BITE ME


NBA

I bite my nails. There I said it. Maybe there should be an NBA for me to attend each week. No, not the National Basketball Association…I was referring to Nail Biters Anonymous, if such a thing exists. We could have weekly meetings and people who bit their nails could attend and confess their sins and tell why they eat themselves. Maybe that would help some people break this nasty habit…maybe me!

I’ve been biting my nails as long as I can remember. And I can remember biting my nails as long ago as elementary school—that’s over 60 years. I wonder how long my nails would be today if I had never chewed them off.

I don’t know why I bite my nails. I googled that question and got a lot of answers–none of them were pretty but they do offer something to nibble on. Some experts say nail biting is a bad habit, as simple as that. Other explanations are less charitable. Nail biters can be linked to all kinds of psycho-cases: people who suffer from OCD, perfectionists, stressed out emotional wrecks, bored or restless people and so on. Then there’s the speculation that nail biters are people who are into self-mutilation with links to inward hostility. Sigmund Freud said people who bite their nails are experiencing “arrested psychosexual development.” Freud, as usual, says the habit is an oral fixation that can be linked to prolonged breastfeeding, under-or-over-feeding or just resulting from your basic sinister mother-child relationship.

I’d hate to think I’m harboring any of these kinds of feelings and that’s why I bite my nails. I just think it’s a habit and somehow I can’t conquer it. That’s why I think there should be a more outward approach like a Nail Biters Anonymous or at least maybe an annual convention that nail biters could attend. There’d be seminars they could learn from, workshops offering some practical remedies…maybe even a big competition of sorts where nail biters could challenge each other, eventually whittling down to one final champion …I bet some of those match-ups would be real nail-biters.

Yeah, I know, that was not appropriate. But what may be, is to end this posting with an excerpt from Never Goose a Moose!  That’s the first children’s book I wrote (available at amazon.com). It’s a compilation of whimsical poems featuring a variety of things children should never do…an perhaps some of us grownups too. One of the never-do’s is titled “Never Poke Fingers in Places They’re Not Meant To Go” and it goes like this…

FINGSTUCJ

Never poke fingers in places they’re not meant to go.
Just poke around a few places and you’ll soon know.
Fingers shouldn’t go into spaces where they don’t fit.
They easily get stuck there, and there you’ll sit.
You’ll have to use soap or grease and lots of pull
Stuck fingers in a hole can be as stubborn as a bull.
You can use your fingers to point things out or help grip and squeeze,
But don’t poke them in your ears and especially in your nose–puh-leeze!
Fingers are great to scratch an itch or massage a back.
They can strum a guitar, hold a crayon or open a snack.
Fingers push buttons, flick switches and line things up in a row.
Fingers are great…just don’t poke them in places they’re not meant to go!

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COMING TO TERMS


WordsWordsWords

I am not a grammar Nazi by any stretch of the sentence. Anyone who’s read my blog a few times will agree with that. But, But every once in a while something comes along that rustles my leaves into a bonfire. I can even get like totally exasperated over it if I let myself.  What particularly gets me upset is when no one else seems to give the slightest damn about it…like I’m all alone out here and I can’t help but get a little paranoid thinking there’s something wrong with me since no one else seems to have noticed anything.

The last time this happened was maybe 20-30 years ago when all of a sudden when it was announced that when a person had disappeared everyone began saying that he or she went missing. I had never before heard the term “went missing.”   Either a person was reported missing, he was missing or he disappeared or he wound up missing….but never before had I heard the term went missing.  All of a sudden that was, and still is, the ONLY way that describes someone who is missing…meanwhile, I was the only one in the United States of America who asked from where or from whom did this new terminology take hold.  Usually a person went somewhere, a place, a known place. “Where’d you go?”  “Oh, I went to the store,” or “I went to Cincinnatti,” or “I went to the bathroom.”  Did you ever hear “Hey, where’d you go?”  “Oh, I went missing? But it’s okay now, I’m back from missing. I went only for a short visit.”   To this day I cannot bring myself to say someone “went” missing. Nope, not me. Don’t go there.

