I’ve mentioned before that I have a copy of “Here’s to You With Poise”, published by the Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, January 1971. It was created by Naomi Johnson, extension clothing and textiles specialist at Kansas State University so that women could teach themselves to be poised and graceful. Here is her clever little mantra that was to be repeated daily:
“I know I have the ability to walk, stand, and sit gracefully. I know I can do these things, and I promise myself here and now to begin doing some of them at once. There can be no results without desire. I must guard my thoughts. Each one is a seed which will bring forth fruit after its own kind: Action and results of action.”
Naomi gave us specific instructions for how to walk into a room, how to sit down, and how to generally make a great first impression.
I’ll get back to Naomi in a moment.
In preparation for Easter I am reading the gospel of Luke. I chose Luke because I like his narrative style and because his version of the life of Christ is the only one that mentions much of the childhood of Jesus. I was intent on carefully reading those passages because of the release yesterday of “The Young Messiah”, a movie that presents the “speculative story” of Jesus’ childhood created by Anne Rice. Yes, Anne Rice, originator of the classic vampire tales. The moment I read her name I recalled chatting with her at lunch and listening to her explain why she wrote her vampire story during the middle of the night. My encounter with her haunted me for weeks and I refused to read her book. Never have. So I will probably skip her movie, especially after reading a detailed review of it. I know I’m probably wrong to judge her current work by a thirty-minute encounter with her as a young woman, but I’m still baffled by Hollywood’s complete failure to recreate an accurate story of Noah. The Bible provided them with much more information and details about him and they couldn’t get it right, so I don’t have high hopes for this movie.
The two passages that have stayed with me this week and prompted this post are these from chapter two:
17 When they (the Shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
(After the visit to the temple.) 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Mary was a thinker. She didn’t run out and talk about things until she had pondered them and made up her mind. I like to think that God chose her to watch over Jesus because he knew she would be thoughtful and calm.
Back to Naomi.
At first glance her fashion model guidance seems trivial and amusing. But replace her goals with more serious ones and the wisdom of her words becomes obvious.
“I know I have the ability to become healthy by exercising, eating wisely, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. I know I can do these things, and I promise myself here and now to begin doing some of them at once. There can be no results without desire. I must guard my thoughts. Each one is a seed which will bring forth fruit after its own kind: Action and results of action.”
I know I have the ability to become a wiser person by going to school, reading, thinking…
I know I have the ability to become a kinder person by listening to others, reading my Bible…
You can fill in the blanks with your own goals, but the key to achieving them is to begin now and to keep your mind focused on success, not failure. Action and results. Naomi makes perfect sense. And I think Mary would ponder and approve.
“What can you infer from the following sentence?”
That was one of the comprehension questions that accompanied the story read by my students yesterday.
The question was followed by a sentence and four answer options.
Each student read the question.
Each one answered the question.
Only ONE student out of eight had a clue about the meaning of the word “infer”.
Only that one student answered the question correctly.
This seemingly insignificant incident is the very foundation of our reading and testing problems.
Let me point out three important things:
Communication is the purpose of a written language, but there is no communication without understanding. Somehow we need to make sure our children aren’t just “reading words”. We need to stop being impressed by how quickly and efficiently they can read words, and start paying attention to whether or not they understand what they read. Because if they don’t, then what’s the point? I’ve had enough training so that I can see and pronounce a lot of words in Spanish- but I don’t understand what they mean. Does that mean I can “read Spanish”?
I know a lot of people will think I’m just a little crazy to be upset about one word. I wish that were true. The reality is that this happens EVERY day and there is always one word or two words or three words that students technically “read” but do not understand. The worst part is that only a few students are the least bit concerned about NOT knowing. They read the story and answer the questions. That’s the drill. That’s what we’ve taught them to do. That’s the goal. Isn’t it?
When you are old memories “pop up” unexpectedly at the oddest times. Friday I bought a bag of green onions to add to our salads this week. Last night as I began peeling one visions of green onions danced in my brain for several minutes. I saw my dad sitting at the table, dipping his green onions in a pile of salt poured at the edge of his plate. Then I remembered pulling green onions from the garden with my grandfather. Standing next to Mom in the kitchen as she chopped green onions to add to tuna salad. Handing grandmother a bag of green onions during our shopping trip to Safeway. Planting onions with cousin Ina in Iowa. Memories are like spider webs, a joining of seemingly insignificant bits that form a strong and beautiful whole.
