When GPS has the voice of a seven-year-old

There were three options for finding our destination in Chicago—two smart phones or the seven-year-old granddaughter in the backseat. The husband was leaning toward a smartphone, but I was leaning toward the kid.

Ordinarily, I might not be comfortable letting a child guide us through the nation’s third largest city, but she’s grown up here. She knows the bus lines, the train lines and six different ways to get to the zoo.

Plus, the day before, an aunt and uncle had told the girl that they had eaten at a restaurant across the street from where she takes music lessons. She named the restaurant and said, “On Lincoln Avenue?”

“Why, yes, that’s the one,” they answered, visibly impressed.

“That’s not where I always take lessons,” she said. “Sometimes I take lessons at a branch on Armitage.”

Meanwhile, the kid is jumping in her seat yelling, “Let me give directions. I know how to get us there!”

The husband reluctantly relents.

“Go two blocks and then turn right, Grandpa. Right is that way (she points), Grandma’s side of the car.”

It never hurts to be specific. We have a general idea of where we are going but are vague on details. We also have a general idea of right and left.

“Keep going until I say turn left,” she says. “Left will be—“

“Got it,” Grandpa says.

“Look! That’s where my daddy goes to the dentist.”

“She’s good,” I say.

“OK, not this light and not the next light but that light, waaaay up there, you’re going to turn left.”

The kid is doing great.

“Now we need Fullerton, Grandpa.”

We drive and drive and he says, “I think we missed Fullerton.”

“Nope, we didn’t miss Fullerton,” she says.

She is correct. Two more lights and we hit Fullerton.

“See that restaurant on the corner? It used to have a black awning, but then they replaced it with that red and gold. It’s pretty, don’t you think?”

I shoot him a look that says, “How could you ever doubt her?”

She tells him to take another left with short notice. We change lanes and zip through on a yellow.

“That was a tricky turn, wasn’t it, Grandpa?”

“I think we need to head right soon,” he says. “Shouldn’t we map it?”

“I know where we are, Grandpa. Oh, and see that over there? That’s the interstate you need to go home, only you’ll need to get on the other side.”

She’s right, that’s the way we’ll go home.

“I know we’re close,” Grandpa says.

I look back and see her scanning the side streets with a twinkle in her eye. And then she yells, “YA MISSED IT, GRANDPA!” She laughs wildly like she doesn’t know how we get around on our own.

After our event she says, “Why don’t you get out your smartphone?”

“Why do we need a smartphone when we have you?” I ask.

“So you can look up the nearest pizza place.”

Later, as in after pizza, we humbly consult our smartphones to get us to the interstate, feeling not so very smart.

 

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Why family is key to our nation’s recovery

It is nearly an act of bravery to scan the headlines these days. Violent crime is up, each new senseless murder triggers another wave of sorrow and the politicization of almost everything rips at the fabric of our being.

The official response to these events is usually hand wringing. Someone steps before a microphone and demands an end to the bad behavior, as though the perps are glued to the nightly news, hanging on every word.

The building blocks that hold us together are crumbling. Many of those building blocks are beyond our spheres of influence. But one is within reach. The family.

As Pope John Paul II famously said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

Why is the family key? Because families are the parts that compose the whole. Families are microcosms of the pillars that sustain cultures, communities and nations.

Every family is a microcosm of government. A family is where children learn about accountability, rights and responsibilities, checks and balances. A family is where children learn how to resolve differences and to respect the rights to property and privacy.

It is in the family where basic economic principles are taught: the link between earning and spending; how to plan and budget; the consequences of not planning and budgeting; and the importance of giving, whether you have a lot or a little.

Every family serves as every child’s first school. Every parent is a child’s first teacher. It is parents who bear the ultimate responsibility for education. Parents are the first to nurture curiosity and an appreciation for books and music, and create spaces where children can create and explore. Above all, a family is where children learn how to think and reason and separate fact from fiction.