At first I thought it may be a regional thing. There’s a lot of that in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/New York corridor. People who live in that area go to the shore…In Florida, where I live, we go to the beach. In the northeast a stuffed Italian sandwich takes on various names—it could be a hoagie, a hero, a grinder or a sub.  I’m sure you could stack a pile of meandering names used to describe the same things too, but I’ve stalled enough.

What is this latest grammar oddity that has my skin crawling every time I hear it…and I have been hearing it almost hourly all this past week ever since it was announced that various members of the President’s family/White House staff attended a meeting with some Russians. Note I said “attended” a meeting…because that’s what you do when you go to a meeting. It’s the same thing if you were at a meeting or you were present at a meeting . I have attended many meetings in my lifetime. I bet you have too. In fact we’ve all gone to a meeting from time to time. Sometimes if we were the host of the meeting it could be said that we held a meeting.

But now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s unanimous:  we are no longer present at a meeting, nor do we attend, or go to a meeting. Now, like it or not, all of us take a meeting. That’s right, going to or attending a meeting has been replaced by the term “taking a meeting.” This is something I have never heard before this past week…never. Am I the only one? I don’t get it.

If you take a meeting don’t you have to do something with it. If I take a piece of chocolate I then put it in my mouth. If I take something off the shelf, I’ll usually do something with it…but what do I when I take a meeting. “Hey, did you take that meeting on the new company policy?”     “Yeah I took it and I’m not giving it back.”    “Oh, I thought maybe you took it to Cincinnati.”

So okay, maybe this is much to do about nothing. I just find it curious how it’s me who seems to have never heard of these kinds of changes in our language. Whack! They come upon me suddenly. And mind you, I am a great believer in the concept that language is fluid and it can change and go in any direction it’s speakers want it to. What is important is that whatever words are used, they must effectively communicate the same context to everyone. Gee, I wish we could all take a meeting to discuss this. But I don’t know where to take the meeting. I think maybe…it went missing.

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ONE MORE TIME!


reruns

I bet you’ve done this: you come across a box or album full of years’ old photographs and you are immediately captured. Whatever you were doing at the time, stops…and there you sit, sifting through one picture at a time and verbalizing your memories for each. Well, the same thing happened to me, of sorts, when I found myself reading old postings I wrote for my blog.

Like old photos, old writings are remembered, but not in detail. That’s what makes them interesting because you are now seeing them more objectively than you did during your original pass-by.  Now, much of the content seems new, some of it is incredibly impressive to you…and just as much is not!  It is with that in mind that I will feature some summer reruns over the next week or so…past writings that appeared on my blog from a few years back.

These postings still have life and if I don’t remember them all that much, well certainly they’ll appear brand new to you. Brand new, in most cases, is a good thing. So, without further ado, here’s the first rerun.  It’s targeted to writers, but not to worry, if you only write an occasional post-it note to stick on the fridge, it may still have something to make that chore easier…

SOUND WRITING!WriteSound

Posted on December 4, 2012

On the alleged presumption that I am a legitimate professional writer, based on the fact that I have been paid for my writing and that I do have published work, I suppose this blog could be considered a credible source for information or advice about writing.  All this is a bit quizzical to me since I spend much of my time reading blogs by other writers with the specific intent of securing credible information or advice about writing.  I guess it makes no nevermind who is the source or the sourcee, as long as useful information is disseminated.  With that in mind, I offer up what I think is a useful presentation if you are a new writer.  The topic: writing with sound in mind…in other words, learning to listen to what you write.

Writing with sound in mind means putting your thoughts down more in a style of how you would say them as opposed to how you would write them.  I have a leg up in this area since I worked most of my life in radio.  I’ve done a ton of writing for radio, everything from news and feature writing, to promotional announcements and commercials.  Writing for radio is a little different from writing for print.  Interestingly enough, the process is not a two-way street.  Writing for sound works when transposed to print and can even improve it, but writing for print does not always sound good.  Whether you’re writing for print or for a presentation you have to make at your next meeting, here are some things to consider when writing for sound…

Grammar Doesn’t Count

Writing for sound can actually enhance a print document.  It will make dialogue read more naturally and it can improve things like pace and comprehension.  The first major hump to get over when you write for sound is learning how not to be overly concerned with structure—and that usually means grammar in the traditional sense.