I think our brains are actually capable of remembering everything we’ve ever seen and done. You’ve probably seen interviews with those rare people who can’t forget anything. They can tell you what they did at a specific time on any particular day. Fortunately most of us remember only what our brain finds significant, for reasons we may never fully understand. And one of the interesting things I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older is that some of my most vivid memories are of “little things” rather than big events. I don’t remember my aunt’s wedding, but I remember pinching my brother’s finger as we walked down the aisle as ring bearer and flower girl. I wanted him to know that if he did anything to embarrass me I would pinch him again!
When we sat down to dinner I shared my green onion memories with Gary and he shared some of his. He grew up in a household that had more money and more formal rituals so his family actually had “salt cellars”. But dipping onions was still a shared memory. I find it comforting to live with someone who had similar experiences and doesn’t require a lot of details or explanations in order to understand my stories.
I’m looking forward to having more green onions for lunch today. Perhaps even more memories will entertain and enlighten me. I hope you have your own special green onion memories to share with someone.
Yesterday at Walmart we encountered a young father who was preparing to take his son on his first fishing trip. I thought about fishing for the rest of the day! Like Captain Ramius in one of my favorite movies, I miss the peace of fishing.
Some of my earliest and best childhood memories are of fishing with my dad. Mom didn’t seem to like fishing but I was born for it. I liked being outside. I didn’t mind getting dirty. It didn’t bother me to hook a worm. And although I could “chatter like a magpie” according to my dad, I could also sit quietly for long periods of time and just reflect on the beauty of the water. So we fished together anywhere and anytime we could. We gleaned a lot of dinners that way and Mom was appreciative.
The only regret I have with regard to fishing is that Dad never let me go deep-sea fishing. That was strictly for men, not women, and certainly not girls. He went a few times when we lived in CA, but the fish was left at Gran’s café for her to cook. Mom didn’t want to deal with that much fish!
By the time we moved to Oklahoma Dad had sons and friends and other relatives to fish with. He went out in a boat, which frightened me, and he often fished with a trot line, which I found boring. So I seldom went fishing any more.
One of my fondest memories of Dad is the day he brought home a 40+ pound catfish from Lake Texoma. He had it in the back of the pickup and he just told us to “go see what I caught”. I think our startled reactions and subsequent squealing pleased him more than the actual catch.
During our years as young parents Gary and I attempted to fish a few times, but we were never that successful at fishing or convincing our girls to enjoy it. Only Robert developed an affinity for it and even belonged to a fishing club for a while. Ironically though, it wasn’t the fishing that fascinated him, but the creation of the “flies” used in trout fishing.
For a couple of years I worked with a woman who loved fishing so much that she usually fished on a nearby pond for an hour each morning before she went to work. It was her way of meditating and preparing for our hectic days at the advertising agency. I often envied her peaceful morning ritual.
As I was reading my Bible this morning I thought about how many references there are in the New Testament to fishing and fish. Most of the disciples were fishermen. They went out in boats, often at night, and cast nets to catch fish. It was exhausting and dangerous work. Many times hours of casting their nets resulted in little or no fish. So I don’t think it was coincidental that Jesus called fishermen to help him preach the gospel and told Peter and Andrew he would make them “fishers of men”. I like to think that their ability to work long hard hours, get dirty, wait patiently, and try again after failure served them well as disciples.
I’m not likely to go fishing any time soon. I’m not comfortable sitting or standing for hours and I’ve replaced my fishing pole with a camera. But sometimes when I see someone casting their line in the water, I miss the peace of fishing.
A relative recently made the comment “I hope you and Gary are still getting along”, the implication being that now that we are spending much more time together we might have a few more problems. Well, yes…and no. We actually experienced a much more dramatic lifestyle adjustment about a decade ago when Gary went from twelve years as a “home-twice-a-month truck driver” to a “stay-at-home” and work locally kind of husband. I was pretty set in my ways at that point and not used to cooking and cleaning for another person on a daily basis. There were adjustments.
This retirement phase of life has been more gradual. I was home for months while Gary continued to work full time. And of course there were all the health issues and taking turns being nurse. Now that we are both working part-time and home together every night we are enjoying a much more relaxed relationship.
