Capturing Stories from Life and the Week

It has been an exceptionally busy work week, so this post shares a few quick thoughts on recent life. I hope something will be of interest  to you or something you can relate to as you read.

School Shooting

I am sickened that yet another tragic shooting has occurred. As a former classroom teacher, I would not agree to carry a weapon.

God help us.

Reflections from a Mother’s Heart

I want to recommend a tool to you, if you still have parents living and relationships you treasure. This past fall, a friend of mine shared that she’d used a book, Reflections from a Mother’s Heart, to capture some of her mom’s stories. I ordered the book from Amazon. I also got the similar book for fathers, A Father’s Legacy (now unavailable, sadly). I took both books home with me for an October 2017 visit with my parents. It prompted great conversation which unfolded stories of their lives, some of which were new to me.

Some parents complete the book on their own, but I used pages that appealed to launch the conversations and jotted down notes as they answered. I’m so grateful I did, for my father passed away a month later. His stories from that October weekend keep him close at heart.

Now, once a week, with my mom on the phone, I talk through some of the prompts in the book. She may not always have an answer, but the prompts always lead somewhere to great memories of her younger days. Those stories keep the young, vibrant woman clearly pictured, though now in her 90’s.

I’d discovered this book makes it easier and fun to continue to get to know my mom, and helps trigger memories from her past which honors her as a person who had a full life. Those are precious times. We live about 2,000 miles apart, but our friendship is strengthened through this book.

The great thing about these books is that they can be used with any older friend or family member that is important to you, whose legacy you want to keep. I do need to mention it has sections that are religious, so if that is not part of the life of your loved one, you can pass by those pages.

Winter Weather

The southern California weather has been typical this year. That means some hot summer days, and then some cool winter days. We’ve not had much rain this winter, which bothers many of us because we need that rain. However, in the areas ravaged by fires, no rain means no mudslides.

This week is particularly chilly. I have to laugh as I write that. I grew up in the Midwest and survived bitter cold. So now when the temperature is down in the 60’s, and I feel like I’m freezing, I know my blood has thinned. I’ve adapted to my California habitat. That temperature would feel like spring when I was living through winters in the Chicago area!

Last night, I checked the weather app on my phone and I could not believe my eyes. My town was the coldest, compared to Chicago and Akron – cities where I’ve lived in the past. Crazy! Hopefully you are not visiting in southern California this week to escape from the cold midwest.

temps 2018-2-20

The Olympics

My husband and I have spent some time recently watching the various events of the Winter Olympics. The sports capture our interest during these weeks. I just love the Olympic theme played so often during the NBC broadcast. Here’s an interesting little article on the theme and a silly video I found on the KUSC website. I wanted to share these if you are teaching a unit on the Olympics. Or maybe you are an Olympic fan, too.

The Olympic Theme Explained

Here is the silly rendition of the theme, described as “Shaun White and Michael Phelps play the Olympic Fanfare on melodicas. Get your melodica here at”

Stay warm and charming, my friends!

From Sanka to Starbucks

Sitting in a Starbucks this weekend, I couldn’t help but think about how coffee and it’s role in our society has changed in my lifetime. I have vivid childhood memories of my grandparents sipping Sanka. Sanka seemed to be the big deal when it came to coffee. Do you remember Sanka? What are your early memories of coffee?

Black coffee was so popular. Perhaps people added cream and sugar. Most children did not drink coffee. I wasn’t permitted to have coffee as a child. Or I remember it as a rare moment, as I got older, mixed with milk and sugar. It tasted almost like melted coffee ice cream. For children, the caffeine may have been undesirable, but the taste was awful to me, too. My generation did not ride along with our moms on a “drive thru” coffee run when we were growing up.

I don’t even think I realized decaf was a thing as a child. But I do now! A caffeinated beverage past 2:00pm and I’ll be wide awake at some point during my typical sleep cycle. As I’ve gotten older, I sometime feel jittery with more than a cup of regular coffee. Perhaps you can relate. Do you prefer regular or decaf?

And then there was Folgers. I looked up a commercial from back in the day with “Mrs. Olsen.” The commercial really reflects how societal roles and behaviors have shifted, as well as the coffee. On a side note, this reminded me of the gender roles and expectations within which our mothers managed to act.

I started drinking coffee in college. In fact, I discovered that coffee was helpful when studying all night and going to classes in the morning. Did you have one of those aluminum plug-in desktop devices that heated a small amount of water in your dorm room? Perfect for making coffee, tea, or oatmeal servings for one.

Now, I’ve observed in my area that children know what “Starbucks” is by name and have a favorite drink. Nice brand marketing, Starbucks! They have built the next generation of clients. Perhaps they’ll associate Starbucks with happy memories of times with a parent.

