Happy Birthday, the United States of Erica

fireworks

7-4-2013

 

“Out on a spin in search of curry powder and hot peppers- a man on a voyage to the grocery- he stumbled onto the land of heroic Vikings and proceeded to get the credit for it. And then to name it America after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian who never saw the New World but only sat in Italy and drew incredibly inaccurate maps of it. By rights, it should be called Erica, after Eric the Red, who did the work five hundred years earlier. The United States of Erica. Erica the Beautiful. The Erican League.” – Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor

I’ve tried to avoid all the patriotic and unpatriotic posts today. But, a few jumped out at me anyway.

On one extreme was the photo of the family dressed in red-white-and-blue for ‘God and Country Day’. On the other extreme was one who was going to wear black today and she didn’t celebrate for the first time in her life because of her newfound enlightenment.

But, the very best thing I read all day was from my acquaintance/friend, Jamie, who said,

“If Lee Greenwood sees his shadow, we get 6 more weeks of freedom.”

His Day

68466_10200167186841559_1690203597_n

November, 2012 – Vilano Beach

Today’s prompt(s) were the Two-for Tuesday: Beginnings or endings . My poem is a combination of sorts.

His Day

His days often went backwards
He could not find his hat
He had to have that hat to get on the train
It was time to go
Where was his sandwich?
He knew his mother had made a sandwich
Tomato on white bread with mayo
“Here’s your hat. Just sit down
It’s not time to go yet.”
She said this nearly everyday
He sat
He dozed
When he awoke, Wheel of Fortune was on
They watched together
Sometimes he guessed the phrase before the contestants
At bedtime, he always kissed his wife goodnight
At the end of the day he knew her

Last year’s Day 4 prompt was Distance .  My baseball themed poem was Go the Distance

Life and Death

 

gull

I wrote some thoughts on death a few weeks ago, and I wanted this to go hand-in-hand with that post.

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as microscopic swarm, the lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks late, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us. -from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I love this description of the beginning of life. Job knew all about life and death. Oh to be like Job; to learn how to accept when the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”            Job 1:21

We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if.”

But we are always optimists when it comes to time: we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.

We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

That last quote about fearing that death will take someone else is so true. I know I will die one day, and I don’t want it to be anytime soon. But, I also don’t like the thought of outliving all my loved ones. I have watched my mother lately as she has lost several longtime friends. I guess when you get to be 80 that is bound to happen. But, it still doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it probably makes you think about death just a little too much.

 

John (the author’s husband) shrugs his shoulders… “Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop…You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us. It’s all good.” – from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Thanks for the Memory

once

London, July 26, 1943 – “When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. The man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people,” – from Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck

bob

After reading this, I had to do a little research on the man. I’ve enjoyed his movies over the years, and knew about his USO work, but I wanted to know more.

The song “Thanks for the Memory”, which later became his trademark, was introduced in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938 as a duet with Shirley Ross, accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra. The fluid nature of the music allowed Hope’s writers to later create variations of the song to fit specific circumstances, such as bidding farewell to troops while on tour. It has been sung by many of the greats over the years, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, as well as in numerous parodies. When I was in college, my sorority wrote several parody songs and jingles to use during rush, and this was one of them. I sure wish I could remember the words we sang!

Hope performed his first USO show on May 6, 1941, at March Field, California, and continued to travel and entertain troops for the rest of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the third phase of the Lebanon Civil War, the latter years of the Iran–Iraq War, and the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War. Sometimes his wife, Dolores, joined him and once his granddaughter, Miranda, did also. Hope made 57 tours for the USO between 1941 and 1991 and was declared an honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces in 1997 by act of the U.S. Congress.

bob-with-gis

1944

 

Other things I learned:

  • He and Dolores were married in 1934 and they adopted four children.
  • He was very involved with Fight for Sight, a nonprofit organization in the United States which funds medical research in vision and ophthalmology.
  • “Thanks for the Memory” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  • Hope was an investor/part owner of the Cleveland Indians.
  • Hope died of pneumonia at his home, two months after his 100th birthday.