Yes, I’m still bossy and OCD and NOT a risk taker, while Gary is much more tolerant, fun-loving, and fearless. After all, the man has lived with me for almost 44 years- how could he not be more tolerant? But we share the same basic values and have many interests in common. We also have enough separate interests to keep us from driving each other crazy.
Today was a perfect example of our new lifestyle. Both of us were off today. Up at different times. Each of us cooked our own breakfast at different times. Gary worked on his hobby for an hour while I did some laundry. Then we went to the genealogy library together where I retrieved a piece of information I needed for my current research project and he read a book about a WWII pilot. Then off to the Reynolds’ library in Durant to check out some books and free movies for tomorrow. Grocery shopping at Walmart. Home for a late lunch. An hour at home doing a few chores. Then an hour at the gym. Home for projects and reading. In a little while I’ll cook dinner, the only meal I prepare for both of us together. We’ll watch Amazing Race…boring perhaps, but comfortable.
Other days are of course more hectic. We argue a bit from time to time. But yes, Sandy, we are still “getting along” and plan to do so for many more years.
We are going to see “Finest Hours” tomorrow night so I thought about writing a post about movies, but I already had this one from 2005. So I hope you don’t mind a re-run.
I’m not particularly fond of Jell-O, especially red Jell-O, an idiosyncrasy I attribute to one of my earliest movie experiences. I was an impressionable eight-year-old when The Blob, a science fiction movie starring Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut first frightened movie audiences across the nation. The storyline of the movie is uncomplicated: a red blob of goop from a meteor devours people. Sounds lame by today’s mega-special effects standards, but it was a terrifying classic in its day and still has a following. Just Google The Blob and you’ll see what I mean.
The Blob wasn’t the first movie I ever saw, and it certainly wasn’t the only scary movie experience I ever had. Those monkey creatures in The Wizard of Oz had me shivering for weeks! I wasn’t worried about the witch coming to get me, but those monkeys could’ve been anywhere- under the bed, in the closet. I could never be too careful. Later I had bigger worries, like The Birds and The Thing.
Movies have always entertained and fascinated me. I was still very young when I first realized that the movies were an “escape” from real life. I remember coming out of a dark theater, blinking and confused, and thinking “I don’t want to go home!” I wanted to stay in the dark and watch the images on the screen forever. Everyone up there was so much MORE than reality…more beautiful, more scary, more daring, more powerful, more heartbroken. After I watched a movie I would sometimes relive that “world” for weeks and envision myself as the heroine or even the poor hapless victim. I loved Gone With the Wind, Marnie, Vertigo, Lost Horizon, Hatari , and Casablanca and still watch them whenever I get a chance.
That’s another great thing about movies. You can enjoy them even if you know every scene by heart. Hatari is one of my favorite “comfort movies” if I’m sick. I can’t even tell you why. Perhaps it’s the ridiculous scene with everyone chasing the ostriches, or the fact that I adore elephants, or the irony of a film where every other scene starts with a cigarette.
Going to the movies used to be an occasion, an event, an experience. If we went to the indoor theater there was someone to play the organ while people were being seated. Then a man walked out and made announcements. Then there was a newsreel and cartoons and the movie, or movies if there was a double feature. During intermission we could get something to eat or visit with friends and neighbors. And the theater itself was beautiful. I remember going to one that had plush red seats and twinkling stars on the ceiling and gorgeous light sconces on the walls. When I was in the eighth grade my mom used to drop a bunch of us off downtown and we’d see two or even three movies. I remember huddling with my best girlfriend during one of those Alfred Hitchcock scenes where everyone was saying “don’t open the door, don’t open the door!”
Cary Grant was one of my favorite actors. Sophia Loren was the most beautiful woman in the world. I fell madly in love with a Japanese leading man, and now I can’t even remember his name. I do remember hugging his theater poster!
My family didn’t go to the indoor theater much after my brothers began to arrive. Instead we went to the drive-in movie. The drive-in had all the comforts of home, plus the sounds and sights of the movie. Mom filled the back seat of the car with quilts and pillows, made a jug of Kool-aid, and packed a basket of food. If we arrived at the drive-in before dark we could play on the swings in front of the screen. One drive-in in Texas even had a small train that wound around behind the screen and then emerged in front. If we were going to arrive near dusk we just dressed in our pajamas. Dad knew he’d have to carry us straight from the car to bed later, although I have to admit that a couple of times I just pretended to be asleep so Dad would carry me.
