Sunday, December 31, 2006

Farewell to the Holidays and 2006

T'was the day after Christmas,
and inside the house,
stockings were empty,
no sign of a mouse.

The pool fountain bubbled,
The sun sparkled bright,
and yesterday's revelers
rejoiced in the light.

T'was time to put presents
and goodies away,
To throw out the wrappings
and greet a new day.

And now, five days later,
I greet a new year,
in good old Chicago,
with Texas good cheer!

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photos by the author

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas: it's the Little Things That Count

As I looked through this week's Christmas photos of the tree and beautifully wrapped gifts, fireplace stockings bulging with gifts from Santa, and the gift-opening ritual, I realized that no matter how many electronic marvels anyone received (and I saw many of them), it's the small, colorful things that got my attention.

The feet above, embellished by rolled-up pajamas, new Christmas socks, and new sneakers, belong to my grand-niece, Lauren Truby, high school senior and dancer (that explains the pose) who plans to attend the University of Arizona's School of Dance next fall. This photo was taken on Christmas morning in Houston, Texas, where I spent the Christmas holiday. Send me a more glamorous shot, Lauren, and I promise to post it here too.

Lauren's parents, Cindy and Scott Truby, entertained me and my brother royally during our visit. I hadn't eaten so much great food since last year's visit! The amount of baking and cooking that went on for only five people amazed me, non-cook that I am. I'm of no use in the kitchen, as my niece has long known. I sat and watched and enjoyed the good smells, not to mention the food. My mother's old recipes for sour cream raisin pie, copper penny salad, and turkey stuffing were featured. I have to confess that I don't remember these dishes from my childhood (I've always had a love-hate relationship with food, and I don't remember Mother as an especially good cook), but my brother and his daughter (Cindy) remember it all fondly. I guess my appreciation for family tradition began very recently.

My gifts were fine and greatly appreciated (the Godiva chocolates had the shortest life span), but Christmas is for the young. Lauren was very pleased with the many things she got for college: size 0 clothing (I never knew there was such a size), tea maker, electronic gadgets, jewelry, and of course, the socks and shoes. While I was in Houston, I received an e-mail from another high school senior grand-niece, this one in Minnesota, who wrote about her plans to become a registered nurse. My third and oldest grand-niece, whom I haven't heard from as yet, wants to become a figure skater.

Christmas can be depressing for the old and lonely, but, widowed and childless as I am, I am very grateful to have a few young relatives. They are smart and attractive, and they represent the future. They may never become rich or famous (or perhaps they will), but they represent life. They will dance and skate and help other people and change society. That's why I'll remember those colorful socks and shoes.

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne.
Photo by John C. Marshall

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Picture of the Year: Senior Toys

This is the cover photo from my brother's 2007 calendar. Here is what he has to say about it:

"This year's cover declares that 'retirement is all about toys.' While that may be a bit of an overstatement, there is a very substantial part of that statement that is true.

"My three favorite toys, pictured from left to right are: (1) 2001 BMW Z3.0i, next to the last year of the 'classic' Z3's. The Z3 was introduced to the world as James Bond's ride in the movie Goldeneye; (2) 2001 Honda GL-1800 (Goldwing), which is probably my favorite toy. It now has 128,000 miles on it and it is still going strong; (3) 2005 Honda VTX-1800, a V-twin with awesome torque that is a blast to ride. This is not a long-distance ride, but a 'bar hopper,' if one is interested in that sort of thing."

My brother is John Marshall, of Hurricane, Utah; he will be seventy-two in January, and he retired from a long career as a chemistry professor in the 1990's. I admire him for "doing his thing" and living where he wants to live, just as I do. Perhaps it runs in the family!

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo by John C. Marshall

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Joys of Blogging

Well, I've finally made it! I'm Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2006, along with millions of others. We're part of a new democracy: Internet users who express ourselves on line. Time provides an extensive analysis of how "Web 2.0" has given all of us with computers and Internet access a place to interact and to present whatever we want (with some limits on obscenity, pornography, and libel) to whoever cares to read anything by and/or about us.

I've been a computer enthusiast since about 1984, so I'm glad we're getting all of this attention. I'm a bit old for MySpace and YouTunes and the other younger people's favorite Web sites, but I do write a few book reviews for, and I explore and contribute to on-line book sale, review, and promotion sites. And my six-month-old blog, "Never too Late!" has become a favorite hobby.

