for eighteen months. I remember being teased incessantly for my accent by my California co-workers. When I left PA for good in my early 20s, I was determined to leave my Pittsburgh accent and peculiar PA words behind. Who knew by 2020 it would be fashionable and a topic of endless fixation?!

And as for why my friend termed his former nemesis a jagoff, he noted that the guy had slammed his head into a bus window on a ride home from football practice.

Can yinz agree that this was indeed a contemptible act?

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Chicago’s claim to the term

Hilarious YouTube video about jagoff supposedly from Johnstown, PA (9 miles from my hometown!) Look to the left at the opening shot for a Johnstown sign.

Eastern Standard, Daylight Saving, or Beagle

beagle time

My post from October 25, 2019, told the story of Your True Nature, the company that has cornered the market on products that share advice from nature. I found their story appealing because I personally believe that great wisdom is found in ordinary people, places, events, and well…dogs.

Consider Grace, my recently adopted beagle. She has three nuggets of wisdom to share with you today.

The first one is this: Consider living in beagle time. Stop being so obsessed with the concept of never having enough time. Please knock off the whining about “too much work and too little time” or weekends being too short. And by the way, no one else cares about how Daylight Saving Time affects you.

In beagle time there is no rushing around to get from place to place. There is only moseying around while sniffing the air, the leaves, the grass. If you go twenty paces and suddenly realize you missed a spot, why you just go back before moving forward. In beagle time we’re not embarrassed when the same runners have passed us three times on the circular path around the park. Beagle time can be quite calming.

Secondly, be courageous! Don’t be fearful about taking on something bigger than you think you can handle. While many dogs enjoy fetching and gnawing on sticks, Grace hunts for whole branches she can drag around. Or she finds the kind of logs that work well in fireplaces. This actually ties directly into beagle time since when you’re dragging around something three times your size, your ability to move quickly is diminished.

The third bone of wisdom is culled from something that just happened. No matter how far away you go, never lose sight of home.

Today we had to be out of town several hours so I hired a wonderful service (My Pet’s Friend) to come to our home to pick up Grace and take her for a walk down our country road. In our meet-and-greet initial meeting, I had warned Missy (the dog walker) about beagle time and advised that when her timed walk reached the midpoint, she would likely have to pick up Grace and literally turn her around. Otherwise, that twenty-minute walk could turn into two hours.

When we arrived home, I read Missy’s note about her visit. She advised that she had attempted to walk Grace down our road, but ended up instead making several loops around our property. You see, Grace wouldn’t go very far from home. In Missy’s words, “Grace didn’t want to lose sight of her house.”

Since we don’t know Grace’s back story of why she was surrendered to the Fauquier SPCA Shelter, I would only be guessing at what was going through her little beagle brain.

But maybe it was that there really is no place like home.

 

Advice From An Unlikely Source

advice from nature

My guess is that at some time in your life you have read something written by a company called Your True Nature. I gave one of their bookmarks to my son-in-law a few years ago, and my best friend sent me one of their cards that currently is displayed on my bulletin board. But I had no idea the items were from the same company until today.

Your True Nature believes that all of nature gives the best advice to humans. The company creates clever wording to create sage adages that might be provided by various aspects of nature to help us through life. Here’s a partial list (they have over 100) of one snippet from fourteen of them.

Advice from…

Trail – Find inspiration at every turn.

Owl – Be observant.

Pumpkin – Be well rounded.

Lilac – Be scent-sational.

Osprey – Dive in.

Huckleberry – It’s ok to be a little wild.

Mermaid – Don’t get your seaweed in a bunch!

Coffee bean – Break out of the daily grind.

Elephant – Look after your herd.

The forest – Breathe deeply.

The night sky – Expand your horizons.

Lizard – Appreciate stillness.

A sled dog – Mush on!

And my personal favorite from Sasquatch: Live a legendary life!

The founder of the company was originally named Scott Alyn but in 1992 he legally changed his name to Ilan Shamir which means protector of the trees. He had nearly always had a deep love of nature. It was truly bonded when, at the age of 11, he received a magnolia tree from a favorite aunt and uncle. He planted it and cared for it for as long as his family lived at that house.

His nature connection was nourished by spending eight formative summers at camp, both as a camper and later a leader. Ilan was a guide and photographer in the Swiss Alps for some time, and he also spent a month alone in Iceland. His career decisions have always been slanted to “do what you love” and not “do what will earn you the most money.”

Ilan shares the story of how Your True Nature came about. In 1992 in the midst of some difficult times, he leaned against an old cottonwood tree and wondered about what advice the tree might give. Thoughts came to him: Stand tall. Go out on a limb. He wrote down the thoughts into a poem. From that he created a bookmark and then a postcard Advice from a tree. The first store that sold his work reordered within a week.

And the business branched out, just like that tree. In addition to the bookmarks and postcards, the company sells magnets, books, T-shirts, journals, wooden signs, and other related products.

