Helping

When exasperated by a child’s lapse, my maternal grandmother was known to use the admonishment: “This is the last time I am going to tell you.” My aunt became famous for the daring retort, “I am glad it’s the last time because I’m sick of hearing it.” Words have a way of twisting back on you. My brother and I were tasked with doing the dishes together. We would each do our half and there would still be half left over. My Mother once was so disgusted at our arguments that she began finishing the job herself. We, of course, would not let her. The bluff might not have worked if we were absolutely certain Dad would not find out about our behavior. My Mother eventually solved the problem by assigning us alternating nights. Then we could argue over who got the easier night without so many pans. I have been notoriously good at performing badly enough to eliminate repeat requests for aid. While helping my brother David move, I dropped a load of prized paintings and smashed all the glass in the frames. When cleaning out a storage locker in Los Angeles with my brothers, I accidentally took David’s suitcase to Goodwill with all his clothes and toiletries for the trip in it. When my incompetence is coupled with my obnoxious temperament, I have angered people to the point of being specifically told that I would never be asked to help again. I usually recover from my first wave of dejection by reminding myself that such rejection is more of a reward than a punishment.

False Memories

Recently my nephew’s wife Marnie was explaining to me the psychology behind false memories. My first contact with the phenomenon came in my early 50’s when my wife recounted a scary incident from 15 years earlier when my three sons and I were trapped on the 520 floating bridge. High winds closed the bridge but we were in a long line that had to be turned around mid span. A stranded 18 wheeler could not turn, making the clearing of the bridge long and tedious. Meanwhile, winds were buffeting my little Volkswagen Rabbit all over. I had everyone roll down the windows and let the wind blow through to take the pressure off. Consequently, we all got soaked. I told the story many times with details about the motorcyclist with bigger troubles but an easier route off the bridge. This time, though, my wife was recounting the adventure as if she were in the car. I was incredulous and reminded her that she was not present. She angrily called two of our sons back East to prove that she was part of the episode. Much as they usually delight in siding against me, they confirmed that she was not there. The retelling of the story over the years was so vivid that she would have testified in court that she was in that automobile. The epiphany for me was that I could no longer rely on my old memories because my wife was more competent and less prone to exaggerations than me. I was as shook up by the experience as she was, partly because she never apologized for the names she called me before learning the truth. So now I am not even sure it was Marnie I was talking to about this the other day.

Anatole France

What a wonderful blogger Anatole France would have made. I never read any of his novels, partly because they were in French. But he could express wonderful soundbites for people with short attention spans like me. My favorite quote of his is popularly translated: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” I was seduced by his words many decades before I learned he was an atheist, socialist, and supporter of the French Communist Party. I am crediting him with his words because he was too famous for me to get away with stealing them. But he himself would not have cared because he said, “When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it.” Indeed, his original words have been wrongly attributed and/or paraphrased, e.g., “If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” I have a personal connection with Anatole France because I think he was scolding me when he said, “He flattered himself on being a man without any prejudices; and this pretension itself is a very great prejudice.”

Killer Headline

I usually try to assemble things before reading the directions even though I have no aptitude for assembly and the results are usually disastrous. After 128 daily blogs, I finally skimmed The Golden Rules of Blogging and realize I should have read it 128 days ago. Micah Baldwin is quoted in the book saying a blogger wants conversations to occur about the topic but writers just want people to read what they write. I do not consider being a writer some lesser state of being than a blogger but I am willing to consider the blogging rules. Rule #1: Blog for your Target Audience. My whole life my target audience has been hot chicks but my postings on Centenarians and Seventyish seem to be missing the mark. Rule #2: Self host, do not use WordPress. Rule #8: Stick to one topic or niche. A little late for that. Rule 10: Blog about your topic, not about yourself. That will never work. Rule #12: Always include at least one image. I would definitely include many pictures of myself if I had the technical capability. Rule 14: Killer Headlines are essential. Rule 18: Do not steal someone else’s words. Oh yeah, Robin Houghton wrote these rules. Rule 28: Know all the rules before you begin. Rule 9: Always end with a question. Does any of this make much sense or is it hopeless for me?

Gift Exchanges

Our family exchanged gifts this holiday season. My middle son Dustin called to find out if any package we mailed his family contained chocolate because their pet mouse will chew through packaging on night raids to get to the sweets. I described the Seattle Mariner M&M package I sent him but he was not motivated enough to put it away somewhere safe. His prediction was accurate, though. So he received only mouse food from me because the Seahawk towel I ordered is set for delivery in March. I would feel bad except he mailed me a Squatty Potty for healthy toilet posture. I have no proof of that because my wife’s assignment was to hide the gift when it arrived. Now she has no idea where she hid it. And I lost interest in the search when somebody described what we were looking for. Dustin sent his mother a bag that looked like mouse droppings but he claims the ingredients are starters for growing four flushes of oyster mushrooms. We are not likely to be suckered further into his prank by attempting to grow mushrooms from whatever is in that bag. Apparently you really do reap what you sow.

