Saturday, December 31, 2016


Two things I don't do:

1. Go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
2. Go out on New Year's Eve.

I always laugh and say, "There are AMATEURS out there!" suggesting that I am a PROFESSIONAL!

I used to be among the crazy people lined up at the Downtown Lazarus store to get whatever "Lazzie Bear" was being given that year. On December 3, 1979, the tragedy of eleven people being crushed to death at The Who concert in Cincinnati happened. The next year, on the day after Thanksgiving, I was in a crush of people at the air door at Lazarus, and a woman stumbled in front of me and I stumbled onto her back. Visions floated in my head of being crushed at that air door, like the people at the concert. I was able to keep from being injured and I turned around and left and have never again gone shopping on the day after Thanksgiving!

I don't drink and don't care to be around people who don't know how to drink. My usual New Year's Eve excitement includes: watching a movie; turn on the Times Square coverage at 11:45; kiss Gerald at 12:00; have a cup of eggnog with Les, listen to Dan Fogelberg's classic song Same Auld Lang Syne and then return to my movie.  Listen to Dan:

And you say there's no excitement in my life!

Friday, December 30, 2016


A French phrase Faute de Mieux was included in Merriam Webster's "most looked up words" of 2016;  I wondered why it was causing such interest.

Faute de Mieux definition:  "for want of a better alternative";  AHA, yes, the presidential election!

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Please read this article from Tim Giago, an Oglala Sioux, who is the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and is also the publisher of the Native Sun News.

On clear nights when winter winds whistle through the canyons around Wounded Knee Creek, the Lakota elders say it is so cold that you can hear the twigs snapping in the frigid air. They called this time of the year "The Moon of the Popping Trees." It was on such a winter morning on Dec. 29, 1890, that the crack of a single rifle brought a day of infamy that still lives in the hearts and minds of the Lakota people.

After the rifle spoke, there was a pause, and then the rifles and Hotchkiss guns of the Seventh Cavalry opened up on the men, women and children camped at Wounded Knee. What followed was chaos and madness. The thirst for the blood of the Lakota took away all common sense from the soldiers.

The unarmed Lakota fought back with bare hands. The warriors shouted to their wives, their elders and their children, "run for cover" -- Iynkapo! Iyankapo!

Elderly men and women, unable to fight back, stood defiantly and sang their death songs before falling to the hail of bullets. The number of Lakota people murdered that day is still unknown. The mass grave at Wounded Knee holds the bodies of 150. Many other victims died from their wounds and from exposure over the next several days.

The Lakota people say that only 50 people out of the original 350 followers of Sitanka (Big Foot) survived the massacre.

Five days after the slaughter of the innocents, an editorial in the Aberdeen (S.D.) Saturday Pioneer reflected the popular opinion of the wasicu (white people) of that day. It read, "The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth."

Ten years after he wrote that editorial calling for genocide against the Lakota people, L. Frank Baum wrote "The Wizard of Oz."

The federal government tried to erase the memory of Wounded Knee. The village that sprang up on the site of the massacre was named Brennan after a Bureau of Indian Affairs official. But the Lakota people never forgot. They still called it Wounded Knee. In the 1920s, Clive and Agnes Gildersleeve built the Wounded Knee Trading Post there to serve the Lakota people.

My father, Tim Giago Sr., worked as a clerk and butcher for the Gildersleeves in the 1930s, and we lived in one of the cabins at Wounded Knee that were later destroyed in the American Indian Movement occupation in 1973.

As a small boy, I recall summer evenings when the Lakota families sat outdoors and spoke in reverent voices about that terrible day in 1890.

Much of what they said was written down by a young man named Hoksila Waste (pronounced Hokesheela Washtay) or Good Boy. His Christian name was Sid Byrd, and he was a member of the Santee Sioux Tribe, a tribe that had been relocated and scattered around the state after the so-called Indian uprising in Minnesota.

Byrd wrote that it was the white man's fear of the spiritual revival going on amongst the Lakota in the form of the Ghost Dance that led to the assassination of Sitting Bull on Dec. 14, 1890, just two weeks before the massacre. Fearing further attacks, Sitanka (Big Foot), and his band, a group that performed the very last Ghost Dance, went on a five-day march in order to reach the protection of Chief Red Cloud at the Pine Ridge Agency. The weary band was overtaken and captured at Wounded Knee Creek (Canke Opi Wahkpala).

