7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets

Whoopi Goldberg is no nun, but she played one in Sister Act, where she befriended three other nuns all named Mary and made the convent’s choir into a rollicking, soulful act.

Wikipedia Image
Wikipedia Image

 

Dr. David Snowdon obviously is no nun either. He’s not even a monk. But he is an epidemiologist, who spearheaded a study to decode Alzheimer’s disease as he researched the lives of 678 nuns at the School Sisters of Notre Dame. All had willed their brains to research on death.

Aging with Grace could have been a deadly dull read, but I kept turning the pages because the author was able to intertwine the excitement of scientific research with personal stories. These nuns shared valuable life lessons about “Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives,” part of the book’s sub-title.

Here are the seven I gleaned from Snowdon’s book:

  1. Keep your sense of humor

 Just before she turned 90, Sister Genevieve Kunkel marveled at her wellbeing. She said, “I have two good traits . . . I am alert and I am vertical.” 183

 

  1. Mingle with the young

When pressed about her other secrets for staying young, Sister Genevieve admitted, “Maybe it’s because I’ve always been with the young.” An educator, she had taught young people from grade school through college and was currently reading a Harry Potter book. She also read nearly every issue of the Sunday New York Times.

 

  1. Enjoy eating as a social occasion.

Share mealtime with others when possible. “The air in the convent dining room buzzes with laughter and . . . chatting.” 168

 

  1. Help others

Healthy nuns served themselves during mealtime. Then they took turns helping sisters in the assisted-living wing by pouring drinks, cutting their meat and helping them take their medications.

 

  1. Stay “With It”

Sister Clarissa, age 90, drove around the convent in her motorized cart dubbed “Chevy” and knew “as much about baseball as any die-hard fan a third of her age.” (She sounds a lot like my Aunt Cecilia!)

Sister Dorothy Zimmerman drew others into Scrabble games, often closely contested.

 

  1. Keep Moving

 Sister Esther Boor, who lived until age 106, sat on her “exercise” chair and regularly pumped the pedals on a stationary “bike.”

 

  1. Wake up every day with purpose

Sister Matthia knitted a pair of mittens every day for the poor. Every evening she recited the names of all 4378 former students until her death less than a month before her 105th birthday.

Unbelievable!

 

  1. Pray and Meditate

Dr. Snowdon admits “while we cannot directly measure intangibles such as faith and social support, the Nun Study would be incomplete without acknowledging their powerful influence.”

Want to know more about these marvelous women? You can read my review here.

Here’s a link to the book!

nunsstudycover

Here is your invitation to add to my list of seven. You can also comment on the tips you find here.

Thank you!

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Precious in His Sight: Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, and White

Bright lights overhead illuminate a fun space. My eyes take in shelves with animal puzzles, bins with textured balls, sets of play tools, baskets of plastic fruit and veggies with pans for the play stove in our classroom. On my right – xylophones, bells and colored cushions. On the left side I see a box of string-a-beads, and on a shelf underneath – friendly-looking doggies and kitties that push or pull.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve entered the pre-school resource room at my church holding a white plastic basket for carrying items I’ll take to our classroom.

You see, two-year-old youngsters like to play. That’s how they learn. These children confirm the idea that “Play is the highest form of research.” (Unverified quote attributed to Einstein)

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I continue circling the “toy” room and stop in front of the doll display now, dolls arranged in families: mommy-daddy-brother-sister. “Which sets of dolls should I pick out today?” I stop and wonder out loud.

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Children who walk through our classroom door have family origins in Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria and Bosnia. Although our attendance records show Taylors, Elkins, and McCalls, the list also includes Biak, Torres, and DeVevo.

Friend and co-worker Gloria, who'd rather hold real babies!
Friend and co-worker Gloria, who’d rather hold real babies!

 

Why the Ethnic Dolls?

We obviously don’t point out differences with young children at play. I have never said to a two-year-old, “Look, this doll is hispanic (or black or white).

Of course not!

Then what’s the point?

When children see an image that looks like them, they can identify with it intuitively. We volunteer teachers aim to communicate to these impressionable little people that our world includes families with many different skin colors and facial features. The good Lord loves them all – and so, obviously, do they.

