Moment is Now

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What’s the length of a “Moment” you might ask.  That word appears frequently  in writing, particularly when describing a period of time.

            “Wait up a moment,” you might shout out to a friend.  You read it often in romance novels.  To me a romance writer just cannot  say “he looked into her tangerine eyes for six and a half seconds before deciding to kiss her.”  No, I feel positive the writer then would substitute “a moment” instead of being so exacting. For some it may  mean “a minute.” To others longer. When you spend an hour pulled out of a day spent with someone special, a moment may represent a  block of time.  

            The word “moment” is an old word that has regained much usage in recent months.  It heralds from the Fourteenth Century but according to the Oxford dictionary can mean present time, a particular moment or a period of time.   

            For example, Captain Chesley Sully Sullenberger has used it often when  describing his emergency landing on Hudson River.  He had a moment to decide what to do—he can’t remember or will even calculate how many seconds it took. On Sept. 30 Senator Cory Booker said “this is a dangerous moment in time,” meaning a period of days. 

            This week (Oct 1 to 5, 2020)  I began to hear it used more frequently as President Trump went to the hospital and news people recounted certain time periods.    

October 2, 1 p.m. Chuck Todd “a moment like this” referring to a 14-day quarantine period. Usage continued, many adding an adjective. Bazaar moment. Not a fake moment. A get real moment. A sober moment. A snapshot moment. We take from this moment.  And, on and on.   

            “Is this a moment we didn’t think would come?” October 2 at 4:30 p.m.  Nicole Wallace asked.   Thus, I cannot but conclude that it all means  the “moment” is now.

It’s Time to Have Grit

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  I don’t often review a book, but this one has given me a lot of thought.  The  book is timely.  It’s called  ”Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth. Although the book is two years old, just last night the author appeared on an MSMBC  program and she also will host an   AM Joy news hour.

The book  is about how the power of grit can  help you achieve your potential.  “What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends tremendously on our grit– our passion, our perseverance for long term goals.”  Duckworth  is now a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Formerly she worked with West Point cadets to determine what inspires perseverance.  I thought it would have some inspiration for senior citizens like me—it does sometimes.  However, now she is promoting how perseverance can help you find hope and decrease depression during this pandemic. 

Through  charts, data, and grids she  challenges people to keep going. She suggests that Grit can be cultivated by family culture or special support groups. Duckworth’s experience is that once you have done the work (for me, exercise to gain back leg  strength) you have then created a clear vision that you should follow. Discipline and effort then will help maintain that vision.  Passion,  Perseverance and Hope  go hand in hand.  Many quotes are given by college coach John Wooden and  Seattle Seahawks coach  Pete Carroll. “Create a vision for yourself and stick with it,” advises Carroll, “you can make  amazing things happen in your life.”

Last night Duckworth asked  “what can you control?  One thing is hopelessness.  How can we change?  By helping others during this period.  Take control of your time.  To be gritty is to resist complacency, whatever it takes.” Although she has somewhat repositioned the purpose of her book, she is suggesting a method by which you can channel your vision to achieve a healthier attitude during this period in time.  So, Persevere!  Stay cool!  Frances     

Saying Thank You

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            Saying “thank you” is a very simple task.  Maybe that’s why it seems to be so difficult for many people to write it. 

            Yes, you may even agree.  Expressing gratitude verbally seems to be easier than writing or texting it.  As soon as a deed is done, such as a package is delivered, a quick “thanks” is shouted out.  If it’s a task, often “well done” is said instead or “good job.”   During the current pandemic  singer/songwriter Alicia Kays and others have expressed their thanks in song. “Good Job, ”  she composed and sang. 

            Signs stating “thank you” have gone up outside hospitals and fire stations all over America.  Just simple signs.  Ones that can quickly be written.  It seems like the politically correct thing to do.   The signs last for a  few hours, days, weeks into months.   

            Frequently clapping is another way to express appreciation. Applause after a concert or symphony is how an audience will express its appreciation and bring a conductor or musician back on stage.  Applauding  a recovered patient as he leaves the hospital has become a  custom of many health institutions today.  It’s easy to do.  

            Once upon a time years ago, companies got in the habit of giving out “Atta boys” as corporate signs of appreciation.  Companies had Quality programs and the thank you rewards there were gift cards or plastic signs or paperweights for your desk that signified gratitude.

            Expressing thanks, however, becomes more complicated when it is written or texted. It may also be more difficult to compose.  Research published in Psychological Science and co-authored  by Amit Kumar, assistant professor at University of Texas,   says “anxiety about what to say or fear of their gesture being misinterpreted causes many people to shy away from expressing genuine gratitude “  (in writing).   