Listen a little more intently the next time you have a conversation with someone.  You will notice that a good bit of the communication going back and forth is in the form of phrases or fragments and not in complete, properly constructed sentences.  If your conversation has been pretty much routine, the two of you will have had no problem in completely understanding each other.  If you were to transcribe verbatim what the two of you said, your high school English teacher would bleed red ink profusely all over your paper.  The point is, to be effective and functional, written communication does not always have to be perfectly structured.  It works quite well when the words are written in the same pattern as they would be when said.  Sometimes editors, especially those reared in the print media, need to loosen up.

Shorter is Better

When you write for sound, breathing becomes a factor.  Long drawn out sentences just don’t work.  If you want to sound like a smooth, articulate speaker, you need to learn how to control your breathing as you speak.  Short sentences help a lot since you can pace your air flow without having to gasp in the middle of a thought.  This last sentence is a good example—it’s about as long as you’d want to write for sound.  You’ll hear what I am saying by simply going back and reading the sentence out loud.  Most people should be able to get to the last word with no difficulty, but any words beyond that may need a breath of fresh air.  Short sentences read faster, are more easily understood and pace thoughts more rapidly.  They work especially well if you are describing a lot of action.  Listen to the play-by-play announcer the next time there’s a touchdown or home run or a three-point basket.  Yep, you’ll hear short sentences…in fact, more likely, short phrases.  None of these are written down, but if they were they’d be easily understood, said or read.

Keep it Simple

Some writers like to impress people with their extensive knowledge of the language.  When I have to read something with a dictionary on standby, it’s certainly not for pleasure.  Few of us, other than some lawyers, high-techie types or the pseudo-intellectuals we occasionally run into, speak in complex terms.  Any seasoned manager or military leader will tell you it is not easy communicating effectively so that everyone absolutely, positively understands and translates every thought in exactly the same way.  Good luck with that!

Using “big words” only exacerbates the problem.  “Exacerbates” is a good example.  It is a word that not everyone truly understands and it is often mispronounced as “exasperates.”  Like many, it is a really good-to-the-point descriptive word, but it can easily jam up the sound.  Unless your role is to educate, words are best kept simple when passing through the lips.  Save the more complex usage for when they’re landing on paper.

Attribution

What he says or she says is important to any conversation.  But where you place the “he says” or “she says” is more critical when writing for sound.  Ever notice when you are reading a magazine or newspaper article and you come across a long statement that is being quoted, at the very end is “…according to one source at the Pentagon.”  This attribution is necessary so you know who made the statement.  In print it is easily tacked onto the end of the quote with little disruption.  However, if you read that sentence out loud, the attribution at the end usually sounds clumsy.  When writing for sound, put the attribution at the front of the sentence, or break the sentence somewhere inside and place it there.  Examples:

The President said, “The troops will come home when both sides have

assured us there will be no further hostile activity.”

Or…

“The troops will come home,” the President said, “when both sides have

assured us there will be no further hostile activity.”

Hear What You Write

One last thought is the one I started with:  listen to what you write.  In order to do this, you have to read your work out loud, or have someone read it out loud to you.  If you walk into a newspaper newsroom you will notice the normal clacking of keyboards as reporters type away.  Walk into a newsroom at a radio or television station and you may hear one thing more—a sort of muttering sound here and there around the room.  That’s the sound of reporters reading back—out loud—to themselves what they have written.  It’s the only way you can tell how your writing sounds.  If you stumble while reading it, run out of breath, or it just doesn’t sound right, you will know immediately that something needs editing.  On the other hand, if it sounds good, your writing will not only read well out loud, it will likewise read well off the page.

Well, I hope there was something here worth your while.  Now go run off and start planning that audio book you’ve always wanted to do.

