Hearts and History: a love story for all time


Note – I had published this a year ago.  A bit late for the holiday, but for those still celebrating true love, here it is again: The fourteenth of February will soon be here. A day for roses, chocolate, flowery greetings and a whole lot amour.  A little research shows that it was all because a valiant Bishop by the name of Valentinus bucked the Emperor Claudius’ edict that soldiers were not to marry.  Apparently this dastardly ruler felt that too much lovemaking and such would weaken his army’s ability to fight his many enemies.  Well, Valentinus thought the whole thing was hogwash, and married many a couple in secret.  He was subsequently arrested, jailed and executed on February 14th.  Prior to his death, he sent a love note to his jailer’s daughter that closed with “from your Valentine.”  Hence, the start of a romantic holiday.

During the Middle Ages, hopeful suitors drew names for their sweetheart of the day, and pinned the notes on their sleeves, awaiting the chance to win their affection. Hence, the term “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”  Later, during Victorian times, it was bad luck to sign your valentine, making guess work part of the mystery.

In 1537, King Henry VII made February 14th an official holiday.  Coincidentally, Henry ended the War of the Roses.  Which are also popular gifts for this day.  So popular that over 189,000,000 are purchased for sweethearts.  The red rose was the favorite of Venus, the Roman Goddess of love.  She and her lover, Mars, created Cupid, the arrow wielding cherub who is often depicted on valentines. Be careful with your color choice, however. While red indicates love and passion, pink signifies a wish to be sweethearts and yellow signals “let’s just be friends.”  Choose wisely to avoid sending the wrong message.

Candy is another Valentine’s Day offering.  It’s a billion dollar business, with over 35,000,000 heart shaped boxes of chocolates purchased for the day.  Englishman (and Quaker), Richard Cadbury produced the first box of valentine chocolates in the late 1800’s, before he made his famous eggs.  Some say his business was prompted by the advice from doctors at this time, who prescribed chocolate to cure love sickness and melancholy. Even Casanova favored chocolate, claiming it was a powerful aphrodisiac.  Today, over 40,000 people are employed in US chocolate factories.  And, the episode of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate wrapping assembly line is rated as one of the most viewed sit coms ever.

But it’s not always about the chocolate.  At the same time Cadbury was churning out his famous confections, Necco, Inc. was creating its own candy hearts here in the US.   Producing eight billion a year, with the original 45 sayings, bags of these delights are found in most candy jars in America. It’s been estimated that if you line up a year’s worth of these colored candies, they would stretch from Arizona to Rome, and back again. And, with a shelf life of five years, they could keep love alive (and dentists busy) for many years to come.

Which brings us full circle to Bishop Valentinus’ message of love.  Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in money spent on paper greetings. One billion cards are purchased each season, pleasing the recipient and the US postal service. The first patent for the valentine was given to a woman, Esther Howland, in 1844. Eventually, earning over $100,000 annually,  she became one of the very few female entrepreneurs of the time. Most of her original employees were women, who worked from home, and were paid “liberally” for the times.  Known as the “Mother of the American Valentine” her cards were fanciful and often contained intricate designs.  Sadly, in spite of her amazing works, she never found true love and marriage.

Hallmark came later, in 1913.  The Hall brothers denied rumors that they invented Valentine’s Day as a way to increase their sales, always giving credit to Ms. Howland, and of course the infamous Bishop’s disrespect for Emporer Claudius. However, their company sells over 145,000,000 of the 150,000,000 valentines sold each year, making them the biggest producer of such love notes in the country. Procrastinating lovers need not worry. Fifty percent of all valentines are purchased with in the six days prior to February 14th.  And then, of course, there are the next-day, half-off sales…

The Victorian era of secrecy didn’t last long and the majority of valentines are signed.  It’s believed that the X in XOXO, which stands for “kiss” came about in an age when most of the lower class were illiterate.  People signed documents with and X, and then kissed their mark to show their sincerity, and respect for the Christian Cross.  The O is believed to come from the Jewish custom of signing an O, rather than the sign of the cross, for the same reason.  Others believe that the O appears to reflect an image of two people hugging. In any event, “hugs and kisses” is a popular greeting year round.

Responding to a valentine is not always possible.  Consider the city of Verona, Italy, the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  This town receives over 1,000 valentines every year, each addressed to Juliet.  To date, neither she, nor Romeo have cared to respond.

