Childhood Books and Toys

When I was a little kid my parents read to me every night before bed. I had books like The Pokey Little Puppy, Cheeky Chipmunk and many others.

I also loved to play with my dolls.

When I got too old for those things they were stored in the thin, wooden toy box and put in the basement. Since our home was on a steep hill, most of the basement wasn’t paved.

Decades later when I had graduated from college and got my first apartment I took the toy box there.

When I opened it, I was horrified!

It smelled terrible and everything in it was covered with mold and mildew.
Some of my dolls, which had been made before plastic was available, had heads made of composite material that had rotted away, and their clothes were rotten, too.

Most of the books were falling apart, the pages were brown and brittle, and they smelled horrible.

Fortunately, I was able to salvage a few toys from later in my childhood that were made of plastic, and some of my books.

I still have those today.

Do you have any toys or books from your childhood?

Fathers Then and Now

Back when I was a kid, in the 1940s and 50s, most kids had stay-at-home moms. Even if their fathers had been killed in WWII their mothers had remarried if they possibly could.

It was difficult for women to find jobs back then. They might be school teachers, clerks, do laundry or housecleaning, or be in the entertainment industry, but there weren’t many other options and women got paid less than men for the same jobs.

Everyone ’knew’ “a woman’s place is in the home,” and it was the fathers’ responsibility to provide for their families.

In some families it was also the father’s responsibility to spank their kids when they had misbehaved.

Back then nearly all men smoked cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or any combination of those (women just smoked cigarettes) so in grade school kids made ash trays for Fathers’ Day gifts. Since my father had died of polio, I gave those ashtrays to my grandfather, who didn’t smoke and didn’t like the gifts.

Today it’s unusual for kids to have both birth parents living with them.

Couples get divorced, sometimes just because they feel like it. Marriage vows aren’t taken seriously. (Of course some divorces are for valid reasons, such as abuse.)

Lots of kids have stepfathers and/or get shuffled back and forth between both birth parents.

Quite a few kids today have never even met their birth fathers. And many fathers rarely or never get to see their own children.

Fathers’ Day just ain’t what it used to be.

Blogging About Blogging

When I started blogging in 2009 I doubted that I’d be able to think of enough to write about to continue for a few months, but I’d been told blogging was necessary to sell books and my first one was under contract.

Well, it has been about ten years and I’m still at it.

Unfortunately I don’t get many comments on my blog itself. (actually I have both Word Press and Blogger blogs, but I post the same material on both of them.) I share all my posts on Facebook and that’s where I get the most comments.

When blogging first started the term, blog, was a shortened form of web log. I wonder who thought of that term?

Even though my blogging probably hasn’t worked very well as a marketing tool, I intend to keep doing it. And I’d love to get some comments from people who read it.

Learning to Read

The beginning of Summer vacation from schools in the US may seem like a strange time to talk about learning to read. It’s not.

Back when I was a kid reading instruction didn’t begin until first grade and parents were warned not to try to teach their kids at home. They were told they would probably not do it correctly so their kids would have to “unlearn” what the parents had taught before learning correctly.

In some California schools books for beginning readers were about Dick and Jane while others were about Bill and Susan. All were boring.

Over the years the state curriculum methods for teaching kids to read changed quite a few times. That probably also happened in other states. And now beginning reading skills are often taught in preschools.

A few decades ago I read a library book (sorry I don’t remember the title or author) about a study that sought to discover what method of teaching reading was most effective.

The authors interviewed the highest functioning students in some of the best universities in the United States about how they had learned to read.

To the surprise of those conducting the study, the only thing those students had in common was that their parents had read to them every day when they were little kids.

So if you have kids or nearby grandkids please read to them every day from when they’re learning to talk until they are able to read fluently on their own.

And, even then if the kids are willing, reading together can help strengthen family ties.

Language Changes

It always bothers me when people say “a couple” something instead of “a couple of.” In the past everyone said “a couple of.”