I still love movies. Our little town has a first class movie theater. It was the focus of my limited social life when we moved to Oklahoma in the sixties. Then it was forgotten and abandoned for years, and recently restored by a local couple. It’s a wonderful step-back-in-time experience to go there again. I also go to the theater in other towns occasionally, but mostly we just rent or buy movies.
I’m more discerning about what I watch these days. I still like a good scare, but I go for true science fiction or psychological thrillers, not that stupid horror stuff that is based on how much blood and gore they can show in one scene. I went with a friend to see The Grudge. It was so awful we ended up laughing at it! I like a good love story, but it’s difficult to find one these days without a lot of sex. One of my favorites is Sense and Sensibility. I also like a good comedy, but most seem to rely on what I call “bathroom humor”. Drama often resorts to lots of cursing and swearing instead of good writing. “Action” movies mean plenty of hitting, shooting, car chasing, and blowing up things. I guess you have to “kiss a lot of frogs…” to end up with anything worthwhile. I can overlook a bad word here and there. After all I hear them on the street and even in my classroom. I can sit through a sex scene, although my imagination is usually better than what they end up showing. I’ve even indulged my “guys” and watched some dumb comedies and brainless action movies with them. What I wait for, what I long for, is that one movie that comes along and makes me wonder about life, makes me genuinely laugh or cry or worry, makes me feel something remarkable that stays with me. I ridiculed the people who bragged about watching Titanic twenty times when it was first released. Now I’ve joined them! I just bought a DVD because my video tape was destroyed last year by a dying VCR. Why did I need one? I can’t begin to explain it. I just knew I would want to watch the movie again. Just like I know that I’ll watch It’s a Wonderful Life this Christmas, just as I do every Christmas. Just like I know that the next time I have a cold I’ll pop Hatari into the VCR. I’m a movie fanatic, and I don’t mind admitting it.
My mother was fond of telling me “you’ll understand when you’re older”.
While I do find that I now understand many of the things she said and did that were confusing to my child’s brain, there is still a seemingly endless list of things that I don’t understand. And I don’t have much hope of understanding them when I’m a year older or ten years older or 100.
I suppose we all get to the point where we just tolerate, ignore, or endure some things and some people. I realize that my influence is limited and my powers are mortal, so I’m unlikely to change the world. But I am old enough to know that I can make a little difference here and there. So today I voted. I’ll never be old enough or wise enough to figure out how we ended up with these choices, but I know it’s my duty and privilege to choose.
There is something wrong with me- something genuinely, inherently, fundamentally wrong with the way my mind works in comparison to the rest of the inhabitants of the world. I should have been astonished and blessed by the 60 Minutes report about the Sagrada Familia, the famous Roman Catholic basilica in Spain that has been under construction for 133 years and is still not complete. I should have been impressed by the creative genius of the architect, Gaudi. I should have applauded the motivation and determination of those who have dedicated their lives to completing the project. But while I felt those emotions for a few fleeting moments, my overwhelming thought was “what a waste of time and money when Catholics all over the world are starving”. Millions of tourists and donors are footing the bill for the completion of the cathedral- it is estimated the total will be just over a billion dollars- and yet they won’t pay for schools, hospitals, churches, and housing in poor regions of their home countries. Call me a fool, or a socialist, but I’ve always said that there is enough money in the world to pay for ANYTHING we need…we just choose to spend it on other things.
I’ve been going through my photo files this week and collecting some of my favorite ones for a little nature book. In the process I’ve also deleted some duplicate photos and many that simply aren’t good enough to keep any longer. I don’t anticipate using them in the future and they have little sentimental value. No sense taking up space when I usually add about 100 new photos per week.
However, I couldn’t force myself to delete these photos, even though they are certainly lacking in quality and clarity. A couple are barely in focus. Most were taken at night, through a dirty window, or too quickly because of the unusual circumstance. But each one shows an odd pairing of two creatures or an action one doesn’t often see- like the rabbit jumping over his friend or the hummingbird and butterfly competing for the same flower.
Just thought I’d share. They make me smile. Perhaps they will do the same for you.