Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I wonder if the frequency of swearing is one reason why we have so much violence in our culture. When people get angry they tend to express it by stepping outside the bounds of their usual behavior. When polite people only used certain words when they were angry, saying them helped release some of the anger.
But now many people use those words frequently in their everyday conversations, so when they need to express anger by stepping outside the bounds of what's normally acceptable, swearing doesn't provide release. Instead, they release their anger with physical violence.
Of course some people have always done that, just as some people have always used impolite language, but as swearing has become more prevalent in our society, so has physical violence.
Too bad we can't do much to change that.
But we can teach children not to swear. If parents today were to wash their children's mouths out with soap for using dirty words they'd probably be accused of child abuse, but there are certainly other ways of teaching kids to avoid using that kind of language.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I recently found some notes from an Early Childhood Education college class I took years ago. They're about a study that showed the results of allowing preschoolers to watch commercials. I didn't find a reference to the study so I can't quote it exactly, but the things I did write down are important.
Preschoolers who often watch commercials usually believe them. They also tend to believe social stereotypes and try to persuade adults to give them the things advertised. The study also said those kids may get desensitized to violence, become less verbal and have less social communication, but I think those things may be a result of watching TV, movies, etc. in general and not just from the commercials.
Either way, it's probably a good idea not to let young children get a lot of media exposure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mickles and Muckles

When I was a kid my grandfather often told me about his Scottish grandmother who had taught him the importance of being thrifty. One of her favorite sayings was, "Waste not, want not." (In the past to want meant to need.)
Another of her sayings was, "Many muckles make a mickle," which Gramp told me meant "Many littles make a big."
I thought those words ought to have been switched because muckle sounded to me like it should be bigger than mickle.
Recently I found the words in the dictionary and discovered they both mean the same thing, much or a lot.
But that doesn't make sense to me. How could my great, great grandmother have been mistaken about a saying from her own homeland? Could the meaning of one of the words have changed since the early 1800s? But dictionaries (and I checked several, both online and in hard copy) agree that the words are archaic so that change is unlikely.
I wish I knew the answer to those questions, but I do know her advice still holds true. In this economy we should all be thrifty, avoid wasting money, and remember that many small things amount to a lot.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I've heard about a group that claims to be a charity but really isn't. They put out blue bins labeled "Books for Charity" and do give a small percentage of the books to charities, but most of the ones they collect are either resold online or recycled. The bins are showing up all over the West Coast and may spread to other parts of the country soon. Donations of books to local libraries and real charities are down wherever they appear. In my opinion what they are doing is wrong.
Here are some links to stories about them:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meghan Rose Takes the Cake

The early reader, Meghan Rose Takes the Cake, is one in a series by author Lori Z. Scott. It's about a girl whose school is having a contest to see which class can collect the most pennies to help feed the hungry.
I enjoyed the amusing plays on words used by the main character and the whole book is cute. It also teaches kids an important lesson about the importance of giving to others.
The one thing I disliked about the book is that Meghan Rose tattles on another student. I think it would have worked better for the misdeed to be discovered by the authorities in another way. But except for that factor, I liked this book, which has a strong, Christian message.
The reading level is comfortable for kids in early grades and young readers will certainly identify with the school setting and characters. Girls should especially enjoy it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Heidi by Johanna Spyri was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Since it was one of only a few that I owned I read it many times back then, but hadn't opened it for years. Yesterday I re-read it and was surprised to see that it violates some of the rules writers are told we must follow today.
It's a Middle Grade novel, but the protagonist is only five years old when the story starts and, while the time span isn't specific, she only ages a year or two by the end of the book.
One of the basic requirements for a plotline is supposed to be that the main character wants something badly, makes several failed attempts to get it, and finally achieves the goal - unless the book is a tragedy. But in the beginning of this book Heidi wants to be loved and have a happy home. She gets that right away, looses it again, and regains it long before the end of the book. She develops and achieves several other goals as the book progresses.
Several things in the book are unrealistic, like children going from learning the alphabet to fluently reading complex material in a matter of days. And, although food is frequently described, nobody ever ate any fruits or vegetables.
So, why did I enjoy reading this book so much when I was a child? And why did it become a classic?
It completely carried me away into an unfamiliar world, the characters were believable and likable, and it had a happy ending. Probably what I liked best was the cozy, safe feeling it gave me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Prejudice means assuming all members of a group are alike. Bigotry is a negative prejudice against a group of human beings.
Back in the 1960s and 70s a lot of people in America worked hard, trying to eliminate bigotry against minority races and, while it wasn't completely eliminated, the amount of bigotry was certainly reduced. Many in our society realized it was also wrong to be prejudiced against others because of their national origin, religion, or sex.
But today it seems leaders in the major American political parties are doing everything they can to create and encourage bigotry against each other. That makes it more and more difficult for our country to be governed fairly and justly.
How can we eliminate that problem?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Extended Family

I'm thankful to have lots of relatives and to see many of them at least every year or so. But my husband didn't come from that kind of family and when we first married he was confused about what to call some of those people.
Of course there are words for parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc. It's slightly more awkward to refer to second cousins, great uncles, and in-laws, but that's not really a problem.
However there aren't any simple terms in the English language for relationships like my cousins' cousin's granddaughter, my second cousin's cousin, someone's significant other, or a son-in-law's sister and I consider all those people part of my family even though the way they are related to me may be complicated. If I see them at family gatherings they're family to me.
Eventually my husband came up with a term that applies to all of those and any other convoluted relationships. He called them "step-neighbors-in-law" and now I do, too.
Do you have any step-neighbors-in-law?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First to Read

When I was a kid my mother was widowed so we were poor. I would only get two new books a year, one for my birthday and one for Christmas. But as I got older I shelved books in our local library after school while I waited for my mother to pick me up when she got off work. As a reward, the librarian always let me be the first one to check out new children's books when they arrived. What a thrill!
Maybe that's why I still feel honored to be one of the first people to read a book.
When I first joined a critique group I was afraid I'd be jealous if other members got their books published before I did. Instead, I was thrilled!
Just as a mother is proud of her children's achievements, I glowed with pride at the success of the other members and was pleased to know that some of my comments and suggestions may have helped to make those books a success.
And I'd gotten to read those books before they were even published!