Here are the original lyrics to “Thanks for the Memory”

Thanks for the memory
Of sentimental verse
Nothing in my purse
And chuckles
When the preacher said
For better or for worse
How lovely it was

Thanks for the memory
Of Schubert’s Serenade
Little things of jade
And traffic jams
And anagrams
And bills we never paid
How lovely it was

We who could laugh over big things
Were parted by only a slight thing
I wonder if we did the right thing
Oh, well, that’s life, I guess
I love your dress

Thanks for the memory
Of faults that you forgave
Of rainbows on a wave
And stockings in the basin
When a fellow needs a shave
Thank you so much

Thanks for the memory
Of tinkling temple bells
Alma mater yells
And Cuban rum
And towels from
The very best hotels
Oh how lovely it was

Thanks for the memory
Of cushions on the floor
Hash with Dinty Moore
That pair of gay pajamas
That you bought
And never wore

We said goodbye with a highball
Then I got as high as a steeple
But we were intelligent people
No tears, no fuss
Hooray for us

Strictly entre nous
Darling, how are you?
And how are all
Those little dreams
That never did come true?

Awfully glad I met you
Cheerio and toodle-oo
Thank you
Thank you so much
Songwriters: Leo Robin / Ralph Rainger

There are so many versions. Here’s a clip from the movie – some of the words are different from those above.

 

Pinterest Worthy? Huh?

This post is for me, but maybe it’s for you, too. In reading a recent blog, I came across some interesting statements.

“Make your home Pinterest worthy”

Is that a thing? Are we now striving to make our homes worthy of Pinterest? I mean, I really enjoy Pinterest. I’ve found lots of cool stuff there, and I use it to keep things organized, like books I want to read and recipes I want to try. But, the ideas I find and/or use from Pinterest are to help me, not so that I can feel like I’m worthy if I use them.

“Who doesn’t want their life to look like a Pinterest board?”

Me. Sure, I’m excited that the kitchen cabinets I painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint turned out well. So did the Superhero Tootsie Pops for my grandson’s birthday. But, it’s not my goal to spend all my time trying to have a perfect house. Even so, I HAVE succumbed to the lure of the before-and-after pictures and the DIY projects. I have gone to Pinterest to just browse for five minutes and found myself surfacing an hour later, with new pins and a house full of dusty furniture.

“Curate your coffee table”

This one was actually funny. I dream of flowers and artfully placed books, but I end up with neatly stacked magazines on a good day.

A few days after I read the above quotes, my daughter-in-law posted something on facebook that I think ties in well here. She quoted the following from an article on HuffPost.

“despite the parenting books, the blogs, the Facebook groups, the Twitter hashtags, the Pinterest boards pumping us full of so much rhetoric and infinite guilt our instincts and sensibilities have vanished into thin air — the singular act of raising a child hasn’t changed all that much over the years. It’s still so damn hard. And like the generations of parents that came before us, we’re all making it up as we go along.”

When I was a young mother, I didn’t have the pressure of social media. There was no facebook for me to live up to by posting numerous pictures of my happy little family. There was no twitter to tell everyone how cool I was. There was no Pinterest to make me feel as I should be working on home projects and throwing elaborate birthday parties.

I’m grateful to see that some of this is dawning on my sweet daughter-in-law. Now it’s time for me to face the music. As an empty nester, I find myself unwisely wasting time on the internet, and comparing my home, my family, even my book reading, to people I hardly even know, or don’t know at all. It’s time to harness it all in; to use the good parts as a tool for good and to be wiser in the use of all the time wasters I’ve fallen prey to.

If this helps or causes anyone to stop and think, I’ll be pleased and grateful.

Say Yes to Life

open

Madeleine L’Engle, an author of books for children as well as books for adults, once said, “A children’s book must be … a book that says yes to life.” I think this is a profound statement.

I’ve been working off and on for quite a while on a book. It is aimed at middle-grade readers and I want it to be a book that impacts for good.

I was dismayed last year  while I was browsing the covers of some books that had been put out on display for middle schoolers. Now, I don’t mean we have to stay away from every hard subject of life, but one book there was definitely not one that this age group of young teens should be reading. And it wasn’t just the topic, suicide, but it was other things I found as I flipped through the pages; things I don’t even want to write here.

I see no reason kids need to have gutter language and sexual innuendo paraded and applauded. They get enough of that on TV and in the locker room and behind the teacher’s back. Why can’t novels be something uplifting and something to produce better thoughts?

Here are some of my favorite books for middle-grade students:

  • The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Okay for Now by Gary D.Schmidt
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Gone From These Woods by Donny Bailey Seagraves
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

What are your thoughts on reading material for middle school?