The same people would probably still say “a pair of.”

But people always say “A dozen” something instead of “a dozen of.” I can’t remember ever hearing “a dozen of eggs.”

The only languages that don’t change are dead languages, no longer spoken by anybody.

I’m glad English is a living language, and we have to get used to changes even though they may seem annoying.

Just imagine what William Shakespeare would think of the way we talk today.

Voting

I understand at the last election a lot of people didn’t bother to vote.
In my opinion, that’s just, plain wrong. Being able to vote for our laws and officials is a privilege people in many countries don’t have.

Before the USA was founded most people had no say about who ran their countries or the laws the rulers enacted. But we do have that privilege, thanks to many people who fought and died for it.

Sometimes it seems we’re choosing the lesser of two evils, but even then, at least we have the right to make that choice.

Please, please, please do vote even if you disagree with me.

As my bumper sticker says, “If you don’t vote, don’t whine.”

My Name Is…

My name is Janet. When I was a kid I wanted a nickname, but nobody would call me Jan because everyone “knew” Jan was a boy’s name in Holland. They didn’t realize the J was pronounced like a Y over there.

Now sometimes I’m Jan and sometimes I’m Janet, depending on if there’s another Jan or Janet in the group.

I have to stop and think which name I should use every time I go to a meeting or social event.

And there are lots of similar names besides Janet and Jan. Girls may be named Jane, Jean, Joan, Jeanette, Janice, Juanita, Joanne, Joni, or Shawna. And boys are often named John, Juan, Sean, Ian, Evan, Jack, Hans, Johan. And those aren’t even all of the related names.

Probably the reason there are so many people in the world with similar names is the original meaning. Those names are all derived from Hebrew words meaning God, gift, and grace. So the names mean God gives grace, or gracious gift of God.

I guess originally a lot of people were very happy to have the babies they gave names to with that meaning.

Of course over the centuries lots of babies were named after other people who had those names.

Do you know what your name means?

The Murderer’s Ape

I hesitated to check this book out of the library because it’s probably the longest Middle Grade book I’ve ever seen – 588 pages. But The Murderer’s Ape was so well written I finished it in two days.

The book is unusual in more ways than its length, too.

The main character is a gorilla, and the book seems to have been written by him. The actual author, Jakob Wegelius is human and he originally wrote it in Swedish, but it was translated into English by Peter Graves.

The story takes place in the area of India, Arabia and Africa, which is also rather unusual.

While the book is sort of fantasy since the gorilla can read, write, and do many other human things, it happens long ago, so it’s also historical fiction.

But the plot is so exciting none of that matters. The characters are realistic and I cared about them, too.
In my opinion, this is a wonderful book.

Disasters

We’ve certainly had more than our share of natural disasters in the last few years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, etc., etc. have been making the news.

I’m afraid that, because of all the volcanic activity in Hawaii, the tectonic plates below the Pacific Ocean will be moving and the small earthquakes along the coast are precursors to a big one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a major earthquake in California in the next few months. And then there might be another big one on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in a year or so.

I hope everyone is prepared for an emergency and knows how to duck and cover.

Resolutions

In about a month this year will be half over.

Way back in January did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?

If you did, have you kept them?

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions because I usually forget about them by the time Summer – or even Spring – comes around.

This year perhaps I’ll try making New Season’s resolutions. There are quite a few things I’d like to accomplish by the end of Summer.

Of course every day, week, and month I have a list of things I want to get done and, sometimes I actually do finish them. But it seems like there is always something more I wish I’d done. There’s always something to write, edit and submit, files that need to be cleaned out, piles of stuff in the garage to sort, sell, or give away, housework, shopping, cooking, meetings to attend, e-mail messages to read, people to contact, etc., etc., etc.

Instead of making resolutions, I think I’ll resolve to relax and take one day, hour, or minute at a time. I’ll probably never get everything done, but I’ll enjoy my life a lot more without the pressure.

How about you?