My blog is not one of those that attract visitors by the thousands every day, but in the nearly three months since I've had visitor statistics, there have been about 1,400 page views. Lately, the number of first-time visitors has averaged about five per day. I have no cumulative statistics, and none at all from the blog's first three months. However, I get the impression that the number of "hits" or visits has been growing slowly but steadily.

I've been asked what I get out of blogging. It's not money. While there are some small AdSense ads included, that is just an experiment. I'm learning how all of these things work. Million-hit blogs probably have readers who click on the advertised products and services often enough to provide some income, but my readers, some of whom are reluctant to order anything on line, are not likely advertising targets here. I do have a book for sale on several sites, but it's a small book with a limited audience. This blog may have generated some interest in my book, but most of my posts are about other topics, and there's no hard sell included.

So why do I blog? Writing teachers have long encouraged journal writing, usually with pen on paper, and I still keep a journal occasionally. But somehow, I like the idea of my thoughts neatly printed out for others to read. What’s extremely personal or embarrassing usually is relegated to my off-line pen-and-paper journal, as it should be, but I take pride in seeing my words flowing across the computer screen.

I love to write, and this is my way of keeping in touch with anyone interested in what I’m doing and what I have to say. Blogging makes me feel alive. A few friends and relatives are interested. So are a few other people. I’d like to write a "Seniors" column for a newspaper or magazine, but the opportunity has not arisen (nor have I pursued it aggressively). Blogging is a way to write what I want to write without worrying about editors and deadlines. I don’t think I’d mind either, but for the moment, blogging is free, easy, and very enjoyable.

One of the purposes of my book is to encourage others, especially my fellow seniors, to write. Perhaps they will begin by writing some comments here on any of my posts that interest them. I hope that in 2007, we can have some on-line discussions about things that matter to us. Feel free to express your opinions and to suggest new topics.

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo by the author

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Senior Stereotypes and Ideas about Aging

Let’s face it: growing old is tough, and, as someone has said, "not for the weak." I’ve been dealing with aging for years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not (see my book), but occasionally I become aware of how younger people view us–and how I view myself.

The latest occasion was a holiday party for my volunteer group. It featured a great group of active, interesting senior citizens, wonderful hosts, good food, good music, lovely decorations, and good will all around. As a loner who is not good at small talk, I’m not much of a party person anyway, but what disturbed me (and I’m ashamed of my reaction) was an endless series of bingo games. That’s one of the common senior stereotypes: that seniors like to play bingo.

I realize that many seniors do enjoy bingo, or bridge, or shuffleboard, or golf, and there’s nothing wrong with these activities. No one forced me to play bingo. I left before the games ended. There was nothing wrong with the party. Was there something wrong with me? Yes.

About twenty-five years ago, I formed some ideas about aging, mainly my mother’s. I remember thinking that the residents of my mother’s midwestern retirement condo complex all looked alike: white hair, eyeglasses, walkers or canes, silver or black cars in the garage. They played bingo and bridge every week, wore dowdy clothes, and complained about a lot of "new-fangled ideas." They read mostly romance novels, if anything. They flocked to the restaurants’ Early Bird Specials. If they could afford it, they vacationed in Florida or Arizona or (later) Branson, Missouri.

I resented seniors for expecting me to give up my bus seat for them. I sometimes resented their handicapped parking placards and license plates when I had to park far away from the store.

Then a "funny" thing happened: I got old myself, retired, suffered through my husband’s final illness, and had to face reality. I am old. I look old, and I walk old (arthritis in my knees). I’m grateful to the young people who usually give up their bus seats for me. Yes, I always smile and thank them. I have a handicapped parking placard myself (my doctor says it’s dangerous for me to walk far in icy parking lots).

I've reminded myself that while it’s easy to laugh and joke about us, today’s active seniors are still doing things far beyond the usual stereotypical activities. Many of us still work or pursue valuable volunteer activities well into our seventies, eighties and nineties. Most have fascinating backgrounds and stories to tell.

Perhaps it’s not too late to help eradicate many of the stereotypes about senior citizens, including my own earlier unfair attitudes. I’d like to meet and interview non-celebrity seniors for a newspaper or other publication. Does anyone know of an opportunity for a "Seniors Columnist"? If you do, please let me know!

