What’s Your Story?

Do you keep journals? Write in a diary?

What is a journal? Business people will tell you that it’s a “record that keeps accounting transactions in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ”

Writers use journals to come up with story ideas or to make memory lists for memoir. Journals help us tap into our creativity.

Mental health professionals often suggest keeping a journal as a means to discover your inner self and identify issues you may have hidden from yourself.

Journals can be very private or shared with individuals or groups.

Journals and diaries are a way to:

  • leave your legacy for your children
  • sort out your feelings about the past
  • communicate with yourself and others
  • unleash the right side of your brain (creativity)
  • figure out day-to-day issues and time management
  • understand your life story
  • keep track of a specific event as it is happening in your life

I tend to use random spiral notebooks for my journals, but there are many more formal journals you can purchase. They may have “prompts” in case you aren’t sure what to write about.

Years ago, after the birth of my first grandchild, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a journal called “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story.” Each page had a prompt for each day of the year. There were blank pages at the end where I could write whatever came to mind. The topics were something like:

  • January 1 – How did your family celebrate the New Year?
  • January 2 – What were your favorite activities in the winter?

Most months had holiday-specific prompts (if there was a holiday that month) as well as general topics like “Did you ever get in trouble at school? What did you do?” or “What was your favorite Halloween costume? Describe it.” One particularly poignant page in September asked “Where were you on 9/11?”

I wrote in the journal each day and by the end of the year, I returned it to my son for my granddaughter to read in the future.

Recently, I found another “Grandmother” journal that I plan to write WITH my granddaughter. It’s a “back and forth” journal where one of us writes and tJounral grandmahe other responds.

I am scheduled for a major surgical procedure next week and have been journaling about it. It will require major lifestyle changes so I am ambivalent and a little scared. Will I be able to do what is needed to stay healthy? I’d planned to grab a regular notebook to write in, but my friend said I should buy a special journal since this will be a major change in my life. She thought it would be wise to write down the process as well as my anxiety and feelings of anticipation. Why am I having the procedure? How will it improve my life? What will I be able to do afterwards that I can’t do now? What is the doctor telling me day-to-day?

I saw some journals at the card store while I was looking for Father’s Day and birthday cards. One caught my eye. It was beautifully bound and combined adult coloring designs and lined pages. But, it cost $25 so I put it down. A spiral notebook would only cost $2 or so. I told my friend, an adult coloring book fan, about it and she said I needed to go back and get the journal. “You deserve it.”

While out shopping, I was near another card store, same company. I decided to stop in rather than driving across town to the one where I originally saw the journal. Disappointed, no journals like it were to be seen. I asked the cashier as I was leaving the store and she pointed, saying, “Check out the clearance table.”

I walked over and laying on the table among scented candles, stuffed Easter bunnies, and small Mother’s Day plaques sat a lone coloring journal. Spiral and paper instead of leather bound, the coloring areas were on the outer margins of each page instead of the top. Price: $5. I couldn’t pass it up. I took it to the cashier and she rang it up at $2.50. Even better. “Clearance” proved true. Being a spiral, it’s easier to open up flat and write.

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With a price like that, I couldn’t resist buying a second one listed for $8. It was more elaborate with pale green binding and sayings inside as well as coloring at the top.

I should be set for awhile.

I’ve discovered that writing in the coloring journal isn’t as tiring if I write awhile and then color awhile. Different hand muscles are in use for each activity.

journal inside

I have other journals that I will leave for my children as legacy. There is one about Family Traditions. Each major holiday has page where I wrote about typical ways we celebrated when our sons were small or still living at home. Each page has a pocket side where I store mementos such as cards, place-mats or small items.

There are so many journals out there that are fun and useful. I hope you can find one or two you like. To paraphrase the beginning definition of a journal by accountants –” A journal is a record that keeps personal and family history in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ” Or not.

Journal mothers

 

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Story Ideas and Techniques

Where do you get ideas for stories? Many of mine come from observations I’ve made and experiences I’ve had. Once in awhile something will just pop into my head. When I am on a “roll” and things are moving along,  it’s so exciting to me. I lose all track of time. Does that happen to you?