Byrd believed, as do all Lakota people, that Big Foot died as a martyr for embracing the Ghost Dance "as freely as other men embraced their religion."

Byrd wrote in his Lakota version of what happened that day, "Later, some of the bodies would be found four to five miles from the scene of the slaughter. Soldiers would whoop as they spotted women and children fleeing into the woods and chase them on horseback. They made sport of it. I heard from the elders that the soldiers shouted 'Remember the Little Big Horn.'"

On the 100th anniversary of that infamous day, Birgil Kills Straight, Alex White Plume and Jim Garrett organized a ride that followed the exact trail taken by Big Foot and his band. That ride has taken place every year since Dec. 29, 1990. At the end of the ride they hold a ceremony called "wiping away the tears" that calls for peace and forgiveness. This year they will take that ride again, 120 years after the massacre.

Arvol Looking Horse, the Keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Lakota, says a prayer every year on the hallowed grounds at Wounded Knee. He prays that America will someday apologize to the Lakota for the terrible deeds of the Seventh Cavalry, and that the 23 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for the slaughter of the innocents, will have those medals revoked. He also prays for peace and unity.

Will America ever own up to its sins?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


In my article about Merriam Webster's choice of "Word Of The Year", I  was pleased to see a Latin phrase, In Omnia Paratus, but wondered about the "intense interest":

IN OMNIA PARATUS:  "ready for anything".

It seems the interest in the phrase is because of renewed interest in a series I loved: The Gilmore Girls, because there's a new series updating the lives of the characters.  In Omnia Paratus is the motto of "The Death Brigade", a secret society at Yale.  I fondly remember that episode;  see a clip below, or binge-watch the entire series on Netflix! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Merriam Webster has chosen "surreal" as The  2016 Word Of The Year.

SURREAL:  marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream;  synonyms include "unbelievable" and "fantastic".  

Surreal is a relatively new word in English and derives from the word "surrealism" which was the artistic movement in the 1900s that attempted to depict the unconscious mind by dreamlike ways as above and beyond reality.  The word "surreal" usage dates to the 1930s and was first defined in Merriam Webster's Dictionary in 1967.

How are words of the year chosen?  Merriam Webster tracks words which are "looked up" more significantly than they were the previous year.  After significant events in 2016 such as the death of Prince, the terrorist  attack in Brussels, the attempted coup in Turkey, and, obviously, the presidential election, the following words, topped by SURREAL, had the greatest traffic:


Monday, December 26, 2016


Tonight, at dinner, a friend asked, "Don't you get tired of people asking you for favors?"  I laughed and answered, "No, I always recognize the Benjamin Franklin Effect."

The friend asked me to explain.  The Benjamin Franklin Effect:  asking other people for favors is a way of getting them to like you.

That's the centuries-old psychological phenomenon proposed by Benjamin Franklin, who wrote this maxim in his autobiography:  "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."


Saturday, December 24, 2016


CHANUKAH 2016 begins on December 25.

ABC's of Chanukah

Everything you need to know about the holiday of Chanukah by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Chanukah (Hanukkah), the Festival of Lights, begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, and lasts for eight days. On the secular calendar, Chanukah generally falls out in December.

This primer will explore:

(1) A Bit of History
(2) Lighting Instructions
(3) Other Customs

The Hebrew word Chanukah means "dedication." In the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Second Holy Temple, the Syrian-Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism, with the hopes of assimilating them into Greek culture. Antiochus outlawed Jewish observance ― including circumcision, Shabbat, and Torah study ― under penalty of death. As well, many Jews ― called Hellenists ― began to assimilate into Greek culture, taking on Greek names and marrying non-Jews. This began to decay the foundation of Jewish life and practice.

When the Greeks challenged the Jews to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god, a few courageous Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat to Jewish life. Led by Matitiyahu, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, this small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian-Greek army.

Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but after three years the Maccabees beat incredible odds and miraculously succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. The victory was on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today.

Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem and found the Holy Temple in shambles and desecrated with idols. The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but found only one jar of pure oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. The group of believers lit the Menorah anyway and were rewarded with a miracle: That small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought.

From then on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days, in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. To publicize the Chanukah miracle, Jews add the special Hallel praises to the Shacharit service, and light a menorah during the eight nights of Chanukah.