Boxing Day

On December 26th we celebrate the feast day of St. Stephen Boxing who lost a game of Stoning around the year 32 A.D. Conflicting accounts and different traditions surround the history of Boxing Day. Cave drawings in France depict boxing from 15,000 years ago. Eventually the custom emerged popularizing the giving of empty gift boxes to the poor on the day after Christmas. By the 1830’s in England, the boxes were filled with money or gifts for tradespeople who provided good service throughout the year. Popular artwork of the 19th century depicting the Bible story of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel led to an unsuccessful attempt to rename the holiday Wrestling Day. But Boxing Day has prevailed and now sporting events are purposely scheduled around the world on December 26th, including Rugby, Cricket, Horse Racing, Hunting, and Ice Hockey. Many contests are actual boxing matches, especially in African nations, Guyana, and Italy. In the United States, prominent businessman Dow Jones sponsors Cage Fighting at retail stores where merchandise is awarded to the winners at heavily discounted prices. St. Stephen would be sickened at the irreverent commercialization of his feast day.

Christmas

I cannot believe the fuss the grandchildren are making outside my door. They have no appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas. I have been screaming at them but still they persist. I am locked in my den, hard at work trying to make sure millions of people around the world are not disappointed. Imagine if families wake up on Christmas morning and do not find a blog posting from me today. My grandkids just cannot see the big picture. They are only interested in opening presents and inhaling brunch. I may have to teach them a lesson on the spirit of Christmas that they will not soon forget. I cannot even understand their hysterical ranting but it severely impairs my ability to compose today’s epistle. Now the oldest one seems to be yelling that the advent candles have set the Christmas tree on fire. I was not born yesterday. It will take more than an old trick to flush me out before I complete my mission. Okay, I hear fire engine sirens. I better go out and see which neighbor is in trouble.

Magic Words

I began writing journals when I became a grandparent. They are very useful for settling family arguments about where we celebrated holidays in 2008 or who was at a birthday party in 2009. An entry on August 8, 2014, pinpoints precisely when my then two year old granddaughter wrapped me around her little finger. I had been her Manny three days a week for about a year. I tried to minimize the intrusion by getting her to take naps and to play quietly while I went about my normal business. On this day, I was gardening in a confined space on the backyard slope, lying on my back under some bushes. Zoi quickly grew bored with her yard toys and wandered over and asked to help me. I offered to hand her weeds which she could then put in the barrel on the lawn. But she insisted she wanted to come into the brambles where I barely fit. I was exasperated with the realization that I would not be able to accomplish any yard work with her around. I stalled for time, hurriedly pulling a few more weeds and reporting on the lack of space, the dirt, and the prickly branches. I finally asked rhetorically, “Why would you even want to come in here?” She gave the plaintive retort, “Because I love you, Gapi.” I told her she had discovered powerful magic words and struggled to wiggle her into the bushes next to me without hurting her. She was quite content but told me that there were also a lot of bugs.

Green

Green has always been my favorite color. It represented the color of life to me as the snow melted from long grey Michigan and Wisconsin winters. The grass would reappear and trees would turn green. The attachment to green was reinforced by the home team Green Bay Packers and my full Irish maternal ancestry. Maybe I originally picked it to have a different favorite color than my siblings. One of my first big disappointments came when I learned that green was not a primary color but a mixture of blue and yellow. And then I discovered green was the color of envy. I contemplated changing favorite colors. I flirted with purple but it was not primary either. I noticed that many people were named Green or Brown but hardly anyone was answered to Yellow or Orange. I remained loyal to green. Recently I stumbled on a psychology of color site that identifies green with “being possessive and materialistic, indifferent and over-cautious, envious, selfish, greedy and miserly, devious with money, inconsiderate, inexperienced, a hypochondriac and a do-gooder.” Like my children, my favorite color just keeps testing my loyalty. Blue is the color of loyalty. I do not know why it never claimed me. But during Christmas season, I always take consolation that green still shares top billing with red.

Butterflies

Zhuang Zhou (aka Zhuangzi) reportedly said (circa fourth century B.C.) that he dreamed he was a butterfly, happily fluttering hither and thither. When he awoke, he said he did not know whether he was then a man dreaming he was a butterfly or whether he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Zhuang Zou is thus credited with being the first to postulate that all humans are actually butterflies with advanced dream capability. Later scientists have proven his theory correct, citing a succession of butterfly inventions: flight without direct support from any surface, butterfly kisses, and the Philippine butterfly knife. Most notably, butterflies introduced the Butterfly Effect to the world by making small changes in a complex system which causes large effects elsewhere. The butterfly that distracted a Scottish prison guard a few centuries ago precipitated a jail break that led ultimately to Donald Trump being elected President of the United States. This and other incidents are not widely known because butterflies in the current world hierarchy are cautiously modest about their achievements. But you can bet they will be flapping their wings if the next four years go well in the States.