I recently wrote a short story (and I think it’s a work in progress) and ideas came so quickly, I couldn’t keep up. My fingers were flying across the keyboard. I couldn’t keep up with the thoughts in my brain.

I am grateful for my education in journalism in the 1970’s at UNL. As a student, I learned to type and think. It was much different than the leisurely handwritten thoughts that I was used to. I had to sit at the typewriter and, in rapid fire, put down my thoughts. It was daunting. But now I have difficulty putting pen to paper because my hand is slower than my brain when I write.

I have discovered that I like to write mystical stories. I’m a reader of mysteries, thrillers and spy novels so this has come as a surprise to me. My latest short story is called “Dream Catcher” and it’s about a museum curator who has the uncanny ability to sense things “other worldly.” I got the idea while looking at the dream catcher that hangs in my bedroom window.

Dream catchers started with the Native American of the Great Plains, the Lakota and Sioux. They believed the air is filled with both good and bad dreams. Dream catchers were hung in the tepees and on the babies’ cradle boards for protection.

According to legend, good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. Bad dreams are caught in the web where they die in the light of dawn.

Traditionally, the frame was made of willow hoops and animal sinew or cordage made from plants. The circular shape represented the sun and moon (and time) as each day moves across the sky.

Now, soft leather cord or synthetic materials are used. The hoop is likely wooden or plastic. They are often decorated with feathers and beads. Mine has an arrowhead in the center.IMG_3865

I have several dream catchers in various forms. I’m not sure when my “collection” started. Like many of my collections, it was inadvertent. I received some from the St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota after making a donation. I continue to receive them now and then, even if I don’t send a donation. I bought the one I have in my bedroom while vacationing in Colorado Springs. I also bought a dreIMG_3868am catcher necklace on another trip to Colorado. I’ve had one of my dream catchers so long, I don’t recall when or where it came from. It is made of leather and is very simple but beautiful with pinkish webbing. It’s one of my favorites.

http://www.dream-catchers.org/category/history/

In my story, the protagonist, Frank de Salle, is a museum curator who was born with microtia. The character is loosely based on my brilliant younger brother who is deaf. My character’s name is Frank de Salle, named for the patron saint of deaf persons, St. Francis de Salle.

Frank and his sister, Christine, a reporter, travel to the Pine Ridge reservation where they attend a powwow. Things happen as they journey onward to the Black Hills and into Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. All culminates when Frank returns home and is visited by a ghostly figure one night.

Excerpt from “The Dream Catcher”

Frank de Salle was born with a missing ear.   He could speak but he knew he didn’t articulate very well. Strangers treated him as though he was retarded. He sensed it was because of his slurred speech and very loud nasal voice. But he held advanced degrees in both anthropology and history.

 He worked at the college museum as a curator where he set up traveling exhibits,  cataloged museum pieces, and conducted research on artifacts. He worked alone and lived alone and he was fine with that.

His modest two-bedroom home sat ten blocks from campus. He had a drivers’ license but preferred to walk. Pedestrians didn’t cut in front of one another or flip each other off as they hurried down the sidewalk. A nod or smile made it a much more genial mode of getting from point A to point B. Oh, he’d drive in the winter sometimes but leave early in the morning before there was much traffic.

When he spoke, he could hear his words echo in his head and thought they sounded fine, even though strangers looked at him in an odd way. “Don’t yell so loud,” Christine would say, but then he couldn’t hear his words. His speech therapist explained that, with his hearing aid on, he could hear about as well as someone underwater in a swimming pool might hear, whatever that was.

Sometimes he’d feel a vibration before hearing a sound through his hearing aid. Doctors told him that his other senses were heightened. He overcompensated because of his deafness. An oncoming car felt like he was holding an electric razor with the sensation passing through his entire body. He liked vibrations, his connection to the world.

Want to read more? Let me know. Leave a comment below. 

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“Everything the Power does, it does in a circle.” Lakota Proverb

“A man’s life is a circle from childhood to childhood, and thus it is in everything where the power moves.” Black Elk

 

A Room of My Own

Virginia Wolfe wrote, ““A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I am in the process of converting a small room upstairs into my office.

