One of My Finer Moments

A former co-worker recently passed away. There were many heartfelt tributes to him on social media, all of them well-deserved. He really was a good person.

However, we did have a couple of points where our views on life could not have been further apart. One of them was the ERA–the Equal Rights Amendment. As far as I could tell, my co-worker thought women should be kept barefoot and pregnant.

On June 30th, 1982, the ERA “died”. Not enough states add ratified the amendment to the constitution within the deadline or the three-year extension it was given.

On July 1, 1982, the front page of the local morning newspaper featured a photo of my co-worker raising the American flag at a celebration of the demise of the hoped-for amendment. He took a lot of ribbing that morning. Even I patted him on the back. But as I did so, I was also taping a handwritten KICK ME sign there.

Other co-workers laughed. Hours passed before someone told him about it. He was good natured about it. As I said, he really was a good person at his core.

Who Invented “Birthstones?”

A few weeks back, I started wondering where the idea of “birthstones” came from. To me, it sounded like a marketing ploy invented by a greeting card company.

Turns out I was wrong. Sort of.

The origins are Biblical. Old Testament Biblical. The Book of Exodus describes the breastplate of Aaron as having twelve stones, one for each of the Tribes of Israel. Sardius*, topaz, carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, ligure**, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper.

Both Flavius Josephus (1st century AD) and St. Jerome (5th century AD) made the connection between the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. Naturally, this connection evolved. Some early cultures believed you should wear the stone corresponding to the current month. In 18th century Poland, the idea that a person should wear the stone corresponding to the month of their birth was born. The modern list of stones was standardized in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers–not a greeting card company.

  • *believed to be either ruby or carnelian.
  • ** possibly an orange zircon

My Stupidest Injury

A few months ago, someone on Facebook asked, “What was your stupidest self-inflicted injury?”

I didn’t even need to think about it.

When I was three or four, I had my three pet toads (1 big one, 2 little ones) in one of those big, barrel-shaped pickle jars. My dad had helped me poke holes in the lid with a hammer and nail.

It was a Sunday. After church. We were getting ready to sit down for dinner, when my mother very unreasonably declared my toads could not be at the kitchen table with us. In fact, they didn’t belong in the kitchen. I was to take them to the back porch.

The cinderblock chimney was right there. I thrust down the jar of toads. The glass shattered. My toads were getting away! I started crying. I wanted my toads. My mother started yelling. I looked down. Oops. There was a huge bleeding gap on my left knee. I don’t remember pain. I remember my toads escaping.

My dad drove me back to town. Someone must have called Dr. Opalot, because he was in his office, waiting for us, on a Sunday afternoon. He must have numbed my knee before he started stitching, but I don’t remember. What I remember about that is it tickled. Turns out I have ridiculously ticklish knee caps. I kept twitching my leg, and the doctor would tell me to be still. “But it tickles!” I said. He laughed. He told me that was the first time anyone had ever told him getting sewn up tickled.

It took five stitches in my 3 or 4 year old knee to close the gash. I carry the scar to this day.

If only my mom hadn’t been so unreasonable about toads at the dinner table.

What’s in a Name?

I have all kinds of baby name books. I’ve always been fascinated by names. Even in elementary school, I would take name books out of the school library. There were a few pages of names in the back of my parents dictionary. They were in tatters because I studied the names so often. Even now, with the Internet and the great Social Security website for names, I still like to peruse books.

I just finished writing a book in which the heroine had two different names before I decided on a third.  Once I  had that name, the rest of the story flowed. I know several authors who have experienced the same phenomenon: until the character’s name is right, the writing goes poorly.

I knew I’d always have a difficult time naming my children, especially when my husband and I have such different tastes in names. If our second child had been a boy, I doubt very much he would have a name even now. Fortunately, she wasn’t.

When I was bearing children, we didn’t know the sex of the baby until it was born. ( I knew them, because of my dreams, but that’s another blog post.) We settled on a girl’s name almost immediately (and used it a couple of years later when our daughter was born–except we did give her a different  middle name). Agreeing on a boy’s name was challenge.  We had a list of criteria: the naming traditions of my husband’s culture; no names with multiple spellings (something that has haunted both my husband and me throughout our lives); Biblical names, but not one of the weird ones; not too popular, but not unique; names our children could use in the boardroom or on stage or on the spine of a book; something traditional.

My husband and I leafed through baby name books in stores. There was one that said the name Woody was the past tense of the name Willy. I cried. I also cried when I realized that if we had a son, no one would call him by is first name because our surname was  so easily converted to a guy nickname. My husband assured me only once did someone do that to him.

At the time I was pregnant, big corporations were purchasing naming rights to everything from massive sports complexes to Little League fields. My husband and I decided to name our baby, if it was a boy, after a college in exchange for an education. How would we approach these institutions of higher learning with our generous offer? My tears turned to giggles as we contemplated the names Canisius,  Cornell, and Colgate.

We finally settled on a good name: his grandfather’s name. We used my great-grandfather’s name for the middle name. Strong names. Manly names. Everything we wanted for our son.