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.

 

The Power Of A Routine

power of routine

I am off my game. I’ve been wasting time and have been having a tough time getting myself to focus. Never one much for politics, I became absorbed in the election three months ago. I have been consumed by wanting to stay on top of knowing the latest, regardless of how ugly and upsetting it might be.

My plan is to get through the next three days and then take a deep breath and get back to a routine.

My favorite routine story is about Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps who started swimming when he was seven to burn off his excess energy that drove his mom and teachers crazy.

When local swim coach Bob Bowman became Phelps’ coach at around age 9, he knew Phelps was under a lot of stress. His parents were divorcing, and Michael had trouble calming down before races.

Bowman had a strong belief in the power of a routine.  Coach Bowman helped Michael Phelps develop one. A routine leads to a day of small wins. There is much to be said about the power of small wins. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win, and another.

Go back in time with me to the 2008 Olympics. Michael Phelps followed his routine:

  • He woke up at a designated time and started following the routine he used before any race. He pulled on sweats and then ate the same breakfast he eats before every race.
  • Two hours before his first race, he started his stretching regime: arms, back, ankles.
  • By 8:30 he was in the pool doing an exact warmup routine for 45 minutes.
  • At 9:15 he exited the pool and started squeezing into his racing suit.
  • While he waited for the race to begin, he listened through earbuds to the same mix he likes before a race: hip hop.

His habit of a routine has taken over. He’s been successful at everything he’s done so far.

The first race of the day was the 200-meter butterfly. Back to the routine: When his name is announced, he stepped up on the block, then stepped back down…like always. He swung his arms three times…like always. When they announced the race, he got back up on the block, got into his stance, and when the gun sounded, he leaped into the water.

And he knew that something was wrong as soon as he hit the water. A leak caused moisture to seep into his goggles. By his second turn, everything was blurry. As he approached the third and final lap, his goggle cups were completely filled with water. He couldn’t see ANYTHING.

He couldn’t see the line along the pool’s bottom, not the black T marking the approaching wall. He was swimming blind. But he did not panic.

Everything else that day had gone according to plan. So on the last lap, he estimated how many strokes the final push would require and started counting. On the 21st stroke with his arm outstretched, he touched the wall.

As he burst from the water and ripped off the leaking goggles, he looked at the scoreboard. Not only had he won, but he had set a new world record.

A routine of focus on small wins is a beautiful thing.

~~~~~

I wrote about “small wins” back in October 2016

Video of the race

Real, Plastic, or Ceramic?

ceramic tree

Putting away Christmas leaves me a little blue. After all the lights, bright colors, candles, sparkle, ribbons, and decorations are boxed up, my house is bleak. Blah.

Last year I began a new practice of creating winter tableaus from bits and pieces of my Christmas decorations. I’ve found that it really lifts my winter spirits.

One of the items I kept out this year is a 6” ceramic lighted tree as shown in the above photo. Although this was a gift from my mother-in-law Rosalie, it reminds me of my own grandmother Elizabeth who had a larger ceramic tree that graced the dining room during the Christmas season.

As it turns out, ceramic trees have quite the history.

According to Salon.com, ceramic parties were popular in the 60s and 70s. Instead of Tupperware or Avon parties, women with a knack for crafts found themselves at ceramic parties making all sorts of decorations. In November, the crafting focused on Christmas items such as Santas, nutcrackers, and, of course, trees.

I can’t picture my grandmother attending craft parties, so her ceramic tree was likely a gift from someone.

The tree molds were manufactured by a limited number of providers, and that’s why most of the vintage ceramic trees in existence today look so similar.

When the 80s rolled around, this type of group crafting began fading from popularity. By the 90s, people were purchasing ready-made products. Salon.com says, “For the next 30 years, ceramic trees entered that awkward outdated phase that so often comes between trendy and vintage.”

Enter 2020 and the pandemic. People longed for comfort foods, sweatpants, and nostalgic Christmas decorations. Yes, ceramic trees made a huge comeback this past Christmas. Like me, folks had fond memories of ceramic trees from their childhoods.

For the many people who decided to forego the usual Christmas decorating this year (why bother when no one will be around to see your house?), the ceramic tree filled the need without too much effort.

I hope that next December people will revert to honoring their full Christmas traditions, whatever they may be, and not let the “it’s too much bother” excuse of pandemic times make us lazy.

My Christmas “stuff,” none of it rare or expensive, keeps the story of our family’s Christmases going strong. And I guess I’ll keep telling that story as long as people will listen.