The family mirrors a place of worship as well. The family is where children learn first lessons of faith, ideas about who God is, the meaning and purpose of life, and that every human being is our brother or our sister, for we are all of one blood, created in the image of God.

The family even serves as a microcosm of health care. It is in the family where children learn personal health habits, how to care for someone who is ill and, sometimes, even how to care for the dying. Tenderness and compassion usually take root in the home.

All that said, you can be intentional about family and still have family members who make awful choices for a variety of reasons. There are no guarantees with family; even so, you don’t throw in the towel at the starting gate or give up short of the finish line. None of us can afford to give up on family. Family is the most important investment you can ever make.

So, who is my family? Phrased another way, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Yes, a thousand times yes. You don’t have to “be” family to act like family. We can all lend a hand—when we see a small everyday need, someone needs a word of encouragement, or someone is facing a crisis and needs others to stand alongside them.

The health of families is key to returning the nation to good health, because the whole is only as strong as the parts.

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Two’s Day is coming, Two’s Day is coming

If you’re wondering what exciting things you can look forward to in the new year, you’ve come to the right place.

February 22, 2022 (2/22/22) will fall on a Tuesday, thereby making it 2’s day, or Two’s Day.

The husband sent a text to the entire family alerting them to this spectacular event, adding that he was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

The response was underwhelming.

Eventually his Two’s Day text was acknowledged with a thumbs up, then a heart, then late in the evening came an offer to make him a pie.

I think the pie was a comfort food offer to ease the pain of others not sharing his excitement. Naturally, one would hope the pie would have two crusts filled with two very large sliced apples, baked at 200 degrees times 2.

Or perhaps the one who offered pie was thinking of Pi Day (March 14 or 3.14), which he also celebrates, as do I for obvious reasons. (Pie.)

The man can’t help himself. He is a numbers guy, a detail guy, a record-keeping guy and a history guy. When that is who you are, life doesn’t get much better than 2/22/22.

Well, that is unless you were married on 5/6/78. Yep. That was pretty good, too. For some people, life changes on a dime; for us it changed on a 5678.

He says the only thing better would have been if we were pronounced husband and wife at 12:34. On 5/6/7/8.

Please don’t make me spell it out. Or count it out.

As it turns out, a smattering of groups have designated February 22  as “their day” and hopefully will tailor celebrations with a nod to Two’s Day: World Spay Day (sign pets up in 2’s), World Thinking Day (distribute “Two Heads are Better Than One” buttons), National Cook a Sweet Potato Day (two at a time, please) and National Margarita Day (make it a double?).

The only people more excited than my better half are those who were born on Feb. 2, 2000 and will celebrate their 22nd birthday in 2022.

And you were thinking it was going to be a cold and dreary, long, gray winter.

I’m anticipating a lot of “Two for One” sales and “Two for One” meals. Taco Two’s Day has a nice ring.

On the flip side, there’s always the danger of the Dollar Store becoming the Two Dollar Store for the day.

Still, the possibilities for celebration are endless.

Fireworks at 2:22 a.m. and p.m. Say everything twice. Eat twice as much. Send every text twice and when you answer the phone say hello twice.

Have Tea for Two while reading a Tale of Two Cities.

Better yet, do what we do when we routinely leave home. Lock the house, get in the car then run back inside for your glasses. Lock up again, get in the car again, then run back inside a second time to make sure the gas burners on the stove are off.

For us, every day is Two’s Day.

 

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Eyeing facial exercises causes a raised brow

I keep coming across stories promoting exercises for your face. They claim you can tone your face, firm your double chin, sculpt your cheeks and reduce wrinkles on your neck with a few simple exercises.

I’m here to say I quit. I know, I know. I haven’t even started, but I quit.

I come from people who wrinkle. Both sides of my family crease like cotton sheets left in the dryer too long.

Both my grandmothers wrinkled, my mother wrinkled and I’m in the process of wrinkling. It’s in the genes. “Genes” that are perma-wrinkle.