When we bought the house, the description counted this particular room as a bedroom. Supposedly our home is a 5-bedroom house. No way! A crib might fit in it, but there’s not room even for a twin bed and dresser.  It might make a nice office, though. We shall see.

Currently, my “writing room” is on the main level in what was identified as a family room when we bought the house. Dennis and I use it as an office-library. Against the south wall, the computer and printer sit. Dennis’ big roll top desk is against the north wall. The fireplace and built-in bookshelves on to the west and another book case is to the east.

In the room hangs a plaque on the wall above the space where the  computer sits.  The nurses on the maternal-child unit at University gave it to me after I was awarded the NCC Neonatal Nurse of the Year Award.  The award itself, a beautiful crystal that sits atop a gray marble base, is hidden away upstairs somewhere.  The calligraphy reads:

That Woman is a Success–

Who loves life and lives it to the fullest;

Who has discovered and shared her strengths and talents that are uniquely her own;

Who puts her best into each task and leaves each situation better than she found it’

Who seeks and finds that which is beautiful in all people and all things;

Whose heart is full of love and warmth with compassion;

Who has found joy in living and peace within herself.  Barbara Burrows

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As I sit down to write at the computer, the plaque is a reminder of what my colleagues thought at the time and it inspires me to seek meaning in what I do.

To my left as I sit, is the mantel and fireplace with bookshelves on either side of the hearth.IMG_3615IMG_3614A myriad of books stack the shelves–non-fiction, fiction, inspirational books, children’s books, large tomes, small paperbacks and the Bible.  Each of the eight shelves, four per side, holds at least 25-30 books, well over 200 books total.

Against the wall on my right is a tall 5-shelf book case.  The bottom two
shelves hold more books, primarily books on writing, a couple of dictionaries, some writing materials and papers and a big book with the title of “Just Do It!”  The top three shelves display family pictures, my grandmother Grady’s old marble mantel clock, and an antique anniversary clock on the shelf above.  A Madonna and child statue sits next to the anniversary clock and an old German barometer is on the shelf above.  The barometer is a red and white chalet with the little man in Lederhosen and the little lady in a plain blue dress.  The chalet is adorned with flowers below the little window.  Today the little people are both inside the chalet with their backs to me.

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I have many things surrounding me that offer inspiration, but also distraction at times. My digital speakers for my I-pod sits next to my computer screen, allowing me to plug in the device and listen to music, preferably Golden Oldies for writing and  Irish tunes for cleaning.  A 1-½ inch wooden rectangular token with the image of San Juan on the front sits next to the speakers.  On the back, it tells of San Juan (St. John) the apostle who is the Patron Saint of Writers, Editors, Publisher and Printers.   A souvenir of my trip to Colorado Springs with my friend, Deb, it remind s me that writers can shape the world and inspire others to seek the truth.

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As I ponder on my surroundings, I realize that this is my own secret space, my writing space, my thinking space, my prayerful space.  It is the space that connects me to the world as well as keeps the world out.  I can communicate with my friends via email or Face Book or I can focus on my stories, shutting everyone else out.

Time stands still here.  I can sit down to write and time becomes irrelevant.  Then suddenly, I realize that 4 hours have passed in an instant.  It is 12:00 in the kitchen, but it is still early morning in my space.  I want to stay in my space but I must go to the kitchen because the world beckons.

My space is a little cluttered and sometimes the world invades my space such as in March when Dennis chooses to use my space to do the taxes. If I would change anything about my space, I would remove all the non-writing parasites that creep in and start to take over—the amoebic bank statements, the overgrowth of committee work, the pestilent to-do lists.  What my space really needs is the Orkin personal secretary and DeCon killer organizer to take care of the pests that get in the way of my writing.

Maybe the little room upstairs will provide that bastion for “the writer only.” Stay tuned. I will let you know how the room conversion goes.

 

Found Treasure

The crumbled paper lay in the bottom of the file cabinet. Picking it up and smoothing out the wrinkles. I noticed words on the back written in grade school scrawl. “To Mommy. Love, Mike.” The front side of the paper revealed several brightly colored flowers in a vase. The style might be considered impressionistic had it been hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. The water colors ran together a bit and the vase was off-centered but it reminded me of an abstract still life by a famous painter. The edges of the paper were frayed but I decided to mat it and see how it looked.

