juliespeaks

The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.

EARLY LEARNING

EARLY LEARNING

No, not reading and math and such: the things we learn in childhood and never forget.  No matter how old you are, I’ll bet you can still recite Jack and Jill.  I’ll bet you’ve never forgotten Jingle Bells or Over the River and Through the Woods.  I spent every summer of my youth with my grandparents at a cottage in Wisconsin.  Invariably, while driving there, my mother sang silly songs, all of which are etched on my brain.  I will never forget Will You Love Me When my Carburetor’s Busted or Playmate, Come Out and Play With Me

I’m reasonably certain that experience initiated my love of singing.  I probably know the lyrics to more than 500 songs.  I am tone deaf and sing off-key – alone – in the car, in the shower, taking a walk.  There are times, however, when someone says something that triggers a song and I cannot help but sing it aloud. This is problematic.  Mention you were in the Navy and you’ll hear Anchors Aweigh My Boys, Anchors Aweigh.  The problem is it doesn’t stop there. I’d feel unpatriotic if I didn’t go right on to  From The Halls of Montezuma To The Shores of Tripoli and Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder and Over Hill, Over Dale, As We Hit the Dusty Trail.

The same things happens if you mention a city. You’ll hear Chicago, Chicago, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Meet Me In St. Louis and a host of others. Likewise with musicals.  Mention Fiddler On The Roof or The Sound Of Music and I become Tevye or Julie Andrews and, like it or not, serenade you with the entire score.

I’m certainly not Julie Andrews or Maria Tallchief or Ella Fitzgerald.  The whole thing bewilders me. I have a lousy memory. One of my sons remembers EVERYTHNG since he was two years old. I can’t remember the name of the last book I read. I don’t recall anything I learned in college, the names of neighbors in half a dozen places I’ve lived, but I remember the words to Blue Moon, When the Saints Go Marching In and a repertoire of patriotic, romantic, campfire and ‘golden oldie’ songs.

How did that happen? Either I have a gene that’s been programmed to be musically receptive or what did the trick was being weaned on Down In he Middle Of a Little Bitty  Pool, Swam Three Little Fishies and a Mama Fishie Too.

Adieu, adieu, my  friends adieu. I can no longer stay with you. So I’ll hang my hat on a weeping willow tree and may the world go well with thee.   Early learning can’t be beat!

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Julie Rose

editit601@gmail.com

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COLORFUL LANGUAGE

COLORFUL LANGUAGE

 

My mother once painted a breakfast nook orange.  It became a boxing ring for her and my dad. The kitchen wallpaper of a new home was Halloween orange and black.

I tore it off the day I moved in. My daughter wanted her room to be green which reminds me of all things reptilian. I avoided it whenever I could. If you’re the neutral sort browns and grays will suit you. They make me think of  burned out campfires.

It’s blue that charms me, sets my eyes to rest, puts my mind at ease. Blue is a dreamer’s color. Gazing at an azure sky quiets me on a summer day. It’s the color of cornflowers, forget-me-nots and blueberries. The sea, where I long to be, is blue. Blue’s buddy, his favorite fellow, is that happy color we call yellow – sunflowers and roses and chickadees.

Colors speak. Yellow is playful. It tickles like softly falling rain; teases a smile to your face.  Red is a flamingo dancer. She looks at you, points her finger and says  “Come dance with me.” Green is a leprechaun poking an elbow in your back, urging you to keep moving. Blue is the trustworthy sailor who whispers softly and calms, offers peace and serenity.

Red demands company and conflict. Green wants pine trees and breezes – he’s the naturalist. Purple says bow down and lilac asks to be sniffed. Orange tempts, challenges. Silver mounts the podium and sparkles. Blue is happy with gently rolling seas – demands nothing. Black belongs to the chimney sweep and white, which is no color at all, exists only as a palate on which all other colors can shine

Give the ruby to a fighter,

the emerald to the cyclist,

 the diamond to the socialite.

I’ll take the sapphire.

 

What color are you?

Julie Rose

editit601 @gmail.com

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ONE QUESTION

ONE QUESTION

Strange thoughts sometimes occur to me. They  pop up out of nowhere. There’s no connection between the thought and anything else I might be doing or thinking about. It happened again yesterday.  I asked myself, “If ignorance is bliss why aren’t there more happy people?”