I’ve watched a few tutorials on cheek sculpting exercises and, frankly, some of them border on dangerous.

An exercise known as The Owl says to place an index finger above and parallel to each eyebrow and your thumbs below your eyes on your cheeks. Then make big eyes while the fingers create resistance to the stretching muscles. It looks like you’re pretending to wear imaginary glasses. Personally, I doubt the exercise reduces wrinkles, but it may make you look like you’re losing your mind.

The most practical facial exercise I’ve come across is the one where you turn your neck from side to side. Theoretically, this will lift your sagging double chin and tighten the folds in your neck. I’ve been jerking my neck from side to side for years, changing lanes and merge onto the interstate, but it hasn’t done a thing.

Another exercise advises placing your index fingers at the outermost edges of your eyebrows and trying to lift your brows against the pressure of your fingers. It looks like the onset of a migraine.

Then there’s the exercise where you tilt your head way back and place your fingers near your collarbones while pulling your chin up. It might tighten some muscles, but you can also look like you’re choking. Do that one only if you’re willing to risk someone charging up to you and performing the Heimlich maneuver.

The fact is, I’ve always looked a lot like my mother. As she aged, she used to try and scare me by cupping her wrinkled face in her hands and saying, “Behold, your future.”

I would scare her back by cupping my face in my hands and saying, “Behold, your future caretaker.”

She often screamed.

She claimed her doctor told her to never sleep on her stomach, as the pull of gravity encouraged wrinkles. She was glad for the warning, but said it came about 20 years too late.

Save yourself!

I’m a side sleeper, but I don’t think my right side is any more wrinkled than my left side. At least my wrinkles are symmetrical. There’s always something to be grateful for.

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Christmas that shook the movers and shakers

A friend has long said she dislikes movers and shakers because they constantly move and shake everybody else.

It does seem that way. Movers and shakers at the top determine what we pay in taxes, how fast we can drive on the interstate and choose our friends and enemies for us around the world.

Particularly aggressive movers and shakers even attempt to dictate which words we can use and the thoughts we can think.

We can take solace knowing that for every tier of movers and shakers today, there eventually will be another tier of movers and shakers above them and another above them ad infinitum.

Deep within those layers are the movers and shakers that were part of the first Christmas as it unfolded millennia ago. Powerful people thought they were calling the shots, but they were small players in a story of incomprehensible grandeur.


Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus issued an order for a census. And so it was that a young expectant couple made their way to Bethlehem. When King Herod learned a star had risen signaling a king was about to be born, he commanded the Magi to report back to him when they found this baby. The Magi gave him the slip.

Like every period in history, there were the powerful and the powerless at the time of Christ’s birth. The powerful, who were few, lived lavish lives while the vast majority scraped by under the shadows of coercion and brutality. Most people lived somewhere on a continuum between weariness and despair.

It wasn’t just a dark night when Christ was born; it was a dark time.

The young couple featured prominently in the narrative were downwardly mobile peasants. Neither were influencers like those today with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Although, ironically, like many big stars of today, the mother of Jesus is instantly known by one name.

Mary.

Far from all things familiar, in a strange town and a very strange place for giving birth, Mary labored and delivered on a humble bed of straw. Who would have thought such an obscure beginning would forever mark history?

Shortly after the birth is when the real movin’ and shakin’ began. Celestial beings lit up the skies over fields where ragged shepherds tended their sheep. It was a heavenly announcement delivered first to commoners, those with no position, power or social capital.

Why start with the lowly? Because God often works from the bottom up. Because God Himself took on humility coming as a baby in a manger. Because the ways of God are not the ways of man. Man sees on the outside; God sees the heart.

The invitation to come to the manger truly was, and remains today, a come one and come all, wherever you are, in whatever condition you are. Christmas is for the joyful and the grieving, the broken and the whole, for those filled with hope and for those who anguish in the night.

More than 2,000 years later, around the world, the heart of Christmas remains unchanged. It is an invitation to one and all to draw near. “You will find him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Come and see. Behold the wonder.

