Take Ten Seconds

A friend just shared on Facebook a video of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997. In his acceptance speech, the beloved Mr. Rogers asks if everyone will take “just 10 seconds to think about the people who have helped you become who you are…the ones who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” And he silently keeps time on his watch…just ten seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are. You can see a clip here.

I loved Mr. Rogers. It’s no secret. My friends have known that for years. In Pittsburgh a few years ago, I forced everyone in my party to visit the Heinz History Center to see the Mr. Rogers exhibit…some of the pieces from his television show. I was happy. I looked at all of it and thought how much my little girl self would have loved to see it all in person back in the 1970s. Mr. Rogers was a part of my childhood. If you are close to my age, he was likely a part of your childhood too. You likely know the theme song for his show. You likely remember some of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sure, we sometimes made fun of Mr. Rogers and his cardigans and practical shoes, but we all learned something from him.

And as it turns out, Mr. Rogers, in his acceptance speech, was still affecting people. In fact, he’s still affecting us today. That very video made me stop and think about something I hadn’t thought about before…the people who helped me become who I am.

For me, there are many…my parents, my family, some of my teachers, my college friends, other friends…you know, the usual. I won’t name any names, but there are other people who helped me become who I am, and some of them did not do it intentionally. You know who really helped me become who I am? People with whom I had a disagreement of some sort. Seriously. Think about that. When you have a disagreement with someone, it changes who you are…hopefully for the better. And I truly believe that, when I’ve had disagreements with folks, I have been introspective afterward…thinking about where I might have been right and where I might have been wrong. There are also people with whom I had a chance encounter…maybe they helped me carry my groceries; maybe they blessed my day; maybe they stopped me from doing something stupid; or maybe they encouraged me to take a risk I wouldn’t normally have taken. The list is long.

But the list of people who have cared about me along the way? I have a small family, so that list is not particularly long. I have some great friends with whom I will be friends till I die. And I’ve had other friends who aren’t still around, but they cared about me at some point, and I cared about them…and deep down inside, I truly care about anyone who was my friend at one time. Truth. And even if they don’t care about me, they still shaped me in some way.

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter affects us and shapes us in some way…maybe it’s a positive and maybe it’s a negative.

So stop and think about the people who have made you who you are. Sure, some of them cared about you. Some of them just affected you in a chance encounter. Be restrospective and introspective. And then, get out and go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Just seeing the movie trailer makes me cry, so when I go see it, I’ll have lots of tissues. I plan to see it within the next few days.

I’m Fixin’ To Do It

Growing up in the south, “fixing’ to” never sounded strange to me. But as a freshman at The University of Alabama in 1985, I learned that people in other parts of the country never say it. In fact, it sounds strange to them. They had no idea what it meant. There were several girls on my dorm hall from different states…Illinois, Alaska, Delaware…and they all found it amusing that folks in the Deep South say “fixin’ to” when speaking of something they are about to do.

Recently, I was at my daughter’s field hockey game, and the older sister of one of the players was there. She is now a student at an Ivy League school but was home for a few days, and while she was talking with someone else I heard her say she was “fixin’ to” do something. I couldn’t resist. I asked her, “Do people at your school think it’s odd that you say that?” She laughed. In fact, she said people at her school have a hard time figuring out where she’s from, because she switches up her dialect on them.

I’ve always had an interest in dialects. I’m no linguist, but I take great pride in deciphering the intricacies of different dialects within regions and around the country.

I grew up in Alabama, and even within that state, there are different dialects. I won’t even try to break it all down, but trust me when I say you can tell what part of the state someone is from by how they pronounce certain words. Times are changing, and I’m afraid the southern accent will soon be lost, but here are some things we said when I was growing up…things I think are straight out of the south:

  • Y’all. No surprise here. I don’t know anyone who grew up in the south who doesn’t say “y’all.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s short for “you all.” Someone might ask, “Where are y’all from?” But if a big group is involved, someone might ask, “Are all y’all going?”
  • Coke. If you grew up calling soft drinks “sodas” or “pops,” you’ll likely find this funny. I think it will likely phase out with the homogenization of America, but when I was growing up, we called all soft drinks “Coke.” If I were at a baseball game and decided to to the concession stand, I would ask my friends, “Can I get anybody a Coke?” One would likely respond, “Yes! I’ll have a Sprite!” And another might respond, “Yes! Dr. Pepper please!” It was a Deep South thing…not all over the south. Now I’m wondering if folks in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle still do that. Anyone?
  • Buggy. What comes to mind when you see/hear that word? If you’re from anywhere but the Deep South, you likely think of a form of transportation that’s pulled by horses. But if you’re from the Deep South, you think of the thing you put groceries into at the store. Called a “shopping cart” or “cart” in other parts of the country, we always called it a “buggy” when I was growing up. We’d walk into the grocery store, and Mama would say, “Get a buggy, please.”
  • Tennis shoes. In other parts of the country, athletic shoes are referred to as sneakers. In the south, they’re “tennis shoes.” Even if they’re not really for tennis, lots of southerners tend to call them “tennis shoes.” It can be confusing.
  • Dressing. Years ago, when my daughter was four or five, I was talking with a friend who grew up in Boston about what a picky eater my daughter was. In conversation, I said, “She won’t even eat dressing!” My friend from Boston asked, “Does she eat salad?” And then I remembered…the stuff you eat with turkey on Thanksgiving is called “stuffing” everywhere except the south. In the south, we call it “dressing.” And cornbread dressing is my personal favorite!
  • Ink pen. This one is not so common anymore, but back in the day, in the Deep South, people would say, “May I borrow your ink pen?” Yes, it’s redundant, because pens, by definition, contain ink. However, I think it was said in the south, because with a southern accent, “pen” and “pin” sound very similar. Putting “ink” before the word “pen” helped differentiate. Whereas, up north (said “nawuth” by lots of southerners, like my mother, may she Rest In Peace), you can clearly hear the difference in the prononciation of the two words.

And since I mentioned my mother, when my now-15-yr-old daughter was youner, she thought it was so funny that my mother said “nawuth,” “enjaweh” (enjoy), “baweh” (boy), and more.

There are lots more words and phrases we use in the south, but those are just a few. Add in our accents, and you might not understand a word we say…bless your heart! Which reminds me…”bless your heart” can be an expression of sympathy, or it can be catty, depending on the tone. You can get more information about that here.

Before closing, I want to add one more thing. Everyone from the south is not from Alabama, but Alabama fans often use “Roll Tide” (the University of Alabama’s rally cry) as a greeting. No, everyone in Alabama doesn’t do it, because not everyone in the state is a fan of The University of Alabama, but fans who know one another greet each other with “Roll Tide”! Or when something great happens for someone, they might exclaim, “Roll Tide!” But one thing to know…if you are going to wear t-shirts, hoodies, or hats with The University of Alabama symbols on it, be prepared for folks to say “Roll Tide!” when they pass you. You must say it back. If I’m in a Target in Wisconsin, and I see someone wearing an Alabama hoodie, I exclaim, “Roll Tide!” But if I don’t get a “Roll Tide” in return, I think, “If you’re going to wear the shirt, you have to know the lingo…bless your heart.”

 

Get Busy Living…

My friend, Mary Ann, called me one day this week and told me she had read about a little boy with a terminal illness who wanted to get his photo with “Welcome to…” signs of different states. It was important to him. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Shouldn’t we all be doing that, anyway?” She didn’t mean we should all be taking photos with signs. She meant we should all be doing things we want to do...living our lives.

And she’s right. Mary Ann knows how abruptly a life can end. Her daddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident when he was in his 40s. I’m sure he had lots of things he still wanted to do.

My conversation with Mary Ann made me think of a line from The Shawshank Redemption, a movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The film is based on a Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, which I now need to read. The line? It is a line spoken by Tim Robbins’s character, Andy Dufresne, a banker who had incorrectly been found guilty of murdering his wife and was subsequently sentenced to prison:

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

My daddy loved that line. We took it for what it was: If you don’t get out and do the things you want to do now (live your life), then you will start to wither…mentally and physically.  We can make the time and energy to do the things we dream about, or we can sit around, letting time pass, till there’s no time or energy left to do it. We can choose to live life in a positive way…or not.

Think about that. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something as simple as learning to knit…or something adventurous…or something to help the community.

Both my parents are gone now, but I feel like they did most of what they wanted to do in life. They encouraged me to live life to its fullest. Yes, they wanted me to be responsible, but I remember, when Daddy was dying, he told me, “Y’all need to enjoy your lives. You can’t take your money with you…enjoy it.” Both my parents always reminded us often that “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Daddy didn’t mean we should get out there and waste money.  What he meant was that we need to use it to do some things we want to do. My parents were very conservative with their money. After Daddy died, Mother became even more conservative with her spending and investing. I would tell her, “Mother, spend it. Enjoy it!” And she would always tell me she wanted to save it for us. But she still did a lot of what she wanted.

Mother and Daddy took lots of trips together. They preferred the Caribbean for big trips, but they were happy to find a local sporting event to attend most of the time. Indoor track meet at the local coliseum? They were in! Baseball game? You bet! Daddy loved driving, so often they took road trips together too. And when I say he LOVED driving, I mean he LOVED it. Daddy started driving in 1952, and as an adult, he drove many times the miles most people drive in a lifetime. He died in 2006…54 years of driving, and he never had an accident.

They also helped others…quietly. They didn’t want accolades for their acts of kindness. Many times I knew Mother to take care of an ailing neighbor…for months! They both gave away money to individuals or families who, they said, “needed it more than we do.”

Mother and Daddy enjoyed their lives. Sure, their experiences were different than mine, but they were of a different generation. I’m sure our daughter’s life experience will be different than mine. Heck, my brother is just 17 months younger than I am, and his life experience is different than mine, because we have different interests.

But here’s one thing I know for sure: I live my life. I’m not sitting around waiting for life to happen to me…I’m making life happen. I’m trying to spend time with people I love. I’m trying to make the world a little better. I am trying to create lasting memories with our daughter and with my husband. I am trying to do the things I want to do, and I am enjoying the ride.

So…get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

 

We Need Erma Bombeck

Today, I was talking with a friend about how depressing it is when it rains for seven days straight. Fortunately, it was a friend who always makes me laugh. And she didn’t fail me this time either. In fact, she mentioned someone I haven’t thought about in years. It’s someone my mother looked up to. My mother and her friends used to sit around and laugh about her. The person she mentioned? Erma Bombeck.

For those of you who are younger than I am, look her up. I don’t care if you look on Wikipedia or wherever, but you need to look her up. Like I told the flight attendant who didn’t recognize Frankie Valli sitting across from me. “This person is a big deal. Go call your mother and ask her…she’ll know.” Erma was an author and columnist who was the voice of moms and housewives everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s.

My mother loved Erma Bombeck. I think lots of moms did, because she said what they were all thinking. She lived like they did. My mother was a stay-at-home mom…back then it was called a “housewife.” While my mother enjoyed being a housewife, it had its challenges. Mrs. Bombeck wrote about the same challenges in her newspaper columns and in her humorous books. And my mother loved her.

My mother and her friend, Polly, quoted Mrs. Bombeck to each other, and they laughed and laughed. I remember seeing Bombeck’s books around the house. If mother was reading one, it was often on the kitchen table, where she enjoyed reading. I can still hear mother laughing out loud, her nose buried in an Erma Bombeck book. And that’s how, as a teenager, I even read Erma Bombeck. I was too young to be a mother or housewife, but even as a teenager, I knew good humor when I read it.

Erma Bombeck is what I’m missing in my life. I need more Erma. In fact, today, just before I started writing, I ordered a few familiar titles from Amazon: If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, Why Am I In the Pits?; The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank; All I Know About Animal Behavior, I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room; Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession; and When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. There are more; these are just the ones I ordered today, and I can hardly wait to get them! You can see them and order them here.

Bombeck had some of the best quotes. Selfishly, I wish she were still alive, so she could guide us with humor through this generation. I know, there are humorous people on YouTube, and there are funny people on Facebook, but dang it…Erma was the original. No one can do motherhood/housewife humor like Erma could do it. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should become familiar with her work. Buy some books and enjoy an evening or two of easy reading that relates to your own life!

Her wit was unmatched, and her quotes were too. Here, words to live by, courtesy of the late, great Erma Bombeck:

  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Yes, it’s the title of one of her books, but it is so true, literally and figuratively! Anywhere someone has a septic tank, you know where it is in the yard…just look for the greenest patch of grass. It’s absolutely true. And in life, people always say “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” in reference to thinking what others have is better. But really…since we only see what people want us to see, the septic tank quote is more fitting…underneath all that green grass might just be a bunch of poop.
  • If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. True words. I’ve gotten through lots of hard times with laughter. When my daddy was sick with pancreatic cancer, we laughed a lot…a lot. We knew we had to keep laughing to keep from crying. And it helped us. It helped him. We actually look back on those months with good memories.
  • When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. This makes me laugh out loud. My mother usually gave good advice, but sometimes I didn’t want to hear it. She gave it to me anyway. And she knew I didn’t want to hear it. If I got mad, so be it. She knew I would get over it. I’m sure my daughter feels the same way about my advice.
  • I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex. Erma and I should have been friends. We could have had lunch together.
  • Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you. I think this just means “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” I’m a subscriber to that way of thinking. I know there will always be someone taller, richer, thinner, prettier…but there doesn’t always have to be someone happier or more satisfied with their life. Being rich, tall, skinny, pretty…none of that means your life is better. We should all choose our own paths…and enjoy the journey down that path.
  • Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time. Spoken like a true mother. Any mother knows the car is where dropped food goes to die…and create a stink. My husband has never understood this, but he has never hauled around seven kids. No, I don’t have seven kids…I only have one, but there have been times I’ve had seven kids in the car at one time, and they make messes. Moms will do anything to keep them quiet in the car, including letting them eat Cheerios, ice cream, or whatever else they want.  Moms know this. Dads don’t. Fortunately, my child is a teenager now, so the car is cleaner.
  • Children make your life important. While there are lots of folks out there who don’t have kids and don’t want them, for me…this quote of Erma’s is true. I once had a coworker who had two children. I was in my 20s. I said one day, “I don’t think it would be a disaster if I didn’t have kids.” She said to me, “Kids are the meaning of life.” While this isn’t true for everyone, it certainly has been true for me. I only have one daughter, but my life became exponentially better because I had a child. The sky is bluer. The flowers are brighter. Life is better.

The list goes on and on. I could continue to quote Erma, or I could tell you to go over to Amazon or your favorite bookseller and get some of her books. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

I wonder what Erma would have thought of 2019?

Erma_Bombeck

Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

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The Wisdom of Mad Men

I’m behind the curve. I just started watching Mad Men a couple of weeks ago, and I’m into Season 5 of the seven seasons. Mad Men premiered in 2007. I was busy with a toddler in 2007 and didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV. The series ended in 2015. After watching the first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently, I was in the mood for a show set in the early 60s, and someone recommended Mad Men.

If you have never seen it but think you would like to, purchase it on Amazon Prime Video. It’s about men and women working at an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s…their professional and private lives, but it is centered around the life of Don Draper, the creative genius behind the agency’s most successful ad campaigns.

The late 1950s/early 1960s are the era when television was becoming influential, and the general public was just starting to enjoy air travel. We were beginning space exploration, and everyone was looking to the future. The cold war was in full swing…and Vietnam was real. Lots of it reminds me of my own childhood in the late 60s and early 70s.

And it is good…really good. The characters are well-written. The sets are glorious. The storylines are intriguing. And even though it is the 1960s, there are so many things happening in these people’s lives…they could be our friends, our neighbors, or even ourselves.

I love it for any number of reasons…the dashing, charismatic Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm; the storylines; the wardrobes; the incredible 1960s sets; New York City; and the wisdom…yes, the wisdom.

Since I wasn’t born until 1967, I wasn’t alive in the early 60s, but it still seems familiar. The console televisions…and when they turn them off, the screen shrinks down to a dot of light. The smoking. The beautiful ashtrays that were sometimes a freestanding piece of furniture and sometimes colorful decor. The green and orange sofa pillows. The rotary dial telephones. The wood paneling. The green kitchen appliances.  The old automobiles. The office politics. The constant day drinking. The social climbing.