            Once a week TV entertainer Jimmy Fallon brings thank you cards to his desk and with music to match writes “thank you for” …… He has made it an regular part of his show.   It doesn’t seem difficult the way he does it. 

            Right now high school seniors, college students, job hunters who are being interviewed  are faced with writing an expression of gratitude back  for someone’s recommendation.  

            Here again a simple “thank you” may be all that is necessary.  What is significant about Kumar’s research and its result is that such notes and letters of gratitude should be written and sent more often.

            “When we saw that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these, thoughtful ones  and sincere  ones, and  it comes at little cost,” they recognized that the  benefits  were  larger than people expected.

            Unfortunately we may be saying it so much that it becomes easy to slide across our lips, and it may have become even meaningless.  

Green is alive

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Green grows the  grass.  Green in all its vibrancies and shades grows in my garden. And, green must be this year’s favorite color with designers.  Unfortunately some of that green becomes so light on packaging that it is difficult to read.  Especially on food packaging.

My most difficult to read nomination goes to Perdue Simply Smart (but great tasting) Chicken Breast  Cutlets frozen bag.  On the back the cooking instructions blend from a medium green to a tiny font of light green blending into a white background.  Yes, I was challenged to microwave from those instructions.  However, the Nutritional Facts panel is in black and white on a white background. 

This is  not the only food packaging  splashed with green.  Green Giant recently redesigned some of its Simply Steam frozen food packages—and there it is dark to light green on the back of Broccoli Spears. Compliments go to Lean Cuisine which did just the reverse on their frozen foods—using white type lettering bursting out of several shades of green.  Marie Callender also uses similar green mixtures on some of its frozen boxes. Perhaps “green” is just one of those colors that whets the appetite. 

One of the most prominent users  of green is Fidelity in its TV commercials.  Follow that green arrow.  You’ll also find on screen  True Green  grass.  Then there’s the Weather Channel and other weather reports where you’ll see green splotches racing across the weather map screen representing rain.

Throughout civilization green also has come to mean money.  “Give me the green stuff.”  It’s also an old name coming from Europe as  my family’s name.  In one of my favorite movies, “Predator”, green comes alive.  So let’s leave it at that:  Green makes me come alive!

Moon Talk

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A couple of months back–August, I believe, the month was labeled “Moon Month,” meaning that it was the 50th anniversary of man’s landing/walking on the moon. A few years back we used to know the names of the first astronauts. Today we are lucky if we recall those names or even recent ones. There’s the Kelly twins of recent trips and the medical assignments they participated in. And, recently I heard Mary Ann Jung, a Maryland actress and Smithsonian scholar, gave a presentation on Sally Ride’s life in zero gravity aboard the Space Shuttle.

When my son, Scott, was in Cub Scouts we lived in the Chicago area and made a trip to the Cernan Space Center at a local community college. It had been planned and supported by that astronaut. It was a very nice center with a large telescope that the Scouts enjoyed visiting.

But what I remember most was having the opportunity of meeting Commander Scott Carpenter, the astronaut that just circled the moon . It happened one day in January when I twas walking the aisles of a national food convention in McCormick Place, Chicago, and there he was. (He was a member of the Apollo group.) Traditionally at conventions big companies employ a celebrity to spend a day or so greeting visitors to their booths. Commander Carpenter was promoting Fugi Film and handing out NASA lapel pins of rockets.

Actually there were very few people walking nearby and no other person in the Fugi booth because at that very moment another celebrity was signing autographs at another booth across the hall. The attraction was baseball player Hank Aaron and the line to meet him wound around the wall of the hall and beyond. I walked up to Commander Carpenter and held out my hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said, or something like that. I actually could not believe that people would pass up a chance to meet an astronaut and go wait an hour in line for a baseball players handshake. Someone who had flown within spitting distance of the moon and returned. “It looks like he is drawing a big crowd,” I said by way of small talk, and took my pin.

“I wish I was in that line,” Carpenter casually responded. I couldn’t believe it. He sounded so wistful just like my son might have sounded about receiving a signed baseball. Although Carpenter never went back into space, he did continue explorations under the sea, spending 30 days in the Navy’s Sea Lab II program and other Navy projects. He also wrote novels about submarine warfare, etc. that I enjoyed reading in later years. The one thing that I always have regretted was not getting his autograph. But I still have the pins.

Books for decor or reading

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In recent years I have become obsessed with books that serve as background decorations rather than for reading. This is not unusual because it has gone on for a long time. But it is fascinating–at least to me.

On President’s Day I was watching “55 Days in Peking” on Turner Classic  Movies (TCM)  when midway through there stood actor Charlton Heston  in front of an interesting book case in Peking’s government house. It was filled with books except for two areas where two white camels stood,  drawing your eyes away from the books as well as Heston’s dialogue.  Thanks to  the set director.

