Category Archives: 2018

Bars

              Lots of words have more than one meaning.  One of those words, it occurs to me, is the word “bar.”

               Most of us, when we think about bars, probably think first of the places people go to relax, converse, and attain a modified mental state.  The piece of furniture over which the drinks are passed is called the bar by the bartender to the bar maids.  We have a lot of bars in Wisconsin and many of them are homes away from home for patrons.

               You can be barred from a bar if you cause trouble or can’t control yourself. 

               Candy bars are good, but not too good for us.  You could make a bar graph that compares the healthiness of different foods like candy bars and the foods you might find at a salad bar.

               When people become lawyers they need to pass the bar exam, and might become part of the American Bar Association, which is different than the tavern league.  If they lie cheat and steal, however, they may find themselves behind bars.

               When someone encourages better performance by making an example of their own excellent efforts they are said to be “raising the bar,” as in the high jump or pole vault.  On the other hand, if you are involved in a limbo dance contest, the objective is to lower the bar.

               It would be great to be spending time on a sand bar and to dig up a gold bar left by pirates long ago.  Maybe the pirate had a handlebar mustache.  You might celebrate by singing a few bars of a happy song.  Then you can get on your bike and grab the handlebars and rush home to share the good news.  You would be the luckiest person in the world, bar none.

               Some people refer to our nation’s flag as being the stars and bars.  Certain military ranks have insignia that are bars.  They’re like stripes, only made of metal.

               Some home theater systems have sound bars.  Television engineers make sure your picture is right by calibrating the color bars.  After lunch, they have ice cream bars.

               So, you see my point.  There are a lot of meanings and uses for the word bar.  I don’t know if this is useful information, but feel free to use it to win a bar bet.

                

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Scars

               I heard a song by a bluegrass group the other day.  The premise of the song was that the scars we carry, physical and emotional, are the evidence of our lives.  The singer reflected on some of his scars and how he got them, and what he learned in the process.

               Like anyone would, I think, I started thinking about the stories behind my scars.

               The two earliest scars I got, and still have, include one above my upper lip that was the result of getting hit there with a rock, thrown by another kid.  He and I, both about six years old, thought it was a good idea to throw stones at each other.  We learned that it was not a good idea.

               The second is a football shaped scar on my left foot which was the result of riding my tricycle without shoes on, in violation of one of Mom’s rules.  My foot slipped off the pedal and into the little tricycle spokes.  Lesson learned.

               A couple of years later I had a bicycle related incident involving a bumpy path and the crossbar on my bike making contact with a certain part of my body.  I can’t talk about that scar.

               Over the years many more scars were gathered.  There are two that I really cherish – one under my left eye that resulted from a tumble I took when our dog, Toby, greeted me with a little too much enthusiasm as I walked across the yard when he was young.  The other is from a scratch on my arm that I got from Toby during his last couple months with us.  We were playing, and he miscalculated how close I was.  I’m happy to have both of those.

               One I’m not that happy about is on my forehead, and it is the result of walking into a beam.  As a tall person I hit my head way too often, but this was the only one to leave a scar.

               Emotional scars?  We all have them, I guess.  Most of mine are because of missed opportunities to do the right thing, doing the wrong thing, or the people who aren’t here anymore who I miss.

               As the song points out – and I think it’s true – the people we become results from the healed injuries much more than from the joys.  It’s not easy to imagine that those wounds have an upside when they happen, but time and reflection shows that many of them do.

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Turkey Diary

With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s nice if the warm memories of time spent with friends and family lingers on.  If you prepared a really large turkey, the leftovers are probably also lingering on. 

It all comes from a fear of not having enough, and of not knowing how much 20 pounds of turkey really is.  Plus, this would have to be the year that nobody wanted to over-eat.

Here is the diary of one family’s battle to use up their turkey.

Day 1: A wonderfully prepared, golden brown turkey which everyone loved!  Definitely a victory.  Better than last year when the smoke didn’t clear until the night game was on.

Day 2: Turkey sandwiches with mayo and horseradish.  Very good.  Brings back memories of eating turkey sandwiches last year.  Isn’t nostalgia great?

Day 3:  Turkey tetrazzini.  Not bad, as far as casseroles go.  Turns out that tetrazzini is an American dish.  Don’t try to order it in Italy.  Who knew?