 

 

Spontaneous hug
Spontaneous hug

“Jesus Loves the little children” video + lyrics

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Another Question

Recently author, journalist, and lecturer Gail Sheehy asked the question, “Is Trump out to make America white again?” Recent developments before and after our contentious election in America may warrant such a concern.

Our answer as pre-school teachers: Not if we can help it!

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You may want to check out a Mennonite voice, Becca J. R. Lachman, whose blog expresses a wish to keep “a welcome sign [to everyone] lit in neon.”

* * *

Your turn: An anecdote, an illustration, a contrasting point of view. All are welcome in this space . . .

Coming next: 7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets

Are You Sensible? The Power of Touch, the Magic of Music

Did you know that touching zaps your immune system with positive energy? Similarly, your brain goes into party mode when you hear and/or play music – so say the researchers.

In this cropped photo, my sister Jan’s hand touches her Aunt Ruthie’s, who in turn is feeling the fake fur of a toy, who she may imagine to be her dog Fritzie.

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Touch is Powerful . . .

Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University, conducted numerous studies on the power of human touch. She discovered “that both the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee’ experience great physiological benefit from human contact. It works like this:

Red blood cells carry hemoglobin, a substance that transports oxygen to body tissue. And Dr. Krieger found that when one person lays hands on another, the hemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both people increase. And as they rise, body tissue receives increased oxygen, which invigorates you physically and can aid in the healing process. What you’re seeing is the literal power of love in action. Loving is good for you” There’s nothing as rewarding, satisfying, or encouraging as loving others through your words and actions.

Quoted in James Merritt, How to Impact and Influence Others

 

Touch is Powerful and so is Music!

 In a TED/Ed lesson, Anita Collins reports that listening to music engages multiple areas of one’s brain, but playing an instrument is “more like a full-body brain workout.”

She says if listening to music produces a party in the brain, picking up an instrument and playing it amounts to fireworks, a real jubilee!

What is it about producing music that totally lights up the brain? Collins mentions the physical activity of using fine motor skills (plucking a harp, blowing a trumpet) combined with the linguistic and mathematical skills in other brain areas, strengthens the connection between right and left hemispheres.

She even makes a connection between musicians and good search engines, an analogy she further explains in this 4+ minute YouTube presentation:

 

Music is Touching

Babies, newly minted from nature, love lullabies and nursery tunes. Likewise, music soothes the elderly and those of any age at the point of death. Haven’t you heard that hearing is the last sense to go?

My sister Jean, brother Mark, Mother’s pastor and wife sang my mother into glory with old gospel songs. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it in time to surround my mother’s bed with harmony.

Groups like Songs for the Journey, non-denominational and volunteer, provide a benevolent service to loved ones and patients alike as they make the transition from this life to whatever lies beyond. Quoting from their website, “Our live music ministries provide comfort and guidance to those who are near death, as well as to those who love them.”

 


 

Light up my brain with your comments please!

Thank you for checking in with thoughts on the power of touch or the value of music. What about your pets? How has touching furry friends benefitted you?

 

Something Silly

musicianwashedup1965

 

 

Are You a With-It?

For years, my young son Joel thought I had an eye on the back of my head. Why? I told him so.

See!

Google Image
Google Image: “Four-eyed Monitor”

To keep this mischief-making, dangerous pranking boy surviving beyond childhood, I kept alive the delusion of a third eye until he grew old enough to catch on to my trick. “God gave you a smart Mommy,” I declared. “I have to be ‘with it.’ Otherwise, you’d be dead!” And I meant every word.

 

What does “With It” Mean?

Malcolm Gladwell in “Most Likely to Succeed” from The New Yorker (Dec. 15, 2008) discusses the value of “withitness” in several fields: sports, education, and business. About teaching in particular, he notes: Educational researcher Jacob Kounin, used the term “withitness” to define that hard-to-pin-down quality of intuition and smarts which helps one sense the behaviors, intentions, and motivations of those around her/him and act accordingly.