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Keep Calm and Read On

Question: In the history of the world, has it ever been effective for one person to tell another person who is wound up to “calm down”?

Asking for a friend.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I was wound up about something and a certain someone I have been married to for four decades tells me to “calm down.” Instead of having a calming effect, this has a polar-opposite effect. I am wound one notch tighter because I have been instructed to “calm down.”

It’s not that I mind being told to take it down a notch, it’s that the phrase “calm down” instinctively triggers adrenaline.

Perhaps other responses might be more helpful, things along the lines of “breathe” or “count to 10” or “put down the knife, now is not a good time to chop vegetables.”

I do chop fast when I’m wound tight. I’ve been known to prepare an entire veggie stir fry in under 60 seconds. In the interest of safety, I never watch the nightly news while doing meal prep.

My better half means well, just like I mean well when I tell him to calm down. Loved ones often say a lot of well-meaning things to one another that can seem, well, not so loving. Meaning well and communicating well are not the same things.

Telling me to “calm down” is on a par with telling me to relax. That one makes me want to whip out a calendar and instruct the one telling me that to block out a few days.

A son-in-law sometimes tells his wife, “Keep your powder dry.” That might be more effective because it’s a visual. It essentially says, “Don’t fire yet because things could get a lot worse.”

I am of the belief that the happiest people are often optimistic pessimists. They are the ones quietly confident that a situation can always be worse, so they are never completely taken by surprise and thereby lapse into panic.

In preparation for World War II, the Brits printed “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters intended to raise morale, fortify those stiff upper lips and encourage self-discipline. The posters were rarely displayed in public and only became widely known after someone brought several original copies to Antiques Roadshow (a program that cannot only calm but put some fast asleep).

Many variations of “Keep Calm and Carry On” have been minted since then, some of which are extremely practical and helpful: Keep Calm and . . . Have Some Dip . . . Eat Chocolate . . . Pretend You’re at the Beach . . . Call Mom . . . Get New Glasses . . . Read A Book . . . Have Recess . . . Call Your Lawyer . . . Be A Unicorn . . .  Pray . . . Plant Trees . . . Wait for Santa.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” may have worked for the British, but unfortunately, I am not a Brit.

Fortunately, I do keep a small stash of dark chocolate.

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A personal best for setting up the Christmas tree

There was a woman on the street where I grew up that put her Christmas tree away fully decorated every year. She would cover it with a sheet and scoot it into a cold, dreary utility room.

I used to think that was the saddest thing in the world. What had happened to her love of lights, ornaments and artificial pine cones?

I now know what happened— they were sucked into a vortex called Age.

We have just set a record for the time taken to set up the Christmas tree.

On Day One, I pressed the small button that opens the garage door. We can’t get our tree and decorations down from a shelf without opening the garage door. I pulled down four boxes of decorations, but the tree is too heavy for me. I’d done my part.

My better half took some recyclables to the garage later and saw boxes of decorations stacked by the door to the kitchen and the tree box still on the shelf. He closed the garage door.

Day Two: I opened the garage door again. We were now on the same wavelength as he moved the huge box with the tree from the shelf to the garage floor. Then he came inside to watch football.

Day Three:  I was out for the morning, came home and found the box holding the tree in the front room. Puzzling. We must have left the garage door open and the UPS delivery guy had hauled it inside.

I asked the husband if he wanted to set up the tree. He said sure and moved a big ladder into the front room. The ladder and the box sat untouched.

The day passed, the light faded and a beautiful sunset splashed across the evening sky. To get a better look, I hurdled over the tree box, tiptoed across the back of a love seat, dropped to the floor and squeezed between the ladder and a chair to get to the window. It was a challenge, but I needed the cardio and the sunset was worth it.

Day Four: I wrote “Set Me Free” in the dust accumulating on the tree box. I considered opening the box but remembered that I already did my part by opening the garage door.

