Eve and Morn: Had You Noticed?

“What Child Is This,” by Caroline Cooney

Mamacita says: Oh, my dears, it’s so close now, so very, very close.

There are a lot of old, boring, easily offended, humorless  people out there who don’t care much for the excitement, the wonder, the sparkles and reflections and tinsel and candles and suspense and giggles and hand-clapping and jammied children and ribbons and pretty paper and surprises, and this makes me sad for them. However, I also figure they were pretty much the same when they were young younger.

I think the ability or tendency to glow and laugh and clap and appreciate things is there in all of us, and whether we let the light of these things shine through us – or not – is a choice we make. Scrooge was Scrooge because he chose to be Scrooge. Yes, certain childhood happenings helped mold him, but ultimately, he chose his life. Free will choice. All of our lives are that way. We can’t always control the circumstances, and sometimes Karma really hits us below the belt, but we can always control the way we deal with it. Most of us go up and down, back and forth, hot and cold with our reactions; even-keeled people are rare and actually rather boring. But whether we reel from the blows and get back up, or stay down and cover our heads and wait for more, is up to us. We’ve all been there.

Me, I love Christmas. What, you didn’t know? 🙂

Christmas magic!

Christmas magic!

Christmas Eve is such a magical time. It’s all ahead of us, you see. To paraphrase Katie, age 8, in my all-time favorite Christmas novel  What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney, the night before Christmas isn’t called a ‘night,’ it’s called ‘eve,’ and Christmas morning isn’t called ‘morning,’ it’s ‘morn.’ Eve and morn: two special words to highlight two special times.  All the other times of the year have mornings and evenings, and New Year’s has “eve,”  but only Christmas has both eve and morn.

Eve and morn are special.

How special are they? They are special already, in their own right, but how you make them special for yourself and for your children is entirely up to you. I hope you give them memories they will cherish all their lives, so much so that they will pass the glory along to their own children.

Roots and wings

Roots and wings

Children flourish with roots, but they soar with wings.

May your Eve be full of anticipation and warmth, and may your Morn be all you hoped it would be.

Thanksgiving Is All About Gratitude

Thanksgiving Cat!

Mamacita says: Thanksgiving isn’t really just one day, you know.  It’s just the one day wherein we are all reminded that EVERY day is a day of thanksgiving in one way or another.

Some people consider this official Thanksgiving Day to be politically incorrect, but I think it’s all in one’s perspective.  Don’t think of this day in terms of clueless pilgrims  in buckled shoes and dull clothing – which is not correct, by the way; pilgrims were quite colorful in more ways than one – who didn’t know how to plant gardens and were starving to death out of sheer ignorance, and stereotypical Native Americans in loincloths who sighed, put down their scalping tomahawks, and taught the newcomers how to plant corn so they wouldn’t drop dead of starvation.  Think of this day as the symbolic Day of Gratitude.

Think back on your life; there was always something to be grateful for, even in the midst of horror, and there still is.  There always will be. Thanksgiving Day is a good time to be retrospective.

I hope we have all taught and encouraged our children to be grateful; few things are uglier than a person of any age who takes for granted all the blessings – small, medium, large, and XXlarge – that make up the pattern of our days.

A simple “thank you” can make or break us, sometimes.

Now, get out there and cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude.  It’s contagious, you know.

1. God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” –William A. Ward

2. Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. –G.B. Stern

3. If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. –Meister Eckhart

4. There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude. –Robert Braul

5. Gratitude is the memory of the heart. –Jean Baptiste Massieu

6. When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? –G.K. Chesterton

7. The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you. –John E. Southard

8. If you have lived, take thankfully the past. –John Dryden

9. As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world. –Adabella Radici

10. I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. –G.K. Chesterton

11. You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. –G.K. Chesterton

12. If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get. –Frank A. Clark

13. The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings! –Henry Ward Beecher

14. Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live. –Attributed to Jacqueline Winspear

15. Praise the bridge that carried you over. –George Colman

16. If you count all your assets, you always show a profit. –Robert Quillen

17. He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. –Epictetus

18. What a miserable thing life is: you’re living in clover, only the clover isn’t good enough. –Bertolt Brecht

19. Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.–Oprah Winfrey

20. Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.–William Shakespeare (As You Like It)

21. Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.–Brian Tracy

22. Eaten bread is forgotten.–Thomas Fuller

23. Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.–William Arthur Ward

24. For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.–Clarence E. Hodges

25. For what I have received may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received.–Storm Jameson

26. Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.–Cicero

27. Gratitude is the memory of the heart.–Massieu

28. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.–Melody Beattie

29. Gratitude takes three forms: a feeling in the heart, an expression in words, and a giving in return.–John Wanamaker

30. Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.–Anonymous

31. If one could only learn to appreciate the little things…
A song that takes you away, for there are those who cannot hear.
The beauty of a sunset, for there are those who cannot see.
The warmth and safety of your home, for there are those who are homeless.
Time spent with good friends for there are those who are lonely.
A walk along the beach for there are those who cannot walk.
The little things are what life is all about.
Search your soul and learn to appreciate.–Shadi Souferian

32. If you never learned the lesson of thankfulness, begin now. Sum up your mercies; see what provision God has made for your happiness, what opportunities for your usefulness, and what advantages for your success.–Ida S. Taylor

33. In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.–Albert Schweitzer

34. Keep a grateful journal. Every night, list five things that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is change our perspective of your day and your life.–Oprah Winfrey

35. No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.–Saint Ambrose

36. No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.–Elie Wiesel

37. None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.–Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

38. Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.–W. T. Purkiser

39. Of all the “attitudes” we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing.–Zig Ziglar

40. One can never pay in gratitude; one can pay “in kind” somewhere else in life.–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

41. One of life’s gifts is that each of us, no matter how tired and downtrodden, finds reasons for thankfulness.–J. Robert Maskin

42. Part of growing up spiritually is learning to be grateful for all things, even our difficulties, disappointments, failures and humiliations.–Mike Aquilina

43. Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.–Henry Ward Beecher

44. Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.–Charles Dickens

45. Seeds of discouragement will not grow in the thankful heart.–Anonymous

46. A sensible thanksgiving for mercies received is a mighty prayer in the Spirit of God. It prevails with Him unspeakably.–John Bunyan

47. Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.–Gertrude B. Stein

48. So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible. So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done.–Marian Wright Edelman

49. Somebody saw something in you once – and that is partly why you’re where you are today. Find a way to thank them.–Don Ward

50. Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee’s collected treasures sweet,
Sweet music’s melting full, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude.–Thomas Gray

51. There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have. Thanksgiving opens the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way.–Jim Rohn

52. We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.–Sacred ritual chant

53. When eating fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.–Vietnamese proverb

54. When we are grateful for the good we already have, we attract more good into our life. On the other hand, when we are ungrateful, we tend to shut ourselves off from the good we might otherwise experience.–Margaret Stortz

55. . . . .when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present–love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure–the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth. –Sarah Ban Brethnach

56. Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.–Estonian Proverb

57. Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. –W.T. Purkiser

58. We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. –Thornton Wilder

59. Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. –William Faulkner

60. If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. –Gerald Good

61. Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of vices. –Thomas Fuller

62. There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. –Joseph Addison

63. I feel a very unusual sensation – if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude. –Benjamin Disraeli

64. There is no greater difference between men than between grateful and ungrateful people. –R.H. Blyth

65. Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart. –Henry Clay

66. A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. — Marcus Tullius Cicero quotes

67. Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. — Mark Twain

68. The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Abraham Lincoln

69. Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart. — Sarah Ban Breathnach

70. Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. — Garrison Keillor

71. But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine. Thomas Jefferson quotes

72. Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. –Estonian Proverb

73. Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
— George Herbert

74. The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. — Eric Hoffer

75. Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. — Henry Ward Beecher

76. When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep? –George Canning

77. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. –John Fitzgerald Kennedy

78. We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. –Cynthia Ozick

79. Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things. –Horace

80. The grateful person, being still the most severe exacter of himself, not only confesses, but proclaims, his debts. — Robert South

81. Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer. –Verbena Woods

82. Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors. — François Duc de La Rochefoucauld

83. Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. — Aldous Huxley

84. When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them. –Chinese Proverb

85. Thanks are justly due for boons unbought. –Ovid

86. In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. — H.L. Mencken

87. Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. — William Arthur Ward

88. Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. –Robert Louis Stevenson

89. To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. — Albert Schweitzer

90. Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty. — Doris Day

91. Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines. — Leroy (Satchel) Paige

92. Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. — Margaret Cousins

93. Kindness trumps greed: it asks for sharing. Kindness trumps fear: it calls forth gratefulness and love. Kindness trumps even stupidity, for with sharing and love, one learns. — Marc Estrin

94. There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it. — Seneca

95. What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? –Erma Bombeck

96. Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. –W.J. Cameron

97. Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. — Robert Caspar Lintner

98. Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. –Theodore Roosevelt

99. It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast. — W.J. Cameron

100. In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. — Albert Schweitzer

You’re welcome.

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Mamacita says:  This day used to be known as Armistice Day, in honor of the armistice that was signed on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.  This year, 2016, marks the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day.

People wear poppies on Veterans’ Day.  Do you know why?

John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”

This term also refers to the fact that back in ancient times, a worker who was hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday was paid the same as those who had worked all twelve hours.

After World War II, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans’ Day.  Many people do not realize that this is an international holiday, observed by many other nations as well as by the United States.

Schools do not teach students much about World War I, and I have never really understood why.  Most social studies classes, unless it’s a specialized elective, study the Civil War (Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn) and then make a giant leap over everything else so they can briefly mention World War II (Hitler was bad) and then leap again and remind students that JFK was assassinated (“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris”) (“I am a jelly doughnut!”)  all just in time for summer vacation.  I learned most of what I know about World War I from reading L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, and yes, it’s another Anne book; this one is mostly about Anne and Gilbert’s daughter Rilla. I cry every time I read it, even though I know what’s going to happen.  You’ll cry, too.  This book was written eighteen years before Anne of Ingleside, which takes place when the children are very young and was was sort of “inserted” into the list of Anne books, but that’s all right.  I would imagine, though, that at the time the books were being written and published, that might have been confusing to readers.  Anne of Ingleside has an ominous vision in it, that comes true in Rilla of Ingleside.  I have not been able to re-read Anne of Ingleside ever since I realized this.

L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors.  Can you tell?

Which of her characters are you?  I’m, ironically, Jane of Lantern Hill, which is another of my favorite books.  If you aren’t familiar with these titles, my goodness, get yourself to the library right away.  This is unacceptable!  Anne might be Montgomery’s best-known heroine, but there are many others!  I think my ultimate favorite Montgomery heroine is Emily; her story is told in a lovely trilogy that thrills me to the core.

Ahem.  Sorry.  In any lesson, often the tangents are more interesting and teach us more than the actual lesson.

On this day, let us honor the men and women who keep us safe, both past and present.

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” – President Barack Obama

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – former president Bill Clinton

I also like this one by Calvin Coolidge:  “The issues of the world must be met and met squarely. The forces of evil do not disdain preparation, they are always prepared and always preparing… The welfare of America, the cause of civilization will forever require the contribution, of some part of the life, of all our citizens, to the natural, the necessary, and the inevitable demand for the defense of the right and the truth.”

And I’ll end this post with this one, by FDR:  “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.”

God bless America.

Those Were The Days

Mamacita says:  Mary Hopkin was one of the few women signed to The Beatles’ “Apple” label, and I have always liked her “Those Were The Days.”  However, I liked it better when “those days” weren’t quite so far back.

I grew up in a tiny house about three blocks from a neighborhood grocery store.

 I shared a room with my two sisters, one of whom slept on a twin mattress that slid under the real bed by day.  We didn’t know it was weird; we thought it was cool to have a trundle bed like Laura and Mary.  My brother, of course, had his own room.
Laura and Mary made up their trundle bed and pushed it back under Ma and Pa's big bed every morning.

Laura and Mary made up their trundle bed and pushed it back under Ma and Pa’s big bed every morning.