That day I went to the hobby store and found a clear frame, the perfect size for my little artwork. I put the picture in the frame and hung it on our bedroom wall. The pinks and purple of the flowers blended well with the color scheme of the room. The little green vase added the perfect accent to the picture.

Going about my other chores and errands of the day, the picture became an afterthought.

My husband arrived home as I started dinner. He climbed the stairs to the bedroom to change out of his work clothes. Emerging from the room, he kissed me on the cheek then said, “I see you’ve been out spending your money today.”

“What do you mean?”

“Looks like you went to the art gallery today.”20151019_154534

I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about.

“The picture in the bedroom. Who painted it?”

I told him how I had cleaned out my file cabinet and found our son’s school artwork. We laughed about my found treasure.

Neither of us are art aficionados but we know what we like and what is meaningful to us. Our son is now 24-years-old and living on the west coast, but the painting remains on our bedroom wall for us to admire and remember. Painted approximately fifteen years ago, the colors are as vibrant as ever, just as our love for our son is.

Lamenting Summer’s End

As the kids go back to school, I am introspective.  Memories of past summers pop into my head like the whack-o-doodle games at the county fairs.

I grew up in a small town in central Nebraska, population around 3650 in the 1950’s. The summer before entering junior high, my family moved to Broken Bow, similar in size but located out in “the middle of nowhere.”  At least, my previous home town was on a main highway and had several other small towns nearby. It was a farming community and I was a “town” girl whose dad was the hospital administrator.

harvest time Cozad 1958

grain elevator 1958 Cozad

Broken Bow was called the “Foothills of the Sandhills” with many canyons and ravines surrounding it, more conducive for cattle ranching. Cowboy country. People rode horses into town. I went from large combines and farm equipment blocking the highways to cattle in the road. From smelly alfalfa mills to  stinky feedlots.

Stars and Sputnik

My early summer memories were filled with picnics at the park, going to the city swimming pool, helping Mom with the garden, picking cherries from the tree in our backyard, playing with the neighbor-kids and sleeping out in the backyard with my friends, sometimes in a tent, but oftentimes just in sleeping bags, “under the stars.”

The stars in both small towns were amazing. I remember Mom taking me outside on a warm summer evening and gazing at the stars. She was an expert in the constellations and pointed out several. I learned about Cassiopeia, Orion’s belt, the North Star and of course, the Big and Little Dippers. All were so clear on summer nights in towns where very few street lights pierced the darkness.

I remember when the Russians launched Sputnik. Mom and I went out to look at the night sky and see if we could spot Sputnik traveling across the darkness, shining among the billions of stars that twinkled above. I had a hard time imagining a little dog inside that bright light as it passed overhead.

Vacations and camping

I recall several of our family vacations when I was preteen and younger. Our relatives lived back East, so every few years, Dad would rent a camper and we would take off for Pennsylvania, camping along the way. Campgrounds were pretty rustic back then. No KOAs until later. With six kids, Mom and Dad organized us. We each had our duties. My big brothers helped Dad set up the camper (we usually had a “roll-up” or  “pop-up” type camper like JayCo, Starcraft, Coleman brands.) Mom and I would start the food preparation while one of my other brothers looked for firewood and a water source. Usually the water source was a pump sticking out of the ground. Campgrounds used to cost around $2-5 dollars and some were even free! No plumbing, so my oldest brother always sought out the outhouse. If it was too rustic, he refused to use it. A less rustic outhouse would have a toilet seat over the hole instead of just a hole in a plank.

When KOA campgrounds came into vogue in the 1960’s, we were happy to finally be able to take showers and use “real bathrooms.” (I’m sure our awaiting relatives in Pennsylvania felt the same!)  Of course, the price of camping went up, but it was worth it!

Susan_on_vacation_1969

Camping was great fun for me. I loved the outdoors and meeting other campers. We didn’t seem to  worry about any “Deliverance” type people. I don’t know if Mom and Dad scouted for unsavory types or if they chose campgrounds that looked safer. The worst part of camping for me was tick bites. I hated having ticks burrow under my skin. Mosquitoes were bad, too, especially when we camped in Minnesota where mosquitoes are the “state bird.”