The company appears to be quite mindful of the earth and its resources. They are active in planting trees (over a hundred thousand) and intentionally leave a small footprint by making sure their company is environmentally friendly and has sustainable practices such as printing only on recycled paper.

You know, I just might need to buy that Sasquatch t-shirt.

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Your True Nature’s site

The Soft Skill of Writing Thanks

My sister Barbara told me today that it’s up to her and me to save the lost art of writing thank-you notes. Although our other sister Beverly and my best friend Betsy are just as diligent at sending hand-written thank-you notes. And I know there are well-mannered others out there, but let me ask you something: When is the last time you received an honest-to-goodness real thank-you card in the mail?

Often in today’s electronic communications, we don’t even see the word thanks but rather just TY. What, our fingers are so tired we can type just two characters instead of six?

Last year a business friend attended his younger cousin’s wedding. The cousin couldn’t afford a videographer for the event so my friend (who is very good at filming videos) recorded the event as well as many highlights of the reception. He then spent much time editing to produce a lovely memory of the special day. My friend mailed it with a card saying he hoped his cousin and her new husband enjoyed the special gift.

He never heard one word back.

When I managed a department and interviewed applicants for an open position, those who sent me a follow-up sincere note of thanks citing some portion of our conversation earned two bonus points. Those who emailed me a run-of-the-mill “thanks” got half a point. And those who sent nothing? Well, how much stock could I put into their resume claim of “excellent written and verbal communication skills”?

In January the site FrugalFun4Boys.com posted a list of “40 Old-fashioned Skills for Kids Today.” The list of “how-to” items included: find a book at the library, ask questions to get to know someone better, sew on a button, balance a checkbook, read a map, and yes…write a thank-you note. A link to the complete list is below.

A heartfelt thank-you note means so much. I encourage you to join the sisterhood/brotherhood/personhood of thank-you note writers and help recapture this art form.

Oh and thank you very much.

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Forty “Old-Fashioned” Skills for today’s children

The Sisterhood of thank-you-note writers

A teacher’s perspective on hand-written thank-you notes

Writing is a soft skill that can help you professionally

 

The Hostess With the Mostess

Hostess of a dinner party

An episode of the old sitcom All in the Family had Edith very nervous about her role as hostess of a Tupperware party. She fretted about the embarrassing role she had played in a Christmas pageant as a third-grader. As a manger cow, her one line was to have been, “Moo moo, I hear people coming.” But while waiting to deliver her line, she looked out into the audience and saw her little brother picking his nose. Her spoken line turned into, “Moo moo, my little brother is picking his nose.”

I’ve linked that specific show below for you. Fast forward to the 20-minute mark if you want to see how Edith does as hostess of the Tupperware party. Let’s just say it’s not pretty.

Fine hosting is an art skill that leaves each guest feeling as if he or she is the most important person in the room. It’s not about having gourmet food or fine wine; the key is helping your guests feel welcomed and wanted.

I’ve known perfectly nice and intelligent people who make lousy hosts.

A few years back my husband and I attended an outdoor informal dinner that began at sunset of a gloriously warm fall day. But as the sun left us, it took its warmth with it. While I wasn’t actually cold, I was uncomfortably chilly, having given my wrap to another guest who had recently recovered from an illness.

After a while, the host excused himself from the table to go into their house. He came out with sweaters. But just for his wife and himself. It took every ounce of my good manners to restrain myself from saying, “Are you kidding?” Even if the couple didn’t want others wearing their sweaters or jackets, he could have offered blankets, throws, or even large towels for the guests to drape around their shoulders.

More recently we attended a party at a local restaurant. The host and his wife were retiring to Florida and had invited 30 or so friends from various aspects of their lives to gather together to say goodbye. When we arrived, our hosts were deep in conversation with one group. So no one welcomed us or provided any structure as to how the evening would progress. Guests were left to wander around asking each other the same question: “So how do you know Stan and Marcy?”

Appetizers arrived after forty minutes but with too few plates and no napkins. Since our hosts weren’t front and center, another guest spoke to the staff to remedy the situation.

As people began to leave, the hosts extracted themselves to give hugs and say goodbye. My less-than-ladylike comment to my husband when we got to the car was this: “That was one weird-ass party.”

At church the following day, I had to just smile when Father Ben preached on the topic of Jesus shaking up the status quo at a dinner party. WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) indeed!

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All in the Family Series 5, Episode 8

Father Ben’s Sermon Sept 1, 2019 “Who is At Your Dinner Table”

Nuptial Flinging and Hurling

nuptial hurling and flinging

Image by Krzysztof Niewolny on Pixabay

Remember the old custom of throwing uncooked rice at newlyweds at the close of the marriage ceremony? Some believe that the rice was a symbol of rain which represented (at least for farmers) good crops and good fortune. Other sites say the custom began in ancient Rome with Roman wedding guests tossing wheat at the couple.