In Ashkenazi tradition, each person lights his own menorah. Sefardi tradition has just one menorah per family.

To publicize which night of Chanukah it is, all eight candles on the menorah should be at the same height ― and preferably in a straight line. Otherwise, the candles may not be easily distinguishable and may appear like a big torch.

In addition to the eight main lights, the menorah has an extra helper candle called the "Shamash." As we are forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for any purpose other than "viewing," any benefit is as if it's coming from the Shamash.

Since the Shamash does not count as one of the eight regular lights, your menorah should have the Shamash set apart in some way ― either placed higher than the other candles, or off to the side.

The most important thing is that that your candles must burn for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. (Those famous colored candles barely qualify!) Many Jewish bookstores sell longer colored candles.

Actually, it is even better to use olive oil, since the miracle of the Maccabees occurred with olive oil. Glass cups containing oil can be placed in the candle holders of any standard menorah. Many Jewish bookstores even sell kits of pre-measured oil in disposable cups.

To best publicize the miracle, the menorah is ideally lit outside the doorway of your house, on the left side when entering. (The mezuzah is on the right side; in this way you are "surrounded by mitzvot.") In Israel, many people light outside in special glass boxes built for a menorah.

If this is not practical, the menorah should be lit in a window facing the public thoroughfare.

Someone who lives on an upper floor should light in a window. If for some reason the menorah cannot be lit by a window, it may be lit inside the house on a table; this at least fulfills the mitzvah of "publicizing the miracle" for the members of the household.

Since the mitzvah occurs at the actual moment of lighting, moving the menorah to a proper place after lighting does not fulfill the mitzvah.

The preferable time to light the menorah is at nightfall. It is best to light in the presence of many people, which maximizes the mitzvah of "publicizing the miracle" and adds to the family atmosphere. The menorah can still be lit (with the blessings) late into the night, as long as people are still awake.

The menorah should remain lit for at least 30 minutes after nightfall, during which time no use should be made of its light.

On Friday afternoon, the menorah should be lit 18 minutes before sundown. And since the menorah needs to burn for 30 minutes into the night, the candles used on Friday need to be bigger than the regular "colored candles" (which typically don't burn longer than a half-hour).

On the first night, place one candle at the far right, as you face the menorah. This applies whether the menorah is placed next to a doorway or by a window.

Another candle is placed for the Shamash (taller helper candle) which is used to light the others. It is not counted as one of the candles.

First light the Shamash, then recite the blessings, and then use the Shamash to light the Chanukah candle.

On the second night, place two candles in the two far-right positions ― and use the Shamash to light the left one first.

The third night, place three candles in the three far-right positions ― and use the Shamash to light them in order, from left to right.

Follow this same procedure each night of Chanukah... until all the lights are kindled and glowing brightly!


Watch animation of how to light the Menorah

Listen to the blessings for lighting the Menorah

Print formatted text of this blessing

The first two blessings are said with the Shamash already lit, but immediately prior to lighting the Chanukah candles.

Baruch ata Ado-noi Elo-heinu melech ha-olam, Asher kid-shanu bi-mitzvo-sav, Vi-tzee-vanu li-had-leek ner shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

Baruch ata Ado-noi Elo-heinu melech ha-olam, Shi-asa nee-seem la-avo-seinu, Baya-meem ha-haim baz-man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.

This blessing is said on the first night only.
Baruch ata Ado-noi Elo-heinu melech ha-olam, Sheh-he-che-yanu vi-kee-yimanu Vi-hee-gee-yanu laz-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
The following paragraph is said each night, after the first light has been kindled:
Ha-nerot ha-lalu anach-nu mad-likin Al ha-nissim vi-al hanif-laot Al ha-tshu-ot vi-al ha-milchamot She-asita la'avo-teinu Ba-yamim ha-heim, ba-zman ha-zeh Al ye-dey kohan-echa haki-doshim.
Vi-chol shmonat ye-mey Chanukah Ha-nerot ha-lalu kodesh heim, Ve-ein lanu reshut li-heesh-tamesh ba-hem Ela leer-otam bilvad Kedai le-hodot u-li-hallel li-shimcha Al ni-secha vi-al niflo-techa vi-al yeshua-techa.