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker staff writer
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker staff writer

“Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.”

Perhaps no profession has taken the implications of the quarterback problem more seriously than the financial-advice field, and the experience of financial advisers is a useful guide to what could happen in teaching as well. There are no formal qualifications for entering the field except a college degree. Financial-services firms don’t look for only the best students, or require graduate degrees or specify a list of prerequisites. No one knows beforehand what makes a high-performing financial adviser different from a low-performing one, so the field throws the door wide open.

 

Our Experience

In the last six months we’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few bankers, realtors, and multiple tradespeople who did home repairs or renovation during our move.

Here in a nutshell:

The Good

Mr. Painter: His eyes surveyed the kitchen walls as he spoke, “I can do this in two hours and include your paint in the price. I’ll even leave some paint for touch-ups.”  He fulfilled his promises. We were pleased.

Ms. Realtor: “I’ll call you in two hours with an update.” She did and we felt confident.

 The Bad

Mrs. Banker: “I’ll be right on it.” She wasn’t though, and we spent days and weeks feeling frustrated. Later, however, we found she was covering for the ineptitude of support people in the business.

Mr. Realtor: “Look at my credentials! I have a 5-Star rating . . . yadayadayada . . . !

However, credentials don’t always translate into performance. We frequently had to prompt him to act in our favor. Why can’t he be “with-it”? we wondered.

withitnotcartoon

 

The Best

We had lunch recently at Mimi’s restaurant. Our server Kristie performed perfectly without hovering. Before we left, she boxed up an un-eaten blueberry muffin and left-over dinner rolls in separate containers. Without prompting, she labeled each box.

withitmimicafebox

Item + Date + merci on the lid . . . certainly appropriate in a French restaurant á la New Orleans style. This server was definitely a “with it” woman!

 

* Ruth Garber Rohrer, a 93-year-old subscriber to The Mennonite magazine, read my September 2016 article in tribute to my Grandma Fannie Longenecker printed in this post.

Then I found Ruth’s editorial comment in the October issue.

Letters to the Editor, The Mennonite Magazine, October 2016, page 5
Letters to the Editor, The Mennonite Magazine, October 2016, page 5

Serendipitously,  I had discovered a link to my Grandma through one of her pupils in Sunday School at Bossler Mennonite Church, one I never knew existed. Ruth Garber Rohrer also has a presence on Facebook and socializes in the digital world.

ruthgrohrerfbscreenshot-copy

Ruth is “with it” indeed!

 

How I Define “With It”

* Keen perception through the senses: Seeing, hearing, “reading” a situation beyond mere facts.

* Ability to evaluate situations and/or scan people’s expressions and connect with them personally in a significant way.

* Ability to follow-through when action is needed.


 

What is your definition of “With It”? What qualities would you add to the list?

Did examples from your own life pop into your mind as you read this post. Here’s where to reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly or  – the best!

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures

Yesterday, Tuesday, October 4, my Aunt Ruthie celebrated her 98th birthday. Born in 1918, she is a towering figure in my life and, and along with Mother and Grandma Longenecker, my strongest mentor. And she has been mother/teacher to many.

* * *

ruthage3

See the determination in that little girl’s face!

Her mother, my grandma Fannie Longenecker, replying to my sister Janice’s questions for a sociology-class interview assignment, mentioned that “Ruthie was industrious, a busy-body, a tomboy who would take risks.”


Education

The blurb in her Elizabethtown High School yearbook photo acknowledged her brilliant mind. (She skipped two elementary grades.) The description below also foretold her teaching career and hinted at the math skills she used in her long career as tax collector for West Donegal (PA) Township. She was so young when she began college at age 16, she required a chaperone.

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Ruthie attended business school near Elizabethtown and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Teaching Career

Country children in rural Lancaster County usually did not attend kindergarten. Aunt Ruthie created kindergarten for me as a 5-year-old at Cherry Hill School, close to Milton Grove, PA. I remember bouncing up and down over hills and dales riding in the back seat of her brown Hudson on the way to Cherry Hill. Two or three days a week I learned the alphabet and numbers sitting along side first graders. In the one-room classroom with eight grades, I loved singing: “Good morning merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon? You scared away the little stars and shined away the moon.”

ruthieschoolphoto1940s-copy

Hundreds of students remember Miss Longenecker at the age pictured below at Rheems Elementary School where she taught sixth grade and served as principal. Earlier in her career there, the school board (probably all male) refused to acknowledge her true function as principal and condescendingly referred to her as “head teacher.”

1975-ruthie-schoolphoto-3a_small-copy

It galls me even now to disclose this awful truth, and so I ask:

What title goes to the person (man or woman) who approves the curriculum, supervises textbook orders and presides over faculty meetings, responding to parental complains. It’s the PRINCIPAL I tell you!

 


Host to Refugees and Immigrants

This 1979 photo below shows Grandma Longenecker, Aunt Ruthie and Phuong Le, a refugee from Vietnam, a young girl they welcomed into their home as a daughter. Phuong was the first among dozens who sought shelter from war-torn countries. She made the most of Aunt Ruthie’s mentoring from 1976-1982, later succeeding in a career as a computer programmer and raising a fine family.

1979grandmaruthie-phuong_small-copy

Lutheran Social Services acknowledged Ruthie’s magnanimous contribution to refugees and immigrants with The Salt of the Earth Award, a plaque which recognized “her exceptional commitment and warmhearted compassion in welcoming the stranger. ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’ Matthew 5:13” (script from plaque)

1990s-saltofeaward-copy


Love of Family

“You are always welcome here,” were Aunt Ruthie’s words after my sisters and I married and moved away from home. She labored in the kitchen when her nieces from Florida and Michigan nested in her home during vacations.

1990s-ruth-in-kitchen-2_small

In a small way, we returned the favor and relished her enjoying the citrus we bought from our orange and grapefruit trees in Florida.

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Appreciation for Music

A music lover, Ruthie played the piano vigorously. If the apron is any indication, she is relaxing here after over-seeing meal making, her grand-niece Crista in the background.

1989ruthiepiano_small-copy

Into her early 90s, she played dinner music for the elderly ( ! ) at Rheems Nursing Home. “They don’t have anybody doing much for them,” she said.

ruthiepianorheems-copy

Playing the dulcimer – wholeheartedly!

1996ruthiedulcimer_small-copy-2


Animal Friends

Through the years, her Schnauzers, Fritzie I, II, III, and IV have been her ever-present companions, protecting her by day and warming her feet at night in bed.

1998ruthiefritzieporch_small-copy

ruthiedogpiano-copy

The last Fritzie, # IV, has found a dog’s paradise, adopted by teen-age Jason and his family.

Love for Learning

Books, magazines, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era have kept her curious mind informed.

ruthienewspaper-copy

During most of her stay at Landis Homes, she has whizzed through Word Finds puzzle books.

ruthiewordfinds2015


Hands in the Soil

A life-long gardener, Aunt Ruthie has always had her hands in rich Pennsylvania soil. She was my hoeing companion in the 4 1/2 -acre tomato “patch” in Bainbridge, PA in the 1950s.

Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field
Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field

At home, she kept a large garden, the envy of passersby on old route # 230 that borders her property.

All summer long until Aunt Ruthie was almost 90, she mowed nearly an acre of grass on her land near Rheems, preferring outdoor work to household duties.

ruthie_lawnmover_5x4_180-copy

For decades, she kept a strawberry patch and a vegetable garden, bordered by flowers. Now the flowers come to her.

Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.
Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.

 


She has had a goodly heritage

The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938 Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with cape dress and white covering strings
The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938
Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with V-necked cape dress and white covering strings

 

Gutes Leben, her high school yearbook blurb concluded.

Yes, Aunt Ruthie, has enjoyed a good life.

 

Happy Birthday, Aunt Ruthie!

Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago
Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago

 

 

Coming next: Heart on Fire, Guess Who’s Voted for President!

His Turn II: An Artist Discovers More

Do you have photo albums un-touched in years? Is there a box of pictures stashed away that hasn’t seen the light of day in ages? What treasures may be hidden in your attic or basement?