Today you will find many news commentaries (MSNBC, CNN, etc. ) given in front of a books background.  Have you ever noticed the arrangement of the books?  They are not all setting in up and down style  but here and there will be three or four books laying on their sides. I don’t think these arrangements are made for you to read the titles of the books, just for a pleasing  background.  At this same time Bernie Sanders announced  his candidacy for president.  What was behind him?  A panel of books but somewhat blurred. I wondered if it might be a book wallpaper which I have seen available in rolls.

During the George Busch (the son) administration I was an officer in  the Illinois Chapter of National Federation of Press Women . During our national convention I  was invited to sit at a table with the keynote speaker Peggy Noonan, who was a prominent Capitol Hill reporter at the time.  Now at  the time President Busch gave his press briefings in what appeared to be the library.  Or at least there appeared to be a wall of books behind him.  Behind his right shoulder was a standout blue book with a ratty binding.  I asked Peggy if she had ever noticed that book and what was the title.  She never did get back to me, but the briefings moved on.  I have often wondered if  the books were signed by their authors or if someone just collected books from the White House basement and popped them on the bookcase.

There was a point in time when people with bookshelves would just go to Goodwill or a book store and buy discarded books and fill their shelves.  At one time I too subscribed to Great Books because the bindings were richly matched in mauve, greens and browns.  My mother-in-law gave me a set of  five books by Pearl Buck in matching tan covers with gold  imprinted titles. Started off with The Good Earth.   

One place where you can still find beautifully matched books is a law office.  So many of these are available digitally that the books seem to be subscribed to just for decoration. In the 1950s when I began my career with a law firm in Springfield, MO.  I really did open and use those books.  They were heavy but beautiful!

A Welcome Door

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Have you ever thought of a door as a welcoming element?  Mostly I’ve thought of doors as a means of keeping other people out.  Recently, I read in “Money Magazine ” that the color of a door could add as much as $6,000 to a home.  And, that color is black!

That’s the findings of the real estate company, Zillow, that has been studying doors since 2010 and taken 135,000 photos of same. According to  a black door gives the impression of  stately, seriousness and safety.  According to Zillow’s design expert, Kerrie Kelly, it ‘s comparable to the little black dress or suit.  Thinking back, I have had at least two black  doors that I remember, both in Illinois.  The doors were painted black because we had children running in and out in muddy and rainy weather and their boots often hit the door.  Seasonal decorations also looked nice and visible hanging on a black door.

About that time I also was working for a community newspaper called  The Arlington Day, a Marshall Field paper.  One of the features we came up with was to have a picture of a famous or historical door on the cover of the real estate section.  One of the doors I remember that was rather plain was the front door of Blair House in Washington D.C. which at that time was where the Vice President lived.  Today it is a special house for guests and recently the Bush Family stayed there.

Another special historical door I went through a few years ago was the headquarters of George Washington at Valley Forge.  My grand daughters were with me and they sat down on the stoop and had their photos made, “sitting on the steps of the liberty tree.”

Another door I noted recently was the Better Homes & Gardens  blue door in an ad in  their magazine.  Looked terrific with plants all around it.  Driving around my neighborhood I noticed mostly black, but there were a few red doors with garlands, wreaths, etc. and a couple of seasonal ones where a fabric or colored paper was wrapped around the door.  Christmas is another time when some decorators like to tie a ribbon around the door like a package.   I did note that wreaths are the most popular item for hanging on doors, and  they generally express spring, winter or fall.

So, if you are planning to sell your house soon, maybe you should think about the door. It might not even be necessary to do all the other repairs and wall painting you generally think about.

















Let’s Celebrate

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Every day offers an opportunity to celebrate, but we generally ignore it. Instead we’re waiting for a special opportunity– that type of opportunity that offers a  big bang climax, maybe even sparklers and fireworks lighting up the sky.   We forget that there are both big celebratory events and mini- moments. Think of them! Can you give it a try—like celebrating when you find  a quarter laying on the pavement, or a  chocolate cake reduced to $5.95.

The word “celebrate,” I think, is really a synonym for other words such as  “commemorate” or “appreciate.”  In fact, “celebrate” in its simplest form  may mean being “thankful” for something whether it’s large or small.

Yes, most of the time we use “celebrate” only for special events, when actually we should be celebrating every moment—good or bad.  Celebrating a good thing always seems to be easy and greeted with anticipation.  But to celebrate a bad moment or event is very hard to do and generally seldom heard of.  Bad luck , we call it.

Even recognizing that we might  learn a lesson from an unfortunate moment  shuts down our ability and willingness  to feel and care and think objectively.  Why should we celebrate the bad or sad times?  Because it lets us become something of a forensic expert who examines all the features and facts of a problem.  To remember, perhaps, to look back and ask ourselves: Could we have done better?  Was there something I could have done that I didn’t do or say?