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, families enjoy sitting in the glow, singing and recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. The first song traditionally sung after lighting the candles is Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages). (click for audio and lyrics)

A number of other customs have developed, including:
•eating "oily" foods like fried potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), in commemoration of the miracle of the oil
•giving Chanukah gelt (coins) to children
•spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side (sivivon in Hebrew)

What is the origin of the dreidel?

In times of persecution when Torah study was forbidden, Jewish children would learn anyway. When soldiers would investigate, the children would pull out a dreidel and pretend to be playing.

The letters on the dreidel are nun, gimmel, hey, shin ― the first letters of Nes Gadol Haya Sham – "A Great Miracle Happened There." (In Israel, the last letter is a Pey ― "Here.") One way to play dreidel is to see who can keep theirs spinning for the longest time. Or alternatively, to see how many dreidels you can get spinning simultaneously.

Another version of dreidel is where players use pennies, nuts, raisins, or chocolate coins as tokens or chips. Each player puts an equal share into the "pot." The first player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. When the dreidel stops, the letter facing up determines:
•Nun – nothing happens; the next player spins the dreidel
•Gimmel – the spinner takes the pot
•Hey – take half the pot
•Shin – add one to the pot

(Alternatively, you can play where everyone spins their own dreidel simultaneously. Anyone who gets Nun takes 2 from the pot; Gimmel takes 1 from the pot; Hey puts 1 into the pot; Shin gives 1 to the person on his/her right.)

On Chanukah we add "Al Ha'nisim" – an extra paragraph which describes the Chanukah miracle – to the Amidah prayer, and also to the Grace After Meals.


Friday, December 23, 2016


In Aldi's yesterday the clerk said, "Have a merry Christmas." and I said, "Thank you.", but I did not respond in kind.  The person behind me in line said to the clerk, "I'm glad you didn't say Happy Holidays like they are trying to force us to do."  I sensed that, for whatever reason, she was saying it for my benefit, rather than just as a comment to the clerk.

I had to respond to THAT!  I said, "Nobody is forcing anybody to say anything, but do you realize that there are at least seventeen holidays from Thanksgiving through the New Year from a lot of different beliefs and whatever people want to say I think we should all appreciate the inherent good."   I began to list the different holidays;  I began with Kwanzaa, then Bodhi Day, and The Prophet's Birthday, but when I said Chanukah, the woman said, "Yeah, I noticed your bag."  

The bag to which she was referring is emblazoned with the logo Jewish is My Hospital.  I received it from the Auxiliary at the hospital while visiting my brother numerous times while he was in the hospital there.

I responded, "Oh, this bag doesn't necessarily mean I'm Jewish;  it just means I cadged it from there!"

The clerk was very gracious and said she liked whatever nice things people had to say.

The woman said, "Then why don't THEY want to hear people say Merry Christmas?"

I asked, "Exactly WHO  is it that you think who are trying to force YOU to change?"

She said, "People like you."  Angrily, I thought to myself, "People LIKE me?" but I decided NOT to reply to her not-very-subtle anti-Semitic slur because I realized that the woman was beyond reason, logic, common sense, and etiquette.  

I knew any further remarks by me were futile, but when the Hell did I ever let that deter me?  I said, "Obviously you did not listen to a word I said as I was telling you that people wishing others ANYTHING kind was a good thing;  I think it's good to be ecumenical!" There was no further response from her.

 I finished  sacking my groceries, and she was at another counter, sacking her groceries.  As I was leaving, I said, with what I considered great brio,  "Seasons greetings!"  and began singing Winter Wonderland as I exited the building.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Oh, how I miss David Letterman and especially his Christmas show as my brother Les and I never missed it for twenty-six years!   With Paul Shaffer doing his imitation of Cher singing O Holy Night, the football toss at the pizza-topped Christmas tree preceded by what Letterman considered the funniest story he'd ever heard: Jay Thomas relating his encounter with Clayton Moore who portrayed The Lone Ranger.  See those segments here:

The show would be culminated by Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).  At the end of Letterman's final Christmas show, I wistfully said, "She'll probably not perform it again.", but Darlene was on The View last year and it was announced that she was going to perform It's A Marshmallow World At Christmas, but instead she surprised us and performed her NOW classic rendition.  Last week on The View Darlene performed the song again and it was announced it would be a tradition there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


This is an article I published in 2011:

                                                        CORNED BEEF CHILI

With the snow falling today and hearing dire predictions of a "blizzard" I am reminded that I have lived through two REAL blizzards. During the Blizzard of 1950, we lived on Myers Road, back in a lane about a quarter mile from the road. My father couldn't get home and had to stay at work. My brothers and I were happy because we were out of school and we had a TV. When the electricity went off, we didn't care because everything was still fun.  Because of where we lived, we were snowbound for a week.