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NEGATIVE ENERGY


angryface

I made one of my rare appearances in my thinking chair out on the back patio yesterday. Of course, I got to thinking and this time I had the negatives—a bunch of those everyday petty things roared up in my face and it was time to vent. Even the ducks who know I’m always good for a few slices of bread, waddled back into the canal and swam off. So here they are, my life’s little annoyances…at least those for this week.

First, My phone: It constantly changes the way it does things. I assume this is a result of all the updates that it sees to be downloading almost weekly. I am a creature of habit. Once I learn the procedure for doing something, don’t go changing it unless you’re going to supply a cheat sheet for dummies that explains what’s been changed and how things work now. This point also applies to all those updates that my computer gulps down, it seems, on a daily basis. Which leads me to…

Microsoft Word: Bring back the old version—like the one for the year 2000. Yeah, people should be able to buy the version they want and then stick with it. Word has become so over-produced that it has lost its ease of functionality. Simple things are now hidden where once they were right there in your face. I find myself often taking a time-out for frustrating searches trying to figure out how to do things I always did easily, like telling Word not to capitalize every first-word on a line. I still haven’t found how to do that.

Next peeve:  please please please STOP being so greedy you American businesses. Why must every element in life that allows space or time somewhere in its construction be consumed by your advertisements. Why is it I cannot land on a website seeking information or entertainment without having you popping some advertisement in my face. Why must everything be sponsored. Ever listen to a baseball broadcast?   Everything that happens is sponsored nowadays: pitching changes, home runs, stolen bases, whatever. I suspect all those broken bats will soon be sponsored. I can hear it now: “That broken bat was brought to you by Guerilla Glue, use it once and you’ll be stuck on it forever.” Some day, I just know it, you’ll go to a movie theater to watch the latest Hollywood flick and it’ll have 2-3 commercial breaks in it….it’s just a matter of time when the dollar potential hits the tipping point when product and audience be damned, let’s make another buck off this puppy.

And speaking of baseball…my Cubs were in town last month and I went to buy tickets so I’d have some place appropriate to wear my Cubs gear. Well, after I tallied up the cost I decided we’d be benched at home and watch the game on my computer as usual. First I needed decent seats. My wife and I can’t do the nosebleed section because—guess what–our noses would bleed, plus we can’t see much over 50 feet nowadays. Next was parking. It was too late to apply for a home equity loan to cover that. Then, if we each ate a hotdog, fries and a drink that was like 30+ bucks (no exaggeration!). The night would have run me something close to $150. Call me thrifty but that’s a bit much for an everyday baseball game and, besides, I’d be supporting those $50 million salaries they give the players these days.

And last, but not the least of my rants….those bastards finally discovered my cell phone number.   Now, when the land line isn’t ringing every two minutes, I am hammered constantly on my cell phone with robot calls and live idiots who want to sell me something in which I have absolutely no interest in buying…and if I did, I would not buy it from one of these jerks. My phones are my private property. I pay for them and their use. It should be unlawful for anyone to have access to them without my permission. When I am President, that will be law. Trust me. It’s be terrific.  I will make the phone …great again.

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500…WHOODATHUNK!


keyboardquote

Well….here we are…..number 500.  That’s right.  I said 500.  This is the 500th posting of Marc’s Blog since it began in November 2012.  I know I have a tendency to talk a lot, but I would have never thought I had it in me to write 500 of these puppies.  But then, I have been writing in some capacity since elementary school, so maybe it’s just another set of words I have to put together.

My first memory of the task of writing—and it is a task whether it comes easy for you or not—was around 4thor 5th grade.  The class had a weekly homework assignment that was due every Friday.   We had to write a story about an assigned topic.  I was very much into the Hardy Boys at the time so I weaved each week’s topic into a mystery that filled six tablet pages.  That’s how many pages we had to hand in: always six and always on tablet–ah, that’s not a electronic tablet, but a paper tablet with the wire spiral on the top for those who remember.