A few other bits of valentine trivia to contemplate:

  • Teachers get the most valentines, followed by children, mothers, wives and pets,
  • the average number of wedding proposals on this day?  220,000,
  • the average number of weddings on this day? 6,000 (mainly in Nevada),
  • groundhog day was originally celebrated on February 14th,
  • both Bell’s patent for the telephone and Fleming’s for penicillin were introduced on this day,
  • valentines and anything red are banned in Saudi Arabia,
  • John Barrymore, Jack Benny, Hugh Downs, Frederick Douglass, Jimmy Hoffa (where is he?) and Florence Henderson were all born on valentine’s day,
  • the League of Women Voters was created on this day in 1920, and
  • Richard Nixon ordered the infamous wire tapping of Democratic headquarters on February 14, 1971.

Share the love my friends.  And remember, chocolate is good for the soul…Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.








A Call for Bud Collyer


For those of you who don’t remember Bud, he was the original host of To Tell The Truth, a 1960’s game show that kept America glued to the TV each Tuesday night. A celebrity panel was challenged to guess whether or not various contestants were telling the truth, or if they were spinning tall tales. We all guessed along with celebrities such as Orson Bean, Kitty Carlisle, Johnny Carson and Tom Poston while being entertained by their simple banter and enjoyable back stories. I suppose the success of such programs is to blame for the never-ending barrage of today’s strange reality shows where people dare each other to eat cockroaches in the middle of a studio jungle to emerge as the Survivor, injure themselves on dangerous obstacle courses to shouts of “big balls” on Wipe Out and court, marry and divorce strangers in record time on the Bachelorette/Bachelor phenomenon. And then there is the sing along venues where judges insult and/or cry over eager would be rock stars with a relentless display of cheesy, cloying mutual admiration.

But back to Bud. We need him. Or something like him. Desperately. Why? Two words. Presidential campaign. Yes, the scourge of reality TV has firmly entrenched itself into the political process. Candidates appear to fall in and out of love with their constituents, while claiming they have cornered the votes of women, minorities, unions, the Pope, Joe the plumber and the cast of Minions. They set off on dangerous courses by expounding on issues of female anatomy, scientific research and various forms of math, fuzzy and otherwise.  And, of course, foreign affairs, including all the wars for whom no one is responsible. These types of questions usually get bounced into the waters below.

But to tell the truth? Well, for that we have the Donald. Polls claim to show that he’s loved because he says it like it is. And the number of people who seem to enjoy his hate spewed diatribe seems more scary than the man himself. When I see them gathered in front of his podiums I’m thinking “these are the same people who went to Woodstock – who protested the Viet Nam War – who applauded the resignation of Nixon!” and am instantly sad.  And worried. What happened to these people?

To compete with the millionaire mogul, the other panelists are going to have to ramp up their display of dislike for women, minorities, veterans, the working poor, people who wear glasses, rape victims and each other. Perhaps they will even disavow any affection for the Minions. And while they are screaming out their tunes, they will have to make certain Putin actually loves them best while keeping their college records firmly out of reach.

With most of them spending their mostly inherited wealth, the main sponsor, Koch Industries and various PACs won’t need the seductive woman in the Viagra ads to get viewers to buy into all of this. All any of us have to do is check the Facebook posts that flash by every few minutes, claiming that Hillary is actually Amelia Earhart and that Huckabee is a Belgian born Jew. Who needs Charles Kuralt? We’ll soon have at least 9 new Fox News commentators once this circus ends to tell us what we should know and whose on the latest hate list.

Bud would be amazed, wouldn’t he?  I just hope that America comes out as the Survivor here.

Bruce vs Barbie


As with many of us  media addicts, I’ve been following Bruce Jenner’s journey to become a woman since it began. I suspect I deduced it early on, when he appeared post Botox, with gently layered highlights in his hair. His inner struggles and pain at living in the wrong gender is something that doesn’t create any empathy on my part; but rather sympathy, and I can only imagine what he must have endured. At least he had his trophies.

Before I started this post, I looked up the definitions of “female” and “male” and didn’t find anything noteworthy, but found that the Oxford dictionary refers to the term “womanism” as relating to white women, while Merriam-Webster links it to black females. No wonder we get confused.