The snow was as high as the fence posts and the boys were digging tunnels, making snow-women and having snowball fights. That was the time a brother dared me to put my tongue on a metal railing. Each time I've seen The Christmas Story I think back about how I was dared to put my tongue on the railing during the blizzard.   Mother rushed out with hot water and relieved my suffering.

Although we were blissfully unaware, of course Mother had to worry about feeding six kids. Thankfully she was very creative. She had run out of fresh meat but she had Spam and canned corned beef to use. We'd had vegetable soup, bean soup, and potato soup--food that "goes a long way--soups!  One day as we sat down for dinner she had prepared Corned Beef Chili; it was like chili but with canned corned beef instead of ground beef. I thought it was delicious.

For years, when Mother, my brothers, and I would reminisce about the blizzard we would always exclaim about that corned beef chili. One day in the 1970s I came home from work and Mother said she'd invited all the family for a special meal of CORNED BEEF CHILI.  I sat down with great anticipation.  After a few bites, I realized that it was possibly the WORST thing I have ever tasted and from the looks on the faces of the others assembled, all agreed. Norman said, "I always told you it was awful!"

 I ordered pizza for everyone. 

Ah, memories!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Tonight at our Christmas get-together of the Genealogical Society, someone mentioned "the Blizzard" and I asked, "Which one?"  and when one replied 1978, I said that I also remembered the one in 1950 and I related the following story:

One time we were visiting my brother Bode in Florida and we had a discussion of whether the Blizzard was in 1949 or 1950; Bode and Mother said one year and I said another.   It's interesting to see which events help us reach our conclusions. Mother said, "It was Thanksgiving weekend." and my basis was what grade I was in at school at the time. [We have a saying in our family that if one of us doesn't know something then ONE of us undoubtedly will.]

I said, "I'll settle this--I'll call the other brothers!" Bode, already offended that I would dare to doubt him, said that they wouldn't remember any better than I did! I called Norman and he said, "1950--don't you remember the Blizzard Bowl?" I called Neil and he said, "1950, because that's when we got the TV." I called Kenny and he said, "It was 1950 because it was the weekend of the Ohio State-Michigan game--who could forget that?" Duke said, "Hell, I was three years old, I don't remember anything!"

I gloated, "See--I'm right!" He answered, "You expect me to believe ALL of you?" "Four to one--you must believe us!" He said "I'll go with Duke's answer!"

When I got home I went to the library to get copies of coverage of the blizzard to send to him. Did I fail to mention that we are all bad sports and we all like to gloat?

Monday, December 19, 2016


When I was a kid I actually went OUTSIDE and played in the snow, but now I am perplexed as to WHY because there was always television to watch and books to read.  It was probably just to be with my brothers and their derring-do.  They built snow forts and had snowball fights, lobbing the snowballs over the fort walls.  The snow would always drift in the driveway and they would dig a tunnel to the road!  We played "Fox and The Geese", made snow angels and ate snow cones.

The brothers built snow-women and all of them would have ridiculously large bosoms.  They would put pieces of coal to represent nipples and a mop head to represent hair.  I wish I had pictures of them.

Mother refused to let the boys use any of her "brassieres" (as she called them), but one day we saw a red brassiere adorning a snow-woman.  My mother rushed out to snatch the bra from the snow-woman.  I didn't even know she owned a red bra.

Later on, after seeing the red bra, we noticed the "Frederick's Of Hollywood" catalogs and brown packages marked C.O.D. arriving. Those catalogs rapidly disappeared and yesterday my brother laughingly told me that the catalogs were all lovingly maintained at their fort in the woods!

When I was grown-up and my mother came to live with me, she was unpacking her "unmentionables" to put in the dresser drawer.  There were some beautiful pieces of lingerie.  She said, wistfully, "I don't know why your daddy bought all this stuff;  he hardly got to see me wear any of it!"  The items are still in the drawer, but it taught me a lesson:  I wear all of my "unmentionables"!