Now, coincidentally, Thursday night was when my mother and her writing friend, Lucille, got together to critiques each other’s works.  With such a panel of two expert writers sitting right there in the living room, it was mandatory that I read my weekly six pages to them.  It was a  great ego trip for me because they never had a thing negative to say when they “critiqued” each week’s suspenseful page-turner.   I went off to school the next morning with my thriller in hand, knowing full well that the next generation Hardy Boys series would no doubt be written by me just as soon as I reached adulthood.

Writing has always bailed me out. I was a terrible college student because I don’t retain certain kinds of information for very long. Precisely the kinds of information that I was asked to feed back in 100-question exams or those terrifying 4-question blue books.  The four questions I always got were exactly the ones that I would have never selected and they consistently left me unable to upchuck a worthy filled-out blue book.  But…but…if it were a class that was based on writing assignments or making some kind of presentation, then I managed to score enough A’s and B’s to offset the D’s and F’s in the other courses, but barely.  I was always on academic probation and even a month after Penn State acquiesced by awarding me a degree, my final semester’s grades arrived home with the usual notation that I was still on academic probation and I better beef up my grades.

Then it was off to a life-time career in radio broadcasting.  This afforded me the opportunity to further my writing skills while pounding out news stories, public service announcements, a bunch of usually annoying commercials and a gazillion promotional campaigns.  Next, once I hit retirement and its bountiful allotment of idle time I pumped out seven books in almost as many years—none, unfortunately,  has ever measured up to the success of the Hardy Boys.  But, if you need someone to write an essay about why an amoeba is more fascinating that an paramecium, or scribe platitudes on the wrapper for a roll of toilet paper…well, I’m your man.

The point is, whether average or maybe a cut above mediocre, writing has come  to me reasonably easy, like playing an instrument is for a good musician. And it has, after all, gotten me through this posting on my blog which, as I stated at the beginning, is number 500…and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to say after that.  So, if you have managed to hang in this far, I hope you will join me in a humble toast.  To what? you ask.   Well, what else: here’s to another 500!

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0MOVIE MAGIC


MOVIES

I don’t go to the movies very often and I am really not sure why. I enjoy a good movie, although I admit my taste is anything but mainstream. I’m not into anything scary. Too much suspense unnerves me. Violence is a total turnoff. Sophomoric humor is stupid and adventure stuff usually doesn’t keep me interested. There now, perhaps I have answered my own question. No wonder I don’t see many movies.

So what do I like? Well, there isn’t any one genre that I favor, but it seems it’s the characters and the story that hold me. In fact, if either is really good, I willingly tolerate some of those items I mentioned as not liking in the first paragraph. Then too, I don’t need a lot of fancy effects, earth-quake sound that vibrates my teeth or weird aliens. That said, there are two actors whose work I always seem to be drawn to. Both are very high-profile, both have a trail of award-winning films and both have the ability of doing something extraordinary. What’s that? They prove me pretty vulnerable. I can get totally lost in the character they are playing at the moment and I forget all about who the actor is and what other roles I’ve seen him or her play. They just convince me each time that they are actually the characters they are playing in the film I am watching…and only those characters.

So who are these two pen-ultimate actors so worthy of my humble praise? No surprise here because they are likely the favorites on many best-actor lists. They are Tom Hanks
Sallyand Sally Fields. I just watched the latter in a 2015 movie titled, “Hello, My Name is Doris.”   That’s the reason I started writing this posting for my blog even though I am not quite sure where it’s going.  But Sally did it again. Doris was Doris, not a character being played the familiar actor Sally Fields. Like every role she has ever played, from, yes, the Flying Nun, to Norma Rae to Nora Walker, Sally Fields becomes whoever and whatever the character is and represents.

hanksTom Hanks has this same ability. How can he go from Forest Gump to Captain Miller (Saving Private Ryan) to Chuck Nolan (Cast Away) and all the other people he has played while maintaining each role’s character and discarding any semblance to the actor himself is…well, it’s true art.