Can you remember one good thing that came out of a bad event?  In the case of world affairs, often there is a treaty or

policy that brings forth peace or greater understandings.  On a smaller scale a neighbor may shake a neighbor’s hand after an angry encounter,

Dating back to the beginning of time, there are traditional events that have become the fabric of our culture.   There are religious  holidays such as Christmas that we celebrate with reverence  and historical campaigns such as the  Fourth of July  or Memorial Day that are greeted with parades and red, white and blue banners.  Families frequently gather in personal ways for  birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and reunions that are observed in a celebratory manner.

If you are looking to  start your own celebration,  challenge yourself.  Or, there also  is a book that can help  jump start  and find special days and months that you might want to observe.  It’s called  “Chase’s Calendar.”  It lists all types of events that will bring a smile to an otherwise dull day such as National Hot Dog Month that has been celebrated for over thirty years each July, or  National Donut Day, National Pickle Week or Avocado Day that was started last week  (July, 2018).

But something  much easier to do is  to look up into the sky at night or in the day —or out across your garden where you might see a flower or a tall green weed, and think in a positive  way.

In fact, shout it out.  “Celebrate.”   It’s a good exercise and it lets every inch and breath  of your body celebrate every day of  your life.  Do it now. Then whisper softly,  “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Now that’s  a good way–, no a great  way  to celebrate!



































Art of Spoken Word

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How much do you like poetry?  I’m a so-so reader, meaning no respect to the many people I know who write poetry.  But recently I  become aware of a new word–“spoken word” which is poetry being recited aloud.

A triple dozen years ago when I was in junior high level, I recited a poem in the region’s consolidated school communications contest.  It was something about a crooked man, etc.  Anyway I stood straight and tall in front of a microphone (for the first time) and recited my poem. My tone changed here and there as I spoke, and the whole presentation was called a “dramatic reading.”  I didn’t win but I remember the experience of hearing other contestants really becoming dramatic.

Today, many people are reciting their poetry in the spoken word’s dramatic style, not in the low “Robert Frost” fashion of old.  They are dramatic, spontaneous and use many changes to their tone of voice.  Recently  Ken Brown, a Baltimore poet, talked to the Baltimore Chapter of Maryland Writers.  He read several of his poems in the spoken word style.  “It’s not hip hop or rap” he explained, “There’s really no definition of spoken word, its the reading of it that  makes the quantitative deference..”

When delivered  or recited as Mr. Brown did, it became a rhythmic presentation, a recital of words  unaccompanied by music as hip hop is.  You might say that delivery  is the most up front difference.  A good deal of body movement is also added and the speaker may move around the stage using arm movements, etc. It really becomes a “dramatic reading” more than the one I delivered.  Poet Brown also explained that many  spoken word poets  write of wars and civil unrest, which are good themes for dramatic verbiage.

Just after meeting Ken Brown I learned it was National Poetry Month and read that Thomas C.Foster had published the book “How to Read Poetry Like a Professor” Harper perennial  ISBN 9780062113788.  A review of his book quotes him as saying he is a big advocate of reading poetry aloud  and encourages us to set aside any self conscious apprehensions we may have about doing so.” In speaking it and hearing it we learn to feel poetry,”he writes/  He also writes that  poems are “occasions to explore the divinity of experience and the miracle of imagination.”

According to Brown, poets begin writing as poets and then they begin changing as many large umbrella become available to them.  Change is good, they say.





Nursery Rhyme Themes

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A thought for the day and more….

I’m sorry to say that I don’t read poetry often.  However, recently I read  a poetry book written by an acquaintance.  Each poem was a take-off about a nursery rhyme or fairy tale character.  Did you ever wonder what might have happened to any of your favorite characters when they grew up?   I never did.

For example, what did Miss Muffitt do after she had eaten her curds and why.  Did she go off to school or shopping?  Another poem talked about Cinderella’s shoes.  Could you imagine that she started a shoe store .  Then there were a couple of other characters such as Pinocchio and Tom Tom the piper’s son who grew up to become politicians.   That actually didn’t surprise me.  I think I caught Pinocchio appearing once in a Geico commercial.

Something else that I learned was that poems don’t necessarily rhyme anymore.  21st Century poetry sometimes is long running prose that does say something, but may not have rhyming words in it.

That was the day too that I read that  people are more and more writing memoirs that contain fiction to help dress up their memory.  Is that legal?  Probably so unless someone can correct the writer.

After learning all of these interesting writing facts, I decided  I may be going crazy.  Or, maybe that is why my own writing has not been selling like hotcakes!    I can always find an excuse.