Dad also bought him his own car when he was sixteen but we don’t dare go there.
I was in junior high before I realized that my friends who all had their own bedrooms weren’t necessarily ‘rich people.’  To me, anybody who lived in a house big enough for everybody to have his/her own room was rich.
I don’t remember Mom ever buying a lot of groceries at one time.  She just sent one of us kids down to the ‘store’ every fifteen minutes or so, year round, to get thises and thats.  When it was my turn, she often had to phone Jerry (the store owner, who was a super nice man) and ask him to tell me to stop reading the comic books and get home with the ketchup and onions.  We never took money with us to the store; we just told Jerry to “put it on the bill.”  There were four of us kids, and sometimes we passed each other going to and from the store.  Every payday,  Mom paid up.
My allowance was a quarter a week.  It was enough.
Candy bars were six for a quarter.  You could play six songs on the jukebox for a quarter.   Thirty cents would buy a hamburger, fries, and coke at Little Jerry’s, next door to the ‘store,’ and not to be confused with Big Jerry’s, the restaurant franchise on the other side of town.  I remember the teenagers in there playing “Sugar Shack” over and over.
You could get two comic books for a quarter, until they raised the price from twelve to fifteen cents.  I was so outraged I wrote DC Comics a letter of protest.  They answered, too.  I was thrilled, until Mom explained to me what a ‘form letter’ was.  I still have that form letter somewhere.  Bazooka Bubble Gum was a penny, and I saved the comics in a cigar box, intending to redeem them someday when I got enough.  I never did it, even though I had hundreds of Bazooka comics..
For 75 cents, you could bowl three games and have lunch at the counter.
A regular coke was a nickel.  The dime coke was just too huge for a little kid to handle, alone.
Mom took me to Indianapolis several times a year to the eye doctor.  In the fall, we would go to Block’s and Ayre’s to buy school clothes.  She had charge cards there; I loved to watch the saleswoman get out the little machine, put the card in the space, and swipe the handle back and forth till the raised letters in the card were printed on the carbon paper.  All the big department stores had tea rooms back then, and we’d have lunch up there where we could look over the balcony and see the store below.  There were toothpicks on all the sandwiches, toothpicks with frilled cellophane at the top.
I have never outgrown my fascination with and love for elevators and escalators, which had its beginning in the big Indianapolis department stores that no longer exist.  All elevators smelled the same: kind of like a doctor’s waiting room.  There were elevators even in this small town, but escalators were a wonder I could ride only in the big city.
Frilled toothpicks

Frilled toothpicks

Sometimes we rode the Greyhound bus.  It was on a bus that I saw my first drunk.  The vending machine at the local Greyhound station contained candy so old, it was too stale to eat and often there were those little white worms crawling in the whitish chocolate.  I was a little kid and I wanted to give the machine another chance every time.  The machine betrayed me every time.  I can only assume that my mom was using this lesson in futility as some kind of lesson.
I wore my skate key on a string around my neck wherever I went.
Mom had odd notions about shoes.  We were always the last kids to get sneakers because Mom believed that sneakers were for summer, not spring, and she really didn’t care that, and I kid you not, we were the last kids in the school to get sneakers.    She was also a believer in rain boots and those hideous rain bonnets worn and still worn only by old women.  We walked to school from K-12, and even when it was pouring rain or the snow was knee-deep, I would walk around the corner and ditch the boots and hideous rain bonnet in a stranger’s hedges.  We had school in weather that would keep kids today home for a week.  Everybody walked to school except the kids who lived on the outskirts of town.  In high school, the same rich kids who had their own bedroom were the only ones who drove to high school.
The penny candy at Brown’s grocery was kept behind a huge glass-covered case.  We stood in front of the glass, pointed to what we wanted, and Mr. Brown would put it in a little brown paper bag.  Usually, Mom gave us each a nickel for penny candy, but if Dad was home, we got a dime.  Each.  That’s a lot of candy lipstick, chalky candy cigarettes, paraffin lips, teeth, and moustaches, and, for me, the occasional lemon.
That’s “lemon.”  The fruit.  I’ve loved them since I was really little.
Sometimes I bought a lemon.  No, I didn't put sugar on it, but thank you for asking.

Sometimes I bought a lemon. No, I didn’t put sugar on it, but thank you for asking.