It’s almost curious that both Hanks and Fields have won 2 Oscars each. I suspect many of us would think more.  However, they both have a long, long list of other prestigious awards, not the least of which is Hanks’ Presidential Medal of Freedom.

pulitzerAs a humble, amateur writer I have always appreciated the artful skills of the truly accomplished. These are the people who motivate me, and many like me, to keep trying to improve our own skills. I often joke about someday winning a Pulitzer and something like a good performance in an otherwise obscure movie most people never heard of is enough to make me keep this keyboard close at hand. Thank you Sally Fields.  As per your now infamous Oscar acceptance speech...I really liked you!

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THE RISING COST OF GREETINGS


MarcCardLogo copy

I am amazed by the constant volume of greeting cards on display at those retailers that sell them.  I seriously doubt as many people send greeting cards as, say, 50 years ago.  Christmas cards are a great example. When I was a kid there were actually two mail deliveries a day in the week or so leading up to Christmas. This was needed to handle the huge number of Christmas cards people used to send each other.  Christmas cards were a big deal—a major part of the holiday process. There was usually one, focused sit-down night when my mother would gather up all the scattered addresses for friends and relatives and then sit down at the kitchen table to sign cards and address, stamp and seal envelopes.  And don’t think there wasn’t a little politicin’ going on as these cards came and went.  Dinner conversation at the time usually included one or two references to someone’s card…”Honey, did you see the cute Santa on the Gibson’s card? I thought that was very clever, certainly better than that ugly Christmas tree one they sent last year.” Ugly Christmas tree one for cry’n out loud. Yes, people actually remembered cards from Christmases past.  A lot of social standing was being weighed in with each card back then…and maybe a little holiday sentiment, too, down there somewhere in the crease of the envelope.

One reason I suspect we send fewer cards today, Christmas or otherwise, is the price. Holy Salutations Batman, have you looked at the back of greeting cards lately?  That’s some greeting right there I’ll tellyuh.  It’s hard to find a basic “Happy Birthday You Old Fart” card that goes for less than four bucks.  And you can add another three or four dollars if you want one of those cards that has sound or music of some sort.

Meanwhile, face it, there are only so many ways to wish someone happy birthday, congratulations, sorry your sick, sorry you died, another anniversary, happy baby.  Have you ever stood at the card rack pulling out cards one after another, never finding the perfect one you’re looking for?  Of course you have.  That’s because the perfect one does not exist anymore.  It’s been written a gazillion times and the same flowers, cute puppy or rear end of a horse has adorned the front of the card for centuries.  And just as side a note…ever notice that cards never go back into the rack as easily as they were removed? How frustrating is that?

One solution I’ve turned to for all this card chaos is making my own cards. Hey, I can’t do any worse than the ones at the store.  In fact, I can personalize them. I write things on the card that are about the person to whom it’s being sent. That includes the person’s name somewhere in the text. I’ve also written very specific poems on many of the cards I make and I usually zero in on something relative to the receiver. Sometimes I will even use a picture of the person on the card which sure beats the rear end of a horse…well, most times.

I even developed a logo for my cards and it appears on the back of every one, just like those big guys Hallmark and Shoe Box.   That’s my logo pictured up top.  The first slogan I considered using with it was something like “When you care enough to show people you’re too cheap to buy a professional greeting card at the store.”   Yeah, I know, a little long…but the sentiment’s there.

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A MOUSE IN MY MOUTH


mouthmouse

Ok, I know you are excited, me too.  It’s been a while since my need to rhyme stirred within me and forced out yet another compelling conglomeration of nonsense.  Hey, this stuff keeps me out of the nursing home and contributes to my personal wellbeing…at least that’s what the therapist told me.  That said, what more could I give you to help make your day too!   So here now…A Mouse in my Mouth

 

When I woke up this morning there was a mouse in my mouth.

I knew he was lost. He should have been heading north, not south.

Now, I know waking with a mouse in your mouth is a little bit weird,

But truth be told, it’s not the first time this mouse has appeared.

I was about to spit him out when he asked if could stay some more.

He said he’d been running all night and his feet were sore.

I told him okay, but in an hour or two I’d have to eat.