While I pride myself as being one of those liberal, cookie munching, tree hugging bleeding hearts, I gotta say that while this whole Bruce/Caitlin thing is great for transgendered, sadgendered and wronggendered people,  his new persona is a bit disturbing to me. Why? Because if he really wants to be a woman, why does he have to emulate a Barbie doll?  Haven’t we suffered enough from Barbie’s influences?  Hasn’t this tiny waisted, large busted glamour girl passed her anorexic, made up body into our society long enough? Isn’t there a serious image problem among our teens and Botox, tummy tucking adults? Why not resemble women who really made a difference in the world?  Why not fashion himself to look like Indira Ghandi? Barbara Jordan? Lucretia Mott? Juliet Gordon Low? Germaine Greer?  He’s obviously getting his fashion tips and ideas about womanism from his step-daughters. Now there’s a bunch to emulate..

On the other hand, I suspect that his close association with his step children has provided a safe haven of sorts. To their credit, they all seem to have embraced his struggle and showed steadfast support – as well as create more good press for themselves. Even the sound of his new name fits in with all the “K” kids in his expansive family.

Next month he is set to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ESPY awards. Courageous he is, and this honor is well deserved. Courageous because being female is still difficult in many ways.  Wage discrepancies and civil and property rights are still an issue for women everywhere. For instance, we are still paid less than men for the same work, still pay more for our health insurance than men do, and continue to serve longer terms in prison than males for the same crimes. Even the politicians feel they should have a say in our sex lives.  In short, it’s not easy being female. Maybe Bruce’s willingness to come over to our side will put the very idea of gender into the forefront and lead us, finally, to gender equality. I, for one, think he’s one damn brave person. And I am cautiously hopeful that he won’t disappoint us.

As Caitlyn, I do hope Bruce has found happiness. But have to ask her:  Please, can you do something for the millions of women everywhere who can’t, or don’t want to emulate Barbie; who seek only a good, safe and fair world for themselves and their families? You have the the courage – and the trophies to prove it.

That, and maybe a little less blush…

Resolutions 2015


I realize that to gain any success at blogging, it’s important to blog often. The blog police recommend once a week, usually on the same day. A weekly system, I’m told, is designed to keep you inspired and in some instances, to collect some followers. It also helps you remember your log in and password information – or at least where you wrote them down. You’ve been warned.

In going over some of my previous posts, hoping inspiration would spontaneously recur, I found my list of resolutions that were created last January. I kept them simple on purpose so that any feelings of failure would be short lived – or easily explained away. The outcome was a bit mixed. One resolve was to contact old friends, which I did (well one, anyway). Although it didn’t lead to any face to face encounters, it felt good to reconnect – even if it was just in print. Another promise was to see more movies at a real theatre. I failed there, seeing just one. Philomena. A real sob fest. Now I can’t enter a theatre for fear of having a host of angry nuns snatch children out from under me. Yet a third wish was my charm. It was to laugh more. I suspect that was my biggest success. That is, if you can count laughing at yourself.

This year, I’m ramping it up a bit. I resolve to blog at least twice a month (or fortnight as they say in the UK – thanks Acorn), floss every night and nap every afternoon. Then, if that works, I may try a short stint at the gym and increase my exercise from that of a South American hanging sloth to that of a pampered American house cat. That way, I can still nap. I also plan to read more, Facebook less and clean out one closet each season. And stay away from surgeons. Far away.

Looking back at 2014 I can count a new hip and a new kitchen as big events (the former not nearly as much fun to show off as the latter – nor as requested). I spent time with my wonderful children and grandchildren, my three “soul sisters” in sunny Arizona and traveled South to help my big sister celebrate her 80th birthday. I also added another room to my crafting emporium in the basement (often referred to as the underground tsunami) so I have more space for my ever burgeoning supply of paper and ink. I also lost a very dear friend. Too soon. He had a way with words like no one else. Thanks, John, for all your inspiration. We miss you.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive year for us all. And naps. And sloths, wherever they hang.

Need Some Fairy Dust Here


Lost an old friend today. Too soon. I knew it would happen this week, but still you are never prepared. We’ve been together for 57 years – ever since I was 12. It happened quickly, but the aftermath is painful. That empty space left behind is hard to see, but easy to feel. Our relationship erupted just as I was perched between childhood and adolescence. Yes, number 18 molar is gone.