That, of course, presumes there are an awful lot of people who aren’t very bright: some of them   running around without leashes.  Well – aren’t there? Before we work on artificial intelligence, maybe we ought to work on doing something about natural stupidity. Instead of  testing for drugs, why don’t we test for ignorance and love of power? Viagra and multi-vitamins enhance the lives of some people but where is the scientist who can develop “smart” pills?

Imagine politics with its dumbbell element removed. There is nothing so easy to enslave as ignorance.   It is the enemy of civilization, the foe of enlightenment. “Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything.”  (Frank Dane) Is that why we have irresponsible leaders who make promises and don’t deliver? Do you  think the fools out number the smarties?

Some folks believe there are things man was not meant to know. I disagree.  He may not understand them but he still wants to know.  Witness the curious child who asks ‘why’ at every opportunity. That child may not understand the principle of natural selection but he still wants to know why  the spider spins  a web. We are bombarded with information, deluged by a media circus, and it’s difficult to know what to let seep in and what to toss in the trash. The dumbest people anywhere, at any time, are those who think they know it all.  They far outnumber the brainiees.

All of which raises this question.  Can we become smarter than we are or are we doomed;  locked into whatever the gene pool dictates?  The best advice I’ve ever read is summarized in one sentence. “The best way to become smarter than you are is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.” (George Steinbenner, owner of the New York Yankees) How do you do that? Even if you  try you will undoubtedly encounter a few who are not aces in the deck of cards called life. Steinbrenner’s comment reminds me of a Yiddish proverb. ‘A table is not blessed if it has not fed a scholar.”

Maybe we could do it if we stopped treating infants and toddlers as though they were pets and instead recognized and nurtured their extraordinary ability to learn. If we did that,  there might well be far fewer idiots and fools among us. That, however, is a subject for another post – maybe more than one.

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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HEROES

 HEROES

 

As a young girl I saw others bow down to Elvis; applaud the Lone Ranger, pretend to be Superman and idolize Julie Andrews.  As they grew older,  the Lone Ranger lost to Paul Newman and Hepburn replaced Andrews.  I worshipped Esther Williams whose grace in the water I tried to emulate. June Allyson took second place: I thought I looked like her.  Never would I have bowed down to Elvis.

 

Maturity changes things. We leave behind the heroes of our youth and admire others who have touched us in some way or who have made a significant impact on the world. We learn of others who excel at something close to our hearts.  I discovered Hypatia, curator of the Library at Alexandria, teacher of Plato, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer: a woman who exemplifies women’s rights and equality.  I admire women who have succeeded in the political arena and women who write with velvet pens. But above all, there are three who are my heroes.

 

HEROES

 

My heroes are my three children.

They exemplify the best of humanity,

The best of parents,

Devoted to family and friends,

Committed to the welfare of others.

 

Six open hands;

Three mouths that speak kindness and consideration;

Six legs walking in paths of righteousness;

Three voices praising the world’s beauty.

Role models all.

 

They wear smiles on their faces,

Are unselfish and generous,

Know how to listen,

Slow to condemn,

Averse to anger and vanity,

Disdainful of sloth.

Tolerant of the views of others.

 

Fighters – they never say “I quit.”

Builders – encouraging the best in everyone.

Humanitarians – giving to those in need.

Students – ready to open their minds;

Teachers – sharing their goodness and knowledge.

Parents – raising responsible, angelic children.

 

They win gold stars

And blue ribbons

From Mom.

 

Who are your heroes? Post a comment.

Julie Rose

julierose60@gmail.com

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TRUST ME

TRUST ME

            How often have you said “Trust me” to someone?  You may be an authority on baseball stats or chili or gardening but when someone questions a comment you’ve made you respond by saying “Trust me.” You’re not happy if the questioner doubts you.

           Maybe you don’t say “Trust me.” You believe your friend understands you know what you’re talking about. Or maybe you really don’t know and are trying to bluff  him.

            Maybe it’s the other guy who says “Trust me.” You find yourself in a quandary.  Can he be trusted? Should I believe him? What if he’s wrong?

          It takes a good amount of self-confidence to ignore those who doubt what you say – to be sure of yourself – to trust in another.