I like Martha Stewart’s explanation: “In olden times, marriage meant expansion, from building a family to increasing one’s assets. Rice symbolized both fertility and prosperity, and tossing it at couples implied best wishes and good luck-for newborns, good harvests, and everything in between.”

However, in 1985, a Connecticut legislator proposed “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs.” I know, I know; that sounds like something I just made up. But no, it’s true. According to Snopes.com, the act stated that “no person shall throw, fling, cast or hurl any uncooked rice at any time during the celebration of any marriage.”

Apparently, Rep. Mae Schmidle believed the rumor that birds which ate the discarded rice died horrible deaths because their bird digestive systems just couldn’t handle raw rice. She stated that the rice sat there in their bellies and caused birds’ stomachs to expand and, well, bye-bye birdie.

I’m here to put your mind at rest; it’s just not true. Both the Audubon Society and the Ornithological Association say this is one of those myths that got traction and just won’t go away. Birds like rice! The ducks and geese that migrate to the north depend on rice fields so they can fatten up before their trek.

Steven C. Sibley of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology wrote to Ann Landers when she passed along the false warning about rice making birds explode. His message included this: “Rice is no threat to birds. It must be boiled before it will expand. Furthermore, all the food that birds swallow is ground up by powerful muscles and grit in their gizzards. Many birds love rice, as any frustrated rice farmer will tell you.”

My guess is that the rumor was first started by the National Association of Folks Who Clean Up After Wedding Ceremonies. And, as usually happens with the law of unintended consequences, I’ll bet that they’re not any happier with rice’s replacements: rose petals, confetti, pompoms, or (gasp!) glitter. And blowing bubbles can result in some slippery surfaces.

As long as the flinging and hurling portion of the ceremony is outside, can we just agree to throw rice or birdseed and let the birds enjoy the meal?

~~~~~~~~~

One site offers alternatives to rice

An in-depth article on the subject

Auto-Signature Revisited

auto signature

Image by Andrew Martin on Pixabay

If you’ve ever had a business email account, it’s likely that you’ve used an auto-signature. People set up an auto-signature so that every time they type an email, the system inserts the text they have established as their “signature” at the end of each email. Typically, you would want your full name, your title, the company name, the best phone number to reach you,  your company’s website URL, and your email address.

The last company I worked for was extremely strict about the auto-signature for its employees. We were instructed in EXACTLY what to say, what font to use, and the font size for each line. The auto-signature had to be in the specific order that the corporate office dictated. We were not permitted to add any inspirational sayings or photos.

It was truly a one-size-fits-all signature. Corporate gave a deadline for when the new look needed to be in place. Those who did not comply were called to the principal’s office (HR).

I remember that among the last holdouts was one of the highest-grossing salespeople at the division. His auto-signature consisted of his name and the other usual stuff, but after his actual title, he added a list of nearly a dozen of his (questionable) achievements.

I really wish that I had kept one of his emails so that I could share it with you. But the list consisted of titles something like this:

1999 Shuffleboard Champion on the Top Sales Cruise

2004 Coach of little league team

2007 Winner of Sales Contest, prize was trip to Paris

2008 Member of winning doubles team in city ping-pong playoff

And so on…

He fought long and hard to keep his unique auto-signature, but in the end, he had to comply. He eventually left the company, and now I’m sitting here wondering if he ever got over being upset.

The topic of auto-signature is fresh on my mind because a few days ago I added one to my text messages. Since I don’t text professionally, 99% of my texts go to family and also to friends that I love as though they are family. So my new signature on my texts is XO and a blue heart emoji. Kiss and Hug and I love you.

In case you’re unaware, the text signature doesn’t populate until you send the text. So it’s not like you start to compose a text and there waiting for you is your signature. Nope.

When I was applying for a car loan at the local community credit union yesterday, one of the questions that took me by surprise was: Can you provide the name and phone number of a personal reference?

My first thought was, Wow, how quaint and how sweet. I haven’t heard that question for a while. And my second thought was, Just whom should I name? My priest is on sabbatical, so I provided contact information for Randolph, the assistant priest. Just to be polite, I texted him as a heads-up in case they contacted him.

I hit send too quickly just as I realized that auto-correct had changed a word. Ready to send a correcting text, I saw that XO blue heart emoji was there at the bottom of my message. So I typed an I’m really embarrassed text, explaining about the 99% family reasoning.

Randolph’s response was classic for him—“Happy to be a reference, Happy to be included.”

I was all set to remove my new text signature so that this didn’t happen again. Like when I respond to a text from a landscaper who texted that he’s running late for our appointment. Or people for whom I dog sit very occasionally. Or an old boss who prefers texting to email.

Then I thought, but what if everyone who gets my XO blue heart emoji feels the same reaction as Randolph did: “Happy to be included in the group of people you love.”

And the world needs more kisses, hugs, and I love you messages. So for now, it’s staying put. If someone ends up thinking I’m a kook, who cares?

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Good advice for creating an email auto-signature