Even coffee options have changed. Basically, during my youth, our options were:

  • Regular
  • Decaf
  • Instant
  • Brewed

No wonder there is often a line at Starbucks, with endless drink options including:

  • Cold brew
  • Latte
  • Cappuccino
  • Frappuccino
  • Americano
  • Macchiato
  • Espresso
  • Mocha
  • Flat White

Sizes now bring more choices: Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti for Starbucks. Other coffee shops have different names. Customization options  for a coffee drink include half and half cream, heavy cream, nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Plus Equal, honey, Sugar in the Raw, Splenda, Stevia, sugar, Sweet ‘n Low, and a variety of sweet flavored syrups. Let’s not forget whip or no-whip.

Brewing methods are varied. Pour over, drip, cold brew, French press, percolator, Keurig K-cups, and more. But before you brew, pick a roast and a method of grinding beans. Endless choices.

Coffee shops are popping up and very popular places for meeting friends, working or reading alone, and working for many, including me. When I was a visiting teacher for homeschooling families, I would use Starbucks as my office when out traveling for the day. The bathrooms are decent, and grabbing a little table for workspace made it ideal to get some work done between appointments.

But Starbucks and other coffee shops are more than just coffee, breakfast items, and sandwiches. Starbucks has created an experience, including our names perhaps even spelled accurately on our cup. We walk in to a warm and inviting atmosphere, visually appealing. We smell coffee. We hear conversations, brewing devices, and music. We hold a cup of something and feel it’s warmth or chill. And we taste a beverage we have selected and customized with our desired flavors. Starbucks has created an experience that touches all our senses, making it personal and engaging.

Coffee remains central to American life, but it seems to play an even bigger role in 2017. For example, how far is it between Starbucks in your area? Do you feel happy when someone says to you, “Hey, I’m stopping at Starbucks. Do you want anything?” Coffee still symbolizes community in many respects, yet now in many public spaces, instead of the office, at church, at a restaurant, and in private homes as in the past with Mrs. Olsen.

Stay charming, friends!

Closing thought: I feel it is only right to close this week by taking a moment to remember and acknowledge the suffering in our world due to evil acts of violence and horrible natural disasters, and to pray for healing, peace, and recovery for those affected. It has been a difficult time. Please give to a worthy organization that can aid, if you have the ability. Thanks.

Watch It!

On Sunday night this week, my husband and I watched the awards show for TV programs, The Emmys. We live near Los Angeles, so TV show production is one of the big industries around here. For us, The Emmys can be entertaining, but it also gives us the summary of what was popular on TV in the past season. We don’t watch many shows, but we like to learn what is going on in our times and culture. According to a study done by FX Research, 455 original scripted shows ran on American television in 2016. Many of the nominees were programs I had not even heard about. Things have really changed since I was young! Yet our favorite TV shows continue to form memories of good times.

In my youth, during the late 1950’s and 1960’s, my family had one black and white TV. On Fridays, my dad would pick up a pizza after work, and bring it home for family dinner. Then we would gather in the family room to watch Get Smart together. On Sunday nights, we would get to watch the magical Wonderful World of Color, with opening scenes from Disneyland. I loved that show. I’d dream of visiting Disneyland one day, and now I live about 40-minutes away.

Saturday mornings were full of classic Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and friends.

My younger brother and I would watch other great cartoons, including the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (Jay Ward Productions), and Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and so many others. Such great memories!

Cartoons sure have changed. I’m not sure what’s popular now, but we’ve gone from these old classics to Pinkie and the Brain (which I did like) to The Simpsons to South Park.

I wonder if our parents felt guiding our TV viewing habits to be less complicated back then, compared to today. I remember that I could not watch a program called Peyton Place, nor could I watch Laugh In until I was older.

And about the time I hit junior high, The Monkees became a favorite show. If you grew up in the late 1960’s, who was your favorite Monkee?

I remember Happy Days and All My Children being very popular when I was in college.

I was a fan of a variety of shows through the years including Cheers, Moonlighting, Dallas, Friends, Mad About You, Frasier, Will and Grace, and many others. Now we watch late night comedy shows, Madame Secretary, Modern Family, and The Crown. And I still miss Downton Abbey. Perhaps you do, too.

Besides programming, technology changed. I still remember when my family got our first color TV and we watched the annual special, The Wizard of Oz in color. The epic story begins in black and white, but for me growing up, it was all black and white until we finally got a color television.

And the changes continued. Screens got bigger. Remotes were soon common. Eventually flat screens replaced tube technology. Changes continue at a greater speed. VHS to DVR. DVDs and downloads. Broadcast and cable. Streaming and subscriptions. HBO, Hulu, Netflix and more. iTunes and Amazon downloads. Non-stop options for viewing. And “binge watching” is a thing.

TVs also became more common. From one TV in the house, TVs soon took their place throughout the house, including bedrooms and kitchens. And eventually in vans for kids to watch movies in the car.

The only change the bothers me is that we have to pay now for most TV viewing options. But that’s going to change, too. With Apple TV and other technology on the market, and using your computer to watch programs, there are ways around that. I don’t have the ability to elaborate, but you probably know someone younger who does.

What TV memories do you have? Do you remember when your family got their first color TV? What are your favorite shows now?

Stay tuned, as they say! And stay charming, friends. Have a good week!