Origami, the art of paper folding, has always fascinated me. In grade school I learned how to make a paper cup by folding a piece of paper following directions shown above. I was pleased with this accomplishment and actually found it useful to be able to produce a paper cup when I needed one.
Our book store sells packs of origami paper, every color and pattern you can imagine, and I was intrigued to try my hand at it again as an adult. My granddaughter wanted to join me, so we bought a book of “simple” Origami animals. We quickly learned that the Japanese definition of simple and our definition were vastly different. Although each of us could make a paper cup, that was the best either of us could clearly execute. She even had the good idea to watch kids do origami on You Tube. That only made us feel less dexterous than we already did. We abandoned our elaborate project of making a full menagerie of paper animals. We admitted defeat.
Every now and then when we are together at the book store I look longingly at the seductive stacks of origami paper. Maybe we should try again? Absolutely not she replies. One afternoon failing to fold was enough.
I have been reflecting on skills I really wanted to master as a young girl. Two in particular, whistling and whittling come to mine. I had already learned how to snap my fingers which had taken quite a while. I had figured out how to wink, closing one eye while leaving the other open. I failed to wiggle my ears, a trick one family friend demonstrated. I did have the ability to curl my tongue and flip it over, but later learned this was genetic and not a real achievement on my part.
Whistling confounded me. It looked easy enough. I was just supposed to pucker my lips and blow. (Imagine my delight when I heard a similar line by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” though that had a whole different edge to it!) I could not make a sound come out for the life of me. I must have spent weeks trying and failing to whistle. Then finally one day the sound I had been aiming for, the sound that would bring our dog running, came out of my mouth. Success at last. Then of course my friend challenged me to make a piercing whistle with my two fingers. I never did master that and remain impressed any time some one gets everyone’s attention with that feat.
I got a pocket knife when I was eight to take to camp. It looked very similar to the one pictured above. Although I had no need of a knife, I was very pleased to own one. Of course I had to find something to do with the new possession, so I learned to whittle. Whittling really only requires a stick and remembering to push the blade away from you. I really enjoyed watching little shavings pile up on the ground. A pointless skill since I wasn’t going to use a sharpened stick for anything. But I was pretty proud to have acquired a new talent.
Much has been written in recent years about the negative aspects of shame. We are taught how to heal from shame, how to eliminate self-shaming messages, how to avoid shaming others. But what is the value of shame and how can we rightfully call the behavior of people, including the leader of the United States, shameless?
Shame brings that uncomfortable feeling that I am bad. It isn’t a global belief that everything about me is bad. Rather, as a useful feeling, it says “I have failed to act in a way that is that of a good person and I am trying to be a good person.” It can alert us and allow us to do differently next time. Guilt, another useful feeling, says “I have done something bad.” It is easy to confuse the two, but guilt may arise without shame. Guilt can sometimes make excuses that shame doesn’t allow.
What of a man when confronted with accusations of rape replies, “She isn’t my type.” as the U.S. leader just did? We inwardly recoil at hearing that, and I think it is because we recognize a total lack of shame. Similarly when we hear of children locked in cages we feel the shame that many of our leaders fail to feel. I like to think I live in a compassionate society. I don’t like the feeling of knowing I live in a society where this atrocity is taking place. I feel ashamed. Grievously, that feeling is not shared by the people who could change the situation.
So let’s admit that it is the total lack of shame from the U.S. leaders that sickens us. And that lack suggests there is no end to the behavior they condone. Shame can be a gift when used for good. Let’s pause the next time we feel it and see if it brings helpful information before we disregard it.
I never saw this particular Abbot and Costello scene, but the two of them were favorites of mine as a child. At any rate, I found this image the perfect accompaniment to my occasional post about people who blog and then stop without warning. I tend to leave their names on my “followed” list for a year and then sadly delete them. I wonder what happened to them.
I realize that people start a blog for many different reasons. I don’t follow those that are for commercial purposes, either run by a company or those that ask for monetary contributions. I also avoid ones that are basically diaries posted on line that resemble the kind of writing I did as a teenager–much angst and turmoil. Angst and turmoil are fine topics for blogs, just not for ones I follow. I am thinking instead of thoughtful musings, whether on one topic or on many topics that are posted on a fairly regular basis. I often find those from the comments left on other peoples’ posts and take a look at the commentator.
While I didn’t start a blog for any set reason, I soon discovered that I write with the intention of interacting with other writers and artists. I have connected with wonderful English speaking people all over the world, much to my surprise and delight. I comment on their writings and they on mine. The give and take is life enriching and I always feel buoyed after I catch up each day with new posts. So it is especially sad when people stop without any notice and disappear back into the ether. They probably never thought of their writing being missed, but it is.
I promise to not be one more disappearing blogger. If I quit, I will do it with a parting word.
Here recently a scheme to buy kids’ ways into college by falsifying applications, hiring actors to take the SAT tests and faking disabilities to get extra time for tests, has been exposed. Thousands of students are trying to get into a small number of colleges and their parents are doing what they can to make it happen.
Times have changed dramatically since the mid-1960’s when I applied to college. At that time we were allowed three applications. We were to have one school we knew we could get into, one we hoped to get into and one that had as much chance of accepting us as us winning the lottery. Today students can use a common application and are applying to twenty schools at a time. Before xerox machines and computers such a process was impossible. Each letter of recommendation had to be hand typed, as did each separate application. It made sense to limit us to three.