He said he needed at least two, he was really beat

In due time he began to snore and it actually rattled my teeth.

So here’s this mouse in my mouth causing me even greater grief.

I thought about opening my mouth and showing him to the cat

Wondering if he’d ever seen a mouse asleep in a mouth like that.

By now the mouse’s tail was sticking out and drooping over my lip

If I wanted a drink I’d need a staw. There’s no way I could sip.

I was upset. Having a mouse in your mouth is no way to start the day.

If I had known, I could have arranged someplace else for him to stay.

I  guess worse things could have been in my mouth when I awoke.

I’m thinking maybe a limping elephant with a leg that’s broke.

I suppose he’d give me a hard time and not want to leave.

Crying a lot and no doubt wiping his trunk on my sleeve.

Or come to think of it, it could’ve been a rambunctious raccoon

Whose therapy sessions couldn’t begin too soon.

Ooo-Ooo even worse, it could’ve been my freeloading cousin Ralph

Hmm, maybe it’s not so bad I woke up with a mouse in my mouth.

*****

Hey, if you like whimsical poems, there’s a great children’s book full of ’em about as silly as they get.  It’s titled Never Goose a Moose…and a bunch of other things you should never do!  The author is…is…hey, it’s me, Marc Kuhn…and Lynda Mangoro has done the illustrations which are as much fun as the poems.  It’s a great bedtime read for young children.  It’s at amazon.com.  More about the book, including excerpts at Nevergooseamoose.com.Best MooseCov

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ronplug

*****

 

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THE OTHER WRITER IN THE FAMILY


Loisunboxed

Lately I have been involved in a really fun project.  It’s a joint venture with my niece,  Zoe Kuhn Williams.  She has taken on the task of sifting through a mountainous pile of my mother’s writings.  These have been in storage boxes, many for over 50 years, the ink fading, the paper disintegrating, but mostly waiting to be discovered.  Right now, Zoe and I are compiling and editing a good number of short pieces my mother wrote and preparing to publish them in a book title Lois, unboxed.

Several of these writings are stories from my mother’s childhood memories.  An excerpt from one is presented here. By the way, on the podcast of this posting, Lois’ great great granddauhter, Haley Kuhn, reads her excerpt.

My mother was seven at the time which puts the year at 1921.  The only information you need to know is that boiled fish was an almost daily menu item in her household and, of yeah, you need to know about Mrs. McCoy.  My grandparents owned and ran an old-fashioned type general store in Philadephia. Mrs. McCoy was a fastidious housekeeper who helped around the living quarters above the store and watched over my mother when her parents were busy taking care of customers  So here goes, a looksee through the childhood portals of Lois Harris Kuhn.

...When I was a little past seven, I rebelled.  On one of my mother’s less busy afternoons, I talked to her about something or other which was more important to me at the time than anything else in the world.  I have forgotten now what it was. However that may be, she didn’t think much of my idea, so I decided to leave home.

“All right, you may go.”  My mother was tranquil enough.  “Only pack everything you have so that there’s no reason to come back.”

With that, I rushed upstairs and tried to gather everything I might ever need, only I couldn’t pick it up, so I had to settle for an extra pair of stockings and underwear, the Bible and my Alice in Wonderland.  I put in extra handkerchiefs (these were pre-tissue days), my Sunday pearls, my wooden dolls and ten jacks in case I found someone to play with.  Then I came downstairs, went out the back door, slamming it behind me, and sat down on the steps to decide where to go.

We lived on Germantown Avenue which was then and is still a heavily trafficked street.  I had never crossed it without supervision, but now I was on my own.  I was scared of it all the same.  Besides, it was almost dinner time and I was hungry.  A walk around the block took one into a residential section, all shrubs and trees, but no genuine adventure.  My stomach growled.  I thought hard.  I didn’t have enough cab fare to do anything but walk now that I thought of it.

Abruptly, a door behind me opened and Mrs. McCoy held out a small package, wrapped in heavy butcher paper.  I took it and she turned and went back inside.  I promptly opened the package.  Cold boiled fish! Mrs. McCoy loved me, even if my mother didn’t.