Day 4:  Turkey soup.  Good for a cold day.  Made enough soup for four more meals.  Turkey must be about gone.  I mean, it must be, right?

Day 5:  Oh dear God!  The turkey in the fridge has multiplied like fishes and loaves.  We haven’t made a dent!  So much turkey!

Day 6:  Turkey fondue.  Oh, that was a bad idea.  Damp cheese over dry poultry.  So much for the 70s.

Day 7:  Turkey hash.  Actually, the fondue was better.  Drowning it in gravy made it edible. 

Day 8:  Turkey salad sandwiches.  Very good, except that it tastes like turkey.  It’s wrong to waste food.  Waste not, want not, after all.  It must be just about gone.

Day 9:  Turkey stir-fry.  I don’t think China has any turkeys. 

Day 10: Accidentally threw out the rest of the turkey.  And, by accidentally, I mean on purpose.

Day 11: Woke up in a cold sweat during a dream about Thanksgiving with a kitchen full of turkeys.  Turkeys on platters, live turkeys walking around, turkeys wearing chef’s hats…

Day 12: Just ordered a 22-pound ham for Christmas.  That will be enough, won’t it? 

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Giving Thanks

(From Thanksgiving week)

       The Thanksgiving holiday is the time of year when we are officially thankful.  We even take off of work to be thankful, unless we’re working retail and getting things set-up for the day after Thanksgiving.

       At the same time as we’re supposed to be officially thankful, we traditionally get together with large family groups in order to consume large quantities of food, and in many families, alcohol, and watch football games.

       In many homes the actual official moment of thankfulness comes as everyone sits down at the table and/or children’s table.  Sometimes the head of the family says a prayer or a heartfelt expression of thankfulness.  Some families go around the table to let everyone express something for which they are grateful.

       These are both really nice traditions, but the expectations are sometimes greater than the reality.  My mom would take it upon herself to say something meaningful, and someone would snicker or make a quiet remark in fun, and the result would be tears.  You’d think there could be one time of the year when we wouldn’t joke around, but you’d be wrong.

       I think a day to be thankful is a really good idea.  We should be thankful every day, of course, and we probably are, even if we’re not really thinking about it as much as we should.

       Feeling gratitude turns out to make people happier.  A study done by Harvard Health says so.  Thinking you can’t be happy until you get everything you want is a recipe for being unhappy, but being grateful for what you have makes you feel good.

       If you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table – even if nobody makes you tell why you’re thankful – it is a good time to take a moment to be grateful for being alive.  The physical and emotional aches and pains we suffer are all reminders that we have this amazing gift of life, and the opportunities to live it well. 

       Eating too much and watching football are all part of Thanksgiving, but to look around and appreciate what you have, and who you have in your life, might make the Thanksgiving experience more complete.   

       And Tums. Lots of Tums.

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Muses

               The word “museum” comes from Latin, and means a place of study.  The famous muses who inspire and frustrate artists are said to have hung out at museums, which were their shrines.

               There is surely a lot of beauty in the world and a lot of history to be derived from things around us.  But museums take beauty or history or science and focus it into one place for us to enjoy, learn, and put our everyday world into perspective.

               Our family has always included museums and historical sites in our vacations.  Now that our nest is empty we still explore those opportunities.  Last weekend we visited three such places in the Fox Valley, and had a pretty good time.

               Our first stop was at the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh – my home town.  It is a mansion built by Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Paine, owners of a large lumber company back in the day, producing, among other things, doors.

They decide to build an English style mansion as a home and museum, but as the Great Depression hit, they determined that living there would be an affront to the thousands of unemployed workers.  After the depression, they completed the mansion strictly as a museum, furnished and adorned with the best of the best in art and design.

               There are also great English gardens, but not so much in November.  They have a big deal exhibit at Christmas based on The Nutcracker.  We saw the set-up, but it starts late this week.

               Then we went to the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah.  Mrs.

Evangeline Bergstrom loved glass paperweights.  As the wife of the founder of the Bergstrom Paper Company she had the resources to acquire a lot of them, and they’re all at this museum on the Lake Winnebago shore that had been her home.

               In addition to the paperweights (which were dazzling, believe it or not) there is other glass art, including some whimsical pieces and some knock-outs. 

               The Mahler part of the museum is for Caroline and Ernst Mahler, originally from Vienna, who gave a substantial collection of Germanic glass to the museum.

