Thursday, May 10, 2018

Let's Remember Anna Jarvis on Mother's Day

May is a month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and is named for the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility. It’s no surprise that May’s birthstone is the emerald, green in color, and emblematic of love and success. The lily of the valley and the common hawthorn are its symbolic birth flowers. For the majority of the population in the United States, May is best known for Mother’s Day, an official national holiday proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

How did it come about? It was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St. Andrews’s Methodist Church in West Virginia. She sought to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States in 1905, when her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Reeves Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.

Ironically, in 1908, our U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a "Mother-in-law's Day. It should be mentioned that Congress at that time was comprised of all men until 1917, when Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in the House of Representatives.

 But Anna Jarvis didn’t give up, and by 1911, all the states had some sort of recognition for mothers in the month of May, many of them recognizing it as a local holiday. In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases "Second Sunday in May" and "Mother's Day,” and created the Mother's Day International Association. In his proclamation, President Wilson continued with the second Sunday of the month for the national and yearly celebration of Mother’s Day. 

To all the mothers of our nation and the international community, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.  May your day be cheerful, bright, and full of joy.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

MENTAL HEALTH MONTH - Creativity Is Not Without Disappointments

Musicians, writers, painters, scientists, and many more people share a skill that many call creativity. Where does it come from besides the activated frontal lobe of the brain? It’s a tough question that has been explored for years and has often been linked with mood disorders. Many artists, when their brains or hands are busy, have learned to channel depression into some type of creation.

First Steps
March 30, 1953, was the birthday of well-known painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who lived to be only 37 years old. At the age of 27, he abandoned his unsuccessful careers as an art dealer and a missionary and concentrated on his painting and drawing. When he began painting, he used peasants and farmers as models and then flowers, landscapes and himself because he was too poor to pay his subjects.

Noon Rest
In less than ten years of his life, he painted almost 900 paintings. One of his best known works, Starry Night, was painted in in an asylum at Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France where he voluntarily admitted himself there to recover from his 1888 nervous breakdown and his ear-cutting incident. The painting depicts the view from his bedroom window.

The Pink Peach Tree
Ironically, he sold only one painting in his life time. The Red Vineyard which went for 400 francs in Belgium seven months before his death. His most expensive painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for $148.6 million in 1990.

Why Vincent Van Gogh?  Because he’s just one of scores of visual artists, writers, musicians and other creative people, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Mark Rothko, Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, Irving Berlin, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway, who are known or believed to have suffered from mental illness. He was a prolific artist—not recognized until after his death. Yet, his paintings are marvelous. I particularly like many of his lesser known works.

I also mention Vincent Van Gogh because we celebrate Mental Health Month in May. We need to realize that mood disorders occur in all people in all walks of life, but more particularly in creative people. So, as a writer, if you’re feeling a little down and out with your current situation, please realize you are not alone. Everyone suffers mood disorders and feelings of failure, but the key to thwarting them is activity. So write gobble-gook, paint, ponder, hand wash the dishes, clean out a closet, try your hand at a knitting, take a walk, but stay active until those next brilliant thoughts pop up.

I have chosen some pictures by Vincent Van Gogh that are my favorites. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Fiddleheads are Finally Popping

You can’t tell by the weather in rainy cold Central Pennsylvania, but there are signs that spring may be late—but is just around the corner. There are buds on the lilacs, the daffodils and grape hyacinths have bloomed, the lawns are becoming lush, the birds are singing, and the fiddleheads are popping up. You can always depend on the ferns to make you believe that the color green is just about to explode all over the countryside.

It’s believed the first ferns appeared in fossil records 360 million years ago in the Devonian period, but many of the current species didn’t appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. Throughout history, ferns have been popular in medicine, art, mythology, landscaping, flower design and more.

Ferns do not have seeds or flowers, but reproduce by spores. There are about 12,000 varieties  worldwide, and fern is derived from Old English fear, meaning “fern,” a type of leafy plant. Flower and plant names were popular in the 19th century and the name was first used then.

For various cultures, the fern is thought to symbolize discretion, confidence, fascination, reverie, the secret bond of love, and magic.

I’m hoping my fiddleheads are magical. I’m hoping they’ll grow fast and tall.

And I’m hoping they’ll finally usher in a warm, colorful spring.
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Monday, April 9, 2018


Do you feel like you’re racing through life? Do you often think you’re never going to get everything you planned to do finished by the end of the day? I’m one of these life runners. I plan more than I can realistically accomplish in 16 hours of daylight.

I remember reading a story about roasting a marshmallow over an open fire. First, you put it on a roasting stick, and then you hold it near the flames. When it turns a light brown, you pull it out, look at it, then proceed to roast it some more. Now, it turns a darker brown, but you return it to the fire again. Suddenly, the marshmallow starts to puff up. Maybe only a few seconds pass, but you aren’t quick enough, so it bursts into flames. Now you have a charred, ruined treat.

Life is like that blackened marshmallow. Every time you try to squeeze in one more task, another obligation, or run one more errand, you’ve cheated yourself out of time that you should be setting aside for your own enjoyment or peaceful contemplation. You’ve raced through the day, and taken no time for yourself—to read a book, watch a television show, work on a favorite craft, chat with a friend, tinker in your workshop, and the list goes on and on. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to not only live for today, but also to enjoy it as well. Will I stop being a life runner? Probably not. But I’m trying hard to slow down, pace myself, set priorities, enjoy the moment, and reserve some precious time for myself. 

I’m trying hard not to be a burnt marshmallow.