Sunday, December 18, 2016


While trying to schedule a "date night" before Christmas, I mentioned to Gerald that we had several gift cards we could use.

He asked, "Are they burning a hole in your pocket?"  I answered, "They're burning a hole in my purse;  they are INCENDIARY!"

Saturday, December 17, 2016


My brother Bode would sing Suzy Snowflake to me.  That's how I got the spelling of my name as "SUZY"  because Mother had always spelled it "Susie" prior to my seeing the record.

Listen to Rosemary Clooney:

Friday, December 16, 2016


My favorite Christmas song by Elvis is Blue Christmas. 

Last week, during lunch with my "Wild Lunch Bunch", we were being entertained by a singer who was obviously an Elvis wannabe.  He did a good job while singing a couple of songs which had been written especially for Elvis but when he began singing Blue Christmas, I sighed and said, "Elvis OWNS that one!"  One of my group took my statement literally and responded, "I didn't know he wrote it."   After I explained that I thought Elvis' version was incomparable and no other entertainer could equal his version, she said that she's heard that Elvis didn't want to record it.  I said, "Oh, in his 1968 TV special, he said that it was his favorite Christmas song."

Listen here to that version:

Thursday, December 15, 2016


We received our final holiday card from the President and his family.  We have been honored to receive a card each year of his presidency.  We love the President and his family and are very proud of them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


My all-time favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night (Cantique de Noel).  The first time I heard it was in a school Christmas program and it was sung by Lester Vincent.   Lester was in my brother Kenny's class which made him five years older.  I thought, "What a beautiful voice.", and I was immediately smitten.  His younger brother Bobby was in my class and I would always ask about his brother.  I remember that he married Zana Cowdery and became a banker.

I think of him every time I hear the song.

Listen to Placido Domingo:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


While my friend Mona Lisa and I were shopping together,  a woman came up to me and asked if I could tell her the location of an item.  Fortunately, I did know the location and gave the woman direction.  Mona Lisa laughed and said, "That reminds me of a Facebook posting I saw recently." and described it.   I said that she didn't ask if I worked there but it was probably because I had taken off my coat while shopping because nobody would see me as rich or snooty. She answered, "Well, maybe NOT rich!"

Gotta love one's friends!

Monday, December 12, 2016


I was recalling about the furor caused when Elvis' version of White Christmas was released in 1957.  As unbelievable as it seems today, one DJ called Elvis' rendition a "sacrilege" and some stations refused to play it.     Les laughed and said, "I hear some people want to go back to the 1950s!"

See my yearly article about the family debate over Christmas music:

                              ONE CAN'T HAVE ENOUGH CHRISTMAS MUSIC

There are two kinds of people in the world: those, like myself, who can't get "enough" of Christmas music, and the others, like Gerald and Les, who get so tired of Christmas music that they threaten to blow up the stereo! To keep harmony (pun intended) in the family, I compromised several years ago and agreed to have no Christmas music in the house until the day after Thanksgiving.  

My brother Bode and I loved to sing Christmas carols and it was usually to the embarrassment of everybody else.  One of my favorite stories: we were visiting Bode and family in Florida during the holidays and we went into a Mexican restaurant on Christmas Eve and over the loudspeaker was playing Bing Crosby's When It's Christmas In Killarney.  Bode looked at me--I looked at him--and we joined arms and began singing, at the top of our lungs. The other family members with us slunk away to a table in the hope of other people not knowing we were related.  Bode went to the Manager and asked to have the song played AGAIN.  Bode said that if people couldn't appreciate the exquisite irony of Christmas In Killarney on Christmas Eve in a Mexican restaurant, then they were hopeless.

Bode and I had our definite favorites: ONLY Nat for The Christmas Song;   ONLY Bing for White Christmas;  ONLY Elvis for Blue Christmas;  ONLY Judy for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;  ONLY Harry Belafonte for Mary's Boy Child;  ONLY Darlene Love for Baby Please Come Home ; ONLY Vince Guaraldi for Christmas Time Is Here; ONLY Gene Autry for Here Comes Santa Claus,  ONLY Burl Ives for A Holly Jolly Christmas; ONLY Perry Como for There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays; ONLY Nancy Wilson for That's What I Want For Christmas;  ONLY Peggy Lee for I Love A Sleigh Ride (Jingle Bells)
;  ONLY Giselle Mackenzie for It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas";  and only ONLY Rosemary Clooney for Suzy Snowflake (which Bode always sang to me since I was a little girl). 