We tended to travel the “northern” route on the way to Pennsylvania, going through Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and the “southern” route coming home–West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. Before I went to college, I had visited every state east of the Mississippi with the exceptions of the New England states and Florida. My parents made sure we took a different route every time we traveled so we saw new places. When I was in 4th grade and got my first Brownie camera, we even drove up into Canada and came down through Niagara Falls.

School Starting Soon

The end of summer was marked by back-to-school plans and buying new clothes, shoes and supplies. School supplies didn’t show up on store shelves until late August back then. And school didn’t start until after Labor Day.

When we moved, my 12-year-old self lost interest in star-gazing and was more curious about my new surroundings and making friends. It was a difficult summer and beginning of school year as I had spent 10 years of my formative years in the farm community. I missed the friends I had grown up with. Everyone was concerned about my older brother who was being uprooted his Senior year of high school, but he adjusted much better than I did. After all, Broken Bow welcomed him because he was a big football player. I was a mere awkward pre-teen, very insecure and lonely.  At first… Then the kids found out that I was the sister of the big football player!

Summer fun

As a teenager in Broken Bow, there wasn’t much to do. Churches would have an occasional ice cream social or picnic and the merchants had “Crazy Daze” where there were sidewalk sales and merchants dressed in crazy outfits, sometimes a parade was held to encourage shoppers to dress up as well. One summer, my little brother went as a “doomsday” guy carrying a sign proclaiming that the world would end tomorrow. (Of course, he thought it was funny to say, “Tomorrow never comes. It’s always today!” Smart little guy.)

Charlie the end is near Crazy DaysCrazy Daze

“Driving around” was the preferred entertainment on summer evenings. Friends lucky enough to have their own cars would load up those of us who were car-less and we would drive around town and honk at each other. We could waste an entire tank of gas just driving up and down Main Street. We drove out to the drive-in theater area, turned around and drove to the Texaco station, turned around and made the loop over and over all evening. Of course, we listened to the radio.

In Broken Bow, very few radio signals could be picked up. And those we could get, we didn’t like. They played old-time country music, the twangy “uncool” kind, or polka music. In the evening we were able to pick up KOMA from Oklahoma City. They played “modern” music,  so that was our mainstay. Tape decks in cars came out in my late teen years. We thought we were in hog heaven if we were in a car with a tape deck! Most kids drove old “junkers” which added to the charm of driving around. (I will save the car details for another blog post.)

County Fairs

As summer wound down, county fairs popped up. In the farm community of my early years, I was in 4-H which meant we girls got ready for the fair by practicing singing for competition, creating items like decorative trays for demonstrations, baking cookies and sewing dresses. Our leaders took us to the county seat, 16 miles down the road from our town, to compete. If we were lucky, one of our projects would win a ribbon; purple and blue went to the State Fair in Lincoln. I made a tablecloth and matching cloth napkins that went to State one year. I was so proud!

4-H in Cowboy Country was much different. I didn’t get involved because it was about raising livestock. Some of my friends had lambs and calves that they raised for the fair. Living in town made it hard to do anything like that.

Broken Bow was/is the county seat, so the county fair and rodeos took place just outside of town at the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds were also the site for the Fourth of July fireworks. When fair-time arrived, a big carnival would move in, setting up rides and the arcade. There were always comments about how you would get cheated at the arcade games, but that didn’t stop people from trying to win the big stuffed animals. Many a guy spent well over the worth of the teddy bears they won for their girls at the fair.

The summer evenings at the fair were electric (figuratively and literally) as the colorful lights and musical sounds attracted us. Riding the ferris wheel or octopus seemed much more thrilling in the dark. Smells of cotton candy and popcorn also allured us. There was usually a street dance at the county fair, too.

Looking back, summers seemed so carefree, but that is probably just my mind reworking the events to fit my chosen memories.

“Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.” ~Faith Baldwin

Cowgirl Susan (2)

The Four Stages of My Life (and Maybe Yours, Too)

Saturday night, I went to a retirement party for a nurse I used to work with. This was the fourth retirement party I had been to this year, including my own. As I pondered it, I realized that I have had four stages of adulthood involving parties or celebrations.

  • Stage One Bridal showers, Weddings and Baby Showers

Brother Ron officiating  cake Big bear and Mike

This stage took place somewhere between 20 to 30 years of age. During that time, friends were getting married and having babies and not necessarily in that order. Money was spent of gifts for the occasions. Many parties and receptions took place during that time.

  • Stage TwoKids’ Birthday Parties, School Events and Sports

Joe's Ghostbuster birthday   Basketball cake (2) Joe's Star Wars birthday

Baby showers and weddings continued but were fewer. Now, kids’ parties and events took over. Big birthday parties, theme parties, destination parties–each set of parents trying to outdo the other. It was a crazy, expensive time. (If you have read my blog before, you may know that almost ALL of our birthdays happen in March and April. That time of year was harder on the checkbook than Christmas as we celebrated a birthday about every two weeks in our family.)

Then there were the classroom parties–Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. I was a room mother, so it was my job to make sure we had games to play and treats to eat. We room mothers were very creative with our games. (I may do a blog on party games sometime. I even had a game published in Family Fun magazine that we played at one of my son’s birthday parties.)

And there were soccer games, football games, baseball games, all with end-of-season parties (and don’t forget the gifts for the coaches. Someone had to collect the money and buy the gifts.)

  • Stage ThreeTeenaged angst followed by…Parties!

We experienced a short “dry spell” during the early teen years because, who wants to have a party at your house with your parents there?

Around junior prom time, things picked up. These were the “photo op” years. Homecoming, class plays, concerts, marching band competitions, Honors Night, Graduation.

More picsTrumpets rock!cakeOP canopy

  • Stage 4 – Reunions, Retirement and Funerals

IMG_2996 (2) NICU reunion

Just prior to this stage, there is a “mini” stage where the weddings and baby showers return as our adult children get married and have children of their own. The parties and events aren’t as plentiful, but they pop up now and then. I always look forward to them as it gives me a “break” from going to funerals!

During this stage, our parents are dying, our friends’ parents are dying and, unfortunately, some of our friends are dying. We are going to a lot of funerals. It is nice to be invited to a wedding or baby shower now and then just to get away from the funerals. More on funerals later…

We also are going to retirement parties as our friends and co-workers leave the workplace and start  new adventures. These parties don’t necessarily require a lot of gifts and hoopla because most of us have all the “stuff” we need and don’t want any more. We also find it enjoyable just to sit and talk, so no band or DJ is needed. Milestone anniversary parties may include some music and dancing, but most gatherings at this stage are simply good friends gathering to catch up and talk.

Now, for funerals. I think we do funerals all wrong in our society. All that weeping and sadness is crazy! If we believe in an afterlife, then a funeral should be a time of rejoicing because “it ain’t over!” And it never will be! We may not see each other in person for awhile, but the time will come when we meet again. So, instead of being sad, we should party! I have instructed my family and close friends that, when I head for the Great Beyond, I want a good old-fashioned Irish wake. I want people to gather, tell funny stories about me (believe me, I have left them plenty of fodder!), drink to my life and celebrate. I don’t want any crying at my funeral unless it’s from having a hangover.

Polly opening her gifts Susan and John May 2013

Happy “Stage Whatever!”

Friday the Thirteen, Again

March 13th lands on a Friday, just like last month. This piqued my interest and I decided to look into common superstitions and what their origins are.

My mother was a Pennsylvania coal miner’s daughter and she had so many sayings and superstitions. I don’t think she truly believed in bad luck or good luck, but she told the superstitions much like parents and grandparents pass on adages and folklore. On a whim a few years ago, I wrote a short story based on Mom’s folklore. I called it “I Itch” because it seems that my mother had a superstition for about every part of the body that itched. (Well, I take that back–there are a few places that itch that I won’t mention and that she had no saying for.)

A few of the itchy places and their reasons for doing so include:

  • Nose–you will kiss a fool
  • Ears–someone is talking about you
  • Right hand–you will meet a new friend
  • Left hand–you will receive money
  • Feet-you will travel

My little story included all of these and at the end, I said, “And if you itch all over, you need a bath.”