~~~~~

Article from Salon.com on ceramic trees

My blog from 2018 about live Christmas trees vs. plastic

Images of ceramic trees

Summary of “how-to” make your own ceramic tree. Note, there is a cute one-minute video at the end of the article showing children painting and accessorizing a pre-cast ceramic tree.

 

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.

~~~~~~

Harvard Newsletter on brain games

 

A Slippery Slope

a slippery slope

A dozen or so years ago, we had a winter storm that produced an unusual effect. On top of many inches of snow, a freezing rain transformed every outdoor surface to a hard, icy glaze.

My grandsons (then around 8 and 11) had stayed overnight and were eager the next morning to get out and ride their snow discs down the frozen hill in our backyard. So we bundled up and carefully traipsed outside. Using the ice-crusted snow as a runway, those boys flew down that hill.

What fun! But as they tried to walk back up the hill, there was a problem. Every attempt at a step simply had them sliding backward. We all laughed until our sides hurt, but then reality settled in. The boys were stuck there. Laughter turned into fearful uncertainty.

My husband and I tried various options such as trying to walk around the outside edge of the woods to work our way down to retrieve them. But we were unable to find any traction.

Finally, my husband tied several ropes together and, holding on to one end, he tossed the other end so it could slide to the boys. They took turns holding on to the rope end and being pulled up the hill on their tummies.

That experience truly defined the phrase “a slippery slope” for me.

It was at this point in writing today’s post that I went online to search a slippery slope to explain how the phrase originated and ruminate a bit on the types of slippery slopes we might find ourselves on. That sounds interesting, right?

But as I researched the phrase, I was surprised to learn that it has meaning in the arenas of critical thinking, logic, and even case law.

The term Slippery Slope Argument is looking at a possibility and coming up with hypothetical outcomes, often extreme, without showing any proof for said outcomes. It’s common for scare tactics to be used to induce emotional reactions.

An oft used example is found in the topic of (human) euthanasia. Those who fight against legalizing euthanasia use a slippery slope argument like this:

If we legalize voluntary euthanasia, where a terminally ill patient desires death soon rather than later, it will lead us to other actions that are morally indefensible. We could move on to involuntary euthanasia or non-voluntary physician-assisted suicide. Eventually, it will be legal for people to have other people killed.

My guess is that many of you will find that argument unsettling.

The term fearmongering (or scaremongering) comes to mind: “The spreading of frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger to purposely arouse fear in order to manipulate the public.”

It’s good to pause and then back away from slippery slopes.

~~~~~

Video on fearmongering from FOUR YEARS AGO by Dr. Susan David, one of the world’s leading management thinkers and an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist.

A site that explains common logical fallacies

Real Or Just An Illusion

illusion

Dictionary.com defines illusion as “something that deceives the mind or senses by creating a false impression of reality.”

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Talking to Strangers brought up an interesting topic of which I’d never heard: the illusion of asymmetric insight. I hate to break this news, but (unless you are very highly evolved) you suffer from it. And so does everyone else. Me too.

Basically, the illusion of asymmetric insight means that we believe that we know others much better than they know us, AND that we understand others better than they understand themselves. This also occurs with groups; we simply assume that our knowledge of other groups is more expansive than the other groups’ knowledge of our group.

From the site YouAreNotSoSmart.com, “In 2001, Emily Pronin and Lee Ross at Stanford along with Justin Kruger at the University of Illinois and Kenneth Savitsky at Williams College conducted a series of experiments exploring why we see people this way.”