Sunday, December 11, 2016


For years, nestled between the couch and the end table in our library was my collection of more than 200 Christmas-themed books.  WHY I had them is a mystery because I'd read only a few of them, but I would "pick them up" at yard sales, etc., and my sister-in-law Jean would hand some to me and say, "Do whatever you want with them."  They all ended beside the couch.

Last year, because of my efforts to "downsize" and "de-clutter", I actually gave away a number of the Christmas books to my friends Judy and Margery.  I still cherished the Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and L. Frank Baum volumes I referenced in earlier BLOG articles, as well as Jimmy Carter's Christmas In Plains, Louisa May Alcott's The Abbot's Ghost, The Hired Man's Christmas by George Givens, The Gift Of The Magi, and A Christmas Carol.

Last year I also came across this internet video:  HOW TO MAKE YOUR VERY OWN CHRISTMAS TREE OUT OF BOOKS:

How to make your very own Christmas tree out of books

I thought, "What a perfect solution to my situation."  This year, I convinced Gerald to try the project.  His mound of books atop the coffee table in the library was quite impressive, but by the time he went upstairs to fetch the camera to record his prodigious feat of engineering, the books toppled onto the couch and surrounding area.  My brother shouted, "JENGA!"

Now the books are stacked in front of the bookcases.  My brother asked, "Why don't you just donate them to The Well?"  I mumbled something to the effect that I was going to get around to reading them.  He scoffed and as he nudged a book on the floor with his toe,  he said, "Yeah, it's highly unlikely that you're going to read John Grisham's Skipping Christmas!"  He continued, "And WHY would you have four different versions of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas?"   Feeling naturally defensive, I retorted,  "That's actually A Visit From Saint Nicholas!"

There are 156 Christmas books remaining.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


As a teenager, I devoured all of Willa Cather's books and I fondly recall The Burglar's Christmas which was first published under the pseudonym Elizabeth Seymour when Cather was 23 years old. 

 This story of love and redemption is a re-telling of the Prodigal Son parable.

CLICK HERE to read the story.

Friday, December 9, 2016


I had the pleasure to meet John Glenn numerous times;  below is an article I published in 2010.

                                   JOHN AND ANNIE GLENN

Yesterday, in Chillicothe, I was honored to once again be in the company of John and Annie Glenn. From his first campaign for the U.S. Senate to his helping in the 2008 Presidential campaign, I have been fortunate to have met the Glenns numerous times, but today was my favorite encounter.

Naturally, people were crowded around Senator Glenn and I spoke to Mrs. Glenn and asked if she would autograph a picture of herself and Senator Glenn. The photograph is from a 2006 publication, The Road To Blue.  Mrs. Glenn looked at the picture and said to me, "I'm wearing the same jacket in that picture as I am today."   I said, "Well, it's a classic--it never goes out of style--and red is YOUR color."  She said, "Oh, how nice of you to remember that."

In all of the campaigns and appearances I had seen her, she always wore red. She laughed and said, "And I'm wearing the SAME eagle pin and the SAME blouse!" She pointed to the necklace in the picture and said, "And I almost wore that necklace today, but I put this scarf on to keep warm!"

Mrs. Glenn beckoned for Senator Glenn to come over to us and she said, "Look, John, I'm wearing the same jacket today as I was in this old photograph."

Senator Glenn asked, "Does this mean I have to buy you a new coat?"

CLASSICS never go out of style--in clothes or marriage--as the Glenns displayed in their seventy-year union!

Thursday, December 8, 2016


 A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum is a rather dark tale which is ironically set in Laughing Valley where Santa resides with elves, fairies, pixies, knooks, and ryls.

 Also living there in caves, are daemons, and they kidnap Santa because they want to prevent him from making toys which will make children happy. Of course their plot doesn't turn out the way they intended.

CLICK HERE for a link.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I watched several programs about the seventy-fifth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt dictated to his secretary what would be his message to Congress asking for a declaration of war.

His original phrase had been "in world history" rather than "in infamy";  what a difference one word makes!

See the amended copy with FDR's hand-written changes:


What a difference one word makes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


My brother told me NOT to post my favorite Christmas carols AGAIN on the BLOG this year. He said, "It's bad enough that we have to listen to your singing carols from the day after Thanksgiving until after Christmas!"