            I well remember planning birthday parties for my children.  The most successful was a “Bigger and Better” party.  Each child was given something small and cheap – a toothbrush, a nickel, a rubber band – told to go throughout the neighborhood, trading his nickel for something bigger and better and continue to trade upward.  One child returned with a rabbit and said the woman who gave it to him made him promise not to return the rabbit. Never would I have hired a magician.

          There were times long ago when man had little trust in himself  and believed the gods and fate controlled his life. Most of us have come a long way since then but some of us continue to believe in the fairy tale worlds of the untrustful.

MAGIC

In times long past, the world replete

With magic, deceit, illusion, false hope,

Some sought riches in jewels, in love.

In vain did they trust purveyors of such.

Hopes dashed, they did it again.

Called on Merlin, trusted their muses,

Bowed before wizards,

Prayed the gods would deliver

Their hearts’  desires.

 

Long was it before they realized

Magicians aren’t mailmen delivering checks;

Wizards don’t arrive

With gift packages in hand.

Charlatans cannot be trusted

To hand them a winning lottery ticket.

  

Only they might seek and find

The gold ring, the rainbow,

The blue ribbon, the shining star

Not given by those slight of hand.

 

Alone man pursues his hopes and dreams

Leaves aside witches and goblins,

For others with no trust in self.

 

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

 

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A BLESSING ON YOUR HEAD

A BLSSING ON YOUR HEAD

You may be familiar with that song from Fiddler On The Roof. Remember?

A blessing on  your head,

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

                        To see a daughter wed               

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

That’s not the blessing I’m referring to. There’s another for that bride that comes to her much earlier in life.  One of the traditions observed at the Jewish Sabbath dinner meal is the blessing of one’s children.  Parents place their hands on the child’s head and to girls say: “May you be like Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  For boys it’s “May you be like Ephriam and Manassah” (Why it is Ephriam and Manassah and not the equivalent patriarchs is another question.) It makes no difference how old a child is. I have observed eighty and ninety year old parents blessing fifty year-olds.

It’s a lovely tradition but for many years I wondered why we wish our children to be anyone other than who they are. Did I really want my Sara to be like the Biblical Sara or my Joseph to be like Ephriam? My bewilderment was resolved when  I heard the following  Chasidic story.

One day his disciples found Rabbi Zusya weeping and they asked him why. He explained that he trembled when thinking about the end of his life and being asked by the Almighty not “Why were you not like Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusya?”

Indeed.  Why were you not who you are? Once my feeble brain understood  that, I changed the blessing for my kids.   It became, “May you be blessed with the strength and the wisdom to become who you are.”

AND THEY DID!  I’m grateful and proud!

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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MOTHERHOOD

            I have three kids and I promise you every word of this is true.  I dare  you to find a mother who would  read this and not say That’s Me!

MOTHERHOOD

You can have one or a dozen.

If you opt for any you become an organ donor.

For the rest of  your life

Your heart waltzes outside your body.

That’s motherhood

 

After you deliver them obstetrically

You’ll deliver them by car – endlessly.

At the end of each day you’ll forget the spaghetti in junior’s hair,

The pitcher of orange juice on the floor;

Remember only his first word, the smell of his chubby neck.

You wish you had time to shave both legs at once.

That’s motherhood

 

You shop for a car seat with more zeal  than a dress.

Collect pictures of baby as though they were diamonds.

You wish for a responsible baby sitter instead of a cruise.

You count the chocolate chips on each kid’s cupcake;

Live on macaroni and cheese instead of tuna salad.

That’s motherhood

 

You become a multi-tasker,

Perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers at once.

You attend every ballet recital and Little League game,

Enter parent-teacher conferences with trepidation.

That’s motherhood

 

When they’re teens you crack the whip over homework,

Give them a hug to sniff for booze or pot.

To remain sane you avoid entering their bedrooms,

Order a second phone line installed.

They become picky about what they eat and wear.

You don another cap and become a nutritionist.

You buy them the sweatshirts they plead for,

Courageously say “No” to the $100 sneakers.

Reluctantly write a check for Driver’s Ed.

That’s motherhood

 

When they’re adults you offer advice not wanted,

Deliver brownies, baby sit and run errands.

You come to believe that grandchildren

Are God’s gift for raising your own kids.

That’s motherhood

 

A Spanish proverb reads:

“An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.”

