Are You a Sneetch?

Last Sunday afternoon, we took our red-haired grand-kids, the Daltons, to the Jacksonville Symphony Family Series, featuring The Sneetches. There was a pre-concert Orchestra Zoo with dozens of kids standing in lines to bang on, blow into, or saw the strings of grown-up instruments.

Patrick and French Horn, Orchestra Zoo
Patrick & French Horn at the Orchestra Zoo
Jenna & Tuba at the Instrument Zoo
Jenna & Tuba at the Instrument Zoo

During the concert, the conductor asked each section of the orchestra to play a segment of a piece separately to let the kids hear the true sounds of the various instruments.Then came the pictorial story of the Sneetches animated on screen and read by a narrator, all accompanied by the whimsical strings, the complaining woodwinds, and the booming drums in Jacoby Symphony Hall.


If you need a brush-up on the Dr. Seuss plot line, two camps of yellow, fantastical creatures called Sneetches are separated by whether or not they have stars tattooed on their bellies. The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are best and make their Plain-Belly counterparts feel sad and inferior. Magically, Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with his Star-on and Star-off machines. Now the Plain-Bellies are thrilled because they match the elite. But the original Star Bellies are angry because they no longer stand out as special. Now no one is happy.

Between the Star Bellies and the Plain-Bellies there is plenty of bad feeling to go around.  Then the conniving Star Bellies hatch an idea: Let’s get Sylvester McMonkey McBean to remove all the stars from bellies. Determined to find a solution, money from both belly camps gets stuffed into McBeans’ pockets, and he leaves town a rich monkey. Poorer in pocket, but richer in understanding, none of the Sneetches can remember who was what originally now that they all look the same. Finally, there is a level playing field.

The Sneetches’ conclusion: It doesn’t really matter what they look like—they can all be friends, stars or no stars. As the story ends, conviviality reigns.

In the car on the way home:

Jenna: “I really liked it! Those Sneetches were really cool, and they all liked each other at the end.”

Patrick: “It doesn’t matter what you look like. Everyone is the same.  Oh, and there’s another thing: Don’t give away all your money away for a dumb reason.”

Grandpa: “You are special whether you have a star on your belly or not.”

First of all, I wouldn’t want a star on my belly, would you? I wouldn’t want to draw attention to my worst feature whether it looked cool or not.

If you are human, you probably are a Sneetch, prone to some of the dark emotions these yellow bellies felt: feelings of inferiority, pride, dis-content, fear, frustration, and envy.

You may or may not agree with Alex Daydream (that has to be a pseudonym!) who claims that no emotion is strictly good or bad.

No Emotion Is Strictly Good Or Bad

Anger clouds our judgement
Love can make us blind
If emotions are so ruinous
What good one can I find?

Empathy makes us better people
Pain brings us back always stronger
Sadness gives way to happiness
Meaning a better life lived longer.

Alex Daydream
Some of the writer’s conclusions may be questionable (I have to wonder does “Pain bring us back always stronger”?) Growing up a Mennonite in the Longenecker family of Lancaster County, we children were not encouraged to show our real emotions, especially not in public. In my memory, there was a huge gulf between feeling emotions and being able to truly express them.
But what matters is what you think.
Were you encouraged to express your true feelings as a child?
As the poet claims, does allowing oneself to feel emotions make for a more meaningful life? What about expressing them?



Once Upon a Time: The Tale of a Snow Globe

Announcing the WINNER of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

And the Winner is (drum roll, please!) Carolyn Stoner! Thank you one and all for participating so heartily by commenting on my review of Shirley Showalter’s memoir BLUSH. Carolyn, you will receive your copy of Shirley’s memoir shortly.

*  *  *  *  *

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Curtis, who lived on Greenfern Lane in a very big city called Jacksonville. His Mommy Sarah and Daddy Joel invited his grandparents to feast on a wonderful meal with them one day.

While they were eating home-made spaghetti and telling stories around the table, his NaNa Marian told a new story, “The Tale of the Snow Globe.” Now when Curtis was new born, his Great Grandmother Longenecker came to visit him in the big city of Chicago. She wanted to see her new grandchild for the very first time. Of course, she had visited towns and villages and the cities of Lancaster and Harrisburg many times. She had even gone as far as Niagara Falls on her honeymoon. But she had never seen a big, big city with dozens of skyscrapers.

