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Milli Gilbaugh

Readin’, writin’ and Sesame Street

Food For Thought

Before I get into this subject any further, I want to say I’m not denying Sesame Street is a wonderful program. It helps kids learn, not just one, two, three and A, B, C, but a lot of other important stuff, as well; things like tolerance, diversity, acceptance, cooperation, patriotism, honesty, and a few dozen other valuable things. I’m simply wondering if there shouldn’t also be room for silliness, fantasy and just plain fun.

News deja vu

Food For Thought

With all the things going on in this world of ours, I can’t believe that our news-gatherers find it necessary to report the same events several times in a day– sometimes even several times during one half-hour newscast. I turn on the evening news which reports a half-hour of local, national and world news, followed by a half-hour of national and world news from one of the big networks, and then another half-hour from the local station. During those 90 minutes, I am told about the “biggest” stories a minimum of three times, but often, eight or nine times.

A sense of secret

Children seem to have an inborn sense of secretiveness that leads to all sorts of misunderstandings and misbegotten adventures. I’m not sure where it comes from, perhaps it is the “self” attempting to define itself, to draw the lines between itself and the rest of the world. There are simply things children keep to themselves and protect jealously from their parents, siblings and best friends. It’s that little knob of reality known as “me” as opposed to everything and everybody else that is “not me.”

The girls of September

Food For Thought

I’ve always found it odd my three closest friends when I was growing up had birthdays within a few days of each other. Not only that, but two of them shared the same birthday, and the other had her birthday on the same day as my mother’s. This had to be more than mere coincidence and made me half believe in astrology which, logic tells me, is unreliable at best and superstitious nonsense at worst. I am ambivalent, after 80-some years, and may never be sure just what I believe about it.

Thinking literally

While I was writing last week’s column about my early days in school, I remembered a little neighbor boy we had while we lived in Iowa City. The youngest of three children, he missed his older siblings when school started each September. As happens with younger children, he had heard a lot about that somewhat mysterious and definitely wondrous place called school, and couldn’t wait for his turn. He had been told repeatedly that he could go to school when he was 5.

The end of summer

Having lived in Iowa all my life, I’m not familiar with the policies of other states regarding summer vacation and the beginning of the school year. I know there are places that take into consideration the weather (extreme heat or cold) and holidays (both religious and national) when scheduling the school year. Circumstances have changed dramatically since early pioneer days when schools were strictly local matters, often managed and taught by individuals with no official oversight by local government or even school boards.

A matter of relativity

I’m not talking about Einstein’s theory here, but the third, or maybe the fourth definition, depending on which dictionary you’re using, “Relativity; dependence on a factor that varies according to context.”

Bad ideas

Food For Thought

In 1890, a New York City man named Eugene Schieffelin had the not-so-bright idea to import every species of bird mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Among the few species he managed to actually introduce to the city’s Central Park, was a flock of European starlings (referred to in Henry IV). Within 50 years, starlings colonized the entire North American continent– with dire results.

Before Dr. Seuss, even

Food For Thought

It has been said that J. K. Rowling has coaxed more kids into the reading habit in this century than Dr. Seuss did a generation ago. Her Harry Potter stories enchant and entertain adults and kids alike, and while both authors have influenced movies and television, I think their greatest contribution to society has been in the cause of literacy. Tempting children to read, to prefer books to the more passive activity of sitting and watching the screen, not only establishes the reading habit; it requires the exercise of imagination.

The green menace

Food For Thought

Many years ago, I enrolled in an art class to learn more about painting with watercolors. I’d majored in art in college and had concentrated more on oil painting, but had always wished I knew more about this more portable form of painting. The watercolor class was in the summer and most of the sessions were held outdoors. I became acutely aware of the many different shades and variations of green there are in our landscape and eventually became seriously tired of green paint.

When is a rose a weed?

Food For Thought

For all the years since 1971 that I’ve lived at my present address, a single wild rose plant has survived at the edge of the gravel road that dead-ends at my house. Every year, it has bloomed in June or July and, every year, it has been mowed off soon afterwards by the county crew that keeps the roadsides trimmed so tall weeds and grasses don’t obstruct the view of drivers and cause accidents. I appreciate the need to keep obstructions from growing at intersections and access roads, but I’ve always thought mowing off everything that grows beside the road to be a bit of overkill.

When dishwashers were sisters

Food For Thought

The automatic dishwasher, which started appearing in most homes during the 1950s, did more than leave the plate, glasses and silverware sparkling and sanitized. It changed some long-lived practices and altered dynamics between certain family members. Prior to that time, dishes were scraped, rinsed, washed, dried and put away by hand, and it was more often than not a cooperative effort between sisters or mothers and daughters. Families without daughters were known to actually teach boys to deal with the used cutlery, soiled plates and greasy pots and pans.