After our Big Move August 9, more of Cliff’s artwork has come to light, pieces squirreled away, forgotten for decades.

On the July 6, 2016 blog post, I hinted that Cliff the Artist would be discovering more goodies. What I said then:

He has also found lurking in drawers, pencil drawings of college classmates and professors in the classroom, sketches of unsuspecting diners in restaurants. (To be revealed)

The Revelation

Cliff found a treasure trove of surprises in an armoire’s shallow shelf with other large art pieces, in niches below that, in a handmade folding portfolio, and in a cabinet with glass shelves.

An antique mahogany cabinet brought forth more surprises.

Photographs and artwork like these:

cartoonistphoto

cliffdrawingpuppies1983

dogcatwolfson1983

Sketches in college classroom

Cliff and Barry Beitzel, both divinity students in college, studied Greek together. Cliff became an artist/educator and Barry, a Hebrew scholar and author of important biblical literature including The New Moody Atlas of the Bible.

barrybeitzel1966

Sketches in restaurants

In the style of Honoré Daumier who honored ordinary folks like in his oil painting Third Class Carriage, Cliff caught images of unsuspecting diners in Waffle Houses and restaurants of similar ilk:

smokingwomanlakeland1987

blackcoffee1987

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A Family Heirloom, the House on Anchor Road: Cliff presented the painting of our homestead to my dad, Ray Longenecker, 1983

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His Admission

Without prompting from me, Cliff wrote this memo to himself recently, feeling exhilarated about finding his long-lost “friends”

memoclifforganizing

 

Time Moves On

Yes, time moves on. More than thirty-seven years have passed since this calendar with Cliff’s pastiche drawing circulated for the new year.

pastichecalendar

 

Your Turn

Maybe it’s time to check through memories marinating on your shelves, incubating in boxes. No telling what treasures you’ll find.

 

kidsswingingwolfson1983

Bonus: Two good websites to help you mine stories from photographs:

Shirley Showalter’s Magical Memoir Moments: photos and writing prompts to bring out the storyteller in you

Dawn Roode’s blog on using digital photos to trigger writing life stories

Any I missed? Please add others in the comments column. Thank you!

 

 

Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker ~ Her Life in Pictures

 

An Artist Writes Memoir: Joan Z. Rough’s “Scattering Ashes”

Introducing Joan

I met Joan Z. Rough on Chincoteague Island in February 2015, having become blog buddies months earlier. When we met on this writers’ retreat, Joan was using the Scrivener tool to revise and edit the manuscript for a memoir of the 7-year slice of her life taking care of a terminally ill mother she had both loved and hated: a narcissistic, alcoholic woman.

joandog

Let me introduce you to Joan properly from her website “About” page:

Besides writing poetry and nonfiction, I am an artist, passionate about painting with oils and wax, collage, mixed media, photography, and sculpting French beaded flowers.  My work in photography has been exhibited throughout the nation and has found homes in numerous collections. Though retired from actively showing my work, I still take great joy in creating large, colorful works on canvas and paper and smaller encaustic paintings on wood.

When near-collapse from care-taking was imminent, Joan retreated to making colláges, furiously painting in oils, writing poetry and frantically beading, beading, beading, lovely jewelry pieces.

joanabstractpainting

joanpaintingspring

Click here for a poem with an autumn palette.

Her memoir Scattering Ashes launched just yesterday on September 20, 2016. This memoir resonates with healing and hope for adult children caring for burdensome parents.

scatteringashes

My Review

Joan Zabski Rough, author of Scattering Ashes, is a painter, a poet, and photographer. She is also a memoirist who summons her artistic talent in order to lay bare her life story, particularly her complex relationship with a narcissistic, alcoholic mother suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this memoir of letting go, the author paints a picture of the violence of her childhood and the search for solace through art, taming the dragon lady within, using bold strokes of black, yellow, and red, evident in a colláge she recalls constructing in her journey toward peace.