And then Great Grandma told how she went up, up, up many, many of stories onto the top of the Hancock building, where she could look out and see the Sears tower, the Amoco building and beyond. For a very long time, she stared and stared at the giant buildings and the miniature cars and buses below. Then she went to the gift shop and bought colorful souvenirs: tile coasters, postcards, and a beautiful snow globe with white flakes drifting down on the skyscrapers of Chicago she had seen. Her special souvenir was the snow globe, of course, which sat on a table by her telephone where she could see it day or night.

One day her special prize disappeared. She looked and looked, and had other people look with her, but the snow globe was nowhere to be found. Who could have taken it? Her cleaning lady? Visitors? Was there a break in she wasn’t aware of? The loss and the scary thoughts made Great Grandma very, very sad, NaNa Marian said.

At that very moment, Curtis said to his Daddy, “May I be excused?” After his Daddy said “Yes,” Curtis hurried into his bedroom and came back with his own Chicago snow globe, a larger version of his Great Grandma’s. “Here,” he said. “She can have this!”

“But, Curtis, you brought this down from Chicago to Jacksonville when you were only two. This is a special thing. Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?”

“Oh, I know, but I want Great Grandma to have it. It will make her feel better. You can take it to Pennsylvania in your suitcase the next time you visit her.” And that is exactly what happened.

Shock and Awe
Shock and Awe

And then tears  . . .


Appreciation too


Curtis: Look of Pride
Curtis: Look of Pride

And finally, a grateful Great-Grandmother!


Your comments welcome!  I always respond.

How to: Mystery Trips

Create a Memory:  “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Older adults trapped in a vehicle with 3-4 of their grand-children for hours on end. Who would do that? Only Grandparents hiding secrets. Grandparents on a mystery trip with kindergarten and elementary schoolers in tow. Here’s one way to do it adapted from a suggestion by my good friend Carolyn P.

1. Insert Mystery Trip Card on your windshield.

2. Insert children, belted in and believing anywhere is possible!



Mystery Trip # 1  Museum of Science and History (MOSH, downtown Jacksonville) Billed as a place where Wonders Never Cease.

Three of our four grandchildren are boys, and they have all followed Bob-the-Builder / Thomas-the-Train line of interest. Now it’s dinosaurs! This trip will feed their fetish.

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 6.15.33 PM

Always end with FOOD! With no fast food place in sight, we make a hot dog—cookie—juice box picnic out of it this time.

Mystery Trip # 2  Polar Express: Any theatre, even a DVD at home will do. But the iMAX 80 foot-wide-screen bumps it up a notch. Besides, you get into a van and GO somewhere special. The woofer and tweeter sounds make the story come alive!


Mystery Trip # 3  Let’s Go Science! With Professor Smart and Dr. Knowitall

 Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 6.29.32 PMCurtPatWhataburger

Patrick and Curtis went berserk-y trying to touch the huge floating balloon, a  before-the-show stunt. We ended with WhataBurger! As you can see, eating is serious business!

Mystery Trip # 4  Blueberry Pickin’  Good country fun @ $3.00 a pound! 


Jenna says, “This is good, family fun!” And that was before the gang in the back-seat made up a silly song of 4-5 stanzas about picking blueberries to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.”


The last stanza included barfing although that never really happened!

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How to: Create Keepsakes

For years I have kept a ratty ole pin cushion from Grandma Longenecker in my sewing cabinet. It looks pitiful, but I’ll never throw it away because it came from my Grandma. Pierced through its dusty middle with some of her pins and holding one of my mother’s hairpins, I’d say it’s more of a keepsake than an heirloom.


Remember Art Linkletter’s show “Kids Say the Darndest Things”? Of course they do! I have kept quotes from each of our four grandchildren since their early years, as keepsakes. It’s easy to do the same for your children–both grand and great–nieces and nephews too:

1. Be alert to their part of any conversation. You never know when a wacky, wise, or witty saying will burst forth from their lips.

2. Write it down ASAP. Memory is tricky. If you don’t get it just right, what they have actually said may lose its zing in your faulty translation.

3. Use a notebook or reserve a folder on your computer desktop for the quotations. For example: SayingsPatrickCurtisJennaIan.doc

4. Always include a date. If you’re like me, you’ll never connect their age with the saying. What seems precocious at age 4 would sound ordinary at age 7 or 8.

