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Polite Conversation

When I was very young, still at home with my parents, Dad expected us to have what he called “polite conversation” at the kitchen table. Everything was a learning opportunity, so he delighted in having a captive audience while we sat for meals. We said grace, kept our elbows off the table, and were expected to “converse” while we ate our cold cereal, our afternoon sandwich, or our casserole at dinner. Topics got more difficult in high school and college. Gone were the days of discussing what we had learned in school that day; we were expected to discuss the news from the front section of the newspaper, something Walter Cronkite had reported on the Evening News, or the many uses of math in one’s life. It may sound like a drag, but it stuck with me, and I likewise expected my three to participate in “polite conversation” during our sit-down meals. Likewise, my grandchildren cringe when I subject them to inquisitions about their everyday life, their progress in math, and the latest book t…
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Turning Seventy

On my fortieth birthday, the “morale” committee at the middle school where I worked decked the teachers’ lounge with black crepe paper, black balloons, and black cardboard cutouts of head stones announcing I was “over the hill” and “older than dirt.” I realized I shouldn’t have been so forthcoming about my age. As I slunk away to the teachers’ parking lot at the end of the day, I found my silver convertible covered in more birthday graffiti. They left a bull’s eye open on the front windshield so I could drive it home, but I stopped at the first car wash and erased all of it. That was thirty years ago. I don’t remember my fiftieth birthday nor my sixtieth. My birthday amnesia stems partly from a divorce when I turned fifty, and I was wiser when I turned sixty and kept my age a secret from everyone but a close few, but this one is big. It’s real. I can no longer pretend to be “young.” I may never be older than dirt but I am definitely “over the hill.” I don’t feel old nor do I have regre…

Mankind Was My Business

“Mankind was my business; . . . charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all, my business.” I scanned past the many videos on social media of people fighting over things during Black Friday sales. People elbowed others to claim televisions or rice cookers. They trampled each other and wrestled dolls and video games out of outstretched hands, then they laughed derisively as they headed for the checkout counters. *** The term Black Friday has a long history –before it came to represent the big sales day after Thanksgiving where stores vie with each other to attract sales, it used to refer to the Wall Street Crash of the 1860’s. It all has to do with money and economics. Merchants willingly go into the “black” to meet sales quotas, but don’t let that fool you. If done right, they do not lose any money. They make up any loss by selling in volume, and often, once customers have been lured into their store, they buy other items. I think we should take the evolution of the word Black…

Just Yesterday

Just yesterday, I was twenty years old. In college. Getting my teaching certificate. The world ahead was wide open. My dreams were finally blossoming. Just yesterday, I was in my forties. Married. Three children. A career that I loved. Things weren’t perfect and my dreams had taken a 180, but I wasn’t complaining. Just yesterday, I was in my sixties. Divorced. Remarried to someone who understood me better than anyone. Kids grown, married, with families of their own. One wonderful career accomplished; a second one just beginning. Just yesterday, I couldn’t hurry fast enough to get everything done that I wanted. Now I am here, at this stage of life. I look back to yesterday and it is full of memories, people, family, good times and bad. Just yesterday, I started with a list and now I hold this scrapbook in my hands. It is full, pieces stick out of the pages, stuffed full of memories. Every picture, every entry, every tiny scrap, good or bad, reminds me of trials, hugs, laughter, experien…

Getting my Money’s Worth Out of my TV

At the end of my day, I retreat into my living room and turn on my TV to relax. I pay for over 400 channels and feel I should get my money’s worth, but I have a hard time finding something I like to watch that keeps me entertained. I watch local news and avoid the national news. I do it because I need to bring down my blood pressure and not elevate it. Adulting has bombarded me all day long with its heaviness and I need to relax and feed my brain with positive thoughts. I watch game shows, rerun comedies, and old movie favorites. I find I go through cycles. I’ll watch the same game shows for months and then when I tire of that I switch to reruns. If I am in the mood for a movie, I’ll do a search and choose one that might sound interesting. If none sounds good, I go to my DVR’d list and watch one that I’ve seen multiple times. I’ll let you into some of my TV watching secrets. I’ll tape Jeopardy and then go back and watch the episode, answering the questions before the participants. I pr…

Seasoned

One writer friend wrote a memoir about her grandmother’s youth, a lovely photograph of how Grandma met Grandad. Another friend wrote a bio about her father and the hardships he encountered in his youth. Both wanted to capture these moments for future generations so that these dear people and their lives would not be forgotten. Another friend wrote a Christian devotional about the seasons in one’s life. Written like a workbook, the reader studies and assesses each facet of their lives. An eye opener, the book assures the reader that it has nothing to do with age; it might be possible to be at the start of one project or relationship in life (the spring) while at the same time be at the end of another cycle (the winter). I have never been one to notice age. As a child, I held my own among the adults around me. When I graduated from college and started out into the world, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow adults, regardless of age or experience. I often forget that I might be am…

Unconventional Character Study

When I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Writing was easy. I would be rich and famous before I turned forty, retire from the daily grind, and spend the rest of my life touring the country – the world! – sharing my deep and intense knowledge of all things writing. I labored over that first attempt for years. I read every craft book available about character building, plotting a novel, and writing scintillating dialog. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but there was a disconnect between what the craft books said and what ended up on my paper. My biggest weakness was a realistic grip at “characterization.” Craft books back then focused on building a character from the outside in, how the character looked, instead of looking at what motivated the character and then how it projected itself outward onto how the character dressed and acted. So, I resorted to skulking, stalking, and slinking. I packed up my kids. At the time one was in elementary scho…