Thursday’s Child

Thursday is blogging day for me. Fingers poised on the home row of a QUERTY keyboard, I stare at the blank white sheet my laptop screen. Thursday’s child with far to go hammers at me.

When I was a child—not a great hook, but true—more than a century after the nursery rhyme about fate  the day of the week a child was born, still brought accolades and commiserates.

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for his living
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

“She’s beautiful. She must have been born on Monday.” Or, “That kid works hard. He was born on Saturday, you know.” The saddest day for births was Wednesday because the nursery rhyme declared that misfortunate baby to be a child of woe.

What about blogging? Do Monday’s bloggers produce the best looking blogs? Do Saturday bloggers struggle more to monetize their posts? Are Sunday bloggers happier than others?

I chose Thursday as my WordPress blogging day years ago. I try to post about lunchtime in California. I don’t worry about Google Analytics statistics because my goal isn’t about monetizing (Those ads you see are a WordPress tradeoff for a free site). I’m more interested in where you live than how many clicks. Now and then, one of my blog posts will resonate worldwide, but more often within the northern continent.

There are dozens of posts about the best day and time to blog. None seem to agree. For me, success is measured by your likes and comments that tell me how many smiles I created on Thursday.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Traditions

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? In the United States, turkey is traditional. Various sides begin with stuffing (my mother called it dressing) flanked by macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, and other green or yellow vegetables. Then for dessert, there’s traditional pumpkin or sweet potato pie. Or perhaps, apple or pecan pie. Add a dollop of vanilla ice cream and bring on the hot coffee or tea.

Why do we call these foods traditional? Because they’ve been around a long time. How long? Definitely not the focus of the first Thanksgiving dinner which originated during fall harvest four centuries ago. According to the Smithsonian, venison and wild fowl were the mainstays. Sides aren’t mentioned, but corn seemed to be in abundance. And forget the pies, the Smithsonian says.

What? Pastry has been a favorite since ancient Greeks, and Queen Elizabeth I is credited with baking the first cherry pie. The American Pie Council says pies (first spelled pyes) were a tradition of the first English settlers to the Colonies, but the Smithsonian says they were absent from the Pilgrims’ table in 1621.

My mother, a descendant of French Huguenots who migrated to America to escape religious persecution, made her pie crusts with lard. She favored mincemeat, pumpkin, and apple fillings but made a variety depending on the tastes of who would be coming to dinner.

Dinner. The Pilgrims celebrated for three days, but dinner was at our house was at high noon in California, USA. Papa settled himself at the table laden with food, and lifted his watch, the chain firmly attached to his pocket, five minutes early. Perhaps he and Mama had a hidden signal, or perhaps from years of this tradition, she immediately called everyone to the dining room. The adults sat at the table—all but Mama. She stood behind the chairs with the children. At precisely twelve, Pacific Standard Time, Papa slid his watch back into his pocket and said the blessing over the food. After the Amen, mothers filled plates for their children to take to the kitchen table. Teens carried plates heaped with food to the living room or front porch, depending on the weather. Mama hustled back and forth to the kitchen refilling serving bowls with food. By the time she sat at the table with her children and their spouses, they were ready for dessert. Off she went again, carrying slices of pie to those who sat while she served.

After dinner, the women washed and dried the dishes and swept crumbs from the linoleum floors. Some of my brothers and my sisters’ husbands went outside to smoke—another of Papa’s house rules. Long before cell phones and video games, Thanksgiving was a day of food and conversation for adults, games for the kids. Lots of laughter. No TV—we couldn’t afford one—so the crowd thinned in late afternoon to go home and watch football in black and white.

That evening, long before home microwaves, Mama warmed leftovers on the kitchen stove. When the dishes were done, she boiled water, made herself a cup of tea, and rested.

 

 

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Blogging typo rewrites ninety-nine year history of Veterans Day

A typo in “Truce” shifted historical data of the first Armistice Day celebration in 1919 to a future date of the one-hundredth anniversary.  Here’s the corrected post.