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, December 15, 2006

Error-free Writing and Haughty Writers

I was fascinated by "Prima Donnas Need Not Apply" by Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly ("the highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world") and publisher Booklocker. In her article in the December 6 issue, Angela wrote of a would-be novelist, an attorney and former English teacher, who submitted a book proposal to Booklocker and reacted very argrily to Hoy's rejection of it. The "Prima Donna," according to Angela, was "very angry and quite stunned that someone of her prestige had been rejected." She bragged about her education and her accomplishments.

The problem? writing errors, including many misspelled words. Angela wrote, "We can't publish books with errors. That is clearly stated in our submission guidelines, and that is why I didn't accept your book. I'm shocked by your angry response. I could have just taken your money, accepted your book and put it on the market, embarrassing us both, but I don't do business that way."

My reaction was that the would-be author got just what she deserved, and the episode made me think about writing correctness and editing. They matter to Angela Hoy and they matter to me, but do they matter to enough people? I was one of several inspired to respond, and my letter to the editor was published in WritersWeekly on December 13. Here it is:


I chuckled when I read "Prima Donnas Need Not Apply." Your reaction was great! I fear that English teachers, both high school and college, are partially responsible–and I say this as a retired college English professor.

A pendulum seems to swing between "all" or "nothing" in educational theory. Years ago, we emphasized correctness far more than creativity. This emphasis "turned off" a lot of students in the large group who tell me they hated their English classes. Then the pendulum swung too far the other way: just express yourself. Be creative. Don’t worry about correctness. Of course the original idea was to create first and edit later, but since editing was the harder part for many students and teachers alike, many were happy to give it up.

I’m out of the teaching profession now, but my reading indicates that we have helped to create a generation of would-be writers who just don’t know or care. Their writing has received high praise for imagination and creativity despite misspelled words and convoluted sentence structure. I insulted an acquaintance when I dared to tell her that her self-published book was full of serious writing errors. She didn’t seem to believe me, and told me that she’d had an editor!

The answer is obviously the middle course: create and then edit–or find a good editor. I hope that publishers and readers will sort the good from the bad, but I’m not sure that enough people really care, or even recognize writing errors when they see them. I’m glad you reacted as you did. It’s a battle worth fighting.

To quote Angela Hoy's conclusion: "The lesson to be learned here is that everybody makes mistakes, even attorneys and English teachers, and being able to admit your mistakes and correct them, rather than attacking the critic, is an honorable trait." I hope we English teachers have not inadvertently created a generation that thinks otherwise.

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, December 10, 2006

'Tis the Season!

Peace, joy, and happiness to all.

Enjoy the holiday season!

from Marlys Marshall Styne

Photo taken at the Chicago Cultural Center Washington Street information desk by Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas, Director of Volunteers

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Year's Eve, Old Town Condo Style

'Tis the night before New Year's,
and all through the halls,
the young folk are leaving
for their New Year's Eve balls.

For some, dress is casual:
freshly-pressed jeans.
For others, their finery
a sight to be seen!

The ball gowns, the tuxes,
so seldom worn now,
are pressed and accessorized:
Beautiful! Wow!

The orchestra leader
from the very top floor
looks great in tuxedo,
starched shirt, and more.

His society orchestra,
known far and wide,
will play at a ballroom,
Chicago's own pride.

The snowbirds are probably
away where it's warm,
or surrounded by family
at cottage or farm.

A few will give parties,
right here in town.
The food gets delivered.
The costs make some frown.

The liquor will flow,
the music will play.
In the very wee hours,
they'll greet a new day.

Tucked in my recliner,
no parties for me.
I flick the remote
seeking something to see.

Parades on tomorrow?
Football galore.
I'm not a great sports fan--
I like reading more.

I may fall asleep
ere the New Year arrives.
My memories have kept
many New Years alive.

I'm contented and warm
and glad to be here.
I'll post on my blog
my wish for next year:

Have fun and success,
peace, sharing, and love.
(I'm a senior, a writer
who's had the above).

And give me no pity,
my life is quite fine!
I'll toast the New Year with
a good glass of wine.

Disclaimer: I am not a poet and never have been. I wrote this tongue-in-cheek for a Chicago Writers Association holiday contest (which, as expected, I did not win). Still, my New Years wishes are sincere, and I want to share them.

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne