Category Archives: History

Turn of Phrase

On this date in the year 600, Pope Gregory the Great decreed that the proper thing to say when someone sneezed was “God bless you”. I told this to a friend, a practicing  Catholic, who said ” Who died and put him in charge!? Why are we still listening to him? We should find something new to say!” I was at a loss for her being somewhat offended by Pope Gregory, but I found her response delightful.

What are some of your favorite (or not so favorite turns of phrase)?  Make up a new one if you can.

 

Everything Old is New Again

Husband read this to me the other night. It is from Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant. He is describing a 19th century railroad baron. Remind you of anyone we know?

With his handsome blond mustache, bloated frame, and  diamond rings, the flashy Jim Fisk was the antithesis of the saturnine Gould. The son of a Vermont peddler, he collected prostitutes and chorus girls no less promiscuously than he bought railroads and steamships and exulted in the attention his flamboyance aroused. Such was his roguish charm that people were captivated even as they were horrified by his total lack of scruples. As George Templeton Strong sketched him: ‘Illiterate, vulgar, unprincipled, profligate, always making himself conspicuously ridiculous by some piece of flagrant ostentation, he was, nevertheless, freehanded with his stolen money, and possessed, moreover, a certain magnetism of geniality that attracted to him people who were not particular about the decency of their associates ‘.   Chernow, R. (2017),  p 673.  Grant. Penguin Press: New York.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  What trends from the past would you like to see again?

Unread Books

Today we celebrate the birthdays of Charles Dickens and Sinclair Lewis.  They are both acclaimed authors, and I know the plots of many of  the books they wrote, but I can’t say I have ever read one of their novels from start to finish.  I am not proud of that.

What books have you not read  that you wish you had read? What makes it hard to read the books?

Sensory Processing

I  frequently run into children in my psychology practice who have issues with how things feel, taste, or sound. These children do not have diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (although many of those people have significant sensory problems).  No, the children to whom I refer are just really irritated and bothered by things in their sensory worlds.  They have problems with the textures of foods, with seams in their socks, and with dirt on their hands. They crave tight clothes and heavy blankets, or else they don’t like wearing clothes at all.  Some can’t abide loud noises.  Some can’t bear to have anything like a tooth-brush in their mouths, or else they have an intense need for oral stimulation and need to chew on things.  I refer them to Occupational Therapists who do all sorts of mysterious and wonderful things with them to reduce their sensory stress  and make them less irritable.

I, too, have some sensory issues. I remember as child that I wouldn’t wear any article of clothing that had a tag in it. Mom had to cut them off. They were itchy and scratchy and I couldn’t stop thinking about them if they were still inside my clothes. I also remember wearing what are called “rumba pants” as a very little girl. They were  decorative panties with lace on the backside.  They itched like crazy and it was impossible to sit down without having them scratch my legs.

I prefer loose clothes to tight clothes.   I never liked it when my mom would wash my bedding, since I liked things soft against my skin, and the freshly laundered  sheets were scratchy.  I can’t stand to feel that there is anything under my fingernails. This partially accounts for my unbreakable bad habit of chewing my nails. My son tells me that whenever he touches cardboard with his fingertips, it is like hearing nails on a black board for him.

I don’t know why I am seeing so many children with this issue.  I think  other children had sensory issues when I was young, but that no one asked the right questions to find out.  Perhaps life wasn’t quite as complicated  then and it was easier to learn to cope.  Perhaps we are doing something environmentally  or in our child rearing practices that is causing more problems like this. I don’t know the answer. I just know I am glad there is help for all that sensory irritability now.

What sensory issues do you have? Do you know someone with sensory issues?

Vintage

A few weeks ago I cleared everything out of my mother’s Lane cedar chest.  We have had the chest for about three years,  but I didn’t feel like sorting through it  until  now.  It is a traditional hope chest with mahogany veneer.  My mother stored her best table linens, my baptismal dress and baby slippers, her mink pill box hat and detachable mink collar, and other things she treasured in that chest.   My parents were solidly middle class, but mom had a few really nice things that she kept in that chest for decades.  I felt that I took a trip back to the 1950’s as I sorted through everything.

My parents didn’t entertain very often. Mom would have ladies over for sewing club or coffee occasionally,  and the relatives, of course, but nothing that she really dressed up for. I was surprised to find this apron in  the chest.  It is clearly an apron a woman would wear at a gathering as she served the ladies the elegant luncheon she had prepared. The photo doesn’t do it justice, and I am not wearing the requisite full skirted dress it should go over.  It is made of a very heavy linen/cotton fabric. It is very long and  full, with a wide waist band and wide ties in the back that are meant to create a lovely bow.