One experiment, which Gladwell put forth in his book, went like this. People were given partial words and asked to fill in the blanks. Here are a few examples; play along and write down your first response as to how you would fill in the blanks to make a word. Stop reading until you’ve come up with six words.

B O _ _   /   S T_ _   /   C H E _ _   /   S H _ _  /  G _ _  /  D E _ _

OK, STOP and write down your answers now.

For the record, here were my answers to the above:  BOOK / STAR / CHEER / SHOP / GAS / DEAL

When the subjects in 2001 completed the test, they were asked if their own responses pointed to any specific personality aspects. No, they couldn’t see any pattern or reveal any surprising tendencies; basically, it was just a list of words. But when provided with other people’s responses, and asked the same question, they came up with analyses such as that person must be unstable, he is vain, she is untrustworthy, etc.

For instance, if Person A analyzed Person B’s answers to the above quiz and found BOOM / STAB / CHEAT / SHOT / GUN / DEAD, they might offer the opinion that Person B is on the violent side. But maybe the person had watched an action movie the day before the quiz.

So while we “know” our own answers mean nothing, we believe we are able to “know” about other people from this little (but fun) quiz.

I think this goes a long way in explaining how people on social media get caught up in unpleasant behavior like name-calling, ridicule, taunting, contempt, bullying, and derision. The folks who behave like that believe they know the rest of us better than we know ourselves.

~~~~~~

Article from YouAreNotSoSmart.com

It Never Hurts To Ask

ask

It’s been nearly four years since I shared with my readers in “A Permanent Mark” that if asked for a motto that is important to me, it is this:  It never hurts to ask.

Because if you ask and the answer is NO, you’re no worse off than before you asked.

Singer/songwriter Zach Williams has a great story that truly illustrates this point.

Zach went down the wrong path when he hit sixteen. Drifting away from his Christian upbringing, he got involved with drugs and alcohol which cost him a Division 1 college basketball scholarship offer. He dropped out of high school and went to work for his dad’s construction company for a year. Then he moved away to attend a junior college and made the basketball team there. Unfortunately, he drifted back into drugs and alcohol. Then a foot injury took him off the team, but the downtime led him to pick up a friend’s guitar; thus began his music life.

Moving back home to work with his dad again, he was a functioning addict worker by day and musician by night. In a moving interview (link is below) he shares that he used drugs every day just to get through.

Living this life for years (working by day to pay the bills and partying like a rock star at night), he met the woman who would become his wife when he was 30. They married and, as the bad choices continued, his wife finally issued an ultimatum: Get clean or the marriage would end.

Just after that conversation, Zach went on a European tour with his rock band. Not wanting to lose his wife, he says that while on a long bus ride he prayed for God to send him a sign that God cared enough to help him. The bus driver had been scanning radio stations and he stopped on a contemporary Christian station where the song I am Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave was playing.

The song struck Zach as being just what he needed to hear. He continued to listen to the song over and over on his phone. Zach called his wife and told her he was quitting the band and coming home. They spent some time repairing their family’s relationship.

Eventually returning to music, he started writing and performing faith-based songs.  The turning point came as he understood that, “God spoke to me and said these are the songs, these are the people, these are the places, this is the music that I have for you to write.”

Zach reflects on the seasons of his own life to write from the heart. He says when someone tells him, “Your song saved my life,” that is better than any music award he could win.

When he recorded the demo for There Was Jesus, a woman sang the duet with Zach. Listening to the demo with his producer, he remarked that the woman had a sound similar to Dolly Parton’s. “Wouldn’t it be really cool to have Dolly Parton sing with me on this song?” He says they had a good laugh over it because, come on, Dolly Parton?

But his record label reached out to Dolly’s people and she said she would listen to the song. The words and music had such an amazing impact on her, she listened to just a part of it before she removed her headphones and agreed to the duet even though she had never even heard of Zach Williams!

And the rest is history. The song went on to reach #1 on the Billboard Christian Charts. The two performed a portion of the song on the 2019 Country Music Association awards show which impacted an audience the song might never have reached otherwise.

But what if they hadn’t asked?

What if?