In Scattering Ashes, the reader observes writer Rough fighting to let go of guilt, shame, and self-doubt as she says a long goodbye to her elderly mother during seven years of caring for her in her own home, becoming a mother to her own mother. Face to face with the woman who birthed her, she is forced to confront scars of childhood that have left her feeling victimized with low self-esteem, a demon she has grappled with her entire life. As a reader in thrall to the unfolding tale of the dutiful care-taker daughter shackled to an ungrateful mother, I wanted to shout, “Stop, you’ve done enough. You are good enough. You are enough!”

Through metaphor, the artistic author vividly describes her muse: her ideal, stable family carved of marble. Then she deciphers the dilemma of her journey with travel imagery:

The crossroads I’m at is not your usual four-corners kind of deal. It’s a hub of sorts, with innumerable roads shooting off in all directions. I’m afraid I’ll choose the wrong road. I know I can’t stay where I am for long, and I certainly don’t want to go back the way I came. But where do I go? And what does it mean to be free of the burdens I’ve spent these last years carrying?

Joan Rough’s memoir begins like Picasso’s Guernica with images of violence and animosity, her home a war zone. It ends as its author promises in the book’s dedication “ . . . to all mothers and daughters who are seeking to love and forgive each other.”

I highly recommend this memoir to all who struggle to make sense of a complicated mother-daughter relationship. This true story lights the way to self-acceptance, forgiveness – and eventually, to healing.


Meet Joan on her Facebook author page

Buy her book here!   scatteringashes


Do you know Joan or someone like her? Can you relate to her struggles? her triumph?

 

Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker – Her Life in Pictures

School Daze: They Ain’t What They Used to Be

Flop – flop – floppity – bop bop! That was the sound of grandson Ian’s heavy plastic bag of supplies bouncing off his left leg walking into orientation last week at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School.

IanSchoolSupplies

I didn’t pay too much attention to its contents until I helped him place supplies into wire bins at the back of his classroom: Purell germicide, Clorox wipes, Ziploc freezer bags, even multiple boxes of Puffs tissues.. The only item I recognized as a school supply was a ream of paper to print pages from a classroom computer.

On the first day of class, Ian, now a third grader, carried an aqua-blue lunch zippered pouch and a black backpack no doubt stuffed with notebooks and crayons. As a first grader at Rheems Elementary School, I wore a dress and carried a plaid book-bag with a plastic handle and a metal lunch box, probably plaid too. In the 1940s, plaids or checks were in.

Google Images
Google Images
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School

I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was five. But learning is speeded up these days. Students are pushed to advance. Ian and others in his age group probably have memorized their letters by age three or four. The curriculum in his particular third grade class includes reading twenty-five chapter books out of class during the school year. Peering into his book bag today, I spotted Madeleine l’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and Kate DeCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. Reminiscing, I remember reading aloud and silently during class, simple books. Our teacher read to the class after lunch as we rested our heads on the desktop. Instructors then encouraged but did not quantify the number of books to read until junior high school.

Teachers nowadays may teach spelling, but do not issue students textbooks such as The Common-Word Spellers like this one below published in 1921 by Ginn and Company.

SpellngBook

Nor do grammar book titles these days warn students about getting tangled in English problems, negative wording that educators today would probably nix.

EnglishProblemsFinal

This antique practical English text by Easterbrook, Clark, and Knickerbocker bears a copyright date of 1935. Quaint but exquisite pen & ink illustrations announce various chapter headings, which also depict social skills needed for the business world, especially preparing for a career in journalism. Thanks to this gift from friend Carolyn, you can catch a glimpse below of what curriculum planners and textbook authors thought students needed to succeed in the 1930s.

The technology depicted here is mostly obsolete, yet it feels like a novelty because we are eighty years removed from this era.

SalesTalkVacuum1935

Hat in hand is a tip-off that the gentleman running the vacuum cleaner expects $$$ from his sales presentation, not a huge hug from an appreciative wife. Is the woman at the desk examining the manual? writing a check? Housewives then did not hesitate to open their doors to the Fuller Brush salesman and their ilk.


RadioProgText

iPods with ear-buds have replaced the big box with knobs enjoying pride of place here on the table. How about you?