The new dentist in town, who is a gem, said that due to significant bone loss, it had to go. Apparently, it was upsetting the rest of my lower left row of teeth and had been a problem for a long time. Other than those long-ago baby teeth that we pull out with the help of strings and constant wiggling, the only other time I experienced an “extraction” was when my four wisdom teeth were wrestled free from the corners of my jaw. That, too, was a long time ago, but unlike today’s pull, that experience was expected and part of young adulthood.

Today, however, the words “bone loss” was another reminder that young adulthood is long past. Baby teeth are barely a glimmer. I’ve already lost my brown hair pigment, one hip, part of my colon and my ability to recall where I put my car keys. I’m also short on patience, interest in doing housework and the desire for exercise. What’s next?

Growing up, our tooth fairy was likely part of the second-string team in tooth fairy land. Unable to coordinate reaching under our pillows to replace the small bit of enameled bone, she (or he) had a different system. This required that we deposit our tooth in a glass of water in the bathroom, whereupon she (or he) would zap it with the magic tooth wand and change it into a dime. And back in the 1950s, a dime was big money. That routine worked very well until one night when older sister Laura left her tooth for its transformation and went off to bed, dreaming of her soon to be financial windfall. Unfortunately, other older sister Judy got up in the night to get a drink of water. You guessed it.

I’m not certain what a 57-year-old tooth would bring in today’s market. It had its share of fillings and was sporting a relatively redone crown of porcelain when it was plucked from its socket. The good dentist and I discussed the financial worth of such teeth and he had no answer. Apparently, this was not part of his training. Instead, I paid him.

I now have a vigorous dental hygiene routine that will take me but an hour and a half, twice a day. It’s complete with some mouth wash that could probably do double duty as a floor cleaner along with various brushes and pastes. This was arranged by the cheery, but serious hygienist who “deep cleaned” my gums with a set of tools similar to the ones used in the Showtime series “Dexter.” I don’t think she believes in the tooth fairy.

In any event, I still plan to set out a glass of water when I go to bed tonight. You never know.

It’s Raining Ice


A good friend of mine recently moved to the Atlanta area and is experiencing a rare ice storm. She tells me that it’s raining ice and she’s amazed. She’s also trying to move her family to a new house. Something tells me she’s not happy.  The South has been hit with some really terrible weather – something we hardy Northerners endure and discuss over coffee year after year. I haven’t worn regular shoes for nearly three months now and suspect they are gathering cobwebs under my bed. Instead, I don my huge heavy boots every day and have given up any hopes of being fashionable – not that I ever have been.

As a kid, weather like we’ve had lately seemed to be a common occurrence.  Gathering snow drifts gave us all hope that school would be closed. We eagerly listened to the local radio station for such good news – and once we knew we were free for the day, our plans were set. It was a time without video games, computers and reality TV. Rather, it was a world full of the great outdoors. Snow castles, snow men, snow tunnels and glorious sledding!  Some of us had mothers who didn’t work outside the house, but for those that did, there were grandmothers, aunts and willing neighbors to keep kids in line when Mother Nature set us free.  Bundled up, often in our older siblings hand me downs, we’d set out for our winter adventures with the zeal and expectations of the hardiest polar explorer.  It was if some great force knew we needed a break, and we embraced it with abandon.  It was an unexpected holiday – designed just for children.

I still watch for school closings, and carefully watch the names that crawl across the bottom of the TV screen.  Seeing my town on the list still gives me a lift – and gives me a reason to linger a little longer over the newspaper.  A little bit of holiday perhaps?

Retired, I don’t have to brave the effects of what’s been called the Polar Vortex.  My hat and gloves off to the postal service, police department, city, county and state workers and our brave and hardy business owners. But special thanks to the bus drivers, teachers and school personnel who keep our schools open.  A snow day is tough for many families. The list of available grandparents, aunts and neighbors is small these days. Kids can’t stay home alone any longer. Many don’t have warm coats and boots, or a parent to take them sledding.  It’s a new world.  I fear that winter is no longer designed for children.

Attached is another of my gesso, messo canvas creations. I call it “Celebrate You”  Celebrate You

Valentine duo


20140129_211446I wanted some kind of Valentine decoration to replace my worn out Christmas wreath. I found the wreath and flowers at Michaels’s and with a little luck and some fishing line, I had some fun. Hope it stays together. The card is one I made the othe day. I love the craft cardstock.