~~~~~

The music video There Was Jesus

Big Daddy Weave’s I am Redeemed

Interview of Zack Williams on Jesus Calling podcast

Another version of the song There Was Jesus with Riaan Benadé and Demi Lee Moore (I love the dog who sleeps throughout the recording session! Apparently, the dog is an electric guitar fan.)

Lifted Up Post “A Permanent Mark” from Nov 1, 2016

From Similar Root Words

words

Some meaningful words harbor negative connotations.

Consider the word “humility.” From the Latin “humilitatem” meaning insignificance, humility isn’t an aspect to which very many people aspire to these days.

Anther similar root word, “humus” (earth), means “on the ground.” Since most of us have been encouraged since birth to aim for the sky, shoot for the moon, and reach for the stars, who wants to be grounded? Grounded is another word with two opposite meanings; the positive spin on the word means steady and stable, and the negative spin means being punished or unable to fly. (Presumably unable to fly to the sky, moon, and stars!)

Even Wikipedia says, “Dictionary definitions accentuate humility as a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness.” That’s certainly not healthy for us.

But the Christian sense of humility provides a different view of it. “A New Introduction to Moral Theology” written by the Church of England clergy says we can’t exist without a sense of selfhood and self-awareness; they’re essential for us to fulfill the gifts of our personality and talents.

Their further definition says this: “Humility is not an attitude which denigrates the self improperly; that is a false humility which can be dangerous. Humility is the virtue which we see in Jesus Christ, a true understanding of his own relationship to God and to others, a sure sense of perspective and proportion.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast includes humility as one of the blessings of life. (See a link to my prior post below.) And he admonishes us to never confuse humility with humiliation. The Latin “humiliare” is the root word of humiliation.

A person who attempts to humiliate another is trying to reduce that other person’s own self-view and/or reduce the person in the eyes of other people. A person who uses humiliation is attempting to shame others, hoping they will lose their self-respect and the respect of others.

In a business blog from six years ago on Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell shares twelve tactics that foolish leaders use to humiliate others. He says that “showing disrespect invites disrespect.”

Of Rockwell’s twelve examples of the destructive heaping of humiliation on another person, (link is below) I believe the four I’ve noted are key for ALL of us to avoid because no matter what our position is in life, we are EACH a leader. (I’ve kept Rockwell’s original numbering.)

#4 “Innocent” sarcasm. Sarcasm is a coward’s way of saying what they really think.

#6  Interrupting while someone is speaking.

#10 Over-generalizing issues by using terms like “always.”

#12 Stealing honor that belongs to another.

The Church of England clergy reminds us that humility “is the light of God shining in the human person.”

Yes, I agree that (in the words of singer Jackie DeShannon) what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