Truce

A signed armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 signaled the end of World War I. The first Armistice Day celebration was one year later, November 11, 1919. My parents had two children then. World War II ended September 2, 1945.  Then, my parents had nine children, ages six to thirty-one, and grandchildren ages up to age seven. Several of those grandsons later served in the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam.

We honored all the dead in our family—military and civilian—on Memorial Day and the living military men on Veterans Day. My mother called the May holiday Decoration Day and the November holiday Armistice Day. We spent the May morning at the Chowchilla Cemetery placing flowers on any veteran’s grave. After my father died in November 1953, my mother insisted that we adorn his grave with flowers on Armistice Day although he was a civilian during all the wars. She said, “It might look bad if his grave was bare on that day so many neighbors visited the cemetery.”

The red poppy became symbolic for Veterans Day, but my mother, a widow, seldom had a spare quarter to donate in exchange for the handmade paper flower. One year, the veteran accepted a dime and handed her a red paper poppy. She pinned it to the right side of her dress. When my brother-in-law, a WWII veteran, saw it, he insisted she move it over her heart. To keep the peace, a truce of sorts, she wore it there until he left. Then, she moved it back to the right side.

“What’d you do that for, Grandma?” one of the grandsons born during World War II asked. “The vets pin their poppies on the left.”

“That’s why I moved it,” she said, her black brows drawn together. “They’re men, but I’m a woman.”

 

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Truce

A signed armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 signaled the end of World War I. The first Armistice Day celebration was November 11,  1919. My parents had two children then. World War II ended September 2, 1945. At the end of WWII, my parents had nine children, ages six to thirty-one, and grandchildren ages up to age seven. Several of those grandsons later served in the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam.

We honored all the dead in our family—military and civilian—on Memorial Day and the living military men on Veterans Day. My mother called the May holiday Decoration Day and the November holiday Armistice Day. We spent the May morning at the Chowchilla Cemetery placing flowers on any veteran’s grave. After my father died in November 1953, my mother insisted that we adorn his grave with flowers on Armistice Day although he was a civilian during all the wars. She said, “It might look bad if his grave was bare on that day so many neighbors visited the cemetery.”

The red poppy became symbolic for Veterans Day, but my mother, a widow, seldom had a spare quarter to donate in exchange for the handmade paper flower. One year, the veteran accepted a dime and handed her a red paper poppy. She pinned it to the right side of her dress. When my brother-in-law, a WWII veteran, saw it, he insisted she move it over her heart. To keep the peace, a truce of sorts, she wore it there until he left. Then, she moved it back to the right side.

“What’d you do that for, Grandma?” one of the grandsons born during World War II asked. “The vets pin their poppies on the left.”

“That’s why I moved it,” she said, her black brows drawn together. “They’re men, but I’m a woman.”

 

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Too Much of a Good Thing

Family stories shaped my life in hand-me-down stories of my French and Native American ancestry. DNA proves the French but disagrees on the other. That doesn’t erase the historical moment my mother blurted two full sentences in Cherokee, part of a conversation she remembered from her young years in Indian Territory, later Oklahoma. I can identify the colors and material of clothes my twin and I wore in aging black and white photos. Cloudy memories say I excelled in high school, but math transcripts disagree. I played shortstop a few times in physical education. I like to think I was good, but the truth is I was the last choice for the position.  True or false, these are part of my backstory.

My critique group often tells me to cut the backstory in my crime fiction novel. “But you need to know my character’s history,” I insist. “How else will you know why she reacts like she does.”

The most common statements my physicians repeat are backstory. “At your age . . .” and “With your history . . .” followed by how genetics and medical history affect a specific ailment now. Despite my poor athletic abilities, I jump like a pro reaching for a fly ball. I catch words preceded by high—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high heart rate.  Imagine my surprise when a specialist lobbed me a slow grounder.

 

“Your sodium level is too low.”

My mind raced to backstory ten years ago when physicians, nurses, and dieticians counseled me to lower my salt levels. No more pizza. Go light on the bread. Ditch the cheese. It was difficult after a lifetime of enjoying salt, but I followed the advice. I switched to organics, bought no-salt-added canned vegetables or rinsed regular ones to remove the excess sodium. I substituted Trader Joe’s Rainbow Peppercorns for my spice-of-the-day. No more salt on watermelon or fresh sliced tomatoes. My taste buds refused to cooperate at first but eventually acclimated to the new taste.