Day Five: We have three granddaughters for the day. They love to decorate Christmas trees. The cavalry has arrived!

I leave for an appointment and they are giddy with excitement about setting up the tree while I am gone.

I return home a few hours later. Only the base of the tree is standing and nobody is decorating. The girls are doing a makeover on Grandpa, who is asleep on a love seat.  What hair he has left on top is wrapped around a red roller. His stylist yanks out the roller, fires up the blow dryer and blasts hairspray. Two others attempt to put his good shoes on him. Clearly, he’s not sound asleep because each time they try to wedge his foot with the thick athletic sock into a dress shoe, he grimaces.

The makeover complete, I am ordered into the kitchen so he can make an entrance and they can enjoy the big reveal.

He enters the kitchen holding a “love letter” printed on the computer in 100-point Balloon font. “Roses are red, violets are blue, no one in the world is a sweet as you.” They printed it; he signed it. I feign surprise at his poetry skills and kiss both his cheeks.

Everyone returns to the front room and sets up the tree.

Five days, one grandpa makeover and a short love letter was all it took to set up the tree—a personal best.

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What’s in your wallet may be a sign of age

I just learned a new way to tell if you are “officially old.”

This tidbit comes courtesy of an 11-year-old granddaughter. She has no research to back this up, not a single poll or shred of scientific evidence. That said, she is keenly observant.

With exuberance and confidence, she shared her observation around a crowded dinner table: “Old people carry cash!”

There you have it. If you carry cash, you are old. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

“Especially men!” she adds. “Have you looked in their wallets?”

Not lately. Asking anyone to look in their wallet is generally frowned upon.

The girl is immediately challenged with others asking how she knows older men carry cash and where she has seen all this cash.

On the receiving end of doubt, she immediately counters with, “I saw an older man with hundreds in his wallet!”

She didn’t mean hundreds of bills but $100 bills.

It was getting good now.

“Am I related to this man?” I asked.

The answer was no. The answer is always no.

Still trying to figure out where she is seeing all this cash in wallets, someone noted that she had been to a number of ballgames and school sporting events.

“She’s right,” I say. Like the girl, I have no hard evidence, but when I do speaking events followed by book sales, it always amazes me how many older people carry cash. The older the audience, the more cash payments and the fewer the credit card swipes.

In part, I am amazed by this phenomenon because I rarely carry cash. I currently have one $10 bill in my wallet. It is the same $10 that has been in my wallet for the past three months. It’s only there now because my husband put it there. The fact that I don’t carry cash does not mean that I am not old; it means I’m more like the exception to the rule.

My late father-in-law always carried cash. At the end of any family gathering, all the grandkids knew that Grandpa would get out his wallet and give each of them a $1 bill as he said his goodbyes. After he died, my sister-in-law found an envelope in a drawer filled with $1 bills. It was a sweet tradition.

Someone else adds to the conversation that fewer people of all ages have been carrying cash over the last few years. Even fewer since the pandemic.

Another grand, age 9, has been sitting quietly taking in all the talk about paper money. There is a momentary pause and she quietly says, “Grover Cleveland is on the thousand-dollar bill.”

Say what?

I fact checked her. That’s right, I fact checked the grandkids. She’s right. Cleveland is on the thousand-dollar bill, which was last printed in 1945.

We don’t know how they know what they know, but we’re glad they know. They keep us young, even though we’re old.

What’s in your wallet?


 

If you’d like a peek at the Outdoor Thanksgiving, click here https://www.loriborgman.com/2021/11/28/thanksgiving-in-the-woods/

Book signing Thursday, Dec. 2nd at Spencer Farm Winery, 7015 E. 161st, Noblesville, Indiana, 7-9 p.m.  I’ll be there with books along with Amy K. Sorrells and Vince Flecker.

 

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Thanksgiving in the woods

We celebrated Thanksgiving outside on Saturday at our son’s place. The sun darted in and out behind clouds, the temperature held at a comfortable 48 F with no wind. You could easily go without a jacket. We could not have asked for a more pleasant day.