Our ice cream man drove a yellow pickup truck, and two high school girls made snow-cones and sold us popsicles from a freezer.  We could hear him coming near from clear across town; the yellow truck didn’t play music; the high school girls rang a large bell.  The popsicles were a nickel.  The snow cones were a dime.

 These experiences and prices seem so extreme now, even to me.  It’s almost like something we’d read in a novel about the olden days.
Oh, scheisse. . . . .

Poetry: Beauty and Truth

Absolute and beautiful truth.

Absolute and beautiful truth.

Mamacita says:  Poetry.  I first encountered Gerard Manley Hopkins’  Spring and Fall and Robert Burns’ John Anderson, My Jo in a college course.  Unfortunately, the professor was a jaded, bored, boring man who considered himself far too important to be teaching a group of eager undergrads, and who turned every selection into a joke.  Both poems, he taught us, were about old people who were about to die.  No biggie, that. Death.  Common theme.  Moving right along. . . .

A lot of treasure went undiscovered that semester, thanks to him.  He knew there was gold in that book and even more gold seated in the room, but he did not bestir himself to go a’digging for it.  Too much trouble.  He held the key to a treasure chest and did not bother to use it.  Never once did he tell us that poetry was awesome and fantastic and heartbreaking and thrilling and bloody and pathetic and sweet and sour and bitter and lusty and sexy and mind-boggling and dirty and just plain wonderful unless it wasn’t.

A few years later, I encountered this poem again, in Jean Kerr’s How I Got To Be Perfect.  Jean and her husband Walter, upon realizing – with horror – that while their kids seemed to know an

This is a must-read, my friends.

This is a must-read, my friends.

awful lot about sports and movies and fun, not one of their kids knew anything about poetry, instituted “Culture Night,” wherein each child had to memorize a poem and recite it to the family once a week.  It went over like a ton of bricks the first few times, and then took off like a rocket as the boys gradually gained an understanding and appreciation of form, rhyme, meter, patterns, theme, and inner meanings. (The Common Room has a fantastic post about Jean and Walter Kerr’s “Culture Hour.” I highly recommend that y’all go read it.)

One night, after Jean’s son Colin had finished his recitation of  John Anderson, My Jo,, Jean burst into tears. The boy said to her, “Mom, it is Margaret you mourn for.”  It was true.

I cannot think of either poem now, without tears.  The good kind.  I teach my students that both poems are, first and foremost, about love: the kind of love that lasts forever.

John Anderson, My Jo, by Robert Burns

JOHN ANDERSON, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill tegither;
And monie a canty day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.

Spring and Fall, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Thank you, Jean Kerr, for teaching me that poetry rocks. The university couldn’t be arsed to do it.

Heavenly Rays and Miracles

Mamacita says: When my children were little, they called these ‘heavenly rays,’ and for heavenly rays to appear, it meant that there were miracles afoot.

Heavenly rays

Heavenly rays

I spent the afternoon in court – I’m not in trouble; I’m a CASA – and it left me kind of depressed and sad.  On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store and had to count out change from the bottom of my purse to complete the transaction.  I’m sure all those people in line behind me didn’t mind a bit.

As I loaded my few bags of groceries into the trunk of my car, it started to rain.  By the time I finished, it was coming down pretty hard.

By the time I got home, it was barely sprinkling.  As I unloaded my car, the sun came back out.  I know there must have been a rainbow somewhere, because this kind of weather is rainbow fodder, but I couldn’t find one. Just knowing there might be one is still lovely, though, right?

But I did see heavenly rays.

Those sunburst things up there, those, In case you didn’t know, are heavenly rays.

Sometimes hope will appear in the midst of sadness, frustration, and even mundane activity. I had a difficult day and I was unloading my car and I looked up and saw heavenly rays. There are miracles afoot.

We are, of course, not allowed to choose our miracles, and even if we could, it would probably not be a good idea.  We would not choose wisely, even if we thought we were being wise.  Miracle selection is best left to the Expert.

Even if I did choose and got my wish, my problems would not be any better, but right now, my problems are the least of my worries.

Look up, everyone. Look up. Look at the heavenly rays. There are miracles afoot.