So a decision was made.  I would stay, for Mrs. McCoy’s sake.  She cared whethermade out in this world, whether I starved or not.  She saw to me through everything.  It was awful to think of her as my real mother, but she would do for a while.

I knocked timidly on the door and my mother answered.  She said nothing, but held the door a bit wider.  I looked at her and for the first time in my life, decided to keep my mouth shut.  I entered the house and made my way to Mrs. McCoy whom I nearly knocked over in a half-gallop.

“You got your panties dirty sittin’ on those steps!” she cried, pushing me away.  “And more than likely, the sniffles besides.  Get upstairs and have yourself a nice hot bath now and don’t forget to scour the tub clean!”

I turned back and looked at my mother, but she only smiled.  She didn’t even look sorry that I had been about to run away!  So I sulked up the steps, stump-stump-stump as loud as I could and then I took a long, long bath.  When I was done I scrubbed the tub until the white shone pearl and then white again.  It was the cleanest tub in the world.

*****

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MY SLEEP SAGA CONTINUES…


`newsanchorLast month I featured a few reports on a new and innovative treatment I was embarking upon to help deal with my sleep apnea. There are some new developments in this story–breaking news, if you will.

[Note:  If  you followed my  previous reports on this subject,  you can skip the background information and proceed to the last three paragraphs.]

Briefly, for those who are not familiar with this health issue that millions are affected by, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a disorder that interrupts breathing while an individual sleeps. Once asleep, the muscles relax, including those at the base of the tongue. In OSA victims, these muscles relax so much that they collapse and close off the air passage. The victim begins to suffocate and, usually, hopefully, the brain will kick in and wake the body up so it can begin breathing again. In severe cases, this pattern continues throughout the night, awaking the victim as many as 40 or more times an hour. People with OSA get very little quality sleep. This often results in their “crashing” during their daytime awake hours. Many fall asleep in the middle of common situations like reading or sitting at a desk working, watching television or, most scary, while driving.

The treatment for OSA can include surgery that rearranges things inhibiting the flow of air into the body. The surgery is usually very painful and there is no guarantee it will fix the problem. A more popular treatment is called C-PAP. This is system whereby the person wears an air-tight facial mask while a machine pumps a continuous flow of air into his or her nostrils, thereby keeping the airway open. For many people C-PAP is so intrusive they cannot sleep while using it. I am one of them.

For us, finally, there is a new surgically implanted system that has proven to be highly effective. It’s call Inspire and it’s modeled after the well-established pace-maker that helps many victims of heart disease. If you are interested, you can learn much more about this new procedure at inspiresleep.com.

InspirePicInspire involves the implanting of a small module just below the surface of the chest. Two leads run from this module, one to a lung that monitors breathing and another that attaches to the base of the tongue. When the system is activated during the patient’s sleep hours, it will provide a continuous flow of impulses, based on the breathing pattern. These impulses cause the tongue to lift up and out, thus preventing it from collapsing and shutting down the air flow.

This procedure is so new, less than 1500 people worldwide so far have met the qualifications and have had it surgically implanted. I am the 32nd person in South Florida who has undergone the procedure. Last night I turned it on and used it for the first time.

Immediate results are not expected. There is a period of time when the exact strength of the impulses needs to be determined through trial-and-error. It needs to be strong enough to move the tongue, but not so noticeable that it awakens the patient. I have to admit it is somewhat weird feeling my tongue moving up and out over my lower lip during the initial testing of my unit. In normal use, the system is turned on at bedtime by a hand-held remote control but it allows for a time period for the patient to fall asleep before revving up the impulses.

So, I have begun this adjustment period that may take several weeks. I am enthused, however, because on this first evening using my Inspire system I actually slept uninterrupted for about three hours. That is certainly not an inadequate amount of solid sleep for most people, but for me it was incredible. I never sleep for periods of time lasting more than 20-30 minutes if that. Now, mind you, I am not quite ready to fire the sheep I’ve been counting all these years, but I have suggested they may need to start getting their resumes together.

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