“But lowering my salt intake was the goal,” I countered, back in the present where my new endocrinologist didn’t know my history.

She turned the computer screen my direction and pointed to the < sign before the sodium level.

“Dangerously low,” she said. “Increase the salt in your diet.”

That reversal echoed advice from my critique group when I revealed the antagonist in the last chapters. “You need to flesh out this guy,” they said. “Give us some backstory.”

At home, I made a sandwich with cheese. I sprinkled the sliced tomatoes with salt and ate a handful of potato chips—rare foods in my kitchen.

Backstory and salt. How do I balance the levels to avoid too much of a good thing?

 

 

 

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Happy Trails

Roy Rogers, King of Cowboys, and Dale Evans, Queen of the West, sang “Happy Trails to You” on the radio during the 1940s and 1950s, then in movies and television. Horse riders while they sang in their younger years, then sitting on a fence as they aged, they captured the hearts of American families. Youngsters wanted to be cowboys and cowgirls, riding the trails to happiness. But who would have listened to their family-oriented broadcasts if they weren’t movie stars? And who would have listened if they hadn’t sidestepped their birth names?  The end of their happy trail for both is Sunset Cemetery in Happy Valley, California where Leonard and Octavia rest with no hint of the famous trails of Roy Rogers or Dale  Evans.

John (Johnny Appleseed) Chapman

Long before this duo made “Happy Trails” Johnny Appleseed preceded them in a precarious trail to a different type of stardom. His historical marker, placed by the Allen County Historical Society in 1953, honors John Chapman for planting his first apple nursery on a half-acre of in Allen County, Ohio, in 1835. That was the beginning of his Johnny Appleseed trail. Although the actual gravesite has been lost, the end of his walking trail in 1774 is marked by a rock—more like a boulder—in a memorial park named for him in Leominster, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Now, the first historical marker honoring southern writers has begun a new Happy Trails route. Eudora Welty (1909-2001), Pulitzer Prize winner with The Optimist’s Daughter claims this honor. The downtown library in Jackson, Mississippi, is named for Eudora Welty, but I believe this short-story writer and novelist would count that secondary to the new marker for happy trails of recognition for Mississippi writers on the Jackson property where she wrote her famed novel.

 

Happy reading trails begin for me at the city library

and end at home where I immerse myself in my favorite books.

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The Fugitive

An email from National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) was a stark reminder that my first novel manuscript sleeping in my computer like Rip Van Winkle has many of the basics, but the reader wants action and a conclusion. That reminded me of the original The Fugitive TV series from 1963 to 1967.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

“That was just a TV show,” some say. To viewers, it was much more. Dr. Richard Kimball (David Janssen), convicted of killing his wife, Helen, escaped when the train carrying him to prison wrecked short of the destination. I watched those weekly episodes—Kimball’s unfruitful search for the one-armed man who knew the truth—while pursued by Lt. Phillip Gerard (Barry Morse) who was determined to put Kimball in prison. After a while, I lost interest. Not because there was no tension. It was there. Not because there was no action or emotion. They were there too. My interest waned when I realized the chase continued without a solution.

After four years, producer Leonard Goldberg realized the same thing. Solving the mystery would terminate the series, but the viewers wanted resolution. In years that followed, this pattern of conflict, tension, and resolution would become the basic for movies and TV shows.

Like Dr. Kimball in The Fugitive, I’m hiding while trying to solve a mystery.  The IRS is sending a constable to arrest me. Microsoft “technicians” are warning me that my computer has been hacked. The same voice leaves messages when I don’t answer a dozen unknown calls a day with warnings that I’m paying too much for health insurance.

But unlike the dramatic ending in the last episode of The Fugitive when the one-armed man was apprehended and Dr. Kimball was freed, even my long-time registration with the Do-Not-Call center brings no relief from my adversaries. I’m hiding from the robo-cops while I revise my crime fiction novel that began as a NanNoWriMo contest in a long-ago November while Detective Morgan Madrid of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office can bring closure to my story.

 

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