CharacterConversationText1935

In an age when Facebook posts, text messaging and Snapchat often constitute communication, leaning in and maintaining eye contact suggests that face-to-face conversation can reveal character. Does this scene recall meaningful conversation with a loved one?


LibraryCardCat1935

For some, hand-held Kindles and Google searches have replaced library bookshelves and the card catalog. Remember those? And careful notes written in ink on index cards?

 


Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigeur (2016-2017 academic year)
Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigueur (2016-2017 academic year)

“School is hard. It’s a job. But instead of getting paid in money you get paid with knowledge.”  ~ Jenna after her first day of school, August 15, 2016

* * *

Your turn: Do any of the pictures above ignite a memory or spark a story? What is your take on current technology? What ways of communicating should be preserved?

 

Louisa Adams’ Moving Adventure

Remember the Beverly Hillbillies? The Clampetts strike oil in the Ozarks and move to Beverly Hills in a rags-to-riches sitcom of the 1960s.

Beverly Hillbillies Moving Van, courtesy Google Images
Beverly Hillbillies Moving Van, courtesy Google Images

 

Of an entirely different era and social class, diarist Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of the 6th American President, John Quincy Adams, writes about multiple moves – both in European nations where John Quincy was diplomat and in the United States serving variously as senator, secretary of state, president, and finally congressman again.

LouisaPortrait

Woman on the Move

After the birth of her third child, “as soon as she could rise from her bed, she lifted the lids of her empty trunks and opened her packing cases to prepare to leave for Washington. She was ‘a wanderer’ again.” (140)

In her boldest move, Louisa traversed the passage from St. Petersburg to Paris while Napoleon rampaged through Europe. She traveled 2000 miles in 40 days, a journey almost unheard of for a woman alone.

Louisa and Son Charles’ Wild Ride

In 1815, while John Quincy was gone to Paris, Louisa in St. Petersburg had to “sell the furniture, dispose of the house, and buy a carriage that could carry her across the continent” to Paris. She needed supplies: food, drink, clothing, maps, tools and enough medicines for a small apothecary. She had read the map herself, not having heard from her husband, and unflinchingly set her course.

Her largest expense was the carriage, “a berline, a large vehicle with four seats and glass windows, all balanced on an elaborate suspension of springs intended to smooth the rough ride.” Leaving St. Petersburg, the carriage was outfitted with sleigh runners. Wheels were packed when she met melting roads traveling west and south. (206)

She sewed gold and silver into her skirts to hide her wealth from robbers and from her male servants. (206)

Touch of Humor:

During the sojourn, though her two male servants were armed, she put on her son’s military cap and held his toy sword so that what she hoped was a menacing silhouette would show through the carriage window. (221)

True to her declaration when she married Adams, “When my husband married me, he made a great mistake if he thought I only intended to play an echo.” (8)

Her Most Moving Adventure

Louisa, often sickly and afflicted with self-doubt, recorded her grief in “Diaries of a Nobody.” After all, she was often geographically separated from her husband during his ascendance to power, she suffered multiple miscarriages, all of her children except Charles preceded her in death, and she struggled with erysipelas, a skin inflammation.

But her vividly told “Narrative of a Journey from Russia to France” enabled her to tunnel “her way out of depression with the sharp spade of her sardonic humor . . . .“ (396)

She wrote about Baptiste, innkeepers, haggard soldiers she has passed on the road, frightened faces of the women she met, cries of Vive Napoleón! She remembers the practical difficulties she had overcome: the moment the carriage wheel had come loose, the problem of procuring servants, the dangerous decision to ford a half-frozen river. She wrote about her growing confidence, which rippled out of her descriptions and into her voice. (411)

“Her story was her own. No other woman in America had experienced anything like it. But she made its lessons universal. It was a story about women and what women could achieve . . . . She wrote: ‘Under all circumstances, we must never desert ourselves.’” (411)

Move for Equality

At 62, in an era when a woman’s life span was about 40, she was blossoming. Like the Grimké sisters of Charleston, with whom she corresponded, she championed women’s rights and the freeing of slaves.