If you’ve done your job well and remain sane

You’re entitled to the pot at the end of the rainbow;

A pat on the back, a gold star, a blue ribbon ,

For successfully walking through the carnival called

Motherhood.

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

 

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FREEDOM

FREEDOM

I have a lousy memory.  The book I’m now reading is likely to be forgotten next week. I don’t  remember the addresses of all the places I’ve lived nor the names of childhood classmates.  I am attentive and take copious notes when attending a lecture but the words float through my mind like wisps of smoke. It embarrasses me to ask my son – who remembers EVERYTHING – when specific events occurred in our family.

There are however a few things I remember quite well. In this poem  it seems I’ve been bitten by a nostalgia bug and remembering those days reminds me of this song as well. Sing along with me.

Those were the days my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose,

We’d fight and never lose,

For we were young and sure to have our way.”

                                    (Artist: Mary Hopkins)

FREEDOM

My sister and I spent our first sixteen years

At a small cottage near aWisconsinlake.

What looms large in my memory

Is the freedom we had

Freedom to come and go, from dawn ‘til dusk

With no fear of danger by day or by night.

 

We ate warm tomatoes from the garden for breakfast.

Stole apples and blueberries from neighbors.

Hung clothes to dry in the sun.

Dug fat night crawlers out of the mud.

Climbed into a sacrosanct rowboat

Where no noise was permitted,

Bamboo fishing poles in hand.

 

Early each day we left for the beach.

Spent days with minnows swirling round our feet,

Ducklings trailed us as we swam out to a raft,

Turtles sunned on the banks of the lake,

Profuse with sweet-smelling water lilies.

 

We used baby oil mixed with iodine for tans.

Shared one apple among three and nobody died.

Taught swimming to toddlers,

Built thousands of sand castles,

Carved our initials into picnic tables.

 

A weeping willow tree hung over the water.

We swung from its branches like monkeys.

Dove from a bridge over a channel

Higher than an eight year old should attempt.

 

We rode rusty Schwinns through the woods

Caught butterflies and fireflies.

Plucked handfuls of wild flowers,

Sought out wild blackberry bushes,

Tracked down rabbit holes,

Learned where the owls hung out.

 

No computers or cell phones for us.

Our evening entertainment was each other.

Kids gathered and played Red Rover,

Kick-The-Can, Marbles and Pick-Up-Sticks.

Some nights we hiked up a cobbled road

Shared Black Cows at the Dairy Queen.

 

To escape hordes of  hungry mosquitoes

We gathered on someone’s porch,

Played Monopoly ‘til the banker went broke.

Listened for the tinkling bells

That announced the Good Humor truck.

 

The loft of a barn  was our sleep-over bedroom

Bales of freshly cut hay our pillows.

There we prayed to be witness to a bull

Breaking loose and mounting a cow.

 

No one questioned our whereabouts, our activities.

Yet neither of us ever got hurt or got lost.

Found our way home for dinner,

Corn on the cob dripping in butter,

Gabriel Heater and the News in the background.

 

When the stars appeared

A warm summer’s night sleep beckoned

On a screened porch in a swing

Rocked gently by evening breezes,

The aroma of peonies in the air.

 

I pined for the last day of school

To again spend three months

With nobody asking:

Where were you?  What did you do?

Where did you go?  Who were you with?

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what that kind of freedom meant to two little girls from the city and how it affected the women they became.

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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BOOKS

BOOKS

Book – B-O-O-K – rhymes with look, cook, took – “a set of pages bound  together along one side and encased between protective covers.”  Humbug.  Is that the best Webster can do? Technically I suppose that definition is accurate but a book is more than technology.  There are – to name only  a few  – coloring books, diaries, travel guides, books of fiction or poetry, inspirational, self-help books. Christian Morley said it better than I am able.

 “Lord! When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life – love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.”

I became an avid  reader when I was very young.  I can’t imagine how that happened as I don’t recall ever seeing either of my parents with a book in their hands. I can remember only two books in our home: a three volume set of  Kristin Lavransdatter and the American Kennel Club’s book of dog breeds. While my sister joined the other neighborhood children outdoors after school, I sat by a window and read all of the Bobsey Twin books, Heidi and others indiscriminately checked out of the library.