Here are some examples from my files. (You can guess which one I would pull out at a rehearsal dinner celebration!)

Patrick and Jenna  Patrick & Jenna snacking after planting grass plugs

  • 2.15.07  Patrick to Mommy Crista: “Mom, we can’t move to Florida.”“Why?”“Because we can’t get Daddy’s bean bag on the plane.”  (age 4)
  • 10.24.09  Patrick: “My favorite thing in school is writing in my purple journal. Every story I write has the word ‘the’ in it!” (age 6)
  • 12.23.09  After Jenna breaks her snow globe Christmas ornament Cliff gave her from Washington State, Patrick says, “Grandpa, the next time you go on a trip, don’t give the little girl a glass present.” (age 6)

Jenna’s turn:

*  6.25.09  You and Patrick were with NaNa as Mommy was having some time to run errands.  You were busy upstairs helping me pack for PA: on jewelry– “That’s too fancy . . . or too casual.”  On outfits – “This matches . . . this doesn’t.” (age 4)  Fashion design in her future? Who knows.

*  8.5.12  Mommy Crista: “So we are at the beach and Jenna and I are sifting through sand looking for neat sea shells.  She says to me, ‘Mommy, you know, you are doing pretty good for your age. Flattered (and in my bikini), I said, ‘Well, thank you.  Do you think I should cover up a little bit more?’  Jenna says, ‘No, Mom, I didn’t mean it like that.  I meant that you have good eyes for looking for nice shells.’”  (age 7)

CurtisSnowGlobe  Curtis and Snow Globe Gift

  • 1.1.08: NaNa observes that Curtis is wearing his “Dash” suit to bed, and so she says, “Why are you wearing your Incredibles suit to bed?” Curtis: “Well, I need to be strong in bed!”  (age 5)
  • 11.7.10 When I came to dinner on Sunday evening, you had balled-up paper in a small laundry basket and mentioned you wanted to have a “dry” snowball fight.  (age 7)
  • 5.10.13  I describe how Great Grandma’s Chicago snow globe was taken on the sly and how sad she is as a result: After a bit, Curtis goes to his room, and gets his own larger version of the snow globe, a keepsake from his early days in Chicago, to give to her as a surprise. (age 9)

photoIan and Teddy

      • With Grandpa at the mall, as Ian finished drinking his chocolate milk from a straw, he exclaimed,  “Look, I’m a sucker!” (age 4)
      • After being given an assignment at pre-school, (All Saints’s Episcopal), Ian completes this prompt: If I were President, “I Would protect the children!” (age 5)
      • 3.18.13 When Great Aunt Janice gives us kumquats, you say, “I’m glad I’m not a kumquat!”  Now what brought that on, I wonder? (age 5 1/2)

Another Keepsake: Kid-size Gratitude Journal

Tables Turned: Kids do their own drawing, writing:  “I’m thankful for . . . . ”

JenGratCover        JenGratPage

Add your clever keepsake idea to the mix. Tell us an activity or tradition that helps keep memory alive for the sake of the next generation in your family.    

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It so falls out  / That what we have we prize not to the worth, / Whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, / Why, then we rack the value; then we find / The virtue, that possession would not show us / Whiles it was ours.   Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Sc. 1, Shakespeare

Is it true we don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it? What do you think?


5 Entries from my grandsons’ gratitude books:

1. The color GREEN
2. My dog Teddy
3. The Geico gecko
4. That I’m not an orfan
5. Pokemon

Curtis_GratitudeBk Ian_GratitudeBk

Some Entries from my gratitude book:

1. Hyacinths in the supermarket
2. Fell on pavement – didn’t break any bones
3. I can close the zipper on my size ? dress, barely, but still can
4. Talk on phone to 94-year-old Mom
5. New friend, Vietnamese neighbor
6. Lunch with former student Ivy
7. Clouds *

* Love Alexander McCall Smith’s new book, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds. He writes of Scotland and Botswana with equal enthusiasm. Check him out for mystery lite!

How do you express what you are thankful for? Do you share with friends? Grandchildren? Use a journal, scrapbook?

What have you enjoyed but taken for granted and then lost? Let’s chat!