The Lesson of a Cracked Washbasin 

Cracked Washbasin, Google Images
Cracked Washbasin, Google Images

John Quincy and Louisa Adams observed their 50th wedding anniversary, a milestone almost unheard of in the mid-1800s. Before she died, Louisa presented her daughter-in-law Abby Adams with a cracked washbasin, symbolic of the naked faces bent toward it sometimes joyful and other times full of inconsolable pain, mirroring life itself. (444)

Want More Louisa?

Writer and editor Louisa Thomas has written a stunning account of a memorable woman entitled Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams, 2016.

LouisaBookCover

Thomas’ biography sings with color as she describes an incandescent sun on their approach to St. Petersburg, which edged “the statues with fire and [made] creamy walls blush.” (90)

You can read my full review here.


Your turn: Can you recall any other historical characters with moving stories?

One of your own to tell here? Go right ahead.

Coming next: Mother’s Sky View: The Beautiful City

A Rollicking Review: Marie Kondo’s Tidy Book and a Messy View

In last week’s post Paring Down and Tidying Up, I referred to Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. Her book has sold over 5 million copies and is being translated into 40 languages.  I promised you a review and here it is.

KondoBookCover

The Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo

“Organize your home once, and you’ll never have to do it again.” Tidying consultant Marie Kondo, who has a three-month waiting list, insists you will never again have to sift through snowdrifts of papers or endure clothes that pile up like a tangled mess of noodles. Just follow her revolutionary category-by-category system.

Kondo’s solution is simple but not necessarily easy, especially for pack rats. Effective tidying, she admits, involves only two essential actions: Discarding things and deciding where to store what you keep. Kondo instructs her clients to pick up items one by one and ask, “ Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” (60)

Simply put, tackle major categories like clothing, books, and papers. Sort by category, not rooms: Sort all clothing at the same time, then move on to books, and so on.

Her chapter headings are iconoclastic: “Clothing: Place Every Item Of Clothing in the House on the Floor.” Do the same with books. Interestingly, her chapter titles yell in capital letters while her book title sits calmly on the cover, lower-case, in a cloud of blue.

Kondo’s wit and humor permeates her 254-page instruction book. She admits to coming home and falling asleep on the floor without even changing her clothes (195) writing this book. In the Afterword, she confesses that she once had to call an ambulance because the day before she had tidied too much and found her neck and shoulders frozen stiff from “looking into the cupboard above the closet and moving heavy furniture” (255).

Why do clients of the eponymous KonMari Method not relapse? The secret lies in a chapter entitled “Reduce Until You Reach the Point Where Something Clicks.” Apparently, satisfied clients have reached their clicking point! Some have even lost weight and experienced a clearer complexion as “detoxing” their houses has had a refreshing effect upon their bodies. (241)

One of her most valuable bits of advice was the functionality of sturdy shoeboxes to store lingerie and socks. Then, she suggests, use the tops like a tray to keep cooking oils, spices, and odd utensils in their rightful place. I may use such advice moving into our new space.

Marie Kondo’s tidying impulse began at age 5 while reading home and lifestyle magazines. She volunteered to be the classroom organizer in grade school. Now in her New York Times best seller, Kondo enthusiastically promotes the Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing, a magical system that has become her life’s calling.


Not everyone buys into this magic. Sanford in the TV series, Sanford and Son didn’t, and neither did my father as I show in a blog post entitled Neat Versus Messy. It features a poem “Delight in Disorder.”

Dad's Office

My father died many years ago in 1985. During this Father’s Day week, I pause to give thanks. Though my dad did not give me a love for order (Mother did that), he gave me other sterling values: love of music, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation for the natural world. For those I give thanks.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy, often winning trips and other prizes for top sales, takes a breather. Sign courtesy of Cliff Beaman, 1976

 

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One day soon, we will take what we have curated from our possessions and move it to our next home. It will be very messy for a while.

MovingBoxes2005

What is your take on the KonMari Method? What tried and true tips can you add?

 

 

As we make the transition – painting, packing, and re-assembling in another space, future blog posts may be sparse and my comments on your blogs may be spotty too.

I love our weekly connections here and will miss them temporarily. Soon I’ll be back. Enjoy each summer day!