Tables were set up on a small clearing, plastic folding tables covered with canvas paint tarps. Our son had constructed benches made from wood recently milled on their property.

The First Thanksgiving was 400 years ago. It is highly unlikely they had a charcuterie board with olive oil infused mozzarella balls, bread sticks, fresh broccoli, carrot sticks, cheese, grapes, cashews, dark chocolate, crackers and a pecan covered cheeseball.


It was demolished within minutes.


We live lives of ease and luxury compared to the many generations who have gone before.

Food stayed hot in our pie tins on the walk from the house to the table. Eating itself didn’t last long, as kids peeled off to play, poke sticks in the fire ring and explore the woods. The day’s total for interesting finds was: one tufted titmouse, one downy woodpecker, two buzzards, one bald eagle, two chicken eggs in the brush, one very old brown glass bottle and an empty turtle shell.

Cayuga ducks raced through the pond to feast on mealworms thrown in the water.

Soon the ducks returned to nipping at the chickens, chickens scratched through piles of leaves hunting for insects, and many of the chickens boldly approached the table, several hopping up on a bench for a closer look.


When the kids reappeared, a crockpot filled with hot chocolate disappeared as fast as it could be ladled into cups.

Dusk fell and we were the last car to load up and pull away, perhaps reluctant to see a wonderful and memorable day draw to a close. I hope you had a wonderful celebration, too, and hold onto thankfulness all the year through.

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Celebrating Thanksgiving with authentic flavor

Everyone has a dream, right? Some dreams are so big, you dare not think them out loud. But I did. I thought my dream out loud and now it is about to come true.

We are having our Thanksgiving celebration outdoors. In the woods. Branches overhead and leaves underfoot.


The forecast says partly cloudy with a high of 38, but you know how quickly the weather can change. It could be snow and a high of 20.

Who cares. We will celebrate outdoors like the first Thanksgiving.

Our son’s family is hosting. Their house is surrounded by woods and their kids live outside. Sometimes without shirts. They’ll be the ones who tough it out and make it all the way to the pumpkin pie.

There will be a wooden table made of long planks. It won’t be as sturdy as a Pilgrim table—it will be supported by sawhorses. The smart ones will aim for a seat in the middle. Our son asked if we wanted to sit on benches or stumps.

I told him to surprise us.

We are forgoing elaborate table settings with chargers, dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates and stemware in favor of metal pie tins and mason jars. We’re taking rustic to a new high. Or a new low.

If this works out, I may have everyone write their name with a Sharpie on the bottom of their pie tin and use them for every get-together.

The table setting won’t be entirely void of frills. I’m bringing cloth napkins in a variety of fall colors. It is a myth that the Pilgrims were without vibrant colors. William Bradford’s journal describes “estates” which included clothing passed down to others. Colors of red, deep red and green are mentioned. I’m bringing napkins in those colors as well as mustard yellow and pumpkin orange. It will still be very first Thanksgivingish, although my napkins all have annoying polyester tags.

How our cooks bring their hot dishes is up to them but, in a concession to creature comforts, there will be power outlets in a carport for crockpots. Not to gloat, but I have a good collection of cast iron. Cast iron will save the day. Some of the food should still be slightly warm by the time we get it to our mouths.

I’m also bringing Jiffy Pop. That was at the first Thanksgiving; they just hadn’t branded it yet.

Our youngest sent a text with a factoid saying corn on the cob at the first Thanksgiving was tiny, about the size of a thumb. She wants to know if I’ll be bringing some. There was also fresh kill at the first Thanksgiving. I won’t be bringing that either.

There will probably be some grumbling about the cold, but I’m prepared to meet it head on – with a basket full of hand warmers.

Did I mention that I am sometimes alone in my ideas of what constitutes fun?

I may be eating alone, too.

Even if I am, I will be happy. And thankful.

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