And we also are in dire need of an ample portion of humility.

~~~~~~

Prior post on Brother David

Leadership Freak blog on Humiliation

A portion of MICAH 6:8 says: What does the Lord require of you, but to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God? Listen for these words in the song “Courageous” by Casting Crowns

What the World Needs Now

Does Not Convey

does not convey

Photograph by Norma Thatcher

When you’re selling a house, it’s important to note in the contract what fixtures are included (will convey) in the sale of the home. RealtyTimes.com suggests that the contract should incorporate wording that states “all items in the MLS will convey.”

It appears that many home buying/selling problems occur in the “Personal Property and Fixtures” arena. “Fixture” is defined as something that is physically attached to the property such as a ceiling fan. There are items listed in the contract with a Yes or No box for each one to confirm whether or not the item will convey.

You see, just because an item is in place in the home, it doesn’t mean it will stay. Refrigerators seem to be a big issue in the stories I’ve read. So, while that ceiling fan is likely going to remain, a refrigerator simply needs to be unplugged and lugged to the moving van. Or not.

While I’m not thinking about moving any time soon, I’ve already determined that my antique mantle will not convey. It’s one of those grey area items. The mantle is not part of any fireplace set-up; it’s simply nailed to the breakfast room wall.

I bought the mantle for $300 while our home was still under construction. We intended to install a fireplace in the bump-out in the family room and it appeared to be a perfect fit.  The lady at the antique store told me the mantle had come from a home that had been torn down in Grassy Lick, Kentucky. I like old stuff and wondered how many families had sat around a hearth graced by this mantle.

The mantle sat leaning against the bump-out for several months while construction continued around it. We finally decided on a pellet stove instead of a fireplace. When the sales guy came to the house to take measurements, he had some bad news; the mantle did not provide the necessary clearance for the larger size pellet stove we wanted.

Opting for a smaller stove wouldn’t provide the maximum heat output we deemed necessary to heat the first floor. That is why, on pellet stove installation day, I reluctantly had the workers move my mantle to the breakfast room just to get it safely out of the way.

The mantle sat there beside us, propped against the wall, as we ate our meals and tried to figure out where the mantle would be a good fit. I don’t have a lot of wall space because of the many windows we put in.

After several weeks it dawned on me that I liked the mantle just where it was. Now I can’t imagine the breakfast room without it. I use it for seasonal displays. Cut flowers in vases adorn it during summer. In December the Christmas stockings hang from its edge. It’s become part of the fabric of our home.

So yes, when we move, I’ll leave the new owners the refrigerator and the ceiling fans. But there’s no way I’m leaving this house without my mantle.

~~~~~

Article from RealtyTimes.Com

Going To The Chapel

Chapel

Photo by Norma Thatcher, October 2017

The tiny brownish-red chapel sits as a focal point against a massive rock formation, towering evergreens, and (when in a season of flowing) a waterfall. A photo of the church in a calendar many years ago intrigued me, and I added it to the bucket list of places I wanted to see with my own eyes.

And so it was on my first visit to Yosemite National Park that I visited the Yosemite Valley Chapel.

Built in 1879 with initial funding from the California State Sunday School Association and other contributions, the building costs were around $4000. It seats about 250 people.

The church was originally situated in a busy community referred to then as the Lower Village. As activity fell away from that area, a decision in 1901 had the church dismantled and moved to the upper Yosemite Village. (See map in the link below.)

In 1966 the interior was restored, and the foundation was raised several feet as a means of coping with spring flooding. However, that wasn’t enough to overcome record floodwaters in 1977 that caused damage. But repairs were made, and improvements continue in order to ensure the chapel will remain open.

The Yosemite Valley Chapel was recognized for its simple architecture in 1973 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Noted as “a particularly fine example of the early chapels constructed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains,” that recognition helped put the chapel on the map, so to speak.

The chapel is typically open year-round for non-denominational worship services, but the entire Park is temporarily closed due to the smoke-filled unhealthy air from the wildfires.

The chapel is also a popular wedding destination. Renting for $850 during the peak season, it makes for a lovey minimalist venue. In order to maintain the pristine beauty of the building and surrounding area, there are, understandably, strict rules such as no throwing of rice or birdseed or flower petals or anything else. And your reception will need to be held elsewhere!

Here is a snapshot of a postcard I bought the last time we visited Yosemite in October 2017. The original photo was taken by Dan Warsinger.

chapel

But the calendar photo that originally piqued my interest is glued to the inside back cover of my blog idea notebook. Here it is:

chapel

The quotation accompanying the calendar photo is by Paramabansa Yogananda:

“You should be thankful for everything at all times. Realize that all power to think, and speak, and act comes from God, and that He is with you now, guiding and inspiring you.”

 And standing there at that church, gratitude and awe come quite easily.

~~~~~

Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups

Map showing the Lower Village location

For more photos and information, here’s the official chapel site