 

The insets on the pocket, on the ties, and near the hem look like this.

The apron appears to be hand made.  The hemming stitches are extremely uniform and perfectly spaced.

The bands of insets were also attached by hand onto the fabric with perfect, even stitches.

Someone went to a lot of work to make this apron.  When I took it out of the chest it appeared to be  carefully ironed and the fabric did not seem to ever have been washed. I don’t remember my mom ever wearing it. She wouldn’t have spent good money on a fancy apron like that, so I assume it was given to her as a gift.  I wish I knew its history. I have decided to wear it. That apron has been in the chest too many years. I feel taller and quite elegant when I wear it.

I kept most of the things mom had in the chest but I will try to use them when I can. I kept the  mink hat and collar, but I don’t think I will ever wear them, though. Our kitten thought the hat was the best thing and I had to retrieve it from her several times after she dragged it down the hall.

Have you ever worn vintage clothes? What era of vintage clothing would you like to wear? What is the oldest article of clothing you own?

 

 

The College Years

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms

In the fall of 1960 I became a freshman at Grinnell College. The class of ’64 went on to win a spotty reputation as perhaps the most talented but troublesome classes in college history. The 1960s were a turbulent time in higher education all across the nation.

Those years, for me, were amazingly transformative. I entered that period as a provincial, shy, sanctimonious kid from a small Iowa town. I was some sort of Republican, a passive sort of Christian. I was also a prig who was offended by folks who smoked, drank alcohol, had sex out of wedlock or swore. I had terrible study habits and little discipline. My first crisis was discovering whether I was equal to the challenge of college coursework. I spent my freshman year in terror of flunking out.

Even the simple business of living in a dorm was threatening for me. In high school I avoided two kinds of people: the boys and the girls. At Grinnell I was obliged to live in a dormitory with 30 young men whom I did not know. I soon learned my dorm buddies farted, got drunk and hosed each other down with language so vulgar I didn’t know what the words meant. For a while I wondered if I might be gay because the guys around me were so crude and aggressive that I felt I belonged to a different species.

Grinnell shocked me in good ways, too. I had lived 18 years of my life totally ignorant of the complex delights of classical music. The college offered live concerts with music so powerful it sometimes reduced me to tears. Among my dorm mates were guys who played folk guitar and bluegrass banjo. I fell in love with that until music was so important I couldn’t imagine having lived without it.

Something similar happened with respect to the world of books, social debates, historical dilemmas, appreciation of visual arts, and many other areas. Because Grinnell was so isolated (“in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields”) the college tried hard to import exciting speakers and artists. Attending lectures on fascinating topics was free and easy: all one had to do was show up and listen. I found out I cared about ideas and history and art to a degree I had not known was possible.

The kid who left Grinnell four years later was very little like the kid who showed up in 1960. I’m convinced that all of us change, and in fact we change every year we are alive. But some changes are vastly more significant than others, and my Grinnell years were that.

What about you? If you attended college, what did the experience mean to you?

Not Science

I know that anecdotes are not science. Just because you know two people who know two other people who have had something happen to them doesn’t mean it is science.   When the anecdotes don’t agree with your own world view it’s pretty easy to refute them.  But when it happens to you, it’s a little harder.

For many years I didn’t get a flu shot because they were made with thimerosal as a preservative and I’m sensitive to that. Then about 8 years ago, they started making the shots without the preservative so I signed up at work and got the shot.  A month later I was as sick as a dog; since I’d had the flu shot I was sure I had food poisoning and that was when I got a lesson in flu coverage by my doctor.  The flu shot is an educated guess about what will be coming around each flu season; sometimes they work, sometimes they miss the mark.  But the memory of being that sick made me hesitant to get a flu shot again.

Fast forward to last spring when I had pneumonia (ick). My doctor told me that the flu shot would be a helpful preventative against pneumonia so I dutifully got the shot this year.

You know where this is going, right? As I sat in Urgent Care yesterday with chills so bad I could hardly drive and a temperature over 103, the doctor (of course) asked me if I had gotten a flu shot this year.  I said “yes, and a lot of good it’s done me”.  She repeated to me that every now and then the current flu serum for the year really doesn’t help that year’s flu strain at all.  This is one of those years.  And apparently 8 years ago was one of those years as well.

I understand that this is a complete coincidence that both years I got the flu shot were the only two years that I’ve gotten the flu in the last couple of decades. My brain knows that getting the flu shot didn’t really give me the flu…. but just the same, my hearts thinks it’s going to be really hard for me to go get that shot next year!

Has your brain ever disagreed with your heart?