Today I read some poetry, historical fiction that gives me insight into other cultures, occasionally a good detective story and any cookbook I can lay my  hands on from which I copy recipes of interest and  return to the shelf for the next chef to enjoy. I have no interest in self-help or inspirational books and, with a few exceptions, I avoid biographies. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve not read more of the world’s great literature – the great Russian writers, Plato and Socrates and a ton more.

What is a book beyond Webster’s technical definition?  As I see it . . . .

To open a book is to take a cross country train trip with reboarding privileges along the way. Some fictional characters become friends, some enemies, but you’ll discover the who of them. You’ll have seen a new vista or two; cheered for one  you’ve come to know well, shared tears with another, been angry at villains and laughed with the wit.  A biography is peeking into someone’s diary: opening his closets, learning his secrets. They are the voices of the distant and the dead. Others fill voids in your storehouse of knowledge. They satisfy a desire to learn – learn the history of China, the mating habits of Manatees, the sights to see in Thailand: what happened at the Finland Station., what is the philosophy of Taoism?

Books are far better than maps; they take you wherever you’d like to go. Warm beaches or deserts, a jungle safari, the top of a mountain, the depths of the sea. They invite you to rest in the shade of a pine forest, experience the carnival in Rio, watch a bull fight in Madrid.. They allow you to vicariously live dreams of taking a Mediterranean cruise, exploring the treasures of the Louvre.

A book  is a garden in your pocket; it waits for you to gather its roses and pluck its fruit. Crystal chandeliers  mean nothing – decorate your home with bookshelves for a house without books is like a room without windows.

 “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who thought decorating consists of building enough bookshelves.” (Anna Quindlen)

Unopened books slumber, awaiting the moment their words fly forth from the pages to thrill or inform the reader. They are to the mind what exercise is to the body: the most patient of teachers: minds alive on a shelf.  They are antidotes for boredom and loneliness.

It makes no difference what books do for you. They are your friends; hands to hold, arms to enclose you. They do not lie, will never betray you. To be read and respected is all they ask. You may read only a few or thousands but you’ll save and remember those that touched you. Others may be consigned to the pass-along pile for it’s a crime to consign one to the fire

Credit the ancient Greeks with knowing what a book is. The inscription over the door to the Library at Thebes reads: “Medicine for the soul.” I envy librarians – lucky people who work all day surrounded by the thoughts of mankind, offering to share them with me at no cost at all. The best bargain I can imagine

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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AVERAGE

AVERAGE

I’m no different than most parents who want their children to excel, to be the best, to rise to the top of the ladder. Some, in seeking to achieve that end, enroll their kids in prestigious private schools the day the child is born.  Others encourage their children to participate in so many activities the poor kid can’t decide what he enjoys the most or wants to pursue.  Our public schools, with their emphasis on performance, are complicit in this endeavor.  There’s nothing wrong with encouraging a child to do well academically but a “C” student ought not be made to feel like a failure if “C” is the best he can do.

 

I know a father who dragged his kid into the shower with him every morning and forced the child to recite the multiplication tables. Not exactly a father-son bonding experience is it?  Guess what kind of a relationship that child has with his father today. The closest my father – an average guy – ever came to doing such a thing was to occasionally rap me on the head and say, “You’ve got a brain. Use it.”

 

Perhaps one of the components of a parenting class ought to be “We’re Not All Geniuses.”

 

JUST AVERAGE

Wasn’t valedictorian of my class

No blue ribbons for me

Once won a Betty Crocker Award

Deserve a few points in a mommy contest

 

Won’t score 150 on an I.Q. test

Will never own a patent

I play a decent game of Bridge

Scrabble is my forte

 

Didn’t write a best seller

Didn’t rise to fame

Can edit poor prose

Turn it into a winner

 

Can’t play like Mozart

Sing like a lark

Paint portraits or sunflowers

Can put you to shame in the kitchen

 

Not going to have a fortune

Live in a penthouse

Buy a Ferrari

But not yet quite broke

 

Missed having a heart stopping romance

Don’t have hordes of friends

My family’s enough for me

 

Got short changed in the beauty department

No long curly hair, no sexy legs

No dimples, a Barbie-doll figure

Cute’s not so bad

 

Was dealt average cards

Not a royal flush

Never hit the jackpot

On a one-armed bandit

But I win at gin rummy.

 

Was minimally programmed

Missing a few genes in the brain department

Have come to appreciate

And accept who I am.

Just average is okay.

 

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

 

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