While looking up superstitions, I found some of Mom’s itchy ones so they seem to be well-known.  I wondered about Friday the 13th. Why that date?

Turns out, long before Jason and the slasher movies, Friday the 13th was considered unlucky. It is tied to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Since tradition holds that Jesus and the apostles gathered for the Seder meal the evening before the crucifixion, the Passion of Christ occurred on a Friday since the meal would have taken place on a Thursday. There were 13 people present at the Seder meal, 12 apostles (until Judas left) plus Jesus. Therefore, Friday the 13th was considered unlucky. Mention of Friday the 13th being unlucky first appears in the written work in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

What about other common superstitions? Last month, I took a couple hundred pennies to work and put up a sign that read, “Lucky Pennies–Help yourself. Happy Friday the Thirteenth!” I decided to look up the reason why picking up a penny  would be considered lucky. Here’s what I found:

Lucky Penny

“Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” This superstition probably goes back to ancient times when it was believed that finding metal was a gift from the gods.

Black Cat

The black cat was revered until the Middle Ages when black cats became associated with witches. Some believed witches could turn themselves into black cats. Having a cat cross your path and bad luck may have started in the 1500’s when people saw a cat cross the path of a woman and she was limping the next day.

Walking under a Ladder

There are several possible explanations for this:

  • In medieval times, when people were going to their death at the gallows, it was believed that if you walked under the hangman’s noose, you would die.
  • The ancient Egyptians revered the pyramids and if a ladder was against the wall, it resembled the shape of a pyramid. Walking under it “broke” the good “vibes.”
  • After Christianity took hold in Europe, the ladder reminded people of the Trinity and to walk under it was considered blasphemous.
  • Obvious, it is unwise to walk under a ladder since it could be dangerous. No one ever mentions the guy ON the ladder. Seems it could be really bad for him if someone jostled the ladder as they walked under it!

Breaking a Mirror Brings 7 Years Bad Luck

This superstition can be traced back to the Romans, who were the first to create glass mirrors. If the user broke the mirror, it meant that his or her soul would be trapped inside the glass. The Romans also believed that a person’s physical body renewed itself every seven years, so in seven years the soul  would be fully restored to the body.

Lucky rabbit’s foot  (Not for the rabbit!)

The belief of the lucky rabbit’s foot has probably existed in Europe since 600 BC amongst the Celts. The “donor rabbit” possessed certain attributes, had to be killed in a particular place and in a special  manner. Rabbits were considered “shape changers,” with the ability to change into other animals or people. Carrying one around protected the person.

Opening an umbrella inside

In ancient Egypt, royalty had umbrellas to protect them from sunlight. The Sun God was a very powerful god. They felt it would offend the Sun God if they opened the umbrella indoors where the rays of the Sun God couldn’t reach them.

 Step on a crack

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Most of us know the old rhyme. Whether the rhyme is the cause of or a result of this superstition is uncertain. Of course, avoiding uneven sidewalk and cracks is probably a good policy if one wants to avoid tripping.

Spilled salt

A widespread explanation of the belief that it is unlucky to spill salt is that Judas spilled the salt at the Last Supper. “The Last Supper” by Davinci shows the salt knocked over by Judas.

Salt was a valuable commodity in ancient times. A friend would not spill your salt since it was a symbol of friendship and trust.

Salt is also a religious symbol.  Jesus referred to the “salt of the earth”.

The most common belief or “ritual” these days requires you to toss a pinch of the spilled salt over your left shoulder, into the face of the Devil who lurks there.

“Blow out the candles and make a wish”

Birthday candles have been around since ancient Greece who put candles on round candle to honor the moon goddess, Artemus. The cake represented the moon and the candles, moonlight. People came to believe that the smoke from the candles carried their wishes and prayers to the gods and also warded off evil spirits. Eventually, making a wish and then blowing out all of the candles meant your wish would come true.

What other superstitions can you think of? Whatever they are, they are simply that—superstitions!

Good luck to you all! Enjoy your Friday!

Now where did I put my lucky four-leaf clover?