There were no SAT tutoring classes, no books on how to pass the tests, no hysteria from parents making sure we had a good breakfast before we went. We sharpened a bunch of #2 pencils and showed up. Weeks later we got the score with no indication of where we had missed the mark in our answers. We didn’t retake the test. We didn’t mourn that our lives had come to an end. We applied to the three colleges we were allowed. We always got into one, just as our counselors had suggested. Sometimes we got into two and had to decide. Once in a blue moon we got into all three. Then, of course, we had to go to the one where we had had no chance of admission. Many of my classmates at Harvard were, like me, sure they had been admitted by mistake!
It’s too bad I didn’t go to Oberlin where I expected to go. It had smaller classes, many more public school graduates and much more attentive professors. But I had won the lottery and I accepted my “fate.”
*(1962 song by the Sensations for those of you too young to start singing along)
I have always loved popcorn. When I was little, my mother made it in a heavy saucepan. After heating up some oil, she would drop two kernels in. After they popped, the oil was hot enough to add more kernels, put on the lid and begin shaking the pan back and forth to pop but not burn the corn. Then they invented Jiffy Pop and my brother and I were old enough to use it by ourselves. We held the pan over the burner and shook it back and forth until the package expanded to reveal a foil wrapped bowl of popped corn.
As a young mother I bought an air corn popper which shot the popped corn out into a bowl and beyond! This proved an endless amusement to my young daughter and her friends and supplied lots of pop corn for very little money. Some years later I fell victim to the newly available microwave popcorn bags. These little bags went straight into the microwave where they proceeded to pop into a large serving of flavored popcorn. I learned that not only were these toxic to the user but also were causing illness in the factory workers producing the product.
That left the movies as the only really convenient fail safe way to get popcorn. Of course the small box is only slightly less expensive than the huge box, so we had to get the huge box. A very expensive addition to already expensive movie tickets.
Then one lunch time I caught Rachel Ray demonstrating making popcorn in the microwave. Using just a brown paper lunch bag and 1/4 cup of popping kernels, she made a heaping bowl of fresh popcorn to be flavored afterward to her heart content. It didn’t even use oil. And it was inexpensive. And it worked.(I admit I thought it was not going to work!)
How is it done? In a small paper bag with the top rolled down or in a large bowl covered with a paper plate, microwave 1/4 cup kernels on high until the popping slows, about 1 minute 30 seconds in the bag or 1 minute 45 seconds in the bowl. Makes 6 cups.
Driving home the other night with our granddaughter we were entertained by her plans for her wedding proposal. She’s only 12, so this was more the result of seeing a Hallmark Movie with her other grandmother than of having a boy in mind. She was very definite stating “I don’t even want to hear the word wedding until I have been proposed to. And I don’t want to pick out my own ring!”
This was a natural time to share with her our engagement story. Charlie and I had been dating for a couple of years and were walking along the Willamette River. He said, quite calmly, “I would like to be married to you.” I replied, “I would like that too.” Then walking along for a while longer, having had a chance to ponder the off hand remark, I said, “Wait! That’s it? That was a marriage proposal?” He said, “Yes.” “No! No! No!,” I yelled. “You have to ask me formally. On one knee. And I want an engagement ring.” He was naturally shocked since I had shown no indication of being a romantic. I was rather startled myself.
So we walked back to my house, he knelt down, asked me to marry him and I said yes. Then we went together to a art gallery where we designed a simple gold and tiny sapphire engagement ring. I wore it another year later when he added a simple gold band as we were wed.
My granddaughter was not impressed!
Inspired by a writer from New Zealand who said years ago all soft drinks were called fizzy drinks, I remembered Fizzies. Fizzies were small flavored tablet that you dropped in a glass of water. Then you watched them fizz and turn the water the flavor’s color. I read about their history before I posted this and sure enough they were invented by a drug company which added flavor to Bromo-Seltzer. They used saccharine to make the drink sweet and had to change the formula when the effects of saccharine on mice were troubling.(I guess they never worried about the effect on kids of drinking this stuff!) My siblings and I really couldn’t stand the taste even though we really enjoyed watching the tablets dissolve.
The other novelty we insisted our mother buy for us was Flav-R-Straws. These paper straws had a core of either strawberry or chocolate powder. As you sipped your milk, it was flavored by the powder. The ad above amuses me as it promises to get children to drink more milk. I laugh because I have a very distinct memory of getting violently ill after two strawberry Flav-R-Straw glasses of milk. I swore off Flav-R-Straws for good and even avoided milk for quite a while. It turns out Flav-R-Straws also used saccharine.
We stuck with Kool-Aid, sweetened with the real stuff–sugar. Who could resist a tall glass of sweet red water?
I had so much fun with the last two posts that I couldn’t resist adding this one. I am not sure how applicable it is around the world, but it causes great confusion in the United States. When I first moved to New England and requested a “pop” the waitress looked at me with confusion. She really didn’t know what I was asking for. It turns out that “soda” was proper way to ask for a carbonated beverage. Meanwhile I only knew “soda” to refer to a flavorless seltzer added to whiskey as in “whiskey and soda.” In Oregon if I had wanted a whiskey and Coke, I would have had to specify the beverage. Otherwise I would have received club soda.
There are some puzzling aspects to the map showing the distribution of the word for carbonated beverages. In the South, for instance, it appears the default word is “coke,” a reminder that Coca Cola originated in Georgia, part of the South. That reminds me that there are many people who insist on either Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola and find the other intolerable. I drink neither, but could never tell them apart when I did.
At the gym this morning I enjoyed hearing other people pronounce apricot, pajamas and tomato. I also tried to see if anyone could differentiate between Mary, marry and merry. That would be a little harder to ascertain from reading about the distinctions, but they existed. Interestingly each person believed that the way she pronounced a word or the name she gave to a drink or a shoe or a blinking bug was the CORRECT way and any other way was WRONG.
So much for embracing diversity!