               The next day we went to the EAA museum in Oshkosh.  We’ve been to a number of flight museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and this one compares favorably.  All sorts of military and private planes, along with many historical home-made planes are exhibited.  It is really something, and at 90 minutes away, it will be a great family outing.

               All three museums were great.  And, the Oshkosh Public Museum, which is kitty-corner from the Paine, is also very good if that sort of things is interesting to you.  You’ll make different sorts of memories than with a trip to an indoor water park, but you also won’t have water in your ears for the next week. 

 

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Governing

(From the days after the November elections)

               Last week’s elections made a lot of news, understandably.  As usual, about half of us are happy, but not thrilled, and the other half of us are sad, but not tragically.  There were some things about this year’s election that were interesting to me.  Let’s see if they are to you as well.

               It is estimated that $5.2 billion was spent on campaigns and by independent organizations.  Since 113 million people voted, that works out to $46 per vote.  A handful of billionaires were behind candidates in a number of races, and some of them got a return on their investments, but not all.

               It seemed to me that ideas took a back seat to diversity.  For example, here are some headlines: “Urban/Rural Chasm Deepens.” “110 Female Winners.”  “Native American Lesbians Wins House Seat.”  “First Muslim Congresswoman.”  “Trans Candidate Misses.”  “First Openly Gay Male Governor in Colorado.”  Ocasio-Cortez to be Youngest Woman Ever in Congress.”

               Perhaps the real kicker in the diversity department was, “Dead Brothel Owner Wins.”

               There was a time, not that long ago, that almost every candidate, win or lose, was an older white male.  It’s good to see that other categories of people are able to run, and sometimes win.

               One real sign of progress in that regard is that the many black candidates – again, winners and losers – were not singled out as being headline-worthy because of their race.

               I was surprised by some of the winners and losers.  The disparity on money spent on some of the races probably made a difference.  Some of the things said in the ads were misleading or incorrect.  But, campaign ads are given a lot of latitude as the most pure exercise of free speech.

               Various media outlets did not even hide their love or disdain for candidates.  Depending on your sources of news and information, you might have heard only part of the story.  Again, free speech makes that the prerogative of those entities.

               The good news is that once again our country has made a mid-course correction without bloodshed, as happens in some countries.  That being said, some radical groups did engage in violent and destructive protests in Portland and elsewhere.  Voting is a much better way to make change.

               Everybody is taking a breath now, and we’ll see what all is going to happen in the next two years.  My guess is that there will be a lot of heat, but not much light.  In other words, a lot of politics but not much governing.

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Hats

            All the years I was growing up my dad wore hats.  Mostly, he wore what I guess is called a fedora hat for his walk to work, or going to church or shopping.  To a large extent, that’s just what men did back then.

            If you look at photographs of major league baseball game crowds in the 1050s, many of the men are wearing dress hats instead of the more commonly used baseball caps of today.

            It is said that President Kennedy killed the men’s hat industry by not wearing one.  That seems hard to believe, but then again, Mary Tyler Moore was said to have made ski pants popular, so maybe it is true.

            My dad was not a slave to fashion, which is an understatement.  I think he kept wearing hats after many men stopped because it seemed proper to do so, and partly, I think, his baldness called for some kind of protection.

            Now and then I see a man wearing a fedora.  If he’s 25 years old and wearing skinny jeans, I think he looks dumb.  If he’s wearing a wool overcoat and has greying temples, he probably looks pretty good.

            Now and then I try on hats, and mostly I feel like I’m playing dress-up.  It’s too easy to be defined by a hat.  As much as I might want to be Indiana Jones or a cowboy or Frank Sinatra or Crocodile Dundee, I’m just not.

            So, I don’t wear a dress hat.  If it’s really cold, I wear a knit cap.  If it’s sunny I wear a baseball cap.  Sometimes in the garden I wear a mosquito netting hat.  Very stylish!

            It occurs to me that maybe I’m trying so hard to avoid looking like someone I’m not that I may not have figured out just who I am.  Interesting.

            Since wearing a dress hat makes me feel that I look like my dad, maybe I resist because I don’t want to admit that I’m not 18 anymore.  That’s a little sad, considering I haven’t been 18 for a really long time.

            After much consideration, I believe I will start wearing a stovepipe hat, like the one President Lincoln wore.  I can show respect for a great president and (this is the best part) there will be room to store an emergency sandwich.

            I guess that’s who I am.

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