Instead, I'll be sharing some of my other favorite Christmas stories. You all know The Gift Of The Magi, A visit From Saint Nicholas, A Christmas Carol, and The Little Match Girl,  but there are lesser-known stories which I treasure. For example, I adore Mark Twain's A Letter From Santa Claus.  The accompanying picture of Twain as Santa Claus is delightful.

Twain began by writing to his beloved daughter as if he were Santa: "My dear Susie Clemens..." and he continues in that vein with a letter which is charming and imaginative and filled with good will for others in need and instructing Susie how she should receive her gifts and Twain ends by writing: "Your loving Santa Claus whom people sometimes call The Man In The Moon."

Listen to Twain's letter:

Monday, December 5, 2016


On December 5, 1830, Symphonique Fantastique by Hector Berlioz premiered in Paris.  This is a favorite of my friend Mona Lisa.  Listen here:

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Yesterday a friend gave me THREE pomegranates.  ("Gave" is an interesting term for me to use because she explained, "Nobody else will take these.")  

I had never liked pomegranates and thought they were more bother than they were worth, but I asked another friend, who loves pomegranates, to give an in-person demonstration of easy-opening techniques.  He sent the YouTube demonstration:

Some time ago, I had read that Biblical scholars believed that the "apple" in the Garden Of Eden was actually a pomegranate because apples were not indigenous in Mesopotamia.  In a discussion with a friend who believes in the literal translation of the Bible,  I mentioned the apple/pomegranate quandary.  I quipped that I could understand the difficulty in the Garden because of the difficulty in opening and eating pomegranates.  I also mentioned that the problem wasn't the apple on the tree, but the PAIR on the ground, but she doesn't share my love of puns.

I love Sandro Botticelli's painting of "The Madonna Of The Pomegranate", and pomegranates are a traditional food at Rosh Hashana, but I still DON'T like pomegranates!

The French word for pomegranate is GRENADE; the syrup GRENADINE was originally made only with pomegranates from GRENADA, but the most fascinating tidbit to me is that HAND GRENADES are called that because grenades resemble pomegranates. Oh, those French have a way with words.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Our friend Betty Weatherington died last week and her funeral service is scheduled for today.  I am reprinting this BLOG article from 2010.  It is titled:

                          "THE" BETTY FARMER

I was attending the birthday party of Jessica, the niece of my friend Lori. Lori introduced me to her neighbor Ruth and to Ruth's sister Betty. We sat talking for quite some time and I learned that they had been students at Bloomingburg High School. I asked, "What was your maiden name?" and Ruth answered "Hiles". I exclaimed, "Little Ruthie Hiles; you were a year behind me in school!"

When I asked Betty, she answered, "Farmer".   I asked, "You're THE Betty Farmer?' Lori said, "What does that mean--THE Betty Farmer?" I said, "She was our Homecoming Queen!" Betty asked, "What was your maiden name?" When I answered, "Shirkey", Betty squealed, "You're the little Shirkey girl all grown up!" 

Friday, December 2, 2016


It is important to label all containers in one's house.

Getting ready for a party, I was checking the woodwork for smudges.  I keep a supply of cleaning products underneath the sink in the laundry room.  I grabbed a bottle from that supply;  it contained a yellowish liquid.  With a dust cloth I busily went about the house, spraying and dabbing the smudges. After awhile, I noticed that the product was not removing the smudges but that it also had an oily residue.  I sniffed the bottle and realized that I was NOT using "AWESOME" fluid but Avon's "SKIN-SO-SOFT" lotion!

Now the house smells like Skin-So- Soft!

Last summer I had bought a gigantic REFILL-size bottle of AWESOME because it was a much better buy in the large size and I also bought an empty spray bottle, fully intending to transfer 16 ounces of the 128 ounces into the manageable spray bottle but I failed to do that.

Underneath the sink, I also had a large bottle of Skin-So-Soft.  Gerald had been using the Skin-So-Soft as a mosquito-deterrent.  When he saw the empty spray bottle, he poured the Skin-So-Soft in the empty spray bottle and after using it,  put it underneath the sink in the laundry room.  He did not put a label on the bottle.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I have heard ELECTORAL pronounced as "ELECTORIAL" at least a dozen times!