But what has surprised me most is the wisdom of some of the characters. It seems Mr. Cooper, the head of the agency, is a wise, well-read and well traveled man. Many of the quotes I love can be attributed to him. Yes, I know he’s not a real person. I know the show’s writers actually write the lines I love so much, but nevertheless, I find some of them to be enriching.

And here, some of the wisdom of Mad Men:

  • “You haven’t thought this through. When you threaten someone in this manner, you should be aware of the fact that if your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” –Don Draper to Pete Campbell, an account executive with the agency, after Pete tried to blackmail him. I really love this one. It might just be my favorite quote from the series so far. I think this is a quote everyone should ponder…especially before they try to manipulate someone else. You want to get a reaction from me? It might not be the reaction you want. Trying to blackmail someone? They might just kill you instead of complying. I will definitely use this quote at some point in my life! I can think of some instances I should have used it in the past!
  • “Don’t waste your youth on age.” This was immediately a favorite. It is the wisdom of Mr. Cooper. One night, another partner, Mr. Sterling, has a heart attack at the office after hours, and Mr. Cooper calls in the office manager to help send telegrams to clients. She arrives at the office with an older gentleman in tow but quickly tells her companion to leave. She and Mr. Cooper send the telegrams, and as they are leaving, he imparts this bit of wisdom on her in reference to her date. I like to think he’s telling her to spend her time doing youthful things while she’s young.
  • “I know people say ‘life goes on,’ and it does, but no one tells you that’s not a good thing.”–Betty Draper, Don’s wife. This quote is from an episode in Season 1. Betty lost her mother a few months before, and her father has just introduced her to his new lady friend. Anyone who has lost someone understands this. Yes, life goes on, but there are lots of times life’s progression without our loved ones is difficult…we wish we could turn back time.
  • “One never knows how loyalty is born.” –Mr. Cooper. This is another one from the old man, and I like it. I don’t even remember to whom he was speaking or what it was about, but I liked it enough to write it down. It’s true, though. I’ve found loyal friends in the least likely places, and sometimes I’ve learned about their loyalty in the strangest ways. Sometimes we find out about a lack of loyalty in the least expected places too.
  • “The faintest ink is more powerful than the best memory.” –Paul Kinsey, quoting a Chinese Proverb to Don and Peggy in a meeting about ads for telegraphs. While memories are fantastic, proof of those memories is even better, because it solidifies them for us. It makes them permanent. I have childhood memories of being at my grandfather’s house, but when I look at pictures from the era, it backs up my memories. I have cards and letters from my mother. I can’t converse with her, but I know she wrote the messages in those cards and letters. They are permanent.
  • “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.”–Don Draper, in his memoirs. Oh my, this is so true. Throughout my life, as I’ve met people, they have told me their flaws early on, but often, I’ve chosen not to believe them. I’ve chosen to think those flaws don’t exist, when in reality, they do. Therefore, when I tell you I often say the wrong thing, and I’m often way too direct, believe me. And if you’re single and dating someone who tells you their flaws up front, believe them! Do not think they will be different with you.

There are also so many scenes without great quotes that communicate “wisdom.” For example, the horror on Pete Campbell’s face is obvious when a coworker says, “Harry told me you said I married for money.” Pete didn’t say it, but Harry did…and he put his words in Pete’s mouth. Any viewer could see through it, and hopefully, we all thought of ways to prevent it from happening to us in the future. The disappointment displayed by Betty Draper in Season 5 when she realized her attempt at revenge on Don and Megan…telling her daughter about Don’s previous marriage to Anna…had failed. Don and Megan taught us all a lesson about how to handle that type of thing…don’t give them the satisfaction of getting you upset. Megan was right when she reminded Don that if he called Betty, he would be playing right into her hands…she would get the satisfaction of knowing she had upset him…because sometimes, the best revenge is living well.

Oh…so much wisdom…

And these are just from the first few seasons. I’m sure I’ll garner more wisdom as I continue to watch. I am absolutely enthralled. If you can’t find me over the next week or so, it’s because I’m still watching Mad Men.

 

***Photo from the Huffington Post***